One of the advantages of sailing en flotilla with Dan and Marian Claire is that we both respect the other's abilities and don't feel like we have to worry about the other getting into trouble out on the water. Dan likes to leave early, get to the destination, and drop anchor. I like to eat breakfast and wait for the sun to start warming things up before heading out. So it was no surprise to me to see Marian Claire back off the dock at Matthews Point 7:30 in the morning and motor off down Clubfoot Creek. My intentions were to follow in an hour or two, and meet at Lower Broad Creek for the evening rum ration.
I dropped lines at 9:30 and motored out into the creek. There, I ran into all sorts of problems getting asail. Last trip out I had reefed down, and the reef was still in when I started to raise the main. So, Valor took a loop as I shook out the reef, and made a second try at raising the main. No dice, I had forgotten to uncleat the backhaul. Down came the main and Valor took another loop. This time the sail went up, but I had forgotten to feed the bottom slug, the one that has to come out for reefing, back into the sail track. "I'll fix it later", I thought, and raised the jib. "The jib, you idiot, you'll need the genoa in these light airs". I sailed on down the creek, looking out across the river where I could see Marian Claire far off, broad reaching down the river.
In light airs, Valor rides nicely head to wind with just the main set. At the pocket of water to the north side of the creek, just in from marker 8, I rounded up, dropped the jib and quickly swapped headsails for my big 150 percenter. Then I dipped the main just enough to feed the errant slug in place, raised it to the masthead and cleated it off. Next I raised the genoa - and I was sailing.
By the way, a jib downhaul makes it easy to drop the headsail without having to come off the wind. My downhaul is led back to the cockpit, which is a major convenience for single-handing. I can just reach the jib halyard cleat, standing on the companionway step and leaning across the cover. With the halyard uncleated, I can pull the jib down from the comfort and safety of the cockpit.
Out on the river I found light westerly winds and proceeded on a port tack. Eventually I got far enough north to set up wing-and-wing and run for Garbacon Shoals. There were a few boats out on this beautiful warm, mostly sunny March day, including a big Tartan out for a day sail. I watched it sail from Oriental across to Adams Creek, then upriver toward Janeiro, as I lazed downriver at a couple of knots.
Near the Garbacon Shoals marker I spotted a power boat coming upriver, and who should it be but Peter and Suzanne aboard Two Loves. We stopped for a gam and they reported Dan at Lower Broad. I took lots of pictures of their new boat, and then watched as they powered off into the distance.
The winds continued light and fluky and we made slow progress downriver. Barge tows passed in both directions, along with a few sailboats and power cruisers. Towboat U.S. had a classic bluff-bowed cutter under tow, headed for Oriental. Finally, as I approached Gum Thicket Shoals marker, the wind veered to the north and began to pick up. I sailed close-hauled into the mouth of Lower Broad Creek, then dropped the jib and motor-sailed through the markers. Ahead I saw Marian Claire riding at anchor. As I passed by, I called to Dan that I would be back after I stowed the main, and then continued into the mouth of Burton Creek where I got some shadow from the tall pines along the bank, and dropped the main. A few minutes later Valor was rafted alonside Marian Claire and we spliced the main brace - 4:30 pm, 7 hours after I left the Matthews Point dock.
Dan made some headway in dispelling his "Spam and Yams Dan" nickname by cooking up a delicious repast of sausages with green peppers and onions for dinner. With both boats hanging on Marian Claire's anchor under increasing winds, he lived up to his reputation for being a careful and thorough man with ground tackle. Later in the evening, I dropped lines and motored over to the cover of Burton Creek where I anchored in six feet of water, protected by the tall pines of the shoreline.
The winds blew hard through the night, gusting up to 20 knots or more. I got up a time or two to check on Valor, but I never had any doubt that the anchor was well-set. My experience is that Lower Broad Creek is good holding ground, and a careful set will probably take. When I retrieved the anchor in the morning, there was a little mud on the flukes and a fair amount on the chain, and Dan reported the same. That suggests that the bottom of the creek is fairly hard clay, and the flukes are able to get a bite and upset the anchor. Then the chain lays across the bottom and gradually sinks in. In a soft mud bottom, sometimes the anchor just rolls along helplessly as the flukes can't get a bite, the chain slithering along. Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it until someone sets me straight.
With the wind still blowing hard and cold in the morning, even Dan wasn't off at the crack of dawn, and we both pulled anchor and sailed out together around 10:30 am. We didn't have far to go, just Oriental, where we planned to get on the town dock for the night and attend the open mike night at the Silos. With the wind out of the northeast to east at 10 to 12 knots, we made good time up the river. It was a real pleasure to sail in company with Marian Claire and watch that beautiful boat surf down the swell rolling in from the sound.
A quick run put us on the new town dock at Oriental early afternoon and we agreed to walk to the Silos about 5:30. I put Valor in order and then like a good sailor caught a quick nap. Along about 5:00 I mixed a rum drink and took the few steps back to Marian Claire, where I found Dan strumming his guitar in the cockpit. I listened to him play until 5:30, when we promptly set out for the Silos. Last time I was there for open mike Wednesday I found a huge crowd, standing room only, so we were out to get there early and snag a table. We succeeded and split an excellent pizza while waiting for the music to start at 7:00. As I expected, the people-watching was top-knotch, and I mentioned to Dan that everyone in the restaurant looked familiar, though I knew none of them. Small town...
Chris, the owner of the Silos got things started with a couple of songs and then an older man got up and did a rendition of CCR's "Midnight Special". He got a big hand from his friends who had brought him in, and I think everyone in the audience felt real proud for him for getting up on stage. Something tells me he never got too much praise in his life, and it must have been a real high for him to hear all the people clap. Then another act came on and did good renditions of old Country & Western standards, but nobody like Ethan Parker who played last time I made Silos Open Mike. Overall, a fun night.
In the morning, I heard Marian Claire's old Atomic 4 rumble to life and disappear into the distance about 7:30. I got up soon afterward, had a cup of coffee at the Bean, and followed. With a fair wind from the east, it was a quick trip back to Matthews Point - on dock in less than two hours. Slow boat to Lower Broad Creek, fast boat home.