Thursday, August 10, 2006

Night Sail on the Rosemary Ruth

The Rosemary Ruth cast off from the 79th Street Boat Basin, oh, it must have been around 7:00 or so. The fact that I'm not sure what time it was that we did - that's proof that I was truly sailing for fun last night. Everything almost always happens right on time on the Adirondack - with 4 scheduled sails a day, you live by those launch times. Last night - we launched when we were ready to; when everyone was aboard, with our various bags & packages stowed.

The breeze was better than forecast, and we had one or two less-experienced boaters aboard. The Rosemary Ruth has a fairly deep "v" shaped hull, with hard chines (distinct angles where the flat sections of the hull meet - you can see that clearly on one of Richard's photo, check out the lower right hand photo here). Students of kayak hull design will recognize this as a hull that's going to have great secondary stability - just like a hard-chined Greenland kayak, once she gets over onto that plane, she's perfectly happy - but the heeling to get there can happen a little abruptly. Knowing that's the case, and since it's easier to shake out a reef you don't need than put one in if you find that you've got more sail up than you need, Richard decided to have us put in a single reef on the main. Then everybody else took turns raising the sails. I played passenger and took pictures!

Sails raised, Richard killed the motor. The wind blew. The sails caught it & held it. The rail dropped down & the river swirled in gently through the scuppers. The water hissed under the bow.

The motor yacht Manhattan came purring up from the south & circled us. Nice crowd on board - probably a charter. I waved & maybe enjoyed my next sip of beer even more than I did the first few. Working on the river is nice - but so is playing on the river. Hope the passengers got some nice pictures! They headed back down towards the south - given the speed of that boat, the skipper was probably aiming for the Statue of Liberty to coincide with the deepest tints of sunset.

Meanwhile, on the Rosemary Ruth , "destination" might as well have been a foreign word, at least until the moon started to rise. You may notice that the bowsprit in that photo is pointed south; the water was bubbling nicely around the bow; but we're actually traveling stern-first towards the George Washington Bridge - sailing backwards!

This is a not entirely uncommon occurence in recreational sailing on the Hudson. Last night, being full moon & therefore spring tide (that's when currents are at their strongest owing to the gravitational pull of the moon & the lesser gravitational pull of the sun being in line & working together, rather than at angles). Although we were making good forward speed through the water, the water itself was moving north at an increasingly swift clip, and with the angle of our tacks, the northbound current was gently but firmly pushing us up towards the bridge.

But we were sailing, and the temperature was perfect, and except for quiet conversation, laughter, the waves on the hull & the occasional flapping of the canvas as we tacked, it was quiet. So much quieter than down by the Statue of Liberty, with all the tour boats making their scheduled passes.

The sun went down & the moon gradually began to show big and gold over the city - looking as though it was traveling northward over the buildings, keeping pace with us as we moved towards the bridge. Stunning moonrise, and the George Washington Bridge sparkling behind us...finally someone broke the spell and said "When are we going to have turn on the en...I mean the unmentionable?"

Richard's original plan had been a return around ten-ish. So the answer, with the current rocking along at high speed (and it speeds up as it funnels past the bridge), was "Very soon".

"We're not going to the bridge?" someone else asked. We sailed on, discussing.

"Who wants to go to the bridge?" asked Richard - there were a couple of "Me's!"

"If we go under the bridge, we won't be back until 11 to 11:30 - does anyone have any problems with that?"

(Voice of reason in my head murmured something about the time it would take me to get home afterwards. Voice of self-indulgence told voice of reason to put a sock in it. Voice of reason looked at the rising moon & said "aw, heck, twist my arm..."). Silence fell over the boat...I think I may not have had the only half-hearted internal debates about the wisdom of staying out that late on a "school night".

But the moon and the bridge won, and the moon hanging low over the bridge with the city lights below and the darkness to the north was breathtaking, worth it. Finally Richard said it really was time to drop sails & turn on the engine.

I spent a good part of the ride back to 79th st. lying on my back on the cabin top, looking up at a star hanging between the tips of the masts.

I always feel good when I see people doing that on the Adirondack. Even better if they doze off. Means we're doing our job & they're having a good relaxing time. Felt great to get to do that myself.

Somewhere during that time, I even realized that the terrible crick I'd had in my neck all day at work - could barely turn my head - had vanished completely. I think it had unkinked the minute I was on board.

We pulled back up to the 79th st. boat basin at 11:30 on the nose - just what Richard predicted.

Turned out that one of the other folks on board also lived in Brooklyn and had brought his car & gave me a ride home.

I'll be back at work on the Adirondack tomorrow night, and I'm sure we'll have a great charter. But boy, it was so nice to be out there sailing for fun & just letting the river float all the things that have been bothering me right out of my mind for a few hours as it floated us north, stern first.

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