Sunday, September 24, 2006

We sailed into The Basin!

If you're not familiar with Vinalhaven this probably won't seem like anything big to you but on September 22, 2006, I sailed (yes, SAILED!) the Evans into The Basin. The Basin is a deep-water hurricane hole surrounded by the island of Vinalhaven. There is a very narrow entrance with a huge rock right in the middle and when the tide rushes in or out it is like white water rapids. I have always heard that decades ago schooners used to sail in there to load lumber. I've explored the area several times in my kayak and my yawl boat and always had it in the back of my mind as a place I wanted to take the schooner. This summer my 1st Mate, Shawn, and I went in with our kayaks to seriously explore the possibilities. We used our kayaks to measure the distance at the entrance and located obstacles (many rocks!) immediately after the entrance. We were confident that it could be done under the right conditions and we finally experienced them this past Friday.

I had a group of guests on board that have sailed with us many, many times. I always try to find at least one new place to take them so it's not the same for them every year. We also had two new guests who quickly became part of the team. We departed Winter Harbor early on Friday morning to make sure we made it to the entrance of The Basin by the noon slack tide. After short tacking through the Fox Island Thorofare we made our approach and dropped off two people in a row boat so they could row in to The Basin and document (both with still photos and with video) our entry. My friend Bob took my handheld VHF with him and kept me apprised of the amount of current still flooding in. He advised me that the current was about 5 knots when he arrived and suggested that we delay our entry a little to wait for the tide to slow. We tacked around in Hurricane Sound for almost an hour before getting the word from inside The Basin that the tide was slacking.

The wind was perfect for a downwind approach and as we got close to the narrow entrance it became evident that we were committed as there was little room to change my mind at that point. Our speed increased from just over 3 knots to just over 6 knots and we sluiced through the entrance just as planned. I had to make a hard right turn immediately after passing the rock at the entrance and she was slow to respond because I didn't dare have my centerboard down for the maneuver. She came around and we flew by the island where our photographers hooted and hollered at our accomplishment and continued to film out entry.

The plan was to spend the afternoon in The Basin and to come out on the next high tide (just after mid-night) but after sailing in I felt that was not something I wanted to do in the dark. We anchored in The Basin for about an is an absolutely unspoiled sanctuary with beauty that rivals anyplace I've ever sailed. We saw porpoises and seals, kingfishers and herons. An eagle escorted us out...

A small power boat came in while we were there and took pictures as we exited. Shawn yelled to them, "This isn't something you see every day, is it?" And we got a big thumbs up.

My heart was pounding like it never has before and my ear to ear grin turned to tears of joy (and some relief!) as my guests and crew congratulated me with cheers and hugs.

That day and that accomplishment will always be one of the highlights of my career. And I wonder....was it a once-in-a-lifetime thing or will the conditions support it again someday? We'll see.........

A female lobster with eggs

We recently sailed into the inner harbor at Blue Hill and we set our lobster trap (baited with a mackerel caught on board that day) near one of the many ledges there. In the morning we were surprised to find a lovely legal sized lobster in our trap. But we couldn't keep it because it was a female and she was carrying thousands of eggs. 1st Mate Shawn notched her tail and put her back where we found her.