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Learn to SAIL BUZZARDS BAY then sail the world


By Martynas Limantas
May 27, 2011
A day before the Figawi Regatta

Hyannis Yacht Club welcomes Figawi Sailors, Hyannis, Massachusetts, U.S.A.   Photo by R.Veitas-Limantas
Hyannis Yacht Club-Skippers Meeting
This morning I drive down to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where the sailboat-Bite belonging to Sail Buzzards Bay is docked. Crossing the drawbridge I take notice of the harbor with its blanket of thick fog. The hurricane barrier gate out to Buzzards Bay is not visible. Fog enveloped houses greet me as I turn off Route 6 and head down Main Street. Soon all ends are finalized and I head for the boat –– must remember everything. Warm clothes are very important, regardless of the date. Water temperature is still in the low to mid fifties. And the temperature gradient between land and sea is about twenty degrees. Must pack warmly just in case. Anyhow, the idea is to sail over to Cotuit on Cape Cod via Woods Hole, best tide and favorable current midday. Four hours sailing to Woods Hole.

–– Set sail!
In fog, we set sail at 850 hours. The water is fairly calm, small waves, light south, southwestern breeze. The fog is denser, as we leave the harbor. The harbor entrance, along with the seawall and the entire coastline, quickly fade out of sight. Only fog surrounds us. Patches of even denser fog stream by. Foghorn in constant use. Everybody remains watchful, can’t miss any boats, must stay vigilant at all times. Fishing vessels appear just as quickly as they disappear. An hour into the trip, heading 110° to Woods Hole; in the fog.

At some point, the sun tries to break through. The forecast is for conditions to improve. My first encounter with the fog leaves me straining my eyes, using binoculars, constantly observing the perimeter, the invisible horizon. Some stretches are mightily dense; the foghorn sounds at short intervals. A silhouette of a trawler creeps stealthily out like a ghost, figures visible on deck wave – almost undetected it sails across the sixty or so yards of visibility and, without a trace, disappears back into the fog. All fog yet again. That same white view all around. Eyes constantly watchful, ears alert.

Course of Bite in Buzzards Bay and Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts, U.S.A   (Not for Navigation)
Buzzards Bay and Nantucket Sound
–– Woods Hole
At the channel entrance, the fog starts to dissolve and a few masts become visible. The outline of the shore and a line of trees slowly come into focus, then the contours of the beach. Momentarily, the red and green buoy serrated channel looms ahead. Suddenly, it is clear. The sun is out. On both sides, sharp details of the coastline are now visible. Just above the sandy beaches, amongst the trees a few big houses are perched up on the bluff. Now clearly visible is the caravan of sailboats heading for Nantucket Sound. The current in the channel is still strong, not entirely slack time yet. In an hour or so, we cross the channel without any incidents, and soon fade back into the fog.

–– Nantucket Sound
Fog. Less fog. No fog. Shoreline clearly visible. Heading for Cotuit Bay.

May 28, 2011
Day of the Race

–– Morning at Cotuit Bay
The morning comes with thick fog yet again. It is heavy and hangs low, surrounding us. We dress, change the jib to Genoa jib, drink coffee, have a bite to eat, and soon after push off into foggy Cotuit Bay. Start time 1000 hours. Bite –– the slowest boat in the class. Let’s hope we make the course in time, get in a good sail, and complete it.
The Competition, Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts, U.S.A.   Photo by R.Veitas-Limantas
Figawi - The Competition
-At Cotuit Bay get lost in the fog,
-run aground, managed to get off,
-once again foghorn in constant use.
-The race is three hours delayed,
-we have an incredible start!
-Run first to the 17th buoy,
-run out of wind and withdraw.
-No winners in our class,
-not many finishers in general.
-At the docks about two hundred and fifty sailboats,
-the party is alive, smiling faces in the street.
-It would not let up for the next two nights.

May 29, 2011
Day on the Island
Foggy Nantucket Morning  Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, U.S.A.   Photo by R.Veitas-Limantas
Foggy Nantucket Harbor Morning
–– Nantucket Island
The morning is quiet and the docks are empty. The revelry is in respite. We awake early and breakfast at the Fog Island Café. Later rent bikes and explore the island. The sky is clear and the sun is out. We walk the cobbled streets full of restaurants and gift-shops, past old Victorian houses embowered by tall trees, and once on smooth pavement make time. The countryside is idyllic with rolling fields of low shrubbery, indigenous pine trees, and wooden summer cottages. We ride about twelve miles to Madaket beach, western shore of the island. Here enjoy the sandy beach and watch the fog roll back in off the ocean. After a short rest, we pedal back to town, which by now is alive yet again.
Back on the boat, we sit back and have a few drinks. The fog has crossed the island by now and is slowly tumbling over full-leafed trees and slanted rooftops. The last rays of the orange sun disappear leaving no trace.

–– At the docks
The atmosphere here is alive. People pull notes on the other side of the dock. A Jolly Roger halfway up a backstay flies stiff in the breeze. It is that kind of a vibe. Noisy, rowdy crowds heard all around. The commotion permeates the docks, the streets, the ice-cubes are melting, the party is on.
Dionis Beach, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, U.S.A.   Photo by R, Veitas-Limantas
Dionis Beach

May 30, 2011
Return Race

In the morning, there is a stiff South-Southwest breeze. The docks are quiet compared to the last two days, only rigging and flags make a pleasant, harmonious sound. There are a few patches of fog. The temperature is climbing. It is difficult to say what awaits us out on the water. Soon everything on deck is set and we are ready to head out. Boat after boat, the docks empty. Shortly, we are in the channel heading for the start line. Only two classes finished Saturday, so today's race counts. The start…not so good…we are the last boat in the pack. The boats in front are off and running, many with spinnakers on a downwind leg. About six miles to the first mark. At first, we hesitate, but after a short discussion, we decide to hoist the big drifter sail. With the bigger sail to maximize the wind –– our speed increases to seven knots. By the first marking, we have caught up and pass two boats. At the first tack, the fog returns. In the thickening vapors, we are close-hauled into the
Martynas and Louisa at the helm, Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts, U.S.A.   Photo by R.Veitas-Limantas
Martynas and Louisa at the Helm
teeth of the wind, still making about six knots. Fog all around, hard to make out any boats. Here, due to poor visibility, navigational skills are key, must rely on the GPS. In four tacks, we reach the mark. We ease and heading on a close reach, stream toward the finish line. About a mile and a half to go. The fog is even denser, precise navigation is paramount to a good finish here. Finally, we spot the buoy and the committee boat marking the line. The gun goes off as we cross. We exclaim, high fives, we have completed the course.

Later we found out we had come in first in our class.

Great success!

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