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Two Memorable Nights Sailing On Tampa Bay By Page Obenshain

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ctober 26th was Harvey’s 50th birthday, and we thought we would do something very special, but couldn’t have guessed how special the night would turn out. Downtown St. Petersburg hosted an orchestra concert in the park adjacent to a great anchorage. There were five couples and we were onboard a Beneteau 50. We motored less than a mile from the dock to the Vinoy basin anchorage, dropped the hook, shared some food and drink, relaxed in the cockpit, the concert began and lasted till after it was totally dark. The finale music turned out to be the “Star Spangled Banner,”—boat horns went off, there was plenty of cheering, and the fireworks started about a 1000 feet to the east from our boat at the harbor entrance. The display was coordinated with more patriotic music. We sat with the bimini top down, having fun and enjoying the crystal clear evening, which seemed like it was ending way too soon. The fireworks were still going off when a nice breeze came up—while at the same time, a huge October harvest full moon was rising on the eastern horizon. We raised the main while anchored and unfurled the huge genoa before we got 200 feet from the mooring. We sailed through the anchored boats and passed the narrow basin entrance at nine knots under full sail with about ten degrees of heel. The moon was so bright we could easily see the sails and trimmed them perfectly for our close reach. The water was flat and we sailed for over an hour before we turned back, hitting 11 knots on the return trip. At the dock, the birthday gag gifts were opened, ending a great evening. Good friends, plentiful food, great concert, fabulous fireworks, strong breeze, a full moon, and a wonderful

sail—what more could one ask for? That was 20 years ago, and I still remember the perfect evening in vivid detail. But on to the next story— which we will all remember for the rest of time, which turned out to be a very scary night on Tampa Bay. On board was my lifelong sailing friend, Robert, along with our wives Sophie and Lee. We headed out for a nice night of sailing on our Hunter 33. We were having a great sunset cruise when out of no-where a massive storm was suddenly upon us, and we autotacked 180 degrees. It was now dark and the girls went below to get out of the howling winds and stinging rain. We already had the motor on— trying to beat the storm back to the dock—but got caught. We tried to furl the genoa, which would not furl. Then we tried the main in-the-mast furling and it would not work either, so we were sailing in 50 knots of wind under full sail. We were luffing the sails just enough to keep up headway; I was worried that the sails would destroy themselves—but they were rather new. The girls handed us our foul weather jackets, but by then we were already soaking wet and there was no

time to put on the pants. I knew that we were in for a long stress-filled night on the water. The wind and seas were strong enough to not go up to the mast to see why we could not furl either sail, so Robert and I stayed in the cockpit. He kept trimming and easing the mainsheet so we would not roll the boat out, and I steered to the plotter, as I couldn’t see the bow. After two hours, sailing on port tack away from our destination, the winds subsided enough for me to go to the mast to try to free up the sails. I found that the genoa sheet was wrapped around the flag halyard cleat on the starboard shroud and was in a ball about twice the size of a softball. Robert handed me his knife and I cut the genoa sheet in one swipe and we were then able to furl the headsail. I looked up and saw that the starboard spreader was broken and the main shroud was hanging, flopping in the wind. Thankfully we had not tried to tack or we would have lost the mast. The mainsail furling line had jammed in the winch on the mast and with a struggle we got that loose and furled the main. The wind was still howling on our port beam, the seas were still high and we were heeled over just like we were sailing on port tack. How do we turn 180 degrees and motor back many miles without loosing the mast? There was not a spare halyard to put down to the rail to stabilize the mast, and we discussed that we just had to take a chance if we were to get back to the marina. The girls were still below, the rain and wind was subsiding, and I think they were too scared to get sick. We successfully motored back to the marina tired, wet, and cold. Sailing is all about the stories you have to tell.

GOT A SAILING STORY? If you have a story about an incident that happened that was a real learning experience, or a funny story, or a weird or unusual story that you’d like to tell, send it to editor@southwindsmagazine.com. Keep them short—around 800-1000 words or less, maybe a little more. Photos nice, but not required. We pay for these stories. 70

October 2017

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Southwinds October 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds October 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...