Sunday, August 18, 2013

Retrospective: Day One

That's my enthusiastic crew above; let's call him Steve. Steve is the husband of a valued colleague of mine, call her Georgia, to whom I poured out my tale of woe about ruined schedules and vanished crew after poor Ginger's near-sinking(*).

Georgia quickly responded that her husband would jump at the chance to go along on this madcap adventure. I jumped at the chance to have him along.

Steve and I spoke on the phone once or twice before D-Day, but finally met for the first time in the parking area of Liberty Landing marina on the afternoon of Monday the 12th, where Steve was trundling a rolling suitcase across the gravelly muddy ground. I had given him very poor directions,  I'm afraid, but he got there anyway.

Half an hour after we met, we were embarked. We fueled up at the marina, dodged the usual attempts on our lives by the Staten Island Ferry, and motored with the current up the East River and through Hell Gate and into the Sound.

There was a bit of a west wind once we were past the Throgs Neck.

Steve and I had gotten to know each other a bit during our trip up the river.  It turned out that Steve was a veteran of the old Soviet merchant marine and was very familiar with life on the water -- buoys, running lights and so on -- though he hadn't done much time on a sailboat before.

So I left him to steer and did my favorite thing on the boat, namely, go into the cabin and take a nap while somebody else does the work.

It came on to rain a bit. Steve had rain gear, so that was okay. But the wind also completely died, and Steve was left sitting in the cockpit while the boat described those maddening idle rotations, sails flapping, halliards slapping idiotically against the mast -- a most annoying sound. In the helmsman's heart a wild hope springs whenever a false zephyrette caresses his cheek, taunting teasing wanton that she is. Then she fleets away, laughing at one's gullibility.

Steve was too polite to wake me up.  If he had done, I'd've lit up the engine and motored us along.

So he endured, what, three hours of misery;  and he had begun -- more than begun, I think -- to reconsider this whole sailing gig. Finally something woke me and I popped my head through the hatch. Assessing the situation at a glance -- you can see the captain mentality growing upon me here -- I started the motor and gave him a turn below.

At dawn there was wind from the north. We scraped along under sail up the Sound until the wind came northeast -- more or less dead foul for us -- and after a bit of unproductive tacking back and forth across the Sound, we ran into a pleasant little bay behind Sachem Head, near Guilford, Connecticut, and dropped the hook about sundown, a bit more than 24 hours after we left Jersey City.

Not a bad run, really, as you'll see if you zoom out on the map below; more than halfway up the Sound, even with poor Steve's frustrating dead hours in the rain.

Better were to come, however.

View Larger Map

(*) I now think I know why that happened, actually; it's a subject for a post of its own.

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