So, good things and roller furlers come to those who wait. And heaven knows I've been waiting long enough for a roller furling headsail on our boat, as my husband the racer has stuck to his purist guns. In the end, though, it wasn't I who cracked his roller furling recalcitrance. That would be too boring. In the end, a headsail-the feisty little No. 3-did it for me.
Every fall we take a trip south, and if the planets are properly aligned, we'll luck into one of those late September weeks when the water is clear, the sun is warm and the air has a kind of golden sheen to it, as if the autumn atmosphere has been sprinkled with pixie dust. More often than not, though, we are reminded that the Bay in fall is an impish changeling with a fierce right hook. One day we are swimming; the next, we're shivering. This year, our first day out was so calm that every bitey fly on the Eastern Shore decided to head west and chose Luna's cockpit (and our ankles) as their local Stop 'N Shop. Next day, we were flying south in the drenching remnants of Hurricane Isidore. And then, there are the northers.
This year, I took us a little too far south for the time we had-clear to Gwynn's Island, Va.-and naturally, on the day we had to head back to Solomons, the changeling puckishly ordered up 20 to 25 knots of breeze all the way from Saskatchewan. We buckled down for a long day. Even with two reefs in the main and the little No. 3 pulling hard, Luna repeatedly took solid green water bow to cockpit. It's a big Bay down there, where the quivering horizon vanishes without a hint of land, where the waves have a hundred miles to get their mojo working. It was certainly working on the poor souls taking the ferry from Reedville to Tangier Island. Trundling across our bow, the ferry was rolling like a mad nanny's cradle, and I counted at least six people hanging over the side, their bright orange life jackets bent desperately over the gunwales. "Oh, that just looks miserable," I said, and Johnny laughed out loud. Luna lunged through another wall of water that sluiced down the side deck and into my lap. I got the joke.
By the time we arrived in Solomons, 14 hours after we'd started, we were beat, hungry and staggering like drunks. But after we'd wrestled the main onto the boom, the No. 3 still lay crumpled on the foredeck. On our knees, we started flaking the sail. It didn't go well. On a good day, this particular sail handles like corrugated sheet metal; on this night, it seemed determined to drive us to divorce. "Fine!" Johnny finally snapped as we stomped the sail into submission on the third try. "A roller furler it is!"
I gave the little headsail a silent cheer as we bagged it. Now, about that mainsail. . . .