In Grey Fox’s first season, I did a lot of solo sailing. There were kinks to work out in the new boat that I was happy to do on my own, and I did a really poor job of planning ahead, which is necessary if you want other people to plan ahead and join you for a sail. So this year I hope to do much less solo sailing and get more friends or accomplices out with me. Before I had a boat of my own I always considered it a treat to be invited to go out on someone else’s boat, yet was surprised how rarely an invitation actually materialized, even with lots of boat-owner friends, including friends who would often say when we saw them somewhere “you ought to come out with us” but never actually extended an invitation. I hope not to be that type of boat owner this summer!
So for my second weekend outing this season I talked my kayaking buddy Rick into coming sailing with me. Rick is a barrel-chested bear of a man whose average paddling speed keeps me gasping for air to keep up. He used to have a sailboat before wife and kids and responsibilities came along. He’s free this Saturday so we make plans to get underway at noon.
The wind is out of the north, light and variable, but as long as it’s not nil those are conditions that Grey Fox likes. We start out heading south for Execution Rocks, ghosting along in the whispers of wind. It gives Rick, who hasn’t held a tiller in years, an easy period to get the feel of things. As expected, the northerly dwindles as the day proceeds, and pretty soon we’re just about becalmed. With no hands needed to sail the boat, it’s time for the sandwiches and beers we brought along.
Lunch finished, the first signs of a afternoon southwester arrive, first with a few ripples that tease more than they fill the sails. Once they get a little more steady, we abandon the idea of continuing to Execution Rocks (it’s dead upwind and too much trouble) and head north towards Milton Harbor in Rye. As the wind fills in to 4 or 5 knots we have the boat moving along pleasantly at 3 knots or more. Tons of sail area and a very light weight boat are the magic formula. With the wind pretty consistent now but still very light, I can tie down the tiller and cleat the mainsheet, and for a while we’re on autopilot.
After a tour through the Milton Harbor mooring field we jibe around and head back towards Larchmont. By now a number of 30- and 35-foot sailboats are out, including some pretty sleek and fast-looking racing designs, trying to move in the whispering winds. We take great pleasure passing several of them in the light air and smooth water. With any bigger waves or more wind they would exert their hull-speed dominance, but for now we’re the fastest sailing craft in the area. Foxes are supposed to be fast!