A surfeit of crew members

June 3

Son Jeffrey is home for the weekend from college in Boston.   He’s spending all summer in school.  He had a tough sophomore year but seems to be getting back on track, and summer semester will help him get caught up. 

I would be flattered to think that he came home just to see dear old mom and dad, but the primary reasons for the visit are made clear when he texts me mid-week and asks “how many people can you fit in the boat?  Because I’ll have my new girlfriend Adri with me as well as my high school friends Eli and Emily, and we all want to go sailing.”    “Four really” is my reply.  “I don’t know where a fifth would even sit”.  Maybe I can take them out in shifts.  Jeffrey has done some sailing in his high school days, and even got to where I would let him take the dory out by himself if the weather was good, but he’s only been out in Grey Fox once and doesn’t really know how to rig it or sail it.   So like it or not, they need the old guy to take them out. And I’m thrilled that Jeffrey wants he and his friends to come out with me in the first place.

The kids go down to the club with their lunch, and I get there around 3pm.  It’s warm and sunny with maybe 8 knots of wind, again out of the north, and forecast to hold through the afternoon.    Mild enough conditions that I think we can handle five people in the boat (none is over 150 pounds).  It  will be more fun for Jeffrey with his whole crew.  We head out and the conditions seem perfect for a trip across the sound to the beach at Sands Point.  With 4 neophytes on board, I wouldn’t think of going that far from shore and home base if the weather weren’t pretty sure to stay tame.

Heading out…
I don’t have any pictures of the boat sailing, since I’m always on it. Pat got this cellphone snap from shore as we headed out.

The sail over is delightful, with enough wind to move the boat but not enough to create any excitement.   Even with 5 people on board we have plenty of freeboard and the boat handles the boat wakes we encounter with aplomb. The time it takes get to Long Island is certainly more time than I’ve spent with Jeffrey and his friends in a long time, and even though I’ve welcomed them onto my boat it also feels a little like they’ve welcomed me into their circle.   

Jeffrey & Adri
Emily has found the best seat on the ship

As we approach the beach at Sands Point I hand the tiller to Jeffrey and get the anchor ready.  The wind has dwindled so it’s a slow motion approach to the beach, which makes it easy to drop the hook only 75 feet from shore.  The wind blows us stern towards shore and I cleat the bow anchor line with the transom in about a foot of water. I let down the mainsail carefully, without bashing anybody in the head. I order seaman recruit Eli to be the van of the landing party, and he jumps off the stern into the knee-deep water.  I hand him the stern anchor and he takes it ashore and digs it into the beach.  Moored!  The boat will stay afloat in the rising tide, no beaching required. 


While we’re poking around the beach, the wind completes its fizzle and pretty soon it’s mirror calm.  I was hoping a southwester would fill in and help us home, but hope isn’t a strategy.  We’ll need to use the inboard motor – a.k.a. Dad with a pair of nine-and-a-half foot oars.  Looking at my watch I can see that if we’re going to be rowing the three and half nautical miles home, we should get going to be home before sunset.  So I round up the crew and off we go. 

Eli mans the oars so I can deal with taking in the anchor.  It takes him a while to get the hang of it – those ARE some big-ass oars – and we never get much above 2 knots.   After 15 minutes of effort and maybe a quarter mile gained, I relieve him.   Thank you for your service, but sunset is arriving on time tonight, and I didn’t bring the running lights.

There’s still a long way to go, but I like rowing.   It’s not as easy with 750 pounds of crew in the boat though!  The Mk 2 rowing footrest works well in its first real test.  With just me in the boat I can average about 3.3 knots but with this configuration I’m lucky to average 2.75, so it’s going to be an hour and half of steady exercise. It’s good for the old man.

About a mile from Larchmont, one of the larger sailboats that has been trying to sail gives up and motors towards us.   Passing us close aboard they ask if we want a tow, but I don’t trust big boats to tow little guys like us – especially heavily laden – safely. “No thanks, we’re getting along fine.”  Maybe the guy on the sailboat’s only experience rowing is with an Avon inflatable or a Dyer Dhow, in which case he would think that we are desperate and stranded.  But Grey Fox was designed to row. Miles. 

Round about 7:30pm we make landfall in Horseshoe Harbor.  The kids scramble off to their next event, and I put away the boat.  I think I’ve earned my beer for the evening!

Author: Larchmont Jim

A 50-something investment banker from Larchmont, New York (about 15 miles from midtown Manhattan). Amateur small boat sailer, boatbuilder, kayaker, musician. I grew up spending summers sailing the New England coast on my grandfather’s beautiful 47’ 1952 Sparkman & Stevens wooden yawl. I’ve lived in Larchmont, a major and historic sailing center on Long Island Sound, for 25 years, but career and family obligations kept me off the water for all of my 30s and 40s, and only about 7 years ago did I get back on the water, first in sea kayaks, and then in small boats.

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