Today we left Oxford at high tide! I got up at dawn to raise the anchor and drift out of the creek in the ebbing tide. The forecast last night said there would be no wind until closer to noon, so we decided to drift with the tide and catch the wind in the river whenever it arrived. Simple enough, but the weather rarely cooperates as planned.
At dawn, the wind was blowing up the creek with considerable force! There was not enough water to tack against the wind, so we were stuck until the winds changed. We waited a few hours until the wind shifted, allowing us to sail out on a beam reach under reefed sails due to the high winds even though the forecast was calling for no wind.
I got the anchor up and the sails partially raised in the narrow creek as the boat began moving forward. I turned the helm to take us a bit upwind into a wider part of water while I got the sails up the rest of the way. I felt we were getting too close to a shoal, so I ran back to the helm to alter course a bit more but the rudder was stuck! At first I thought something must have locked into the quadrant on the rudder post and was not letting it turn, so I ran below deck to check. Everything was clear, meaning we were aground in an ebbing tide.
Maddie came up to help as we tried to get off the shoal before the tide went out, and our soft grounding would become a hard grounding. I quickly got in Tooth, our dinghy, and lowered the anchor and 100 feet of chain onto the back of the dinghy. I began rowing away from Wisdom, our sailboat, letting chain flow overboard as I moved. I controlled how much chain went over with my foot, making sure to move far enough away from the boat before letting out another span of chain. Once at the end of the rode, I dropped the anchor over and returned to the boat. On deck, I began hauling in the anchor rode, pulling our boat towards the set anchor. I had to crank the windlass in low gear to get the keel off the bottom. Maddie waited at the helm, alerting me as soon as the rudder broke free from the soft mud bottom.
I cranked our way over to the anchor with the sails ready to go and Maddie at the helm. When the anchor was about to break free, I waited until the boat was on the right tack. When anchored with a very short scope, the boat will tack around behind the anchor. This will make an anchorage feel like the open seas as the boat bounces all around in the wind. This same phenomenon can be used to your advantage when raising anchor, simply wait for the boat to be on the correct tack before you break the anchor free. Imagine that you have a shore on your starboard and open waters on your port side, if you break the anchor free while aiming at the shore, you risk running aground as the boat will begin to drift towards the shore. If you break the anchor free while aiming out towards open waters, you have plenty of time to get everything ready on the boat as you have no navigational hazards ahead of you!
We were tacking behind the anchor alternating between aiming up the creek and towards the mouth of the river. If we had broken the anchor free while aiming up the river, we would need to jibe as we turn to aim out the river. By waiting for the right time, we were able to easily sail out of the creek and into the river. It went much smoother this time since Maddie was at the helm steering us on a straight course out of the river while I ran around the deck getting the anchor up all the way and setting the sails for her.
Once out into the river, the winds died completely! We then drifted along for some time as the tide continued to ebb. Maddie wasn't feeling well, so I didn't raise Dill, our drifter, because I expected the winds to return later. We slowly made our way out the river on a run, carefully jibing our way out of the Choptank River.
Once clear of the shoal to the South of Sharps Island, we began making our way North. I expected the winds to be blowing rather strong, carrying us all the way up the bay in one run! As the day drew on, we continued to wait for the winds to pick up, just as my dreams of making it all the way up the bay picked up and left. The sun began to hang low on the horizon, signaling to Maddie and me that it was time to anchor somewhere for the night. We had enjoyed our anchorage in Herring Bay on our way to Oxford, so we decided to anchor there again on our way back.
The winds did finally pick up, speeding us along towards our anchorage as the sun was beginning to set. Maddie took the helm as we came into the bay while I went forward to drop the anchor on her command. She sailed us right up to where we anchored last time and gave me the signal, the sails and the anchor all came down in a matter of moments and we were securely anchored for the night.
Once we had everything put away, we noticed that the swell from the bay was not subsiding. A constant 1 to 2 foot swell was coming at us from the East while the winds had our boat pointing South. This meant that the waves were hitting us on the beam and making the boat roll very uncomfortably at anchor. I was going to take Morty to shore, but Maddie wanted me to set up a bridle first.
An anchor bridle is a nifty trick that will let you lay beam to your anchor, and bow to the waves that are hitting you! I tied a line with a magnus hitch to the anchor chain and began letting out the rode. The other end of the line was wrapped around our primary winch, allowing us a strong but adjustable location to attach the bridle line that is close to the stern. The rode was let out almost a full boat length and then the snubber was attached and cleated. Now that the bow part of the equation is taken care of, I went to the primary winch in the cockpit and began winching in the bridle line. As I cranked the bridle line in, the stern began to turn towards the anchor rode, bringing us beam to the wind and bow to the waves. I continued to crank on the winch while Maddie guided me from down below. When she felt that the boat was comfortable, I stopped cranking the winch. It was very dark and hard to see the wave direction to adjust our attitude towards the waves, so instead we based our adjustment off of comfort; which is the whole point of the bridle anyways!
Now that Wisdom was comfortably anchored, it was time to row Morty to shore and then get some sleep!