Warning: This post contains language that will probably confuse non-sailors.
Last Friday morning, I set out for my annual solo sail from Wickford’s Pleasant Street Wharf to Matsya’s mooring in Dutch Harbor. It’s less than seven miles, and with the current running out of Narragansett Bay I figured it would take less than two hours. That was good, because I had a few projects back at my desk that I needed to finish up before starting the weekend.
The breeze was a very light easterly, but Matsya likes to ghost along as long as the water stays flat. On a Friday in May there would be very little boat traffic, and we short tacked out of Wickford Harbor still planning on an easy trip.
Fortunately, I’d packed a lunch. Almost as soon as we cleared the breakwaters, the breeze died off to nothing.
So I figured I’d put the time to good use and catch up on some boat projects while the current drifted us in the right direction. Tying off the tiller so we wouldn’t spin in circles, I went forward to add short sections of plastic tube to the jib horse. This bent piece of bronze tubing is the traveler for a self-tacking jib, and the old tubing had come off the vertical legs—which meant the block got caught every time we tacked. I worked away, enjoying the sunshine, and figuring the wind would come back soon. It usually does, around here.
Twenty minutes later, I realized that the outbound current I was counting on to carry us south was actually pushing us west, into the rocky bay just south of Wickford Harbor. Hmm. Time to break out the alternate propulsion system. I dove into the cabin, brought out the two ten foot oars, and dropped them into their oarlocks.
One hour later, when I’d managed to row Matsya (all 3500 pounds of her) about a mile, out to the deeper water just north of the Fox Island channel, I was glad I had skipped my morning workout. I was also glad to see the seabreeze finally brushing texture onto the water—even though it meant the mooring was now dead upwind.
Even worse, I’d spent so much time going so slowly that the tide started to flood just as we squeaked through the pass south of Fox Island. Because the breeze was so light, I could see the water change against the rocks, and even felt it pushing against the hull from a different direction. I was torn between marveling at the miracle of tides, and grousing at how long it was going to take to sail upwind, up-current, the next four miles. My quick Friday delivery was turning into an all-day marathon.
Since I couldn’t do anything about it, I decided to enjoy the sail. And it was a lovely day to be on the water. I was one of only two or three lucky people to be out enjoying West Passage in a sweatshirt and shorts, delivering a well-behaved old lady down the Bay to her summer home.
Dock to mooring: 3.5 hours, just slightly longer than Gilligan’s intended three hour tour. Hopefully I’ll beat that time next year, but I sure won’t be making predictions about my arrival time until after the halfway point.