An Appointment for Tuesday Sailing

My father-in-law and I have a weekly appointment. Every Tuesday morning, given reasonable weather, we go sailing. Sailing is never not fun, and every excuse to get on the water is exploited. But this isn’t an excuse, by any stretch. Dad is a good sailor and an experienced helmsman. It’s always a pleasure to sail with him.

No rain was forecast today, but the sky threatened. Dawn arrived late due to cloud cover, and it remained cloudy until early afternoon.  Add to that 70-degree temperatures, 10-12 knots of SE winds, and it seemed that autumn was foreshadowed.

The wind had obviously been piling chop up into Herring Bay for a few hours, because the water was lumpy, sloppy, and unpredictably bumpy. I pulled a reef into the main as we motored out the creek, and when we bore off on our first tack, I only let out 80-percent of the jib. I know, it was only 10-12 out there, but with choppy conditions and a senior sailor aboard, I wanted to take a cautious approach.

Dark skies and breezy conditions.  Reefed sails served us well for the first hour-plus.

Dark skies and breezy conditions. Reefed sails served us well for the first hour-plus.

My choice of sail area was perfect. We sailed quickly in perfect control for the first hour or more, Dad and I trading the tiller back and forth with each tack to keep from constantly scrambling around the cockpit. We drank a thermos of coffee, talked about family, birthdays, his early sailing days on Long Island Sound in an old Lightning-class sloop, watched the working boats, adjusted course, sail-set, tensioned/loosened lines to mute flapping, clanging and banging in the rig. We crisscrossed Herring Bay 3-4 times, exploring the boundaries, skirting the shoals.

The wind began to taper off.  I let out the reefs, and we adjusted heading again. Now, with the pressure of the wind diminished, the chop was becoming intolerable.  We finally had enough of bouncy bobbing and slatting sails.  I started the engine and Dad shaped our course towards the jetty opening as I took in the sails.

My father-in-law is a good shipmate.

My father-in-law is a good shipmate.

We motored into the channel past the jetties, and surprisingly, past a sailboat under sail. This is something I never do. The Rockhold Creek channel is too narrow and usually too crowded for sailing.  The other boats’ maneuvers are often unpredictable as well, so I always come in under power.

We backed into the slip on the first try, tied up and debarked.

Dad stayed for lunch, then drove the mile home to his place.  By then I was primed for my post-lunch doze in my chair.

Rick Bailey

Rick Bailey sails the Chesapeake Bay with his wife, Ruth, on a Watkins 27 coastal cruiser. Rick is retired and writes the "middlebaysailing" blog (

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