Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

My Introduction to Boat Restoration and Sailing:
The Even Song (1975-76)

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Venturing Out Into the Storm

The plan was to sail across Buzzard's Bay to New Bedford, Mass. where we would spend the night.  As soon as we left the protection of Cuttyhunk Island's inner harbor shortly after noon, the sea condition became quite impressive, but initially not that much more intimidating than our shakedown cruise a few weeks before.  (Oct. 22, 1976)

As early afternoon turned to later, conditions worsened as the wind remained strong and grew stronger out of the northeast, the seas built higher.

This was the first taste of high seas we'd experienced, so we all settled in for a challenge, preparing ourselves to ride it out across the bay.  We expected to arrive in New Bedford in a few hours.

For a while we felt like we had everything under control more of less.  The Even Song and its crew were riding the wind and waves well, we were gaining confidence in the boat and ourselves.

At times it almost seemed like the sea state was improving -- or at least we were getting used to it, more confident.  Note the big old radio directional finder (RDF) with its hoop antenna sitting in the pilot house; besides the compass, it was our only navigational equipment.  (This was long before GPS -- when Loran was the only additional and expensive option.)

But the perception of improving conditions was temporary as the seas continued to build and the wind increased.  At around this point we agreed that we were off-course for New Bedford and were struggling to get back on -- but crewing the boat became the mounting priority.  In the photo, Karen looks in awe at the waves, camera in hand.  (These photos were taken by her or Monica.  I was too busy working the boat to think about a camera or photos.)

Jim and I were doing the deck work, so we suited up with safety harnesses.  I was wearing a lifevest beneath my foul weather gear since our departure from Cuttyhunk Island.  It was cold even midday, so I had on a heavy wool turtleneck sweater beneath the jacket, long underwear.

I watched the waves from the helm as we tried to quarter them.  They had built to 10-12 feet by mid-afternoon, when we recognized we could not make New Bedford.  Note the 30-gallon drum of spare diesel fuel lashed alongside the wheel.  Below deck, the boat had been fully provisioned with lots of canned goods and food supplies.  Jeff is standing in the foreground looking over the pilot house at the approaching waves, which were becoming more intimidating.

It was time to go forward on deck and adjust the headsails, as we headed more down along the distant coast over there, somewhere, hoping next to make it to Newport, Rhode Island.

Brad took the wheel while Jim and I clambered about the deck trimming the sails.

The seas kept building with a stiffing wind, and it was getting colder.

Recognizing that conditions and sea state were worsening by late afternoon, and that we really didn't have a clue any longer exactly where we were, life jackets for the entire crew were passed out and donned.  Monica made the decision by her example.  I was the only one who had a grasp on basic navigation and had to admit that we were so far off course (and out of sight of land even if we were close enough to see it over the waves) that all I knew for sure was we were heading in the right direction, toward Newport, but that it was still a long way off in worsening conditions.

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