A Boy's Weekend... click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Garth Battista - Halcottsville, New York - USA

...of Sailing and Fishing

Back in the depths of winter we decided it would be a good thing for "the guys" to get away for a long weekend of sailing and fishing. We chose Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod so the trip would have a "crossing" to it, a feeling of leaving the mainland and going somewhere offshore, if only a few miles. We noticed Cape Poge Bay on MV's eastern flank, looking isolated and wild, with shallow protected water. It's ideal territory for a homebuilt shallow-draft water-ballasted yawl -- my 31-foot Jim Michalak-designed Cormorant, "Sea Fever."

So my friend Ari Haberberg (in whose 14-foot Mayfly we often sail all over Long Island's Great South Bay), and my brother-in-law, Andrew Golden, loaded up with many days' worth of food and fishing supplies.

click to enlargeWe set sail on a Thursday, leaving behind wives and kids, worries and work -- all responsibility except for staying alive and having some fun. Not a tough assignment. We launched at White's Landing in East Falmouth, MA, an excellent public ramp with lots of overnight parking. (Thanks, Falmouth! This sort of ramp is increasingly rare.)

(click images to enlarge)
click to enlargeWe had about 12 miles of Nantucket Sound to cross. Started out all calm, with gentle winds. But dark clouds were gathering behind us. Ari suggested that we put a reef in, which seemed funny in 5-knot winds. This will become a running joke through the rest of the trip. (The discerning among you might notice the faint Duckworks logo on the mizzensail.)

click to enlargeWe were trolling lures from simple plywood handlines. As we crossed a shoal, Andrew caught a good-sized bluefish. Later we cooked it with butter and lime, and fish never tasted better. (That's Ari on the left, and Andrew on the right.)

click to enlargeAfter a couple of hours, the storm was upon us. The sail got pinned against the mast, and the yard and boom bent back around at angles I'd never seen before. I thought they were about to break, but we headed up into the wind and dropped the main. Should've reefed when we had the chance. Ari will remind me of this for the rest of my life. It poured rain for half an hour, and then slowly cleared.

click to enlargeI confess that we actually motored for a while. It became impossible to see shore, so we just went by compass heading for an hour or so.

click to enlargeThen the sun came out, the winds dropped to a manageable force, we raised sail again, and cruised into glorious Cape Poge Bay.

click to enlargeWe went to sleep with the sun, as it got dark around 9:00 P.M., and woke with the sun before 5 A.M. There was a salt marsh with a deep creek running out of it nearby, so on the morning of Day 2, we decided to row up it in the dinghy and snorkel our way out. (The dinghy is a Bolger Elegant Punt -- an excellent little workhorse of a boat, and easy to build.)

click to enlargeWe had a waterproof camera with us, which proved to be lots of fun.

click to enlargeAfter the snorkeling expedition, and some walks on the beach, and some surf-casting by Ari out on the ocean side of the dunes, we set sail for a day of fishing and sailing. Note the all-important pirate flag, which is the international symbol for “grown men escaping their responsibilities.”

click to enlargeAt the end of Day 2, Ari and Andrew took the dinghy out into the fast-running channel at the entrance to Cape Poge Bay to cap the day with yet more fishing. Ari hooked a three-foot shark that put up a whopper of a fight, spinning the boat around, before snapping the line.

click to enlargeThey brought in three good-sized porgies, which we ate with fresh clams that night.

click to enlargeDay 3: There was a morning ritual preparation of coffee and tea. We feasted daily on granola, oatmeal, beef jerky, pork cracklins (my favorite), pretzels, PB&J, sausages, dried cranberries (to stave off the scurvy), apples and oranges, and about a dozen other foods with which we had overstuffed our boat, in addition to our daily catch of fish or clams. Ari brought a bottle of Booker’s, a sublime bourbon, which was used for medicinal purposes only, of course.

click to enlargeWe took one timed photo that actually got all three of us in it. In case I ever forget, this photo confirms it -- that’s a beautiful place!

click to enlargeThe wind was calm, so I jumped in to take some water-level shots of the boat with the waterproof camera.

click to enlargeThen we found ourselves in the midst of a roiling, boiling bluefish feeding frenzy that went on for about a half hour. We didn't have the right lures apparently, because, while fish nearly jumped into the boat, we caught not a one.

We remarked that just sailing is an incredible experience; and just fishing is extremely pleasant. To do both, simultaneously, is akin to George Castanza's escapades on "Seinfeld," eating a pastrami sandwich while having sex.

click to enlargeWe had planned to sail all the way over to Nantucket on Day 3, about a 25-mile round trip. But the winds continued calm all morning, so . . . we went swimming. This was about a mile off the tip of Cape Poge, out in open water, which feels very different from swimming off a beach. Ever see "Jaws"?

click to enlargeThe wind finally picked up around midday, which, of course, started another round of trolling. We had to drop the planned sail to Nantucket for lack of time, so we just headed toward a shoal off of Martha's Vineyard where we thought we might encounter some bluefish.

click to enlargeWe went surging along in a good 10-15 knot breeze, sometimes hitting 6.5 knots boat speed on the GPS. Nothing stormy, nothing unusual, no big wakes or gusts . .

click to enlargeWell, at about 2:00 P.M. on Day 3, out of nowhere the yard snapped in two with a loud crack. I don't have a picture of it, as we were so busy hauling down the sail and assessing damage, but it broke right where the halyard attaches. Oddly, it was not pinned against the mast when it broke -- we were on a port tack, close reach, with the sail billowed out full away from the mast in 15 knots of wind at most, which this boat has seen many times before.

The yard was built to specs on the plans, 2.25" round, laminated from three 1x4s. Go figure. I'm guessing it got a crack in it back in the thunderstorm on Day 1 when the yard and boom got pinned aback on the mast, which was then just waiting for the right moment to finish expressing itself.

If time allows, I'm building a birdsmouth yard before our next trip, maybe 3-inch diameter, with a tapered stiffening plug where the halyard attaches. And this incident has me thinking I should make a thicker boom, as well, or at least have a spare ready to go.

Since we were halfway back to the mainland when the yard snapped, we decided to just motor on in from there, cutting short our trip by about eight hours of sailing and fishing -- alas. We anchored that evening on the Cape Cod side, in Waquoit Bay, a beautiful protected estuary. We couldn't feel too sorry for ourselves about the yard snapping. The next morning we took the boat out and drove home to the real world. Our few days away felt like weeks.

When you spend all day on a boat, time seems to expand, and every moment is filled with activity and wonder. We staggered back into our normal lives like whalers coming in from a three-year voyage to the far Pacific. Everything on land seemed new and strange. Who are these adorable children? Who is this lovely woman? What’s with all the green grass and trees? Why is there such a tall pile of paper on my desk?

Again, my admiration for Jim Michalak's design has grown. Cormorant combines the best of a big boat and a small boat. We can take it into shallow bays and creeks, up onto beaches, or out in the open water. It can house three grown men in comfort, or my family of four. It's an ideal fishing platform, and swimming platform. And it surges through the waves with a good wind. It's a remarkable craft.

Now I find myself just counting the days till the next trip.

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