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Interesting Day Sail

Fast boat on the Neuse, photo by Paul Clayton.

With a forecast of northeast winds 10 to 15 and occasional higher gusts, I debated with myself whether to carry the jib or the genoa. Valor carries sail well in moderate airs, so I decided on the genoa. I raised the main in Clubfoot Creek and then motored directly into the wind out to the river, where I set the genoa. On the way, I passed a Matthews Point denizen Siverthorne and another boat rafted at anchor, and closer to the creek mouth, Jim and Sherry aboard Beltane, at anchor with rods set for drum. Airs were on the low end of forecast, and I thought about hailing Marian Claire to let Dan know. He had plans to follow me out, with his daughter, grandson and a family friend, and I had watched earlier as he hanked on his standard jib. I looked around for my VHF and realized that I had charged it just before driving down to Matthews Point and left if on the kitchen table at home.

As I short-tacked out into the river, I saw the boat that had rafted with Silverthorne coming out the creek with sails set. I turned upriver toward the ferry crossing, and she followed, to my lee and considerably behind, but pointing a little closer and sailing a little faster. By the time we reached the temporary marker at the sunken barge, just south of the ferry crossing, she had caught me. I turned off downriver and she continued toward New Bern.

Across the river, toward Janeiro, I could see a large power boat that looked to be dead in the water. With my binoculars, I could make out markers in the water, and other, smaller boats nearby. Soon, a multitude of small white sails approached from the shore. I had lucked into a front row seat for a massive Optimist Pram race! There must have been 50 or more of the little trainers. Even at this lowest level of competitive sailing, talents had started to stratify. The leader was far ahead of second, who was far ahead of third, and so on for the first seven boats. Then three places clustered together. Behind them, a huge amorphous mass of Optimist Prams, like a school of menhaden, tacked, jibed, collided and sometimes overturned as it made its way around the course. A few stragglers strung out behind, being helped along by the numerous race officers.

A couple of large sailboats and a powerboat blundered through the pack, seemingly oblivious to the masses of youngsters trying to have a race. Their chart plotters showed this to be the route, and who were they to argue?

Part of the Optimist Fleet. Photo by Paul Clayton.

After watching a couple of races, I turned off toward Clubfoot Creek and soon made out a boat coming out under sail. Quick perusal with the glasses showed it to be, just as I expected, Marian Claire. Now I wished even more that I hadn't forgotten my VHF, because, expecting gusty winds, Dan had tied in a reef. So Marian Claire was a bit undersailed for the conditions. But maybe it was all for the best, as her sedate pace made it possible for each of the crew, regardless of their experience or lack thereof, to take a turn at the tiller. Dan's daughter Rae has plenty of skill, having sailed Marian Claire many times. I'm sure she would have had the rail in the water if she had more wind to work with, but that might have been disconcerting for the other crew.

After a while, Marian Claire veered off to try some other points of sail, and shortly I turned back toward the mouth of Clubfoot Creek. We met up there, and sailed in together, where I turned in to the marina while Marian Claire continued up Mitchell Creek. From the clubhouse porch I saw them anchor in the creek. Sebastian was soon doing cannonballs off the foredeck, and I think they all got wet.

In a while Marian Claire came in to the dock, and we spent a pleasant hour chatting about the day's sail. Quite an interesting day.

Marian Claire in the Neuse River, September 2015, photo by Paul Clayton.