Weekend Sailing

img_3071.jpg Jamie's friends Jessie and Drew picked an amazing week to visit us in Sarasota. The long cold spell which had been bringing us temperatures in the 30s finally broke and gave way to comfortably warm days in the 70s. The weekend rolled around, and we were greeted with near-perfect weather for our planned weekend sailing trip. Captain Tim returned, and the five of us headed north for an overnight trip, our first that involved anchoring.

img_2972.jpg We had planned to leave around 9am on Saturday, but of course reality and optimistic intentions didn't see eye to eye. The list of things to review and fix before setting sail was too long, starting with returning a fallen Halyard to its lofty block, hanging 2/3rds of the way up the mast. That it had fallen in the first place was my own fault, as during a storm the previous week I had tied it to the lifelines with a knot of my own invention -- learning proper knots became one of the priorities this weekend.

img_2948.jpg I put on a harness and clipped in to the main halyard which goes around a block at the very top of the mast. Drew and Jamie belayed me from the deck, helping me to minimize my self-preservational fear of heights. As I climbed, I reminded myself how much I used to love climbing trees when younger. And as it turns out, the mast steps on our boat make climbing the mast even easier than climbing a tree -- it's still a long ways up, but it's quite secure. img_2942.jpg

Unfortunately that was not our only task requiring use of the mast steps. Our anchor light has never worked, and was known to not be working when we purchased our boat. The anchor light is a small light that you turn on when you're sitting at anchor at night in the dark which has to be visible from 360 degrees. This means that it has to be mounted to the very tip-top of the mast.

img_2954.jpg Jamie was unimpressed by my lack of eagerness in climbing the mast, so she clipped into the harness and declared it her turn, quickly ascending to the top of the spreaders. Unfortunately her small frame made working on the top of the mast not quite possible for her from the steps, so I took another turn. Reviewing the mast light I'm still a little perplexed as to how we're going to fix it. Working 50 feet in the air from the tip of a big log sticking up from a sheet of fiberglass floating on the water is not my idea of an ideal working platform. But fix it we will, and soon, as it's both a safety issue and a legal requirement.

img_2978.jpg We also spent some time troubleshooting a little blue smoke in the engine exhaust -- as we've replaced the air filter already we're now suspecting the turbo seal, though I've not yet figured out exactly where (and what) that is. We were able to replace the bulb on our starboard navigation light, important as we knew we'd be running at night to make our anchorage. We finally set out in the late afternoon, Jamie at the wheel enjoying a coffee she'd been desiring all day.

img_3043.jpg Tim was a patient and able teacher, answering everyone's questions and making sure that we had a safe and fun time. He led us north along the inner coastal along Longboat key to an anchorage he was familiar with at the northern end. The channel was narrow and he warned us not to stray outside of the markers where we could clearly see shallows that were covered in only inches of water.

img_3041.jpg As the sun began to set, Jessie decided that the bowsprit was her favorite perch. We could frequently hear her excited voice drift back to the cockpit as she pointed out crab pots in our path, birds, the setting sun, and all the many other wonderful things that make being out in the boat so enjoyable. I suspect her favorite sighting was the dolphins who decided to join her near the bow, riding our bow wake as Jessie stared down directly on them in not-so-silent awe. These were the first of many dolphins that we saw over the weekend.

img_3024.jpg Our planned anchorage was clearly marked on the chart, and we arrived about thirty minutes after sunset to find a dozen other boats already tightly packing the cove. We selected a potential spot for the Tillicum, and Jamie steered us in while I set the anchor. It was a much tighter fit than anyone had hoped, but we killed the engine and headed below for an amazing dinner of shrimp kabobs and rice that Jamie had prepared. The wind shifted during dinner, and when finished we decided to weigh anchor and find another spot that Tim knew on the other side of the cove. It proved to be an ideal spot, yet we only had to share it with one other boat as evidently everyone else preferred being in close quarters. We were left with plenty of space and peace of mind, leading to one of the most restful nights of sleep we'd had in a very long time.

img_3056.jpg The next morning Jamie treated us to an amazing batch of chocolate-chip pancakes -- she's proving to be quite adept in our new galley, a fact that I confess to rather enjoy even if I was the one to end up washing the dishes this time around. We're still learning the art of working in small spaces, and of working without modern conveniences like hot water readily flowing out of the sink (replaced instead with manually heating the water in a tea kettle). The end result is the same, with the added bonus of feeling a greater sense of accomplishment at the end.

img_3048.jpg We enjoyed our breakfast in the sun, sitting in the cockpit. As we don't have an anchor light, the previous night I'd scampered up the mast and tied on a bright portable LED which I then climbed up and removed in the morning. My first time up the mast the previous day I was nearly petrified only a few steps up, but already a day later I was climbing up and down without a second thought. Having mast steps is a truly wonderful thing, and something I suspect I will insist on with all future sailboats that we own. Climbing up to the spreaders and looking down over the boat and the water makes for a very nice vantage, though I confess to be still conquering my fear of climbing above the spreaders to the very top.

img_3068.jpg We weighed anchor and headed through Longboat Pass, under a drawbridge and out into the Gulf of Mexico where we spent the day sailing. The sky was blue, the air was warm, the water was flat calm, and the wind was blowing a steady 15 knots -- we could not have had better conditions. Everyone took a turn steering the boat as we flew all three sails and enjoyed each other's company. Even Quixote, the ship cat, seemed pleased by the quality of the day. It was fine weekend of sailing.

1 comments on Weekend Sailing

  1. captain ron's picture
    captain ron
    Wed, 02/11/2009 - 17:56

    You are certainly going to have all of your northern friends jealous of your adventures. Jealous of course of everything except sharing the anchorages with the many other boaters of the warm water world.

    My own adventure this weekend came complete with white out conditions and lots of blankets, but strangely enough I didn't see too many other folks at anchor. These people don't know what they're missing!

    fair winds,