Getting this chapter started has been tough but I'm ready to start but consider it a work in progress. So far the summer of 2007 has been much more bitter than sweet but I've been out there sailing and dealing awkwardly with life without Carol. The condo in New Jersey is still on the market but I'm living on Lastdance most of the time and learning how to sail her single-handed. I've learned that an occasional day sail alone is one thing but doing it full time is tiring at best physically and emotionally draining without Carol.
Lastdance was on the hard last winter at which time I had a lot of work done, the most important being an auto-pilot which is almost essential for single-handed long distance sailing. After a few glitches, the auto pilot is now working well. It steers a true course in fair weather and foul but I have to tell you, when it gets really snotty out there with Lastdance pitching and rolling on the deep blue sea, and I'm standing on the cabin top trying to put a reef in the main, I'd rather be trusting my life to Carol on the helm rather than a bunch of microchips and processors.
Other than a few shake down sails, my first week long sail was a sometimes painful sometimes healing trip with my classmate Jerry Mount who lost his wife Mary Lynn to the same stinking disease that took Carol's life. We sailed over to Annapolis for a few days of R&R and a lot of reflection about our past lives and what the future may hold for us. All in all it was a postive event for both of us and I came to discover that Jerry eats as much ice cream as I drink rum.
Memorial Day Weekend
The next cruise I did was a one week sail to Baltimore for Memorial Day along with Terry in Cloud Nine. Carol and I have been doing this raft up for years with friends from our marina so once again, I was venturing into bittersweet territory. Unlike in years past however, the wind was perfect and we left Kent Narrows and sailed out the Chester River in a stiff NE breeze and after rounding Love Point we turned west toward Baltimore and we continued to reach on a rhumb line course right for the damn Key Bridge! Just before the bridge I passed Fort Carol, an old Civil War fort on a small island east of the bridge. Here was the bitter part of such a sweet sail because in years past, I always joked with Carol that the island was named after her.
I was once again making hull speed and I sailed right into the Inner Harbor with Cloud Nine on my heels. We anchored then Terry and I went ashore and found ourselves sipping large margaritas while woofing down overflowing plates of tamales, burritos and refried beans.
The next day everyone else arrived and we were soon in a 14 boat raft-up with flags a’flying, music blaring and the rum flowing freely. Our good friend Rhonda arrived by car from Connecticut with her usual bottle of Correlejo tequila and we all settled into sipping that nectar and listening to Jimmy Buffett music. It was fun but it was also very bittersweet for me and 5 minutes didn’t pass over the whole weekend when I didn’t think of Carol or remember her there in years past.
Summer Days & Veras Labor Day Cruise
The rest of this summer has been mostly sailing alone trying to hone my solo skills but I've also been fortunate to spend some weekends rafted with friends from O-dock in several secluded creeks and anchorages and a quiet 4th of July anchored in St. Michael's harbor along with Seawoof and Bliss. Labor Day weekend we sailed 60 miles with 11 boats to famous Vera's White Sands Marina. Sadly Vera passed away in January but her legacy lives on and we had a good time and we expect that Vera and Carol were in Fiddlers Green looking down on us as they sipped island drinks with little umbrellas. We did a brief memorial service for Carol and placed a lei in the creek then more than 12 hours later when I was leaving St Leonard's creek, I passed the lei right in the middle of the creek drifting out to the bay (see the photo in the summer 07 album)...What are the odds huh? I'll fill in whats left of the summer before I set sail for Florida,the Keys and Bahamas, until then...fair winds.
Autumn & RWYB Harvest Moon Race
Well, today is October first; one year since Carol's passing. Yesterday I celebrated our wedding anniversary by visiting her at Calverton and in doing so, drove right past Fort Hamilton at the base of the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn where we were married 18 years ago almost to the hour.
The day before that, I was racing my way around Kent Island in the 7th annual RWYB harvest moon race. I didn't participate last year of course but Carol and I always attended this fun event, especially the after-race party. Our friend Rhonda always raced with us and she did again this year but no one was prepared for the very blustery conditions at the start of the race. Wind was north at 20+ knots, gusting as high as 30 so we reefed down and did the course counter-clockwise so we woulldn't have to beat into the wind sailing the longest leg of the course up the middle of the bay.
Getting out of the Chester River was a struggle. Strong wind against strong current made for very STEEP and BIG waves and before the fleet made it to Love Point where we turned south to run downwind, one boat went aground, 3 turned back and there was a dismasting out there. Rhonda got seasick but managed to keep "it in" and I was borderline but many crews from other boats had a very messy time of it. As we rounded Love Point, things got much better and with the wind and current now going in the same direction, the seas flattened considerably. Once south of the Bay Bridge, the wind died down to a respectable 15 knots and what began as a white knuckle sail became pure pleasure! At Bloody Point Light we were able to head up and even with the wind dropping to 12 knots, we were making over 7 knots on a broad reach.
At Green"1" we headed up to a close reach and still made 7+knots on a rhumb line for the Eastern Bay finish line 9 miles away. Lastdance didn't set any records but we finished ahead of 2 other boats, 8 1/2 hours after the start but safe and intact (except for a mysterious cotter pin I found laying on deck... Hmmm, where could that have come loose from?). Not surprising, the post-race party was very subdued this year. Everyone was tired from a long tough but fun day of sailing in a wide range of conditions. To the lovely guest with the Maine sweatshirt aboard Scotch & Water, not to worry, you will fully recover and the green skin tone will eventually fade.
Although I'll still be doing some casual sailing, the rest of the month will be spent in planning for my sail south and loading Lastdance with food, water, fuel, books and plenty of adult
beverages. Some current photos have been added to the Summer 07 photo album. The next new web page will also be a new page in my life...."Sailing South" so stay tuned.
St. Michael's Sail
We had a lot of boat work to do in preparation for our sail south but the 3 day forecast was for clear skies and 12 knots of wind out of the north so Capt Bill and I decided to do a quick weekend cruise to St. Michael's. Capt Mark (aka Mad Mark) elected to go along with us so Lastdance, Galena and Beleza slipped dock lines and headed out from our marina at Kent Narrows. Once through the drawbridge, we hoisted all sails in a gentle northwest wind and set our course almost due south for St Michael's. The wind was perfect and we required no tacking, just a couple of sail adjustments as the wind slowly veered to the West during the day.
Lastdance entered the small harbor first and I dropped my hook in 8' of water with 75-ft of chain and settled in to the north of the Maritime Museum, just off the Inn at Perry Cabin where a wedding was going on. Beleza rafted-up to my port side, then Galena on my starboard. Once securely rafted, we sat in Lastdance's cockpit telling sea stories and sipping sundowners until we decided we should go into town for "Just One Little Drink" like real sailors.
After a wet dinghy ride to the dock, we hit a couple of dock bars then settled on the Carpenter Street Saloon where we met a bunch of new friends. George and Eva who had been married for just four hours were there but I'm not sure why. Nevertheless, they were enjoying the show, the show being three drunken sailors.
We also met Tom and Lee from Chesapeake City. They were a fabulous couple who really made the evening a night to remember. Lee's smile lit up the room and she introduced us to the fun that can be had when under the influence of the demon rum and flying monkeys. Flying monkeys are cute little fluffy monkeys with arms made of surgical tubing. You tuck your fingers into little pockets at the tips of the arms, pull back, let go and zowie, the monkeys flys across the bar...What a night!
Once back aboard our boats, we sipped sambuca under a carpet of stars and all agreed that a good time was had by all. We woke Sunday morning to the sound of morning colors being played by Bill on Galena, then while sipping coffee under a clear blue sky, we decided that we would stay for another day. At that moment, Mark treated us to a CD of Johnny Cash singing "Sunday Morning Coming Down" which was perfect for the morning-after mood we had settled into.
After breakfast, we took the dinghy into town in search of the store that sold the flying monkeys. We found it and as luck would have it, they had only 6 left so we bought 2 each. Once back on our boats we had a much needed chill out/do nothing afternoon. Sadly it reminded me of the many times Carol and I did much the same in that very anchorage so once again, it was a very bitter-sweet experience. Monday morning came all too soon and after hot coffee to ward off the morning chill, we weighed anchor and sailed home. It was a great little cruise with good friends and great people.
Lastdance is now securely in winter lay-up until April. I've had the surgery done and I'm eager to get on with the radiation so I can do some serious sailing come spring. There are only a couple of weeks until the end of the year but New Years Eve might find me snug aboard Lastdance with a bottle or two of champagne so I'll keep the log open until then, who knows what might happen on a cold winter night on Chesapeake Bay.
New Years Eve 2007 - I celebrated the arrival of 2008 aboard Lastdance with dinner at Annie's, part of a bottle of Jack Daniel's and a several hour walk down memory lane by purusing our Sailing Album, which spans 21 years of sailing with Carol. It was a nice night...
"Sail on Carol, Sail on"