Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, dawned with the wind howling out of the southeast. Considering that discretion is the better part of valor, I decided to hunker down for the day and wait for the winds to settle down to more novice-appropriate levels.
Sometime in the night, another sailboat had entered the harbor and was tied up at the end of the dock. I asked the crew where they were from (City Island, New York) and where they were headed (Portsmouth, NH.) Being braver, or more hardy, or more experienced that we were, they motored out of the harbor into the 35 knot winds and following seas headed for Portsmouth. In a few hours they were back. I think they said something about ripped sails, but they weren’t really too talkative or friendly.
Grant and I went to the hardware store and spent the day working on a few odds and ends on the boat—replacing the fuel filter, replacing the alternator and water pump belts, fixing some interior fittings, taking off all the netting on the lifelines, and so on.
We also explored Rockport, which is a charming, albeit touristy, New England fishing village. I couldn’t eat anything all day.
Crosswinds is my first boat, a 28’ Albin Cumulus that I had just purchased. I had spent months searching the internet and driving from NY to Maine looking at every single Albin Cumulus for sale. The sale was complete by the first of May, and I was waiting for a week of good weather to sail her home to the World’s Fair Marina in Queens, New York.
Perhaps the pertinent background detail is that I had never before sailed more than about 5 miles. I was planning on having a more experienced friend help me out, but it turned out that none of the experienced sailors that I knew could get the time off work for the journey. So I called my friend Grant, who had never been on a sailboat before in his life. On the plus side, Grant has some experience with powerboats, and given a coat hangar and some duct tape, he can fix anything.
So Grant and I woke up to rain early Saturday morning. The plan was to load up the boat and depart for Rockport, MA around noon-ish. The drizzle was abating as we left our friend’s house with our rental car full of provisions and supplies we had purchased the night before. Crosswinds was on a mooring, so we motored over to a slip to load our tons of crap on board. The rain let up as we got all the stuff aboard, and sure enough it was a little before noon when we cast off for Rockport.
The day looked like it was going to turn out nice, maybe 60, with a nice breeze from the southeast, calm seas, and good visibility under a gray overcast. The first order of business was quick sailing lesson for Grant, so we tacked and jibed and hove-to and reefed and practiced man overboard recovery. In no time Grant was impatient to get headed toward Rockport, so we turned southeast to start our first leg of the journey.
As I mentioned, the wind was from the southeast, so we had to beat into the wind, which by now had picked up to maybe 15-20 knots. The seas were about 3 feet or so, I’d guess. Nothing for an experienced sailor, but given my dearth of experience and Grant’s complete lack of experience, I was feeling a bit anxious. Still we tacked and tracked our ever slow progress on the GPS. Crosswinds is a bit tender, or so the previous owner had told me, and soon we had the rail buried as we sailed close hauled into the wind. Luckily the seas weren’t breaking over the bow, but we had a decent amount of pitching to go with the heeling.
About two hours into the voyage, Grant went below to rustle up some ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch (remember, we’re heeling over 30-35 degrees the whole time.) He comes back into the cockpit, and I take one bite of my sandwich and know that this isn’t going to work. Grant has his sandwich finished before he notices that I only took one bite, but he happily finishes mine too. He takes over the helm, and I head down below to get some water. The minute my head is in the cabin, I know I’m gonna blow chunks. I rush back up to fresh air and stand on the ladder braced in the companionway facing the lee… and I have to say, to this day, I’m still impressed with both the force and volume that came out. So now I’m seasick, in winds that aren’t as fun as I would like, making excruciatingly slow progress toward a destination that I really want to make before nightfall (of course I had never sailed at night before.)
Luckily, Grant had no seasickness at all, and he was able to laugh at my projectile vomiting, and we entered the Rockport Harbor just as the sun was setting. The harbor master had told me over the phone to tie up on the floating dock near the head of the pier. The dock was anchored out about 75 feet from the pier, and she had left a skiff for us to row over in.
Just as we closed up the boat and got into the skiff, the skies opened up and started pouring rain. Big drops; cold, drenching rain. Grant and I were soaked to the bone by the time we rowed the 75 feet to the pier and walked the block to a pizza place for dinner. I couldn’t eat, maybe a few bites of lettuce, but I was awful glad to be on firm ground for a bit. By this time I could laugh at myself—The intrepid captain.
On the plus side, our navigation was flawless (ok, almost, we had to look a little for the harbor entrance in Rockport), and I though we did a pretty good job at the boat handling. All and all, not too bad of a first day, all things considered.
That night the wind started to howl, but were dry and warm and firmly tied up to the dock.