A Gentle Sail
August 13, 2011

Taking out the big Hobie Getaway presents greater complications. I cannot easily sail it alone. I need at least one crew member. Today Jim is the crew and, sometimes, captain.

We'd been hoping for a good sailing window to open on the weekend. The forecast was giving us a small window on this Saturday afternoon. After a possible storm at noon, there'd be nicer breezes of 7-8 mph from the SSW. The direction is not my favorite since it tends to be blocked by a ridge on the southern shore of the Ohio and Mon rivers. But I hoped it would blow more steadily up the Allegheny. (The river currents were too low to factor into our planning: Allegheny, Mon, Yough, Ohio.)


We arrived in time to have the boat rigged by noon. We could see winds blowing DOWNstream on the Ohio at the marina, as expected from SSW winds. But the weather radar was also showing a rain cell moving towards us. It seemed poor planning to put into the water and be caught in a thunderstorm. There are few places on this stretch of the river where we could beach the boat and get ourselves away from the huge aluminum lightning rod we use as a mast.

The clouds passed through. A few drops only fell and by 12:20 it was time to put into the water. But now, we saw, the winds had changed direction on the river. They were now blowing UPstream. I'd suspected that the winds had changed slightly with the weather change and now had a more westerly component. I'll know better tomorrow when I check the past weather records. (The later record shows the winds were mostly westerly during the 12:20pm-3pm of our sail. They were WSW 5 mph at 1pm and even West 5 mph by 2 pm.)

Off we went on a run towards the Point. It started well but slowed as we neared the casino. We reached the Point after about 30 minutes and kept sailing on a run up the Allegheny.


These were weaker winds, blowing from our stern, and our progress was gentle and lazy. There was plenty of time to look around at all the people and boats and the cityscape. After another 25 minutes, we'd passed the Norfolk and Southern Railroad Bridge at the Convention Center. The winds seemed to die there. That was a good signal to turn back.

The winds were still gentle, but we were now tacking into them. That felt much better. On a run, the air tends to be quite calm. Tacking into the wind, you feel the speed and cooling breeze much more immediately. Jim took the tiller and tacked to and fro, all along the Allegheny, up to the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

The gps tracks tell the full story.

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We'd had the best wind farther up the Allegheny. Around the point, the wind was erratic, as we expected for winds obstructed by the ridge on the southern shores of the Mon and Ohio. We tried to sail along the Mon. But the closer we came to its mouth at the Point, the closer we came to the ridge. The winds became weaker and more erratic, at one time or another blowing from almost every direction.

We sailed back on the Ohio to the marina. We found our best winds of the day just upstream of the West End Bridge. There the ridges on the southern shore are broken by a valley and the south westerly winds can spill in. We managed to get up to around 9 mph (blue in the gps track) and could feel the windward hull lifting as the boat heeled.

speed detail

We were back at the dock by 3pm.

When we were sailing up the Allegheny, I looked back at my favorite three bridges at 6th, 7th and 9th street. I couldn't take my hand off the tiller to take a photo, unless... Since the winds were gentle, I put by foot on the rudder bar and steered with it, while I snapped this photo:

three bridges

Once Jim had the tiller, I could take more with some ease. Here's Jim:


And here's some of the things he's looking at.






ball park

Fort Duquesne bridge

John D. Norton


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