The sea accepts no infidels

  This past weekend was the toughest sailing I’ve had all season. 

  A few weeks ago Janet and I were hit with some stronger weather while leaving Martha’s Vineyard. But that was for a shorter duration as we crossed Vineyard Sound. And it wasn’t as bad making headway since we had the wind and the seas on our beam.

 This weekend I had to beat against strong northeasterlies and heavy seas in Buzzards Bay, trying to get back up the coast to Mattapoisett. It was a long, tough afternoon.

 I took my friend Dan out for a day sail. That’s him in the picture above. Dan’s been out on the various boats I’ve owned or sailed (from the Boston sailing clubs I’ve belong to). He’s no stranger to sailing. So, when I listened to that days forecast of 15 – 20 knot winds out of the northeast I thought it would be fine for him to sail with me in those conditions.

 Well, it turned out to be a great sail down the coast. We ran with the wind, wing on wing in a straight line from Mattapoisett to the red bouy off of West Island in Fairhaven. From there we sailed on a broad reach straight for the radome in South Dartmouth. Winds were moderate at 10-15 knots. We rounded a couple of bouys and arrived at the breakwater at Padanaram, our destination, then headed for home. A two and a half hour sail from the mooring in Mattapoisett.

 The sail home at first was fun. Dan was really enjoying himself sailing Galatea with 15 knots of wind. Though, it wasn’t long before the winds increased to a steady 20 knots and the seas built to 4 feet. We sailed closed hauled into the heart of Buzzards Bay. Cuttyhunk was clearly visable to our south, and Martha’s Vineyard visable in between the Elizabeth Islands to our east. Even with the steady 20 knot winds, the sailing was great with a reefed genoa and a full main.

 As we all know, everything eventually ends. What was at first was a lot of fun, turned into hard work. The seas increased somewhat, with 5 and 6 footers slamming into the bow of Galatea from time to time. We beat against the wind and the seas for a couple of hours yet made almost no headway. By 2:30 in the afternoon we were still abeam of New Bedford. And every 5 or 6 foot wave that hit us, just killed our boat speed all over again.

 At the rate we were going, we weren’t going to get home before 8 o’clock that night to catch the last launch from my mooring to the boatyard. If it were a Saturday I wouldn’t mind, we could spend the night on the boat. But it was a Sunday and we both had to be at work the next day. Besides I was getting tired and Dan wasn’t feeling well. So it was time to turn on the engine. Or as my old sailing buddy Mike use to say, “the iron sail”.

 It didn’t help. With the head sail furled, and motoring directly into the wind with just the main sail, we still made almost no headway. The seas were so strong that under nearly full engine power, my GPS was reporting only 1.3 to 1.7 knots. Darkness would fall before even getting close to home. I changed our tactics. We motorsailed, beating back and forth, with a mostly reefed genoa. This enabled us to pick up speed by sailing. The motor enabled us to sail closer to the wind that we could normally go. And we avoided the waves head on. We were making 3.8 to 4.6 knots. Thats all we needed. We slogged it out another three and a half hours before finally reaching Mattapoisett. Nearly six hours total of beating up the coast.

 We made it home safely. Though, I’m sure it was much more than Dan was expecting for the day. During the trip home, I realized the mistakes I had made. The first was sailing so far from port in potential small craft warnings. The second was sailing with the wind for so far, so as to have to beat back in heavy conditions for such a great distance. And third, thinking a person that goes out once or twice a season is an experienced sailor that “can handle it”.

 “The sea accepts no infidels”, as Richard (see previous blogs) has reminded me from time to time in the past. Meaning if you don’t understand (or believe) the potential of what the sea can do, it WILL take you. And I was definately a heathen that day.

One Response to “The sea accepts no infidels”

  1. Good view about The sea accepts no infidels. Always enjoy this articles.

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