Prospect of a Delightful Daysail

April 8, 2020. Coronavid 19 is everywhere - Karen was stuck in Nahant MA while in Cedar Key it was a promising day. The sandwich she'd have made I imitated; cookies and condiments were stuffed in the camera dry bag. Water jugs were aboard.

What better way to isolate than sail a first time clockwise around 3/4 mile long Richards Island? The tide and breeze forecast were amenable. The satellite photo suggested light, lee air after the channel - the slot - at the north end of Richards. Maybe several yards of paddling, then a close reach up the flood?

The Cedar Key Town Dock at noon recorded 76 degrees and westerlies 11-14 knots. At the Lower Suwannee NWR's Shell Mound ramp, it was southwesterly and gusty to 15, backing southerly. For my hand hassle (Dupuytrens Contracture), I wriggled into new fingerless gloves, stiff and thickly padded.

Even with the double reef from the last daysail there was ample wind onshore to embarrass me, so it did. The moment after I pushed away with my foot, I fended off a limestone boulder by hand, before I could grab the oyster-tough paddle and madly jab the hard bottom. At least the pleasant couple talking from a social distance didn't wince or giggle. Got a leeboard down a couple inches, and crabbed up. Gloves and the double reef were fortuitous.

Approaching Richards Island The flood was sweeping north to a 3 pm high. At 12:07, after I turned south by the big downed tree on Hog Island, I knew I should shake out the double reef to single.

In 3/4 of a mile I ran Clam Girl onto a sand and oyster bar about 18 inches high, with a current-scoured leeward side. When I jumped out forward to pull her up, I forgot to raise the rudder blade. With each wavelet the stock lifted as the blade kissed the bottom, but the pintles were long enough. 'Whew. Luck.'

Inside the slot of Richards Island Left the bar at 12:20. Clam Girl was happy with more sail on a long starboard tack. She fell off after gybes, and tracked east smartly with the fair wind, coming fast to the 100 foot wide slot. A small branch was partly submerged, while a skin of water climbed it a few inches. Downstream of it, whorls whirled bubbles. I gloried in the free speed.

'Ah, this is great, delightful!' I thought. Active sailing hard on it, feeling the tiller and handheld sheet, air on my ears, watching the sail and checking the wake. Into Richards's lee, then out, I reveled like a lottery winner.

'WHAT THE...?' That patch of marsh grass to windward! Hadn't Clam Girl been above it a tack or two ago?!?

I rigged a tiller line, an old friend, the 40 year old, 3/16th fuzzy braid from Drascombe Lugger, Kaselehlia. I stood with the longest paddle. This could be fun.

Inside the slot of Richards Island The boom swung to the side I was paddling from and the sail tried to wrap me. Yes, I should've lowered it, particularly since it goes up and down so easily. I sat and dug hard with the short paddle, but the flood seemed as relentless as the Gulf Stream. The tiller line was a bit short and kept slipping.

I sailed again. Zip.

Paddle, paddle. Clam Girl came around a little point and slid onto marsh grass and mangrove stubble. I stepped out with my tall clam boots - into water just over them. But, I was not losing to leeward and could stand for a minute, and stop grousing about betrayal by the too short tiller line.

Tugging the boat over the ground When I tried walking her along the shore, she became a balky burro. Spiky Black mangroves and their air-roots were thick. When I came to a bigger mangrove, I dragged her inshore of it, each heaving tug gaining less than a yard, two at most, for over a hundred yards, almost to Black Point, the south tip of Richards. Occasionally I paused to rest and curse.

Sure, I thought of oars - necessarily two-piece and they'd help support a tent, too. With the sail down progress would've been steady, albeit not swift with her 10 foot waterline. I'd have rowed to Black Point for lunch.

Black Skimmers It was an easy reach back in the 8-10 southwesterly with hundreds of circling Black Skimmers. The bar I'd stopped to unreef was a foot underwater, and the downed tree was nearly covered.

A couple floppy gybes then she ground onto the ramp at 3 pm; back at the house before 4. In the shower I finished the sandwich I'd half gulped in the ten minute drive home. I barely toweled off and, within seconds, fell into a 2 hour nap.


Back to top
Back to main page