Sailing At Fort Morgan
by Tidmarsh Major

I'm just back from a week at the Gulf of Mexico sailing Skat, and she performed beautifully. I took my stepfather out for a couple of long sails and he was thoroughly impressed with how well she sailed. (Please forgive the relatively poor quality of the photos that follow--I used a disposable waterproof camera to avoid worries about dunking and splashing a real camera.)

We launched at Fort Morgan Marina on Mobile Bay at around 1:15 pm on July 18 and sailed to the mouth of the bay. The Marina is a mile and a half or so from the fort, so it was probably two and half miles or so to the point. We sailed upwind through about a 1 foot chop.

It was a little bit wet, but Skat made good progress in the brisk breeze. Along the way we tacked past several pelicans on pilings and watched the ferry leave the Fort on the way to Dauphin Island past the oil rigs in the bay.

At the mouth of the Bay, we headed out into the Gulf with the ebb tide. There were some pretty good sized waves (2 feet or so) coming from several directions as we exited the Bay and the ebb tide met the current along the beach, combined with the wakes of all the fishing boats coming and going. Skat sailed happily through it all.

After that, it was about a 7 mile run downwind through 2 foot swells to the house at which we were staying. First, we sailed past a stretch of deserted beach along the state park that contains the fort.

Soon after, we passed a shrimp boat just lowering its nets.

Next, we saw a large pod of dolphins (10 to 15) who swam within yards of the boat. (I learned that dolphins have terrible breath:they smell like dead fish). We were to see the dolphins swimming just off the beach every day we were there.

In all, we made about 10 miles in just about 2 and half hours, arriving at the house at about 3:40 pm.

All week, we kept the boat pulled up on the sand, and went out daily. We saw dolphins every day, and at one point had 3 adults and one child out for a short sail. Winds were light, but Skat moved gently along anyway.

One afternoon I was out in about a 2 foot chop. Skat would make some progress to windward, but not much--the chop pushed us back nearly as much as the sail pushed us forward.

At the end of the week, we sailed back around the point to the boat ramp at Fort Morgan to take out. The final cruise was a good bit longer than the first, however. We had a favorable breeze to begin with, and for the first 2 miles had an easy beam reach. Then the wind died for about an hour. There wasn't a ripple to be seen. Once the wind picked up, it was a light breeze from the west, exactly the driection we were headed. For most of the trip, we beat to windward in about a 5 knot breeze, then headed into the bay with the tide, again through 2-foot seas, and finally made the boat ramp just before dark, for a trip of about 5 and a half hours.