“Two Quacks” - continued
After breakfast on the third morning, we stowed all the gear back in the cabin and prepared to leave. We were the last boat out of the harbour. It seems that all of the sailors decided to leave after the word got around about the expected influx of sport fishermen. The boat that left just ahead of us, one in the forty foot plus class, out of Rochester, NY, went a little too close to shore when turning around and went aground. We offered to try to help, but one of the sport fishermen came out with a much higher horsepower outboard motor than our 5.5 and kindly pulled them off.
I contemplated reefing the main before heading out, but the wind seemed to have let up some by mid-morning, so we left with full main and jib. I could see several sails ahead as we were leaving SchoolhouseBay, through the buoyed channel of course. We wore our rain gear and life jackets for safety and in anticipation of some spray. We had not gone too far when I could see massive whitecaps way ahead, past the protection of the western tip of the island. The binoculars only made it look even more interesting out there. Don thought it might be a good idea if I showed him how to reef the main and I felt a similar inspiration. I also showed him how we could heave-to in the shelter of the island while I reefed the main and secured the bailing bucket in the cockpit. Then, as the slightly more experienced skipper, I took the tiller for the rest of the trip.
Before long, we were into two metre waves almost until we reached The Rock on the north shore of Prince Edward Bay. Because of the westerly direction of the wind in comparison with our destination of Waupoos, we were close-hauled to that point. The little Nordica performed like a cork riding up the face of the waves and down the backside ready to start up another one. When we thought we were climbing the biggest wave yet, we would get to the top and see that the next one was even higher. My brother, an engineer, was convinced that some of them were eight footers. Although I cautiously steered us over and down the waves, at no time did I feel that we were at risk. The wind had eased off considerably from the night before leaving the waves as a remembrance. After about the first half-hour, I asked Don, "Where did all the other boats go?" I couldn't see them anywhere on the horizon, so finally looked behind us, and there they all were, anchored back in the lee of the island. Since we would have been disappearing in the troughs of the waves, I thought it would have been interesting to have a VHF radio and listen in on the conversations. Then, on second thought, I figured it better that we couldn't hear their conversations about the two quacks heading home from the Ducks. (Although we didn't have VHF, we did have a three-watt portable cellular car phone for emergency use and had been able to get a readable signal while testing it in the harbour at Main Duck.)
The wind direction did not allow us to tack directly back to Waupoos, so after reaching The Rock, we had to make numerous tacks upwind to get back to the Marina. This experience caused me to question whether it is better to make numerous short tacks or just a couple of very long ones, when cruising upwind. After pondering that question and seeking advice over the last year, if I had that leg of the trip to do over again, I would tack all the way back across Prince Edward Bay almost to Long Point, our first night's destination, then back to the marina around the western, windward side of Waupoos Island. Although that approach would appear longer, as it would have been retracing our first afternoon's sail, it would probably be faster and less frustrating than the shorter legs we did. I was not prepared to start up the motor and drive back in a straight line - purist approach, you know.
Upon arrival at the Marina, I proceeded to pack up for the trip home, while Don jury-rigged a temporary support pad for the trailer that proved much stronger than the original and lasted until I was able to build a new permanent replacement.
I have done the locker-room review of this trip many times over the last year and have wondered what could or should have been done differently. We had worn our life jackets and kept the board securely tied over the hatch while at sea. While the boat proved very sea-worthy in the conditions we encountered, I am still concerned that due to the low level of the cockpit floor below the waterline, the cockpit is not self-draining. Although there are air chambers for floatation, I could have increased the safety margin by partially inflating the dinghy inside the cabin. I kept a bailing bucket securely tied into the cockpit, but it was only necessary for the occasional spray that blew in. I have purchased and will be installing an automatic bilge pump in the event of a breaking wave into the cockpit, and I also want to install the hatch board in a way that would shed more water than the stock installation. Although the Nordica 16 is a very sea-worthy design and performs accordingly, without a self-draining cockpit it will always have limitations in terms of true big water sailing. For Don's part, the only change he would make is to take a tent and camp on shore to get more room, but for me that wouldn't really be cruising.