It’s after midnight, I’m standing on a windswept beach practicing tree pose by the light of a campfire when Mandi hands me an offshore PFD. I suit up and prepare for some rowing because our boat is anchored several football fields to windward and there is a tent shortage on the island: somebody forgot the second half of the tent and I’d rather not sleep under the stars. This trip was well on it’s way to being one of the best weekends of the sailing season.
This Rogue Harbor Trip, as well called it, got started when I was trying to figure out how to share overnight sailing adventures with more of my friends. Even with access to a 39 foot boat the fun of an overnight sailing trip was essentially limited to 4 friends per trip. At least one of those friends needed to be experienced crew. This seemed a pittance compared to our after work sails that regularly exceeded our stated “limit” of 8 people aboard (I said they were friends; I make exceptions for my friends).
Fortunately Boston has the Harbor Islands right in our backyard; I had participated in sail to camp trips to the islands before and had a ton of fun. I loved the idea of getting a boatload of my friends to a harbor island for a camping trip. So did everybody else because we wound up with 23 friends, two sailboats and a kayak participating.
Nobody expected this to be a challenging sailing trip; we’d get a late start and only require about 20nm round trip with no reason to leave the protection of the Boston Harbor. The challenge would be the logistics; getting food and shelter for 23 people to the island and back as well as figuring out how much food and shelter 23 people would need. I delegated the food and beverage purchasing and preparation. There was a 5 page google doc outlining who was sleeping where, campsite reservations, how everyone was getting to the island, where and when to meet, what to bring, etc etc.
Ten people and most all of the gear were coming with me on the Legal Stimulant, a Cal 39, to Peddock’s Island. Our gear took up an entire launch ride. We got dirty looks and heard some grumbling from the club staff but they accommodated us nonetheless. All the gear pretty much filled up the cabin but with 10 hands to move things around once we got them aboard things were sorted out pretty quickly. Luckily we had very pleasant wind for the sail to Peddock’s Island, plenty of wind to keep the boat moving well upwind under full press of sail but not enough to lead to excessive heeling or chop.
The wind had built a bit and was blowing right onto the dock. A big, metal and concrete, boat mangling floating dock with missing sections of rubrail. After waiting for the scheduled ferry to depart we did a flyby of the dock and then came in softly by motoring alongside in forward. There was more current also directly into the dock than I had anticipated but a quick prop wash assisted turn to port corrected our course about two boat lengths out. It was nice to have friends ashore awaiting our lines. We backed off the dock, sliding off using fenders (in hindsight we should have sprung off) and headed to the anchorage. Instead of having 10 people on the deck obstructing my view I sent all the non sailors below and assigned all of the crew a specific job. It was impressive how quickly we were able to offload all that gear with our 10 crew plus our other friends who had already arrived.
Due to the tidal range and the draft of the boat we had to anchor 1000’ from shore; further than I would have liked especially since the club had sent our dinghy’s outboard in for service. To avoid excessive rowing we had left most of the crew ashore at the dock. Getting to the island was downwind which of course meant getting back to the boat was straight upwind.
I have to admit my time ashore was a blur. Getting the gear to the campsites. Having a quick burger. Make sure someone was collecting firewood. Making sure everyone had a place to sleep. Row back out to the boat to get some gear that was left behind. By the time I came back ashore the campfire was started.
The campfire was great. Sitting in the warmth of the fire on a beach under the stars with so many friends was amazing. Taking a deep breath and soaking it all in I finally felt like a part of all the festivities.
As the tide came in the fire began to be extinguished and it was time for an epic night row out to the boat wearing offshore PFDs.
The next morning I woke up and checked the forecast. Unfortunately it hadn’t changed, the winds were forecast to build out of the same direction as yesterday until sunset. This meant that yesterday’s inconvenient leeward dock would be downright dangerous by lunchtime.
I headed ashore to hustle breakfast and packing up along. Everyone appreciated the urgency and were cooperative speeding up our departure, especially the sailors who wanted more time sailing in this wind. Unfortunately it wasn’t fast enough and by the time we rowed out to the boat, deflated the dinghy, raised the anchor and were hovering around the dock the wind had come up and there were white caps (choppy, the biggest approaching 1′) smashing right into the metal and concrete dock float.
We approached the same way as the prior day, there was more wind trying to blow the bow down so the boat speed approaching was higher; at least there was no current. We pulled right alongside the dock in forward with the dock 2’ to starboard and the wind to port, stopped forward progress and let the boat drift into the dock. We threw the lines to crew waiting ashore. In hindsight we should have manned the fenders; the docklines were unnecessary because we were pinned to the dock. We loaded up quickly because the boat was bouncing a fair amount and the steel and concrete dock was not. I didn’t help load anything; I spent the whole time nervously fending off and tending to the fenders.
We really considered springing off this time but the boat was bouncing along the dock and since the rub rails on the dock weren’t a straight vertical line from the top of the dock to the waterline I was really concerned with the corners of the bow or stern bouncing up or down into an abrupt corner on the rub rail. The rounded gradual beam seemed like the only safe place to have the boat against the dock (even with the fenders). So we slid off the dock in reverse, fending off aggressively, again without incident.
The stress of maneuvering under power was then replaced by the joy of sailing in good wind: we love going out sailing in 20-30kts. Legal Stimulant is well behaved in these conditions especially in the protection of the harbor with an offshore breeze. We even sailed the wrong direction for a while just so we could spend some more time on the water. It was a pleasant double reefed day sail with 9 good friends.
Unloading via the launch was not as bad as the way out because the water had been emptied and much food had been eaten. I remember being exhausted but very satisfied that the trip had gone off without a hitch.
I’m looking forward to doing another one (or two!) of these next season 🙂