Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cruise, Day 26

Well, folks, this is it---the last day of the cruise. I feel almost as melancholy posting it as I did sailing it, but it was a fantastic sail that day, and I can only hope the adventures ahead will be just as wonderful.

With the weird weather patterns I’d been having, no wind for two days and then near gale force for three, I had been concerned for several days about the risk of getting south of Tilghman Island. My cruise was drawing to a close, and my concern was getting south and then perhaps having to wait a week for a weather window to open that would allow me to make the long sail back up and around Tilghman and Poplar Islands. Today looked like the best weather window I might get for awhile for getting back across the bay to the Eastern Shore. The wind was now southwest, but was to go north by nightfall and then start to build back to 30-40 knots by morning and for the next couple days. I was getting the impression that the only way folks on the bay would get decent weather would be for me to go home.

Thistle and I were underway from Harness Creek by 0720. The wind was near calm, and we just drifted along until the breeze started to gain strength around 0900. By 0930 Thistle had crossed the bay and was rounding Bloody Point Bar Light at the south end of Kent Island to enter Eastern Bay.

Bloody Point Light in her better days.
...and as it is today.

One would wonder how Bloody Point got its name. There are several tentative explanations, but it goes back far enough in history that there is nothing positive to distinguish fact from fantasy. The light was built in 1882, is 37-feet high, and had a visibility at one time of thirteen miles. It is now listed with a seven-mile visibility. It has had a sad existence. The current scoured under one side causing it to lean five-feet off vertical. That was corrected for the most part. Then in April, 1960, an electrical short set the structure on fire. The two coastguardsmen on duty tried to extinguish the fire, but it continued to spread. When the fire approached the 500-lb. propane tank, they decided to abandon the light. They climbed into the utility boat and lowered themselves. The tide was low and the boat just touched the surface, but there wasn’t enough slack to disconnect the falls from the davits, so they hung there as the inferno raged just over their heads. Finally a wave lifted them enough for the falls to come free, and they got away just as the tank exploded. A coastguard cutter fought the fire for six hours, but the brick and wood interior of the iron structure was destroyed. The destroyed light was replaced with a plastic lens in 1961, which is powered by solar panels. As I sailed by the light, my thought was, “Well, they’ll never sell that one,” but in fact it was sold at auction in 2006. The current owner claims that he will renovate the light. I certainly wish him well, but don’t envy him the job ahead. The iron plates are layered with deep layers of rust, the interior is gone, and the deck is covered with thick guano in which weeds grow.

Continuing up Eastern Bay, we rounded Parsons Island to enter Prospect Bay. We continued up to the head of Prospect Bay where we dropped sails and started the engine to make the run through Kent Narrows. We just missed one bridge opening, so had to wait 21 minutes for the next. At 1330, we cleared Kent Narrows Bridge to head north into the Chester River. Thistle continued to run up Chester River with a bone in her teeth. We rounded Mkr. “2” into Southeast Creek, and were secured alongside the boathouse at the marina at 1800.

Today, Thistle had been in her element. She is a great sailing boat, but until today just hadn’t had much to work with for any period of time. If for any reason that day was to be my last sail, it couldn’t have been better, and would be a day worth remembering. In ten hours (minus the 21 minutes waiting at Kent Narrows Bridge), we had run 44.0 nm. We had reached a top speed of 6.8 kts., and that was towing a dinghy half her length. Considering that we had started in light air and spent a couple hours around two knots, Thistle had done some real sailing. We started the day with a red sky, and finished it with a purple sunset. A glorious day. The only things left are to unload and unrig Thistle, get the marina travelift to load her back on the trailer, and haul her 1,500 miles back to Oklahoma.

The Cruise Recap: Total distance: 395.3 nm. During the cruise we had sailed:
10 Rivers
67 Creeks
17 Coves
11 Bays

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