Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Horsepower and Plotting (or is it Plodding)

An average Honda Civic today has 140 horsepower. In 1983 it had 55 horsepower.

Our boat has 25 horsepower.

Now, when I hear "25 horsepower," I imagine 25 horses pulling a giant stagecoach over American prairies or something. And even though this is not is not an accurate way to think of horsepower, (apparently, it's more like 25 mini-horses on individual treadmills powering our engine), it does illustrate the fact that traveling by sailboat is a little like traveling by horse. Actually, it might be slower.

A walking horse goes about 2-3 miles an hour and a trotting one about 8-10 miles an hour. A horse can trot for hours. Our boat's average speed is 5 miles an hour. (It might be a draw.) A horse can canter at about 10-17 miles and gallop at about 30 miles an hour. Our boat's top speed is 6-7 miles an hour. (Horse wins.) A horse that was conditioned for traveling in the old days could go an entire day and cover 50-60 miles. Our boat can, theoretically, go 24 hours a day. (Boat wins...but only in theory, see last.) A horse needs to rest every now and then and munch on some oats and drink some water. Our boat does not need any rest, but it does need wind or fuel. We have enough fuel on board for 56 hours. The crew needs rest and food, but we can take turns sleeping, and the boat continues to sail even while we're eating. (Boat wins.) A horse can go out in almost any kind of weather and over pretty rough ground. Our boat is weather- and current-finicky. (Horse wins.)

So how does this affect our course plotting? Let's look at this morning.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain pitter-pattering overhead and an excited Evan plotting this week's itinerary aloud. If the weather forecast is accurate, we might be able to leave in the next day or two and cover the 110 miles to Annapolis, MD by the weekend. Then I got excited, because Annapolis is near Baltimore, where my good friend Lesley lives. Easy to hop on over to Baltimore from Annapolis, right?

Wrong. It would be at least 6-8 hours of travel-time on the boat. Why? Baltimore is 36 miles away, and our boat goes, on average, 5-6 miles an hour. Then add in another hour for channel traffic and navigating.

Then I looked at the map and wondered why we don't just go to Baltimore ahead of Annapolis, since we'll be coming down the Chesapeake Bay towards Norfolk, VA. The answer is that Baltimore is 15 miles away from our channel route in the Chesapeake. That may not sound like much, but consider that the distance from downtown Manhattan to the open Atlantic (just past the Verrazzano Bridge) is 8 miles and took us around an hour--and that was with the tide. So, sailing to Baltimore instead of Annapolis would add on around 4 hours (and navigating a current) to our travel time down the Chesapeake.

At the end of this tortuous process, we concluded that we will be going straight to Annapolis, then renting a car for the quick drive back up to Baltimore. But all that is days away. In the meantime, we have more rain, the Delaware Bay, the C&D Canal, and Chesapeake City.

The tiny blue line between the tops of the Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake Bay is the C&D Canal we'll be going through.

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