A Delivery To Delay the Off-Season Blues

In a last ditch effort to delay the off-season blues, co-skipper Sam Cox and I wanted to get in one last, good sail aboard Abilyn before the demand for shrink-wrapping in the northeast goes through the roof.  So, rather than simply delivering the boat from Larchmont Yacht Club to Brewer Pilots Point in Westbrook, CT, we set out last Friday with a plan to round Block Island (or maybe even pull into Great Salt Pond for breakfast).  This would increase our mileage from 70 miles to 160 miles--a good distance to cap off a great season of Mini sailing. 

I watched the weather all week.  It was a no-go through Thursday as strong easterlies were barreling down the Sound.  But Friday's forecasts according to PredictWind and WindAlert called for those easterlies to flip to the west and southwest, which would give us a perfect wind direction to pop the kite and make easy miles to the east.  The forecasts then seemed to call for two possibilities--the westerlies might back to the southwest by Saturday and build from 10-15 to 15-20.  Or, the westerlies might clock to the northwest and bring 25 knots.  Either way, when we rounded Block Island, we would not be close hauled on the breeze...at least according to the forecasts.

At 1600, we pulled off the mooring ball, dodged some Optis heading out for a late-afternoon practice, and popped the big kite as we glided past the Larchmont Breakwater in 65 degree (F) weather under clear skies.  The breeze was more from the south-southwest, which required us to sail at at a true wind angle (TWA) of 120 degrees in order to fetch our waypoint--Race Rock Light.  This proved too difficult with the big kite as our apparent wind was being pushed forward of the beam as the breeze built into the high teens and low twenties.  As we were being pushed north of rhumb line, we switched to the Code 5 so that we could reach higher and get back on course.  This was possible in the lulls, but we were still overpowered if we wanted to fetch Race Rock Light, even as the genoa provided surprising stability at higher angles.  Ultimately, we dropped the kite and jib-reached down the Sound, hitting speeds of around 11 knots.  We were sending it all evening, and well into the night.  Check out the highlights from the downwind leg below.

Delivery highlights from downwind leg out to Block Island.

At 0000, we had a decision to make--exit the Sound via the Race, the Sluiceway, or Plum Gut--or simply pull into Pilots Point and call it a night.  Heading for the marina wouldn't have been any fun, and, in any event, the last train back to NYC had long since departed.  Heading for the Race would have set us at a TWA of about 150 degrees--a little too deep as we weren't really in the mood to put the kite back up.  We opted for Plum Gut, which allowed us to continue power reaching under main and jib.  As Sam slept, I shot through the Gut at 8-9 knots of boat speed, which proved quite easy with the slack tide; it was my second time navigating this tidal inlet in darkness.  After we were clear of Plum Island, the third-quarter moon began to rise, and, at 0300 Saturday morning, I gave the helm over to Sam as we sailed past Montauk Point to the south.  By 0500, we had reached the southeastern point of Block Island.  

We could have cut our "losses" here, simply turning around and heading back to the Race and on towards Pilots Point.  But again, what fun would that have been.  So we continued counterclockwise around BI--gybing onto port on the backside and popping the Code 5 as soon as we had a clear angle to "1 BI"--the navigational mark identifying safe water north of Block Island.  It took us no time at all to cover the length of the island, as huge rollers from the south helped us surf up towards 1 BI.  By 0700, we reached our mark and headed up towards the Race.

It looked like we'd be able to sail at a TWA of about 100 degrees all the way to Pilots Point, which would have been a fast, albeit bumpy reach given we were now seeing some steep swell in the Block Island Sound.  "I'm in another damn washing machine," I thought.  Luckily, the steep swell was short-lived as the Long Island land mass to the south prevented any significant fetch.  As we neared the Race, both the swell and breeze abated significantly, leaving us with a 2.67 knot foul current just as we neared Race Rock Light.  Yep, we should have hit up Dead Eye Dick's on Block Island and waited for the tide to change.  Next time, Andy.  

As we fought through the foul current, a new problem arose:  the breeze began to clock from the WSW, ultimately hovering directly on our nose.  Well that wasn't in the forecast.  Now we had about a 25-mile beat in a boat that doesn't like to beat.  Lovely.  For the rest of the delivery, we tacked along the Connecticut coast, and pinched to achieve maximum VMG.  

So it was slow-going from the Race.  Our friend Adam Loory of UK Sailmakers astutely pointed out that we had our dessert before our vegetables.  True.  And we paid the price.  It took us 13 hours to sail the 100 miles from Larchmont, NY to Block Island, and then 10 hours to sail the roughly 47 miles from 1BI to Pilots Point.  Ughhh... And to top off the long haul, we were welcomed at the harbor by what can only be described as a death cloud--a line of dark gray cumulonimbus extending along the coast.  As we navigated through some shallow, rocky areas near the harbor, we didn't know what this cloud would bring.  Nothing?  60 knots?  Luckily, the breeze remained consistent at 18 knots as the cloud past overhead.  The worse that happened was that I bumped Abilyn into the rubberized corner of the dock as I was backing into the slip--nothing that a little compound can't resolve.

The best part of the delivery?  Pizza and beer at the greatest railroad station pizza shop in the northeast:  PIZZA WORKS!

So now the boat is tucked away, awaiting my return.  After the Bermuda 1-2 forum in Newport on November 1, I'll make a pit stop at the yard and strip Abilyn of all her goodies, and, along with the help of Bob and Andrew Connell at BYY, set her up for a restful off-season.  Restful, at least for her; I'll be spending the off-season pondering next June and preparing mentally for what lies ahead, given that we are now officially qualified to enter the race.    

Here are my favorite images from the delivery.  Enjoy!