First sail in Chesapeake waters

North River and Mobjack Bay
Boat: O’day Daysailer
Location: North River, Gloucester, VA
Time: ~2pm – 5pm
Conditions: ~82°F, light breeze

We took a couple of days off of work to get out of the mountains and east to the Chesapeake so we could sail in salt water and rename our boat. We launched from the ramp at Mobjack Bay Marina, then brought the boat across the North River to the dock at our Airbnb.

before the renaming_2802
Ready to go

It was a risk coming in October. We had no idea what the weather might bring. We lucked out with sunny skies, plenty of breezes, and warm weather.

After motoring out of the inlet, before we even hoisted the sails, dolphins came to visit. We saw them surface first to port, then to starboard. We cut the engine so we could hear them. There were no other boats on the wide river. Just us, drifting silently, while dolphins puffed every few minutes alongside us. We took this opportunity, in salt water, with dolphins nearby, to rename our boat. She is now Egretta. (Egretta is the genus of medium-sized herons, or little egrets, sea birds that live in every place we’ve lived and loved: Anna Maria island, the Florida Keys, the Chesapeake Bay, Tybee Island, Jekyll Island, and every beach, river, marsh, and bay we’ve played in and on along the east coast of the US).

toasts cropped renaming egretta_0008
A toast to Egretta

The water was too cold for the kids to want to jump in (and they didn’t like the idea of summer jellies, even though we tried to assure them that if we didn’t see any jellyfish, they were safe), but the air was plenty warm for an afternoon sail. We wore shorts and short sleeves and were comfortable.

annabelle toes bow of egretta_2818
Warm on the bow

As usual, I bumbled with the lines, couldn’t remember their names, or the order I needed to go in to hoist the mainsail. Then the mainsail got stuck on the topping lift line and wouldn’t raise anymore, and then I think it was halted by the downhaul which was still tied off, and maybe the mainsheet was cleated as well, I can’t remember. I just remember my hands being shredded by the line as I tried to haul and the sail wouldn’t haul.

Once it was up, and once we hoisted the jib, I kept forgetting my job as crew. Instead I rode as a passenger, and I only paid attention when it was time to tack or jibe.

blue sky clouds sailing knot_0047
The sky and my sail as crew: the jib

I did spend a lot of time thinking about all the lines on the boat, though, especially with two kids scuttling back and forth between bow and cockpit, or constantly raiding the snack bag in the cuddy cabin. Once the sails are up, the long tails of the halyards could dangle all the way off the stern if we were to stretch them out instead of having them tangled and dangling and underfoot at the front of the cockpit. There are also the tails of the topping lift and the boom vang that are usually a snarled mess, plus the dock line up on the foredeck.

The mess bothers me. The halyards are long enough to coil like extension cords and hang from cleats. The other lines aren’t long enough for that, so I played with other ways to tidy them.

coiled lines sailboat_0011
Experimenting with flat coils

The flat coils on deck look pretty, but they are treacherous if you step on them or try to push off them with the palm of your hand: they’ll slip out from under you. They’re better than lines that will trip you, but I do need to keep experimenting to find the best way to manage all the lines and keep them neat, accessible, and out of the way when they’re not being used.

We beat into the wind to the opening into Mobjack Bay, but the sun was dropping fast and we wanted to get home, showered, and out to a seafood restaurant, so we didn’t actually get out onto the bay. Instead we, came around and rode the wind back home. Tomorrow we have the whole day for sailing.

Author: Andrea Badgley

Writer at Butterfly Mind and Andrea Reads America. Happiness Engineer with Automattic.

One thought on “First sail in Chesapeake waters”

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