All in a Day's Sail

The wind is piping out of the southwest as we head for The Widows Cove just south of where Cape Cod Canal empties into Buzzards Bay. Our destination is less than a mile away, and we’ll have to cross Dry Ledge to reach it. The tide must be nearly full for us to clear the rocky entrance, but I’m determined to proceed. As the wind continues to blow, I consider slowing down to watch for breaking
Author:
Publish date:

The wind is piping out of the southwest as we head for The Widows Cove just south of where Cape Cod Canal empties into Buzzards Bay. Our destination is less than a mile away, and we’ll have to cross Dry Ledge to reach it. The tide must be nearly full for us to clear the rocky entrance, but I’m determined to proceed. As the wind continues to blow, I consider slowing down to watch for breaking waves, but a quick bearing shows we’ll be able to sneak through safely, so we sail on. The Bullseye races ahead.

I love sailing this Herreshoff. At 15ft 8in with a heavy keel, Solo moves quickly and steadily. When she tacks, the self-tending jib takes care of itself. She is a fillip of adventure with a tension that bridges “Think we can do it?” with “So what if we can’t?” Best of all, if we can’t, either my husband Michael or I just get out and push. It’s what I call a manageable amount of risk.

As we sail closer to the coast, I take a couple of quick tacks to get a better angle on the entrance. The tide is still rising, but the wind eases to a whisper when we get close. Michael sheets in and I steer for the narrow passage between underwater rocks. Nerve-jangling noises of wind and wave give way to soothing sounds of leaves and grasses. Once we’re in, Michael drops the little Danforth over the side. There’s a clank as the chain pays out, then a wild cry from shore in response. We turn to see a great blue heron fly off in distress. I apologize silently, as I appreciate quiet as much as the heron.

We eat sandwiches in the cockpit and reminisce about the time we managed to walk our 36ft centerboard sailboat Beachcomber into a mangrove-lined cove in the Bahamas. There we found this same sense of isolation and security, as if embraced by the shore.

A loud cry from an osprey overhead breaks the trance, reminding us that we are in The Widows Cove, in a keelboat, on a falling tide. Michael sits up, “We better get moving or we won’t get out of here until midnight.”

I look around and realize the tide has been falling for a while. Rocks are poking through the surface of the water at the entrance, making the channel look too narrow to sail through, but still too deep to walk through. Michael weighs anchor, and we sail for the channel. Too late. Solo comes up hard on the rocks.

We jump overboard, stumbling to find our footing, and begin heeling Solo over. The wind helps us as we push and pull. “You’ll never get out of here!” somebody calls out from shore. But neither Michael nor I give him so much as a glance.

Michael lunges for the halyard, gives it a pull, and the boat floats free. The tide starts to carry her out and we begin swimming frantically to catch up and climb aboard. Michael uses the same halyard to pull himself up while I cling to the side. “You guys should buy a chart! Ever heard of a centerboard boat?” the voice on shore continues. Solo responds by racing forward between the last of the boulders, after which Michael luffs into the wind and I heave myself aboard, grinning. Sailing away I feel mighty pleased at having proved the Voice of Discouragement wrong.

Five minutes later we’re dropping anchor in the cove’s outer bay. From here we can get ashore for a walk on the beach of Stony Point Dyke, the westerly breakwater along the approach to Cape Cod Canal. I ease my legs over and slide off the gunwale into the freezing cold water. Balanced on tiptoes like ballerinas, we make our way to the beach. Willets, nesting in the grasses, cry out as they swoop back and forth. I look over my shoulder at the boat, then forward toward the marshy nesting ground, and appreciate this verge between the land and sea.

With a falling tide, there is firm sand for a mile-long walk along the water’s edge. When we return, Solo is still afloat, but bumping gently against the bottom. Though Buzzards Bay is notorious for its strong southwest breeze, the afternoon westerly provides a pleasant lee for sailing on to Bird Island. We tip the boat, climb aboard and set sail once more.

I ease the sheets for a reach along the dyke where I see our footprints in the sand, then harden up for Sedge Cove on the mainland. The sun is warm and light dances across the water.

The last time we sailed for Sedge Cove it was early fall, and there was nobody around. The entire area felt wild and secluded—precisely the solace I needed following a diagnosis of breast cancer. At 44 I learned I was not immortal. But I survived, kept sailing and realized that while I am alive, I may as well live. As a friend wrote during my struggle with cancer, “Cruising folks are hard to kill.”

By the time we reach Bird Island, the wind is nearly calm. Nesting terns swoop and dive all around us. Donning a life jacket, I slip overboard. Holding my camera overhead, I bob in the water taking pictures, while Michael sails back and forth between the island and me. It feels good to be alive, especially right now.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more