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Thursday Sails Aboard Quintessence
OK, so here’s the deal. I’ve decided that Thursday afternoons will be “sail day” aboard Quintessence. You can see the details of how this came about under the May 21st blog item noted below. But the gist of it is that I’m going sailing every Thursday afternoon/evening. I am sure I will be switching days according to the dictate of life, but I am going to try to go out for a “Thursday” sail at least one day a week.
If anyone is interested in joining me, just drop me an email and come on down!
As anyone who sails knows, when it comes to wind you pretty have to take much what you get. If you are out there, you deal with it. You reef as needed, trim your sails and get on with it. Today’s sail, however, provided the rather unique experience of letting me select the strength of wind I wanted.
I left my slip mid-afternoon and headed east on Toms River toward Ocean Gate with all my lowers set. The wind was blowing SSE at around ten knots. A nice breeze and about the minimum needed to get Quintessence moving. As I worked my way down river, the wind speed climbed to the high teens, gusting to twenty as I reached Ocean Gate. The SSE wind was blowing northerly along the New Jersey coast, over Long Beach Island, across Barnegat Bay and Toms River with very little in the way of land to slow it down.
In the gusts on the protected waters of Toms River I cruised along at close to seven knots with lots of weather helm, close to putting my rail under. Quintessence is extremely beamy, with lots of reserve buoyancy and putting the rail under generally means I am carrying way too much sail.
I didn’t want to bother reefing, so I tacked around and headed back up river. Half way back, the wind was back down to ten knots. By the time I got to Beachwood, about as far up the River as I can go, the wind speed was down to around 4 knots and I was ghosting along at around two knots.
I assumed that the wind was moderating, and headed back down river. Four knots edged back up to ten. Then to twenty. A bit further down river until the wind was gusting to twenty-five. I would have loved to have some photo’s of Quintessence tearing along with all sail set.
So that’s what I did for the next few hours. I would head up river until the wind dropped to around ten, then back down to the twenties. Back and forth, playing with wind and boat speed until it was time to head home.
A pleasant day, a rather unique situation and some pretty exciting sailing.
This week I was joined on my sail by my good friend Mike Wick. Mike, an immensely experienced sailor, has been aboard Quintessence almost as much as I have. When Mike is on watch, I know I can get some sleep below! He has accompanied me on a great many trips and we shared more than a few adventures.
Accompanying Mike and I was Greg Bullough. I had “met” Greg online through mutual FaceBook friends. He shares my love of sailing and my love of sea music. Ironically, while we had met online, he lives only a few miles from me. We have been conversing through emails, but busy schedules have made it difficult to meet. Today’s “Thursday sail” provided the opportunity!
We arrived at the boat to find cool temperatures, partly cloudy skies and winds out of the east at around 10 knots. A very pleasant day indeed. We headed out and Greg took the wheel as Mike and I got ready to set sail. Greg turned us into the wind and we hoisted away.
We headed down river, with the wind directly on our nose, tacking back and forth across the river and channel working our way upwind. Mike and Greg took turns on the wheel. With three aboard, we sailed with one person on the wheel and one person on each of the jib sheets. With the light winds it was downright leisurely!
We shared the river and traded tacks with an e scow, a 28’ high performance centerboard class boat. We didn’t trade tacks for long. The half-ton e scow is vastly more maneuverable than my eight ton deep keel schooner! It was fun to watch the her tacking upwind and then running back down wind under spinnaker. She did that several times, literally sailing circles around us! We must have appeared positively lumbering to those aboard her.
As we neared Ocean Gate, we tacked a bit too close to shore and I noticed the depth sounder drop from six and a half feet to five feet in mere moments. Before I had a chance to tell Mike to come about, we hit bottom and ground to a halt. Grounding on Toms River isn’t all that unusual and isn’t that big a deal. The bottom is soft, sand and mud, and no damage is done. I fired up the engine and used it to spin the boat around until we were pointing downwind. We let the sails out and after a few minutes of ploughing motor sailed her off the shallow spot. The rest of our tacks that day were a bit more conservative.
We continued downwind sailing on a very broad reach or a run, depending on the small wind or course shifts. Occasionally, we would flip the fores’l opposite the main and sail wing and wing. It was a very quiet calm glide back up the river.
Greg is a very accomplished musician and singer and took advantage of the calm to break out a melodeon he had brought aboard. Her serenaded Mike and I with sea music all the way up river. A thoroughly wonderful experience, sailing along slowly, listening to Greg play and sing, with Mike and I joined in for the chorus’. I shot a short video of Greg while he was playing. You can take a look at it at https://youtu.be/uBVApbwoxtk. I’ve established a tradition of music aboard Quintessence and Greg added wonderfully to that tradition.
We neared the shallows near Cedar Point and turned back upwind and started tacking again. We worked our way back down river, trading tacks with a different e scow out on the river. It was getting late as we neared the end of the river. We came about and ran back up river to deRouville’s.
We put the sail covers on and called it a night.
Another wonderful sail with wonderful people.
Last week I announced my intent to go out sailing every Thursday. While it was inevitable that somewhere along the way I would miss a day, I held the hope that, perhaps, I would be able to postpone that day for quite a while. With that in mind I headed down to the boatyard. The forecast looked okay, with the possibility of showers and a thunderstorm. When I left the office early afternoon, it was bright and sunny, and warm. Temperatures in the high 80’s. Weather RADAR showed a heavy rain cell sitting right over my boat. It was moving relatively quickly, so I felt it would be gone by the time I got there. Halfway across New Jersey, the temperatures where in the mid-90’s. I sure hope it is cooler at the boat. The temperatures dropped to the mid 70’s when I got within a few miles of the water. I rain cell was moving off to the northeast as I got to the boatyard.
I have developed a bit of a reputation around the boatyard. Nothing to do with boat handling, sailing skills and the ilk. No, not the skills for which you would be proud to be known. No, the reputation has to do with weather. I make it very easy to forecast bad weather; I plan to go sailing. The guys in the yard know bad weather will make an appearance. It was summed up best a few years ago by Brent, one of the guys at the yard who has done a lot of work on Quintessence. I had just arrived at the yard and he asked if I was heading out. When I said I was, he answered “OK, I’ll tell everyone else to stay in.” People who haven’t sailed with me think I am kidding when I tell them to make sure they bring good foul weather gear along. People who have sailed with me know better.
So it was very unusual to see bad weather moving off upon my arrival. I got out of my car and Brent, who happened to be walking by looked up at the sky and said, “Your kind of weather.”
Thunder was still rolling across the river from the north, and scattered drops of rain still fell, but all and all the weather appeared to be improving. I checked the weather RADAR and the cell was indeed moving northeast. And there didn’t appear to be anything coming behind it. The sun even poked out between clouds. This could be workable!
Bill deRouville walked by, looked at the sky and said, “You trying to go out today?"
“Hey” I said, “it’s moving off to the northeast and there is nothing behind it.”
He looked a bit dubious.
I was being joined by a friend and his wife and had about an hour before they arrived. I started troubleshooting some problems with my electronics. Nothing major, just the normal early season glitches. While working on my gear I was surprised by a very loud clap of thunder. Not off in the distance. Right here. I poked my head topside and saw a dark pile of clouds moving down on us. I checked the RADAR. A new cell had popped up as the old one had moved off. The sky lit up with lightening and the rain came down in buckets. I continued working as the cell moved through. As the rain let up, RADAR was clear. The hour was almost up, so I thought we might make it out after all. It was not to be. For the next two hours I watched cell after cell pop up just west of us and pound us. I took a short video. Short because my phone was getting wet! You can see it at http://youtu.be/v_eUV23_6OA.
I thoroughly understood what was happening. The humid unstable hot air west of us was colliding with the cool sea breeze, shoving the hot air up and spawning violent thunderstorms. I thoroughly understand that. But there is something I don’t understand. The process was only occurring right on top of us. Cell after cell popped up just west of us, but there was no rain over the entire rest of the 127 mile length of the New Jersey shore. From Sandy Hook to Cape May, not a drop of rain was failing, except on top of the Toms River area. Take a look at the screen shot of RADAR.
I have developed a bit of a reputation around the boatyard.
I had been planning on heading out for a sail today, but was a bit ambivalent about it. The forecast wasn’t particularly nice. Not at all like last Thursday. 90% chance of rain. As I sat at work and thought about it however, the less ambivalent I became. Perhaps this should be the second of a “Thursday Afternoon Sail” series. Spend the morning at work and go sailing every Thursday afternoon until sunset. Rain or shine. Calm or windy. Hot or cool. Alone or with friends or family. I like the concept.
While at work, I kept an eye on the forecast. It didn’t look too terrible. No thunderstorms, just light rain with intermittent heavier showers. The forecast high temperatures were only going to be in the low 50’s with light winds. Not too bad. I’ve sailed in much, much worse. I have owned Quintessence since 2006 and now when I think of going sailing I have a Pavlovian-like reaction with two questions immediately coming to mind: Where is my long underwear? Where is my foul weather gear? Gives you some idea of the conditions I regularly seem to encounter while sailing. Today was positively benign!
I wrapped up the necessities of the day’s work as the rain came to an end. I checked the weather RADAR to see that the back side of the rain was through and moving east at a decent clip. If I left now, I would ride along the back end of the rain which should clear from the area about the time I reached my boat.
I headed out, catching up with the rain and drove through light rain and intermittent heavy showers as forecast. As I neared Toms River, it became apparent my sail would be a calm one. I could see no sign of wind at all. It was flat calm and near windless when I got to the boat. What the heck, I will go out for a controlled drift. And it was likely that some wind would show up as the tail end of the rain passed through.
I hopped aboard, went below, put on a medium weight fleece and donned my lightweight foul weather gear. That should be about right. By the time I had gotten my sail covers off and stowed, a light wind had sprung up. OK, wind might be an exaggeration, but enough air to fill my sails.
It was still raining at 5 pm when I headed out and set my sails. Now which way to go? The light breeze was east-southeast, so I decided to close reach east toward Barnegat Bay. I turned, trimmed my sails and actually started moving. Out of curiosity I switched on my wind instrument. It showed an apparent wind of 3 knots 50 degrees off the bow. Well I wouldn’t be reefing, that’s for sure!
At the moment I have a problem with my onboard navigation system. My GPS and onboard computer are apparently having an argument and aren’t speaking to one another. I was curious as to what speed (slow?) I was actually making though, so I fired up the Nav Lite program on my phone. In four knots of apparent wind I was making 1.9 knots.
I headed down the river, thoroughly enjoying myself. Between the light rain and the light wind, the river was absolutely flat. It was also dead quiet. Quintessence made no noise at all moving through the water. The normal sounds of background traffic were non-existent. Not too many people out and about on a chilly, rainy Thursday evening. The only sounds were the sounds of ducks, geese and other birds.
I had the river to myself, except for a duck that took station off my port quarter. It paddled along with me for quite a while, which really gives you a good idea how slowly I was moving. I only saw two other boats the whole time I was out. Even the solitude of sailing by myself seemed to fit the weather.
By 7:00 pm I was just off Ocean Gate Marina, located toward the end of Toms River. I had been sailing for two hours and had covered just over one nautical mile. There were a few tacks along the way, but that gave me a speed of advance of around half a knot! Glad I wasn’t trying to actually get somewhere.
I had planned to be back in my slip by 8:00 pm, so I turned downwind and headed back. Apparent wind dropped to zero as I ghosted along! I was back off deRouville’s by 7:30. Now how many of you can say changing your point of sail resulted in quadrupling your speed of advance!
Other than encountering some difficulties getting back in my slip with yet another very low low tide, it was an extremely pleasant evening sail. Granted, not the most exciting. The highest apparent wind I saw was 6 knots. The lowest was 0. It seemed to average out around three. I guess I could make is sound very exciting by saying the wind speed doubled in the gusts, but when you start at three knots it doesn’t quite have the same impact!
The highest boat speed I saw was 2.4 knots. Pretty much walking speed. Not much if I was trying to get somewhere, but perfectly satisfactory for knocking around the river on a rainy day.
Today was Quintessence’s maiden voyage of the season and you couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. Temperatures were in the high sixties, winds blowing 10-15 knots and a beautiful cloudless blue sky. A perfect “sweat shirt” day. My friend Paul Sepe joined me for the sail. We met at the boatyard around 3 pm and headed out.
The start of the sail and the season was a bit less than auspicious. Wind direction had conspired with a neap tide associated with a pending new moon to create an unusually low low tide and I ran hard aground two boat lengths out of my slip. It is not at all unusual for me to touch bottom and plow through mud and sand in the shallows off my slip, but it is very unusual for me to get stuck!
Fortunately, Bill deRouville, owner of deRouville’s Boat Shop, Quintessence’s home port and a wonderful boatyard, saw my difficulties and came out with the yard boat and towed me off the lump on which I was stuck. In a matter of moments we were in the relatively deeper water of Toms River. I say relatively because in Toms River and Barnegat Bay, my home waters, six feet is deep! Quintessence draws five feet, so you can imagine the importance of a depth gauge. Touching bottom is a fairly routine occurrence. Fortunately, the bottom is all sand and mud so touching bottom just serves to keep the aft end of my keel nice and clean.
We motored the hundred yards or so to the middle of the river and hoisted all my working sails, mains’l, fores’l, stays’l and jib (no ‘l needed). The easterly sea breeze was in full swing and I opted to head east toward Barnegat Bay. We short tacked down the river until we reached the marked channel bending around the shoals off Long Point. Instead of continuing to tack upwind, we turned downwind and ran back up river until shoaling waters around Cedar Point near the end of the navigable river forced us to turn back.
The sea breeze had been easing and the winds were veering south so instead of having to short tack back down river, we were able to close reach with fewer tacks, alternating long and short legs. By the time we reach the marked channel, the wind had veered further and we were able to close reach all the way down the channel until reaching the Intercoastal Waterway marks, the boundary between Toms River and Barnegat Bay itself. We turned around and broad reached well back up river.
Toward sunset the now south wind was dying off quickly as we beam reached back down the river to deRouville’s. We headed up into the wind, dropped and furled our sails and motored in, tying up around 8 pm.
All and all a very enjoyable afternoon/evening sail!
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