Posted by: wrmcnutt | June 8, 2010

Ship’s Log: September Blue – Crossing the River


Okay – this is out of order. For reasons too tedious to go into, I didn’t get this posted  until now, but this log entery details my short but challenging voyage from the Gravelly Point boat ramp to the Gangplank Marina at the beginning of my Potomac adventure.

The water leg of my Planes, Trains, and Automobiles day was unique in my experiences so far.  The Gangplank closes at 5:00, but I was unable to get September Blue into the water until 3:00.  I had a chart, but I couldn’t be sure how long it was going to take to get across the river, around Hanes point, and back up the Washington Channel, plus find the dock.  Current, wind, and river traffic would affect this as much as distance.  It would take me about an hour to transform September Blue from a trailer-sailor to a working sailboat, and I was afraid to take the time, lest the Gangplank be closed when I arrived.

So I made the decision to motor across the river with the mast down.

When rigged for the highway, September Blue’s mast is attached to the bow pulpit and the mast crutch.  The crutch is rigged in the rudder gudgeons where the rudder is mounted when rigged for sailing.  As long as the mast crutch was in place, I could not rig the rudder.  I launched the boat, mounted the motor, and lowered the dagger-board.  Casting off, I started to manipulate her out of the little inlet at Gravelly Point.

I was immediately challenged.  September Blue has hard chines, a flat bottom, and a narrow dagger-board.  Without the deep rudder aft, she has a massive tendency to spin around on her dagger-board.  The slightest change in thrust from the motor would change her direction.  As a result, it was hard to get her to track in a straight line.  The tendency to over-correct was almost insurmountable.  There was no relaxing the entire trip.  I had to constantly make micro-corrections.  By the time I made it to the marina, my arthritic wrist was on fire.  I’ve never been so glad to cleat a line in my entire life.

Fortunately, the river traffic at 4:00 PM on a Friday was light, so I didn’t have to do and abrupt manuvers that, should they fail, might be dangerous.  Worse weather or more traffic could have gotten me or the boat hurt.

But the air was light, the current mild, and the traffic almost non-existent, and I was safely docked and checked – in at 4:45 or so.

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