Ever Been On a Sail You Just Want to End?

Phillip and I will both eagerly, happily, readily admit it: We are 100% fair-weather sailors on our boat. While there are definitely longer, more intense passages we still want to make in our lifetime—sailing around Cape Horn, for example, sailing in the Indian Ocean, we’ve even thought about doing a leg of the Clipper Race—we probably will not do those in our boat and we will not do them because we like to bash around in rough conditions.  Much like the Atlantic-crossings we have done, Phillip and I would undertake those because of the accomplishment it would signify. There is a lot of pride that comes into play when we both can say: “Yes, we’ve sailed across the Atlantic.”  Or, when people ask, “How did you get to Cuba?” and we can say: “We sailed there.”  

“Just the two of you?”

“Yes, just the two of us.” 

Five-day bash across the Gulf to Cuba in 2016

I’ll be honest.  That’s a pretty f&*king cool feeling.  I love the look people sometimes give us in response.  I feel like they are now thinking there are more things in the world possible than they knew, and that, if those two can do that, maybe I can do more than I imagined.  I hope Phillip and I always inspire each other and other people to greater endeavors.  When Phillip and I voluntarily embark on passages we know could likely become extremely arduous, we do it for that reason: to accomplish something rare, do something many others have not.  

Crossing the Atlantic with Yannick on s/v Andanza in 2016

But, the only reward for a common day-hop where the conditions became gnarly is: You Survived! And your reward is simply a “Whew! We made it,” and an icy cocktail at the end of the day.  I’ll be honest: I’m going to have a cocktail either way, so I’ll take it without the bash-about and potential broken-whatever.

Phillip and I would never take our boat out in 25-30 knot winds and big seas just for the sport of it. No, Ma’am.  If Phillip and I find ourselves in that unfortunate situation, it’s because we didn’t know it was going to be like that out there and our weather prediction was off.  (Because that never happens, right? ; )  Well, that was precisely what happened to us when we wrapped our magic dinghy ride to the Blue Hole at Devil’s-Hoffman Cay and sailed down to Chub Cay in the southern Berry Islands to meet up again with our friends Pat and Steve who have a wonderful rustic island home there.  It was supposed to be an easy beam-reach day-sail.  

Supposed to … 

When we left Devil’s-Hoffman, Phillip and I were expecting winds of 15 out the east which would have put us on a nice beam reach heading south toward Chub Cay.  And, recall this was going to be our first time sailing Plaintiff’s Rest—not motor-sailing as we did from Great Harbour to Devil’s-Hoffman, but pure sailing—in SIX MONTHS (Lord!) because we had just returned after hurricane season to pick up our cruising again in November, 2019.  

First selfie with our baby girl after hurricane season!

We were so excited to get underway, in fact, and start sailing that day that we weighed anchor and set off in the pouring rain.  

We didn’t care.  We were going sailing!  Our kind of sailing.  

And, it definitely started out that way!  See?

Nice 15-knot winds right on the beam.  We were flying!  Look at that. Making 7.3 speed with ease (and comfort).  But, about an hour into our “perfect sail” the conditions started to deteriorate. Of course, the rain came back, in cold driving sheets.

But, far worse, the wind not only shifted—to where it was coming more out of the southwest, right on our nose as we tried to pivot onto a heading toward Chub Cay—they also picked up to 22-25 knots, which is just more than we prefer.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our baby girl is tough as nails, with all new wire rigging put on in 2016, her mast-step rebuilt stronger than ever before, and a super rugged but flexible balsa core throughout.  She is fully capable of sailing in 25+ with ease, I just don’t personally want to see, hear, or feel her do it.  The potential for breakage skyrockets and stresses me out.  I’m not a shoe person but it would be like putting on a new pair of exquisite, shiny Louis Vitton heels and then running like mad through the streets.  You are totally going to mess those shoes up.  (And your ankles, too, in that scenario).  Although I hear women do it … on a professional level!

But, there we were, three hours now away from turning back toward Devil’s-Hoffman, or two hours into the wind to get where we needed to keep our cruising momentum.  What would you do?

We reefed up and kept trucking. It was kind of shocking to see how quickly the seas kicked up, though.  I guess with no protection from the south, it doesn’t take long for the wind to impact the seas, because we were beating into some miniature monsters. 

Every time we tacked thinking it would give us an advantage, I swear we were going backwards.  Like we were on a sea treadmill and losing ground. I felt like the boat gave us a “Really guys?” each time we tacked and didn’t gain an inch.

Phillip’s “What the hell, Wind?” face

In moments like those, I wish I could become this huge hand that comes down from the sky and just plucks her like a rubber bath duckie out of that mess and sets her gently down in the anchorage, still and safe, and on her hook.  

Have any of you ever felt that way?  You’re fine to bury the rails and beat to windward on anyone’s boat but your own? I wonder if I’m alone on this?

Although Phillip and I love sailing, we love cruising, we love being on our boat, there are just some sails I want to end, and, unfortunately, this was one for us.  Our first sail of the 2019 cruising season, and we just wanted it to end.  But, I must say the boat performed beautifully.  She powered through, and that hellish beat was over in a few hours.  I can’t tell you what a sigh of relief Phillip and I both let out when we turned into the inlet at Chub Cay and the seas finally loosened their grip. 

My “Thank God, we’re almost there” smile

I love that moment when the boat finally slows from a full-out run to a gentle gallop, then to an easy trot, and you know you’re going to make it.  That day we (well, and by “we” I mean primarily Plaintiff’s Rest, with me and Phillip simply riding on her back) definitely earned our “Whew! We made it.”  And, you remember what I said about the cocktail.  Happy hour is not optional on Plaintiff’s Rest. : )  

There she is! Anchored out safely (thank goodness!) behind Frazer’s Hog Cay after a rough beat.

Next up, we play around the southern Berries with some fantastic island friends and embark on our first lionfish spearing adventure.  You never know, Captain Annie may still become a lion tamer yet!  

12 thoughts on “Ever Been On a Sail You Just Want to End?

  • I hear you…..I’m proud to be a costal cruiser! I don’t need the “T” shirt. Could I do it? Yes. Do I want to? No. In the Exumas now hiding from the wind!

    • Ha, great answer! Thanks Marshall. We often hide from wind! Could we get out in that mess and probably survive? Sure. Do we want to? Hell no! Stay safe. Happy hiding! Cocktails are good for that, too! ; )

  • Tartan 37 is a great boat, but without a deep keel a bash to windward is difficult. I sail a 1978 restored Baltic 39 (I do my own work, except the new rod) with a 7 ft fin designed by Robby Ball who did many of the C&C’s. I used to sail a deep keel C&C 35 mark 1. Both the Baltic and C&C handled 30-40 knot winds close hauled with great forward progress. The deep keel makes a more comfortable ride also. By the way I enjoy heavy weather sailing and long offshore passages, probably because I started sailing long distance races in my early 20’s. If I had started later in life I am not sure I would be so sanguine about heavy weather.

    I really enjoy your articles and the strength and ingenuity you both display in all of the work and sailing you have written about.

    My wife and I are headed to Maine, Nova Scotia, Magdalene Islands, and Prince Edward Island this summer. Next July an Atlantic crossing from St. John Newfoundland to Ireland, followed by a return via the ARC in November.

    If you are of a mind to do some less stressful racing I highly recommend Storm Trysail Clubs Block Island Race week in June 2021. They have a pursuit style series and also 2 handed categories with or without spinnaker. It is a lot of fun owing to 1 race a day and great parties after. It might provide the impetus to explore New England during that summer. The warm season is mid-June through mid-September. I would be pleased to share charts, ports, and other resources should you come north.

    John and Heidi, Baltic 39, Ashe’

    • What a great contribution here, John, thank you. Yes, I’ll bet if I had started sooner I would be more acclimated. But, big bashing and heavy heeling never bother me on other peoples’ boats. (It’s often quite fun!) And, maybe that sounds awful as I should “feel” more for their potential for breakage and loss, but (in all honesty) it’s just different when I feel it on our boat. I’m more connected and invested in her so it brings out a different reaction.

      We will definitely have to look into the Trysail Clubs Race. It sounds like a lot of fun. I know Phillip has spoken often of the Caribbean 600 race, as Andy Schell has mentioned and done that one before, too. I don’t know that we’ll ever seriously “race” our boat in anything more than a big, fun regatta of boats getting from A to B.

      I love hearing about you and your wife’s upcoming travels. Kudos! Those sound like amazing stops with adventure-worthy sails in between. Good to hear from a follower. Thank you for sharing!

  • Yep, we really wanted the direct crossing from Baja to the Mainland Mexico to end cause the first day off Baja is always confused swells and big wind. Then 27 hours off the mainland at the Tres Marias we picked up our friends catamaran on tow cause there was NO wind and they had no motor. By the morning of the 4th day…we made port in La Cruz on the 31st of Dec…slept all through the New Years night-
    Great story,,,thanks for posting it, keep it up. We’re coming to the east coast in 2022 and will consider an Atlantic run-

    • Hey Chad! Thanks for chiming in. Man, four days of it? That sounds like an exhausting run. Unfortunately, some of them just are. Funny you slept right into the new year! Not a bad way to ring it in, I’d say! If you’re tried … guy’s gotta sleep, right? You’ll love the east coast. Lots of old salty ports there to explore. Happy sailing. Fair winds!

      • We’re headed to Brunswick Georgia when we get there as a hurricane hole, then renting a motor home to tour the east coast through that season. Then we’ll get back to the boat and decide if we’re doing the Atlantic or coming back to tackle the puddle jump- thanks for the reply-

      • Absolutely. Thanks for following. That sounds like a fantastic plan. There is so much to see and do in this world, it’s awesome to connect with people who are appreciating and seizing it. Carry on my traveling friend!

  • Hello Annie and Philip: Your posts always get me thinking, this one in particular. I love to sail and had a hard time coming up with a “bad” day. For me they are calms more than storms.

    It was in June of ’92, racing back from Bermuda in a J30 double handed. As evening fell, we approached Newport, the wind died and the fog rolled in. It is a busy area with fishing boats, tug with barges, etc. and we got spun around in the fickle winds, everything was grey and up could have been down. The skipper came on watch and I said this was bad enough to make me think about taking up golf. He replied that he quit golf to go sailboat racing. We laughed. We also won our class.

    A couple years later, I as crew on a 67 footer, on delivery from Japan to Long Beach. The first thousand miles were upwind in 40 knots. That wasn’t pleasant, wet and cold. Then the wind died off completely and we drifted for two days. It as horrible. I am more sensitive to drifting in calms than heavy weather.

    As the “Ashe” sailors attest, New England is magnificent and you really should consider poking your bow into our waters. I could write a book on why our few months are so special (but won’t). Getting here from Florida is a bit of a slog. Mom and dad did it a couple dozen times and always said it was worth the effort. Great cruising areas are always separated by a “slog.” I love the Caribbean and will tell you straight up the weeks it takes are rewarding.

    I suggest: Jax-Chas-Beaufort inside to Norfolk-AC-NYC-Newport and here you are. To get home: Newport-BDA-SXM and there you are in the warm wonderful Caribbean.

    Its all good. Love your adventures.


    • Wow, Norm. Thank you for the awesome advice. We’re definitely planning to slog our way up the east coast one year as we want to do the Great Loop. I guess it’s a good problem to have such a long and ever-growing list! : ) I can agree with you NOW about the drifting versus bashing as that happened to us recently and it was THE WORST passage Phillip and I have been on on our boat because we were … (don’t say it) becalmed. I cannot wait to write about that as it was a far worse psychological torture than beating into heavy weather, so I totally agree with you there. Great points to add here. I think a couple of your sentences could be cross-stitched onto a pillow and turned into sailors’ mantras! Good stuff here! Always wonderful to hear from you, Norm.

      • Annie: “Cross stitched into a pillow!” I will get Elizabeth right on it… haha. She is very crafty and has knitted us some good stuff for cool weather cruising.
        Today the temps are in the 40s so I am going over to the boat to start my refit plans. Still pretty cold for working outdoors for too long but I can make lists! The idea is to improve light air performance a bit. I am a clean bilge guy too and that is always on the list.
        Wonderful to hear from you guys, too.

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