Back to the Sea

            Student Terence O'Brien playing guitar on the deck of the  Harvey Gamage

           Student Terence O'Brien playing guitar on the deck of the Harvey Gamage

I lay in my bunk looking up at the motion of everything, settling back into the rhythm of the sea.  I listened to the water passing over the ship’s hull.  A towel hanging on the nail in my bunkroom swayed back and forth with each wave.  The bright orange, foul-weather bibs that keep me dry in the wind and waves slapped against the wall of the cabin.  After spending a few days in Washington, DC, it was nice to be back in the Chesapeake Bay, sailing south to Cuba.

The Harvey Gamage had every sail hoisted and was sailing close to the wind with a south-southwest breeze blowing 15 to 20 knots.  This meant that in order to make way, we had to tack back and forth, zigzagging southward.  The south waves had a long fetch (long distance of wind over water) to develop swell, so we took some spray overboard.

By night, great long tacks down the bay were coupled with a clear sky, shooting stars, and our cook Shanna’s wondrous fettuccini alfredo.  It was a good night to be sailing.  These were the simple pleasures, returning to life aboard the Harvey Gamage underway, doing what the ship was made for.

In the mid-morning, we sailed into Mobjack Bay, Virginia, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  Our plan was to motor from Mobjack into the Ware River and then anchor for the day and overnight.  Some members of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (a volunteer safety branch of the Coast Guard) saw us come into the mouth of the bay and motored out to take photos and welcome us.

                                   The Coast Guard Auxiliary tied up to the  Gamage

                                  The Coast Guard Auxiliary tied up to the Gamage

After anchoring behind a small peninsula and sandbar blocking the waves, those on watch set to maintenance projects, while the remainder of the shipmates rested, read in hammocks, played music and explored the river in our sailing dinghy El Gecko.  This was the life.

While gap students Cody and Evan explored in El Gecko, our new friends from the Coast Guard Auxiliary came alongside the ship and tied up.  They brought with them Virginia peanuts—the big, fresh, crunchy nuts that Virginia farmland is known for.  And they came just in time for a show.  As Cody and Evan sailed downwind to the Gamage, Evan accidentally gybed the dinghy and lost his hat in the process.  This led them on a challenging adventure to get the sprit-rigged craft back up wind.  After a series of tacks and attempted tacks, the students made way on their intended destination.  Moments before the hat came too close to the ship, Evan scooped it up.  This was great entertainment for all on board—one of our deckhands raced for her polaroid, while the Auxiliary watched in joy. 

Yet it is not all play.  After a sunny day at anchor we woke to steady rain.  The droplets of water were made louder by our hoods as we cranked back and forth on the windlass to raise the anchor.  But we must go south, and the weather too is part of the adventure that we have chosen.