Waking up in a full mooring field in the heart of the Annapolis, MD; the sailing capital of the world! What a sight to see. There were cruisers here from all around the world, enjoying the protection from the wind and the convenience of being in downtown Annapolis.
The winds were blowing 15 to 20 knots, but the water was very calm in Spa Creek. We decided to return to Baltimore today, so I got Wisdom ready to go early in the morning. A small craft warning was in effect, so I put in two reefs while tied up to the mooring ball.
Instead of hooking the tack ring over a horn, I tie the tack line to the gooseneck. This provides a very secure attachment to the tack without any risk of puncturing the luff of the sail.
The reefed main was raised and the mooring line casted off once we were pointing away from the mooring field. With the staysail up, we ghosted out of the harbor and into the river under very reduced canvas. Most other boats in the river were flying full sail as we slowly moved along under double reefed main and staysail.
As we left the wind protection offered by the harbor, the boats with full sail began to heel over excessively as they scrambled to reef their sails. We simply moved along at a comfortable speed, quietly sailing out of the bay. The winds in the bay were wonderful, blowing steadily from the South and pushing us home.
One of the best parts about sailing near Annapolis is you are bound to come across a gorgeous sailboat. Coming through the bridge, we saw the massive wooden schooner Woodwind, sailing back into Annapolis.
We were making wonderful time this morning and I expected us to be back in Baltimore in a few hours. Maddie was pleased with the sound of water rushing past the forward berth, knowing that we were sailing along quickly, and Morty was excited to return to his old marking grounds. It looked like the forecast was correct, today would be a very windy day blowing us home!
As soon as we crossed under the Annapolis Bay Bridge, everything changed. It almost felt like if we had crossed into a different time and date! There was no wind, there was certainly no small craft warning, and most importantly there was no speed.
Before the bridge, we were cooking along at 5 to 6 knots; after the bridge, we were barely doing 2 knots. At first I thought the loss of wind was due to the bridges wind shadow. The Bay Bridge is a massive structure, with its roadway 186 feet into the air and its towers 379 feet into the air. This will create a wind shadow that extends 758 feet up and 7580 feet away from the bridge. This means that wind 1.4 miles away from the bridge will be disturbed.
I accepted this to be the case and refrained from shaking the reefs out of the sails, instead we drifted along under double reefed main and staysail. Once we were 2 miles from the bridge, I knew we were in very light undisturbed air and we weren't getting back to Baltimore any time soon.
I shook out the reefs and eased the outhaul, letting the sail fill up with the little wind available. I didn't raise Josh, our jib, because Maddie was still sleeping, and also since the main blankets the headsails so much. It would be a lot of effort for a small boost in speed. I really wanted to raise Dill, our drifter, but I was leery that the winds would return and I would be forced to strike the sails without any help.
Instead, I set up the barber hauler, which gave us a fraction of a knot extra without much effort or concern about returning strong winds.
Morty found himself a shady place to relax on the leeward deck near the shrouds. We all began to feel a little tired as we drifted along at a snails pace, slowly reaching our home. With all the pillows available in the cockpit, I decided to lean back and relax while the autopilot kept us on course.
We sailed to the right of the shipping lane, where little boat traffic exists and the risk of a collision is negligible. This means I can lean back and relax, doing periodic watches where I scan the horizon. I prefer to do a 720 degree scan, in other words, do three spins to check everything three times. If you miss a boat on your first pass, you should see it the second or the third time.
The only downside to these lazy and sluggish days is you never get very far. We passed the bridge hours ago, and it never seems to move away.
The light airs continued and we were toying around with the idea of anchoring close to Baltimore and completing the trip in the morning. As if the weather heard us, clouds came in and the sky went gray. The winds shifted and began to blow much stronger, rocketing us back to our home port. I quickly put a reef into the mainsail and carefully sailed her up the river.
Maddie was quite pleased with the wind, as it meant we would be able to arrive this afternoon and not late tonight. We made it up the river with speeds between 3 to 4 knots, nothing outlandish, but we were moving steadily and predictably.
As we approached the marina, we made the decision to dock the boat in a different manner. We usually drop our sails and motor in under the power of our electric motor, but the battery bank was almost depleted and we were concerned that it would die on us when we needed it most. Instead we decided to dock under sail!
The marina, and our slip was downwind from us, meaning we could run into the marina and slip, then hard reverse to avoid colliding with the pier. There would be no tacking or jibing involved and we would save our battery power for once we were in the slip and absolutely needed it.
We lowered Josh, the jib, and Marge, the mainsail, coming in on only Stan, our staysail. The dock lines were all set and ready to toss towards anyone who wanted to come give us a hand with tying up. I was at the helm while Maddie stood by the mast, ready to release Stan's halyard. We quietly and slowly came into the marina, turned into our fairway, lined up with our slip, dropped Stan, and drifted right into the slip. Once well into the slip, I used the electric motor to bring us to a stop as Maddie tossed the dock lines to our neighbor who saw us coming in and came out to help with the lines.
We were home!