So what IS a swell bridle?

A few people have asked me about our swell bridle, so I thought I’d write a quick post describing what it is and how we set ours up.

Anchored boats point into the wind and typically rock at the bow and stern (hopefully gently, but if it’s really windy and wavy it can be quite the ride!).  We can typically fall asleep even when the anchorage is sporty, as long as the wind and the waves are coming from the same direction.

When the waves come from the side, however, the boat rolls from side to side due to the fact that it’s still pointed into the wind.  This can happen if the waves wrap around a point of land in the anchorage.  It can also occur when a strong wind changes direction because it takes some time for the direction of the waves to shift with the wind.  As you can imagine, rolling from side to side makes it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to sleep.

Some Googling introduced me to the concept of a swell bridle.  A swell bridle allows you to move the boat so that it’s pointed into the waves instead of into the wind.  With the boat once again rocking at the bow and stern, you can mercifully fall asleep again.

To rig our swell bridle we took an old halyard and attached it to the chain below the bow roller.  In our case we still had a shackle attached to the halyard, but if we didn’t we would have simply tied the halyard onto the chain.  We then determined which side the wind would be when the boat was pointed into the waves, and ran the halyard back to the cockpit winch on that future windward side, keeping the halyard on the outside of the stanchions.  After that we let out an additional 30 feet of chain (the length of Pegu Club) and then tightened the halyard until Pegu Club’s bow was pointed into the waves instead of the wind.  Letting out the additional chain (thereby giving you more scope) will help to make up for the increased windage from being beam to the wind.

As soon as we set it up the effect was immediate.  No longer rolling from side to side, we were now bobbing fore and aft and would be able to sleep again.  Hooray!  If you search “swell bridle” under Google images you can find some good pictures that illustrate what I’m describing.

As one final tip, make sure that you have enough space around you in the anchorage before doing this.  Letting out additional chain and turning the boat will change your position in the in the anchorage, and you won’t be pointed the same way as everyone else.  Not being sure how close we would end up to the boats around us is the primary reason why Jeff didn’t want to set it up for the first time in the middle of the night.  When daylight came we saw there was a trawler fairly close to us, so it turned out to be a good call.

We really don’t see people using a swell bridle in rolly anchorages which is surprising given how helpful it is.  I suspect that they aren’t aware of such a thing, just as we weren’t.  Hopefully someone will find this post to be useful when the time inevitably comes that you’re frustratingly rolling from side to side instead of bobbing to and fro.  Sleep well!

It takes a village to change a fuel filter.

After leaving St. Augustine, our next planned multi-day stop was Vero Beach.  We left early on December 29th, anchoring in a place known as the Cement Factory and at Callilisa Creek the next night.  

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The Daytona Beach area was a zoo with motor boats zooming past with no regard for their wake.  Jerks.

On New Year’s Eve we were motored down Mosquito Lagoon and then the Indian River.  Although the forecast had called for 10-15 knots, we were instead getting a steady 20-25 knots, right on the nose.  The water was rather choppy and the channel was narrow with depths of about 2 feet right outside.  

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Looking back at the entrance to the Haulover Canal.  The fishing boats made a hole for us as we went through.

Because there are never any engine issues in calm conditions with plenty of room all around (it’s always in rough water, or when you’re going through a narrow cut with rocks on either side, or trying to dock), at that moment the RPM’s on the engine dropped, almost to the point of stalling.  Almost as quickly as it had dropped, it went back up again.  A few minutes later, it dropped again, but not quite as severely as the first time.  Once our heart rate returned to semi-normal, we decided to siphon our remaining diesel from the jerry jug into the tank on the off chance the choppy water was interrupting the diesel flow from the tank.  Continue reading “It takes a village to change a fuel filter.”

Solomons and south.

There wasn’t as much VHF chatter on our way from Annapolis to Solomons as there had been on our previous leg.  At one point on our way to Annapolis someone (presumably a fishing boat) was calling for a radio check and when no one responded he asked, “Am I all alone out here?”  “I can hear you.  You’re not alone” came a response.  After a few beats someone else came on and said in a solemn voice, “We’re all alone.”  That cracked us up. 

Anyway, after motor sailing for 45 nm from Annapolis, we were happy to drop the anchor in Solomons, MD.  Solomons is an extremely popular destination for Chesapeake boaters, but being late in October we didn’t get a real feel for it.  It’s kind of like being on Block Island after Labor Day compared to the height of summer.  A lot of places were closed for the season, but it was o.k. because we knew we would definitely be coming here again.  

One place that wasn’t closed was the Calvert Marine Museum.  The museum had several great exhibits, including many fossils, an outdoor habitat for river otters (so cute!), the Drum Point Light (which had been relocated from its original location), and indoor aquarium exhibits.   Continue reading “Solomons and south.”

Our first real taste of the Chesapeake.

Saying good riddance to Chesapeake City, we finished motoring down the canal and finally entered Chesapeake Bay.  We knew the next day was going to have howling winds so we wanted to stay someplace where we might have something to go see rather than being boat bound.  Initially we decided to go to Dark Head Creek up the Middle River where the Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum is located, but we changed course en route to save ourselves a long trip up the river (and back).  

Looking through our Waterway Guide and our Skipper Bob anchorage book while Jeff was at the helm, I found a promising looking spot with great protection in all directions up Worton Creek.  Keeping with our new, post-hitting-an-underwater-dike routine, I closely inspected the chart, reviewed the Notice to Mariners online, and looked through Active Captain.  In an abundance of caution I also called one of the three local marinas to make sure that I understood the entrance (the guy I spoke to couldn’t have been nicer).  O.k.  It was a go. 

Continue reading “Our first real taste of the Chesapeake.”

It was a rough couple of days.

We left Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey on Monday the 8th with a forecast calling for winds gusting into the high teens but dropping off later in the afternoon, and waves of about four feet decreasing with the wind.  Based on the forecast we decided to leave with a reef in the main and switch to the 85 jib.  It was the only thing that went right that day.

Leaving the relative protection of the anchorage the winds were gusting into the low 20’s and we were very glad that we were using the small jib.  We had read that it could be rough rounding the point of Sandy Hook but then things typically smoothed out, so we were prepared for it tp be sporty.  What we weren’t prepared for, however, was regular 6-8 foot waves on the bow.  Although we were wearing rain pants and our lighter foul weather jackets, we hadn’t thought to put on our rubber boots.  Within minutes we were soaked from head to toe. 

Pegu Club climbed up the waves and down the other side, but there were a few times she dropped off of the edge of the wave, plunging through the air before slamming down on the water with a thud.  I was definitely scared, but turning around wasn’t an option.  The waves were so close together we were concerned we might broach.  We had no choice but to keep plowing through. 

Continue reading “It was a rough couple of days.”

Coecles Harbor, NY

Coecles Harbor is a very pretty anchorage in Shelter Island, New York.  It’s popular enough that there is a 48 hour limit for anchoring between May 15 and September 15.  Fortunately it was after September 15th when we dropped the hook on Saturday, because the weather gods prevented us from moving on until Thursday morning.  

On Sunday we took the dinghy to Taylor Island which houses the Smith-Taylor Log Cabin.  The Adirondack-style log cabin was built in 1900 and expanded in 1937.  It’s open for tours by appointment only, so we settled for looking through the windows and exploring the small island that it’s located on.   Continue reading “Coecles Harbor, NY”

Run away!

We left Newport on Wednesday and enjoyed a great mostly downwind sail to Stonington.  The winds were honking at close to 20 knots, but since it was behind the beam we were able to enjoy the benefit of it without any of the angst.  Bob the windvane steered like a champ, although we are still fine tuning our technique so that we won’t vary from our set course quite so much.  Once we were settled in at Dodson’s (we decided to treat ourselves and enjoy unlimited hot water showers) we realized that we hadn’t tacked once the whole way.  It was great!

On Thursday we headed from Stonington to Old Saybrook, motoring our way up the Connecticut River for the first time.  We had picked North Cove as our destination because we needed to do a few boat chores the next day and it offered good protection for the predicted high winds that were coming.  

North Cove has been designated as a Harbor of Refuge, and the Army Corps of Engineers prohibits charging transients to use empty moorings.  Although the channel and cove had silted in considerably over the past few years, it was dredged this past winter and now has plenty of depth.  Given that it’s past mid-September we easily found a mooring and settled in for a few days with a Saturday departure planned to Port Jefferson.  

Friday night was a small craft advisory and the winds were howling.  At one point Jeff and I were both awake and said that we weren’t leaving if it was going to continue like that.  Eventually they calmed down though, so after checking the forecast and seeing 15 knots predicted with choppy waves, both decreasing throughout the day, we decided to go.  That was mistake number one.  We raised the mainsail while we were on the mooring and didn’t put a reef in, based on the forecast and how it felt in the cove.  That was mistake number two.  Cue the ominous music.

Continue reading “Run away!”

Let’s go to Three Mile Harbor! O.k., let’s not.

As we drove down to Shenny on Friday, July 7th we had already decided that we were going to Three Mile Harbor on Saturday to anchor out overnight.  It was going to be a nice weekend and it looked like we would have some wind for sailing.  

We wanted to catch slack tide at the Race so we left before the wind picked up and motored for an hour, but eventually the breeze started filling in so we turned off Thumper and settled in for a nice sail.  As we sailed past Gardiner’s Island, the wind increased from the predicted 10-12 to a steady 18 knots and the water was getting choppy but we were quite comfortable on a beam reach.  That day we learned something new about Pegu Club.  When the wind hits 18 close hauled she definitely needs a reef, but it’s not necessary on a beam reach.  Good to know.

The only problem with our sporty sail was that we were going to need to make a 45 degree turn to port and then sail straight for several more miles to Three Mile Harbor.  Where was the wind coming from?  Why the port of course.   Continue reading “Let’s go to Three Mile Harbor! O.k., let’s not.”

Vacation (part two): also known as the week I lost all faith in NOAA.

Wednesday morning NOAA was calling for 8-10 knots as we prepared to head from Stonington to Shelter Island.  Since the wind was going to howl on Thursday, the plan was to pick up a mooring at Shelter Island and spend the day in Greenport, then continue our journey on Friday.  Not so much.

We were enjoying a nice sail through Fishers Island Sound with approximately 10 knots of wind, but when we were out of the shelter of Fishers Island the 8-10 knots turned into a steady 18-20.  What the??  I suspect 18-20 is a lot more comfortable in other areas, but on Long Island Sound the water turns into a bit of a washing machine.  Combine that with having to sail close-hauled, and this was not going to be our idea of a good time.  In fact, it was looking like a repeat of last year’s slog from Block Island to Three Mile Harbor.  

Continue reading “Vacation (part two): also known as the week I lost all faith in NOAA.”

Haul out day. It was an adventure.

Sometimes I really don’t know why we bother checking the forecast.  It was Sunday, October 16th – haul out day.  The predicted 5-10 knot overnight winds had, in reality, been 15-20 knots and when we woke up in the morning they had increased to a steady 20+.  We literally had whitecaps in the mooring field.

Earlier in the week I had been thinking about launch day.  All I had wanted was for decent weather with light winds, and for Pegu Club to be facing bow out when she was splashed.  We went zero for three that day.  I knew that this time I would be motoring her into the liftout well, so I didn’t need to worry about backing her out, but I was still hoping for decent weather and light winds.  Well, it was going to be sixty degrees and sunny, but we had white caps in the mooring field.  The winds were worse than launch day and we were going to have to dock.  I was not happy.

Continue reading “Haul out day. It was an adventure.”