Ft. DeSoto Daysail by Steve Morrill

Technically, this was my first sail, after a several-year hiatus,  with the WCTSS. Cedar Key being something else. I was sailing Shadow, my new Sea Pearl 21 monohull. I had not been to Ft. DeSoto since I sold Black Pearl, several years ago.

Ft. Desoto was as nice as ever. Kinda wish they hadn't put those guard rails on parts of the piers, but it's a great place to launch. I see the sea grass gets into everything just as always. I had it hung on my leeboard pennants and cleaned them often. Since I do not have to back this trailer into the water, at least I didn't come home with the undercarriage festooned with grass.

We motored away from the ramp into a good wind and a strong incoming current. I proudly demonstrated to "Sam", my crew, my quick-release system for the sails. One promptly fell apart in my hand and I had to dig out the took kit to repair it before I could unfurl the mainsail. This, of course, also meant cranking up the outboard and kicking us back upwind and upcurrent before the bridge ate my masts.

Underway eventually with a 3/2 reef in main and mizzen and in about 10-12 knots of wind. With these new vertical batten sails I seem to do a lot of reefing. I suppose someday in the summer doldrums I shall be glad of them but for the most part they seem like too much joy for such a light boat.

We did not get too ambitious. Because the club had moved the date from Sunday to Saturday, the tide was not that great for trying to make the run north inside Shell Key to Pass-a-Grille Channel and back. Offshore, the northwest wind was kicking up some pretty good waves across the bar. So we sailed a bit in the Bunces Pass channel and eventually crash-landed on the usual picnic beach on the south tip of Shell Key. Sam and I pulled the boat well up on the beach. I put out the bruce anchor on the beach. Because of a strong cross current, I found a smaller doofus mushroom anchor I had acquired someplace, and put it out as a stern/sideways anchor.

Sam and I broke out chairs and food and ate our lunch and admired the Peep Hen and Bay Hen as they came on up to us. Before they arrived, Shadow floated off the beach in a rising tide and sailed away. I then realilzed that, while I had set the main anchor up on the beach, I had not actually cleated off the line on the bow. The mushroom anchor only made Shadow turn downwind and it towed that worthless piece of iron along behind it. I waded out and stepped on the mushroom anchor, but by then Shadow had come to the end of the bruce anchor's tether anyway (the main anchor line being tied off to the base of the main mast).

I changed to my tiny but oh-so-cute lunch-hook claw anchor as a stern anchor. That worked fine. Art and Bob arrived in the Peep Hen and Steve T. came up in the Bay Hen and they beached to either side of Shadow. We conversed. Art and Bob and Steve T. discussed the Bay Hen's bow repair issue and, as they did so,  there went the Peep Hen off the beach and Sam went over and stood on THAT anchor until we had all under control again. When Steve T, later asked us what anchor he needed to get for his new Bay Hen I suggested that perhaps Art and I needed to get whatever Steve already HAD. His boat stayed put on the beach.

When we got underway after lunch, the tide had reversed and now we had a strong current heading out the pass and against the 12-knot wind. No significant chop though, just some boat wakes. We sailed about a bit and then headed for the barn. When I pulled on the mizzen quick release, the one that had NOT broken earlier, it came apart in my hand and I needed ten minutes with some pliers to fix things. Sails furled, we motored into the dock for a perfect landing--a rarity with me. The Peep Hen was right behind us. I guess Steve T. came in with the Bay Hen sometime later, after we had left.

A short day, but good to be out at all.

-steve morrill