Thursday, October 15, 2020

Old Saybrook, Mishap and Cleanup

Intermezzo is on a mooring ball in North Cove, Old Saybrook CT. I'm here to visit my sister Alison and her family and provision the boat for our upcoming passage to Norfolk VA.

It was a beautiful sail here from Block Island for the first two-thirds of the trip. The wind was blowing a steady 15+ knots from the south-southwest, putting us on a nice close reach through light wind waves. It was sunny, the sky clear, the water blue and a comfortable temperature despite the strong breeze. I had fun altering course in increments 20 degrees up and downwind, trimming the sails and seeing how fast I could get the boat to go. I'm trying to develop an upwind polar table for the boat so we can sail more efficiently.

I got my first taste of what the last third of the trip would be like as we passed the east end of Fishers Island. I noticed steep waves with whitecaps ahead. Since the wind speed hadn't changed and the water was plenty deep ahead, I knew the rougher seas had to be due to current. I took a look at the chart, and sure enough, I was in a stretch of water called The Race. The current was only flowing at about a knot, but still heaping up the wind waves into a nasty chop. A couple of hours later, it would be flowing at over 3.5 knots. Glad I wasn't trying to get through then!

It was a navigational oversight for me to not have checked currents along our route. I haven't had to deal with them much lately, other than in rivers, but Long Island Sound has some areas that can get pretty nasty if you are there at the wrong time. I studied the remainder of our route and it looked okay, except as we approached the Connecticut River which would be ebbing against the wind and probably kick up the seas a bit.

The boat felt very damp this morning, so I had opened a few hatches to let the breeze air the cabin out. As the wind increased and the waves got a bit bigger, I closed all but the small starboard midship hatch. As we got closer to the river, the wind was blowing 20 knots and we were bashing into a steep chop. Somehow, I forgot about the open hatch until a big wave crashed over the bows, breaking against the forward salon hatches and then running along the side decks. I cried out, "Oh no!" as I turned my head and looked down into the starboard hull to see gallons of water pouring through the open hatch.

I jumped below and secured the hatch, but there was a lot of water on top of the lockers where we store dry goods and sundry other items that don't like getting wet. I mopped up the water as fast as I could, then started handing the locker contents up to Lisa. Meanwhile, the boat was bashing like crazy, there was water all over the cabin sole and Lisa was getting seasick. Fortunately, we had a lot of sea room and there were no other vessels about, so I was able to let the autopilot steer and work down below to get most of the water mopped up as Lisa retired to her cabin, quite green around the gills.

I navigated the rest of the choppy waters to the Saybrook inlet without further incident. I felt a bit nervous about entering the narrow inlet between rocky breakwaters with a strong ebb running against wind. The chart warned of strong cross currents, too.  I scoped out the entrance with the binoculars and it looked a bit choppy no a big deal, but what about those cross currents? Fortunately a power boat was leaving the inlet and I watched it exit without any problem. So, I soldiered into the entrance, the engines at nearly full speed to keep speed up against the foul current and give plenty of control through a few sets of small but steep waves.

Once through the inlet, it was an easy passage to North Cove, a protected basin about a mile up and a half mile in from the Connecticut River's west bank. We picked up a free town mooring ball and then set to cleaning up from my flooding mishap. We freshwater rinsed and dried all the surfaces and stuff that got wet from saltwater, including the cabin sole and insides of the lockers. Then we had to re-stow everything that was taken out.  It was quite a bit of work.

That's it. I'm never sailing upwind with any hatch open, ever again.