This was a different sort of trip for me. More rain and less wind than I have ever experienced. It certainly wasn't the blue skies and crisp winds I had been thinking about all summer. I cannot complain. We've had so many trips with great wind and weather that I knew things had to even out. Regression to the mean I have heard it called.
Wind has never been in doubt on earlier cruises. It was just a question of how much and which direction. On this last trip a forecast of 5 mph (or less) was common. There was maybe a day or two of 10 mph, but even that wind was inconsistent. I would catch a good breeze now and then, sailing along at somewhere between 4.5 and 6 knots, then watch the wind fall off or just plain disappear. I did use the outboard more on this trip than any other, to the point that I worried about using all of my fuel. It was just that kind of trip.
Rain has never been in doubt on earlier cruises. But rain was the exception, not the rule. We've had a couple of rainy nights here and there, afternoon thunderstorms and morning drizzle. But we could count on, for the most part, blue skies. The rain would come and go, it was just a matter of slipping on the foul weather gear while the squall moved through. I remember one Pamlico Sound cruise with Bruce when we had a squall in the morning, three storms around us in the afternoon and a brief rain shower after dinner. All that, but with blue skies in between. This trip moisture in the form of rain, thunderstorms and fog was near constant. The first four days it were particularly grey - not my favorite weather.
The good news is that Bruce and I have developed enough techniques to keep us, and our gear, dry. We learned decades ago on a camping trip that once you are soaked to the bone you are done. (I will always remember driving down from the mountains of southern California in the '64 VW bus. I was wearing the only dry piece of clothing I could find, an old flight suit of my Dad's that had been tucked in the tool box, and Bruce was wrapped in a packing blanket. We had the heater on full blast, then turned on the radio to hear that Elvis died. What a night.)
I stayed dry on this trip while sailing and while sleeping. The gear stayed dry. There were signs of moisture inside my camera lens, inside the gps and inside the binoculars. But I could deal with that as long as I was dry.
A couple of days into the trip I wondered "What am I doing out here." The weather forecast made it clear that there would be plenty of rain and not much wind. But once I got into a routine, once I figured out how to cope, I was fine. It was a bit of a challenge, but I enjoyed dealing with the challenge. It was not was I had expected or planned on, but it was time on the water, sailing, relaxing, catching a few fish and getting away from it all.
On the first day out of Crisfield, sailing in the rain under heavy clouds, I wondered why I was out there. On the last day, after pulling out Spartina and starting home, I wished I was still out there.
I went out for a day sail with my neighbor Jim last weekend. Decent wind, a very comfortable temperature and nice blue skies. Jim is mid-build on a Navigator. I look forward to the day when it is finished and we can sail side by side.
Heading over to Crawford Bay we saw the schooner Spirit of Independence making ready for sail. We both knew that she was heading north to Baltimore for the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. It is that time of year. We sailed by them at the dock and exchanged greetings, then sailed by them again to give them our good wishes.
Left behind on the dock was Whitney, a friend of Jim's. If not for an injury she would have joined the Pride of Baltimore II for the schooner race. She has crewed on a few tall ships including the Spirit of Independence, the Gazela and the Manitou. Watching one tall ship sail away can't be any fun, the same for being left off the crew for another tall ship. Would she at least like to join us for a sail? "That's not a question you need to ask" she said as she hopped aboard.
Her sailing skills were obvious as she took the tiller and sailed Spartina comfortably and confidently. The tacked across the river in a light and shifting breeze. After having picked her up on the Portsmouth side of the river we dropped her off on the Norfolk side. There are quicker ways to cross the river, but there is not a better way than by sail on a pretty morning. Thanks for joining us, Whitney.
I'm using the schooner tracker to follow Quintessence in the race down the Bay. My friend Barry is crewing on her. I've met Barry just once, very briefly, a couple of years ago. But we have stayed in touch by email since. I look forward to seeing him when the schooner arrives on the Portsmouth waterfront sometime tomorrow.
From this afternoon's tracking map it seems to have been a slow start to the race. Winds are light and there is some fog and rain. (Sounds a lot like my week of sailing.)
Later this evening winds will pick up and they should have a great sail, a great race, down the Bay. I'll be up early to check on their progress. To see some great photographs of the race check on Barry's site.