The C & D Canal Trip 2012 – A Single Handed Perspective

Well, we (Tom STONER, Ron HRABAK, and I) finally did the C&D Canal vagabond! Yes, a many-times postponed trip finally was achieved. Hmm… But where was the rest of BMSA?

As Tom covered the majority of the details, I’ll defer to Michele’s request and write about my single-handed adventure.

Save for needing help when raising / lowering the mast, ‘Tina is a fairly self-sufficient boat, although Ron’s assistance with aforementioned mast, as well as dock lines, must be noted. Thanks, Ron! And while there are benefits to having another person aboard, there are also the simple pleasures of solitude. Alone, yes, but not lonely… Time to think, to reflect… Time to slow down the world…

Once away from the Elk Neck docks, it didn’t take long to settle into a smooth flow. The winds were kind; sails were deployed without incident, and we skidded off Eastward, then North-East, towards the canal. Conditions were stable enough to set the tiller-tamer, and sit back against the cockpit coaming and relax. Ahh! A routine was quickly established:

  • Check sail trim
  • Check proximity to other boats
  • Check charts to GPS
  • Repeat as necessary

During the in-between times, there was plenty of time to just …relax… Days like this are what draw me to sailing.

As we entered the beginning of the canal, I opted to drop sail and motor in. The trip through the canal, to the Chesapeake Inn, was uneventful. As we got closer, it was obvious that we were “…strangers in a strange land…” We were the only sailboats there. Our neighbors were mostly Cigarette-type boats(Donzis, Panteras, et. al.). Okay then… A quick land trip, some refreshments, somesustenance, and then… ZZZzzz.

Monday had NOAA’s weather forecast announcing Small-Craft Advisories. While I’ve reefed underway numerous times, I learned that I could reef while still at the dock. Hmm… I shoulda thought of that, before. Thanks, Tom, for that piece of advice!

We back-tracked our previous course, motoring away from Chesapeake City & out of the canal. Once back into the Bay, it was time to raise sails. Initially, save for a gust or puff every now and then, it was a typical Chesapeake Bay day. But as we got farther from the canal, the winds were growing.

I like monohulls because they heel. I normally sit on the port side, regardless of wind. On the return trip to Elk Neck, I moved to the windward (starboard) side. I think the specific descriptive term for Monday’s return sail is “Wowza“! As is typical, Tom readily pulled away & outdistanced me. But chubby little ‘Tina was no slouch. According to the general theory of hull speed, she should max-out at 5.6 knots. On this sail, I often saw those numbers, plus… And
‘Tina was feeling her oats; whenever a gust would excite her, she’d roll over and show her shapely bottom to all present to windward.

Yes, because there was no one else aboard, I had to personally chase down the GPS, charts, glasses, etc. as they slid off the seats, onto the cockpit floor. Yes, if I forgot something down below, I had to fetch it. In the interest of safety, yes, I was wearing my PFD; other floatables were also near-at-hand.

But…

While there were occasional periods of excitement, there were exactly no times of abject fear. The best part? Never did I feel ill-at-ease. The boat did exactly what she was supposed to do. Rather, this sail was liberating, in that I again realized what a competent boat and mediocre skipper can do, together. Sailing with crew has advantages, but soloing can really bond a boat & her captain. Too often in today’s world, we’re told what we can’t do. Heading out to …wherever…, just a boat and her skipper, even if the trip is just a several mile jaunt, refreshes my spirit and shows what we can do.

Tony Stajkowski

Photos by Tony Stajkowski (click on each image for a larger picture)