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Thread: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Annapolis, MD, USA
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    6

    Default First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Wanting another boat for years now I had been agonizing over whether to build or buy, whether to go wood or tupperware, but this year I bought a used CLC Skerry. I've had it out a few times already, mostly on a small lake to get a feel for it without risking being blown out to sea. Early last month I tried out a small creek that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, but got discouraged by the heat and lack of wind and gave up for a while. This last Sunday I finally worked up the courage to launch directly into the bay at Sandy Point when I saw that there was what I considered gentle wind in the forecast.

    Although I'm here writing this, I'm not sure if I bit off more than I should have so soon. I launched at the small boat ramp right on the beach near the bay bridge, and managed to sail back and forth a few times between the launch and the bridge. I even sailed out to the lighthouse and back to the beach. After stopping at the launch for a break I decided to head up the bay against the current on a beam reach to see how far I could go, figuring the same current would bring me back quickly. I can't say that I ran into any trouble, but for such a benign forecast it seemed like a pretty hairy ride.

    The forecast called for 10kts winds from the NE, and at the beach the waves looked like nothing more than 1ft chop. Tide was outgoing. After I got out to the deeper water I was in 3ft chop and fell down the backside of at least one or two waves into what felt like a 4ft deep trench. The boat was surfing up the waves and slamming down off the crests, sending spray 4-5ft into the air. This was a far stretch from sitting becalmed in a docile, glassy creek while roasting in 100F heat and swatting bugs. There was wind threatening to pull my hat off! Salty spray in my face! What a ride!

    Like I said, I didn't really run into any trouble, except for one gybe that pulled the mainsheet out of my hands even though I had sheeted in. I'm surprised the gooseneck didn't break on that one. The reason I was gybing was that the skerry simply would not tack. I had been trying to nose it into the wind to get it to tack but wasn't able to. Frustratingly, the gybe spun me around back to my original tack.

    Comments / criticism welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    548

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Given warm water, PFD, and other boats around sounds like fun.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    PNW, an island west of Seattle
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    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Was the wind against the tidal current? That will create a lot of surface disturbance. Other than that, I suggest you just reflect on your adventure and note to yourself what you need to do to prepare for the next time. Most of all, keep sailing!

    Jeff

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
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    Seattle, WA
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    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    I'd add that one person's brisk sail may well be another's white-knuckle ride. Nothing wrong with either view. I have friends who would never go out in weather that does not bother me one bit. On the other hand there are many people who would happily go out in conditions that would have me turning green and heading for the nearest hurricane hole. Either way don't let anyone sway you from what you feel comfortable going out in. Now you know how those conditions feel to you and can adjust as necessary. Over time you may decide that you are more comfortable with a bit of wind and chop. Or not. There is nothing wrong with preferring a light breeze that doesn't send the rail under.
    Last edited by cstevens; 09-01-2020 at 04:18 PM.
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    East Quogue,NY
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    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Current and wind...were they opposing?
    Even in calm winds, a change of current can change the conditions.
    Current is often stiffer and trickier around bridges. For one thing, most bridges span narrow spots( cheaper and easier to build that way) and those narrows between opposing points can accellerate current. For another, the struture of the bridge itself can cause standing waves and redirected current.

    All of this is to say, one must pay attention to current affairs!

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
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    victoria, australia. (1 address now)
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    62,877

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Where I sdai we have a strong tidal current, 5-7 kts and if the wind is also strong in the opposite direction we get standing waves, stoppers for sail boats if you go directly head on and pitch-poling has occurred. This occurs often enough to be a worry for some of us older saiors but having white water kayak experience has given me the technique of approaching with a little flick to the rudder so the boat rides up the wave partly on the curve of the bilge.
    Strong tides and narrow water are not a good mix. Our main channel is 28' deep and maybe 80 meters wide and very steep immediately off shore. It can make returning and leaving a bit of an adventure in itself.

  7. #7
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    Nov 2014
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    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    I don't think anyone would call the Chesapeake narrow, even at the Bay Bridge, which is around four miles long. It is, however, quite shallow and the generally flat surrounding landscape doesn't do much to block the wind. I don't have a lot of experience sailing on the Bay (last time was over thirty years ago) but enough to know that it has its own particular challenges, and I am not at all surprised to hear of wind and tide combining to create a bit of a chop.
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    Fiddletown, on Vineyard Lane
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    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    My first real sailboat was a skerry. I used it with frequency in the SF Bay, Monterey, and trailered it from Oregon to San Diego. I found the boat hard to point with its four cornered sail, and hard to brail once things got ugly. For reason, I bought a CLC sail with jib for their Pathfinder. Somewhat hilariously, I aqcuired a beautiful doug fir mast that was for a Bolger Windsprint, IIRC, and was exactly the right length and height for that gunter sail. I built a proper gaff for it but for reasons I don't recall, the mast took a set crook that perfectly followed that sail cut. So I rigged it like a leg o mutton and sailed it for some years, and pointed much better with that sail. For its length, the boat was very seaworthy. I have had it out in a terrible blow, a couple of times, and I did not want to be there. I don't want to estimate speeds because I don't want to exaggerate. In fact, scared to death was probably the right description at the time. But the boat took it. The gunter, with some self installed reefing, was much handier for me.
    Re-naming straits as necessary.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Annapolis, MD, USA
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    6

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Thank you all for the replies. I'm glad to read that my take on the situation wasn't simply rose-tinted by inexperience. Yes, I was wearing my PFD and also had a second one at hand for extra flotation. The water was warm and there were looots of other boats (a topic for another thread).

    Regarding the wind and tide, I believe that they were mostly working together, but probably crossing at almost 90 degrees near the bridge. That area by the bridge also acts as a choke point for the water I'm sure. I wish I could find a chart annotated with current flow arrows like I've seen for other areas. Having reviewed the charts again I see there are a few wrecks and obstructions in the area that might possibly coincide with the rough patches I ran into. This is an area where I want to improve my awareness by some means, whether it's a chart plotter or clips to securely hold a waterproof chart.

    Davebrown, I am considering changing out the sail at some point for the reasons you mentioned, but I don't really know where to begin besides ordering a lug sail from CLC and making a new boom according to their plans. Maybe in the future I'll experiment with other sails like the leg o mutton, which I read good things about. It's always reassuring to read about how seaworthy your boat is!

    Thanks again all.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Texas
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    12,864

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Quote Originally Posted by sailnstink View Post
    Given warm water, PFD, and other boats around sounds like fun.
    My thoughts exactly. Now, we can assume the water wasn't warm, but if other boats were around, it was likely ok. It seems that RRaarr did not expect such conditions, so deciding to go out was perfectly reasonable. Once he found that level of chop, then turn around if it doesn't feel safe. He didn't, said he never ran into any real trouble, so it all seems reasonable safe to me. One cannot learn how to sail in difficult conditions if one never tries. And if one is going to go sailing, one has to learn such conditions.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Baltimore, MD
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    64

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    A friend of mine built a Skerry a few years ago. He replaced the gunter rig with a sloop rig for many of the same reasons that you state. I have very little experience with gunter rigs. I have sailed out of Spa Creek in Annapolis a lot, and I currently sail out of Rock Creek. All of my sailing has been in 14 and 18 foot catboats. It sounds like you had typical weather in about 10-12 kts. As another member mentioned, the Bay is big, wide, and shallow, with lots of flat land around. It also has a lot of chop, kicked up mostly by power boats. At Sandy Point, you have a strong current coming down from Baltimore, you also have tides, and then you get the eddies from the Magothy and a bunch of other creeks. I have seen reports of wrecks getting pushed by the current down past the Bay Bridge-- it's that strong. All of these combined mean that you often have some pretty squirrely currents until you get out to the middle of the channel, or near there. But don't fret. Trust me, I've had moments of fear, especially when racing an afternoon thunderstorm. When I sailed my 14 foot catboat, a nice sail was to get out to the Bay Bridge from Spa Creek and back-- the craziest part was always right in the mouth of the Severn. The good news is that the wind will help you overcome a lot of the chop and current. I would often have green water up to my coaming, but the little boat never let me down. It's a lovely area to sail, especially during September and October, after the powerboats have gone home. Keep sailing, keep reading the waves, and enjoy your little ship!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    64

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    A friend of mine built a Skerry a few years ago.&nbsp; He replaced the gunter rig with a sloop rig for many of the same reasons that you state.&nbsp; I have very little experience with gunter rigs.&nbsp; &nbsp;I have sailed out of Spa Creek in Annapolis a lot, and I currently sail out of Rock Creek.&nbsp; All of my sailing has been in 14 and 18 foot catboats.&nbsp; It sounds like you had typical weather in about 10-12 kts.&nbsp; As another member mentioned, the Bay is big, wide, and shallow, with lots of flat land around.&nbsp; It also has a lot of chop, kicked up mostly by power boats.&nbsp; At Sandy Point, you have a strong current coming down from Baltimore, you also have tides, and then you get the eddies from the Magothy and a bunch of other creeks.&nbsp; I have seen reports of wrecks getting pushed by the current down past the Bay Bridge-- it's that strong.&nbsp; All of these combined mean that you often have some pretty squirrely currents until you get out to the middle of the channel, or near there. But don't fret. Trust me, I've had moments of fear, especially when racing an afternoon thunderstorm.&nbsp; When I sailed my 14 foot catboat, a nice sail was to get out to the Bay Bridge from Spa Creek and back-- the craziest part was always right in the mouth of the Severn.&nbsp; The good news is that the wind will help you overcome a lot of the chop and current.&nbsp; I would often have green water up to my coaming, but the little boat never let me down.&nbsp; It's a lovely area to sail, especially during September and October, after the powerboats have gone home.&nbsp; Keep sailing, keep reading the waves, and enjoy your little ship!<br>

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Sound Beach, NY
    Posts
    4,333

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    If neither you nor the boat were damaged, you did well.
    The fact that you are looking back and learning from it means you'll continue to do well.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Pennsylvania
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    8,901

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    There will always be days like that, and sometimes worse. Do you know how the Skerry behaves if it gets pushed over? Will the mast hold it at 90 degrees? And if so, can you right it, climb back in and bail it out?

    Knowing you can recover from a capsize makes these kinds of days more exciting and less terrifying.
    -Dave

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    Fiddletown, on Vineyard Lane
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    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    The lug will be docile, and jibing with a lug is a very calm affair, relatively. I converted my Coquina to lug--altering a Herreshoff requires either hubris or ignorance--and I hvae never missed the beautiful but tedious gaffs on and off of the trailer.
    Re-naming straits as necessary.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Annapolis, MD, USA
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    6

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Thanks again everybody.

    Woxbox, good point about capsizing. I have read on the CLC forum about the Skerry's recovery characteristics and it's not confidence inspiring. The other owners seem to agree that it's hard to bail out after reentry because the daggerboard trunk opening is underwater. A plug may help there, but I haven't figured out what to use as a plug that is both accessible enough to use yet secure enough not to get lost overboard. Nobody mentioned the canoe recovery trick of rocking/sloshing the water out of the boat before reentry however, and it's something I want to experiment with.

    The other related problem I have given a lot of thought to is how to secure everything in the boat. The anchor primarily because it's a heavy, loose hazard. Other things like the daggerboard, oars, dry bag, spare ropes, a chart, and even drinking water are important too. The Skerry doesn't have any tie-downs or storage nooks and the only solution to that is to start drilling holes. Even that won't save things like my mast shims. I have never seen this issue adequately addressed anywhere, so if anybody can point me to some ideas I would appreciate it. Maybe should take a roll of duck tape with me and tape everything down before I set sail.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    East Quogue,NY
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    20,716

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    the only solution to that is to start drilling holes
    Many small boaters will epoxy a patch of fabric or a loop of line to the boat in order to create a tie-down.

    You could use some fabric and resin to attach something like this:

    Screen Shot 2020-09-04 at 1.48.07 PM.jpg

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Bournemouth UK
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    1,756

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    ^
    You could use a diy version of these.
    http://www.whitewaterdesigns.com/hom..._down_kit.html
    https://www.boundarywaterscatalog.co...down-kit-24943

    Say 20-25mm (3/4 -1") polyester or nylon webbing, some small shackles, epoxy and some fabric should do.

    Nick

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Annapolis, MD, USA
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    6

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    Neat ideas.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    Queens, NY
    Posts
    268

    Default Re: First sail on the bay, not sure if this cruise was a smart idea or not

    looks like if you do this trick right the bailer stays in the boat !


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