Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Harbor Tours

     There is nothing like succesfully maneuvering a sailing vessel at close quarters.It is the most basic form of seamanship and in a harbor full of sailing vessels it is when a sailor's pride is most on the line. The boat must be sailed with confidence, speed equals maneuverability.  The most must be gotten out of each tack, a foot closer to that pier could be the difference between clearing a schooner's bow on the next tack or having to dip her transom. Decisions need to be made in a timely way and care should be taken that confidence does not become hubris. Whether sailing a narrow marsh creek or a crowded harbor the seamanship is the same but we tend to value the opinion of our peers better than that of muskrats and herons. Sliding off a mud bank is better than accounting for cracked wood or plastic. Best to get the crew work tight in the marshlands before taking it into the crowded harbors. We take our practice where we can.
     When we came into Vineyard Haven we sailed to the head of the harbor reaching in and then out again before rounding up to take sail and follow the launch to our mooring under power. I had wanted to depart under sail but we needed to visit the town dock for water before continuing and doing that under sail would not have been prudent or even sane. That would be confidence becoming hubris and leading to disaster. So we found a space to hoist, tacked back to the head of the harbor and made our farewell to Vineyard Haven in fine style.
     Edgartown was another matter. Here the harbor master's office gave us clear direction to our assigned mooring over the radio. After running from East Chop to the outer harbor we beat into the inner harbor. A close study of the chart preceded our entrance and the crew was well versed in the necessary tasks. There was sufficient channel space to pick up speed and tack but none of that space could be wasted. Once our mooring was located we sailed up and down the channel near it, figuring out the relationship between wind and the considerable tidal current. We would have to round up head to current  with the boom well outboard to spill the wind. Doing this would require sailing between two moored boats, right under the transom of one. The sail could be rendered inefficient but not neutral so it would have to be doused quickly. The mooring would have to be picked up and secured immediately.
      With the information collected and the crew assignments given it was time to give it a try. Rounding up the boat drifted to a stop at the mooring and the pennant was aboard. It took three to get it on the cleat because an attempt was made to get it in the chock before securing it costing a few precious seconds. To depower the sail, the gaff was scandalized even before the topping lifts were taken up. It was a bit of a drill but all straightened out in short order as the sail was lowered and pulled inboard simultaneously. That is a fine way to enter a new harbor.


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