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Sailing Offshore with the DelMarVa Rally

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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Sojourner at DelMarVa Rally start. Photo by Dan Phelps, SpinSheet Magazine
Sojourner at DelMarVa Rally start. Photo by Dan Phelps, SpinSheet Magazine

During the third day of the 2013 Caribbean 1500, the wind reached its peak. Northerly gusts howled in excess of 35 knots. Sojourner, my dad’s 1986 Wauquiez Hood 38, was about to exit the Gulf Stream, sailing on a lumpy, uncomfortable sea. The crew of four was wet, tired and hungry. But my dad was…confident.

Since then, my dad and Sojourner have sailed over 4,000 miles, to Tortola and onwards all the way to St. Lucia and back to Annapolis. But as of last summer, all of that was still just a dream.

Dad always knew he wanted to do the 1500. Last spring, he and I started making lists and drafting budgets, and finally got down to work to make the boat seaworthy.

By early summer Sojourner was ready for a shakedown. I had volunteered to help out on the committee for the Sailstice DelMarVa Rally, and it occurred to us that sailing in the event would offer the perfect opportunity to test the new gear we’d installed.

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We departed Annapolis early on a Sunday morning, jockeying for the starting line with 25 other cruising boats. No, this wasn’t a race, but it made for some cool photo ops and got the blood flowing.

We sailed on throughout the day and overnight, chattering with the rest of the fleet on the radio and relishing the extra sunlight afforded during the longest days of the year.

By noon the next day we were berthed at the Hampton Yacht Club and already the chatter had started about the offshore leg. Few among the sailors had done an ocean passage, so it was refreshingly stirring hearing what concerned and excited everyone.

Dad and I had nerves of our own – I’d spent a large chunk of time up the rig on the way down the Bay fine-tuning the standing rigging after having only re-stepped the mast the week before. When you do your own work aboard, it’s difficult not to second-guess yourself.

We sailed into the Atlantic, the wind light but on the nose, and tacked close in along the beach to watch the holidaymakers strolling along the wide expanses of sand. Then we tacked offshore and watched the land disappear behind us.

As night fell, there was frustrated chatter on the radio about the wind direction, but we were content. Offshore sailing is as much about patience and acceptance as anything else, so we sailed on in a direction the wind allowed. The moon was out with the stars that night, and the passing thunderstorms from a day earlier had taken with them all the humidity. The night was clear and cool, the decks were dry. Ocean sailing at its spiritual best.

High-pressure and light airs forced us to motor up the Delaware Bay, but as we re-entered the Chesapeake, the clear summer night offered up one last treat. A hint of a sea breeze blew up as the moon appeared, and we sailed south on a fast reach, passing under the Bay Bridge and entering Annapolis Harbor as the first streaks of a golden dawn appeared on the horizon.

At the final party that last evening in Annapolis, we shared stories with the rest of the fleet and discussed what still needed doing on Sojourner before she headed much further offshore in the fall. Those 450 miles around the Delmarva Peninsula served Sojourner and her crew well – my dad realized he was more ready than he thought he was, and others in the fleet were reminded how exciting it is to be sailing in the ocean for the first time. We said a toast: to summer!



There are Summer Sailstice events throughout our region. Join in on the fun.

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Andy Schell
Andy Schellhttp://59-north.com
Andy Schell is a professional sailor, writer and the event manager of the ARC Caribbean 1500. You can find him online at 59-north.com.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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