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Das Boot

I’m beginning to think I’m cursed. I have yet to go on an extended sailing trip when the weather actually cooperates. And this trip was no different.

The U.S. Naval Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy

From the outset, the planning and execution of this trip has been bound by the icy chains of wintry weather. When I first jumped on board, I was going to meet the captain on Saturday the 23rd, setting sail on the 24th. Of course, a monstrous blizzard decided to blitzkrieg through this part of the world Friday and Saturday, dumping record-setting snowfalls that would shut down much of the DC-Baltimore metroplex. Wisely, the skipper pushed the sail date out to Tuesday the 26th. After rescheduling flights, I arrived safely in Baltimore Monday afternoon, and Annapolis shortly thereafter. With some time to kill that afternoon, I set out on a walkabout around Annapolis. I find it remarkably ironic that after over fifteen years from my last visit, when I sailed for the very first time, that I am back in Annapolis for the same purpose. The universe conspires, I tell ya!

Anyway, the next morning I headed over to Port Annapolis Marina, to meet the boat, the marina’s rigger Michael, and captain Paul. I arrived bright and early, bundled up, ready to board the Hanse 455 surrounded by ice. We spent the first half of the day perusing the boat, learning her layout, rigging, and equipment functions. Paul tasked me with creating a through-hull map, so that we would know all hull-penetrations and to ensure the open/closed status of all seacocks. If memory serves, this boat has 13 through-hulls, and we only needed four of them open to operate the boat – head and galley included. There were three A/C units, a genset, and two head with showers. A bit over the top, but a very well built boat nonetheless.

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Paul, me, and Michael reviewing charts

After a thorough rundown of the boat, we set out to gather some paper charts of the east coast, and provision for a week-long trip offshore. Upon our return to the marina, we reviewed the charts and weather for the days to come.
We quickly found that the Hanse 455 could not transit the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). She draws 7.3 feet, and her masthead reaches about 67.5ft. She would definitely run aground, and she would definitely hit a bridge, all within the first 200 miles. So it would have to be an offshore trip. Our main focus rapidly became Cape Hatteras. For those who do not know, Hatteras is a spit of land that juts out into the Atlantic from North Carolina, protruding into the Gulf Stream. As such, the Gulf Stream runs southwest to northeast along the coast and reaches it’s closest point to land at Hatteras. This, with shoals fingering out for miles, makes for very treacherous waters. Many ships have been wrecked here. They call it the “Atlantic Graveyard”. Compound this with a forecasted NW wind of 25-35kts, contrary to the flow of the Gulf Stream, the wind and weather here can quickly go from bad to downright dangerous. And to sail it with a brand new, untried boat would be just too risky.

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The captain made the call to wait until Thursday to see what forecast would bring. So I spent some time Wednesday ogling all the pretty boats in the marina, did some reading in the Aubrey-Maturin books, and poured over charts for another possible option. I wanted this trip to happen, badly. However, the ICW was simply out of the question. It just wouldn’t work. Thursday morning, the already bad forecast was solidified by the Ocean Prediction Center and the National Weather Service. It wasn’t looking good. This boat is owned by a yacht brokerage, so it wasn’t the skipper’s call to go or not. He then very professionally laid out all the options for the broker and a best possible ETA of February 14th, a week later than the boat’s move-in date for the Miami Boat Show. They cancelled the trip.
Though disheartened by yet another failed trip, I felt this was a very good decision. In no possible way is a boat – a piece of plastic, aluminum, and stainless – worth the lives of her crew. And besides that, it does no one any good to have a broken boat in a boat show. I learned a lot regardless – weather routing, plotting on paper charts, and many other tidbits of invaluable knowledge. I got another chance to visit this beautiful city, steeped in maritime culture and to the sea.
Time to go home to my Lorilee and get my sailing fix!

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Fair winds and WARM WEATHER!
– Ryan

Updated: January 31, 2016 — 18:45

1 Comment

  1. Dear Ryan, what a bummer!!!! I can’t believe you had actually studied the charts and everything, pictured the whole thing and then you didn’t get to go!!! That sucks!! Not unlike the way we actually became acquainted haha that sucks!!! Well you’ll have to use this frustration to make things happen for your lovely LoriLee to sail into many sunsets ;)

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