It was a vexacious morning, that Friday that we returned to Martha's Vineyard. We both woke up early, too early, and decided to get underway. In the event Carol threw off the mooring pendant at exactly 0500. I put the motor in gear and started to turn. After six years, two with this motor that just celebrated two years in service on 06/11, you accumulate many impressions, observations, sensations, cues, clues signals on how the boat feels, sounds, handles, behaves, performs. It all gets filed away into sort of an unconscious or subconscious marine database with the current accumulation, sensation and observations, being checked constantly against the historical sensations. I doubt that any captain could articulate and define everything that he/she knows. But the unconscious mind quickly isolates and disparities or discondancies. In about three seconds I sensed that the boat "just didn't feel right." Didn't feel right all morning. I was concerned enough that when we moored I donned my wetsuit and went over the side to see if there was anything tangled below. Murky water, very murky if it's hard to find a very large piece of metal, our fin keel. Nothing there, which, of course, doesn't mean that nothing was there. So, maybe the vaunted database had a processing error.
The other problem was with the VHF radio, which to my mind is the single most important piece of safety equipment on the boat. It seems to work sometimes, other times not and there's no apparent pattern. I'm not sure that we can be heard when transmitting and it takes an extremely strong signal to break through and be heard on our set. I had first thought that the remote handset might be the issue; disconnected it and there was no change. The analysis is made more difficult by the fact that the antenna was changed in January. The old one looked ugly but worked fine. I have no way to tell if there is some problem with the new one. The problem is that the radio always is "busy" a state that can be caused by a keyed mic remaining open. Brought up the standby handheld radio; it may not work as well as the base unit.
So, for lack of a better plan we called Defender Industries to get a new radio and a new remote handset sent to Provincetown. They don't have to travel very far, half of Connecticut, across Rhode Island and out the Cape. Of course, in the way of these things, replacing a Standard Horizon radio with another Standard Horizon radio doesn't mean that the change will be easy. This radio is two years old and the sizes have ALL changed so I will have to recut the opening for the radio in the cabin. The car industry doesn't let manufacturers get away with that type of crap; for them a radio is a radio is a radio. We'll also replace the handheld in Provincetown or Portland, ME.
We were inside the breakwater at 1000, exactly five hours for the trip. We procrastinated with the dinghy; Carol had wanted to do laundry but there is no place available to do so. She had slept poorly last night and didn't feel well enough to go out to dinner. Crustaceans the world over celebrated that decision. So, we're "at anchor" on a mooring ball, a pleasing prospect to us both.
The story is that a man came to this island in 1971 and opened the Black Dog Tavern. Now, 40 years on, it's a business complex with a restaurant, a clothing line with several stores on the island, a bakery and, probably, much more. The much more definitely includes these two schooners, the black one Shenandoah, the white one Alabaster. I'm not sure why the one had sails deployed but both have the Black Dog pennant (a labrador?) flying. (follow on comment: there's even a store in Provincetown)
The trip to Onset Harbor was fairly short. The rhythm of that trip was governed by arriving at the Woods Hole channel at 1013, the exact minute of slack water after which the tide would start to ebb, moving from Vineyard Sound to Buzzards Bay. There didn't seem to be any particular hurry to get to the starting point of the channel. It was only 7nm, so we left the harbor at 0831, waiting for the ferry that left a minute earlier. Got it right this time. We putted along to the first waypoint making good time, 5.4 kts. at 2,000 RPM's and turned the bow of the boat towards the Woods Hole channel. Almost all forward progress stopped .... we were down to, maybe 2.0 kts., with a big problem in hitting the mark on time. Cranked the engine up, up and up again to 3,000 RPM's enough for more than 6-kts. almost any day, just not this day. It was an interesting dynamic: as we got closer to the channel we came closer to the strength of the current; but as time passed the current was attenuating. Sort of like parsing chickens & eggs. The time component seemed to have won and we got over 4.0 kt.s and hit our mark at 1009 but had to push really hard to do that.
The passage was confusing on the chartplotter, only visible down to the 1.5-mi. scale. So I gave up and did what people had been doing for years: read the chart and keep the red buoys on the right. By 1024 we were out of the channel, much ado about nothing because we did it about right and didn't try to conquer the current and anger the boating gods.
The lighthouse to the left is at the southern entrance to the woods Hole channel. The other is of the Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse toward the northern end of Buzzards Bay. The name, Buzzards Bay, no possessive apostrophe, was given to this bay by colonists who saw a large bird that they called a buzzard near its shores. The bird was actually an osprey. That's what Wikipedia says although how could someone know which bird some Puritan guys saw a few centuries ago.
From our position, we had about 10-nm to get to the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal, a few miles short of the actual canal itself. No hurry, this time it worked. We ran out the sails, turned off the engine and had ourselves a nice little sail. A brisk, bracing wind of 15-20-kts., a few whitecaps to add some "color to the day," and we were off.
We saw this sailboat crossing in front of three wind generators; only caught it with one. Seemed an interesting juxtaposition of the old and new uses of wind. We also saw this schooner sailing close to the wind, looking good, very good.
We got most of the way north under sail and reached a point where it seemed a good idea to take in the sails ..... and then the day's real fun began! We had a 15-20 kt. wind on the port quarter, sailing a broad reach, making good time, having fun, looking at the water with its picturesque whitecaps. In the space of a nanosecond we had 6-8 ft. waves breaking over our stern, something that we have never had happen before. Checked the wind .... no change, 15-20 kts., still from the SW . Checked the depth ..... no change, still 35-40 ft. Looked around and the waters to the west; looked normal. Couldn't break the code .... until it came: we were in the tide/current from the canal and it was running out and the wind was almost perfectly in apposition to it, maybe to the 180th degree. It was a northerly wind Gulf Stream scenario.
Ran up the motor against the current, but that gave us enough speed, just barely, to keep the waves from breaking over the stern. My butt was getting wet. My definition of boat handling is keeping the bow in a direction and the boat in a place of the pilot's choosing despite wind, waves and current. I've been in some situations where that was hard. This instance immediately broke into the top 10 and then, quickly, retired the trophy. At least, I hope it's retired because I don't want to have to deal with something worse than this .... ever! The boat was really getting pushed around and the pilot, moi, was getting beat-up and my butt was still wet. The worst of it lasted about 20~25 minutes, it seemed longer, but none of it was easy.
Regardless, we were anchored in Onset Harbor by 1330 an easy off-ramp from the "interstate" canal. The anchor dug in easily and well so we settled in the evening and a short night. Sunset in Onset Harbor over Wickets Island.
Learning new stuff is getting old. If the Woods Hole passage took some thinking, the the transit of the Cape Cod Canal took some planning. The Army Corps of Engineers has a web page with the tidal flows. For Sunday, 06/23/2013, the current starting running East, the direction we wanted to go, at 0333 and would continue in that direction until about mid afternoon. It was fairly dark then so we waited until a little past 0430 to get up. The anchor was up by 0515 when the light was good enough to see the channel buoys. It was no more than a mile from the harbor to the canal. The demarcation between the side channel and the main flow could not have been more plain if there had been a dotted line painted on the water. Instead of dots there was a line of small white waves marking the edge between fast water and slow water. When we crossed that line we were going, maybe, 3.5 knots forward, across the current and 8.0 knots sideways with the current. Brought the bow around and the ride began.
The canal is about 7 miles long, its width and depth about the same as the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. At the Onset end of the canal were two bridges, three in all for the whole length. The first was a railroad bridge; about a mile on was a bridge for cars with an identical one toward the other end. Since the canal bisects the peninsula, that means that there are only four lanes of traffic, going and coming, to service the entire driving population. That's enough for January but is probably a stretch for July.
We hit the designated canal at 0530 and were out the other side by 0610. It was like a water slide .... except for boats. At one point we hit 11.2 knots. The only way I thought that the boat would ever go that fast was if some giant picked it up and then dropped it. The land around the canal was quite lovely, heavily treed, some rolling terrain to create a little character. We must have seen 100 or more guys along the banks fishing, this was before 0600. Some were even wearing waders which I thought very strange. I have no idea what they were after; we had talked to a commercial fisherman in Nantucket and he said that they were getting flounder so maybe these guys were too.
It was going to be windy that day, starting about 1100; we were moored by 1000 and had little wind for the 20 miles from the canal to Provincetown. We launched the dinghy and had a walk about town. It was Sunday, and a very nice Sunday, sunny and warm. There are many of the ubiquitous ferries running here, from Boston, and there were people everywhere, very crowded, very busy.
Of the many places we have been, the commercial strip here was probably the ugliest, no grace, even less charm, although individual places were quite interesting. Newport, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket all did it better. Carol saw a piece of glassware, rather like the one in Risky Business, except that it was remarkably beautiful. Inside the glass was a jellyfish with its tentacles ... sounds ugly, looked great, was great at the nominal price of $3,700. Carol bought a long sleeved t-shirt instead, saving us about $3,680.
While we had the motor running I decided to charge some stuff with a small inverter. Somehow, it blew a fuse, easy enough to fix but irritating to do. I was musing that we haven't had too many big issues. Wrong thinking. If we say that the trip started in Brunswick, GA, which it did, with a layover in Oriental, NC, then the list gets longer: a new autopilot, a new engine tachometer, a new fuel gauge sender, a new VHF base radio, a new VHF remote handset and a new handheld VHF radio. Replacing the toilet pump system seemed optional at the time, but in the end it was necessary. Sounds like a typical trip for us; throw in the near disaster of deep sixing a $2,000 O/B motor and we're maintaining our problem pace, might even be ahead of the pace.
This building is on the pier with the dinghy dock, in this wind, it's over our stern. It truly looks like it should have been Quint's shark shack in Jaws. The birds on the roof's ridge line add a certain nautical ambience as well as decorative coloration to the dull asphalt shingles.
The wind arrived and then it really showed up. 25-kts. this afternoon. We took the dinghy for our first trip to town. It wasn't too bad heading downwind. Coming back, into the wind, we got wet, Carol's left side, my right side, based on our assigned seating. Going faster seems to be drier, up to a point, but it all comes down to degrees of difference: wet, wetter or wettest. When we went in for supper that first evening we had the marina's launch pick us up and, later, bring us back to the boat. Absolutely the dryest. Carol, of course, made up for earlier lost opportunities, and caused the demise of myriad crustaceans: she had shrimp for dinner.
This town doesn't seem to have the historical sense that the islands had. Or, maybe it's buried under the signs for pizza and beer. But there are interesting vignettes that delight on a small scale what the town cannot do in the aggregate. The ship's figurehead, maybe a redhead, looked to be authentic. Most redheads are. Although she may be blond.
Of course, there was also the truly bizarre mega-vignette, this being a town with a bent in that direction, attention seeking for the sake of attention, shocking and exhibitionistic when necessary to garner that attention. I have know idea what inspired this collection of sculpture, statuary and stone along with who knows what else. It's a safe bet that this array is from the post-Puritan era.
I had known that Portuguese were part of the history of commercial fishing in Massachusetts. What I didn't know was that part of that history played out here. The town seems to celebrate that history in its own way: there were many Portuguese flags on display.
The town and the whole of the end of the peninsula is dominated by this tower: the Pilgrim's Monument, built from 1907 to 1910. In the "I should have known that" category," it commemorates the Pilgrims' first landfall which was here, on Cape Cod, not at Plymouth Rock; that came about five weeks later. The Mayflower Compact, a pretty important piece of American and world democratic history was signed, about where the boat is, in the harbor of what would become Provincetown. The frieze at the bottom of the monument denotes that event.
It is, of course, made of yankee granite from Vermont and stands 252-ft. tall. I walked up most of those feet to the observation deck. No nose bleeds, but tired legs. Along the inside of the tower there were polished granite plaques, looking rather like headstones, from towns that had made contributions to the tower. Many Massachusetts' names I recognized from years of watching This Old House, a poor geography course because I would have no idea where those towns are in the state unless I were to see Norm Abrams and Tom Silva standing by their trucks. The bluff on which the tower stands may be 100-ft. high so the view from the observation deck was very good.
Two other buildings stand out, very notable from the water: the Universalist Church, (left) and the, now, public library (right). I can find no reference to confirm my thought, but the library just had to have been a church in some earlier iteration.
The radios arrived on Monday afternoon via UPS. Spent that evening looking at the back of the new radio and studying the wires that I would have to connect; lots of wires but nothing that was a surprise. The back of the new radio looked a lot like the back of the old radio, mostly replacing one snarl of wires with a similar snarl of wires in a place that does not much accommodate room for anything.
Come Tuesday morning there was no way to procrastinate anymore; I had read every e-pub that is my wont. So, we started to unpack things with dedicated piles for new, old, trash, save, pretty much filling up the "free space" in the cabin. Having removed the old unit I got my first surprise .... a happy one: the new radio fit easily and securely into the opening of the old radio, something that the online literature indicated would not happen. No cutting a larger hole as I had thought would be necessary.
The power supply hookup was easy, as was the antenna, and the remote microphone; the GPS connections were new to me; I had hired that done to be hooked up the first time on the old unit. In fact, the only installation problem was with the installer himself, moi! This required several butt connectors to be installed, a shrinkable, insulated tube into which the ends of two wires are inserted and then crimped. The GPS wires were very thin and the two connections required six connectors because I was constantly letting one wire end fall out during the crimping. Old hands, I guess.
Did a bunch of checks; only needed one call to technical support to answer an esoteric question. It seems to work, having done a radio check with BoatUS.
I saved the remote handset installation for the next day. There was nothing very complicated about the installation; this was going to be the third time I had done it. The cable is 23 ft. long, and it had to run about 20 ft. along the port side of the boat. To access the cable run we had to empty the port side of the boat: all of Carol's galley cabinets and just about all of the lazarette. That left room to install the cable but not much room for the two of us to move around. Frustrating! I truly enjoy boating but have a growing dislike for the aggravation of boat maintenance.
This visit has been very different from all the previous ones .... real life intruded. The aftermath of Joan's operation, Carol's sister, has not gone well and she had to be readmitted to the hospital. For now, the trip is on hold while that situation tries to find resolution. Thursday was the last weather window north for several days. So, regardless, it looks like we'll be in Provincetown for a while yet, Carol not wanting to be out of cellphone range for any extended period of time.
Where we go next, who knows. East .... definitely out; it's a very big ocean. West .... we couldn't go very far and it wouldn't take very long to get there. North .... that's the hope. South .... a guaranteed heading, just not a guaranteed date to do so.