Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday on Mobjack Bay

I woke up early Monday morning a bit worried. Tropical Storm Hannah had swept up the coast, the outer edges dumping brief, heavy downpours on Richmond, and knocked over a few trees. One of those had fallen across our street, just missing the telephone pole on the corner of our wooded lot, but breaking the power lines. A little lower and a fraction of a second later, it crashed against the steel line that supported the cable television service.

That didn't break, but the weight and momentum of the tree snapped the telephone pole. The power company showed up promptly, and with floodlights blazing and engines rumbling into the night, had the pole replaced and power back on by 2:40 in the morning.

So... the worry wasn't at home. It was at Mobjack Bay. I had driven down to the marina, an hour and a half from home on Saturday morning, and found lots of other boat owners doing the same thing I was doing, doubling all the mooring lines and either lashing sail covers tightly or removing sails completely, as I did.

Hannah's track took it almost exactly across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and on across Mobjack Bay, with winds predicted to be perhaps in excess of 50 mph, and storm surges of up to eight feet, which would have put the docks at Mobjack Bay Marina under the storm driven waves.

The marina was almost deserted when I got there, except for a couple of other sailboat owners. The air was still...so calm that the trees across the cove were twinned upside down on the still surface.

The sky was gray, and fog and mist drifted getween the trees and close to the flat water. All the boats had fared well. My sailboat "StarLady" floated serenely in her slip, and there was no sign of damage. All the lines had held.

I opened the hatch and went below. Everything was dry except for a couple of cushions that had been under a drip from the outside. I put the main sail back on the mast and boom, cleaned up the deck, and by then the sun was breaking through the clouds. Well....since I'm already here...

I hanked on the jib, ran the jib sheets back to the winches, checked the gas tank, started the Yamaha 9 hp outboard engine, cast off the mooring lines, and chugged quietly out of the slip. Rounding the red marker that warns of shallow water at the entrance to the cove, I noticed that the osprey nest built on top of it that had been home to a pair of the bay fish hawks in the Spring was now empty.

StarLady slid quitely across the dark mirror of Blackwater Cove past the green marker at Roy's Point, and as I headed out into the salty water of the North River, little wisps of the faintest of breezes scuffed their way across toward me from the southeast.

By the time I had run up the main and the jib the breeze had freshened enough to fill the sails nicely, although not strong enough to heel the boat at all. I went ghosting across the open stretch of water toward the not too distant shore, leaning back comfortably with one arm draped over the tiller.

Tacking into the wind can be strenuous, but this was not to be one of those times. A leisurely series of tacks back and forth across the Mobjack Bay brought me in about an hour to Ware Neck Point. The wind had strengthened some and shifted a bit toward the south. As I crossed the middle of the bay, a pod of dolphins I had spotted in the distance changed course to intersect StarLady. They overtook me easily, and played around the boat briefly before heading off on their original track to look for breakfast.

Starting my last starboard tack into the wind, I sheeted in the jib tightly, pulled the traveler on the main sail as far as I could to the port side, and went plunging through the increasing waves toward the mouth of the Severn

At the channel split marker between the Ware and Severn Rivers, I turned to run before the wind, now blowing 15-20 mph, and we went corkscrewing back north up the bay surging along in following seas. Running directly on a broad reach instead of having to tack back and forth, the trip back took less than half the time it took to sail out there.

Approaching the entrance to Greenmansion Cove and the Mobjack Bay Marina, the water was almost as calm as it had been when I had left.

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