Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sailing Bristol Harbor

Easter weekend was glorious weather. And the warm sunny weather continued through the first few days of this week. On Wednesday, a sea breeze kicked in around lunch time and as I watched it build up to a juicy 15-20 knots, I decided that I could delay no longer. Today would be my first solo practice sail of the year.

Going Laser sailing by yourself in early April in Rhode Island is, of course, a totally irresponsible thing to do. The water temperature is still decidedly chilly though I suspect the warm weather of the last few days may well have pushed it over the 50 degree mark. It is the time of year when bonnie of frogma is always writing her cautionary tales about how EVEN THOUGH IT IS SUNNY YOU WILL PROBABLY DIE, and cheering us up with a story of someone who actually did. And, of course, as I discovered a couple of years ago and wrote about in So Where the Bloody Hell Are You? nobody else in Rhode Island goes out on the water in the middle of the week in April in any kind of craft whatsoever.

So I checked out Tillerman's Top Five Tips On How Not To Die On Your Laser. #1 and #5 (wear a PFD, and a drysuit or wetsuit if it's cold) were definitely applicable. I would hope I was OK on #3 and #4 (hang on to the sheet and make sure you are not to fat, unfit or weary to get back in the boat if you fall out.) And I chose to ignore #2 (sail with a friend.) Hey, if you can't ignore your own advice what's the point of writing it?

I added another safety factor that I like when sailing alone in early or late season in conditions that are fairly windy: I headed over to Bristol Harbor. As you can see from the picture it is enclosed by mainland on three sides and Hog Island on the fourth; you are never very far from shore; even though no other idiots will be out boating, there is a busy town on one side so there is a chance that some kind soul might spot a Laser with a broken mast, say, and think to call some help; and in a southerly (or south-westerly as it was on Wednesday) I figure that if something breaks and my boat is disabled I will wash up sooner or later on the rocks at the north end of the harbor, hopefully before I do the "cheat the nursing home" thing.

Maybe my logic is faulty, but for all the aforementioned reasons I feel safer in Bristol Harbor early and late in the season than I do at any of my other sailing spots on the bays around here. It was, for example, where I sailed in December 2008 when I stretched my number of sails in the year to #93 and #94 in Paint it Black and If I Had a Boat.

So I blasted around the harbor for an hour or so. Tried to shake off some of the cobwebs after not sailing for a few weeks. Pretty much sailed at every possible angle to the wind on both tacks in a lumpy sea and a shifty south-westerly. The wind direction was over 45 degrees away from the direction the waves were running which made for some strange sensations. It is noticeable how quickly I lose the comfort level for sailing in waves and chop after a few weeks off, but it comes back. I hope. It always has so far.

As expected, nobody else was out sailing, or kayaking, or fishing, or stink-potting. The only other boat I saw all afternoon was the Prudence Island Ferry, whose operator gave me a nice loud blast on his horn as he pulled out of the dock at 3:30. Maybe he does it every time, or maybe he was saying, "To that old geezer in the blue Laser sailing erratically all over the harbor... keep out of my bloody way!"

I sailed back to the beach. There were some teenagers in swimsuits sitting on the dock. (It was a very warm day.)

"How cold is that water?" one of them shouted at me.

"Very. Much too cold for swimming," I replied.

So they jumped in...


O Docker said...

Another myth of my youth destroyed.

The kids in Bristol are not, in fact, sharp as a pistol.

Sam Chapin said...

When the wind is up to 20 and no one else is around, borrow a 4.7 sail and bottom mast. You will sail about as fast, but it feels like you have some control.. Maybe you will be able to sail long enough for the grandchildren to grow up.

Baydog said...

Dopey kids. But then, we were all there at one time. And what they did would pale in comparison to some of the things we did, right?

Embraca: I embraca your zeal for sailing alone in 15-20.

Pat said...

I also got in a solo last weekend, though it was less for the sailing and really just one of the "ferry the boat across the lake" assignments.

Dan Gurney said...

Gads! You're beginning to make me think maybe I'm too old to sail my Laser. And I'm a bit younger than you.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I am totally convinced I am too old to sail a Laser. I just hope I'm not too old to sail a Harbor-20 outside the harbor!

tillerman said...

What? I must be doing something wrong if I am convincing other guys that they are too old for Laser sailing. The whole point of this blog is supposed to be to show that if an unfit old geezer total klutz like me can have fun in a Laser then so can you...

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