We always do this backwards. We get so far behind, we just start with where we are and flash back to cover how we got here. Where we are is off Wind Song and in a hotel, and where Wind Song is is out of the water and on dry land. She got hauled yesterday and put "on the hard" until someone buys her. In two days we will be back in El Segundo in a bare condominium.
A lot has happened. Seems like we say that every time, but it's always been true. Let's rewind to Maryland's Eastern Shore, town of Oxford, June 11th.
The center of Oxford is tiny Town Creek, maybe half a mile long, and we took Wind Song all the way down to the end and back in a sort of victory lap celebrating her return to her birthplace -- past the Hinckley Yard (formerly Crockett Boat Yard, where she was built), past Cutts and Case next door, builders of perfect little custom wooden boats (they used to come over to the shed where Wind Song was being built and sneer, cuz she was fiberglass -- but she's still alive and so are all her builders, and Ed Cutts is not), past Oxford Boat Yard where she spent every year of her tenancy in Oxford, right across the street from the waterfront home of Larry Murray -- who, on June 11th, 2005 was sitting in his back yard with his wife Dorette when we went by his house (and his immaculate fire-engine-red, teak-decked Hinckley Bermuda 40 Antares) and he looked up and said "Hey, look. Wind Song's back." Like it hadn't been over a decade since she left.
We found this out the next morning from Larry himself, at the Oxford Fire Department Pancake Breakfast where we met him and Dorette and at least half of Oxford. We were invited there by Ed and Helen Thieler after they, oh by the way, had also seen us come into Town Creek from Schooner's Landing Restaurant above their trawler Rolling Hitch. In fact, our anchor hadn't been down ten minutes just across the way in Cemetery Cove when Ed idled up in his skiff, introduced himself, said he'd seen our masts go by above his flybridge, and figured from the rake that it must be Wind Song, a boat he'd never seen in the flesh before, though we had corresponded and sent him pictures. Recall we'd been advised by Pete Dawson (on the Great Lakes 33 trawler Scooter back at Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas) to make Ed's acquaintance and take advantage of his knowledge of Oxford and the Eastern Shore. And here he was, finding us rather than vice versa.
Of course our friend John Labat, who had helped build Wind Song, came down to meet us too. We were also able to meet his brother Woody at the pancake breakfast. And Tom Campbell -- still known as Tommy to folks who grew up with him, and who now owns three boatyards in Oxford -- got his start by performing all maintenance and repairs on Wind Song for fifteen years, including the transom addition the year after her launch.
We were well and truly welcomed by the many good folks of Oxford, and stayed there a week -- long enough to hook up with some friends of John's who loaned us a car to drive to Annapolis, where we interviewed eight yacht brokers, plus one in Oxford (at one of Tom Campbell's facilities), eventually choosing Thom Wagner of Wagner-Stevens Yachts. They sell new Passport Yachts in addition to being brokers for used boats. In fact, Thom is Passport Yachts. Turns out he bought the company a few years back, and personally designs every Passport interior.
With all that, we have no photos at all of Oxford! We were too busy doing stuff. After a week we moved thirty miles by boat (ten miles as the crow flies) to St Michaels, MD, home of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum which we promptly joined because their members get free admission 365 days/year plus use of the shower facilities anytime night or day. Our reason for being there was the Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe races that weekend, out of the Miles River Yacht Club. We went for the sales exposure, and certainly got it, anchored right across from the museum. Lane had wanted to see these races ever since he was about ten years old, and this was his chance.
These boats are an extreme evolution of what originally was an extreme evolution of the Chesapeake Bay Native American log (dugout) canoe. The latter is one log, hollowed out with stone tools and fire. The early Euro-American colonists copied these and soon enlarged them to three logs across the bottom, with sides planked on frames raised above the logs using European boatbuilding techniques, then equipped with sails and used for fishing. The final evolution was to a tippy, bendy-masted, grossly overcanvassed, testosterone-infused racing machine that sails in about ten regattas a summer, with a crew of fifteen or so out on hiking boards to keep the beast upright, and then it spends the intervening nine months getting rebuilt so it can survive another ten weekends next year.
Most of these boats spend the time between races hauled out on trailers because, quite frankly, if kept on an anchor a mild zephyr of a breeze would easily knock it over and capsize it due to the windage of the masts alone. The widest of these boats might be six feet wide, 30 - 35 feet long on deck, and well over fifty feet overall including a long hogged bowsprit, an overhanging, center-tacked jib boom, and a stern sprit that acts as a sheeting point for the main sail (the smaller, aft sail) and a seat for the mainsheet trimmer. We moved up a mile north to anchor off the Miles River Yacht Club for the racing weekend, and one of them anchored right next to us. Good thing it was a dead calm, foggy night. Here's a photo:
As you can see, these boats carry huge rigs. The main (aft mast) and fore
(foreward mast) sails are four-sided with a vertical aft edge lashed to
a vertical sprit, which in turn is spaced aft from the mast by a horizontal
sprit. The jib is triangular on a full boom that is lashed to the tip of the
bowsprit at a point roughly one quarter of the way back on the boom. This
makes the jib self-vanging and causes its forward point to project to windward,
which helps aerodynamically. The resulting gargantuan array of laundry is
known as "working sail", to which may be added a triangular, sprit-rigged
foretopsail that is hoisted to the foremasthead like an oversized flagstaff
and sheeted to the mainmasthead. It really helps to look at a picture:
The sailors among you are now muttering "wow" and shaking your heads. To
this may be added, when reaching off the wind, a spinnaker-like mainstaysail,
in case what you see is not enough. These boats can, and often do, race in
very light breezes . . . but not always. And those folks you see sitting
in the boat do not stay "in the boat". They get out on the hiking boards
to keep it upright. Like this.
The boat in the next photo below is on the hairy edge of capsize, a condition
under which, in any appreciable breeze, they are sailed almost all the time.
Once the lee cockpit coaming goes under, swamping is very sudden. Each boat
typically sails with a young boy whose full time task is to bail like a mad
fiend -- because the more water that gets in the boat, the deeper in the water
it sails, the higher the bow wave gets, and the quicker it swamps.
We watched one such boat sail at good speed directly into a rogue wake
raised by a passing cabin cruiser oblivious to the tenuous nature of the activities
around him. It pitched up on the first wave, plowed into the second, and
buried its forward ten feet of hull. All sheets were promptly released, the
entire hiking crew were dropped into the water, and the boat managed to just
stay afloat. This wake was about one foot high -- approximately the entire
height out of the water of a log canoe. The photo below was taken just as
it entered the second wave -- before the crew were dumped:
The main trimmer spends the entire day sitting -- with a very wet butt
-- on that tiny platform aft on the stern pulpit. The wet butt stems from
the size of the stern wave a speeding log canoe can create. This one is creating
this wave while sailing upwind, the slowest point of sail. It's wetter
on a reach. Most main trimmers are female.
Roxanne and Tania declared that this was by far the most exciting racing
they'd seen, and began to understand for the first time why people go racing
in sailboats at all.
At the risk of inflating this file upload beyond all sense of proportion, here's a 2.8 MB video of last year's season champion on a fast reach, with two crew bailing like mad over the lee side. The one thing they got wrong on this day (and fixed the next morning): they hoisted their "CHAMPION" banner upside down.
Sunday, July 31st, 2005
Having by this time chosen an Annapolis broker for Wind Song, it seemed only appropriate to actually take her to Annapolis. Three days before the July 4th weekend we managed to get THE prime mooring in THE most visually exposed spot off the Annapolis waterfront -- a place known locally as "Ego Alley" -- a stone's throw from the huge waterside windows of the Charthouse restaurant (which does a raging business, much of which is transported across Spa Creek from town via water taxi, right past us). We figured we'd show her off to all the holiday traffic and then be off for another couple of weeks of cruising in the northern Chesapeake before settling down to the odious task of repairing her broken parts, cleaning her up, off-loading her, shipping our possessions, and getting ourselves back home. That's when Roxanne got herself a job in downtown Annapolis, full time for what remained of July. So we went ashore to the Harbormaster's office and upgraded our one-week stay to five, and then didn't budge from that mooring for the duration. Here's what the environs looks like on a chart.
The town dinghy dock is right at the head of Market Slip (Ego Alley), where we would land to go just about anywhere. We could pick up the city bus at Church Circle, just to the left of State Circle ("Capitol Dome") above. Roxanne's job is on Conduit St near the left edge of the chart. St Johns College is just off the top of the chart. Every morning at 0630 four thousand US Naval Academy undergrads assemble for an hour and 15 minutes of calisthenics in the area marked "Stadium" -- responding loudly to the drill instructor with the count. We didn't need an alarm clock to wake up.
The Charthouse on the Annapolis waterfront, taken from
Wind Song's cockpit on the mooring.
The Hard Bean Cafe and Bookseller -- our "home away from
Lane and Roxanne hard at work in "The Bean" -- Lane on
NGST (here explaining something to someone), Roxanne on her job search.
This place had good coffee, good bagels, nice folks, free wifi, and AIR CONDITIONING, a good thing with the Heat Index outdoors in the 100-110 range.
One of the local excitements, particularly if you happen to be moored right
on Ego Alley, is the Wednesday Night Races. As in Marina del Rey in LA, the
start is outside the harbor in reverse handicap order, so everyone theoretically
finishes together -- in an area MUCH smaller than the Marina del Rey inner
harbor. In Annapolis the finish is about 75 yards (four or five boatlengths)
from the Spa Creek Bridge, right under the word "Charthouse" on the above
chart - and finished boats then have to motor back against the flow
of incoming boats. If the wind is westerly, about 200 boats ranging from
25 to 50 feet tack right through the mooring field, complaining along the
way if people haven't pulled their dinghies up alongside ("Hey, we're racing
here!" "Yeah, I know. Do the words 'Federally Designated Anchorage' mean
anything to you?" As long as the wind isn't too strong this works OK, but
then sometimes it is strong. See below, where an afternoon thundersquall produced
whole-gale white-out conditions right as everyone was finishing.
We counted roughly $100,000 worth of sail damage in ten minutes. Then two boats hit the bridge after finishing.
It isn't always this eventful. While the "big boys" are out battling, a
kinder, gentler competition takes place inside the harbor among the Herreschoff
While in the vicinity, we met up with these guys, the Annapolis Irish Rowers
Tania, who did a week of "introductory crew" with UCLA back home, responded
immediately to these guys' invitation to come rowing with them, so for the
rest of July, she spent Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings
rowing a curragh. That's her second from left -- with a shirt in
100 degree weather. No sliding seats here! Just a thwart to sit on and a
rail for your feet.
A curragh is a lightweight, ocean-going Irish rowboat made of painted canvas over a wood frame. The oars are distinctive in that they are just straight sticks and have no identifiable "blade". They are designed to dig deep and then retract high and clear of rough water, and so do not "feather" as racing shell blades do.
There are only a few of these teams around the eastern US states. These guys are the current champions. They worked Tania good and hard. Notice the gloves on her hands.
The weather, as it turned out, wasn't quite done with us. One evening as we were strolling out of a restaurant after dinner uptown (having by this time offloaded most of the food from Wind Song), we were considering stopping for some ice cream when some really dark clouds clolsed in and Lane said, "Maybe tomorrow. Let's get back to the boat." Once we did, Lynn turned the VHF radio to NOAA weather and heard " . . . Anne Arundel County, dangerous wind advisory through 830 pm, 60 knot gusts with hail the size of pennies . . . " So Lane jumped in the dinghy -- in maybe 5 knots of breeze -- to go to the bow and deploy a second mooring line. By the time he got there 30 seconds later it was blowing 45 knots. Lynn and the girls immediately turned their attention to taking in the full sun awnings we had deployed, that stretched from the transom to the main mast, about 300 square feet of sailcloth spread over aluminum tubes. Not all these tubes made it through unscathed. Lane straightened this one using Lynn's and the girls' bodies for weight and leverage.
The winds associated with this front were clocked at at least 50 knots in the mooring field. About 300 feet away, in the yacht storage yard where Wind Song was destined to go in another three days, the wind hit 72 knots (not mph). That's Category 1 hurricane conditions, if only for 15 minutes or so. Bad enough for us.
Really bad for a certain C&C 30 up in the yard -- but that was in turn good for us and Wind Song, as we'll shortly see. This C&C, a deep fin keel sloop, took the heaviest gusts on her stern, which was lifted right off the supports as the whole boat tipped forward and to the right -- and toppled to the ground, cracking her hull clear through over several square feet. The boat was therefore removed from her storage location and taken to an area where repairs could commence.
How can this be good news for us? Well you see, this boat had occupied
simply the prime dry display location in all of Annapolis, right at the entrance
to the yard, next door to the Charthouse, and directly below seven or eight
yacht brokers' offices, including ours, and where interested folks walk past
by the dozen each day. We now own that spot. It doesn't get any better. Here
is the view from the patio outside our broker's second floor office.
Kinda hard to miss. We moved everything including ourselves off the boat and into a hotel, then winterized her motor, polished her hull, and put all her covers on. We said goodby to her this morning. It was more emotional than we expected.
Roxanne and Tania polish the topsides
She looks better than she's ever looked while we've owned
What lines this boat's got! She may be more beautiful out
of the water than in it.
So, now. We get on a plane tomorrow at 3 pm EDT. By 10 pm PDT we'll be back in our condo, and all that we've done for the past ten months will start to fade to the status of dream -- which, after all, is exactly how it all started.
What does one take away from such an experience, where, after all is said and done, you're back where you started with nothing to show for it but some digital pictures? That can't be all we end up with. It wasn't last time; we got a book out of it, at least. But this time, Lane does not intend to write a book.
The answer, perhaps not so obviously, is we end up with anything we want to end up with. We end up with memories, of course -- which fade to wisps all too quickly -- but also new dreams, commitments, ways of being, knowledge of what's possible, and increased certainty of who we are and what we're here for. Each of us has plans in place now that did not exist ten months ago. Roxanne has a grip on her college career that did not exist even four weeks ago, let alone ten months. Lynn has decided to embark on yet another new career while still pursuing the modeling she just started last year. Tania also has new definition in her college plans, plus a plan to go cruising in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and South America after graduation. Lane has his eye on a new boat, a smaller, possibly trailerable shoal draft cruiser that can he can sail virtually anywhere single-handed, that will support himself and Lynn for months at a time, and that can be trailered around the US to new cruising venues we could never reach in one lifetime otherwise.
Who knows what will become of these plans? We shall see. But that is what there is, now that this trip is over. While we covered 2656 nautical miles, it would be incorrect to say that we "got somewhere" -- except to say that we got to where we saw where there was to get to next. And that is as much destination as life offers.