Wind

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 10:00pm

Fall is the best time of year to pump the halyards and go sailing in Narragansett Bay. Late September and October of 2019 provided this sailor with some challenging trips up the bay to the north end of Prudence Island. There were five days in September that I got to burn some vacation time and put the spurs to Reverie —  in strong northeast winds. The stinging chill of the fall air in my cabin was offset when I put my little propane heater on at nightfall. Additionally, Potter’s Cove was peaceful; all but two sailboats were staying the night because of the heavy wind forecast — the less hardy scattered. I wasn’t in any rush because of my slack time, so I hung out on the island with some friends and waited for the north winds to diminish. I had some good grub that my wife cooked up for me, so there really was no reason to leave the island and get beat up sailing back to Newport. On that sailing trip I also had plans of sailing to Fogland on the Sakonnet River and spending one night. However, as stated earlier, the wind forecast was calling for strong northers which would make sailing from Fogland into Mt. Hope Bay just too much work. Sailing is about relaxing — these days. I decided to stay put in Potter’s Cove for two days before heading south. It was a great four days of sailing.

On 5 October, I again took off on a short two-day sail up to Prudence Island, but the weather forecast was calling for 25- to 30-knot southeast winds, which meant some work while sailing back to Newport; it would be, ahem, an interesting sail back to Newport on Sunday 6 October. (I had an anniversary date with the bride and it was imperative that I get back to Point Judith.) On 5 Saturday I had an effortless sail to Prudence and then messed around the anchorage in my rowboat and had a nice supper — it was a calm night and the wind went slack. At 0600 Sunday morning, I made some coffee, nibbled on a scone, and listened to the NOAA forecast. I made the decision to catch the outgoing tide and take the easy lift out of the east passage. The forecast was calling for the aforementioned southeast wind, and I figured that if I motored to the southern tip of the island by leaving early, then I’d only get half a beating — sailing pun intended — when the wind aired up from the south. It was a good decision. As Reverie steamed past the south end of Prudence Island, from ten miles away I could see a dark blue wind line cranking up the bay as the breeze filled in under the Pell bridge. Ten minutes later it was blowing 20 knots. I rolled out my 135 headsail, and Reverie’s rail plunged under water as she zipped along at 6.5 knots. I’d made a wise move as sometimes I’m wont to do. Yahoo! Wind!

Sometimes we can make things hard on ourselves as I am also wont to do. The tacking plan for Reverie would’ve had me in Newport in two hours — easy sailing. But, a mile from the Pell Bridge I decided to change my course and sail around the north end of Jamestown and sail up the west side to the Jamestown bridge. I figured time was on my side and this was my last sail of the season — why not? After merrily bashing my way south to the bridge for 45 minutes, I reversed my course and sailed on a broad reach back to the north end of Jamestown. It was there that I was met with 30-plus knots of southeast wind — right on the nose. The decision to head to the west side of Jamestown made for a great downwind sail; however, it also made for an upwind ass-kicking sail — geezer-style. Three hours later I grabbed my mooring stick, secured Reverie and went below to relax. My cell beeped, and there was a text message from the bride, “This is crazy man wind, be safe.” At supper later, Cindy said the wind was honking in Galilee, and that she was worried about me on this sailing trip. I agreed it was a hectic day of sailing alone into heavy southeast wind.

The Block Island Ferry cancelled ferry trips on Oct. 9, 10, 11, and the morning trips on Saturday, Oct. 12. We had a powerful nor’easter stall on top of us for a three-day period. This kind of thing usually happens in the winter months, but we got hammered by this storm, along with all of the ferries that service Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. While running Sailor at the Point Judith lighthouse on Saturday morning, I glanced Capt. Bill Dunleavy — the Mahogany Shoals barkeep — hauling by the point in 35 knots of northeast wind aboard his sailboat Kemo Sabey. Dunleavy is a smart and experienced sailor; he had a fair wind and tide and was heading south to Sullivan’s Island doing seven knots. Also, I saw my little brother Pat at the lighthouse. He was debating whether to suit up to go surfing. He’d checked his favorite spot and said the swell was dropping and that he wasn’t sure he wanted to get in the water. I connected the dots; diminishing winds and a dropping swell made it apparent that the boats would run on an adjusted schedule — the alerts were lifted and I clocked in at the dock.

Weather is fickle stuff and it can arbitrarily shift gears on us and we must roll with it. As of this writing, 17 October, the Block Island Ferry is not running any trips because of a big, sloppy sea state, and, of course, gale force winds.