Nov. 21/2022: This, of course, is what we have in mind when notions of taking the boat south for the winter are first born: a sun-splashed bow wave in which dolphins gambol like frivolous children. But it takes a while to get there. I am actually bad at making plans. I knew I wanted to take Lunacy south this fall, but I wasn’t sure where… or why… or when… so adopted a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other attitude. I knew I had to attend the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis in mid-October—for decades now the hard, unyielding cyst in my calendar—so I figured I might as well go in the boat.
It is commonly said that sailing to a schedule leads to risky decisions and dangerous situations. I have been sailing boats up and down the western Atlantic on a schedule for many years now and routinely mourn the days of my carefree youth, when I only set out to go anywhere when conditions were truly propitious. But I am enough of a coward that I would never do anything supremely stupid or dangerous simply to keep to a schedule. In my experience, what sailing to a schedule leads to is not danger, but lots and lots of engine hours.
So it was this fall. Counting up in the log, I see I only spent 19 hours last month actually sailing down to Annapolis from Portsmouth, NH. All the rest was motoring.
But there was something I was proud of this year. I set out from Portsmouth singlehanded, as so often happens, and thought I’d stop in Provincetown for a good night’s sleep, as is my habit, before heading on to the Cape Cod Canal. Consulting my copy of Eldridge’s, however, I saw if I pressed on straight for the canal, I’d hit the eastern entrance within minutes of the current turning in my favor.
So that’s what I did. And this led ultimately to a perfect trifecta. After clearing the canal, I anchored in Phinney’s Harbor, off Monument Beach, copped some Z’s, then struck out direct for Cape May, NJ, down Buzzards Bay and outside Long Island. Though I longed for a good night’s sleep anchored at Cape May, I saw again if I pressed on, I’d arrive at the entrance of Delaware Bay within minutes of the current turning in my favor.
So that’s what I did. And this, in turn, led to my arriving at the eastern entrance of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal within minutes of the current turning in my favor. So it was I finally cast anchor and slept unregulated, without a short-order alarm on, in the Bohemia River, in northern Chesapeake Bay, just a few miles south of western C&D Canal orifice, after running non-stop, singlehanded, all the way there from Buzzards Bay, through the myriad complications of inshore traffic and navigation.
Last sight seen before departing New England—a cruise ship gliding past the wind farm off Block Island
First sight seen after losing sight of New England and Long Island. This tired little bird came aboard during my last evening in local waters. I offered it some chopped-up trail mix, which it happily devoured. After sleeping all night in one corner of the doghouse, it just as happily pooped all over the nav desk. A predictable outcome. At one point it hopped up on my finger, which helped me to forgive all its pooping. It disappeared the following day. I can only pray it survived
The longest bit of sailing I did en route to Annapolis, some 15 hours, was between Buzzards Bay and the entrance to Delaware Bay. This breeze was forecast to be a direct southwesterly headwind, but I went way out of my way, motoring more than 40 miles south of my rhumbline route, to get a closehauled sailing angle on it before it came up. This diversion, I calculated, cost me just 14 extra miles over a total straight-line distance of 245 miles
Passing under the Bay Bridge just north of Annapolis the afternoon after my night anchored in the Bohemia River
The very crowded anchorage in Annapolis that evening
I had in fact sailed Lunacy to the show in Annapolis twice before. But those times she was actually in the show and was proudly displayed to an admiring public by her builder. Her first year, some may recall, Lunacy was the overall winner in Cruising World’s Boat of the Year competition! She still likes to boast about that. But this was the first time I‘d sailed her to the show as a common groundling. We had anchored off Annapolis just prior to the show, but never during the show. What a scene! We had no idea what we were missing.
I much enjoyed taking the dinghy into the show each morning before doing my rounds and having Lunacyto retreat to afterwards. Unlike last year, I succeeded in not catching a dose of the dreaded Covid virus. I also enjoyed having Lunacy as my base the two days after the show when I was test-sailing new boats for the magazine. I only wish I’d thought of this before!
Seen at the show! Here’s an important innovation—a sit-down paddleboard, with a flamboyant Venetian bow
One thing I appreciated about the new Beneteau First 36 was the minimalist head. I’ve always thought having large heads, and/or multiple heads, on a boat is just plain silly. After all—how much time do you actually spend in the head??? To save space in the head on this new Beneteau, they borrowed an old trick from the distant past: a fold-down sink!
Here’s the sink folded up. You see this all the time in boat design: new innovations that are actually old innovations reborn
Here’s my buddy Andy Schell, who tried to convince me that I need to mount a miniature cannon on my boat. When he isn’t pitching weaponry, Andy and his wife Mia (not pictured here) run a great adventure sailing business, 59 North. Immediately after the show, Andy and I recorded a podcast about my new book
I also got to test drive the new Temo 450 “outboard oar,” as I call it, from France. A very unique device, reminiscent of the Thai long-tail boat engines I used to see on the klongs in Bangkok as a boy. It definitely takes some practice. This gent here is an expert!
After the show, and after I got done test-sailing boats, I left Lunacy on a dock at Jabins and promised her I’d return in November to take her further south. Although at this point, I wasn’t quite sure where that would be.
Again, though I hoped to fool some crew into sailing with me, I ended up also doing the next legs solo. Returning to the boat in mid-November and plunging south from Annapolis, I had much better luck catching wind to sail with, but still there was a fair bit of motoring.
Seen at Jabins before I returned home to New Hampshire. We often hear these days about boats that have lost their keels. Here is a keel that has lost its boat!
One thing that delayed me returning to the boat was getting to watch Jay, the child formerly known as my daughter Lucy (they are now a non-binary person), perform the lead role, Jo, in their school’s production of Little Women. This is Jay (center, with flowers in hand) after the opening night. They did a fantastic job, and I was very proud! It was a brilliant bit of casting—they were (was?) born to portray a perpetually annoyed androgynous person
Seen at Jabins after I returned to the boat. I thought I knew a thing or two about sailboats, but I’ve never seen anything like this before: a boat with a prop aperture in the middle of its keel! I would love to know what designer and builder thought this might be a good idea. Can anyone out there ID this boat for me? Please??? I get all twisted up like a pretzel just thinking about how the engine on this boat must be installed
First day out of Annapolis I caught fierce north wind and only needed some headsail out to make good progress south. Ended up anchored that evening in the basin at Solomons, a favorite place to poke into when heading down the bay
Second day was a mix of sailing and motoring in less wind. I ended up that night someplace I’d never been before: Henrys Creek, just off Indian Creek, just north of the Rappahannock River mouth. Easy in, easy out, and well protected
The end of day three, which featured a lot of fast reaching (yay!), found me in Little Creek, just inside the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. I paid for a slip in the Little Creek Marina and couldn’t help noticing that they’re building a lot of super-sized condo buildings here. They’re “condomizing” the whole neighborhood, as Hoboken mayor Steve Cappiello once put it (referring to Hoboken back in the 1980s)
Just down the dock from me I found evidence of a recent conflagration
Further evidence. To me it looks like the fire might have started at that stub of a melted-down power post in the lower left corner
The forecast coming out of Little Creek was for NW wind, 15-20 with gusts to 25, which sounded good for rounding Cape Hatteras on the outside. What we got instead was 20-25 with long sustained gusts well over 30. I ended flying just a double-reefed mainsail and spent a lot of time watching the action from inside the doghouse. This is just as we rounded Diamond Shoals at 0600 on November 17
These people, on a catamaran called Hopes and Dreams, were a royal PITA after we rounded Hatteras and spent most of a day and a night in close proximity to us, doing weird unpredictable things. Made it very hard for me to catch naps. Finally I had to make dramatic evasive maneuvers to get away from them
Living the good life! Broad reaching off the Carolina coast
And then came Georgia! Where we were confronted with a huge armada of 40 or more anchored container ships, some 20 miles across, all waiting to go up to Savannah
Broad reaching through the container ship archipelago. Fortunately the ships were farther apart in reality than they appeared on the AIS screen
The last bit of sailing we did, heading south of the container ship archipelago, after the wind veered and put us on a wing-and-wing set
About those dolphins! I saw them again and again, and they seemed always to arrive at auspicious moments. Rounding Hatteras, ditching Hope and Dreams, and so on. These are the ones that came to celebrate when I poled out my headsail south of Savannah
Where I ended up. Brunswick Landing Marina in Brunswick, Georgia. A familiar happy place where Lunacy can doze quietly for a while. This is the first time I’ve come here where there hasn’t been an enormous car carrier lying on its side down the sound. I can’t say I miss it
As for where we’ll go from here… I have no idea. Stay tuned to find out.