Sailboats are safer at sea than they are close to land. In my experience people find this concept counter-intuitive. It was true the other night, however, and as a result we spent the night sailing.
We intended to leave Jewell Island, just off Portland, earlier than 8am this morning, but a conversation over coffee about better kitchen storage distracted us. We thought we still had time to make it to Portsmouth, but winds were light and this boat does not motor very fast. As the winds built they were directly against us. We tried sailing and we could go faster, but not in the right direction.
We eventually admitted to ourselves that it would be dark when we reached Portsmouth and we’d never been there before. At the southern end of Maine safe harbors are further apart. We did have the option of York but at the tidal current can make its narrow opening flow like a river. There was also a big swell, remnants of a distant storm, that would complicate any landfall today. We called the York Harbormaster who admitted he had not been “out” to see the swell, but if we made it there in an hour we should be able to make it in against the ebb tide. If it took us two hours, however, the tide, which was bigger than usual at 11 feet, would be faster than we could motor.
I remained concerned about that the tidal current and the swell might affect my ability to maneuver and getting near the rocks would wreck the boat. A couple times I mentioned the option of staying out all night but it seemed Kate was not ready for that idea. I told myself it would show good compromising skill if I could stick to the plan, maybe it’d be fine and I wouldn’t need to subject everyone to a bight out. I set out fenders, untied the anchor so it was ready to deploy and cleared the cockpit of all nonessentials that had accumulated over the course of our long day motoring. My apprehension grew as we got closer. The setting sun made it difficult to see the navigational buoys, but the white spray each time a swell hit the rocks was easy to make out.
What I had not articulated clearly, when I had mentioned to Kate staying out all night, was that I did not feel safe entering but felt perfectly safe staying out all night. The forecast for the next several days was for light winds and it was even supposed to be warm. With only a few minutes to go Kate says I told her I was “scared shitless.”. Once I got this out Kate agreed we should turn around.
Ruby was concerned and cried. She refused to sleep in the v-berth because she remembers me saying that it gets bouncy up there on offshore passages. Leif was fine about it, but then he inhaled his dinner and threw up. But after we settled down and read some stories they both slept 12 hours. Kate relieved me from 1 to 4am and I slept every minute of it.
By morning we were south of Boston. A long day of sailing for this crew is 8 hrs and we now we had several of those out of the way. The winds died in the morning but the Cape Cod canal, which changes its direction of flow based on the tides, was not going in our direction for another 6 hours so we just drifted towards it and played cards in the cockpit