Date: Monday, October 30, 2017
Position: Chestertown, Maryland
The last “public access sails” for this weekend’s Sultana Downrigging Weekend maritime event were Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderfully serendipitous weekend between two major rain events associated with Tropical Storm Phillipe rushing northward not far offshore past the mid-Atlantic coast in the north western Atlantic Ocean.
Sunday afternoon’s sail wind strength was lighter than it had been Friday or Saturday and the direction was not as “fair” for sailing river reaches between turn-arounds. So, mostly the strategy was motor away against the soft prevailing breeze and then sail slowly back.
During the sail back, another serendipitous development occurred: the five larger vessel attendees, Kalmar Nyckel, Pride of Baltimore II, Lynx, Lady Maryland, and Sultana ended up grouped together, nearly abreast (meaning as many as three abreast with one close ahead and one close behind). This is a rare event due to the navigational restrictions of the Chester River, but in this instance, our slow and steady sailing pace and the somewhat higher than usual water level, along with a fair and light strength but sailable breeze, enabled a degree of comfort for the vessel masters to sail in very close proximity and not feel navigationally or maneuverable-y crowded. In other words, the five vessels were sailing at nearly the same speed while somewhat abreast within proximity of less than half a boat length. At times for-reaching from a half a boat length behind and passing to about a half a boat length forward as the fair quartering breeze would at first be free and clear and then be shadowed by the vessel to windward being passed to leeward.
For those aboard, it was a rare opportunity to have normal volume conversation across all five vessels which were so close together and moving slow enough so that they made hardly any water noise and were more or less gliding along. The light wind also meant little ambient noise.
This small armada-in-formation eventually and naturally (due to different speeds and sail combinations) spread lengthwise by about one to two boat lengths between each and at just the right moment to permit the masters to organize sail taking-in and docking maneuvers without any radio chatter to clarify other vessels’ masters’ intentions. Each master was keenly observant of where they could best go to get what their needs/desires were and yet not give any cause for another master to misread or feel blocked or crowded. Nearly in coordination, sails were taken-in and reverse direction dockside maneuvers were made. This seemingly choreographed routine became pretty logically feasible considering the fleet had already made at least three sails together during this weekend event and the wind conditions were somewhat more moderate this time around. But still, a demonstration of know-how.
My compliments to all.
Captain Jan C. Miles