A Boy's Weekend...
Sailing and Fishing
Back in the depths of winter we decided
it would be a good thing for "the guys"
to get away for a long weekend of sailing and fishing.
We chose Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod
so the trip would have a "crossing" to it,
a feeling of leaving the mainland and going somewhere
offshore, if only a few miles. We noticed Cape Poge
Bay on MV's eastern flank, looking isolated and wild,
with shallow protected water. It's ideal territory
for a homebuilt shallow-draft water-ballasted yawl
-- my 31-foot Jim Michalak-designed Cormorant,
So my friend Ari Haberberg (in whose
14-foot Mayfly we often sail all over Long Island's
Great South Bay), and my brother-in-law, Andrew Golden,
loaded up with many days' worth of food and fishing
set sail on a Thursday, leaving behind
wives and kids, worries and work -- all
responsibility except for staying alive
and having some fun. Not a tough assignment.
We launched at White's Landing in East
Falmouth, MA, an excellent public ramp
with lots of overnight parking. (Thanks,
Falmouth! This sort of ramp is increasingly
images to enlarge)
had about 12 miles of Nantucket Sound to
cross. Started out all calm, with gentle
winds. But dark clouds were gathering behind
us. Ari suggested that we put a reef in,
which seemed funny in 5-knot winds. This
will become a running joke through the rest
of the trip. (The discerning among you might
notice the faint Duckworks logo on the mizzensail.)
were trolling lures from simple plywood
handlines. As we crossed a shoal, Andrew
caught a good-sized bluefish. Later we
cooked it with butter and lime, and fish
never tasted better. (That's Ari on the
left, and Andrew on the right.)
a couple of hours, the storm was upon us.
The sail got pinned against the mast, and
the yard and boom bent back around at angles
I'd never seen before. I thought they were
about to break, but we headed up into the
wind and dropped the main. Should've reefed
when we had the chance. Ari will remind
me of this for the rest of my life. It poured
rain for half an hour, and then slowly cleared.
confess that we actually motored for a
while. It became impossible to see shore,
so we just went by compass heading for
an hour or so.
the sun came out, the winds dropped to a
manageable force, we raised sail again,
and cruised into glorious Cape Poge Bay.
went to sleep with the sun, as it got
dark around 9:00 P.M., and woke with the
sun before 5 A.M. There was a salt marsh
with a deep creek running out of it nearby,
so on the morning of Day 2, we decided
to row up it in the dinghy and snorkel
our way out. (The dinghy is a Bolger Elegant
Punt -- an excellent little workhorse
of a boat, and easy to build.)
had a waterproof camera with us, which proved
to be lots of fun.
the snorkeling expedition, and some walks
on the beach, and some surf-casting by
Ari out on the ocean side of the dunes,
we set sail for a day of fishing and sailing.
Note the all-important pirate flag, which
is the international symbol for “grown
men escaping their responsibilities.”
the end of Day 2, Ari and Andrew took the
dinghy out into the fast-running channel
at the entrance to Cape Poge Bay to cap
the day with yet more fishing. Ari hooked
a three-foot shark that put up a whopper
of a fight, spinning the boat around, before
snapping the line.
brought in three good-sized porgies, which
we ate with fresh clams that night.
3: There was a morning ritual preparation
of coffee and tea. We feasted daily on granola,
oatmeal, beef jerky, pork cracklins (my
favorite), pretzels, PB&J, sausages,
dried cranberries (to stave off the scurvy),
apples and oranges, and about a dozen other
foods with which we had overstuffed our
boat, in addition to our daily catch of
fish or clams. Ari brought a bottle of Booker’s,
a sublime bourbon, which was used for medicinal
purposes only, of course.
took one timed photo that actually got
all three of us in it. In case I ever
forget, this photo confirms it -- that’s
a beautiful place!
wind was calm, so I jumped in to take some
water-level shots of the boat with the waterproof
we found ourselves in the midst of a roiling,
boiling bluefish feeding frenzy that went
on for about a half hour. We didn't have
the right lures apparently, because, while
fish nearly jumped into the boat, we caught
not a one.
We remarked that just
sailing is an incredible experience; and
just fishing is extremely pleasant. To
do both, simultaneously, is akin to George
Castanza's escapades on "Seinfeld,"
eating a pastrami sandwich while having
had planned to sail all the way over to
Nantucket on Day 3, about a 25-mile round
trip. But the winds continued calm all morning,
so . . . we went swimming. This was about
a mile off the tip of Cape Poge, out in
open water, which feels very different from
swimming off a beach. Ever see "Jaws"?
wind finally picked up around midday,
which, of course, started another round
of trolling. We had to drop the planned
sail to Nantucket for lack of time, so
we just headed toward a shoal off of Martha's
Vineyard where we thought we might encounter
went surging along in a good 10-15 knot
breeze, sometimes hitting 6.5 knots boat
speed on the GPS. Nothing stormy, nothing
unusual, no big wakes or gusts . .
at about 2:00 P.M. on Day 3, out of nowhere
the yard snapped in two with a loud crack.
I don't have a picture of it, as we were
so busy hauling down the sail and assessing
damage, but it broke right where the halyard
attaches. Oddly, it was not pinned against
the mast when it broke -- we were on a
port tack, close reach, with the sail
billowed out full away from the mast in
15 knots of wind at most, which this boat
has seen many times before.
The yard was built to specs on the plans, 2.25"
round, laminated from three 1x4s. Go figure. I'm guessing
it got a crack in it back in the thunderstorm on Day
1 when the yard and boom got pinned aback on the mast,
which was then just waiting for the right moment to
finish expressing itself.
If time allows, I'm building a birdsmouth yard before
our next trip, maybe 3-inch diameter, with a tapered
stiffening plug where the halyard attaches. And this
incident has me thinking I should make a thicker boom,
as well, or at least have a spare ready to go.
Since we were halfway back to the mainland when the
yard snapped, we decided to just motor on in from
there, cutting short our trip by about eight hours
of sailing and fishing -- alas. We anchored that evening
on the Cape Cod side, in Waquoit Bay, a beautiful
protected estuary. We couldn't feel too sorry for
ourselves about the yard snapping. The next morning
we took the boat out and drove home to the real world.
Our few days away felt like weeks.
When you spend all day on a boat, time seems to expand,
and every moment is filled with activity and wonder.
We staggered back into our normal lives like whalers
coming in from a three-year voyage to the far Pacific.
Everything on land seemed new and strange. Who are
these adorable children? Who is this lovely woman?
What’s with all the green grass and trees? Why
is there such a tall pile of paper on my desk?
Again, my admiration for Jim Michalak's design has
grown. Cormorant combines the best of a big boat and
a small boat. We can take it into shallow bays and
creeks, up onto beaches, or out in the open water.
It can house three grown men in comfort, or my family
of four. It's an ideal fishing platform, and swimming
platform. And it surges through the waves with a good
wind. It's a remarkable craft.
Now I find myself just counting the days till the