Friday, April 30, 2010

THROUGH THE CROWD: Heading South Day Two

Annapolis 38°58.630N | 76°29.168W

We're not fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, devil-may-care, insert-trite-phrase, sailors. In fact, we work hard at being good Boy Scouts, making sound decisions, weighing the facts, consuming all the data, planning our route, waiting for weather windows.

For this trip south, we've made an effort to employ all the navigation devices onboard, we mapped out our route on paper charts, found the waypoint coordinates on the laptop and then punched them in on the GPS.

Last night when Chip entered today's waypoints, he named each one with a letter of the alphabet, in order, so I could easily work through them by following the alphabet. However, he started with Z and went backwards. Since I'm the one who runs below to check our heading and set waypoints, I expressed, shall we say, surprise at his choice of letters. He claims he couldn't find A, but I'm pretty sure he was testing my sobriety.

Right about at waypoint Y, we stumbled smack damn into a J boat regatta. Dozens of racing boats clustered together, headed in no particular direction (apparently the regatta had not started), and no two in the same direction, spinnakers flying.

Since we were heading straight into the wind, they were all tacking back and forth across our path. Add to that the fact that we were under power, and they were under sail, which meant we had zero right-of-way. We sped up, slowed down, idled, did a 360. It was just plain comical. 

By midday, the regatta a pleasant memory, we were kicked back in the cockpit, feeling confident in ourselves and our vessel. Using dead reckoning, we verified that our GPS waypoints and autopilot headings were correct. With each hour, we gained a little more trust in the purring engine. We even felt wise and seasoned when we raised the staysail to smooth out the ride -- and were delighted to see that we had installed it on the furler correctly. Ah, yes, we were awesome.

That's when we got the radio call, "Sailing vessel headed south, this is the northbound sailing vessel passing you to starboard. There's a partially submerged barrel in your path about one quarter of a mile ahead."

No words passed between us, no eye contact. At the helm, Chip threw back the throttle. I leaped out of the cockpit and hit the side deck in a full-speed, Fred-Flintstone-midair pedaling, running crouch.

For the next 20 minutes, I stood on the bow scanning the water, scanning, scanning, scanning, fearing the deadly barrel was right in our path, and I might not spot it.

'Nothing,' I shouted back to Chip, "I wish we'd see the #&$ thing, so we'd know we passed it!"

But, there was to be no such reassurance. We bobbed along 45 minutes before powering up, our confidence at a very low ebb. We expend so much energy conquering the things we can control, and now here was something new we hadn't even thought to worry about. At least the Titanic knew to watch for icebergs. And how do we give right of way to an object we can't even see??? If there was one barrel out there, did that mean there were more? What else was lurking out there just beneath the surface?

We did not know the answers, and so we motored on.

In the early evening, we approached our last waypoint and a perfect parenthetical closure to our day, ending up in the midst of fishing tournament boats coming in for the night. Dozens of them. Zipping all around us. At one point, two sped by, one on each side of us, at full speed, careening us into an impressive 30-degree heel -- one way and then the other.

We tied up side-to at a quiet dock in Solomons, the end of a long, carefully planned day spent dealing with things for which there is no plan.

Solomons  38°19.680N | 76°27.477W


Laura said...

This is going to sound weird since you don't know me, but I am soooo excited for you two. I was seriously interested in Isabella, but someone got to her first. Still, I've been following your adventures through the blog. Keep posting! It's a vicarious thrill and the writing is great!

tammy kennon said...

Well, hi Laura. Welcome to our adventure. Glad to have you aboard, so to speak. ;-) I'm always glad and humbled to hear from readers.

Laura said...

Thank you for the warm welcome, Tammy.

dorthea said...

Hey Laura & Tammy

Isabella seems to be happy at Matthews Point. She now has Davits, a dinghy to snuggle up to, flat screen TV, Blueray player,soon to be new windows,screen for the companionway. If we continue to follow Tammy's wonderful blog we'll be looking for a larger boat and Isabella can be yours. I've told everyone at the marina to follow Chip & Tammy's life - it's so refreshing!!!

Pete & Suzanne

tammy kennon said...

Hey guys! It's great to hear from you. We look forward visiting Isabella one day soon. If you'll send some photos of her new features, I'll post them in the blog. Isabella has a lot of fans.

Thanks for sending readers my way. Everyone's welcome!

Fair winds,