This is the third in a series of posts about a trip I made to the Chesapeake on my old Catalina 22, Helbent, during the summer of 2011.
My folks had recently sold their house on the island, so when I first put the boat in the water, I had to sleep on her. That is not normally an issue, as I sleep on her in the slip a couple times a summer. But the arrangement was a little less conducive to a comfortable night’s rest when tools, rigging, parts, and everything else, including the mast, which was not yet raised, were all over the deck and cabin. And, to top it off, that first night a nasty 25 knot breeze kicked up out of the northwest – the only direction that has a fetch into my slip – at about 4:30 in the morning. The ensuing 1-2 foot chop and resultant chaos on board woke me up bright and early.
But there were more than a few good sides to living on the boat those first days. One of the major benefits was that it forced me to go out when I needed a break, because relaxing on the boat was not really an option. And that is exactly what I did the second evening. I started off by hitting the liquor store for a sixer and then headed to Chicken or the Egg, an island institution, for my usual egg hoagie with Jamaican jerk sauce. With three beers left, I was contemplating whether I should stop by the Hudson House, the best and, as far as I am concerned, only bar on the island. I did not ponder the decision too long, despite the fact it was still 7:45, fifteen minutes before their off-season opening time. Just after I plopped down on the stoop, but before I could even decide whether it was ok to open a beer outside the Hud, the door swung open. I jumped up to be greeted by Joey and Brion, two now retired bartenders and friends of mine, who were in town having a few with Erica, who has done her best to replace them. Enjoying some conversation and beers with the three of them reminded me of just how much I love the island, how much it is my home filled with good friends and great memories.
The next morning the work continued, and the number of things yet left to do diminished, but never quite disappeared. Finally, one morning I decided I had to leave the next day. There was a rare forecast of north winds, which would allow me to sail downwind the sixty-five miles to Cape May. And, at least as importantly, I had started to feel like I was never going to get out of there if I didn’t just leave regardless of what still needed to be completed.
That penultimate morning, I headed off the island to do my provisioning at the big ShopRite. My purchases were fairly basic: pasta, canned tuna, mac n’ cheese, eggs, soups, rice and beans, etc. I did pick up a can of Old Bay and a bottle of Crystal hot sauce to make things a little interesting. Add to all that a case of beer and a bottle of Pyrat rum, and I was ready to go, at least as far as food and drink went. Loading the boat proved a little more daunting, especially with the deflated dinghy in the forepeak, and it made me wonder where Jonny was going to fit when he joined me later in the trip.
After finally stuffing the boat full, I cleared out the cockpit drains, hosing out a winter’s worth of dried leaves as night fell. It was then I realized I never managed a shakedown sail. While not knowing whether everything was rigged properly and stored securely worried me, I was not about to miss the weather window or spend another day working on the boat. So, I filed those concerns away and went home to plug some waypoints into my new handheld GPS and get to sleep as early as possible, knowing a 3am alarm loomed.