September 2011 ~ Maine
Day 352 ~ Liberal LibrarySeptember 1st, 2011
I don't necessarily agree that you can judge a community by its library. People with librarian degrees say things like that in the way that artists say you can judge a town by how much it spends on public art projects. Like all lies, they contain just enough truth to be entertain-able. Many secretly think they are the center of the universe, but only the some are bold enough to say so. We take them all with large grains of salt.
Camden, however, has something to brag about. Not sure where they found the money despite the names of sponsors plastering the walls, but this small town has managed to construct the perfect library. It's three stories of inspiration, built into a hill with a sweeping view of the harbor, a natural outdoor amphitheater, a subterranean book vault, walled off kids room, vaulted sun-soaked reading atrium at the top where a pin drop would shatter the silence as the old men flick through their morning papers while reclining in huge leather chairs.
When a geek on the run is in need of some quiet work time, the free internet, power receptacles, chairs, tables and, yes, even kleenex for those under the weather is just what the doctor ordered. Remi De and the Dreamer gang hiked up Camden's nearest hill, Mount Battie, across the rocky face to stone ruins with a commanding view of the harbor and Penobscot Bay while I ground out some electrons.
After lunch, we returned to the library en masse and the hours wound quickly by in piles of books and fun. Once the girls were chasing Remi around the book cases and I raised my eyebrows at the attendant and asked if everything was okay.
"Oh, don't worry", she replied, "We're not a hush, hush kind of place here. That's upstairs."
Day 353 ~ Alaska BoundSeptember 2nd, 2011
The cruising literature – if you can call numerous blogs, cheap magazine articles and hearsay chatter "literature" – suggest that going home from time to time to catch up with family and friends is well worth it.
Since Grandma is having a decade marking birthday party near Thanksgiving, it made sense for the girls to be there. Since October is a slow travel month, we found mileage tickets that make it affordable. We kicked around some dates, but the prevailing wisdom is to spend enough time there so the "cool" factor wears off and daily life shows the girls that what they are missing, at least in part, is vapor.
Nina and I spent several hours in the library, reading and doing ticket stuff while Lisa and the girls plus Remi visited the local Animal Rescue League shelter. Of course, Nana and Nika really just wanted to see the dogs. I knew this would lead to increased lobbying efforts about canines so I wasn't looking forward to the 24 hours afterward. Well, Providence intervened. All the dogs were in quarantine for a respiratory infection and the only option were the kittens. Now kittens are pretty cute on their own right. Eventually, Lisa had to tear the girls away for lunch at Subway.
Once again, we just happen to be in Camden for their "big" weekend of the year. Fireworks and the Windjammer Festival. The festival amounts to a gathering of the classic schooners which ply Maine's waters pursuing the traditional sailing experience that defined the Northeast for a hundred years and then some.
Remi ended up staying for the day and then the evening. Bruce and Toni stopped by to pick her up but ended up staying for the fireworks, which were shot off a barge anchored just a couple of hundred yards away, the perfect angle. Then a chill descended. The outdoor temperature plummeted to somewhere in the 40s. Lisa and I burrowed under every blanket around and were still losing ground. But, at 11pm, the lights flickered on and, an hour later with fresh bean soup cooling in the pressure cooker, it was finally warm enough to get to sleep.
Day 354 ~ Windjammer WorldSeptember 3rd, 2011
Today is Camden's Windjammer Festival, which we hit by pure chance. May as well take advantage of it I guess.
We breakfasted and then headed ashore, exploring the many booths that offered everything from Outward Bound adventure trips to birch bark canoe construction details. Mainers are definitely into tradition. There was a booth for old steam engine restoration, a working mini-black smith shop where we could witness forging in action, two wooden boat building schools complete with demos and students turning out tiller handles and the like. They even fired off an old single stroke Fairbanks diesel engine.
Events of the day included the 10am Pirate Duels, the 11am Book Reading, the 1pm Drawing Class and the 2pm Lobster Crate races where kids ran across the tops of lobster crates for 2 minutes or until gravity, and tippy wood crates, got the best of them. Oh and the 4pm cannon firing lessons.
Nina and I, the history buffs, attended an illustrated presentation on the Shackleton Expedition. The room was packed to the gills, but we were the only ones who weren't contemplating retirement. Funny how most people don't care about the past until they are part of it.
After all the excitement, the girls and Remi ran around the library lawns while we face-timed Grandma to talk about the upcoming visit, everyone's new favorite topic.
Day 355 ~ The Round-upSeptember 4th, 2011
There's a dog talent show in town, so guess who wants to go? Nana and Nika, of course. Toni from Remi De is a big canine fan as well, so she came by to pick up the girls about 10 till. Lisa and I looked around the boat and realized that, slowly, things had gotten away from us. We were low on water, almost out of dinghy gas, long on dirty laundry and our bikes were ashore. To top it off, a nice blow from the South was predicted, which would make Camden's outer harbor untenable for a night's sleep.
While the kids were occupied with first the dog show, then the capture of Camden by the pirates of the Dark Rose (complete with cannon fire), Lisa and I got 2 loads of water into the tanks, packed up our bikes from shore and threw 3 loads of wash in for good measure.
Lisa then went to take a tour of the windjammers while I did some last minute shopping. We rounded up the kids and headed for the boat while the winds were still good. Camden was bouncy and predicted to get bouncier. Remi De pulls their anchor at the same time, but we split ways again for the nth time. Living on a boat, we rarely say good-bye as we'll likely see them before we leave Maine or reconnect again in southern ports.
We had a fantastic sail across Penobscot Bay, threading between Laswell and Saddle islands and then rounding the northern end of North Haven Island. We anchored in Banks Cove, a cozy bight with a pebble beach at its head and a few vacation cabins nestled among the trees. We did some burgers on the grill and enjoyed a rare treat of eating outside once again. The mozzies (Aussie for mosquitoes) descended just as we were finishing up.
The wind puffed a few times, but soon settled down to a perfectly calm night, slowly swinging on our anchor; no wakes, no launches roaring past at 7am, no lobster boats growling past.
Civilization is overrated.
Day 356 ~ Winds at LastSeptember 5th, 2011
The anchorage in Banks Cove proved to be ideal. Wind gusts throughout the night whispered in over the ghostly ridgeline of dense firs, backlit by a half moon. I forget how much I value isolated anchorages. We have this mile of Maine waterfront all to ourselves and it brings back that explorer feeling. However, the sun broke through early and the gentle breeze became more persistent. It was time to stretch the sails.
We upped Mrs. CQR and, after a bit of drama getting the muddy chain scrubbed clean, we were soon underway. As soon as we turned off the wind the boat took to wing and we were flying; the 15 knot gusts had us topping 9.9 knots. It's always a bit of a rush to feel the wind on my face and feel the rush of acceleration under my feet. As we turned into Merchant Row, a passage between numerous granite islets, the sun broke out again. It was perfect sailing. Fast and smooth, the ocean swell blocked by a steadfast row of granite.
The fish pots here are as thick as flies on a Nebraska farm. We try and dodge them, but in many cases, it's just impossible. Mostly, they clunk and scrape down our hull and pop back up after our stern passes. But, a hook up is inevitable. Twice I hear a thump and then, instead of seeing a styrofoam head bobbing up behind, I see a line dragging behind us. Guessing this would happen, I constructed a rather crude weapon for slicing them free, but we never did get to use it. Today, each came free of its' own accord with a turn this way or that of the helm.
We turned up Somes Sound, the "fjord" of New England. It's not quite a fjord by Alaskan, much less Norwegian, standards but it is picturesque. Somes Harbor, at the very northern terminus, is as close to Prince William Sound that we have seen. Old trees grasping granite bulbs bend precariously toward the emerald water, ripped this way and that with tidal flows. Finding no room to anchor, we picked up a vacant mooring. The girls and I explored ashore while Lisa cleaned up the boat and enjoyed some peace of her own.
GPS location Date/Time:09/05/2011 10:35:30 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:09/05/2011 10:54:34 AKDT
Day 357 ~ Boat DaySeptember 6th, 2011
The morning broke cool and drizzly, like so many in Alaska. Lisa requested some baking, but not because food was on her mind. Other than bodies, the oven's our only source of heat when the sun disappears. After thirty minutes of cooking, things were a bit toastier and the crew a bit happier.
The rain let up about 11am and it was time, long overdue, to tackle some boat projects. Windlasses both needed a gear oil change, a storage locker needed a new latch, the starboard engine injector leak needed some clean up and tightening. No dice on the easy fix, so made contact with Downeast Diesel to arrange for a technician. It's difficult to describe how disheartening continual engine troubles are. I can't believe, in hindsight, how we skated all through the Caribbean this past winter. Ever since the USA, barely a week, even days at times, pass between another non-fatal, but messy and complicated, engine headache occurs. My only solace is knowing that this is normal cruising fare.
With the sun out now in full force, we putter around Somes Sound in the dink, meet some boat neighbors and Lisa does a quick walk to the post office and 7/11 type "On the Run" for a gallon of dairy. On the way back we take a detour and the girls "take over" a small granite island. The tide was rising, so their real estate soon dwindled away.
We wound up the evening in our cozy salon, reading and talking about the upcoming Alaska trip. Not sure if it was the slow pace, or the good feeling that comes from checking off some boat repairs, but the day was one of those nice little surprises, relaxing, and fun. Without any particular reason to be special, it was just that.
Day 358 ~ Up a Mast without a FixSeptember 7th, 2011
Not sure why I picked this, of all days, to go up the mast at last. Our anchor light quit working around 2-3 weeks ago and I guess my decision was due to our completely flat calm anchorage. A lobstah boat wake when dangling 64 feet from the water's surface results in a some serious swinging.
Eleven months ago, when the mast was sitting in Grenada Marine on saw horses, I stared at it and wondered, "What should I be doing now, when it's easy?" I did add a few things, tweak others, but in the end came up with no answers. I had that feeling that some of us had in high school when people ask what we want to do with our lives. We know it's a really important decision, but we have no clue what to choose, much less say. So we pick something and go with it.
Well, now I know. I needed mast steps. Just two, right near the top so I can stand there and really work, instead of just dangle around with the top of the mast at my chin. Another point for experience.
We ran into another catamaran in Rockland but this guy's cat was pretty thrashed. Not broken, just road weary. The decals from the factory 16 years ago were just about off. Only cracked flakes persisted and looked like they could be blown off with a straw. We struck up a conversation and he asked how long we had been out; he was going on year 7. When I said, "one year", he smiled and chuckled, "You have soooo many more mistakes to make." It said it in a nice, friendly way, but I was struck by the reality that he was most certainly right. Now our cat is in need of plenty of TLC, buffing, waxing and more.
Well, here's another one. Don't go up your mast when it looks like rain. Which, naturally, it did for the entire hour and a half that I was hanging from the top, gripping the ice cold popsicle with my knees and trying to figure out how many complicated ways there could possibly be to wire a 12 volt system with two wires, one that goes to working navigation lights and the other to the white anchor bulb.
Never did find the splice, so need to attack it from the bottom next, but not today.
Despite the gray, we headed in on the free shuttle bus to check out Bar Harbor. It may be quaint in the sunshine, but in the drizzle and gray, it's a bad reproduction of Juneau's cruise ship docks. Tourista jingle junk galore. I did, however, manage to find a True Value within jogging distance and got a few parts for my third portable shower idea. We'll see how it pans out.
Mainers do like their libraries. Bar Harbor's library is a relic from another era. Designed like a church, but with nooks and crannies for hanging out and reading. It really deserved a few days, but instead received only a couple hours. A welcome respite from the cold rain.
The bus took us back to the landing and we walked home in the dark as the rain faded away.
Day 359 ~ The Day Finally CameSeptember 8th, 2011
Ever since the boatyard days people have asked us where we were sailing to. "We're going to Maine!" was the usual answer.
Well, now we are in Maine and have made it as far as Mount Desert Island which the locals pronounce as "dessert", like a pile of chocolate. But, if we are going to survive New England, we just have to get over semantics or we'll never have anything else to think about. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and many other attractions, not to mention Iceland and Ireland, are seemingly within reach farther to the East. But today, our turning point at last, we turned our backs on all of them and headed West.
Since it's been raining and quite cold for two days, it really wasn't that difficult a choice. Lisa's lips are blue and my jokes about earning TAPs (tropical appreciation points) have worn thin. The poor girl is just cold all the time so it's time to head South. There's no point in living on a boat if we can't move when the climate doesn't suit us.
Hurricane Katia is going to keep us close to land for a few more days. However, after that all bets are off.
The Starboard engine fuel leak was on the menu today, so we motored down to Southwest Harbor, about 6 miles or so to meet up with Mike, of Downeast Diesel. We picked up a mooring ball in the harbor, then moved to one a little farther out that had more breathing room around it. Called Mike, and he said he was headed out for a bite of lunch but would come out right after that.
About 12:30p I picked Mike up and, in two minutes, he had the problem nailed down. No new injector needed, whew. Just a return fuel line leak. Back at the shop, he rummaged around for various parts and soon had a fix in hand. I took it out and had it in place and the engine humming 5 minutes later. An honest guy could have charged a half an hour for his time and I would have been happy. But no. In addition to letting me fill our 50 gallon water bag, taking the waste fuel/water/oil mix that I pumped out of the engine sump and fixing the problem, he charged me a whopping $5 for the hose clamps and that was it. It's refreshing to run into a real human every once and a while.
We loaded the water, raised the dink and blew town. Other than Mike, Southwest Harbor has little attraction for the cruising sailor. We motored south and turned right this time, for the first time, and motored our way into a huge patch of sunny blue sky.
We have added new section called Locations, with information on specific cruising areas, anchorages and recommendations.
- Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine, USA
- Billings Cove, Stinson Neck, Deer Isle, Maine, USA
Day 360 ~ Beach TimeSeptember 9th, 2011
The day broke bluebird clear and sunny. We have a huge protected anchorage all to ourselves and a nice little breeze was picking up. So, we launched Sea Pearl, all pile aboard and the wind promptly vanished. We bobbed around for a while and then eventually sculled our way home.
The girls returned with the paddles and had fun rowing around for the first 30 minutes. However, once the triad melted down, Nika came back in tears. Nina and Nana went for a self-proclaimed "peaceful" voyage which happened to also coincide with the return of the wind. Once we re-stepped the mast, the older two went for a cruise.
It was so warm in the sun, that a swim actually sounded good. The water temperature was 60, but that was just a number. When thigh deep on the swim ladder, I had second thoughts but decided to just go for it. It takes my breath away at first, but after a couple of minutes it's not too bad. Cleaned the port hull and tried to get the analog speed wheel working (tiny wheel that spins in the water to give us our through-water speed). Scraped off several barnacles too, but it still doesn't spin freely.
The girls and I went for an exploratory sail in the afternoon and then found a nice stretch of pebbly beach. The girls were soon making sand cakes, cayenne pepper (from grinding on an old brick). Mixing it with sea foam from the rising tide created a strawberry milkshake effect. It was pretty convincing, but I resisted the urge to taste.
We grilled burgers on the back porch and they were promptly devoured with prejudice.
Day 361 ~ A Brilliant SailSeptember 10th, 2011
The winds are predicted to be from the North today, which would be ideal for sailing West towards America. We were up and going early, but what with loading Sea Pearl and the dozens of other tasks it takes to transform a condo into a boat, we weren't actually underway until about 9am.
We raised the main sail immediately and sailed our way out of Billings Cove, dodging lobster pots where possible, but snagging several despite our weaving path. The trick, it turns out, is to turn hard both ways in succession, which usually frees the the bouy, but if not, turn upwind to reduce the drag and use a boat hook to push it down off the rudder.
We were finally wound our way out through numerous granite islands and into the larger water of Penobscot Bay. The wind slowly died, as predicted. We raised the genny in 2-4 knots of wind and managed to keep moving about 3 knots. I was resigned to stopping at Tenant's Harbor again.
Then, contrary to the forecast, a nice stiff breeze sprang up from the north again, and we were suddenly cooking. With the genny and main, we were doing 9+ knots at times and hanging out in the 8s with about 10 knots of breeze. Now this is sailing. We are going to have to prioritize getting a new genoa.
We were flying along, enjoying the scarcity of lobster bouys when there was a deep bang, like the sound of a huge rubber band snapping back on your wrist. Immediately the genny, well loaded with breeze, fell about halfway down and began flogging briskly. Imagine a sheet the size of small house, say 1,200 square feet, run up a flag pool in a windstrom and you have the general idea.
I figured, of course, the halyard or block had snapped. But no, it was just the cover on of the halyard in the sheet stopper. The cover had jammed up the raceway in the mast, mercifully preventing the genny from taking a long and torrid bath in the sea.
We cleared out the cover and ran the Spectra core around the winch 8 or 9 times and cranked the genny back up. The roar and rustle of a flailing sail diminished and we were back in gear, flying along under a blue bird sky.
The cynical side of me expected the wind to die any minute but it cranked on, hour after hour. We decided to turn into Johns Bay, where we shared a marvelous 5 days with the kids ashore just a month ago. Now, the houses are dark, the boats are all pulled out and it feels like a ghost town. But it's a wonderfully protected little spot, and felt, in a way, like coming home.
Day 362 ~ Boothbay & BeyondSeptember 11th, 2011
New low on thermometer: 48 degrees.
Motored out of peaceful Johns Bay and sailed all the way to Boothbay. The anchorage was quite exposed to the prevailing southerlies that we decided that we needed to find a more protected anchorage, and soon. However, that spot could be far from a town and our cupboards are quite bare; essentials like eggs, milk and flour nonexistent. We piled in the dinghy and, despite our initial impression, found Boothbay to be a nice, quaint little town. Since the grocery was only about a 15-20 minute walk, we opted to all walk there and take a cab back. Three-hundred dollars later (it's been a while since we did some major provisioning), we took the $9 loaded cab back the half mile and then a wet dinghy ride back to the boat. There, we stored the goods, checked email and got ready to make the Southport Swing Bridge at 5pm.
From there, we rounded the north end of Southport Island and into Ebenecook Harbor where we picked up an empty mooring ball. Mainers cram every decent anchorage so full of balls, we have little choice but to squat on a ball and hope it's a good one.
09/11/2011 13:05:59 AKDT
Day 363 ~ Running AgroundSeptember 12th, 2011
There wasn't much on the calendar today. The winds are straight out of the Southwest, the direction we are headed, so the better part of valor is to wait it out as opposed to, say, motoring straight into it for days.
After lessons, there was a fair breeze going so we launched Sea Pearl and took off exploring the nearby granite lined channels. Every other corner hid mysterious coves, overhung with huge spruce trees trailing veils of mossy lichen. We landed on a small granite outcropping, which was promptly named "Treasure Island", for the sparkling granite and quartz chunks laying around for the picking. We nestled into a little mossy pad, the size of a small porch and read some Swallows and Amazons, much to the delight of the younger set.
The tide was beginning to fall, so we worked our way out of the channel and back home for lunch. One thing led to another, and a few hours later we were off again for more exploring. We tried the same channel, with the water now 8 feet lower, and were just rounding the pinch point when Nana, positioned in the bow, yelled "Rocks!"
CRUNCH. We ran our precious Sea Pearl up on a nice barnacle encrusted rock, the size of a huge pumpkin. We were high centered there, slowly pivoting. Nina rolled up her pants and jumped overboard in a flash and shoved us off. The sound, as it proved, was worse than the damage. We ran up on a muddy shoal, and tipped her up to inspect the wound. There were some scratches, but nothing too serious.
As we rounded the far corner of Love Cove, we saw the SeaTow boat tied aside ours, chatting with Lisa. The girls saw two labs aboard, and so our new priority was "getting back to pet the dogs!" We cranked on all sail and tacked our way back to their loving licking loveliness. Nana and Nika went to the dogs on SeaTow, while Lisa and I compared cruising notes on favorite islands we had in common.
The winds tapered off leaving a lovely, warm evening light with a full moon sparkling over a mirrored surface. We drifted off to the croaking sounds of Cormorants discussing their day's catch and tomorrow's prospects.
Day 364 ~ Small towns ruleSeptember 13th, 2011
By day three, it was time to go ashore to see about essentials like eggs and milk and the post office proximity. We dinghied over to Boothbay Regional Boat Yard and discovered that the store and post office were a short walk away. However, as we were walking along the dock, Nina slipped in between 2 dock edges and scraped her leg nicely so the family walk had to be modified a tad.
While Peter remained behind with the injured, Lisa, Nika and Nana walked into the small "town" of Southport made up of a Post Office, K-6 school (32 kids), general store, gift shop, cemetery and fire station. Maria from the gift shop, and former cruiser, was very nice to chat with. She offered us a ride to town if needed. After we hit the general store for a few essentials, we went back to the boat for laundry. Lisa took the girls while Peter worked at boat and we read while we washed. Back at dark for dinner and bed. We're leaving tomorrow for Potts Harbor to visit the Skeltons who we met when first arriving in Maine while they were on holiday.
Day 365 ~ One Year Ago, Today!September 14th, 2011
Today is our one year anniversary from when we drove away from our empty house in Alaska. It may also be the day when Lisa begins to pen most of the blog. There is a lot to do on a boat, all the time, and writing is just one task that we need to squeeze in between wake and sleep. We don't want to skip it altogether since we have a faithful few who do keep track of our crazy adventure in addition to the fact we'll be glad we did a decade or more from now, but I think Peter just needs one less thing on his to do list each day.
Well, we had been watching the wind and debating whether or not to stay in Southport another day or sail to Potts Harbor on Harpswell Point before heading south on Friday. Well, because kids rule, and the Skelton girls had a half day of school, we decided to forego navigating a narrow and shallow channel to get fuel for getting our condo ready for sailing in shorter order. With the right motivation, everyone participates in the process (funny how that works). All went as smoothly as it could and we were on the water by 10am.
The motoring out of Sheepscot Bay in 15 knot winds on the nose, clouds and an incoming tide was no picnic, but we managed to dodge all the random lobster pot bouys that were hidden by the chop until they were right in front of us. Once around the southwest end of the peninsula, we were able to quiet the engines and let the sails do the work.
We arrived around 2:30p, just as the Geo Nova crew arrive. We invite them to share a meal and between us and Nikah who drives down after work, come up with a feast of plenty. We ask all the questions that didn't get asked a month ago in Pemaquid when we only had an hour or so before they were off to the next port. The kids played together like they'd known each other for years; each found a companion with whom to share the evening. They have all girls as well; twin 8 year olds and an 11 year old.
As all good things must come to an end at some point, it still was a school night and they still had a 50 minute drive home so we parted ways. We promised to be at their house by the time they were home from school tomorrow and they graciously left their truck for us to take a trip into Portland during the day. And, even though we had forgotten about our year mile-marker, it was a great way to cap off our 365th day of adventure.
Day 366 ~ A Dark and Stormy NightSeptember 15th, 2011
Rained during the night and was cloudy in the morning. Spent the morning calling and internetting, trying to find a boat yard with a lift wide enough to pull our 24' 7" bulk out of the water. Turns out that catamarans are pretty rare this far north and many yards seemed in a stupor as to who in the world would ever need a lift that wide. "Try calling this or that boat yard..." was their only advice until finally all references were circular; I had already called them and they said to call you kind of thing. It was nearly 1pm before we were in Bill's truck and ready to go.
We stopped in Freeport for a summer shoe and rain jacket search at LL Bean and North Face. Found the shoes picked over but scored on three sale raincoats. We lost a dinghy paddle during one of the recent night's wind blasts and replaced it with a $9 find at Hamilton's, a real boat store that unfortunately keeps itself confined to Maine. They put West Marine to shame.
The Skelton's invited us to dinner and then to stay the night. Their home is a refurbished 1880's farm house with adjoining large room and extra house attached. It was a boarding school in the 1930s. The stairs are steep, the floors sunken, but it's quaint and cozy and the home-cooking was tough to beat.
The long awaited weather front blew in as we finished dessert. The trees were waving around, rain pelted the old rooflines and darkness set in with a vengeance. We hadn't planned for staying off the boat, so I wasn't confident that things were tightened down for the night's predicted 30+ knot winds. So, after the kids were tucked in warm snuggly beds, I crawled reluctantly into Bill's truck and wound my way through dark and rainy Maine back roads to Harpswell Point, an hour's drive.
At nearly 11pm, with rain slanting sideways through muted headline beams and swishing windshield wipers, I pulled into the deserted boat landing. The wind was stiff and blustery, the temperature dropping towards the 40s. Getting out of the warm truck I made my way down the gangway to the dock, out into the cold, into the rain, into the teeth of the wind and towards an impenetrable darkness that lay over the seething bay, flecked with whitecaps that could only be heard.
Years ago, thinking about the reality of boat life, I had theorized a night like this much in the same way that young people think about death. It's an abstract concept that will, vaguely, someday apply to you. Well, the reality of motoring out in the middle of a dark and stormy night towards a boat with a broken anchor light that should be about here, if it's anchor held, was a surreal, sobering experience, with a side of wet chill. I hadn't even had the presence of mind to bring a rain coat. The dinghy had a small headlamp which illuminated a tiny disk just a few feet ahead, burning its few precious photons on whizzing rain drops.
Harpswell Bay is a remote, rocky peninsula with a few summer homes. While a half dozen hazy yard lights served as my navigation aides, I puttered around the anchorage, finding first one lobster boat and then another before finally getting my bearings on where we must be anchored. With the water finally soaking through my last layer of clothing I heard, rather than saw, a boat ahead. Turning the light, a faint glow returned. There she slept, waiting for some attention.
Sea Pearl lay there, unlashed. A couple of hatches were cracked open. Coming was the right move, but in the course of a cold night accompanied by the howls of wind in the rigging gave me plenty of time to compare theory with reality and conclude that death wasn't worth theorizing about, because when it came it would bite a little harder than the idea.
Day 367 ~ Marathon DaySeptember 16th, 2011
Since we decided to hang out at the farm for another few days, it sounded like fun to join the boys in their mad four hour dash through Boston traffic to Newport, where the annual boat show was in full swing. We needed to leave by 6:15am to get there for the 10am show's opening.
Since I spent the night aboard, that meant setting the alarm clock for 4:45 since I had nearly an hour drive to the farm, not to mention dinghy time. But the clock never had a chance. It was a cold night, with occasional blasts of wind. I awoke around 4:15 and checked our GPS plots; we hadn't moved an inch. Laid down again, but in vain. It's cold sleeping alone.
Even with a headstart, by the time I remembered a few overnight items for the girls, and took some measurements for boat parts, I was still late getting to the truck. In addition, I made a few wrong turns in the prelight of dawn, winding through small towns as the iPhone led me on a less than ideal route back to the farm. When I arrived about 6:25, the guys were chilling on the porch in rocking chairs. Really.
We mobilized and got going. We picked up Victor, "a powerboater" Bill informed me in hushed tones laced with apology. "They're human too" I replied. Which is true, biologically speaking.
Victor was great, actually. There was a nice friendly banter all the way through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Boston traffic wasn't too bad on Friday at 9:30am and by 10:30 we were parking in the sunny town of Newport. Felt weird coming back, and in a car no less. When our average speed goes less than 10mph, aside from the occasional downhill roll on a bike, weaving thorough freeway traffic at 75mph takes some getting used to.
Boatshows on a time clock aren't really all that fun. I spend the hours half jogging between various vendors with the vague, but firm, impression that solutions I really need, but for which I just can't remember the problems, are around every corner. I ended up with some miscellaneous line, a new anchor and a used genoa from Newport Nautical for $300. A new sail quoted in at about $3600 so for 1/12th the price, I figured I'd give the used one a chance. We unrolled it in the parking lot and it didn't appear to be too beat up.
The evening wound on as we picked our way back through Boston congestion, millions fleeing from the city on a Friday evening. A warm shower and soft bed back at the farmhouse felt really good, knowing now with certainty that our boat is snug and secure.
Lisa's Day: Meanwhile, back at the farm, the girls and I stayed behind in order to get some sleep. The whole house was awake by the time the boys departed and getting ready for work and school. I went with the crew to Poirier's house where we joined 2 more kids getting ready. The plan was to have our girls join the Skelton girls that afternoon in their classes. Once the plans were laid, we parted ways and headed back to the farm for warmer clothes. Digging in the hand-me-down boxes that Nikah had set aside for us, we managed to find some long pants for each.
Once we were dressed for the cold Maine weather, we headed off to Wallingford's orchard to pick apples. There were rows and rows of trees to choose from and one bag to fill. There were supposed to be markers on the rows so we knew what we were picking, but after 5 minutes of searching we had to guess which was the honey crisp row. After 10 minutes, our bag was overflowing with close to 20 lbs of goodness. We smelled our way to the donut counter, and walked away with their signature apple cider, pumpkin and Maine blueberry delights.
On the way back we had some time and wandered through Walmart until it was time to 'go to school'. Mrs. Poirier, who made prior arrangements with teachers, escorted the girls to their classrooms where they were the star attractions for the last hour and a half. While waiting, I was going to go check out the town nearby, but ended up just sitting quietly in the sun-drenched cab thawing out.
Once school was out, we all piled in and returned to the Poirier's house for snacks, play and then pizza for dinner later on. Exhausted, we all trooped back to the farm and the girls were asleep by the time their little heads hit the pillows. Ahhh, the power of kid play.
Day 368 ~ A Helping HandSeptember 17th, 2011
While there are some things about living on a boat that you can theorize about and some you can't possibly predict. Chopping and stacking wood on a farm would be one of the latter. Bill and Nikah have been so generous that when they tackled some projects it just felt right to pitch in. Firewood was split and stacked, floors swept and barn animals fed.
Later in the day, Bill, Lisa, the Ninas and I headed down to Harpswell while the girls stayed behind with Nikah in order to ride the horses. We had mounds of clean laundry, extra blankets and some warmer clothes. The dinghy barely fit the one driving it. While Lisa magically found homes for all the newly acquired items and the Ninas played some board games together, I helped Bill figure out his new radar installation and ended up halfway up his mast taking measurements.
Nikah and the rest of the kids arrived around dinner time. We plan on pulling up anchor in the morning, so everyone came over to say goodbye. There were a few tearful eyes. As for me, the thought of heading back out to sea did nearly bring a tear to my eye.
Day 369 ~ To Sea AgainSeptember 18th, 2011
After one last goodbye visit from the Skeltons, we prepare the last of the items before sailing. There was no rush as the wind wasn't to come until mid-morning so we ate a leisurely breakfast before pulling anchor around 10am. Maine's first and last introduction was a maze of lobster pot bouys. Of all the wonderful people we met and places to see, this is the one feature of Maine we are happy to leave behind. After motoring for an hour, the last lobster pot dwindled into the distance, gone at last and happily forgotten.
We slowly motored past 3 huge cargo ships anchored off Portland, awaiting entrance as the predicted wind started to fill in. We got the main and genoa up and finally, after a tiresome 2 hours, were under the power of the silent sails. Not that we were flying by any stretch; 4 knots was about all we could do, but we'll take that anytime over engine drone.
After a while, I happened to look up and noticed that only two of the anchored ships were still facing into the wind. The one that wasn't, a huge tanker laden to the waterline, was now pointed towards us, and on a direct course.
"Is that boat underway?" I asked Nina. It was hard to tell. We flipped on the AIS which took a minute to come online. By the time it told us that we were on a collision course, its ever increasing hulk was becoming obvious just looking out the window. The AIS pinned our closest point of approach at 300 feet. However, when the vessel in question is 800 feet long, that's an academic miss. Their antenna is on the back of the boat, so at least we wouldn't get hit by their propeller. How comforting.
With light winds and full sail on, altering course is not an easy option. We can't turn upwind and turning down only slows us down. I had just concluded that the best option was to fire an engine and accelerate out of its path when our radio crackled to life:
"Sailing catamaran heading south off Pott's Harbor this is the laden oil tanker Energy Sprinter do you copy?" an authoritative female voice echoed. She emphasized "laden" which is boat terms means "If you want to play chicken, I'm game."
I replied that we had them on our AIS and were in the process of getting an engine started with the intention of crossing their path sooner rather than later. There was a pause.
"If you could expedite that procedure it would be much appreciated," was the steely reply.
I found myself wondering if engines were like copy machines. Sensing a dire need, they die at the most critical moment. I reached for the starboard key, trying not to wince too noticeably. Pow, she fired right off and 10 seconds later our speed was climbing from 4 to 5 then 6 knots. Doesn't seem like much, but 30 seconds later the AIS had us missing them by a 1,000 yards.
Chicken! Laden or otherwise, she had turned and we missed by a mile, which is the same as a mile miss, I guess. We could relax again.
For once the GRIB files were dead on. Hour by hour the wind filled and our speed increased with it. By 4pm we were holding around 8 knots, by 6pm we were touching 9. By sunset I decided that pulling in the genny was the better part of valor, the specter of doing so in the dark checking my desire for speed. Everything looks faster at night anyway. With cohesive teamwork which has taken months to develop, we had the troublesome genny rolled up and on the tramp in a few short minutes. Then we settled in for our first night at sea in over a month. The moon rose about midnight, and the waves turned for inky shadows to cream frosted crests in a silken sheet dancing to the tune of a whistling wind.
I took the first watch and Lisa awoke about 2am, quickly falling into the sounds of a rushing, gurgling darkness.
09/18/2011 22:11:16 AKDT
Day 370 ~ Newport, AgainSeptember 19th, 2011
Lisa took the helm about 2am and kept watch through an uneventful four hour sail. We aimed for Plymouth holding steady between 7 and 8 knots. At some point, we realized that the wind may hold for longer than forecasted so, with the coming no-wind predictions, we opted to alter course for Newport instead. We arrived at the Cape Cod Canal entrance bouys at 6am, just in time for the West-bound tide. We motored through with our head sail as the sun rose, the engine just above idle and the tide bringing us to 8 knots of speed. The water was glass-like and morning colors turning old steel riveted bridges into bathing beauties.
After we turned West out of Buzzard's Bay, the winds slowly dwindled to nothing and we ended up motoring the last hour and a half into Newport. The anchorage was a little tight and we managed to find a more comfortable distance from neighboring boats on the third try.
Remi De, who had been here for several days, came over takes girls to park for a run. Toni and Remi leave tomorrow for Australia, so it was nice to be able to say one last goodbye to them. Once they left to finish packing and get an early night, Lisa tried in vain to make Peter's favorite dinner of red pepper pasta with a couple ingredients missing. It also didn't help that the pasta clumped together and was undercooked. Too tired from lack of sleep, we wolfed it down anyway and snuggled into a full night of sleep, rocking gently in a protected harbor.
Day 371 ~ The Fijians from LondonSeptember 20th, 2011
The girls completed their lessons with a side of cooperative cleaning while Peter worked (or tried to). Snotty day; rainy and overcast. We made plans with Nakesa, a kid boat from England, to go ashore and burn off some energy. They have a 10 year old girl and 12 year old boy. Nice family. They have been out two years already and have two to go. They'll winter in the Caribbean and then head to Fiji in March but, for the current time, will roughly be following our same route south.
We thought the library would be a good rainy day repose, but we soon realized that the kids, having just met each other, were still excited at the prospect of new friends. And it was no longer raining. We opted for a nearby park where the kids could climb trees and talk using their outside voices.
An innocent man who just wanted to walk his two Basenjis through the park was besieged with kids and questions. Nana has been lobbying for a dog with a vengeance of late, and now takes every opportunity to meet every dog in her path or out. Her research includes asking the owner if the dog is friendly, likes to cuddle, likes to fetch, sheds and so on. The questions are numerous and generally the people aren't in too much of a hurry. In this case, however, I look over and the kids have both dogs by their leashes while the owner stands watching. After a bit, he had to ask for his dogs back so he could continue on his way.
Peter, who remained behind on the boat, worked in peace until the rest of the crew returned at dusk. We shared a meal and put everyone to bed, the kids calmly crashing thanks to kid to kid exertions.
Day 372 ~ More dogs, more questions, more cookiesSeptember 21st, 2011
The day broke sunny, calm and actually warm. As the thermometer climbed, I massaged some of our hand picked Maine apples into delicious pancakes.
I used to comb my hair everyday. At some point, about 4 months ago, I realized that prim and proper was pointless. The wind was always blowing and, at the end of the day, it always looks the same, roughly like I had put all 10 fingers into a socket and jumped up and down in a saltwater bath tub. I forget, after a while, how crazy I look, but walking around town yesterday had given me the impression that things were a little out of hand. Lisa is a fantastic hair cutter, so out came the snips and off came the locks. It feels like losing several pounds.
Once fed and trimmed, Peter headed off to the library to get some work accomplished. The girls worked on lessons, followed by a chapter in our latest book. A little cookie baking to top things off and we're in the dinghy for our 2:30p rendezvous with Nakesa. Moms and kids walk over to the downtown park where the kids have a repeat four hour performance from the day before, only with a different set of dogs and owners, patient as a rule. Today's research item was two papillons. When the moms looked over, the owner was sitting on the grass while the kids peppered her with questions and played fetch with her dogs.
Time flies when you're having fun and by 6pm, we quickly realized that this particular park turns into a different animal at night. Gone were the families, nappers, book readers and dog owners; replaced was a group of young ruffians and a couple of street bums with shifty eyes. The mom instincts kicked in, and everyone baled for the dinghies. Nakesa was off to an engagement with friends while we returned to the boat. Since Bruce is leaving first thing in the morning, the girls make a quick cookie run to supply him with some homemade treats since he'll be a practicing bachelor for a few weeks.
Day 373 ~ Fog and YachtsSeptember 22nd, 2011
Peter went to the library and Lisa and the girls remained behind to do lessons and a little cleanup before hooking up with Nakesa again for the afternoon. They had to make a run to the boat yard to check on some things and were back by 3:30p. Peter came for the bike lock key so he could do his boat shopping while we headed to Fort Adams to find the Museum of Yachting that Graham was keen on checking out.
When inside, the kids each called "their own" boats and had a good time looking in every room. Evidently, the noise level rose too high as the only other person in the museum, the curator, asked the kids to quiet down after a time. They resumed their craziness out of doors where there was a large grassy hill to conquer, um, climb.
The museum was interesting even to us non-'really into boat' types. Reading about the sailing vessel Coromet who, in 1887, won the transatlantic race against Dauntless and the $10,000 purse. Even more fascinating was to see the wallpaper and stained glass doors that adorned her interior. The race crew, according to the placards, played many games of chess, sang, read and played the onboard piano during their 14 day, 19 hour, 3 minute, and 14 second voyage. I'm not sure too many racing yachts of today have stained glass, much less a piano!
I returned with all kids in tow to check out the boat and the rope swing. While the kids were expending energy on deck, I met a new French boat neighbor looking for customs. Their English was good, but it's always easier to navigate in one's own country. I called the Harbormaster who put us on the customs path. Since they didn't have a phone, I offered to call back an hour later, at 7pm so they went to the Fort park to expend some of their kids' 3 year and 1 year old energy while they waited.
At 7pm he returned, but I only got an answering machine saying to call back in 15 minutes if they don't call first. At 7:15p I call and get an officer in Maine who takes down their passport information and sends that off to customs in Rhode Island who should call in "15-20 minutes". At 8:40p, Rhode Island calls and asks when they arrived so I politely mentioned their 6pm arrival when the phone tag began. Following an, "Oh" and short pause, she said that another officer who lives in Newport will be calling in the morning as it's too late to come to the boat tonight. We're no further to allowing them to take down their quarantine flag, but we did enjoy getting to visit. I even attempted a little French for good measure; it's not often that I have the chance to practice.
By the time he left for the night, Round 2 of Red Pepper Pasta was ready. This time it was much tastier tho a little too salty. Funny how it always came out the same at home, but on the boat we can't seem to get there. More practice I guess.
Day 374 ~ Social Engagements AboundSeptember 23rd, 2011
Peter and Nina went to the library first thing while I remained behind to coordinate final customs steps for Maloya, after which we headed to join them as well. Just as we entered the building, it started to rain pretty hard. Good timing. Earlier, Maloya had invited us to lunch, but we had to call them on the VHF to take a rain check. Turned out that Hervé was still chasing down customs requirements and cruising permits in town anyway.
When I returned to the kids, I found them talking to a lady and her 3 year old daughter, regaling them with our many adventures at sea. We struck up a conversation and I found out that she was originally from Prague, her husband, an American, worked at a boat building company in town and they had lived here for about 3 years. They were soon to leave for Europe to visit family in Czechoslovakia and then find work with a boat builder in Spain.
By the time we were done chatting and out the door, we had an invitation to their home for pizza and a dry spot on land for the kids to play on this foggy rainy day. They also have a 6 year old daughter and a pool was mentioned in there somewhere.
Returning to the boat, we find that Nakesa was back from a failed attempt at sailing to Martha's Vineyard; the rain was heavier and fog thicker just beyond this harbor's entrance. The girls were invited for a quick round of Monopoly whereby they decided to auction off any unwanted properties. Graham said, when it was over, that that was the loudest auction he'd ever experienced.
By the end of the game, it was time to meet the local family at the dock. We went to their house where they had the ingredients for each to make their own pizza. The highlight, however, was the pool where they have a membership through the local Marriott. Three hours later, the children with the raisin hands and toes were escorted through the showers and out the door. Of course, Emily didn't forget to ask a hotel employee if they could have a cookie before leaving. Normally, these are set out at the reception desk for guests, and she was gracious enough to go in search of the goodies that were now missing, and very much noticed by a 6 year old veteran. Cookies in hand and drooping eyes, we were returned to the dinghy dock where we caught a break in the clouds to motor back dry.
Eyes were closed before their heads hit the pillows. Ahhh, the power of kid play.
Day 375 ~ Pirates Give ChaseSeptember 24th, 2011
We awoke to thick fog and fine drizzle. The humidity is so high and so persistant and the sun has been so scarce that everything inside and outside the boat is soaked or nearly so. The sheets feel wet to the touch, for example, and there is a slight layer of wet on every surface. We did lessons and pancakes and were just wondering what to do on a rainy day when the sun started to peek through. Nakesa was supposed to head to Martha's Vineyard again, but the fog was just too thick to make it worthwhile.
Guess what happened next? Down came Sea Pearl and off sailed Nina and Nana to invite them for some sail fun. By the time they were back and ready, Nika had decided that finishing math really did make sense after all. They had a quick bite and were off. With 5 kids aboard, Sea Pearl was weaving her way among the boats when a classic Maine style gaff rigged cat boat skated by. Imagine our surprise to find Peter and Petra from last night's fun aboard, along with their two daughters. Emily was desperately looking around for her playmates.
"They're off sailing!" we shouted. So Peter guided the craft westward in search of Sea Pearl. Once Nina and the gang realized they were being chased, and who was doing the chasing, they were dubbed as pirates and the race was on. They ended up kinapping one pirate, Emily, who immediately jumped ship into Sea Pearl.
Hours passed. Peter and Petra came back and hung out aboard for a while. Hervé and family came by and were also invited on for a chat. At one point we had four boats tied up on our transom. Eventually, the kids returned their captive and played aboard, but soon decided that a sailing picnic was in order. The now six-some loaded up Sea Pearl with apples, chips, salsa and other goodies and set sail for the park where all were promptly devoured. Savages. We called them back about 6pm and everyone shuffled off to their respective boats and homes.
Day 376 ~ Kids GaloreSeptember 25th, 2011
As our boat was just starting to come to life, the phone rang and a message was left, "hey there, we're on your doorstep."
The Skeltons from Maine (Nikah and the 3 girls) had at long-last arrived and were waiting at the dinghy dock. A quick scramble and dinghy down, we were off to fetch today's playmates. Nikah wanted to go back spend some time with her mom who lives nearby. She generously offered to do our laundry while she hung out there. After being quite sure she was serious, I packed 3 bags brimming with damp smelly boat clothes. After returning her to her car, the six girls loaded into Sea Pearl and were off to meet a new kid boat who anchored nearby last night. An 8 year old named Hoku (Hawaiian) was on board.
Sea Pearl, with her now seven shipmates, rode low in the water, but stayed afloat even under sail. They tacked back and forth through the bay and had a ball. Once back at the mother ship, they went swimming and then rope swinging until the noise level got too much. It was then time to move to land and check out the Cluny School Country Fair that Pete and Petra told us about.
A mile walk through old houses and mansions, green trees and winding, hilly terrain, we knew we were close by the 1/4 mile lineup of parked cars. Entering the fair, we were quick to realize that this was the school's annual fundraiser. The games were geared more for the under-6 crowd and the vendor tent was full of pyramid-type businesses. The girls opted for the playground equipment or a rest on the lawn. First stopping for some pizza and burgers, we then headed back to the boat where we met Hoku's parents coming to meet up with us.
Back home we just bought whatever we needed whenever we wanted. However, now every grocery run is tempered by the reality that whatever we buy must be carried back. Canned goods, gallons of milk and produce like watermelon suddenly take on a whole new light being anything but.
Nikah met me at Stop & Shop where I had a cart so heavy it was difficult to push through the aisles. We loaded up all the provisions, including my bike, into her Honda minivan which I learned, had hauled 50 chickens, a goat and three sheep on various occasions. Not sure I smell better than any of those, but am pretty sure I can fit in a space smaller than 50 chickens.
After sad goodbyes, a delayed Swedish pancake dinner was served, and promptly wolfed down by the savages, and sleep came quickly to the happily weary.
Day 377 ~ Goodbye NewportSeptember 26th, 2011
Newport's not a bad place, it's just not our kind of place. The Gucci-Banana Republic set with a side of sailing accounts for much of the local boating culture. There are certainly hard core sailors and cruisers about, but they are the minority and basic things like water and trash are close and convenient if you "belong" to the club. If not, better get used to hoofing it. But what, you don't have a Lexus, or even a car? Dumb stares. Getting groceries is a two hour affair. Pete (of Pete and Petra) who works on many of the mega yachts custom fabricating carbon fiber parts is looking to move on, "This town is so obsessed with itself." was one of several critiques.
With the winds not predicted to fill in until later in the day, we took things slow and easy, at least as leaving days go. We emptied out the fresh water tanks, cleaned them and gave the deck a much needed scrub in the process. Then we upped our Spade anchor, which worked great for the first week of its submerged life. It came up with a huge fist-full of mud and clams. "Lunch!" exclaimed Nana, who never met a mud pile that didn't need to be worked vigorously with bare hands.
We fueled and watered at Bannister's Wharf. This is only our fourth fill up in a year, but we are getting better at it. Nary a drop was spilled until... Well, until Lisa reminded me that I had forgotten to put bio treatment in the tanks (chemical that keeps mold and water at bay). I dug some out, treated one tank, then went to do the second. The little paper seal that came on the top of the one quart jug was stuck in the top of the lid. As I opened it the second time, the little quarter-sized paper fluttered down like a butterfly straight into the 1 1/4 inch fuel opening. A one in one hundred chance. And, to top it off, it turned into the immediate 90 and sailed out of sight. I was shocked, incredulous. Was it possible? Murphy was clearly at work.
I bent a fly swatter handle, the closest accessory to a wire clothes hanger aboard, into a nice little hook device, with the proper curvature to turn the 90. I fished and scraped with no luck. The heavy, rippled fuel line hose started pretty quickly, and prevented all attempts at snagging the paper cap.
A vacuum! That's just what a I needed. With longest attachment stuck down the hole it still refused to budge. But what a lucky day, the nozzle of the vacuum seated perfectly in the fill hole. Without really thinking through the implications, I set it in for just a second or two.
The vacuum bogged down and in a flash I realized doom was impending. I jerked the nozzle out just as a geyser of bright red tinted diesel erupted up the fill line. For a split second, I glimpsed the paper in the suspended stream and then it was gone, back in the tank, or mostly. A half cup sprayed over the transom and was quickly mopped up. A little had made it all the way into the vacuum, enough to give Lisa a sickening feeling.
The fuel dock wanted us gone, so we cast off our lines and motored out of the harbor. An hour or so later, the vacuum was scrubbed clean and I was able to view the incident with some detachment. The veteran in Rockland was right, so many more mistakes yet to make. What a comforting thought.
We motored out of the Newport channel in a flat calm. Even with the grinding engines, it felt great to be leaving civilization behind again. My intention was to motor to Judith point, just around the entrance to Newport and anchor there, awaiting better winds predicted tomorrow.
But the kids and families we met in the first week in Maine are waiting for us in Larchmont, New York, and have Thursday and Friday off of school. It's 120 miles away, so Lisa felt we should keep moving. As usual, her inspirations were spot on. A nice southerly breeze filled in shortly after rounding the point and we enjoyed a nice sail for several hours, pealing off 25 more miles toward the Big Apple.
As we approached the Watch Hill Passage and the only close navigation in the entire day, a dense fog blew in, seemingly from nowhere. Visibility dropped to just a few hundred yards. We reduced sail and fired up an engine for maneuverability. We heard a huge fog horn, deep and low. AIS showed nothing. Out of the swirling mist emerged a huge Coast Guard buoy tender, the lawmen themselves, apparently exempt from the rule that requires having an AIS onboard. Thanks guys.
We sailed out of the fog again just a half hour later, and my blood pressure slowly settled back to normal. We set the Spade again in East Harbor just as sun was setting over the far side of Long Island Sound. It was a peaceful, pleasant place surrounded by rocky beaches and steep treed hills.
Day 378 ~ Promoted to PowerboaterSeptember 27th, 2011
It was a marvelously peaceful non-Newport night. No launches roaring by, no ferry wakes, no cannon fire. Did we fail to mention that Newportites are obsessed with firing cannons at sundown and often at sunrise, seven days a week?
I looked out the portlight in our room and rubbed my eyes again just to be sure. The fog was so thick you could hardly see from one end of the boat to the other. So much for my up and at 'em plans for the day. Wind is supposed to fill in nicely today from the East but, for now, there wasn't a breath.
Nothing to do I guess but make breakkie. We did that, along with lessons and literature, until nearly 11am. The fog had thinned considerably, though still pretty dense, visibility about 1/2 mile. A half mile in a sailboat is a fair amount of time to react, so we upped Mrs. Spade and found her, again, with a huge load of sticky mud. Good for holding, bad for neat freaks. Scrub the chain as I might, some of the mire always ends up on shorts, on shirts and occasionally on cheeks. It's life.
We motored out cautiously and set our course for Joshua Bay, about 35 miles up the bay. With tide helping us, we made good time the first few hours, However, the wind never did arrive so, by 3pm, we were bucking an outgoing flow of over two knots. There's nothing quite so discouraging as grinding away hydrocarbons with the noise, the smell and the vibration of a tractor to make a whopping 2.6 knots of speed over ground. I contemplated anchoring right there in the middle of the sound to wait out the tidal rush, but opted to grind on. Eventually the tide slackened and we picked up speed again. The wind never did materialize, not one breath. The entire day was a dismal grind within an ever present gray bubble. Even though land is less than mile to the north and less than 3 miles to the south, all we ever saw was gray water and gray sky with the faintest ripple of wave.
The birds in the sky never lie, thankfully, and as the theoretical sun set we rounded the headland and Joshua Cove emerged from the mist right where it should have been. We set Mrs. Spade again and turned in for the night, jittery and haggard. The way one feels after getting chewed out by a boss. This was the first day in a year where the sailor was completely beaten; we motored nearly 8 hours, nonstop. If kids weren't waiting just ahead, I would have tucked in somewhere and made good progress on the reading list. But this isn't really about sailing, it's about keeping the family happy and letting me sail when the conditions arise.
Little did I know, they soon would.
Day 379 ~ Launched to LarchmontSeptember 28th, 2011
Between the tidal swirls and swell hooking in around the point of the bay, it was a less than perfect night. Not too rough, but certainly not relaxing. Lisa was up early and woke me well before 7am. Acutely aware of the tidal situation now, we needed to leave early to get the full benefit of the moon's gravitational preferences. We got Spadie back aboard and turned up the wind to raise the main. As we fell off the wind, we cleared the headland and it felt like being in a space shuttle launch, in really slow motion. Out snapped the head sail and we were flying. Once in deeper water the swell kicked up and we started really moving.
What a way to greet the day! We were surfing at 7:15 as the sun broke through a hole in the clouds which added a glittery glow to our rooster tail wake. The GPS clocked out at 13.7 knots. When your entire home and family, all eleven tons and 5 bodies, are broiling along at that kind of clip, you forget about the duldrums of the day before pretty quickly.
We watched commercial traffic on the AIS recede behind us. Poor suckers were motoring along at a pathetic 9.5 knots. The auto pilot was working hard; first hard port then to starboard, compensating for occasional larger waves. We probably didn't see any over 8 feet, but a many broke underneath us kicking us down their faces to a tremendous rushing sound punctuated with occasional crashes on the gunwales.
The winds finally tapered off a few hours later. We were down to 2 knots when we were passed by a 50+ monohull that miraculously overcame our initial lead and passed us under sail. That is, sail with a touch of diesel exhaust. Sure glad I didn't dig out the gennie to try and beat him.
We had lunch making 2 knots of speed over ground, but by the time we were cleaning the kitchen, the winds were back and we cooked right into Larchmont Harbor and anchored by the sea wall about 2:30. Nothing too special here, exposed, lumpy with nasty rocks around, but friends ashore nearby. The girls anxiously waited while we got ready to go. Finally, just as we were ready to leave, they called and offered us a nearby mooring, much closer to the dock. We upped anchor and motored in, Lisa deftly executed a crosswind 90-degree maneuver to plant me right over the ball.
We had a great time seeing the Linkas family again and enjoyed dinner at the Larchmont Yacht Club where the big boys from New York used to hang out in their spare time. It's complete with a dress code, men-only bar and huge ladies lounge. The old wood paneling, impeccable scale models of America's cup victors and old burgies were enough to warm any culturally cynical sailor's heart.
Once we were ready to call it a night, the Linkas family invited for us to stay at their house and it was abundantly clear that we'd have a mutiny if we didn't take them up on their generous offer. Because of the high winds, I opted to stay with the boat while the rest enjoyed the warm showers and non-rocking beds.
- Larchmont Harbor, Larchmont, New York, USA
- Mooring Ball, Larchmont Yacht Club, Larchmont, New York, USA
Day 380 ~ Kid Warehouse MadnessSeptember 29th, 2011
I used the quiet morning to catch up on some work while the kids played and Lisa visited.
Meanwhile back at the house, the kid alarm went off around 5am. The youngest ones, Nana, Nika and Louisa, took our previous night's orders of no orchestras until everyone was awake to mean that everyone must be awakened so they could practice for their band. Up and down the stairs they padded loudly, peeking in rooms several times to see if the inhabitant was awake yet. A real joy, considering we were all up until after midnight watching Boston and New York baseball teams get beat by one run well into extra innings.
At any rate, by 9am, it was time to get some fresh air. Danielle and I went out to take Sugar, their German Shepherd, for a walk. The kids played and played and played. Nina and Sophia took a 10 minute walk into town after which we drove them and the rest of the troops to the park and beach to expend some more energy. We grab some pizza for lunch, pick up Peter and head out again by 3:30. Louisa has a clay class that just happens to be next to Costco and Home Depot. Convenient.
Normally, Costcos all look the same. However, this is the first Costco that has an escalator of sorts. With real estate prices so high and space so limited, the only option was to go up rather than out. A large escalator ramp in the back facilitates the large carts up to the food and down to the rest of the store. Taking advantage of a roomy car, we loaded up as if we wouldn't see civilization for a long time.
Once back at the Linkas home, it was time to eat and make an early night. This time, the orchestra rules were stated a more clearly for the lawyerly types in the household. No music until 9am, period.
Day 381 (cont) ~ The worried wifeSeptember 30th, 2011
Meanwhile, back at the house...
Well, rules weren't necessary, as it turned out. There was complete silence in the house until around 8:30am. Lack of sleep, runs through the park, time in Costco takes its toll, even on the young. For us who actually like to sleep, it was a wonderful silence.
Each arose of his and her own accord, ate breakfast and readied to head into New York City. We were getting close to being ready and Peter was due to arrive from the boat.
I was growing concerned after Peter did not respond to texts and phone calls, each one sounding a bit more desperate. The first texts started about 15 minutes before our arranged meeting time and listed forgotten items to retrieve from the boat. No response. With each unanswered ping, explanation scenarios played out in my mind. The kids kept asking where Papa was; I tried not to sound worried. He returned to the boat the previous night well after dark and I didn't think of asking him to text when he arrived.
An hour later, just as Danielle and I decided to take a run to the yacht club to search, he shows up bearing a phone in a bag of rice (to dry it out). My first words, "Gee, I'm glad you're not dead" were an attempt at irritation with a heavy dose of increased worry. His response, "it was close" gave an indication that there was a sad tale involved and my concern was justified.
So, after a fresh-water shower, we all pile into one vehicle and head into New York City. Fridays are busy in the city and we didn't find street parking until after we put the car in a garage. Figures.
Our girls have listened many times to a story called The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The story is about two kids who run away from home in order to solve a mystery about a particular sculpture that was just placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The spend several days living unnoticed in the museum, sleeping in exhibit beds and bathing in fountains. So, off we went to give the girls a first-hand view of the story's setting.
The plan was to walk through Central Park to the museum, but the park was closed at Noon to all traffic. The Black Eyed Peas were on at 7pm and they didn't want anyone but concert crew to enter that end of the park. We managed to find a road open with sidewalk, so managed to get across after all. By this time, we only had time to hit some highlights so chose the Egypt section, music hall and, because the girls had studied some 18th & 19th century European artists, the painter's hall.
Sophia plays the cello in her 7th grade orchestra. Her teacher was giving a recital concert at Steinway Hall (showroom since 1865 for the famed pianos). We had arranged to meet Chris at a Thai restaurant before the concert and had enough time to walk through Central Park to get there. Danielle, who grew up nearby and spent several post-college days living in the city, gave us a personalized tour as she recounted her many memories along the way, including smashed cars, stolen bicycles and other thrills of the Big Apple in the 1980s.
A trip to New York isn't complete without a trip to the top of some tall building. Chris just happens to work on the 46th floor of one such skyscraper so we got a tour of that including an expansive view of the North and West end of the city, including the large video screen above the Black Eyed Peas concert.
By the time we walked through Times Square, the kids wearing down nicely. We couldn't find ice cream to top off the evening before it started raining so we decided to take a rain check, and then sent Chris by cab to bring the car around since we were now blocks away.
The bedtime ritual went much quicker than the previous evening. Funny how that works.
Day 381 ~ Taking a BathSeptember 30th, 2011
I awoke to a calm morning after a drizzly, blustery night on the boat. With a car available, there were so many things that could and should be done. As a rule, we use a 10lb can of propane per month, and our last top up was in Boston. We have one empty and one partial. They are nasty things to lug around, so into the dink they went. When I got to Chris's car, I was surprised at the huge pile of Costco stuff crammed in the back. Oh yeah, I should probably take care of that too.
The iPhone guided me through the winding streets of New Rochelle, to a little hole-in-the-wall tree service with a propane filling place. After waiting around for a while, an older Columbian appeared and promptly filled both bottles.
Back at the yacht club, I lugged my cans down the dink. Club membership prices are so high they refuse to quote them over the phone or put them in print. The only way to find out is to be invited by an existing member, and then meet with the Membership director in private together. Scary.
I had combed my hair, shaved, and put on my nicest shorts, the only ones not streaked with dirty oil, rust and mud stains. Even so, it was clear I didn't really belong. Older ladies sipping tea on the covered veranda gave me cold, questioning glances, the uniformed yuppie staff decked out in Sperry shoes and Gucci glasses were professionally polite but cool. I didn't want to get Chris and Danielle in trouble, so decided I should make things as quick and low profile as possible.
I slide the cans in to the dink, asked politely if I may borrow one of the dock carts and loaded it as full as possible with Costco stores: flats of canned black beans, rafts of peanut butter and the like. The weight was amazing. Even though the cart was large enough for all three girls to ride in, it was clear two "low profile" loads would be needed. Yikes.
I wheeled briskly and quietly down the dock and then realized that the cart wouldn't fit across the gangway to the dinghy dock. I puttered around and tied it up really short so that it wouldn't drift into the launch area. Ours was the only real dinghy there. Its Chesapeake scum line, de-fancified outboard with chipped spray paint and lifesaver-as-a-fender attached looked sadly out of place among the fleet of sparkling mini race boats neatly lined on the dry dock.
Back for trip two, this time it all fit, and I made my way respectfully but quickly past the tea sippers and uniformed staff hut, hoping to attract zero attention.
I have everything in the dink now except the last flat, the heavy one that went into the cart first. We've been advised repeatedly not to step aboard while carrying anything, but day to day we just do it anyway; it feels natural. As I stepped on the bow with 40lbs of cans and cartons in a huge cardboard flat the shortness of the painter cut my momentum short with a jerk and sent me headfirst, black beans and all.
For one fraction of a desperate second I clawed at the dinghy cover with every available finger and toe, but then was over and under. One of my flip-flops tangled on a dinghy handle making sure it was a completely head-first entry.
I distinctly remember seeing bubbles and blue sky disappearing under a closing cone of green-gray water. It was cold and colder. There must have been quite a splash, and no small amount of thrashing, as I righted myself and came up for air. I grabbed the dink, got my bearings and looked right where the barge load of stores had gone under.
Saltwater is pretty heavy. Heavier, it proves, than peanut butter and even a Costco sized roll of garbage bags. Everywhere I looked there were floating selections, a six pack of dental floss, 4 jars of peanut butter, 4lbs of grapes and more, much more. In a combination of wind and current they were dispersing quickly at various stages of water line, some just below the surface, others riding high.
The only feasible thing to do was get them back in the dinghy as quickly as possible. I started heaving things aboard, leaving salty trajectory trails of water as they arced and crashed onto the floor already loaded with stuff. Always pads took to wing, skippy peanut butter cannonaded. From the tea sippers perspective, I was invisible, obscured by the dinghy itself. All they could see from their veranda angle were things being ejected out of the water and landing every which way in a soggy pile aboard this ragamuffin tub. Some landed gracefully, others with a crash or thud. From down below, the black bean six pack sounded like thunder.
After collecting all the wayward merchandise, I hiked myself up in the dink, thankful for all the practice in the tropics which told me exactly where and how to do it most gracefully, all the time remembering the "low profile" watchword. Even so, it's amazing how heavy I was with a full set of wet clothes, not to mention their contents: leatherman, knife and oh, yeah....
As I slid around onto the fiberglas seat, now soaked with salt water, and felt the first blast of the brisk fall wind I felt a familiar bulge in my pocket that had, until that moment, been forgotten.