We've discovered something new about sailing. Probably most sailors will laugh at us, but we're still learning and we think each discovery is a precious treasure. We found ourselves sailing downwind and decided to take down the mainsail and go with just the genoa (headsail). This was a huge relief to me because I got knocked down when the mainsail jibed (switched sides of the boat) unexpectedly. It's dangerous for our boat running downwind with the main if the wind is shifty at all or if the helmsman is not experienced in keeping the boat slightly into the wind.
Sailing downwind is a totally different experience from other points of sail. Going with the wind, the apparent wind on the boat disappears and you feel like you are in some kind of safe pocket. This feels even more safe without the potential for the boom to swing 180 degrees and whack someone in the head. The head sail has no boom, so when it jibes, it just flaps over and fills on the other side. No problem.
Friday we sailed upwind (known as “beating” for good reason) in the river for a while with the idea we might get out into the sound. The big water has been calling me all along and now that Eric feels more comfortable on the boat, it's calling him too. It was pleasant going upwind, tacking back and forth, we love to work the boat and see what she can do, how she “points” into the wind (not well) and how we can trim the sails to maximize our speed. But after half a day we were getting tired. A look back showed we had barely made any progress downriver, we could still clearly see the pink house at the mouth of North Creek. It was laughable.
So, reluctantly we turned downwind. But as we flew upriver, the wind slacked and then swung to the south. We motored into Durham Creek, a new one for us, opposite Bath Creek. I was nervous at first, there was a big fancy house on the point and I thought it might be heavily populated. But as we turned in, there were no more houses. We saw a sailboat anchored ahead, but it turned out to be uninhabited, just left at anchor. There were no houses nearby. The creek winds back and around and we saw two little clusters of four houses each, but no more. The west side is completely deserted. It was different too from the creeks and bays out on the sound. Durham Creek is rimmed with what Eric calls “upland,” meaning forest rather than marsh. It gives the creek a cozy feel and we hoped for and got a less buggy anchorage.
We saw several small fishing boats, but otherwise there was no sign of human life. The almost full moon rose behind us. I took some pictures.
We spent a peaceful night at anchor and woke at dawn. Eric was making plans to sail off the anchor, but the wind had switched back around to the north. I suggested we sail downwind to explore the rest of the creek and he agreed. Sailing off the anchor was fun because we didn't make a sound. Most of the fishermen use little electric motors that don't scare the fish, so it was very quiet. There is something magical about moving along with just a sail.
There wasn't much wind, but it was cool, so going with the wind made us feel warmer. The creek wound back and forth farther and farther until we had to pull up the keel as it was dragging. A little further and the rudder kicked up too. We grinned at each other and kept going. We love going into these little places where keel boats can't go. I'm sure the fishermen thought we were crazy. But surely they must get it; the incredible solitude of the wild water.
A bald eagle swooped off a tree on one side, we could hear its wings swish as it flew over the boat to the other side. A pair of smaller birds raised a ruckus, fighting, as I squinted to try to identify them. They looked like little gray hawklike birds. They were definitely not gulls. They disappeared before I could get the binoculars.
Around another bend, I could see the top of a truck parked on the road beside the bridge. It looked weird after all that wilderness. The marshes lining the creek back here were dotted with goldenrod and these little pink flowers, like roses, so pretty. The last call of reproduction before winter.
Eric noticed that some of the dead trees were cypress with their knees sticking up out of the water. He says they are unusual this far north. I didn't remember seeing any except in South Carolina.
We sailed up to the bridge and watched another fisherman park and get out of his truck. We thought we must make a funny sight, a sailboat so far up the creek so close to the bridge, but he didn't seem to notice. I was getting very nervous as we approached the bridge, one of those low ones, just mere feet off the water, but Eric was unconcerned. He's used to kayaking and canoeing and he calmly pulled in the sail while I fired up Trusty. I let him turn Willadine around. It was too tight for me, I get nervous in these tight places, but he's cool as a cucumber.
We didn't sail much that day with the wind being contrary and then the rain moving in. But Sunday we sailed upwind and downriver again and on the way back we ghosted downwind again. The wind died to almost nothing and the sun came out. The smooth water was reflecting the blue sky and the sun felt warm after all that rain. Eric suggested we crank up Trusty, but I was resistant. Instead, we ghosted along making half a knot and just enjoying the water and the sun. It actually got hot enough for Eric to jump over the side.
A couple of fishing boats went by and Eric said they must think we're nuts for barely moving. But I think he's wrong. I think they probably get it. For them, the fishing is the excuse to be out on the water. For us, it's the sailing. And boy, is it ever fun!