July 21, 2011
Sure enough, Thursday morning dawned cool and foggy. However the fog wasn’t too dense. I could see across the harbor, and the sun was visible, so I’m guessing the layer was only a few hundred feet thick. No wind, of course. I decided to head out anyway, back towards Port Jefferson. (Now I can’t remember why I chose Port Jeff again. I didn’t think I could have made Huntington or Oyster Bay, but another harbor on the north side of the sound would have been feasible.)
I hanked on the jib and removed the sail cover in hopes of some wind, and motored out the smooth channel into the Sound. The visibility is probably a mile and a half, and the sea is perfectly smooth. The air is cool and damp, which is refreshing after all week of sweltering heat and broiling sun. I’m steering a compass course for Port Jeff, and soon Falkner Island with it’s lighthouse shows up through fog to the port. Eventually, the fog starts to burn off, and sure enough, the breeze starts to build. I raise the sails, and before long am able to shut off the engine.
Very nice sail to Port Jeff, but the winds continue to build through the afternoon. Before I know it, the boat is heeled over and the winds are probably 20 knots (I have to guess because my boat doesn’t have an anemometer.) But, regardless of how you measure the wind, it becomes clear that I have too much sail up, and of course, as the wind builds, so do the seas, with choppy whitecaps breaking over the bow.
One of my issues with single handing is that it is pretty hard for me to put in a reef on the mainsail by myself. Without an autopilot, the tiller tamer doesn’t hold the boat into the wind long enough, and with the wind whipping the sails around… Well, you get the picture. So, since I have the wind between a close reach and a beam reach on a starboard tack, I figure that I can just get rid of the genoa and sail under the main alone (remember, no roller furler for this purist.) I start the engine, head into the wind, release the genoa halyard and head up forward to tackle the sail and get it tied down. As I’m up of the foredeck struggling with the genoa, the boat veers off the wind, and heels over about 30 degrees with waves breaking over the bow. I’m on my belly with my toes searching for the toe rail (got it!), wrestling with the genoa and the sail ties, getting doused by the waves, when it occurs to me that jack lines and a tether would be a brilliant idea. Well, its a bit late for that, and I manage to get the genoa inelegantly tied down without falling overboard, and I scramble back to the cockpit and breath a sigh of relief.
The boat sails much better on the main alone, and we make it into Port Jefferson harbor with out any more drama. Still, a great day, going from glassy seas and tranquil fog to a rip-roaring wind with waves crashing over the bow. I really do love this sailing stuff, although I vow to set up my jack lines and buy a decent tether at the first available opportunity.