Harris at the tiller of Mabu
Unlike last time we were here, there is no argument over which direction we’ll go today: North. The wind will continue out of the Northwest – sensible in the morning but build steadily throughout the day to something very unsensible. I’ve always heard old sailors say the wind is strongest on the backside of a cold front. This prediction bears that out.
Based on the forecast, I plan to explore the marshes inside Janes Island in the Melonseed, staying clear of big water, but Harris suggests I ride with him. He has a sparkling new Caledonia Yawl, Mabu, bulit by Geoff Kerr of Two Daughters Boatworks in Maine. Sounds good to both of us. I’ll be free to take photos again, and he might like two sets of hands when the wind pipes up, especially in a new ride.
Motoring up the canal
We motor up the canal with the others. The sky is aching blue, just amazingly clear. The front wiped the world shiny and clean.
Everything on Mabu is clean and tight, too. It’s obvious Geoff has this boat building thing figured out. Harris had a small motor well built into the aft quarter where the outboard is now purring. Double-enders aren’t ideal for motors, but this arrangement works well. The small well keeps noise at a minimum, for some reason, and the boat really scoots along. He removes the motor for sailing, since the well is not big enough to raise it in place. Kind of a hassle, but it’s one of those tradeoff decisions everyone has to make – it’s extra work to deal with the motor, but ultimately leaves more room in the boat, and makes for better sailing.
Once past the shoals at the mouth of the canal we’re out in the Big Annemessex and all raise sail.
Phil in his Curlew
It’s blowing about 12 knots already. Half the boats have a reef in, including Mabu, and she puts a shoulder into it and cuts along at an easy 5+ knots upwind, and will hold steady at that speed most of the day. Harris luffs and turns back to let the other boats pass so we have a good view. Everybody is having fun today.
Kevin in his Marsh Cat Little T
We have a couple of hours of really fine sailing. We’re beating upwind, but conditions are perfect. And we’re sailing for optimum speed and comfort, without a destination.
Phil in his Curlew in the groove
We follow the scattered fleet north across the wide river toward Hazard Island. Kevin in Little T and Mike in Jackaroo tack across the mouth of the creek that cuts behind it. We assume they’ll pull in there and go past Frenchtown and Rumbly to stop for lunch, but they tack away to the west and keep going, toward Tangier Sound. Soon they round the point and head out into the Sound.
the Marsh Cat Comfort
Harris and I agree this may not be such a good plan. It’s noon and the wind is already gusting over 20 knots, and will continue to build. (In fact, it will pass 30 knots by dinnertime and keep rising and rising well past midnight.) Once beyond the lee of that point the unfettered waves will be rather unkind.
In Mabu we nose around the point just far enough to confirm our prediction and turn back. Not much fun. However, Little T, the Marsh Cat, and Jackaroo, the Haven 12½, keep going and disappear to the north around the island. We see Phil in his Curlew getting bounced around. He heads back to shelter and ties in a reef he let out earlier. We go back and cruise inland in the lee of the north shore.
We head up river some more but the wind is rising quickly now. Harris passes me the tiller and goes forward to tie in a second reef. With this double-ended boat, nose to the wind, we’re sailing backwards at 3 knots. By the time the second reef is in we’ve covered a quarter mile, in reverse. Now it’s really blowing, and the waves are building quickly. I see white caps charging in from the Sound.
We do a chicken jibe and turn tail downwind to cross the river and get back to the canal. Half way across we look back and see the others. We’re both relieved to see Mike and Kevin round the island again. Now everyone is sledding for home. And fast.