With an engine finally ready to go, and a place secured for TearAway to get hauled out, we set off for Kingston. One thing that still had me worried was that the anchors had seemed to be fairly well stuck. Beyond stuck.
We had two anchors set up in a bit of a “Bahamian Mooring” in our bay. That is, two anchors set 180º from each other so the boat will be held in by one when the wind is from one direction, and by the other when the wind is opposite. This reduced the likelihood of an anchor pulling out when the boat spins around due to shifting winds. Since we were anchored in our own bay for a long time, I figured this was the best thing to do. However, it seems that one anchor dragged a little, probably just plowing through the mud bottom over time, so we decided to re-set it. However, Gabe and I together in the dinghy couldn’t get it to budge. It was completely stuck, about 15 feet below us, not giving a bit of budge no matter which way we pulled. So, we left it like that until we were sure the engine was ready and we’d try a few other tricks from the bigger, steadier platform of TearAway.
Gabe’s good buddy Josh came with us, taking Elisha’s spot while he worked a job. Josh and Gabe went forward to start weighing anchor after we’d started the engine up and let her warm up a little. In short time, shouts of “We caught something! We’ve got a tree!” came from the bow. This was what I’d suspected. However, it looked as if the “tree” was just a branch of a large tree, and that we’d lucked out with the storm a couple nights previous actually breaking this branch off. We pulled it aboard, lashed another line to hold it, and proceeded to untangle the anchor rode that had wrapped so thoroughly around it. Eventually, we hefted it over the side past the stern and away from our lines and stowed the first anchor. Next, the second, the primary anchor, the one that was so completely fouled days previously. I guided us up and over it and the boys weighed it without a single sign of anything ever having been wrong. In fact, it went so unexpectedly easily that I’d not even yet turned on the nav electronics or radio.
Strong winds drifted us out into the river. We got the anchor cleaned and stowed, and raised the sails. Off we went. The winds were such that we started with the main sail on the first reef (translation: the sail is made smaller by not allowing all of it to go up, making use of ropes and hooks at the bottom to make it smaller yet maintain sail shape). We left the genoa reefed to its fullest. The front sail is stored by rolling it up on an aluminum extrusion that runs from the bow to the top of the mast. So, you can roll and unroll it as needed, somewhat. But, you still want to maintain a sail shape, and you have to be careful with this because if the rope that holds it from unrolling were to come loose, the sail would immediately billow out and probably break stuff or tear itself because, after all, you have it reefed because the wind is too strong. So, the sail maker has stitched marks into the bottom of the sail to let us know where we should let it out to so as to still maintain an OK shape. We made it so it was the smallest it should be.
We zipped along at about 6 knots. A knot is one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is, traditionally, one sixtieth of a degree of latitude (it’s since been standardized to exactly 1852 meters). So, that works out to 1.15 miles per hour, or 1.85 kilometers per hour. Our boat should have a maximum speed, a hull speed, of about 6.5kn. This is a physical property of the length of a boat that displaces the water it moves through. You can push harder all you want, once you reach this speed, and you’re not going to make the boat go faster, only increase the forces fighting against each other. A boat that rises up out of the water can cheat this, which is why speed boats plane up when they get moving and can put on more speed once planed. We measure our speed with our GPS, so it’s the speed over ground. However, we’re not on ground, we’re in water, and the speed through the water is what we care about when figuring out how close we are to our hull speed. I don’t know what the current is in the river, and I’m sure it changes depending on where you are and the geographic/hydrographic properties of the area, but I am pretty sure we were topping out what we could do. When the boat started to handle funny I knew it was time to reduce sail even more. Ahh, the benefits of getting to know your boat!
What to do while waiting for a bridge to open? Mooring practice!
We arrived at Kingston Harbour about 10 minutes late. The Lasalle Causeway opens every hour on the hour as needed. We radioed the marina near the bridge to find out if we could hang out in their breakwater… it was a little rough out and it’d be nice to wait in a more calm place. They allowed us to come in and tie up to an open spot. So, here comes what might be the most dangerous part of sailing… coming close to other stuff! It’s kind of like teaching your kids to drive. They can handle the roads with ease, but it’s still nerve wracking to pull into a parking lot where the rules are a little more analog and there’s more to bump into. But, with a car, you can hit the brakes pretty easily and they take effect quite quickly. With a boat, if you’re not moving, you’re not steering. If your propeller is turning, it’s not only pushing you forward or backward, but also pushing sideways, more noticeably the slower you’re moving forward or backward. You have to think about the movement of the water and the wind that is exerting their forces as well. There are no brakes. So, it’s a skill and an art to bring a 6 ton floating object to rest where you want it to. And then to get out of the parking spot with little steerage because you’re not moving fast. We made it in to the slip, cleaned up lunch dishes, stretched a couple minutes, then pulled back out, not certain how long it would take to get to the bridge.
Not very long. So, we hung around about 10 minutes, waiting for the bridge to open. Nothing. Hmmm… The ferry pulled out from its dock on the Kingston side at 2:00 on the dot. We watched, making sure to not be one of “those guys” that the ferry captain has to blow the horn at. Grammy was on the front of the ferry, alternately waving and covering her mouth with both hands. She’d just returned from visiting the other side of the family on the other side of the country, fully expecting to not see us before we took off. We waved back, excitedly. She got drenched by a big splash over the bow. Sorry, Grammy! We went closer to try to read the sign. It said, almost inexplicably, that the boats awaiting passage should wait within 90 meters of the bridge. Thinking on it later, that makes perfect sense. Be close so when the bridge does open you’re ready to go. Then, I was thinking it was silly to be getting so close to something to run into and not have an easy escape path. The bells started ringing, traffic was stopped, and the bridge was raised for us. Again, uncertainty. On the side of the bridge, clearly for us to see, was something equivalent to a stop light, but without the yellow. It was still red. Even when the bridge was all the way up. Should I go? Should I wait? It was very confusing. I worked to keep the boat roughly still in the opening and not shoot through since the light was still red, when the radio burst to life and, for the first time, I heard our name being hailed. Or, something not entirely our name, but close, through a thick French-Canadian accent. “Tee are a why, tee are a why, tee are a why, this is Lasalle Causeway.” I fumbled between getting the radio, getting close enough to hear and respond, and steer the boat. The man in the control box waved at us and I responded on the radio. “Go to zero six.” That means I need to switch to channel 06, while doing the other things. At the same time I moved the transmission into forward so we maintain steerage. Off we went, through the bridge, and the controller let me know that next time I should wait closer to make it faster. We were able to quickly arrive at the marina, get tied up, and are now ready for the next phase.
If any of you were waiting at the bridge while a bunch of noobs blocked traffic, please accept my sincere apologies… we’ll do better next time!