Watkins Rendezvous 2015

It’s time again for the annual Watkins Rendevous when Rick Bailey and his wife, Ruth, sail their boat, Sea of Cay, south to raft up with other Watkins sailboat owners. Here’s the 2015 adventure:

June 2

Most difficult day on the water I can remember. Weather conditions, while not benign, were definitely the most favorable we ever had for a trip south. Rain with winds out of the NE at 10-15 mph.  Big following seas, which made steering an active struggle at times. But the conditions themselves weren’t the problem. It started when I assumed towing the dink would be no problem.

It turned out to be a significant problem. After 8-10 miles of great sailing (if not a little cool and damp), the dink was pooped by a breaking swell, and gained 10 (or so) gallons of movable ballast. We were immediately in an untenable situation. Now the dink plowed under tow, bow high, transom low, inviting another boarding sea to swamp her.

The only thing to do was get her on deck, which was so difficult, and so dangerous. We managed it, with a few scrapes and bruises, but I never want to do that again. After 11 years of towing the dink everywhere, this is the first time we’ve had a problem. Maybe we’ve just been lucky.

It took a half hour to do this, and we were exhausted by the effort, and freaked out by the safety hazards it presented. While landing the dink on the foredeck, I managed to break the plexiglass window in the forehatch. Fortunately, rain doesn’t come through, because the dink covers it. Having the dinghy in the foredeck complicates sail handling and anchor operations, so that was a struggle today as well.

We finally anchored at Solomons, after having our usual fun getting an anchor to set in the St Mary’s river. I relaunched the dink to set a second one, and just couldn’t get it positioned correctly, or set satisfactory. Retrieving the dink allowed me to reposition bow-forward, and that improved working space at the bow.

My final blunder of the day was to deeply cut my right thumb while trying to unlock a knot in a line. I used the wrong tool, and of course it slipped and cut me just about the time I recognized the risk. I bled all over the deck, the line, the dink – while finishing my tasks, and finally went below and took care of it. . . but what a day of fun on the water.

We have determined to make tomorrow’s leg south better than today’s.

June 4

We arrived today after 3 days of rain and wind. Again, all downhill/off-wind sailing. If we had to do all of that to weather, we would have driven to the rendezvous.

Yesterday – our second leg of the trip – was uneventful. Not always easy, because with wind above 12 mph in the open bay, every action takes thinking through, and everything involving sails can happen quickly and forcefully. The 4-5 chop was also a factor to deal with. Movement around the coachroof, inside the cabin, and even in the cockpit was hazardous.

The motion down below was pretty much intolerable. It didn’t take but a few minutes down there to get queasy, so we made our forays below as quickly as possible. We ate very little, as food didn’t really appeal to us too much. I had two granola bars, Ruth had something similar, and we both drank water. A note on seasickness: when food and water is needed.  A little bit of the right kind of snack and water to wash it down can settle a queasy stomach.

We gratefully made the mouth of the Little Wicomico and felt like we were in the lap of luxury to be in smooth water.  We got the hook down in an anchorage we’ve visited before, and the holding was excellent. The anchor set immediately, and we didn’t budge, though I checked our position a number of times through the night.

The saloon looked like a laundry shop with all the foul weather gear hanging off of every hook and edge. Yesterday and last night were both fairly cool, so I lit our lantern and turned the flame low. This warmed the saloon nicely and chased the damp out of the air. It seemed to aid in drying gear too, as things were fairly dry by morning.

No, we didn’t leave the lamp on all night. I’ve done that before, ensuring first that we had ample airflow, but it wasn’t cool enough for that and being under blankets as well. I’m happy to say that our bed stayed dry in the vee-berth, despite having a broken plexiglas lense in the fore hatch. The upturned dinghy kept all the rain out.

We were in bed asleep by 2100 and didn’t rise until 0700. Underway again by 0900 into the roughest day weather- and conditions-wise yet. We raised the main after bearing off to the south and had the wind on a beam reach all day. 4.5 – 5.5 knots under main alone. Sometimes surging above 6 down a wave face.

We’d had enough fun and rough weather, and I didn’t want to risk much time on the deck, as the conditions were so rough. So rather than experiment with adding sail area, and different sail combinations, I simply turned on the engine and had it ticking over at about 25% throttle. That increased our average speed to above 6 knots, and often much more than that ( we touched 8.1 at one point sliding down a wave). This also made the motion more tolerable. We only had 22 miles to cover today, and anticipation of getting off the washing machine ride was high.

We arrived at Dozier’s Marina (Deltaville) by 1400 and tied up in our slip. Our first order of business was washing and drying all the wet gear and clothes we went through over the last three days.

Next order of business is welcoming friends and fellow Watkins owners as they arrive tomorrow.

To be continued…

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 (http://middlebaysailing.wordpress.com).

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