March 26: Sailing Over

March 26 was a cloudy day. It was pleasant in the morning, but cooled gradually as a cold front blew in. Our mission was to sail 25 miles East, from the Mariner's Village Marina in Mandeville to my parents' house in Slidell. Their house backs up to a canal that lets out on the same lake,

As I mentioned, a cold front was expected, and beating the rain gave us a deadline. The wind was variable. Some gusts were pretty strong, and once in a while, the wind died altogether. Of course, since we were going east, it blew in from the east.

We set sail under full main and genoa furled to about 120%. The first waypoint was southeast, as we had to round a peninsula before turning more northeast to get to our destination. The sail was good. AP (the autopilot) did most of the work, giving me a chance to watch the waves, play with the sails, and read a couple of magazine articles.

The new first mate in training takes shelter from the cold in the lap of the admiral.

(It just so happened that I read a couple of really good ones, and I'm tempted to get off on a tangent and tell you all about them. This article about young rock climbing chicks was one of them, and I'll just leave it alone for you to read in your own free time.)

As we rounded the peninsula -- Goose Point, it happens to be called -- the wind fluttered around a bit, making it difficult to keep the sails set and stay on course. It settled down to blow from just the direction that I needed to go. By this time, we had sailed for a couple of hours, and we had to be thinking about the rain that was imminent. I cranked the motor and headed into the wind.

As pleasant as it is to sail, it is just about equally unpleasant to motor in a sailboat. It is slow (compared to other motoring boats -- not compared to the same boat under sail), it rolls around more, and worst of all, it's noisy.

I switched on the VHF radio to listen to the faster motor boats ask for and receive draw bridge openings. I never bother to check local notices to mariners, and as I approach a bridge -- especially one that is four hours from home -- it occurs to me that they might just say, "Sorry, the railroad track is under construction today. There will be no openings."

It took a full hour to motor close enough to the bridge to ask for an opening. A train passed over the bridge, and the timing was perfect as the bridge opened as we approached. I still needed to request that the highway behind the railroad bridge give me an opening. I keyed the mic on the radio and made my request in my best Captain of the Vessel voice.

Note to future passengers: it hurts my feelings when you laugh at my Captain of the Vessel voice.

There was no response to my request. I figured that with the train just having passed, the bridge tender was out smoking a cigarette or something. No problem.

I waited, and made my request again. Still no response.

Call after call was ignored. By this time, we were motoring in small donuts (slow-nuts, we later decided they should be called, so as not to give the impression of squealing sailboat spin-outs in front of the drawbridge).

Finally, I hear this exchange over the radio:

"Do you think this blue sailboat wants an opening?"

"Probably. I hear the radio clicking in and out. Maybe that's them trying to signal."

"I guess I'll go ahead and open it."

Of course, I realized that I had no way to signal that they were correct, but I started waving wildly in the general direction of the bridges, not really knowing where the bridge tenders were. Unfortunately, we had reached that part of the slow-nut circle where we start heading away from the bridge. I didn't want that to be taken as a "oh, never mind" signal, but it was that or ram the bridge. Option B didn't seem to be an acceptable alternative.

The rest of the voyage went smoothly. Still under motor, we puttered to the entrance canal, and navigated to my parents' without a hitch. The rain held up until about 30 seconds after we had everything tied up.