August 2012 ~ Maine
Day 687 ~ Unexpected TestAugust 1st, 2012
The morning broke nearly flat calm and peaceful. Our anchorage here near the Lewes Canal (Roosevelt Inlet) is exposed and potentially ugly, but you'd never guess it this morning. Time to tackle the engine, again.
Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to order a new ignition cut-off solenoid with the fuel pump. It cost twice as much as the pump but serves, it seems, a much less noble purpose. When you push the button on the engine control panel, it jerks an arm and kills the fuel flow. It's easy enough to pull the arm yourself with a well-directed finger, but sometimes that's just not the most convenient. So, a new solenoid made sense, even at $214.
It's an exercise in optimism. You only need a shut-off solenoid if your engine actually runs. We don't really know that yet, and are taking it on faith that the new fuel pump, and installation, will work as expected. But, I installed the solenoid anyway. Just believe.
On the walk back from the concert last night Chris and I had compared priming experiences on our engines. (diesel engines don't like air anywhere in the fuel lines). Lisa and Sue were enthralled in the conversation, chiming in with anecdotes, advice and humorous quips. Er, actually they walked along patiently trying not to look terribly bored by all the man talk.
In the course of the conversation, I asserted, twice, that being gravity fed and having good engine access, I could bleed one of our engines and get it going in minutes. Chris regaled me with torturous details of 3-4 hour priming sessions, cracking injectors open, mess and nightmares. He has a Perkins. "Runs great, once it starts."
Time to make good on my promises. I opened the fuel line valves, pumped the new feeder pump's hand lever and cracked the bleeder open to reveal a stream of bubbles, again and again. Every time, more bubbles. It was almost as if the primer pump were introducing the air. That would be a very, very bad thing.
After soaking a few diapers it seemed that surely, by now, the engine would start. Crank, crank, crank. Nothing. More bleeding, more cranking. The starter battery was losing its punch. A couple more tries. Nothing. I had been at it now nearly an hour.
Then, I had a flash. Perhaps this slow crank just didn't have enough "pop" to get her going. Dan and I had theorized, way back in St. Lucia, that it would be a simple matter to jump the starter battery from the house bank which is mounted just beside them. Out came the jumper cables purchased way back in Grenada for just such a day as this.
Each house bank is comprised of four 6-volt batteries wired into two 12-volt combinations. The wiring is transparently simple but, just to be sure, out came the volt meter. Sure enough X -> Y gave a reading of 12.85 volts. Perfect. Clamp, clamp. Now lets give it a try.
Wham! She cranked with compunction now and, Varooom! After only a few cranks she fired and blew a huge pillow of gray black smoke as the excess fuel and oil residue burned off. Then, she purred like a kitten. I stuck my head down in the engine room and immediately smelled something that was a cross between burning rubber and hot metal. Not good. Were the main bearings burning up with inadequate lubrication? I dashed up and slammed my thumb into the stop button which snapped into action. Guess the new solenoid works.
Back in the engine room, a quick oil check shows the contents are runny and just look wrong. There must have been quite a bit of fuel left in the engine. So, after a record run of less than a minute, out came the oil pump. I hate changing oil, but today was the day. Sucked as much of the oil out as possible, then re-filled with brand new 15-40 Rotella T.
But the smell? Something wasn't right, but nothing seemed out of place. I checked the both alternator belts, but they were good and tight. With a new batch of oil in, we cranked her over again, this time with Lisa on the ignition and stop switches and me with eyes peeled. The engine hadn't run for 30 seconds when I spotted the problem and called for a stop. The fuel return line, which Chris and I had climbed over time and again in the engine room to twist our frames into position, had been bumped and pulled out of position and had come to rest on the water pump pulley, which was grinding through it at a thousand revolutions per minute.
The fuel hose is very thick-walled, but my fingers, working their way along its hidden underside, could feel two deep grooves. There was no leak (yet) but the remaining wall thickness couldn't be more than a millimeter or two.
Lisa called a local marina/boatyard and found that they had several hose sizes available so we dropped the dink and I headed in for the long 1.1 miles putter up Lewes canal to town. They had the hose and a few other necessary items (including cheap ice cream bars, of course). As I chugged back down the canal at crawling speed (Slow, No Wake!), the wind kicked up out of nowhere. Even in the canal, wavelettes were whipping up and the tops of trees were flailing about. Things were getting ugly back at the boat, I was sure.
Going through the canal inlet and out to the bay, where the outgoing tidal rip ran straight into the teeth of the building wind, I was met with short, steep chop. In just a short time, I was soaked.
The waves and wind were so bad we really needed to move. As the boat pitched in the building swell I fitted the new fuel hose, ran and drained the oil again, refilling it for the third time in less than 5 minutes of run time. Stuff is flying around now and the wind seems merciless. With the new fuel line installed and secured, everything seemed to be in its place. We fired both engines, just to be sure, and upped anchor with the bows one moment nearly buried, and the next pointing towards the sky.
Ideally, we would have run the fixed engine for another half hour of testing, but this would have to do. We ground our way out of the maelstrom and, in only a few minutes, arrived in the lee of the Lewes Harbor breakwater where things got calmer. After about 40 minutes of motoring, we dropped the hook near Yindee Plus with boys jumping and hollering on the bow in welcome.
Shut the engine down and, as soon as we were set, checked the oil. Clean as a whistle and topped up right where she belongs. The engine is probably cleaner than ever. Having learned a few more boating lessons, I hesitate to claim victory, but it looks like we might be ready to head north again.
After lunch, we got the kids together while the adults finished up some projects.
Day 688 ~ Peace, Like a LakeAugust 2nd, 2012
Quiet and calm with no wind all night (no mosquitoes either!). Awoke to a glassy mirror on all sides, reflecting the salmon fingers of a summer dawn. A wonderfully peaceful scene, welcome after yesterday's wild anchor-motor combination. However, flat water means no wind and, when you are in a sailboat, no wind means no go.
Ate a quick brekkie then made a couple water runs to the ferry dock. With the port engine still a little uncertain, we don't want to rely exclusively on the watermaker.
The geeks and supercomputers say wind is coming this evening so Chris and I are planning on an early evening departure. The kids finish their lessons and pester about getting some beach time. To the skipper's surprise, however, about noon a nice breeze fills in and steadily builds. It feels solid, like real wind, and by 1pm Chris calls to ask how we are doing. We agree to let the kids burn off some energy at our boat while the adults finish up their pre-departure chores in order to leave as soon as possible. By 2pm, the wind was still chugging along so we returned the boys to their boat and gave goodbye hugs all around; we're not sure if we'll see them again anytime soon. We both hoisted the sails a half an hour later and were flushed out of Delaware Bay on a falling tide.
The winds softened a bit by about 5pm, so we hoisted the genny to ride the geekcast's predicted 10 knots from the stern all night.
We weren't the only ones. As we maneuvered out of the channel, we counted 1, 2, 3, 4, no, 5 sailboats all doing the same thing, we recognize a few from southern anchorages. Everyone has been waiting and watching the same weather and, like the pied piper, out of every little nook and anchorage, are beckoned forth by the winds at last.
We made good time during the daylight hours, going as fast as 7 knots at times. Yindee Plus stayed with us, for a time, then drifted slowly back until all we could see was their sails. I cooked chicken noodle soup and we ate in the cockpit in the warming sun.
After a read and a shower, it was time for bed. The girls had heard that, due to Sue's bad back, the boys were going to take a watch while Chris napped in the cockpit. Well, that made an impression and the girls also wanted to try it and set about convincing me as to how responsible they could be (they had also noticed that Lisa and I watch movies while on watch as well). It had been a long day and a nap would do me good until Lisa's watch began around 1am so I let them. Donned with a timer set to 10 minutes and headphones listening to a story, they settled into the salon, excited to take on so much responsibility. Forty-five minutes later, when I awoke, I found them awake, but only barely. They did well.
Day 689 ~ Sweet SailingAugust 3rd, 2012
Lisa relieved me at 1:40am after a few hours of sleep. The winds have shifted now from our starboard quarter (back) to nearly straight behind us. The ride is pleasant and peaceful and we're making good time. The kids are fast asleep tucked into their covers. There's the muted creak of the rig and ruffle in the sails as following waves crest beneath us. The full moon glows like a spotlight from space, lighting the rolling swells with a frosty glimmer. Yindee Plus is swaying gently sailing smartly behind us, their green navigation light twinkling a few miles back.
The main was shadowing the genny, rendering it useless, so Lisa jibed it over to create a wing-on-wing effect and increase our speed by 1-2 knots to boot. I relieved her around 6:30am, just as the red sun rose above the billowing clouds ahead.
As the sun rose higher, the wind slackened and we floated along between 2 and 3 knots. Yindee Plus, obviously frustrated at the lack of movement, slowly came into view from behind, passed on our port and disappeared into the horizon ahead. We just kept floating along.
Girls did well last night keeping watch, so Lisa and I both went down about 9pm and the girls timed their traffic checks by the 10 minute Pink Panther segments on the iPad. I sent the girls to bed around 10pm.
08/03/2012 01:37:29 AKDT
08/03/2012 10:46:42 AKDT
08/03/2012 16:44:10 AKDT
Day 690 ~ Another 8 Hour GrindAugust 4th, 2012
I tossed and turned in the pre-dawn twilight. Something didn't feel right, something was wrong. Like a lump in the bed that wouldn't go away. Finally the brain clears enough to realize, it's COLD in here. Haven't had that feeling for a while. Fumbled around for a blanket and settled for a towel.
Lisa took over at 2am and I relieved her again at 7. Jibed the genny a few times as the fickle zephyrs moved by a few degrees. Calm seas, speed slowed to 1.5-2.5 knots so finally started the engine at noon. May as well make water while the sun shines so we filled tanks and jugs while still motoring on.
The East Coast in August is absolutely rotten sailing. Can we agree on that? Fickle winds, followed by raging thunderstorms. Wind forecasts are pathetically inaccurate after 24 hours. Remind me, please, Maine is a really long way.
08/04/2012 01:24:57 AKDT
08/04/2012 03:36:09 AKDT
08/04/2012 10:57:59 AKDT
Day 691 ~ Flying Past the Little StatesAugust 5th, 2012
Got the day started at 5:40am. Anchor up before 6am, sails up about 6:10. Current in the Cape Cod Canal (the manmade river connecting the Atlantic Ocean on the south side of Massachusetts with Cape Cod Bay to the north) reaches 5.87 knots at its peak, so it's essential to get there while it's running in our favor.
We missed the peak by a hour, but had plenty of time to enjoy 4-5 knots kicking us along. That, plus our one engine running, and we were able to keep up with people biking along the shore, mile after mile. It's 11 miles through, which only took us an hour and 20 minutes before we were squirted out the northerly end. Ahead of us was 120 miles of downwind sailing, if the forecast is accurate. Up here, in the summer, that's a 50/50 chance at best.
We flew the genny and main hour after hour as the breeze slowly built. About 5pm, the wind started piping up so we rolled in the genny. Its roller line jammed, so we had to drop her half open. Nina did a great job of dropping it steadily, but not too quickly, allowing me to pull in the twisting and billowing parachute and get it pinned down and out of the wind. We stuffed in its bag and stashed it. A problem for another, calmer day.
We lost about a knot of speed running the smaller head sail, but now were well positioned for 30+ gusts that could easily develop. We ate a light dinner, read some Narnia before bedtime.
Midnight update: Fabulous sailing. Sledding along wing on wing hour after hour trailing sparks of phosphorescence, a 3/4 harvest moon setting and throbbing waves aglow to the east while the girls were snuggly and cozily below in dreamland. I don't want to go to sleep; real life, tonight, is better.
When this adventure is over it is nights like this that I'll miss the most.
Day 692 ~ Back in Flapjack CityAugust 6th, 2012
We had nearly ideal wind all night. Twenty knots slowly falling to 15. Lisa relieved me around 1am. The wind shifted a bit to the west and we jibed the headsail. I took over around 5:30am as the breeze continued to slacken. We were doing 4 knots, then 3, then 2 and finally, once clearing the mouth of John's Bay, were just keeping over a knot, just enough for steerage. We slipped along for an hour or two, waiting for the crew to wake up and greet the beautiful dawn. It was a stellar bluebird day after a cool night.
Once everyone was up, we finally fired the engine and motored the last couple of miles into Pemaquid Harbor. As Lisa was lining up on the Hall mooring bouy, we saw kids streaking across the lawn. Kayaks and skiffs were launched. I had finished securing the lines when kids were surrounding the boat and voices yelling. One by one, the Hall and Linkas kids arrived and were aboard rope swinging. Danielle came by to visit, then left with all the kids so we could return the boat to order again.
There's always a bit of daze after a string of all nighters. Danielle generously offered to do a grocery run around noon. When I walked in, the blaze of lights, smells and sounds left me disoriented for a minute or two. I know I am here for a reason, but what was it? Eggs, and more importantly, berries were to be had by the dozen. There will be some smiles aboard when these arrive.
08/06/2012 02:06:34 AKDT
08/06/2012 05:02:01 AKDT
Day 693 ~ Kid MarathonAugust 7th, 2012
The girls whipped through lessons. Since we were at sea on Sunday with no key ingredients, we had to fulfill the honored tradition of Swedish Pancakes today instead. Having made a store run yesterday we topped them with fresh strawberries, local blueberries and yogurt. Well, the fresh berries were actually the prime motivator. After decimating the huge pile, the girls went off to play, I sat down to work and Lisa cleaned the boat (an endless task) and sorted laundry.
It was pretty chilly last night so Lisa unearthed the two comforters we were given an year ago by another Maine family. Because they are made for land beds, they were wide enough for two kids. So, she cut one in half and sewed up the open sides, a two-for-one deal.
The kids played on. In the afternoon, Danielle offered her car to us for any errands. Since it was a beautiful cloudless day and we weren't in a hurry, we drove out to the Pemaquid Lighthouse to check that out. To enter the lighthouse parking lot, it costs $2 per person while the gift shop parking is free. So, like many others, we opted for the latter, a move that is likely not missed by the gift shop owners. Despite the cheesy statues in the yard, they probably do a brisk business with intentional and unintentional visitors.
Wandered slowly back through side streets enjoying the day.
Back to the boat for dinner and some Narnia, then off to bed with these sleepy heads.
Day 694 ~ A Teenager in the FamilyAugust 8th, 2012
Nina is officially 13 years old today. Scary. I'd like to say she has never exhibited those typical budding teenager traits such as rolling her eyes at silly parents, talking down her nose at her sisters or acting like she rules the world. Never.
Motivated by the potential for kid time, they whipped through language and math lessons by 10am and headed to shore to play. Lisa and I stayed behind and took care of some projects and client work. We then made a quick berry run to the grocery store since we missed out yesterday, and found a few of the precious cartons still on hand.
In the afternoon, Hugh suggested we go on a little longer bike ride to the old Bristol Mill for swimming and ice cream. The mill is no longer there, but the dam creates a great swimming hole. He said it was about 5 miles and flat so both younger and old kids went. About halfway into it, however, Lisa wasn't sure if Nana and Nika would make it. They were both overheating after climbing several hills and we had one water bottle for the 8 of us. They insisted on moving forward, so Lisa hung back with Nika while the others went on ahead. Hugh's offer to ride back and bring his truck to get the weary crew, in addition to ice cream and a swim was enough motivation to keep going. We stopped several times along the way and eventually met up with the rest who were already in the water swimming. The kids splashed, slid and played for a time and, one by one, got cold and sat on the warm rocks like little seal pups basking in the sun. All the fight had been sucked out of them.
Hugh eventually made it back with the truck and informed the crew that he was a bit off on the distance. Instead of 5 miles, we actually rode 7.2. He also had to offer an ice cream rain check as 2 in our group were due back for dinner an hour and a half prior. Oops. The weary bikers hardly protested.
We got our three back to the boat and ate a hearty meal followed by hot out of the oven blueberry/strawberry custard pie, a treat overdue by about 3 years. Yum. Nina opened her gifts and then it wasn't long after, that we dragged ourselves to bed and were out like lights.
Day 695 ~ Dessert OverloadAugust 9th, 2012
Math went on and on, then corrections. One in the Linkas extended family was turning 3 today and invited our girls to the party so they were busy making gifts and didn't get to shore until around 2pm. I did some overdue computer work amid the squabble and gobble of gift making. "No, the doll shouldn't have brown hair!"
An hour later, the girls came running out of the house and down to the dock. A familiar British boat was spotted in the harbor heading our way. Yindee Plus anchored and the boys melded with the kid crew heading to the birthday party. They sang, played games with prizes, ate cake and then went outside to do a bit of limbo. After the party, a soccer game was coordinated, boys against girls; Hugh officiated to reduce arguments. After nearly a week of passage-making from Lewes, Sid and Wilf were in kid heaven.
At 7:30pm, I went ashore to round up the troops. We talked over some plans with Yindee Plus and the Hall and Linkas families and then headed to the boat. With all the fresh Maine blueberries at hand desserts are just begging to be made. So, Nana and I whipped up lemon blueberry cake, complete with blueberry garnish and whipped cream. Then we ate, and ate, and the cake dwindled down to a few meager leftovers. That blueberry lemon combo is tough to beat.
Day 696 ~ Dinner & FunAugust 10th, 2012
Dense fog settled over the bay. Forecast calls for more this weekend in addition to rain but this didn't stop the kids, however. The girls picked up Sid and Wilf and headed to shore to play. They returned for a quick bite of lunch and were back at it with the land crew. Lisa headed over to do laundry at Danielle's; it's nice to have clean and dry stuff.
Keeping up the tradition, it's our turn to cook a meal for the Linkas family. I headed over about 5pm to start the dinner process. With a crew of 8 adults and 7 kids, I planned big. Pasta and Béchamel sauce for 16+. Grandma kicked in some homemade wild blueberry buckle. Now that's a treat. We enjoyed a nice evening and even got a nice hot shower before heading back to the boat in between drizzling outbursts of rain. Maine and Alaska have a lot in common, including the weather. Guess this was a day to make a withdrawal from our bank of sunny days down south. Good thing the balance is so high.
Day 697 ~ Local ColorAugust 11th, 2012
Intermittent drizzle all night, dense fog over the harbor in the morning. The annual Bristol Days parade is today, but by the looks of it there might be wet and not just because of the fire trucks. Kids slept in late, which is long overdue; there's been way too much play these days.
The sky lightened and, by 10am, the streets were dry. The kids left well armed to counter the firemen's attack, but ended up taking some of it out on themselves. No surprise.
The state park nearby featured reenactment booths of life in early Maine when Indians and starvation were the principle threats. We actually learned something about rope making and blacksmithing. The blacksmith make a couple of fishhooks for us which was fascinating considering how many I have lost or broken. In that day a fishhook was a precious commodity.
We headed to the fair with Yindee plus. Seemed pretty dead compared to last year, but we managed to find some of the usual junk food, hot dogs, burgers and "chips" (fries). Very nice to have Yindee along giving us the blow by blow comparision with their home village festivities across the Pond, which include things like pig races. Now we're talking.
Cooked dinner for the Linkas crew and stayed over late talking boats, destinations and all things nautical and fun. Sure glad we made it back a second time.
Day 698 ~ The Long Await SwineAugust 12th, 2012
Dense fog in the morning. Lobster boat races were postponed about an hour. Ended up watching the local lobsterman compete from Yindee Plus as they had front-row seats where they were anchored.
Headed in to shore afterward to help with setting up for the 5th annual Pig Roast. Hugh planned to have a Mackerel Cook-off, but had to get the fish first. I went out with him and we fished intently in vain for nearly two hours. Fish are that way it seems, the harder you try the more elusive they become. Lisa went with Chris and Danielle to South Bristol, 45 min. by car (and of course only 1/4 mile across the bay by boat), to hear a friend play in his Dixieland band. While there, they were told that the all the mackerel were in that bay so, when they returned and passed this info on to Hugh, he immediately went to South Bristol for those "guaranteed" fish. Alas, he got skunked, again.
People started coming around 5:30p but a quick check at the thermometer stick in the pig showed bad news, 115 degrees, barely warmer than the grass underfoot. An hour later it wasn't much better. Fortunately, Danielle had made 3 huge pans of Mac-n-Cheese and Hugh had grilled nearly 100 chicken thighs, so there was plenty to eat. Not to mention the plethora of desserts that guests brought. Many featured Maine blueberries as the defining touch, so I felt compelled to sample early and sample often.
To add some new flair, Hugh and Chris had hired a band and a square dance caller. Everyone joined in the fun, kids and adults alike. The dances were comprised of simple steps so fairly easy to follow. Did that for several hours until the band packed up. Kids played running games while the pig cooked on. Finally around 11pm, with 20 degrees to go, Hugh gave up waiting and declared the pig done. By this time only the pig roast residents, our boat crew and the mass of kids were left to sample and enjoy. It was really tasty, although I can't recommend eating a pound of pork just before tucking in for the night. Tum tum tum tumssss.
Day 699 ~ Headed InlandAugust 13th, 2012
Day broke sunny and clear. Too bad the Pig Roast wasn't happening today. We could have had clear weather and eaten pig.
We had made plans to visit the Green family, whom we met on their boat in the Caribbean in March 2011 and who visited us in the Bahamas last April, at a cabin that they and two other families rented out this week in rural Maine. What we thought was a 27 mile distance from which they could come pick us up turned out to be a 97 mile road trip over rivers and through woods – nearly a two hour drive. The Linkas' last night's offer of their car would now come in real handy.
In addition, our cell phone's battery died but wouldn't come back to life. We thought the chances of finding an Apple Store in rural Maine anywhere close to Pemaquid was a long shot but, looking at the map, we discovered one in Lewiston, a town through which we would be passing. We also saw that our path took us right by the Skelton's town of Auburn, our next destination.
It was a pretty drive and very green. It became more mountainous as we got further inland. Arrived at a lake-front cabin. James was standing in the driveway guiding us in.
Lovely place. Three buildings plus a caboose that sleeps 20. Nice lake with canoes and kayaks to use, fire pit, picnic tables and plenty of space to run. Too bad we only grabbed two pairs of socks.
Day 700 ~ Pancakes and LobstersAugust 14th, 2012
The morning broke sunny and cheerful, with every lake-facing window filled with the best of rural Maine. Towering trees with glistening water behind them. With a nearly a gallon of fresh wild blueberries on hand, pancakes were an obvious choice. The first action item on today's list is to get some groceries.
Cicek and I wound our way through back roads to the fair town of Bethel, Maine (Mainer's creativity when it comes to names never ceases to disappoint). We found a Hannaford Market and spent well over an hour prowling the isles, finding real Alaska red salmon and other eccentricities that only visiting New York lawyer types ask for, complete with raised eyebrow response. The organic half-and-half was a harder to find. We found a health food place a couple of miles out of town and Cicek was elated to find a few missing essentials.
Didn't get back to the ranch until nearly 12 noon. So much for a pancake breakfast, we'll have to settle for lunch. There was one 4" pancake leftover from nearly two gallons of batter.
The remaining day whiled away slowly, hour by hour. I did some computer work, the girls played and swam and boated. We did some lobsters and salmon for dinner. This is the first salmon the girls have had in quite awhile. No too many salmon in the Caribbean.
Day 701 ~ Lisa Reigns Supreme as Heart QueenAugust 15th, 2012
Awoke to a high overcast morning. Lisa and I have the entire basement apartment to ourselves, which makes for quiet mornings, trains and the padding of small feet aside.
I tackled some work, then made some french toast for the kids. Nina and Paloma have organized a picnic lunch excursion to the neighboring island. You go girls. Peace descends on the house as the troops head offshore. The adults breath a collective sigh. Now, this is vacation.
Rain started in late afternoon so Nana and I turned to a time honored rainy day activity with a nice reward at the end: pie making. We created two strawberry custard pies which, needless to say, were warmly appreciated by the house-bound crew. I retired early but, about 11pm, was dimly aware of some whooping, stomping and cheering. Turns out that Lisa had beaten James (and everyone else) in Hearts. Now, of course you know, this means war.
Day 702 ~ Heart BreakerAugust 16th, 2012
Rained all night and all morning. Thankfully, having a separate building for the pool table, the foosball table and the kid-mania allowed some adult sanity during the downpours. New York Times were read and crossword puzzles finished. Cicek opened a spa - kids got manicures and pedicures, much to their delight. I ended up with food responsibilities so whipped up a huge apple cobbler and some BBQ sauce for the chicken.
James had volunteered to be grill master but had also accepted a foosball challenge. At one point, I looked out to see a pillar of smoke ascending from the chicken halves. A quick messenger was sent from kitchen to game room and James came jogging out. Oops. The bird parts were now Henry Ford's favorite color, black and then some. Needless to say, the drumsticks were devoured by the hungry pint-size savages.
As we sat down to the table, the sun popped out and shot warming rays slanting through the windows and the mood lightened. The kids wolfed down their poultry, Nina getting unanimous votes to finish the final drumstick, her third.
The adults ended up doing a marathon round of Hearts, which James eventually won by a whisker.
Day 703 ~ Change of VenueAugust 17th, 2012
Our kids are going to be spoiled rotten. Another sunny day at the Maine lake house. Another day with friends. Another spa treatment, another lake adventure, another couple of meals/snacks with no parents limiting food consumption. Life is pretty tough.
I worked through most of the morning while Lisa did a load of laundry and gathered all our scattered belongings. We finally said our goodbyes well after our 2pm target launch time. Oh well. Puttered our way through the winding back roads of rural Maine, making a couple of stops along the way. We zipped right past the Skelton's place, Libro Farm (name from a hundred years ago) but, after back-tracking, made a successful rendezvous. All three of Skelton girls dashed out to meet us yelling and screaming.
Nina, Nika, Nina S. and I set up a nice 4 person tent outside for the Ninas to "camp" in during our stay. Our Nina is a little too sensitive to the cats to sleep indoors. Just as we were driving in the last stake, a downpour started and had us dashing indoors just in time. Sure hope we got that hole in the rain fly patched properly.
Day 704 ~ Just another dayAugust 18th, 2012
New beds are always that way, a little uncertain at first. I awoke early and headed downstairs to catch up on some computer work. Lisa came down and joined me half an hour later. "Happy birthday!" she said.
What, who? Oh yeah, I turned the big 40 today. News, I know, but it feels pretty much the same. It was still well before 6am so we headed out to Auburn to watch the first of several morning and evening balloon launches. It was heavily overcast with the promise of precipitation. We hung out and watched a few launches and then hot footed it back to the car just as the rain started dancing down.
Sun returned by mid-day. Lisa and the kids went to town to watch Skelton's family band, made up of parents and their kids, perform a few numbers at the festivities. I, on the other hand, guided electrons around cyberspace. Like cats.
Lisa and I returned to watch the 6pm balloon launches, this time in perfect evening sun. The colors were fantasitic. Cloudless sky and light breezes made for peaceful launches. Returned to the car to find a parking ticket under the windshield wiper. Nice. Not a "No Parking" sign in sight. Happy Birthday.
Returned to a yard full of people, food and music by Bill's band. I guess all 70 guests, the tables laden with food, the 6 person live band and deep fried Oreos could be for my big day. Except, we don't really know anyone but Bill, Nikah, Phil and Susan, the sailors. Four out of 70. Oh well, Phil's homemade fries hit the spot anyway.
Day 705 ~ Soft LandingsAugust 19th, 2012
Per our agreement last night, Nikah took the entire kidlet gang into town for the 6am balloon launch. I was oblivious, tossing and turning to dreams of parking Nazis and deflating balloons. Eventually, I propped one eye opened to check the weather. Not only was it sunny, but a huge, red hot air balloon nearly filled the window pane. It was headed right for me.
I stumbled to the glass. There were 3, 4, then 5 balloons approaching with a smattering or others farther back and higher up. This was going to get interesting. One landed across the street at a neighboring farm, but the next three came in succession to the Skelton farm. Just as the kids helped to bundle the first next to the driveway, a second one took its place. The third, one of the largest carrying 10 passengers landed out in a field and had to be "carried" (with the help of hot air) in to where their vans could access.
After breakfast, I worked while Lisa got a nap, then we all went to Skelton's grandparent's lake house on Taylor Pond. (In Maine, "pond" means "lake." We aren't sure what "lake" means, but they don't use it for lakes. Perhaps it means "lobster farm."). Bill's sister and family was visiting and offered lunch to our crew. The kids did what kids do with water and boats. Nika and I went for a canoe ride out to the floating swim platform, the one with the huge high jump. To my surprise, Nika went for it with little coaxing. That girl has got moxie. We rigged an old Laser, complete with Lisa carved cockpit plug (no wine corks available), and did some pathetic lake sailing in light fluky breezes.
Back to the Skeltons house for a BBQ with the Poirier family whom we got to know last year as well. They had cruised in the Bahamas for a month this last winter so we had lots to talk about. After sending the kids toward bed and as the adults were wrapping up some much needed uninterrupted conversion, the sun threw a huge apron of salmon coloring across a sky of puff ball clouds.
"It'll be a nice day tomorrow," commented Phil with an eye skyward. Perhaps, perhaps.
Day 706 ~ A Touch of SanityAugust 20th, 2012
As promised by Phil's prediction the night before, the day became sunny and clear. Well, with the exception of the cloud cover and light rainfall first thing in the morning. Red sky at night really does mean something. A wives' tale based in reality, go figure. Perhaps I should back off on the desserts and "eat my vegatables".
Bill the lawyer zipped off to the office he loaths. The Skelton girls were whisked off to a play with auntie. Doctor Nikah went into check-up mode on the house and horses. The entire Torkelson gang took some family time to head to the police station and pay my birthday parking ticket. Oh joy.
Lisa pleaded our case but it was fruitless. It was $20 no matter what signage was supposed to be there, but wasn't. We did a quick stop at the grocery and topped up on pie-making ingredients for Nina's birthday. "Just plain peach pie!" No custard, no berries. Just peach for this girl.
When we had asked our hosts about U-Pick Apples, they were non-committal. The season is too early still. We called around and confirmed the story, until we called the Stukas farm located just across the river in Lewiston. "Sure" the gruff voice on the other end said, "come on over." Turns out the farm has been in the Stukas family since 1791.
We were loaded down with apples, which we paid for, then received gifts of plums, blackberries and a half gallon of Mr. Stukas's "private reserve" of cider, crushed at the peak of sweetness. "I hate that stuff that tastes like vinegar!" We were bowled over. Who says Mainers are standoffish?
Back at the Libro Farm (Bill and Nikah's), the girls did teamwork on the piles of fruit while Nana and I put together three pies: an apple (fresh picked stock of course), a strawberry-rhubarb custard pie and the 100% all peach version that Nina has been begging for.
While they baked, I tackled YATC (yet another teleconference) and some last minute campaign junk mail madness. Yes, someone does get paid to create that stuff. I am sorry.
I came downstairs harried and grouchy only to find a table of beaming faces waiting for my arrival to dig in. Nikah had whipped up a huge plate of roasted chicken that they had raised themselves, a pot of mashed potatoes and salad. Wash that down with several helpings of warm pie and what can a guy do but smile...and yawn?
Day 707 ~ Another Drive, Another FamilyAugust 21st, 2012
Up and moving in good time this morning. It's amazing how much stuff gets jammed in every corner after just a few days of visiting. The Skeltons are all off and gone by 10am to their various jobs and with plans for the day, which makes getting the girls focused on packing quite a bit easier.
We rolled out the drive promptly at 10am and headed West for the Pekala's, friends we made this winter in Culebra. They weren't boat kids, but they were kids and it didn't take long to start coordinating our schedules for beach time and snorkeling trips. When we parted in February they said, "if you ever make it to New Hampshire..."
Well, today is the day. We enjoyed a beautiful scenic drive through the White Mountain National Forest with its miles and miles of rolling forest land, stitched with granite hewn mountain streams. We stopped at a maple syrup shop tucked up a wooded path and learned a little something about how our favorite pancake compliment is made and refined. I was amazed to learn that they use a reverse osmosis method to squeeze over half the water out of the sap using the exact same process we use to squeeze the salt out of sea water. This reduces the boiling off time and energy consumption by nearly 50%. Funny though, the syrup's price is the same as it used to be; I swallowed the impulse to highlight the disparity. There's really nothing to do but smile.
We arrived in the mid afternoon to find Pekala's gorgeous home tucked into the corner of a beautiful wooded hillside. The kids did what kids do, scream yell and run around with each other. It was fun to catch up with the gang and learn more about life in rural New Hampshire, which, it turns out, ain't half bad.
You can make your own maple syrup and the local ski area doesn't charge kids and New Yorkers don't have the persistence to drive quite this far. Instead, they get sucked into some of the big ski resorts just to the south while leaving the best small operations open for the locals who prefer to ski right onto the next chair, as opposed to waiting in lines for half an hour.
We enjoyed dinner together and a nice fireside chat on the outdoor porch. Mosquito-less. Ahhh.
Day 708 ~ Country FunAugust 22nd, 2012
Hung out in the morning. Kristin made a load of waffles, then kids played inside and outside. I tackled some more work while the day developed into yet another bluebird beautiful one. Time to get outside.
Kristin volunteered to take the kids to her parent's "camp" on Goose Pond while Lisa and I checked out the farmer's market in Hanover on the Dartmouth green. Mainers and New Hampshirites call lakes "ponds". And a camp, of course, is actually a house, with a dock and boats, etc.
The market was pretty modest as farmer's markets go. More than Oriental, but considerable less than Charleston's. We found some interesting stuff though, and it's clear that the organic thing is really big in this neck of the woods. And what's not to like about that? Food without chemicals, imagine that? The religious fervor that surrounds it though is a bit myopic.
Organic is a luxury that rich people in a rich country can feel good about "doing their part". But, which is really most earth friendly? Driving a luxury car, living in a McMansion and enjoying chilled organic cucumber slices, or living in a shanty and subsisting on wild bananas and whatever fish you can catch off the beach?
There's a stage in everyone's life when bandaids feel like a cure.
Day 709 ~ Royal FlourAugust 23rd, 2012
Maisy is due to get knee surgery so Nina went along to Boston for her visit the doctor. Burke went to his grandparent's house. Boston is a 2+ hour ride from Lyme so Nina and Maisy read most of the way, like 2 peas in a pod. They had enough time to get some lunch at the hospital cafeteria before meeting the doctor, then rode the 2+ hours back.
Back at the house, Nika, Nana and Ingrid played all morning, mostly outside. They caught a toad and set it up in the kiddie pool out back. It wasn't until early afternoon that a tiff between two of them disrupted the flow. Nika can be stubborn, but I don't have a clue where she gets that from. At that point, we decided that a little field trip of distraction was in order. We hopped in the car and headed to King Arthur Flour company. The pastry department was at work making croissants and other goodies, so we watched for a bit before stocking up on flour. Prices weren't great, but they were definitely cheaper than they are at the store. We snagged a few items to make dinner and headed back to the ranch.
Got home after Kris and Joe. BBQ'd some chicken and sat by the fire 'til bedtime.
Day 710 ~ Whoopie PiesAugust 24th, 2012
I worked on a few client projects while Lisa cleaned up, did a final laundry load and packed the car. The rest of the crew made Whoopie Pies. Doing a bit of research on the internet, we discovered that Maine has actually legislated these oreo-like delicacies as the official state treat. Kristin had all the ingredients so the kids helped and then promptly devoured the whole lot.
Finally left around 4pm and found the Simon Pearce glass studio after backtracking a few times due to a washed out bridge. This is where Irene hit hard last year while we were anchored in Castine watching movies. Watched several glass pieces being made and then continued on our way toward Londonderry. Deborah texted us when we were 15 minutes away: dinner was on the table, come hungry.
Day 711 ~ Peaches EverywhereAugust 25th, 2012
Took care of a few client issues and saw the Gulstrom troop off to their church picnic.
First stop was Stonyfield Yogurt Factory. Dan, my buddy since childhood, would pay a premium for Stonyfield in the most esoteric locations like St. Lucia and such where a quart of yogurt would run $7.00+. It's good, I'll grant you, but not at that budget breaking price.
We watched their "how yogurt is made" video which was interesting, despite its over to the top "save the planet" agenda. Maybe the girls even learned something. From a high of $7 in the islands, quarts of organic yogurt right here at the factory are a bit more reasonable, try $2.85. We stocked up.
On Deborah's recommendation, we then stopped at the Sunnycrest Farm for u-pick peaches. Wow, the Bostonian weekenders must make it this far north because the prices where beyond reasonable. A tiny bag of what would take, maybe, 2 minutes to fill was $14. They want $5.95 for a pint of raspberries or blueberries, $4.95 if you pick your own. A roadside Maine farmer asked $3 for his. Hmmm.
Since we really just wanted to make a couple of peach pies, I inquired about "canning" peaches or "seconds". I was told that they had already sold out that morning, only to hear a moment later that they had a few more cases in the back. The guy even brought me a new box and told me to "pick and choose". Nice.
Five minutes later and I had a 20 lb box filled with decent peaches for a whopping $12, instead of the normal $36 that I would have to pick myself. Found a grocery store on the way home with great prices; we must be on the non-Mass side of the tracks. Best we've seen in quite some time so we stocked up. The car, for starting with only 2 days worth of goods, is getting more and more full with each stop.
Returned to the house, caught up with John and Deborah and started on peach pies and homemade baked fries. Nika and Jaelyn (2) took a nap while the other two played with TJ (4); Nina is loving being with little kids again. We ended up with 2 pies, a peach crisp and still a half box of peaches for munching. Guess we'll have to buckle down.
- Yogurt Works Visitor Center, Stonyfield Yogurt Factory, Londonderry, New Hampshire, USA
- Sunnycrest Farm, Londonderry, New Hampshire, USA
Day 712 ~ Another Sunny DayAugust 26th, 2012
We are going on what feels like two weeks of sunny weather. Tough to complain about that, particularly when it's sunny and not sweltering. We attended church with our hosts in Manchester, New Hampshire. Yes, there is a Manchester, Massachusetts just a few miles south. Go figure. Seems like never ending confusion for the UPS guys. A quick check on Wikipedia shows 34 unique places in the United States referred to as "Manchester." I see now why the zip thing is so essential.
We did a lovely burger on the grill lunch, complete with another round of corn on the cob. May as well seize the kernel while it's fresh. After the food settled, we took a nice easy afternoon, including naps for many. John asked if I could help him securing his wireless network. They'll have new neighbors soon so he figures it's probably time. My guess is he's had a few free surfers already. A few minutes later and it was done.
With an entire peach pie left, and half a crumble, we decided that dessert sounded like a fine thing for dinner.
Day 713 ~ Back to the BoatAugust 27th, 2012
We packed our bags and loaded the car after breakfast. The string of lovely, sunny weather continues. We said our goodbyes and were on the road by 11am heading for the Maine Turnpike. There's not much of New Hampshire along the coast so we were across the border in no time. Just before, however, there are large signs pointing to the NH Liquor Store, giving a last-chance type of message.
The State of New Hampshire is its sole liquor retailer. Ironically, the state sells a good portion of its booze to residents of Massachusetts who love the low tax-free prices New Hampshire's buying power allows. Bostonians by the thousand drive a few minutes over the line, purchase their week's supply of booze and drive back across the border to home. In this way New Hampshire's public services are paid for in part by Mass residents who never use them. It's a brilliant plan. However, Mass booze retailers were so put out that they got a law passed making it illegal to cross state lines soley for the purpose of importing alcohol. Of course, this is pretty hard to prove, so Mass tax agents, in unmarked cars, were hanging out in the NH liquor store parking lots writing down license plate numbers. Then, they would follow Mass residents and bust them the moment they crossed the state line. When news of this behavior filtered back to the then New Hampshire Governor, he had his police officers stake out the same places and arrest the Mass agents when they crossed over the state line into New Hampshire. After detaining a few, both sides agreed to a cease fire. Needless to say, there's no love lost between the two "professional law enforcement" bodies. See story here.
Made a pit stop at Walmart in Brunswick to return an item and get a few food essentials. The wind looks good to head to Camden tomorrow so this will allow us to leave sooner. The car is filled to the gills now and cannot hold more. We arrived at New Harbor's only gas station right at 6pm closing; good thing it wasn't the Post Office or we'd have been out of luck with the blinds still swinging.
Realizing the need to get away early in the morning, we opted to postpone dinner and take care of our pre-departure chores first thing while it's still light. We took 5 trips to the boat with goods and bikes, vacuumed and washed the car and returned and scrubbed Sea Pearl. We made good time and were done by nightfall. The inside of the boat, however, with all the bags and piles, looked a bit like a hurricane's aftermath. Rustled up some grub out of leftovers from the fridge, the rest can wait 'til tomorrow.
We had a lot of fun with friends these last two weeks, but even the kids agree that it's nice to be back home again. With the swell coming in from the ocean, we also realized that we also managed to lose our sea legs in the process.
Day 714 ~ Shifting into Boat ModeAugust 28th, 2012
The wind and weather was questionable. We could have gone but, weighing all the factors, it just felt better to stay put today. The boat is still in shambles from our move back aboard and complete with piles of canned provisions that still need to be stored.
Heavy overcast clouds broke up later in the day and made for a most pleasant afternoon. We even took one last real, hot shower in the Linkas' outdoor shower. Going to miss those.
While Lisa cleaned up the tornado from our road trip, the girls went to the beach to look for sea glass. I worked some and taught Lisa how to set up an electronic survey for the Parkinson's Project. I way under-bid the data entry side, and having another set of hands will make it much more do-able.
The sun set slowly, a warm breeze ruffled the bay. It turned into a lovely evening in a picture perfect spot.
Day 715 ~ To Sea, AgainAugust 29th, 2012
Awoke with the crack of dawn. Fiddled with some lines, secured Sea Pearl. The winds were light and variable, but I could see from the flag flying about a mile seaward that there was a nice breeze kicking up offshore. We raised the main on the mooring ball, and dropped our earthen bonds in favor of the deep blue. It was 7:07am.
Land has its benefits, but there's nothing like the feeling of heading out into a nice breeze on a bluebird day. Having coastal Maine as a backdrop doesn't hurt much either. We were just about to the wind band when the port engine died slowly, like it was starving for fuel. I knew the tank was low so didn't panic too quickly. We fired up the starboard side and motored on for another 15 mintues until the genny and main would kick us into gear.
We sailed smartly south out of Pemaquid Bay and turned left, downwind, eastward towards Penobscot bay and Camden's Windjammer Festival. Once running with the wind we slowed down considerably. If felt like we were bobbing around, but we managed to make 3-4 knots in 8 knots of real wind speed. Seemed like a good time to dive into the port engine fuel problem.
I started by checking the fuel filter to make sure there was no fuel supply. Sure enough, it was drawn down some and not overflowing as it should be (since our tanks are above the level of the filter). Out came the jerry jugs and down went 10 gallons of liquid gold hydrocarbon power. I changed out the Racor 2 micron filter while I was there, then flipped the fuel value to start the purging and re-starting process.
Nothing. No fuel. The filter holder which should slowly fill and then feed its pressure into the engine just sat there, empty and hollow. Had gravity taken a day off? This was going to get more complicated. Welcome to boat life.
Fortunately, the wind was blowing and predicted to keep it up all day. At the beginning of our cruise I would have stressed out about the fuel blockage all day. But there's no point. Best thing to do was just enjoy the sail and address the issue once we were back at anchor. Hour rolled under hour as wave rolled on wave. It was a picture perfect day, we tacked this way and that searching for the best VMG wind angle and sifted through tidal current charts to avoid the teeth of the outgoing flow. I opted to thread our way through Fisherman's Passage to gain a better wind angle on Camden, so had to stay around and look sharp. When we finally caught the unimpeded wind on the larger Penobscot Bay the boat took off. We hung in the mid 8 knot range touching 9+ many times, flying along in nearly flat water. Now that's sailing.
We also managed to sail the first 8 hours while bouncing off of lobster pots, only to hook 4 in a row, back to back, across the bay from Camden. Cut the first one off, then wrestled with next and lost my favorite boat hook in the process. That guy owes me some lobster. Just outside the harbor, we started our only and half-working engine but it only managed about 1,100 RPMs at full throttle. We limped in through the narrow entrance at a speedy 2 knots, found only one other anchored boat and dropped our hook. Mooring balls leave little room for anchoring so, with the current state of our engines, we're glad we opted to come in early.
Day 716 ~ Kid ReunionAugust 30th, 2012
Camden is a cute town, but their anchorage is for the birds. I suppose a seagull would be happy sitting on our deck and making deposit, but all other life forms get sick of the bouncing around, and quick. The harbor is exposed to the larger Penobscot Bay to the South and East and, even with virtually zero wind, a nice little swell continually rolls in. Argh.
We mobilized forces to head into the second best library on the planet, second only to Lewes, Delaware, for charm and kid friendliness, not to mention fast free wi-fi. Got distracted with some boat chores in the sunny morning. Lisa cleaned the sun covers while I messed around with the fuel problem on the port side and hauled 50 gallons of water back to the boat. With the port engine out of commission, running the watermaker isn't a really viable option.
Nina played mom and packed lunches, then we were off. I did the usual client grind stuff while the kids enjoyed the library scene. We ate our picnic lunch on the grass and had a few rounds of Buffalo (king of the mountain, sans mountain). The girls are definitely getting tougher to beat than they used to be.
About 3:30pm we got a text that Yindee Plus had arrived, a day ahead of schedule. The boys walked in about a half hour later and it was smiles and happy chatter all around. We've only been apart 3 weeks, but Wilf and Sid appear to have grown since then. Another kid boat, Full Monty, who we've heard about for a month but had not yet met, was also with them.
I worked until late and returned to find Lisa putting dinner on the table. Tasty grilled cheese on the local Spinach and Cheese bread. Yindee called to invite us over post-dinner for some visiting and catch up. We stayed far too late, of course. They are raving about a place called Seal Cove on Vinylhaven Island so we just might have to check it out after Windjammer.
Day 717 ~ Wet, Cold, TogetherAugust 31st, 2012
The Windjammer starts today with the classic ships arriving between 12-4. Many are powered only by their tenders which they lash to the stern and rev up full throttle.
We took the entire crew to the the library, including Yindee's kids, so I could get some work done while giving the other parents a much needed break. Lisa, Chris and Sue came later with lunch. Rained some, but cleared off eventually. Spent some time in the library's history room, then headed back to the boats in the late afternoon.
There's a live band in the evening, so we returned at 6pm to watch. We hadn't been ashore a few minutes when the rain returned, this time in earnest. The band, on their uncovered stage, gave up after playing a few numbers. We huddled under an awning at the park for a spell waiting for the rain to clear and the talent show to start. No dice.
We finally gave up and headed back through town, huddling under the awnings of various knick-knack stores hoping for a break in the downpour. That all sounds miserable and, if we were alone, I suppose it would have been. But somehow, shivering on the street dodging the rain in the company of another boat family was nearly fun. In any case, we could commiserate on the up and down sides of boat life, cold and wet being one of the downs. Time and again we were passed by groups in twos and threes of navy sailors dressed in their sharp, pure white dress uniforms enjoying some shore leave from the USS Normandy, which had anchored outside the harbor this morning.
Thanks to the wet torrents, the fireworks were postponed 'til Sunday night.