Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mid-Winter Sailing

There is something immoral with leaving the boat along for too long, something like not playing with your children, cat, or dog (notice they are all in the same sentence...). A boat needs exercise and cold weather is no excuse.

Just because some of the marinas are still frozen solid is no excuse.

We have perhaps the hardest freeze in 15 years or so, building enough ice in Deale to walk across the harbor. Ice breakers were dispatched to Smith Island, and The National Guard sent Chinook helicopters to Tangier Island. Although it has warmed, even yesterday  I doubt I would have gotten out.

Sure, it was 65F in Washington and 55F in Deale, but I doubt it got much above 45 F on the water. The water was reading 36F and the light south wind had been in close contact with that for hours.

Below about 50F a balaclava is a mandatory neck seal, and it seems to help keep the hat on. Ski goggles replace sun glasses at about 45 with the wind comes up. They actually add a lot of warmth. 

The primary project for today was finishing the jackline layout. I've been doing a lot of testing of snap hooks and carabiners in the wake of the Clipper CV 30 accident, and one thing that has come out of it is that the Wichard Proline tithers are a top pick. They are about 4-6 times as strong as Gibb-style hooks in many loading situations, are big enough to clip railings, and I really like the light webbing and elastic. There are other good carabiners, but these really deliver the complete package.

By running the jackline along the cabin edge, I can reach the bow, transom, amas, and entire cockpit using the 6-foot tether arm. You can clip with a 3-foot arm for additional security. There are a few places you can fall off, but the boat has low free board and you would have a good chance of muscling back aboard. However, it's better not to fall off. Racing history has shown that sailors very seldom fall off when traveling the deck; it is when they stop to work on something that they are at risk. So use your short tether when working.

This time of year, a PFD really isn't worth squat. You won't last long enough solo, and it could be close even with good crew (hope you don't have the chute up). Wear a tether. Wear a dry suit if it's blowing.

Run the jacklines over control lines and under sheets.

Why edure the cold? Because the Chesapeake is a different place in mid-winter. The power boat wakes vanish; even on a Sunday, I didn't see another boat. The only sounds are the water hissing by the hull and scoters down from Canada for the winter. It is the very definition of peaceful. So long as the wind is not up, it's not that cold.

A rough estimate suggests there were about 50,000 scoters on Herring Bay today.

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