Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sailing in a Northeast Paradise, Day 3

Day 3, "Too much wind, too much cloth"

We got underway early on Tuesday morning, so we could get to Stonington and go ashore before setting out under sail. They took passengers to shore 12 at a time in the yawl boat (Enoch). To get into Enoch, you have to climb a ladder down the side of Victory Chimes but the crew coaches you down so you don't miss a step.

Stonington, named for its history as a granite-quarry town, is a nice little town on Deer Isle, with some good antique and art shops in the center. The town is set on a hillside, and if you walk up a bit you can look out at the harbor which is dotted with fishing boats and sailboats. Snap one photo and you've got an instant postcard.

In the center of Stonington is the Opera House: built in the late 19th century as a dance hall, later converted to a theater, burned down, rebuilt, used as a community hall, left to fall into disrepair, and rescued and restored several years ago. It now serves as a playhouse, music hall and movie theater.

After a brief visit to Stonington we were back on board and ready to sail. The day was clear and the air had just enough chill in it to make it perfectly comfortable in the sun.

Sailing on Victory Chimes is best described as serene. The Chimes is a big boat, and not what I'd call nimble. So most times, she doesn't go very fast and there's not a lot of tacking.

This afternoon was different though. In the middle of our day, while I sat by the rail and looked out at the water and the islands, I noticed that the water was being pushed back by our boat, as usual, but also being pushed forward by the wind. So it was making strange peaks alongside the boat. Also, the noise of the sails picked up, and I thought to myself, people probably don't realize how loud sailing can be. And our boat was leaning decidedly to the starboard side.

It turns out we caught a particularly strong and unexpected wind. It felt like being in a storm, but without the rain or dark skies. The Captain and crew reacted quickly, bringing down two of our sails within seconds. (As a note, usually the passengers get to help raise and lower the sails, but in this instance we just stayed out of the way as well as we could.) One of the lines got free in the wind and was whipping against the forward cabin, but a crewmember grabbed it and wrestled it under control like a rodeo cowboy riding a bull.

With only one main sail up, we were back to serenity pretty quickly. I asked one of the crew if it was just too much wind, and she answered, "too much wind and too much cloth," meaning that we were giving a strong wind a lot of sail surface to push against. I talked later with a passenger who sails a lot, and she mentioned that the real concern is an uncontrolled gybe, where the wind suddenly changes the side of the sail it's filling, and the boom swings rapidly to the other side of the boat. This can 1) take out any people who might be in the path of the boom, and 2) push the boat so far the other way that the rail goes in the water.

The rest of our sail that day was sprinkled with smaller events -- porpoise and seal sightings, more islands and other boats, the usual meals and conversations. I was exhausted by 3PM (only later realizing I was dehydrated) and took a nap, which is rarer than rare for me. I had told another passenger the day before, "Never feel guilty for taking a nap on Victory Chimes, it's a sign that you're really relaxing." So I was happy to crash for a little while.

By late afternoon, we arrived at Holbrook Island Sanctuary and anchored for the evening. Some of the passengers went to shore for a hike -- it's a great spot for hiking and offers another great view of Penobscot Bay.

It was a cloudy evening, with the threat of rain. But the rain held off, and we had our lobster dinners on deck, followed by Irish music, and more great conversation. Below deck, we finished the evening with Scrabble, cribbage, and crossword puzzles before heading our separate ways for another soft sleep.

1 comment:

windella said...

'"too much wind and too much cloth," could have resulted in pushing the boat so far the other way that the rail goes in the water.'
Well - I was down in Cabin #11 taking a nap when water started leaking in through the porthole. I got a crew member, who got the first mate....who took care of tightening up the wing nut. We didn't quite get as far as the rail going into the water but my porthole was under water a few times. T'was then that the sails came down.