August 2011 ~ Massachusetts & Maine
Day 321 ~ Honesty PrevailsAugust 1st, 2011
There are, it turns out, honest people left in the world. The guy who sold us the sailing dingy texted first thing in the morning that he was on his way to deliver the seat. An hour later and I was fitting it in place and giving it a test sit. It works great.
We finally managed to land a doctor appointment for Nana, who needs some looking at, and perhaps into. Turned out to be nothing serious, but Lisa and Nana weren't back until nearly dinner time.
After lessons, Nina, Nika and I weren't sure what to do with ourselves. The only thing on Nika's mind these days is sailing. So, what could I say, no?
We had a most magnificant sail all the way to the end of the bay in front of us, arounded by rocky crags topped with stone mansions and wrapped in manicured lawns. We tacked again, and again, avoiding the most beautiful assortment of down east sailing craft, many with glowing wood cabins and in some cases all wood hulls. The standards of boat care in the north are pretty much like everything else, just a notch higher than those down south where life comes so easy.
Day 322 ~ Bureaucrats AgainAugust 2nd, 2011
Having called around for a propane fill the last few days, I finally found a local company that would meet me at the dock and fill right there. Great, I thought, what a coup, it's never this easy.
It wasn't. The shiny red truck rolled up, an elderly man with a snow capped, weather beaten head shuffled around, took one look and said, "Sorry, if I fill those and something happens, I would go to jail."
What? Turns out the propane cans we have used and refilled numerous times throughout the Caribbean are outdated and considered unsafe by the bureaucrats that be. A single new marine grade tank is $125, and I have three that have been working fine. Nothing like starting the day with nice slap of red tape in the face. I calculate the remaining cylinder will last another week, maybe two. Then what?
This, and the prospect of walking in the sun to have the privilege of shopping in Wal-Mart put me in a fine cheery mood for our dinghy ride north. We found a nice place to leave our "car" that was considerable closer to the shopping area. We started walking in the general direction and hadn't got 2 minutes into it when an elderly lady stopped to ask us if we were boat people. We said yes, and before we knew it she was cleaning out her front seat to make room for us all. Five minutes later and we were at Wal-Mart via air-conditioned seating and a friendly driver whose family has lived in Newport for 75 years.
Once at the big box store, it's always a culture shock; the longer we are out the harsher it becomes. We did manage to find a few things that will be helpful and then divided forces. Lisa and the girls stayed behind to do a little more shopping at the mall and I bussed off to West Marine to pick up our new galley stove. It seemed like the right model, and the measurements were correct, so I signed on the dotted line and then gracefully explained to the "associate" that putting an 82.2 pound oven on my bike probably wasn't going to work. Would it be possible to get a ride back to the dinghy?
There was a little him-hawing, but eventually I was directed to someone who said, "Absolutely, Alex will be out front in a minute." Turns out Alex is the go-to college kid with a little VW which, after shuffling basketballs, shoes, and surf board parts around swallowed the entire stove and we were off. I wasn't surprised to find that I had beat Lisa and kinder back to the dink. They ended up cabbing it back from Wallyville for a whopping $5.25. Beats walking an hour in the sun with 50lbs of consumerism.
Then came the dreaded part. Ripping out the old stove only took a few minutes now that I've done it several times to access the water pump. Would the new one fit? After removing a few extraneous parts, sawing off a bolt that stuck out, flipping another around, re-locating the propane cut off valve and drilling out some Corian, she slipped in like a hand in a glove, no belt sander required. And it only took two hours. Whew.
I was just whipping up a celebratory batch of biscuits, a land home favorite, when the boat shuddered with a blast of wind. We were all on deck like prairie dogs. The weather looked as genial as ever, but were getting hammered with a wall of rushing air. We are anchored in deep water, and what with all the insanity of boats over the weekend, our scope wasn't quite 5 to 1. Sure enough, we were dragging. I dashed inside to get the GPS online, stumbling over backpacks, cartons of birthday presents and water bottles. Twenty seconds later and I heard a loud thump. We had hit our neighbors. The girls were running around like monkeys in a banana cookie factory, people were yelling. It wasn't pretty.
By the time I was on the scene we were pretty much past them. Our anchor chain was thumping and growling as it ground a nice furrow in whatever bottom was down there. I released our nearly new bridal as it is designed to be ditched in such a situation and Nana ran out another 10 meters of chain. That gained us some separation, and mercifully gave Bruce the angle he needed to hang on.
We rode out the remaining half hour of blast while a well developed thunder cell rolled by just a few miles east of us. After it calmed down some, we exchanged names with our neighbors who are now right over our anchor. We agreed to work out whatever tangles we ended up with down under tomorrow, as it was nearly dark by this time. The winds are predicted to be light all night, so we should, ahem, be okay.
By now the poor girls were starved senseless. We fired up the oven, which actually got hot, imagine that, and baked our biscuits up nice and toasty. Mmmm.
Day 323 ~ Bridal DiverAugust 3rd, 2011
In the mayhem of the thunder cell last night we hit a neighboring boat, not too hard, thankfully, and in the process had to release our anchor bridal in the heat of the moment. It promptly sank. Now, the choice of "classy black" for the line color wasn't sounding so hot. And perhaps a float would have been a good idea, or not. I guess a float just means it would have floated away and probably entangled our prop in the process. When the bumpers are out and the fiberglass is crunching, we really don't want to top our salad with tangled prop.
The water is about 22 feet deep here, and a little chilly, say 69F. The thought of free diving for it just wasn't going to work, given the murkiness of the water. We called around and found a place that will rent us a tank for $15. Since a new bridal with hardware is $100+, not to mention the time of finding the parts and rigging it all we opted to go for the dive.
Carrying a dive tank on a bicycle is a bit of a trick, but Lisa managed well. Since she's the only one with a dive card, it was her show from the get-go. All I could really do is cheerlead and avoid wimpy-wimpy style comments when she touched her dainty toe in the water and grimaced. "It's refreshing!" hollered our neighbor Rich, on Cha Cha. "You get used to it." Funny story about Cha Cha.
Lisa was unmoved. "You might", was her chilly reply.
Well, the only thing that motivates my wife more than warmth is saving money, so I knew ahead of time which would win. The question was, would it be in vain?
Down she went disappearing beneath a green murky curtain just 5 feet below the surface. I followed her bubbles around in the dinghy with Nika manning the dive flag. There's a ton of traffic around here, so it wasn't a trivial matter keeping it all away from the precious cargo down below.
She did one curly pass then came up and found her compass bearings and went down again. No dice. "I can see about this far." she gestured, extending her hands out about 4 feet apart. Great, with that kind of visibility, the chances of finding a black line in the muck below wasn't nil, but pretty close.
After another pass and empty-handed ascent, we decided to follow the boat we hit's anchor lines down. It was more a strategy of desperation than inspiration and started with the stern anchor line first. The next time she surfaced, in her hands was a bundle of black line and several expensive pieces of hardware attached. They were laying only a couple feet from the anchor.
"Hot diggidy dog!"
While I was following bubbles, another neighbor, John on Bluepoint of London, came by. Thinking I had hired a commercial diver, he asked about having him check his anchors as well. When I mentioned the person under there was my wife, he chuckled nervously and apologized and said, "Well this is awkward."
"No problem" I replied, with one eye on the bubbles "If she isn't frozen to death by the time she comes up, she'll probably be willing to take a look." Which in fact happened. His anchors were fine, and Lisa, who was doing okay up to that point, got out shaking like a leaf.
We rounded out the afternoon with some ball fun in the park. It's Nana's 10th birthday today, so by the time we all got home, all the talk was about present opening. But of course, first came dinner, then clean up, then dessert, then baking it. Nana was all a-twitter, but at last got to open her gifts.
Day 324 ~ Tacking toward Cape CodAugust 4th, 2011
The day broke sunny and clear in the way it never does further south, brillant and haze free. We upped anchor about 9am and headed back down the mouth of the bay. We turned upwind to raise the main but when we turned off Lisa heard a 'clunk', the Port engine bogged down, then revved up again. A fish pot marker popped up in the wake. Two minutes later, and the engine threw an overheat alarm and we shut it down. The coincidence was just too much and I racked my brain to figure out how hitting a pile of foam and rope could cause an engine to overheat.
Great, what a start to the day. The last time we left a known port with parts and resources and headed out with one engine we regretted it. All those thoughts were running through my head, but emotion got the better of me. After being delayed in Newport nearly a week, the urge to get moving overpowered cool judgment.
We sailed for the first hour or so and then the wind evaporated. We motored on our one good engine for an hour or so, and then the wind filled in. With 360 degrees to choose from and only about 1/12 of those bad for us, guess what it chose? To blow nice and strong, directly from our intended course. Even 10 degrees north or east and it would have been a glorious sail. Instead, we tacked back and forth all day. It beat motoring, I guess, but after beating into waves for 9 hours, we had only made 20 miles towards the Cape Cod Canal.
We put a shine on the evening though by tucking into a deserted cove called Slocum's Neck and enjoying a dinner on the veranda, lighted by a setting sun in the peace and tranquility of a protected bay. Other than a few distant vacation homes, we had the 1,000 acre paradise to ourselves.
As soon as the hook was set, I was in the water checking out the Port prop. We had clearly hit something, there were marks all over the prop where the growth was worn off, but as far as I could tell no blades were bent nor damage done. Relief.
Day 325 ~ Cooking FossilsAugust 5th, 2011
We enjoyed a wonderfully peaceful night, the only boat anchored in a bay large enough for hundreds. The wind whispered through the hatches all night, fresh, with a crispy edge of 62 degrees to it. Felt just like home.
Everyone assures us the wind prevails from the South and West, either of which would be ideal for us. Instead we have another day with winds directly on the nose. If we weren't trying to catch Remi De, and make it to Maine in the process, we would have just waited it out where we were, a cute little bay with a vast stretch of deserted beach called Slocum's Neck.
Having seen the prop last night, the only thing to do this morning was get up close and personal with the Port engine, for about the 42nd time.
Sure enough, all the coolant was gone. Been there done that, and was now prepared. With a fresh gallon of antifreeze and a keen ear for drips I started by pouring in some pure water. Sure enough, when the level got to a certain point I started to hear dripping. It was just a matter of finding it, which didn't take long. Five seconds later, I found the culprit, the hot water heater supply line. (boats make hot water with the heat from the engines, and this requires a line to and back from the engine's coolant loop).
Of course, the ruptured connection was in a nearly impossible to reach crevice. I figured it would take at least an hour to accomplish the simple task of removing the line, cutting off an inch and attaching it again. Should take 3 minutes, but no, this is a boat.
So, we upped anchor and got grinding with one engine, right into the breeze. We are hoping to transit the Cap Cod Canal today, and if we time it with the tide, we can get a 5 knot boost from the current. Conversely, if we mis-time it, we are looking at pushing against a ripping flow. Since we were headed north, we wanted to enter on a rising tide. The peak flow was going to be 4.87 knots in our favor, if we hit the entrance at 11:14am.
With Lisa at the helm and my backside to the sun down in the engine room, we motored past some impressive seaside mansions and out into Buzzards Bay. By removing the engine lifting mount, and making other contortions, the ruptured hose was removed, cut back and reattached. Then all there was to do was replace the lifting ring and top it up with coolant. No problemo. The girls were impressed with the male equivalent of hand lotion.
With both engines up and grinding we hit the entrance at 12:15p; not quite the peak flow, but still cooking right along in our favor. At narrow places there were standing waves of current formed by the flowing river of salt water. It was a fun trip going between bike paths and greenery on both sides, like rushing through the center of a quaint New England town.
The canal spit us out into Cape Cod Bay where the wind, which we could now leverage at a new angle, completely disappeared. I guess it's better than 20 knots on the nose, but it still meant the engines had to keep running for another, count 'em, 4 hours. Ouch. Having averaged less than 1 hour per day for months on end, it's sickening to grind it out for an entire day. But it was that or anchor in the middle of the Sound, which didn't seem too inviting.
At least with no wind, the water was flat. We took advantage of the waiting game to read, Wind in the Willows to the kids, and 100 Years of Solitude for me. Lisa attempted a nap, with some success.
Nika spotted a breeching "baby whale" (not sure what it was) but I saw the splash and it was huge. We dodged fish pots all the way to Provincetown and made it ashore just before sunset. Unique town.
"Why are those people flying the American flag upside down?" Nina wanted to know. Exhausted from a long day on the water, I copped out and replied, "It's probably just an accident".
08/05/2011 09:02:29 AKDT
08/05/2011 09:15:34 AKDT
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Day 326 ~ A Beautiful RemedyAugust 6th, 2011
The day broke overcast and cooler. Jackets and long pants were sighted on deck. Erroneously thinking it was Sunday I made a large batch of Swedish Pancakes. The children forgave me, and promptly devoured the stack.
At home, getting mail was a trivial affair. We drove to the post office 3 miles away, opened our box and took the mail out. Now, nothing could be harder. Trying to pick an exact time and place where we want to intersect with a Post Office that accepts General Delivery is like playing darts blindfolded. We thought Provincetown on Cap Cod would be a fine place. But then there are winds on the nose and weekends. I used to live for weekends, now they come up behind me and slap me in the face. Gotcha! It's Saturday, so you'd better be there before noon. Thankfully, Lisa had the brains to call first.
We zipped over to the dock and Lisa and company wound their way through town. I found a little used book shop called "Tim's", which proved to be a treasure trove of musty goodness. Tiny rooms of an old house all packed floor ceiling with titles new and old. I found a couple of interest and checked out.
We had intended to on spending the entire day in P-Town. The Cap Cod beaches did look great, but they day broke overcast and the wind was blowing, at last from the right direction, and Remi De was already in Boston. Consensus didn't take long to reach. We upped anchor and blew northward on a fanastic reach in perfect breezes, 9-12 knots right on the beam. With the full main pulling and only a ripple to the sea, we spread our wings and flew. The dreary motor of yesterday, the long tacks of the day before melted away in a never-ending rush of wind and slithering seas, oily under a dense overcast, frosted from moment to moment with a flash of sun bashful sunlight.
Hour followed hour in a linkless chain of time that only happens with sailing. We read, listened to audiobooks and rough-housed on the tramps, tickling some much needed mellowness into Nika's been-stuck-on-the-boat for days wiggly bones.
As we neared Boston's entrance, the wind's shifted and we were forced to motor the final hour, winding our way towards the skyline, peeking up through the humidity haze. The chance of precipitation for this evening is 100%. We wove among the fast ferries and fishing fun boats to find Remi De, once again. We dropped 40 meters of chain over to compensate for the 10 foot tidal swing and backed down on it hard in anticipation of the storm wall predicted for the wee hours. But, being prepared, it never came.
Day 327 ~ The ConstitutionAugust 7th, 2011
Bruce was interested in checking out the USS Constitution which is berthed just a short dinghy ride and walk away. We ended up taking the entire crew and followed the "Freedom Trail" through North Boston, seeing Paul Revere's house, and other Revolutionary War shrines. Since it rained and poured in fits and starts, it was a good day for being inside museums and relics of various flavors.
The USS Constitution was well worth the hike and wet feetness. Since it has taken and burned the HMS Java in one of my recent books, it was a little bigger than life seeing it all first-hand. The rain dribbling down through deck cracks added a touch of unchoreographed authenticity.
Hungry from the walking, we ducked in to Sorelle Bakery, an avante garde bagel establishment, for a quick bite. Then the clouds let loose and our brief snack turned into a two hour sit down and chat affair while we waited for the deluge to pass.
One of the highlights of the day was a printing press demonstration, showing how it was done in 1776. I think some of it actually sunk in. But we always wonder.
I can sure see why people love Boston, at least the old part. The narrow windy streets, brick buildings and the quaint restaurants with the proprieter waiting out front to welcome you in, like family add their own charm to the old city.
Day 328 ~ Emma turns TwelveAugust 8th, 2011
The girls were itching for a sail, so we launched Sea Pearl and took a few tacks around the anchorage. The winds were fluky, but I can see that sailing around Boston harbor in the right conditions, with a sweeping skyline as a backdrop, would be pretty inspiring.
We needed a few essentials, so I took the dink and a bike across to the Sea Aquarium where I found an unofficial dinghy dock. Never sure what to make of parking our 'car', as it were, into little corners of docks, and hoping it will be unnoticed, unstolen and unchained when we return. The simple reality is that there are so few cruisers in the world that, for the most part, people don't know what to make of us and haven't made rules about us, being just us.
We have the same impression here that we have had in so many places, the Bahamas for instance. "Where is everyone?" There are a few cruising boats here and there, but as far as we can tell in this large city with so many attractions, we and Remi De are the only ones anchored in a city with 4.5 million people. Sure, there are lots of empty boats sitting in marinas or on mooring balls, but they rarely move.
Biking Boston is something I'd definitely like to try again. This time, though, it was all business. I get to Whole Foods, buy the most I can possibly fit my bicycle and get back. The return ride was a little wobbly at times, what with the 30lbs of goods stuffed in the forward basket. Waited out a rain shower under awning for a Nutella Crèpe shop. Haven't seen one of those in Anchorage before. Hmmm, maybe that's my next niche.
Got back in time for Lisa to use my supplies to whip up a huge batch of birthday cake. She made a quad recipe instead of a double. Oops, that just means we'll have to eat cake for breakfast and lunch tomorrow, just like Marie Antoinette.
We grilled burgers, one of Nina's favorite meals, and invited Remi De over for dinner, cake and present openings. A grand time was had by all, and now we are proud parents of a 12 going on 22 girl. Guess this is what it feels like to get old.
Day 329 ~ Bushwhacking to CostcoAugust 9th, 2011
Remi left this morning and, wow, did I have the itch to leave too. But, alas, our perfectly working but illegal propane tanks really need to be fixed and filled or we'll be living with cold vittles soon. That wouldn't have been too bad in the tropics where we used the stove as little as possible, but here the idea of eating cold chili for dinner motivates a man to get up and get moving.
In our usual turtle fashion we were all in the dink and puttering out about 10am. Funny thing though, there was this huge LNG ship going right through the downtown harbor. It was surrounded by tugs, boats with flashing lights and helicopters. We took it slow so as not to attract the wrong type of attention, but eventually a State Police mafia-busting boat came at us full throttle to deliver the message. We were in violation of something or other and had to turn around. So this is why cruisers don't come to Boston. I don't see why they are so nervous about several thousand tons of flammable liquid motoring right past the city highrises. What could possibly happen?
So, we made lemonade out of lemons, found a nearby dock, tied up and read some Hans Christian Andersen from the iPhone before continuing on our journey once the official entourage had retreated.
Our iPhone maps program is going to get us into serious trouble one of these days. While scoping out the route to the propane place, I noticed "Costco Everett" nearby. Hmmm, our favorite cheese was close by. And, to top it off, Google Earth showed a little thumb of a waterway that went right to their back parking lot.
After cabbing the propane bottles to the gas place and biking back, we loaded up again and motored deep into the heart of industrial Boston, eventually winding our way under some old rusting bridges. Sure enough, there was Costco behind a fence, the tall kind with barbed wire.
But having never met a fence without a hole, I took a walk and finally found along the trail, tucked under some tall sea grass, a wide open gate. We were in.
Leaving Lisa to man the dinghy, the girls and I bushwhacked a little and the next minute we were walking in a nice paved parking lot. It was fun finding some of our old favorites and grabbing a snack afterwards. But tide waits for no man.
I knew the tide was falling, but when we got back Lisa was a good hundred yards out, across some rather scary looking mudflats. Nina had slipped while taking Lisa some lunch earlier, the 100% real fruit smoothie and chicken bake flying with flair high up in the air while landing herself with a squish and slide on the slimy carpet of swamp moss. We looked for an alternate route but, without a suitable machete to bushwhack a new trail, there weren't really any alternatives to just slogging through the muck.
Finally loaded, we pushed and pulled our way out of the slimy bog and then used our dinghy paddles like the Amazonian canoe experts who use long poles to push their boats deep into the jungle.
Note to self, the next time I go to Costco, don't forget the machete. What was I thinking?
Day 330 ~ Leaks and LaundryAugust 10th, 2011
I know that some of you think this trip is like a dream thing that just floats along one lazy day to the next, right? Wrong.
For starters, it rained all night. We were up early to a soaked cockpit, soaked custions and soaked everything. We upped anchor and motored out of Boston harbor under clouds and fog. Caught some wind but headed into Gloucester before it shifted to right on our nose. We tried to anchor next to downtown but the harbormaster boat came by and told us we were too far into the channel. He described the allowable space and maybe would have allowed us a couple hours to check out the town if his boss hadn't been watching from the window.
Lisa put it in gear and we all heard a loud "clunk" before the starboard engine quit. Great. This is all part of the weekly engine trouble ration, I suppose. Not exactly the time and place to fix it now, so we reanchored on the other side of the group of boats only to get a second visit from the harbormaster assistant.
"You're not going to believe this, but you can't anchor here either." Only he didn't mention that the first time. With wind shifts predicted we opted to bail out and head for a roomier spot a mile or so out of town, tucked behind a granite island. We motored out on one engine and found the island to be free of not only other boats, but also of the regular maze of crab pots. We ended up putting 70 meters of chain out, the most ever. A little overkill, but with plenty of swing room there was no harm to being on the safe side.
Shortly after, the sun came out and warmed our shivering tropical skin, but not enough to take the chill out of the water. I assumed we had propped a line in the tight inner harbor. The first dunk took my breath away, the water felt like Cook Inlet. Way colder than Block Island, just 90 miles south. Should have scraped both hulls there when I had the chance. The prop was clean, but refused to shift into neutral or spin freely. That's not good.
Lisa found fresh water, presumably from last night's deluge, had saturated Nika's bunk with a good half gallon under her bed. This does not a happy wife make. Hours passed as Nika bed got completely ripped up and the masses of linen underneath sorted between that which was wet and less wet.
A few weeks ago I opened the one of the forward storage hatches. As the hatched passed 90 degrees vertical, the lens fell out into my hand. Nice. Guessing a little foot stepped on it while it was flipped open. After plenty of procrastination, it was time for a fix. I had purchased at $20 tube of 4200 for the job back in Newport. With everything taped off, I loaded it into the gun only find out it was hard a rock. Now I was in real trouble. A couple of quick phone calls and a quick dinghy trip to town and we checked out with a new tube at 4:59pm. Too close for comfort.
We finally headed in with 7 loads worth of laundry and hoofed it to the "just across the street" laundromat. When one has a car, I am sure it does feel just across the street. But when we are carrying 40lbs of laundry on our back, the "street", all .3 miles of it, gets pretty long.
The girls and I found some ice cream while the washing machines did their magic. The first load went in about 6:30 and by 8:15 we were hiking back to the dinghy. It was a beautiful, calm night, in one of the nicest anchorages we have had. Just another lazy day in paradise.
Day 331 ~ A perfect dayAugust 11th, 2011
Well some days you win and some you lose. Yesterday was one setback after another, and today couldn't have gone better.
The sun broke out as we motor-sailed out of Gloucester Harbor. The winds were light, but we're in no rush. We took it slow all day, enjoying the gentle motion of the following sea and the radiant warmth of a long overdue sun. Five rainy days in Boston brought back plenty of Alaska summer memories.
We fished, read, listened to audio books and enjoyed a taco dinner. The wind picked up around sunset and we had a couple of fast hours of sailing, but otherwise are averaging about 4 knots of boat speed. Since it's comfortable, we can't complain.
The moon rose as we enjoyed out taco dinner. Whales spouted and dove around us as the sun set behind the distant shadow of Maine's coastline. Now the lights of Portland, Maine, are twinkling in the distance, the shore breeze is bearing wifts of pine and the nearly full moon is giving a silken shine to every wave top.
Added a photo of Cha Cha.
08/11/2011 18:36:41 AKDT
Day 332 ~ Open Doors Floor UsAugust 12th, 2011
Lisa took the graveyard shift, again. I awoke refreshed and ready to go about 8am, only to find her zoning with a face to the window. Lobster pots litter the horizon as far as the eye can see. With the remote in her hand, she clicked her way through the mine field, at the blistering pace of, maybe, 2 knots. The wind is just not there. Makes me appreciate the consistent trades we enjoyed all winter in the Caribbean.
Lisa crashed with a pillow over her head, dead to the world. I got the gennie back up single-handed and enjoyed a whomping, stomping 1/2 knot leap of speed. Then the wind slowly shifted, making our progress eastward nigh unto impossible; degrees at a time, we hooked slowly north. I poured over our cruising guide and the charts looking for some place to set the hook and relax for a day or few.
Since, by this time, we were pretty much pointed right into John's Bay, in we went. There appeared to be a decent anchorage with enough protection for a modest stay. As we motored in to anchor with our one working engine, the kids immediately spotted other kid boats. The Bruce had barely set before Nina was antsy to get the dinghy down and go for a visit. We did, and found a boat full of girls! Eight year old twins with a 10 year old sister. Soon kids were on our boat swinging, parents were swapping addresses and cruising guides.
But alas, Geo Nova was headed out and West in a few hours. As the kids were taking their last few swings, a dinghy puttered up with 4 kids aboard. "Can we play too?" Well sure. Before long, another group arrived. "We have, like, 21 kids over there in those two houses," regaled Sam, the 8 year old self-appointed spokesman, with two front teeth just coming in. "You guys can come over anytime you want."
Well, we took that with a grain of salt, but when his uncle zipped past in another launch and reiterated the offer to use their dock, we took it seriously. Geo Nova, it turns out, was using the same family's guest mooring ball and offered it to us since they were leaving. It took a few minutes to get Bruce up and two passes with one engine weaving around the lobster pot bouys to pick up the ball. Then, with the girls begging to speed things up for once, we headed ashore.
Turns out that two families, the Hall's and Linkas's have adjoining properties. Both live near and work in New York City and both families vacation together in the summer at their waterfront Maine homes. They share a dock, a well, a septic and just about everthing, including their friends. We were welcomed like family; in two shakes the kids were off playing on the beach, using kayaks, exploring the woods and fort and being taught how to play ping pong.
A few hours later, it felt like we had known them for a lifetime. The kids were playing like old friends, the dogs curled up at our feet, the moms had found each other and we dads figured out that all had a passion for sailing. There was plenty to talk about.
We were offered showers, beds, food by the table full, car rides to the store ad infinitum. We were floored. Once again, the reputation for Maine and the East coast in general as a grumpy, closed society has been found unfounded. Well, at least the visiting New Yorkers defy the sterotype for their city.
Day 333 ~ The 4th Annual Pig RoastAugust 13th, 2011
The day broke bluebird clear and sunny, with a few whisps of high feathery clouds. A perfect day for a parade and some serious kid fun. Lisa took the kids, along with the two shore families, to the local Olde Bristol Days parade. The highlight is the fireman with portable backpack kits, with working hoses. The kids go armed with squirt guns and buckets to fight back. Oh, and they wear swimsuits because, well, the fireman are professionals and can aim well.
Afterward, the group visited the "fair grounds" which are about the size of a baseball field. Local treats included fried dough, deep fried that is, but the one that got me was the apple crisp with ice cream. Yum.
All were back in time for the 4th Annual Pig Roast put on by the Hall & Linkas homes. The entire neighborhood was invited and piles of chicken thighs, sides of homemade blueberry cake, pasta salads and beans disappeared. It was great to have such a wide variety of home cooking again.
As much as I take food seriously, the reality is that boat fare has been pretty monotonous lately. Tacos, burgers and pasta account for well over 80% of our meals. No one really complains, but you know it's bad when a simple serving of homemade broccoli quiche tastes extravagant. I found the contributor and thanked her. She smiled and introduced herself as Alice. She was easily old enough to have personal memories of the second world war but all that practice pays off when the oven gets fired up.
Hugh, the host and brainchild of the affair, carved the pig, as best as he could, taking a chunk of his ring finger with it at one point. Ouch. The highlight was the Oyster Shuck-Off contest, Man versus the Machine. Chris, the co-host had seen one of their friends with an oyster shucking tool and, in disgust, uttered the fateful words, "I can out-shuck that thing the old way any day!"
The duel was on. With 15 oysters a piece the gun went off and each side went to work. Chris was working with the feverish focus of a man with a tradition to prove. This new fangled implement came to represent everything about the future that Chris despised, jet skis included. And, in the end, he pulled it off by a decent margin. Man was victorious, technology faced another setback.
It was a fine affair, set against a granite studded Maine waterfront under a vaulted, sterling sky. A breeze came up, and we took to the water, the kids kayaking to the "island" swim platfrom, while those of us with the sailing bug scratched it.
After dark, we all meandered over to the beach for a waterfront view of the town's fireworks display. Uncle Paul tried to call the grand finale time after time, only to meet the next ill-timed volley with mock groans. I guess the fireworks pros have to start somewhere.
We don't have too many days like this in our life, but when they come, we drink deeply, and savor.
Day 334 ~ Lobster FlopsterAugust 14th, 2011
Today are the annual Lobster Boat Races. We tidied up the boat since it was a great place from which to watch, but in the end wound up keeping score from shore. The races were run in drag style. Being an informal affair, the radios crackled while the judges called for this or that boat to get to the line for their round. The kids soon lost interest and were off exploring the rocky shoreline, paddling about in kayaks or checking out the nearby fort.
I biked up the long hill to New Harbor, only to find the store, in business since 1918, sold plum out of blueberries. Oh well, I had to try. Rounded up a few items and coasted most of the way back. Having picked up that Chris, Hugh and Tom (Chris's dad) are seriously into sailing, it occurred to me they may like to take our boat out for a run. The idea was warmly receivced so we got wrapped up on sail trim talk and checked out the weather situation.
The hours wound by in a seamless parade of snacks, kid fun and boat talk. Not a bad way to wile away an evening.
Day 335 ~ Rainy Day BluesAugust 15th, 2011
The forecast for today and tomorrow do not look bright. Cold and rain; Anchorage weather all over again. The day broke with heavy overcast. With rain on the way, we got our lesson work done and went for a sail on Sea Pearl. Nika once again showed her true colors, steering upwind and downwind with precision beyond her eight years. Then, with a dozen playmates silently calling the girls, they couldn't resist going ashore any longer. There were long bike rides to the lighthouse, pick-up sticks, ping pong and mini-golf accompanied by plenty of yelling, running and laughter.
Having eaten wonderful dinners back to back at the invitation of Hugh and then Chris, it was time to pitch in a little. I opted for one of the kids' all time favorite, pasta and béchamel sauce with a side of italian seasoned chicken strips. Things got fun when Chris invited Hugh and company, so Mémé (grandma) and I kicked into turbo chef mode and cranked out an entire second round of food.
It was a blast, actually, working in a large, bright kitchen over a huge warm stove while the rain pattered on the roof and wind whistled under the rafters. The kids came begging for tastes. Sugar, the German Shepherd, sprawled out by the stove and Chris made a fire in the fireplace while Lisa and Danielle set a fabulous table accented with mini candles.
It felt like a scene from Saveur magazine and tasted even better. When Mémé pulled out a 5 pound pyrex of blueberry buckle, made with fresh, local Maine berries, and offered dark gooey slabs topped with French Vanilla ice cream melting in minature tidal pools, few could resist, and few did.
Tammy offered us the use of her shower, which was much appreciated. I had forgotten how good endless warm water really feels. We all dried off, out of habit, forgetting that it was blustering rainy blasts. The dinghy ride wasn't too far, but we succeeded in soaking every thread nevertheless. It's days like this, where the contrast between shore life and boat life slants decidedly in the favor of land, that I know our boat days, long as they may yet be, are ultimately numbered.
Day 336 ~ Water water everywhereAugust 16th, 2011
It rained all night, at times very hard. Morning broke to heavy overcast and scattered showers with gusty blasts of wind. It was so much like Kasilof that when a truck rumbled to life ashore, I looked out expecting to see a beach fishing rig roll by. The humidy was so high that everything we touch is damp and clammy. To add some cheer to the morning I whipped up a batch of homemade biscuits. The stove warmed things up nicely and the warm flaky treats, smothered in jam, hit the spot.
We did lesson work, then decided to make some peanut butter cookies to take ashore for a treat. Things were going well until we burned the first, and then the second batches. Ouch. We managed to hand pick enough for the kids to take some ashore.
Lisa and Danielle took the group over to check out the historic Pemaquid Fort, which changed hands numerous times as the English, French and Indians fought for control of the northern trading routes.
The sun peeped out on occasion as I worked on some computer projects while the kids did what kids do best, kayaking, and yelling and such. Nina was invited to dinner with the Linkas family, so we had Louisa over to the boat for ravioli and salad with a side of rope swing.
Day 337 ~ Turning a Blind EyeAugust 17th, 2011
Last night Chris mentioned a boat and hiking trip to Damariscove Island, about 9 miles south of John's Bay. The weather was predicted to be all sunny and smiles, which, for once, they got right. We loaded into the Elizabeth Rose, Hugh's 1967 classic wooden power boat, and motored out to the island, about a 20 minute trip, dodging lobster pot bouys all the way.
We dropped everyone off at the dock and took a nearby mooring. It was a bit of a row in the courtesy dinghy, but eventually all were ashore and hiking inland. We have to keep your feet moving as the first few hundred yards of the trail are heavily trafficked with fire ants. Wow, do they pack a punch! One found its way into my right croc within the first two minutes.
The hike around the island was beautiful, ranging from huge round stone beaches to steep scrambles to wide flat slabs of granite the size of ballrooms with huge waves crashing into their cracked faces. The water loses every battle and wins every war. A liquid lesson in persistence.
As a way to say thank you to the families for all their hospitality, we bought lobster for the gang. Chris gave me the name of their local lobster man. One phone call and I had ordered 16 crustaceans to be ready at 4pm. They were $5 a piece.
We motored back home about 2:30 and, after runs to the local supermarket and fish dock, it was time to get cooking. Chris had snagged some steamer clams and I opted for the mussels. May as well make it a seafood bonanza. We set the pots to steaming. The ethics of boiling the poor lobsters alive was briefly discussed, and dismissed. The telos is clear, lobsters were invented to be eaten, the fresher the better.
Having never eaten a lobster before, there was a bit of a learning curve. Lisa overcame her "they are looking at me" fears by discarding the upper body first. They were tasty, well worth $5, but not close to being worth the $30 a restaurant would charge. After Mémé (Grandma) served up a fallen chocolate brownie and ice cream desert it was time to find a piece of prairie and take a nap. But no, Chris had other plans. Kick the Can night tag, kids versus adults. It was fun and the kids kept winning.
Got a warm shower in a the guest house and, wow, did it ever feel good.
Day 338 ~ Macaroon MagicAugust 18th, 2011
There was talk of making the trip to Rockland a guys' sailing adventure, but in the end the families decided to do some other, shall we say, more corporate things. We dinghied over to say goodbye. The girls were crying as we walked back down the dock. Six days of beach fun, fireworks fun, eating fun, kayaking, swimming and more fun. I felt like a clod all over again.
The morning fog began to burn off, so we fired up our one working engine. However, the water infiltration alarm wouldn't go off. This is not good. I had the hatch up in a minute but all was good. Hmmm, probably a bad sensor, but the constant squeal would drive a deaf man nuts. Blue tape and paper towels over the alarm got the sound down to a managable decibel. Nothing like going to the root of the problem.
I guess blocking out the warning signs is one of the first signs of real trouble, on boats and in life. Nothing like starting my birthday out right. We released the mooring and picked our way out of the lobster mine field. The wind seemed decent as we turned the corner to head east toward Penobscot Bay. We sailed for a while and, as the wind slackened, put up the gennie to give us a little boost. Abused as she is, though, she still pulls well and we are getting better at managing her finicky moods.
Mile by mile the wind softened to a feather's touch. The engine came on and the alarm went off on its own after a few minutes, a welcome relief to the relative silence of three cylinders pounding their brains out against a hydrocarbon injected rush.
We opted to turn into Tenant's Harbor for the night. We anchored in Long Cove, an ideal anchorage if there ever was one; nearly 360 degree protection and good holding in a relatively shallow 6 meters. Being my birthday, we made coconut macaroons, which no one likes but me and, as we found out later, Nika. Nika and I were just enjoying our seconds when an Outward Bound gaff rigged boat came sliding past, the crew dropping a lead line every 30 seconds and calling out the depth. They anchored nearby and proceeded to set up tarps to sleep out the night.
There were 5 leftover cookies and, based on the slowly moving silhouettes, 8 freezing souls aboard. Nana was the first to suggest that we make them a batch of cookies. It only took a few minutes the second time around to have them mixed up and on the cookie sheet. The watched macaroon never cooks is as true as ever today, but eventually they were done and out. We dropped them in a bag and wrapped them up in a towel to keep warm. The girls, excited by this adventurous good deed, already had the dinghy down and ready. We puttered over to them in the last hints of twilight. Our offering was received with grateful, gloved hands.
"Warm macaroons for cold sailors."
We puttered back to our floating home with the certain knowledge that it really is better to give than receive, a lesson I hope the girls absorbed somewhere in their often silly brains.
We got the dinghy back up, now in total darkness. We were just coiling the lines a faint, "1, 2, 3" was heard. The tranquil air was ripped with a reverberating "Thank You!" yelled in unison at full college football volume. The sound rippled over the water and echoed off the granite walls that stood guard around us, silent witnesses to the power of a warm cookie on a cold night.
Day 339 ~ Rockland RegardAugust 19th, 2011
The wind kicked up through the night. You live here in much closer tune to nature. The tremble of the rig, the soft whistle of the wind in the shrouds is heard, if possible, even in my sleep. I was vaguely conscious throughout the night of the anchors gravity, it's silent but percitible demand, 'thou shalt not move farther.' The rest of the boat just wants to sail.
By morning the winds were light and the water flat. We got Bruce up, after a nice tug-o-war with the mire below which at first refused to release it's prisoner of the night. He came up with a face full of the gooeyist mud imaginable. A messed blessing.
We picked our way out through constellations of lobster pots, worst case scenarios playing out on my right and left at every minute. The dingy was loose, ready to drop in a moment if we entangled our one good engine. But not today.
Once out in clearer water, we raised the main and then the genny and were soon cooking long at 7-8 knots. Then the air changed and weakened, then shifted again. Such is the wind in Maine in the summer, shifty and prone to softening.
It held enough for us to sail all the way to Rockland, about 17 miles. We set the hook down about 12:45 and had just got situated when the local mooring magnet came over to inform us that we were anchored in "his" mooring field. I have some philosophical problems with people owning the ocean, but decided this probably wasn't the hill to die on. His boat was named Pug.
Déja-vu from Gloucester. He pointed out where we could anchor, but encouraged us to try his mooring out for $35 a night. He has showers, wifi, a game room for the kids, and a dinghy tie-up. Gee what a deal. If we paid $35 a night for moorings we'd spend something like $10,000 a year just to not have to push windlass buttons.
The Yanmar mechanic called shortly after and came out at 2:30pm. Nick looks the part, wearing a worn Harley Davidson search and crowned close cropped spiky gray hair. Tattoos were sighted. After a brief history, I turned over the engine and he said, "oh, yeah, I know exactly what it is." That's a relief. He left 10 minutes later to see if his distrubtor had the parts in stock.
We fired up the other engine and went to raise the anchor. Nothing, you can push the buttons all you want, zilcho.
At home there really weren't that many highs and lows. The car always started, the house was always warm, the water always came out of the tap when you lifted the handle.
I won't say this was a new low. It could have been raining, it could have been much, much worse. But it was discouraging to have one more thing go wrong. And it was a brand new windlass controller too boot. And guess where the solenoids are? In those really tight places.
Two hours later, and the last place I checked, there it was, a completely corroded wire that was dangling from it's place. It was a brand new part when I installed it just 10 months ago in Grenada. Salt water, the life blood of the planet, hates metal.
It took more contortions, and more tools, but eventually it was all patched up and working again. We got the anchor up and moved over just a hundred yards to the Pug-Approved anchoring area and dropped 50 meters of chain overboard.
Day 340 ~ Roughing it in RocklandAugust 20th, 2011
Slow day. Boat wakes and a decent blow last night made for fitful sleep. We were forewarned that Rockland was a "working port", which means vocabulary-impaired lobstah men mowing their way past us at 5am, complete with colorfully accented exclamations.
Everyone was in some kind of funk. Math lessons dragged on and on. It was impossible to be productive with the girls hovering so Lisa took them to explore the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and then for a walk around downtown Rockland while I herded electrons.
They returned in time for a quick pasta dinner and lights out.
Day 341 ~ Exercising Sea PearlAugust 21st, 2011
Rockland's harbor is large, perhaps 2 miles north to south and a mile east to west. We are anchored in the back 40 with tons of room around us. The wind picked up by mid-morning, so we launched Sea Pearl and got her ready for our guests.
I passed many grade school days with Lance and his brother in Alaska and now he is raising a family and working at Lyman Morse, a custom boatbuilder based in Thomaston, Maine, just a few miles inland from Rockland. He and his two boys came out for a visit and Lance was keen to sail. He took his youngest, Teague, along and then did a solo run. The wind was piping up by the hour, and he came back wet and happy.
Nina and I took a couple of long tacks to the head of the bay and then surfed our way back riding the 10-12 knots of wind. We buried the bow a couple of times and returned completely drenched. Quality time isn't defined by dryness.
Day 342 ~ Monday MondayAugust 22nd, 2011
Spent the morning uploading blog photos. As time passes we do more and more photo posting, which will be fun in future years but is time consuming now.
Worked on a pressing client project for several hours on and off. Nick called about 11am to say that they were ready to look at our boat and had a dockside seat ready. With his launch tied to our port side, we maneuvered into Journey's End Marina on one engine without incident.
He was aboard a half an hour later with a 5 gallon bucket of tools and a homemade oil extractor. Thirty minutes after that, he had a knarly chunk of transmission in his hand, the size and color of a large chocolate ice cream cone. "Here's your problem." We discussed repair strategies, but the bottom line is we need some parts and that will take a few days. Rockland is a pretty cool place to be stuck, so may as well relax and enjoy it.
This is only our second time in a marina in nearly a year, and it only took a few hours to remember why we don't do it more often. Creaking bumpers, people walking past, power tools running. Not to mention the Coast Guard and their equipment tests. It's like living in a trailer park.
On the other hand, it is handy to just step off and walk ashore anytime you want. I managed to get some work done followed by an extensive session of Cooperative Cleaning. Lisa tackled the cockpit while the girls and I swabbed the decks. They are coming along as crew. Meaning, they are actually helping most of the time instead of tripping over hoses, kicking over bottles of cleaner or scrubbing sudsy brushes on areas that have just been rinsed.
Day 343 ~ Breakfast with a Side of SeagullAugust 23rd, 2011
About 6am I was vaguely awake, shifting to steal some precious covers from my mate, when I heard a funny cry, a whooshing sound and then a loud thump right over my head. This was followed by a flopping and scratching noise, and then a low throaty moan. Baffled at first, I soon realized a seagull had come in a for a crash landing. Midair collision?
"Please don't die here" was my first thought. There was a long pause, then more flopping, followed by the tick tick tick of his claws on the non-skid fiberglass. "Whew", I thought, "at least he can swim away."
But no, there was another pause and then a whoosh-whoosh as his silvery wings bit the air as he lifted off. Even better. Once up and around ourselves, this is what we found. Excrement, some indistinguishable slime, and a nice fat fish, with a beak mark right in the center. Why the poor flyer left his hard fought meal behind is a complete mystery. Guess he lost his appetite.
This raises to four now the number of carcasses that our deck has accumulated in just 10 months at sea. A squid in Martinique, a two flying fish on passages and now this poor guy.
Lance, my friend from childhood, had offered us a tour of Lyman Morse at our conveniance. After some lesson work, we gave him a call and he came by to pick us up. Maine's been the place to have boats built for the last three hundred years. First sailing schooners, then whalers, then fishing boats and now some of the highest tech composite craft are built right here. The hall lining the passage to the Lyman Morse office is checkered with launch photos going way back to an era when steam power was all the rage. Most of the boats are wood, but eventually they give way to fiberglas and shift from working boats to pleasure craft.
Lance is the project manager for Kiwi Spirit. A 60' monohull designed for the sole purpose of taking its elderly owner around the world, unassistend, nonstop. The molds were coming along nicely and the interior mockup in plywood and cardboard with a visqueen ceiling really gave a sense of what the finished boat will feel like. The girls had a great time running around in the mockup, pretending it was a real boat and hiding behind walls.
Lance and his family were headed to the Union Fair/Wild Blueberry Festival and invited Lisa and the girls to go along. They dropped me off at the boat to do more mind-numbing computer stuff in hopes of actually meeting the Sept 1 deadline the client is asking for.
When I stuck me head out for some fresh air about 7pm I caught a nasty fish smell. Turning the corner I found the seagull breakfast, now parbaked in the sun all day, decomposing rapidly. I gingerly pulled him off by the tail, only to feel his spine give way in a elastic snap like an old rubber band. I had torn him in half. The part left behind was firmly glued to the deck with a combination of sun baked fish slime, scales, skin and seagull saliva.
If I were Japanese, all that would be missing was the chopsticks.
Hours later, with a fuzzy head and sore neck, I opted for a green bean and oatmeal dinner over the fare from the local pizza place just up the street. Tasty. The girls came back about 9:30, regaling me with tales of "a guy with a boa constrictor around his neck", a demolition derby, and flying trapeze artists who missed their cues. Ouch. I guess life as a programmer could be worse. I could be swinging from the heavenly heights hoping that the slightly overweight guy in red tights was having a good day, and liked me.
Day 344 ~ You guessed it, still in RocklandAugust 24th, 2011
Well, some of the parts came as expected. But one important one didn't. So we are on hold for yet another day, at least. Nick is upbeat, but part of me gets the feeling that's just his job description. On the plus side, they don't charge for dockage while we're having work done, or waiting for it, so it's not really hurting us to be here. Not, at least, if we don't count lost crusing opportunities. We only have a few more weeks in Maine before we should head south, but I try not to think about that.
It's actually so cold at nights (mid-50s) that heading south doesn't sound all bad. Finally put on a pair of socks last night to keep my toes from freezing. The days are warm, however, so Lisa can thaw out. It all feels good though after the shake and bake of North Carolina.
Day 345 ~ Busy DaysAugust 25th, 2011
Well, key engine parts are supposedly in hand, but I remain skeptical. Bruce and Toni had some errands to run, so Remi came over for some play time, which stretched into the entire day, as often happens with boat kids.
The water penetration alarm sensor came, so out came on the old and in went the new. It was a relief to see that there was, in fact, no water in the sail drive. The whole thing took about 20 minutes longer than it should have, but when we fired the engine to check it out, all was quiet on the western front. Relief.
While I was down there, and getting oily, it was time for a long, long over due job. Back in Grenada the mechanic had noted that there was some oil in the catch pan under each engine. It's hard to see, and easy to forget.
But today, with hazmat disposal just a few steps away, was the day. Out came the vacuum pump that hasn't seen the light of day for eons, and up came the oily slime, an odd mixture of old grimy oil and lime green antifreeze. Tasty. Two and a half milk jugs later, both engine trays were empty.
With clients calling, I headed off to an internet cafe while the Lisa and the girls explored town. Hours later, fuzzy headed and ready for a break, Lisa texted to say that the engine guy was done.
We wrapped up the evening with a homemade meatloaf dinner, complete with trimmings and cookies for dessert. Somehow I got too much butter in the mix -- didn't really think that was possible -- and wow, were they calorie laden killers. The girls loved 'em.
Day 346 ~ Free at lastAugust 26th, 2011
I didn't elaborate on the engine repair yesterday because today is when it really gets rich. So, Nick says he's got it all fixed yesterday. But when Lisa goes to start the engine it's completely dead, not even a click. Nick looks around and says he doesn't see any loose wires or anything. But everyone remembers it working fine before the transmission repair.
I get back from working and it's pouring rain. I find out later that the drops were just starting to fall when Nick was "checking for loose wires". By the time the rain stopped it was nearly dark, so I checked the battery and the cut-off switch and everything looked fine.
This morning broke sunny and warm. A good day for leaving. I opened the engine compartment hatch and in 15 seconds found the problem. Two problems, actually. Both the positive and negative leads from the ignition switch, which was freshly re-run in December, had come off the starter and hanging loose, the other had ripped out of a relay where it provided the ground.
Hmmm. I pulled both wires out, laid them right on top of the engine where it would be impossible to miss them. Nick said he would "send someone over first thing" to look things over. Apparantly wiring isn't his strong suit. Well, 10am came, and I realized that if we were going to hole up somewhere for days to ride out Irene we would need some more victuals. Nana and I took off for the Hanneford market by bike, about a mile away.
We were just making it out of the produce and into the bread section when Lisa texted me that an engine guy, not Nick, finally shown up. Nana and I tried to stick to the essentials, but getting everything on the bikes and in the backpacks was a bit of a trick.
When we got back the engine guy was just finishing up. He had the two wires that I found fixed pretty quickly. Lisa stopped him before he left for a test start which happened just as it should (but she didn't put it into gear as she thought the boat in front of us was a bit close). However, when he gave the signal to push stop, nothing happened. The engine just kept on a chugging away.
Back in the engine hole the mechanic went...again. This one took him a little longer. Long enough that when I wheeled up with 40lbs of groceries, he was just wrapping up. The engine now started and stopped. Hurray, I thought, finally we are free of this marina blackhole thing. We stashed the bikes and I was about to cast off the bow line when a thought occurred to me. Perhaps the engines should be running.
Started the port engine. Perfect. Hey, let's see how this new transmission thing is working. Nothing. That's right, shift reverse, nothing. Try to shift forward and the handle won't even budge.
I am losing enough hair already due to biological changes, life with old engines isn't helping any. I was a little hot walking up the dock, but had cooled down some by the time I found Nick sucking on a cigarette while leaning on a hazmat drum of waste oil. Something told him I wasn't bearing good news. But he kept his chin up and, bringing along the electrical savvy guy, they followed me right back down to the boat. It was a relief to not have to wait another few hours as has been the custom up to this point. And it was sunny, so at least we weren't getting wet in the process.
I started the engine again and demonstrated the problem. Nick looked on skeptically, then went down and then got lower and lower and started murmuring things only his assistant was meant to hear. The next thing I know wrenches are being passed down clean and back up greasy. Two minutes later and Nick emerges with a oily part in his hand the size of small chocolate muffin, say with a chicken bone protruding from one side.
"Er, got this part in backwards; just need to run up to the shop and turn it around. Be back in two minutes...." he mutters with a smile of chagrin.
The part got put back and even worked properly; this time they tested it several times prior to walking away. Our dock neighbor came down to cast us off. We were outta there and into a blue bird day of dodging lobstah traps while Irene churns through North Carolina like a lawn mower that swallowed the blue pill.
Day 347 ~ Preparing for the VisitorAugust 27th, 2011
Calm, quiet night. Nice change from marina. Fog in the morning.
By morning, Oriental, NC, where we spent 6 weeks in June-July, was experiencing Irene full force. We checked in with Courtney at 9:30am to see how her parents fared and if she heard any news, including RV status. Just before returning to their home in Richmond, she moved the RV to her parent's Inn in town, about a 1/3 of a mile inland from the water. From the towndock.net website that Oriental maintains, we saw pictures and read about a 9.5' storm surge so we figured we completely lost the RV under water. However, by 10am, we got word that the RV and the Inn where it was parked were still dry. Water was just to the Inn's steps. With the naked eye, there's no way we would have guessed there to be actual contour in Oriental!
Remi De and girls went to Castine for a walk to the small lighthouse while I worked and prepared the boat. Lisa returned with 4 girls and they played while Lisa and I set the colossal Brittney anchor that still has the price tag attached. It was under the cockpit floor when we bought the boat and part of my armchair hurricane theories ever since. I had put a 30-foot chunk of chain on the back of our Bruce anchor and tied a bouy to the end of the chain. At low tide we loaded up the Brittney and pulled up the end of the chain, with a nice load of Maine goo, attached the shackle and dropped it all overboard accompanied by an elephant size splash.
Oriental, North Carolina, Norfolk and many other areas we know well, are getting hammered.
With the dinghy a mess and the Pamlico "moustache" still on parts of the hull, Lisa went into cleaning mode until dinner was ready. She was able to reach a little more underneath to rid the water line of that lovely 4" line of mold grown in Oriental.
We've had the pressure cooker now for months and it works great for rice and veggies. Just now trying it for big hunks of meat. I cooked an entire 6 lb chicken in under 30 minutes and it came out great. The girls, with Remi's help, demolished the entire thing. A pile of bones and skin was all that remains. Wolves.
Bruce returned to fetch Remi before it was completely dark. Evening spent checking Irene's status and reading. There are a few odd tightening-up things to do tomorrow morning, but we're as ready as we can be.
As dusk envelopes the anchorage we are greeted with the sound of bagpipes from the small boat just left of center in the video below. A nice way to end an evening.
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Day 348 ~ Irene CallsAugust 28th, 2011
2am - Light rain begins to fall. Lisa pulls in all the cushions and other paraphenalia from the cockpit before they get soaked.
10am - Continues to rain on and off. Nothing torrential, just steady.
11am - Calm, no rain. Remi De invited the girls to go ashore and stretch their legs before the big wait. They went to a Castine coffee shop where the sticky buns were great and the brownies "disgusting". They returned about an hour later completely soaked. Their dinghy has had fuel issues and wouldn't go above a fast idle which left them scooping huge amounts of sea water with every bob.
1pm - Winds picked up recently. 15 knots with 25 knot gusts.
2pm - Raining again as a cloud blows over. Winds steady at 15-20 knots. 25-30 gusts. During brief pause in the rain, Peter goes out in dinghy to lengthen line on bouy that went under water at high tide. Finds that line was just about to come off.
3pm - Same wind. Not much rain.
4pm - Same wind. Gusts to 30 knots we think. Wind meter seems to fall when gusts come. Cloud cover is thinner so brighter than an hour ago.
5pm - A few boats having trouble with tangled and dragging anchors. Nice to have no rain and light to fix it all.
6pm - Sun coming through the clouds. Sustained winds at 15-20 knots. Gusts felt between 27 and 37 knots. Anchorage is quiet and tangled boats are still again. Not much has changed since an hour ago.
11pm - Not much has changed except that it is now dark. Still steady winds and not much rain to speak of. Spitting here and there with a 30-40 knot gust now and again. Neighboring boats monitoring the same VHF channel but that has been quiet since the 6pm untangling.
I have completely lost faith in our wind meter. It seems to be accurate up to about 20 knots, and then gets fluky. It will read, say, 27. Then, a huge blast will hit us. The rig is howling, the boat surging against the anchor so hard it would knock us over if we weren't prepared but the wind meter will drop to 22 knots. Yeah, sure.
It guess it works okay for day to day sailing, but it just doesn't handle gusts at all. Neighboring boats are talking about gusts in the low 40's which sounds about right. We have a few bigger ones during the night. They come in waves with lulls of light breeze. It blows light rain sideways much of the night, but is actually fairly dry, the wind being stiff enough to air dry the little moisture that is falling. It's just enough to add sparkle to a flashlight beam that I use to illuminate the neighboring boats from time to time, just to be sure no one is too close.
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Day 349 ~ The Morning AfterAugust 29th, 2011
I'm not feeling the best. Not sure if it's all the ramp up for Irene but, of all nights to be under the weather, this was not the best. Set the GPS anchor drag alarm and turned the volume up. Monitored it from time to time but mainly listened for any change in an orchestra of wind instruments, howls, creaks, moans and an occasional whooooing sound, like an owl living in our mast. Huge blasts of wind would come swirling off the surrounding hills from various angles. We would whip one way and then the next as our bridal tried its best to keep us in line with the chain against a torrent of atmosphere.
Since we know the condition of our gear, I spend more time playing out scenarios of being hit by another boat. Thankfully, the sailors here are more respectful of space than those further south and we have a nice 100 yard buffer all around us.
At 4am things started to taper off and now at 7am the winds are light with occasionally stronger gusts. Bluebird sky, not a wisp of cloud to be seen and the air has a little bite to it. If someone parachuted in this morning, he'd never know anything happened.
We launched Sea Pearl after brekkie (Aussie talk) and I took a nice long sail to town, about 2 miles, and back again. The wind was ideal. Castine isn't much to see, a few historic buildings and a 7/11-type grocery store. Bruce and Remi took Sea Pearl out for a while after I got back and then all forces marshalled up for a hike in a nearby Holbrook Island state park with Liam and Annie on Gone with the Wind. We wrapped the evening up with a beach fire, sword fights and snackies.
Day 350 ~ Rip TideAugust 30th, 2011
The locals say that after a hurricane there are days and days of perfect, settled weather. The calm after the storm, so to speak. They are right. The day broke into another bluebird perfect brilliance, cut from diamond with water reflections making dancing patterns on the boats around us.
Today is move out day. It started early, before 7 and not a half hour went by when another minor flotilla upped anchor and motored out of the bay, off to explore another corner of Maine's vast inviting coastline. We had planned to stay one more day, but the bug bit us by about 10am. With lessons completed around 11 we started the long process of recovering our hardware.
We had been watching our neighbors work for nearly an hour to get their chain up and cleaned off. Sure, I could just pull it aboard, but from 100 yards away we could see theirs coming up carrying a 3 inch tube of Maine mud slime. That sticky goo we had as kids didn't have anything on this globulous, slimy mess. Remi De had been at it for a 40 minutes, blasting and scrubbing away before we even got started. Ours wasn't quite as bad, but Lisa, Nina and Nika manned the dink. As Nana and I pulled up the chain, Lisa would scrub and splash away the grime as it came out of the water; four chain links at a time. That's about 7 inches, out of 260 feet.
Time wore on. Lisa, bless her soul, huffed and puffed and scrubbed, nearly upside down at times. We figured out it worked better to scrub under water. There were clean spells, but also plenty of mud. Eventually, Bruce emerged. We attached a halyard to the chain that ran on to the Brittney anchor and slowly winched that aboard. It had never even set, our Bruce carried the load of Irene without complaint.
We eventually motored out of Castine and turned the corner towards Belfast, where No Rehearsal was up on the hard and Remi De was already encamped. The wind soon picked up, and we had a wonderful reach right to the Belfast harbor.
Most of Maine's best anchorages are completely jammed with mooring balls, so we anchored a half mile or better from town. Things were going fine until we suddenly turned crossways to the wind and started getting the snot beaten out of us by square waves. The tide was ripping out of the Passagassawakeag River at a clip that was nearly sinking nearby mooring balls. It was a swirl of muddy water loaded with debris, sticks, chunks of firewood and mats of seaweed. We upped anchor, it seems one must usually anchor more than once, and moved downstream, and more importantly, closer to shore, out of the tidal rip zone and got settled again. Peace resumed.
We headed to shore and checked out Belfast, whose historic buildings and quaint downtown belied it's rotten, exposed anchorage. We joined Gone with the Wind and Remi De at the local Thai restaurant for some tucker (Aussie for good food). We had a great laughs as Liam choked down the spicy hot soup, turning beet red, coughing and then going for more because it was so good.
I was dreading the dark, cold and certainly wet dinghy ride back to the boat, nearly a mile out afterwards. But the night had turned graveyard still, the water was flat calm, and other than getting a branch wrapped around our outboard, it was a pleasant motor back under a sweeping ceiling of stars.
Day 351 ~ Camden WelcomeAugust 31st, 2011
I really do want to explore Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, and some other "not to miss" places we hear about. Most are only 20 miles further east, a mere pond jump compared to the 2,900 miles we have sailed to get here.
But, that kind of allure doesn't have much pull with the younger set. It's mostly about where Remi goes, where the kid action is. So, we followed Remi De out of the Belfast with the noon tide. The wind vaporized once we turned south so on came the engine and we were swept with the tide into the rising shadows of the Camden hills. We turned into the harbor and set the hook near Remi De, neighbors once again since our first meeting in Fort de France, Martinique nearly 9 months ago.
We went ashore and explored town. We had heard it was touristy, which generally gets a black mark. Camden, however, is artfully done and welcomed us with little hole-in-the-wall internet coffee houses, majestic library with fast internet and engaging locals who were happy to give directions, seek lost items left in their store and generally make us welcome. I sense that we'll be staying a while.