Aeon with her topsail, leaving the creek. photo: Kevin Brennan
The wind would stay locked to the Southwest for all four days, ramping up steadily day after day. What a stellar day this would be. Sailing all day at speeds averaging 5 knots, with sustained spurts over 7. Thirty miles covered easily. All after the walk to Sotterley, and with two long breaks of an hour each stuck in the middle. Just wow.
Back from the walking tour of Neverland, in the sheltered cove at Sotterley Wharf things were quiet and calm, but the tree tops were all aquiver. The tops’l was still rigged from the day before. Prudence dictated taking it down. The capsize from the previous summer was still a pretty vivid memory. Then I’d had the topsail up when it shouldn’t have been. Not the cause, but a factor. It was only a short five mile jaunt back to Broomes Island, though, to meet up with the guys now arriving. There I could take it down and stow it easily. I decided to leave it up, but took care to get things sorted out and tightened up at the dock first, last to leave. No pictures of the other boats here – they were too far ahead.
At the mouth of the creek, still in the wind shadow of the land, there was a sharp line on the water ahead where it changed from smooth to riffled. Beyond that I could see it was starting to get bumpy. Kevin Brennan was circling back to check on me, snapping more great photos and a little video, too. I pulled my hat down tight and slipped on the life jacket.
I lost my hat several times in that short run, but Aeon handled herself well, top hat and all. She zipped along quickly, the bow wave making a hissing sound like cutting silk, but always straight up and under control. She could have easily handled more. A good thing.
When Stuart Hopkins saw these photos later, he remarked how well the tops’l merges with the main to form one continuous foil. Pretty slick for an untried trick.
Back on the beach at Broomes Island, we added two more boats to the fleet to make nine – Doug Oeller with his Marsh Cat Comfort, and Paul Skalka in the Handy Cat Red Molly. They were launched and ready to go. Pete Doyle hopped on Obadiah as crew. Two more would meet up with us enroute, George Surgent in a Crotch Island Pinkey and a friend in an Albacore, to make a total of eleven.
The wind was still rising, and it was expected to build throughout the day. Kevin asked me if there was a way to reef the tops’l. I promptly demonstrated how handily it rolled up and fit in the back of the car, then snugged up the sprit and boom. That’s how you reef a Melonseed.
As we pulled away from the beach, a brisk breeze now hitting us in the teeth, he hollered across the water, “Good call!”