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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hailing a Fish Weir in the Dark, or Overnight Day Seven and Eight

En route for Poplar Island, we saw something that appeared to be going southbound opposite our course.  It had two flashing yellow lights on either end, appeared to have stakes set upright on its deck, and was surrounded by birds.  What could it be? A barge? A garbage barge?  It was awfully close, so I tried to hail them on Channel 13.  I got no response on the radio.  Just lots of squawking filled the night.  Then we dug out the spotlight and shone it on the 'barge."  It was not a barge, it was a fish weir!  Undaunted, we pressed on.  We got to a place in about 15' of water where we saw white buoys that I took to be the demarcation of crabbing areas.  Then Daniel heard squawking as if from a flock of birds!  He thought to aim the spotlight dead ahead of us.  We saw a fish weir not 10' off!  So I threw off the autohelm arm, and I threw the tiller hard over, we jibed and moved safely away from weir #2!
We backtracked, then aimed for the outer green mark at Knapp's Narrows (which, luckily, was lit.)  From there we set our course to the Poplar Island channel based on the waypoints I had entered into the GPS a couple of years earlier when I had gone through in daylight.  We got to where the first mark was supposed to be, then passed it.  But we could not see any of the channel marks at all, and we only had about 8' of water, so I got scared and turned hard around again.  I decided to go around the outside of Poplar Island.  We headed for the shipping channel and heard two commercial vessels chatting on Ch. 13.  The wind was dying, so we started the engine.  We saw a big car carrier headed north and hailed him.  He had seen us on radar, but we kept out of his way by staying to the east side of the channel near the two reds by Poplar Island.  The waves were really large and disturbed here, I think because of the rapid depth change, plus the wind was rising again.
We raised the sails again in the Eastern Bay, but I was disoriented and steered the wrong angle so we almost ran aground just past the green buoy off of Bloody Point.  We got out of the shoal by heading up closed-hauled back to the center of the Eastern Bay.  We sailed most of the way towards Tilghman Point, then the wind dropped again and we lowered the jib and started the engine. As we rounded Tilghman Point, the main started to flog, so we lowered it.
We motored up the Miles River to the daymarks that mark the channel to the north of Herring Island.  The predawn light was just starting to shine then.  In the dim light, we motored into Shaw Bay and anchored at 0700 Saturday morning, exhausted!


Phillip Reid said...

This is a clearly-written description of what it's really like out there in a sailboat--a mix of competence and confusion, silence and kerfuffle, tranquility and fear. You don't need a How-I-Almost-Died article in a glossy magazine to convey the pretty visceral reality of a "normal" venture, and the "oh this is just dreamy" portrayal is just crap.

Kristin said...

Hi Phillip! Thank you!!!!