Sunday’s conditions were altogether different. A strong southerly was building and promised winds of 15 to 20 knots in the afternoon. These conditions were beyond what we had yet experienced aboard POLARIS and we had little idea how she would handle the wind and waves. We can only learn and gain competence by stretching ourselves and the boat to the edge of our comfort zone. Once at sea, and with time to stop and think about it, we realized that our ship was built for this, and were lucky to enjoy the best sailing conditions of the entire summer!
Our crew of five were anxious to get under way, but in this wind, we were not beefy enough individuals to make rowing headway against the wind wanting to blow POLARIS into the other boats in the marina. Sorry to disappoint the onlookers hoping for indentured crew rowing under the lash (just kidding! ) we decided the safer thing to do was to get towed straight out into the main channel before raising sail, and after which time we hoped, things would be straightforward barring the usual navigational hazards.
We decided to start with a bottom reef to be on the safe side. Our sail is divided into three horizontal sections, two of which can be folded up and tied out of the way, thus reducing the sail area, the procedure called reefing. With a smaller sail we would heel less and be less prone to any sudden surprises if the wind were to get too strong. On the other hand we wouldn’t go as fast.
Our crew, seen in silhouette could have been aboard a Viking ship anywhere in the world!
Once out of the approaches to Salem Sound, we aimed POLARIS to a compass bearing more or less due east. The SSE wind was about 75 degrees off our bow, closer than we really wanted as we expected to be driven sideways by the wind and the seas which seemed to be getting bigger all the time. Getting back to Gloucester on our own was going to require constant vigilance — watching the wind, the waves, our speed and and making sure POLARIS could hold a course far enough away from the rocky North Shore coastline to avoid having to make a run to safety.
We’re constantly learning about how to coax the most out of our square sail, and for this trip, we trimmed the sail not quite hauled all the way in. The wind was slightly ahead of our beam and small movements of the sail and helm seemed to make a big difference in our speed; for the person controlling the angle of the yard arm by the braces, it really did feel like holding a horse by the reins! POLARIS rode with the waves and seemed to revel in the excitement. Her helm steered easily and, even as the wind gusted to 20 knots, all that was registered to the crew in the boat was an announcement by the skipper of our speed: 4.8 knots, 5 Knots! 5.3 Knots, Yay! There wasn’t a sprinkle of water or spray over the side even as we dipped and bobbed between the wave troughs.
We sailed POLARIS between Bakers Is. and little Misery Is. enjoying the company of myriad sail boats and bobbing in and out of the swells, even more power boats. At least today the wind was too strong and the waves too big for us to be bothered by their wakes. Behind us the strong late afternoon sun shone a brilliant band across the water and the smoke induced haze from forest fires thousands of miles away blurred the landscape, blending away the outlines of the fine North Shore homes scattered along the coast.
Safe and Sound
As we approached Gloucester our thoughts diverted to the realities of transport logistics for those that left their cars behind in Salem, satisfied with our sail and glad POLARIS had delivered us safely.
We bore off towards the harbor channel, the wind clocking astern and with that the order from the helm to free all the sheets and square up the sail. Our speed increased momentarily as POLARIS tried to surf some of of the big swells — probably boats’ wakes — until the land to our east blocked the wind, and things settled into a peaceful calm. We sailed slowly up towards our dock dropping the sail just in time to make our row into the dock as short as possible.
We completed the journey from Salem to Gloucester in exactly three hours. A successful first passage, and one we are grateful to have completed safely and without harm to crew or the boat.
Norsvald wishes to thank our crew for the weekend, consisting of Martin Lian — intrepid chase boat driver, Matthias Mokros, Sam Angelli-Nichols, Davis Angelli-Nichols. Karen Angelli, Heike Boettcher and Levin Boettcher, Christina Yoors, Captains Camron Adibi and Stuart Boyd. Also thanks to Steve Saylor for the loan of the chase boat.
To add to our list of firsts we had picked up an award for the best reproduction at the Salem Antique & Classic Boat Festival! We would like to thank the organizers and volunteers of that event for making us feel welcomed as well as for their help and support in getting POLARIS safely in and out of Salem.