Pure Sailing • As we look over the harbor in Newport, RI now in late June, there are boats everywhere sailing in all directions having fun. But it was a long winter. We took our boat more or less apart and renewed just about everything in a major refit and then put it back together again. We delayed launching until after Memorial Day, which is very late for us. So, finally, last Sunday, we had a free day, there were no pressing boat jobs to keep us at the dock and we were able to get away for a few hours of sailing.
It was one of those days on Narragansett Bay to dream of. The forecast for the afternoon mentioned small craft warnings and 30 knots of wind, But the sky was fair and the sun warm and a bit of wind seemed just what the doctor ordered. We rolled out the in-mast furling mainsail and trimmed it in. We had had our friends at Mack Sails add a small batten right at the top of the sail over the winter and now, in this good breeze, the head and leech of the sail looked tighter and flatter. Nice. But we were over canvassed and rolled the sail in again until only the bottom two battens were showing. That’s our 30 knot reef.
We rolled out our new headsail, a laminated sail built by Quantum, for the first time and were pleased at how well it fit and by the shape. We trimmed for close hauled sailing and headed out East Passage toward the ocean. We saw steady 30s on the apparent wind indicator with gusts above 35. But Lime’n was loving it. With her shoulder down at about 15 degrees and with the new headsail drawing, she was chewing to windward at 8 knots with more in the gusts. Go girl. We tacked several times to get clear of the headlands and then took a long tack straight out to sea. With only two of us sailing the boat, tacking in this breeze required a bit of finesse at the helm with very slow tacks so we could get the headsail around and in as far as possible before it filled. It’s an old man’s trick.
At the mouth of the bay, the strangest thing happened. It was blowing 30 and the sea had been rough all the way out East Passage. But, we were in the throes of a mighty spring tide that turned to flood up the bay as we reached the mouth. With wind and strong current going in the same direction, the sea went weirdly flat—talk about perfect sailing for a reefed, well trimmed modern sloop. Nine knots here we come. Eventually, we had to ease the sheets and head for home.
Downwind and with the reefs rolled out, Lime’n was in her glory and surging over 10 knots all the time. We jibed downwind as the wind and current swept us quickly into the bay and soon we were making the turn around Fort Adams into Newport Harbor. As often happens, right at the fort, the wind gusted hard, probably to 40 knots, and sent us skating into the harbor at breakneck speed. And then it was over. We eased Lime’n up into the wind as we rolled in the genoa and then rolled up the main.
How easy modern roller furling gear makes sailing. We picked up the mooring, put the boat to bed, caught the launch and soon were walking down the long pier towards land. But I could not help stopping to gaze back at the boat and the scene on the harbor. That was an afternoon of pure sailing and after a winter on the hard, we welcomed it.