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post #25 of Old 09-22-2008
1975 Newport 28
jaschrumpf's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Monrovia, MD
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A couple of years ago when I was sailing with the Baltimore Downtown Sailing Center, we went out for our weekly Wednesday open sail as one of that year's hurricanes was passing by to the north. We had perfect blue skies in Baltimore, but 20-25 kt winds blowing right down the middle channel of the Patabsco River, right towards the Key Bridge.

I was skippering a J22 with two experienced sailors, and we went out with the jib down on deck, tied firmly down. It was blowing nice in the Inner Harbor, but as we neared the opening into the middle channel, right by Fort McHenry, we could see 2-3 foot swells actually breaking on the bulkhead opposite the fort and lots of whitecaps.

We had lots of weight and experience in the boat, and with the (unreefable) main only, we decided to go for it. The wind was on the starboard quarter the entire way to the Francis Scott Key buoy (set down where the ship he was on was located, just inside the Key Bridge), and we surfed a few swells, really hauling.

We made it to the buoy in record time, jibed neatly around it, and started heading for home. We had figured on being able to stay on a close reach, but the wind backed into the North and we ended up having to tack all the way home. Luckily I had some good beef on the rails, and we pinched it all the way, slamming into those 2-3 foot swells and taking lots of water over the rails.

We cruised uneventfully, though soggily, back into the Inner Harbor, tacked back up to the sailing center (right next to Domino Sugar), and in a good 15 kt wind made a perfect close haul approach into our slip, dumping the wind to control our speed and coming up into the wind to drop the main and coast into the slip.

A couple of boats didn't make it back in from the river that day, and pulled into various safe havens and waited for a ride home. We saw one with its jib up taking a pounding, and they later said they "couldn't get it down" with that much wind.

Of course, being sailors (even just harbor sailors) my crew and I had a good time bragging over a few beers about being the only ones to make it to the buoy and back. A great sail on a beautiful day.
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