The work of sailing

Getting the mainsail ready at dawnSince we have been in the North Carolina section of the ICW, we have been sailing much more than we expected.   Our goal on this journey south, and generally as sailors, has been to sail as much as possible, but we were somewhat resigned to the fact we would have to motor most of the time on the ICW section.  We chose the North Carolina section of the ICW in order to avoid going around Cape Hatteras, also known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic”.  This is a difficult area due to converging currents and weather patterns that play themselves out in sometimes dangerous and challenging ways right around Cape Hatteras, not to mention the fact that you have to go about 100 miles out into the ocean to get around the major shoals that form there.

Anyway, we have been pleasantly surprised to be finding some amazing sailing conditions in this section of the ICW.  And challenging ones as well!  We have sailed all the way down the Pasquatank River, across the entire Albemarle Sound, and up most of the Alligator River until it ended in a narrow canal.  We also sailed all the way down the Pungo and Neuse Rivers. And we weren’t just pokin’ along, either.  Much of the time we were doing over 6 knots, one day with a double reefed main! Our boat seemed to be “way happy” sailing instead of motoring!  She was literally dancing just this afternoon down the Neuse River in lovely, perfect even, 15 knot winds.  During this time we watched countless other sailboats go by with no sails up and motoring.  (Lala’s side rant:  Why?!  Why do these people who like to motor so much and are too lazy to sail even have sailboats?  And $100,000 sailboats at that?  Why not just get a comfy trawler and be done with it?)

Not only do we have a painfully small budget that we would rather spend on other things than a bunch of fuel, we just like sailing better.  I personally, have been known to become a psychotic bitch when the engine has been on too long.  So we try to eek out every mile we can under sail alone, and there is a price to be paid for that as well.  It’s a lot of work to sail!  Sure, sometimes you can get your sails all trimmed, put on the autopilot, and not have to lift a finger for 10 hours.  But the sailing we have been doing the last few days is not that kind of sailing.  It has been more like “high maintenance” sailing.  The kind of sailing that keeps you on your toes and leaves you exhausted at the end of the day.   That means a lot of sail changes, like, put the mainsail up, an hour later bring it down, an hour later put it up again. Change the headsail..oh now the wind is too strong for that one, change back to the other one.  Put a reef in the mainsail, take the reef out of the mainsail.  Lots of coiling and uncoiling, tightening and loosening of ropes. Tacking, jibing, keeping close-hauled to the wind, reaching, then running down wind.  And if you are inside the cabin, watch out for flying objects and be careful not to spill your coffee!

Cap't K at the helmOne of us has been on the wheel actively steering for 10 hours a day.  No autopilot here in the land of narrow channels and many shoals.

In the last few days we have had quite a workout doing all of this.  Simply motoring would have been a lot less effort.  We have been in a wide variety of sailing conditions, including some of the strongest winds we have ever sailed in.  We continue to be in “shakedown cruise” mode, meaning we are still getting to know our new boat and what she is good at, not good at, how to handle her.  We have learned that she is great at pointing towards the wind and we have been really impressed with her performance to windward. (which is great since the wind is almost always coming from the direction that we want to go!)  She is much slower going down wind, and I find that point of sail challenging anyway.  Although today we did a downwind run on the Neuse River and she sailed fantastically.

I both love and hate all the work it takes to sail.  There are moments, when the sails have been trimmed well, and the boat makes bouncy yet ever so graceful strides across the water, that everything in the entire world feels in a state of balance.  I am present with the here and now, and the here and now are wonderful.  And then there are moments, when the sails are flapping loudly, and the boat is rocking madly, and the wind is cold in my face, when I think “what the hell am I doing out here?  Who ever said this was a good idea?”

But isn’t this is just a reflection of life in general? It seems that no matter what we do and how much we may love it, there are both of these extremes in everything.

And I do believe that the work it takes to sail makes us all the more grateful for the miracle of the basic elements of the wind, and the water, combined with our intelligence to use them to make us go where we want. This is the beauty of sailing.

10 thoughts on “The work of sailing

  1. Valerianna

    So true! I love the active sailing… but then again, I was always just a hand and my mom or dad would be running around doing most stuff and occasionally ordering me to do something.

    Hope you are cozy with the coal stove…. well, it looks like it might be cold with Capt’n K all bundled up. Cold and LOTS of snow coming down here…. waaaay too much for this time of year. Still have 2 cords of wood to stack, its out there under tarps getting dumped on…. ugh.

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, we have been LOVING the stove the last few nights!!! It hasnt been snowing, but its been damn cold nonetheless. We are stokin’ that stove!! Good luck with those cords of wood!!

  2. Jane

    If you are coming through southport,nc please plan to stop at southport marina and see islena, our islander 37. Jeff fisher is dock master, we are on D dock! Would love to see yours! And hear your stories.

    1. admin Post author

      Great, we would love to see your islander! Not sure yet if we will be stopping there, but now that we have a reason to, it’s more likely that we will!

  3. Stefanie

    go you psychotic bitch you! beautiful entry and so true. life is up and down. the balance is always somewhere but not necessarily where I am. here and now. inspiring. stay well sailors. (and thank you again for my incredible scarf.)

    1. admin Post author

      Wow! That was amazing! K. Had heard of people doing this but we had never seen it. Funny you should send this link, because just the other day I almost had a heart attack going under a bridge — there is a strange optical illusion that happens when you are approaching a bridge where it LOOKS like the mast is going to hit the bridge just before you go under. so even though it said the bridge was 64 ft and our mast is 45, I had a moment of sheer terror watching what totally looked like the mast about to hit the bridge. Those people in the video were brave…..if that didnt work it would have seriously damaged their boat! But now we know it can be done!

  4. bud

    It is rare to find true sailors out there like yourselves! Probably more than 90% of people with sailboats do not know or care to know how to sail their boat in anything but perfect conditions. I applaud you’all! I think even if you had the cash for diesel you would still sail away!


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