30 July, 2011

Log Canoes

Position: N 29 08.735 W 076 30.882
Location: Pasadena, MD, USA

We finally got off the dock for a weekend and decided to go watch the log canoe races at St. Michaels, Maryland, about 35 miles away.

As usual, we had wind on the nose. And when we made the turn from West to Southwest, the wind followed us. We had a motor boat ride in light wind the whole way, arriving at anchor just before dark. But it was so nice to be back at anchor, we hardly minded.

The log canoe races were great! We'd never seen them before and were impressed. We understand that around the turn of the century, log canoes were the “pickup trucks” of the Chesapeake Bay. Captains would race each other back to port, purportedly because the first one in got the best price for their catch. Over time more sail was added. This required boards set to windward for the crew to counteract the heel caused by the sails. Now the boats carry more canvas than any other boat their size we've seen! Luckily for us the wind was light, allowing us to follow the boats around the course in our dinghy. We had a great time. Here's a link for more info on the log canoes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Log_canoe

Unfortunately on our way back on Sunday afternoon we had a bit of a “holy shit!!!” moment at Kent Narrows ridge. This is a narrow opening bridge which usually has quite a bit of current going through it but it saves a good 2-4 hours off the return trip. We usually try to time our passage for slack tide. We didn't want to get back too late, however, so we cut the corner on the tide by a couple of hours. At that time, we had about 3-4 knots of following current. This was exacerbated by the 15-25 knots of wind from behind us that was being kicked up by a nearby thunderstorm.

We were about 10 minutes early for the opening, so we turned into the wind and current and were able to hold our position using the throttle. The bridge finally opened and all the power boats that were in front of us went through, we got turned around and were making about 8 knots at idle speed as we approached the bridge.

For those of you who don't know, the marine “rules of the road” dictate that vessels going with the current have the right of way over those going against the current, especially at bridge openings. This being the case we we weren't too worried about oncoming traffic. All the same, Mark got on the radio and let all the opposing traffic know they should hold their positions because we and another sailboat were coming.

As we made the final turn to head through the bridge we saw a BIG fishing boat heading into the opening from the other side. And there's only room for one boat at a time! There was no way we could stop with the current behind us. The fishing boat slammed into reverse and did start to back up but he also “walked” a little to the side – our side. Julie braced herself to hit, she was sure there was no way to avoid it. Mark was at the helm and with quick thinking, full throttle, a bit of luck, and masterful maneuvering managed to squeeze between the fishing boat and the bridge with about a foot to spare on either side – and without catching the mast or rigging on the bridge before the hole closed.

Phew. It was the closest we've ever come to losing Rachel. The bridge tender was yelling at the fishing boat captain to turn on his radio and pay attention!! We were just shaking. Mark didn't even try to call the other captain to give him a piece of his mind, he was so shaken up. After the adrenaline wore off we agreed that we were just happy that neither us nor Rachel got damaged.

To get a feel for what it was like, take a look at this short video we found on the Internet. Imagine a boat nearly as wide as the bridge opening coming at you as you enter the bridge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItE_waN121w&feature=related – yikes!

Needless to say we'll not be trying Kent Narrows at other than slack tide again.

After that, the wind lightened up a bit and we had a wonderful beam reach back to the marina. All in all, a lovely end to a lovely (albeit a bit too exciting at times) weekend.

Mark & Julie