3 November 2022: Guardian Angels
3 November 2021
Solomons, MD, USA
Reedville, VA, USA
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
First downwind sail with apparent wind of 12 knots
Overcast but perfect fall day
Balmy for this time of year
Dry, thank goodness!
Ellen, Arjuna and I had a great catch up the day before. We ate breakfast and dinner together and took Tucker, their chocolate lab, on a beach walk too!
We had such a nice time it was an easy sell to convince them on joining me on one tourist activity I was eying further down the coast: Oysterfest at Urbanna, VA.
So we checked the weather together and decided to jump halfway down the next day – today – to Reedville, Virginia. We were going to pull anchor at first light and get going. Easier said that done for me as I do not function well without coffee and it is always easier for me to make it before pulling anchor rather than after (ah, solo sailor life).
So by the time I was pulling anchor, Arjuna already had the mainsail up and was cutting laps around me. Him and Ellen both shouting encouraging things my way. Then after the anchor was up, I had to get the mainsail up. I was glad to have patient and jovial friends.
As I finished up, they turned towards the route and left me chasing them for a bit. But Tala is pretty quick so it was not long before I caught up to them.
As we turned south into the Chesapeake, the wind was coming from the North. Something I would normally enjoy but as a solo sailor I did not really have a plan to do any “wing on wing” sailing. I was still learning the boat and all the basics of solo sailing and did not want to through a spinnaker pole into the mix just yet. So while Arjuna and Ellen put their pole up and had a perfect downwind setup, I slightly favored one side. Edging ever so slightly towards the main channel while they flew across the shallows (their small boat with its shallow draft and Arjuna’s carefree attitude meant they would cut corners and go places that, though they were probably fine for Tala’s 5’3″ draft measured by the surveyor, I would go around just to be cautious).
As I got closer and closer to the main channel, I was keeping an eye on the AIS for any traffic that would affect me and at one point I saw a big cargo ship down the line. I made a mental note to keep an eye on our estimated tracks and radio if necessary, when much to my surprise the cargo ship contacted me.
I was shocked. Normally I find myself hailing big ships with no reply, like I am too insignificant for them to be bothered with. However, this ship greeted me in the friendliest way possible and wanted to confirm my route. He was bound by draft to the channel, but the channel was big so he wanted to know what worked for me. And he had one of those southern gentleman accents that just made for the most positive big vessel interaction I had ever had. I confirmed that I would hold course and altered a couple of degrees to starboard to accommodate that plan. What a legend!
The sea state continued to get sloppier and sloppier and I could not keep the wind in my jib (the mainsail had a makeshift preventer tied off as I had not had time to setup the permanent ones that I wanted). I could not understand what was causing this mess, but I turned on the engine and furled in the jib for the time being. Then I remembered a few friends letting me know about the Potomac River and how it was always pretty messy where it entered the Chesapeake. I hoped it would be over soon!
And it was, only lasting a couple hours.
Once I was as far East as I could justify going, I flopped the main to the other side and tied the preventer off. It was a little bit better sea state so I pulled the jib back out and managed to turn the engine off again. As I got closer to Ellen and Arjuna they radioed to check in on me, we had been out of range as I got further on my tack east and they were worried about me. I reassured them it was all good and explained my hesitance to pole out my jib. It was nice to have someone worried about me and checking in! Like little guardian angels.
They had kept up to me because they took a direct route, but now I had a good angle on the anchorage I got ahead again. I arrived to the anchorage first and chose a spot. Ellen and Arjuna picked a spot a ways away as they wanted to take the dog for a walk. But no matter, we were off early the next morning for Urbanna regardless. So I settled in for the night, made dinner and pulled out the charts and weather for our trek the next day.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”