May 14, 2009
My embarrassment hadn’t subsided much over the night, and I still pretty much felt like the biggest loser on earth when I woke up Thursday morning. We were still on the fuel dock, and the marina hadn’t opened yet, but nasty looking, scuddy clouds ladened the skies, and the weather forecast was for some nasty stuff to move in with rain and strong winds.
Grant wanted to make it to Stamford, all of 8 miles away, because we have a friend with a boat there that he hadn’t seen in some time.
The marina guy shows up at 8:00 AM, and we fill up (7.6 gallons in the tank, plus the 5 gallon can.) I’m inclined to wait out the weather, but maybe, if we get going, we can motor over to Stamford before the worst of it hits.
The marina guy is all chatty, offering all sorts of advice. Of course, I’m not going to admit that we were tugged in last night. He asks me if we went all the way west to the channel entrance to get in, and, stupid me says “No, we came in through the islands.” I could immediately tell that he thought we were the luckiest and stupidest idiots he had run into in a long time. I let it ride, and we quickly bled the fuel system (pros at that now) and cast off.
Both of us were wearing the inflatable life vests and had tethers to clip in, and we motored out the channel with a gusty, strong (for me) wind from the north east, which is about square off our port beam.
I’m on the tiller watching the channel marker ahead of me as Grant is bringing in the fenders, a little bit nervous and thinking of my old motto “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Suddenly a loud, annoying buzzing sounds and I’m wondering, “WTF is that??” The boat softly runs aground and swings to the starboard, with the stern into the wind. I jam it into reverse and full throttle as Grant rushes back to the cockpit, yelling something at me. We monetarily get free, then as I try to turn us around we run aground again. By now, Grant is pretty much fed up with my seamanship and literally tears the tiller out of my hands and shoves me aside while he maneuvers the boat free. We’re back in the channel in about 2 minutes, and I have learned a valuable lesson about wind drift and eyeing both the marker in front of me and in back of me to make sure we are indeed going in a straight line.
So Grant gives up the tiller again, and I’m now suffering from the ignominy of running out of gas and running aground in less than 24 hours. But, there’s no time for wallowing in self pity, so we forge ahead. As we exit the channel, there are nasty looking rocks off our starboard side, rough 4 or 5 foot waves breaking over the bow from port side, and gusty 25 knot winds across the port beam. The frigid waves are crashing over the bow and soaking us. Thank God the cockpit drains work well. Our little engine is putt-putting along, occasionally with a change in sound, which it always does, but I’m getting convinced that it is going to quite again. Now, I’m really questioning my judgement. I’m not sure I could sail in these conditions, and if the engine quits we’re going to be bashed against the rocks. Hopefully we’d be able to climb up on a rock and not die of hypothermia before we get rescued.
I’m pretty much convinced that our inflatable life jackets are going to blow as the waves drench us with frightening force, but we’re making slow and steady progress. I had no idea how much the boat would wallow in the seas, and the fierce looking skies start spitting heavy, harsh rain drops to add to the spray and breaking waves. Once again, we are fortunate enough to be able to see the markers and our GPS is a lifesaver.
After an eternity (terror slows time), we reach the entrance to Stamford harbor. Once inside the breakwater I sigh a huge sigh of relief, and our friend guides us into a slip at his marina. I’m discovering that my favorite part of sailing is securing the docking lines to big, sturdy cleats on a substantial looking dock.
After a breakfast with some edited stories (I don’t mention running out of gas, but I do tell about running aground), I drive Grant to his house in Hartford so he can go to work the next day. He’s mostly silent on the drive, and I’m guessing that he’s questioning his judgement about even being friends with me. I’m pretty sure that he is inwardly ecstatic about being done with the adventure.
I drive back to my apartment in New York, and enjoy a long, hot shower and sleeping in my own bed that night. The 25 mile sail from Stamford to Queens should be a cinch when the weather passes.