A Travellerspoint blog

June 2013

On to Provincetown

rain 66 °F

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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Posted by sailziveli 10:10 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating Comments (0)

Nantucket, MA

sunny 62 °F

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Martha's Vineyard was a microcosm of how the trip was supposed to have gone but had not yet done so. We arrived; we were able to do the things that we wanted; we decided to leave and did so. No weather constrained any part of the visit, although it did rain a couple of nights. On a one stop roll, we left early Tuesday for Nantucket. The forecast was clear, the radar screen was clear, no wind of any kind was predicted, the NHC had nothing going, easy-peasy .... Not! We got under way a little before 0600 and planned to eat along the way. I thought that it would probably have been a good idea to know the ferry schedules, we didn't, since 0600 seemed like an hour when things might start happening. As soon as we cleared the breakwater we saw one ferry headed into port; at 0600 the ferry at the dock headed out. We were able to get far enough west to stay out of their respective ways without any issues with shallow water. In doing so we passed close by this schooner, Shenandoah, part of the Black Dog business megaplex on Martha's Vineyard. It was cool to see it anchored in the outer harbor, no different than it would have been 150 years past.

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Along the way we saw this strange antenna (?) tower partly below the horizon along the southern coast of Cape Cod. My rough guess placed it near Hyannis Port. It looked like some sort of gigantic transformer toy, awaiting an ambitious four year old to rearrange it back into a galactic warrior.

It was just a short trip, 31 nm. We didn't think that it would take very long. About two hours out we hit a fog bank and the fog just got thicker and thicker and then thicker some more. I hadn't turned on the radar; we never use it is daylight. So I rebooted the system to get the radar up and running. There are several buoys that are also used as waypoints. I was using the GPS distance to the buoys to try to estimate the visibility. At one point we were barely able to see a very large object that was 0.1 nm away, maybe 200 yards. That seemed pretty thick. We slowed down a little just out of caution. Carol called a marina in Nantucket harbor to get a report on fog in the harbor; she was told that things were not too bad, maybe a mile or more. That sounded good enough to keep going instead of turning around back to Martha's Vineyard. About six miles out we must have hit a hole in the fog because things got pretty clear; that was encouraging. About five miles out visibility completely shut down as we were on a direct heading for the channel entrance; that was discouraging. The radar showed a lot of contacts on the water but we were surprised twice: first when a 50-ft. sailboat we had seen in Vineyard Haven appeared about 200 yards to starboard and then, five minutes later, a 40-ft. powerboat appeared about the same distance to port ..... never saw a hint of either on the radar scope. A few miles closer to the island we saw a large contact on radar moving very fast, guessed ferry and bore away. Good guess, it passed maybe a half mile off. I was getting quite concerned when, it's a miracle, about one mile out we saw the red and white sea buoy with the island faintly visible behind it. After that everything was easy and we moored at about 1120. I was later researching the island and found that is it called: "The Little Grey Lady of the Sea" because of its appearance from the sea when it is fog bound. I'll ditto that. Having passed the "boat handling in the fog" test once I'd prefer not to take it again but we're told that fog happens in Maine in the summer so, who knows?

If we did nothing else this trip I had declared a dream of sailing into Nantucket Harbor. In the event we got the "into the harbor" part just fine, but the "sailing" part, not so much .... there was zero wind and the tide was running out. Motoring was good enough. Carol had bought a bottle of "cheap" champagne to celebrate our arrival. Liking that beverage too much to drink that version we settled on my last Newcastle Brown Ale while Carol had wine. Since Europeans have been visiting here for almost four centuries and amerinds for untold centuries before that our arrival was not a conspicuous achievement save to ourselves. The dream was achieved in substance if not in style.

As my dear friend Big John is fond of saying, If you're lucky, sometimes s___ will do you for brains! A case in point, and a disaster dodged: after lunch we decided to put the dinghy in the water, which we did. When lowering the motor with the dedicated davit a stopper knot came undone, the line ran free and the motor plunged. There was a very small optimum target landing area: six inches one way and 85-lbs. land on my bare feet, six inches the other and those 85-lbs. sink straight to the bottom of the bay. The motor landed on the dinghy's transom, I was able to grab it, balance it and, then, get it mounted without letting it fall over the side. In Big John's terms: I was lucky since rarely do I position the dinghy directly below the motor. I do the rigging and the knots .... did that one a few years ago and have never checked it since. Obvious mistake on my part. I may blame Carol anyway.

On the knot: it's a type of stopper knot rather like a fisherman's knot. Its main attraction is that the knot is short, lying hard against whatever it circles. I have used that knot on three other critical pieces of rigging: the mainsail halyard, the foresail halyard and the mainsail outhaul which, probably, is under more stress than any other line on the boat. I have checked some similar fairleads and seen that they have sewn the ends of the lines together, a pretty good solution and something I may try to do since we carry sailmakers thread and needles.

A piece of blog trivia: just got an email from Travellerspoint that the Martha's Vineyard entry is featured on their homepage. More than 100 entries and we finally made the cut. The compensation, however, remained the same for the featured entry vs. all the others: $0.00.

It was an interesting night, our first in this harbor. I thought that Carol had put all of her carefully hoarded laundromat quarters into the Magic Fingers Mattress Massager because the bed didn't stay still the whole time. This is a fairly good harbor but is very open to the northeast. Got up this morning, looked out to see 2-ft. whitecaps rolling by the boat .... from the northeast. It's windy enough that the wind generator kept the Ah, amp hours, positive for the night, a rare occurrence. The generator was also very noisy ..... of the wake us up type of noisy, which it did several times. There are two bolts which I will need to tighten, bolts which haven't been checked in longer than the failed knot. The first evening here we went to the dinghy dock and the dock was crowded. Today we looked out and saw all the dinghies tethered behind their mother ships, like ducklings following mama. The chances of getting to the dinghy dock without getting soaked: 0%. The chances of getting to the dinghy dock without getting swamped: maybe 50%. So, we, like every other boat in the mooring field, had a quiet morning on the boat and waited until things calmed down a bit after lunch before going the half mile to the dinghy dock.

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The National Park Service cites the Nantucket Historic District, comprising all of Nantucket Island, as being the "finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town." So, Carol and I set out to see if that is a true statement.

Flower Boxes:

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Part two of Big John's aphorism about luck is this: we have hit these two islands at exactly the right time, no planning involved: it's before the heavy tourist season and it's also the peak of their Spring here because everything that blooms is blooming. There must be a law that says every old house must have flower boxes because all the houses here are old and most do. It's a New England thing, I guess. Regardless, it was striking to me. So, I took lots of pictures. Carol and I have no particular affinity for growing things, although she does have a few flowers in the front yard. This is just a sampling of all that we saw and only some of what I photographed.

The bottom two flower boxes got extra points for originality. The first used driftwood, pretty cool for an island. The second, hard to tell in the picture, is in the form of the hull of a rowboat, again, pretty cool for an island.

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Nice Front Doors:

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The old town had some substantial homes, but only one or two that we saw might have been for a truly prosperous owner. The homes of the merely well to do were good enough. Of course, there is the obligatory red door which would have pleased my mother who thought that they were a requirement, one that several of her homes had ..... red front doors.

Nice Houses:

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These houses were probably for well-to-do families maybe wealthy families. We may have missed more of these in our walk about the town; it just didn't seem that there were that many notable houses.

Regular Houses, Still Nice:

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There were lots of houses like these: modest in size and design. Of course, these are megabucks houses on the island which, I recall reading, has the highest housing prices in the U.S. The bottom left picture is of a house style called a salt box, unique, I think, to New England. This style house has a single story in the back, but two in the front giving it that distinctive roofline, sloping to the rear.

Brick Buildings:

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There were more brick buildings here than any other New England place we have visited. These two buildings, an inn and a bank, were just a few of the commercial buildings done in brick; they may have been preponderant. Nantucket had a very destructive fire in the 1840's like Chicago's in 1871. Chicago response was a building code that, in many cases, required brick construction. Maybe something similar happened on Nantucket. Probably 2/3's of the commercial district is brick. There were also several brick homes, generally done in the Federal style.

What is not clear is where the bricks came from. They're red clay, looking a lot like Georgia or the South, and I doubt that any of that unique soil exists on this island.

Houses with Roses:

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The roses were majorly in blossom here, with a pink variety clearly a gardening favorite locally. Many houses had trellises with pink roses climbing cedar shake walls. The clear winners, the two bottom pictures, were in Siasconset. It's not obvious in the first of the large pictures, but both houses had roofs covered in rose vines.

Steeples:

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There were a lot of churches in the main town of Nantucket, but only these two had steeples that rose well above the town to be visible from the harbor, i.e. our boat. It's a little hard to reconcile Puritan imprecations to modesty and a golden dome.

Widow's Walks:

Pictured are all of the widow's walks that we saw around town: exactly zero, which surprised me at the time. Many houses had built platforms on their roof peaks that resembled a widow's walk, but no real ones which require a flat section of roof. Of course, we might have missed them, not having walked in the right neighborhoods. My idle speculation is this: there was a great fire in 1843 which destroyed much of the town. By 1850 whaling, in general and at Nantucket in particular, was fairly played out, a time which was also concurrent with the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania. A walk atop the newly rebuilt houses may have seemed pointless.

Siasconset:

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On our second full day in Nantucket, we decided to go to Siasconet, in the southeast portion of the island. Nantucket is not big enough to warrant renting a car, so we took the bus. We got a senior discount on the bus fare, $1.00 each, each way, when Carol told everyone that we are 66. I, of course, let everyone know that she was not being truthful, her actual age being 67, that having already been accurately reported in an earlier blog posting (Pre-flight #2 - 2013; 03/29/2013).

The ride through the center of the island was interesting. The island is much developed, having some places that look like tract homes, if that phrase can be used with $1 million plus homes. The flora was mostly boring consisting of stunted, scrawny wind twisted pine trees and some sort of unimpressive deciduous tree. The western side of Martha's Vineyard is much more appealing.

It took about 20 minutes to get there and having arrived around lunchtime we stopped to eat at the Scisconet cafe where Carol had, what else, another lobster roll, part of her continuing program to "Kill a Crustacean Today!" At dinner the previous evening we had chatted with a couple that had visited Siasconset that day. The lady had remarked about the houses with roses on the roofs. Found those pretty quickly and it seemed that we had covered all the territory of interest.

We were just wandering around when Carol started talking to two guys who had just returned from a "bluff walk." They showed us how to access the path and we set off. The path literally does go along a bluff, maybe 40~50-ft. high. It also uses people's backyards for the pathway, well worn from many footsteps. To our right was the beach, the waters as calm, clear and blue as in the Bahamas. To the left were incredible houses. I took pictures of ones that were older, probably 60~100 years old. There were many newer ones. The top left picture is of a gothic-y looking place in a state of advanced decay, the only such one we saw.

The houses were special, each with an unimpeded view of the water; steps down the bluff to their own private beaches, probably owning land to the high water mark. These houses were well protected from storm surge but there was erosion. In a millenium or three the sea will claim all of these houses as it due.

We walked back on the road and I thought that I might be able to match up house front to their seaside parts. Unfortunately, every house had a privet hedge to provide some privacy.

All along the bluff there were these wild roses blooming; they seem to do well in the sandy, salty soil. We also saw this "sundial" on the side of a house, never having seen such a thing before. It was quite accurate.

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It Pays to Advertise:

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I have no idea what this store sells but it has one of the best ever "signs;" neon cannot compete with this. The door is also a contender.

Nantucket Conclusion:

First, is Nantucket the"finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town?" We're not even close to being smart or knowledgeable enough to respond to that issue. What we can say is that Nantucket is pretty impressive and that we would both rate it as a strong number two to Martha's Vineyard, followed by Newport, RI. Had we not seen Martha's Vineyard first we would probably have been crazy for the place. We enjoyed our stay here and, I think, would be open to returning. In American Bandstand terms: it has a good beat and you can dance to it.

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Carol, of course, loves flowers .... loves their scents, loves their colors. It's kind of hard to surround her with a trellis of irises; they don't actually climb very well. So, here she is in a halo of roses. Carol has gotten so skinny on this trip that, rare for a 67-years old woman, she looks exactly like she did in January, 1968, when first we married. Well, maybe not exactly, exactly. There's the hair, once long and wavy, now shorter and curly, suitably bobbed for life on the boat. And there are the scars on her legs, not there in 1968, but the reason she's here in 2013. Other than that, she looks just about the same to me.

I think that I had related in an earlier blog entry that Carol had promoted herself from ship's cook to culinary coordinator for the cruise. Of course, the more impressive title comes with prerogatives, not so much what to eat as where to eat. She had been doing fairly well with coordinating us to restaurants but, somehow, lost control of the process in Martha's Vineyard, where we ate on the boat every night. So on our second evening in Nantucket, to balance the scales, she chose a lobster restaurant for her first, 1 1/4-lb., Maine lobster. I know it was a lobster place because it had a lobster flag. It was not her first lobster ever, but first in many, many years.

Lobster eating is complicated, messy and involves a lot of details, like sucking the legs, cracking the chela and whether to eat lobster tomalley, mostly the liver, green when boiled. She comported herself admirably consuming all of the poor beast that sacrificed itself for her dining pleasure. I don't know what it is that compels her to such levels of crustacean cruelty, but she does it mercilessly, with much vigor and no remorse. The result of her serial crustacean depredations: crabs are now an endangered species, lobsters will certainly follow if we get to Maine.

Life on the boat seems to keep a person focused on very practical matters: weather, maintenance, fuel, etc. It does not readily encourage the contemplation of existential issues, save one, which has nothing to do with trees falling in forests: if I've been there and don't have a t-shirt how can I really know that. Of course, this could just be the advent of the aging process and the CRS syndrome (Can't Remember S___). I had not indulged that existential need for shirts and hats until we hit Martha's Vineyard which inspired me to purchase two shirts, neither from the park at Gay Head thinking that that wouldn't play well where men's fashion is mainly Carhartt and camouflage, both of which I own, and a hat. Nantucket was worth a shirt and hat, and I would have bought a sweatshirt but I refused to pay the stupid asking prices.

We spent much of the morning getting water and fuel on board. To head north we need to traverse Buzzards Bay. To get to the bay from these islands the easiest thing to do is transit the passage between Woods Hole and two islands: Nonamesset and Uncatena. The problem, per the cruising guide, is with deep draft, low power boats trying to handle tricky, shoaled, rocky waters with or against currents that can run to six knots. i.e. sailboats. So, we're going back to Martha's Vineyard to use it as a staging location to be able to access that channel quickly during slack water. After that it's a couple of days to Provincetown, our next planned port of call.

Posted by sailziveli 19:09 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Martha's Vineyard, MA

rain 66 °F

So, we waited. Waiting appears to be an important part of boating: waiting for weather, waiting for tides, waiting for bridges, waiting for parts, waiting for berths. The sun disappeared, the rains came but the wind took its own sweet time about arriving. In the interim the on board power miser, moi, watched as the batteries drooped from 14.00v to 12.60v, not a problem, but in the case battery charging, bigger is almost always better. Then the winds arrived and the batteries slowly clawed their way back over 13.00v, a number with which Carol, who knows nothing about batteries, was more comfortable. So was I.

It was cool and dank two days on the boat, a climate not much to my liking. The temperature didn't much break 60o but did manage, barely, to stay above 50o. This may be a summer trip where the winter clothes never get put away .... we're too busy wearing them all. I have on enough layers of fleece to do a passable imitation of the Pillsbury Doughboy. The heavy wool blanket, which had been folded away for a few nights, is back now, a regular part of the decor. Even the Nordic Princess has allowed that the sleeping cabin has been "coolish." Of the several weather locations on our desktop, Hot Springs is by far the warmest, by a 10o margin and the homestead is looking very appealing. Of course, Martha's Vineyard is closer and easier to reach by boat than is Hot Springs, so we went there instead.

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The Friday evening before we left, the skies cleared, the sun shined and the winds died making for a beautiful evening after two pretty crummy days. That nice weather carried over to Saturday. The tide was running out, low tide at 0600, so we were up at 0430 and underway at 0450 to catch the current, which we did. Coming in to Newport we were much occupied with traffic; that morning only one boat left earlier than we did. On the way out the channel we saw some more "estates, " that we had not noticed on the way in. Several were older ones, a few contemporary, all aspirational .... just not for us. The sun started to show itself about 0515. There was no particular reason to feel patriotic that Saturday morning, it was the morning after Flag Day, but the American flag flying proudly at Ft. Adams against the backdrop of the sunrise looked pretty good to me. There are not so many benefits to being old but indulging in schmaltzy patriotism is one of them.

The trip was about 45 nm and we were in the mooring field shortly after noon, a little over seven hours. It was a wonderful day to be on the water as long as sailing wasn't important. We're cruisers with a sail boat; no wind, no problem. That's what motors are for. We saw several boats out today with limp dacron flapping pointlessly, content to go nowhere, patiently waiting on the wind's arrival, maybe, sometime.

Our trip took us past the mouth of Buzzards Bay, and then along a chain of islands to the north that separate Vineyard Sound from Buzzards Bay. I was noticing that several of those islands have indian sounding names which surprised me. Turns out that about 3,000 indians occupied this island when it was "discovered," that being an arrogant word since the indians already knew the island was there. No one seems to know who the eponymous Martha was, or even if there was one; don't know much about grape vines either. Those factoids have been lost in history. By conscious design the possessive apostrophe in place names is facing extinction; it's just not much used, Pikes now just a plural of something modifying Peak sans the apostrophe. This island, Martha's Vineyard, is one of only five US place names that still employs that grammatically correct punctuation mark, reason enough for me to like it here.

I'm starting to get exasperated with marina employees, especially those that work for a municipal government. These people seem quite capable of explaining how to do something for the 101st time if we've done that thing 100 times before. A rational, coherent explanation of how to do something the first time is just too hard, requires too much thought and too much originality. We must have spent 30 minutes in a mooring field not much larger, if larger, than our homestead trying to find the mooring ball needle in a mooring ball haystack. Having found it, the clearances were too tight and we moved to a new place, one of my choosing. The young man who located us, and also does pumpouts, boat septic tanks, has probably exceeded his reasonable career aspirations. I suppose that the world needs places for people like that; I just would like to be able to avoid them when trying to moor the boat, always a tense experience in crowded locations. But, it ended well enough.

Sunday morning was beautiful and a fitting time for firsts: we both slept well past 0600; when I got up it was warmer in the cockpit than in the cabin so breakfast was topside, the first such occasion for that in the 75 mornings of this cruise; Carol actually took the dinghy in by herself, easily more than a year since she has done that, probably not since her debacle in Hope Town in the Bahamas. We cleaned the boat, some parts at least: the cockpit and head seem to accumulate detritus at an amazing rate, probably from shoe bottoms. A lot of that detritus is, sadly, human hair. Since there are only two humans aboard, fortunately for me, some of that hair is a familiar chemical shade of red.

We might be getting better at this boating thing. I noticed that the wind had shifted, moving to the west and that some altocirrus clouds had moved in during the morning. Better check the weather! Sure enough ... rain and some wind tonight.

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My endless fascination with sailboats has taken on a new direction: schooners. Since owning the boat we have only seen one, a working boat in the Bahamas. I watched the single masted boat underway on Saturday and it was interesting. Lots of sailing, no futzing with the sails. Want to go in another direction? Just turn the tiller, wheel, whatever and go. The sails flip to the other side and it's away. I suppose sloop rigged boats are faster on most, or all, points of sail. These have the weight of history on their side; they were the commercial backbone of the eastern seaboard.

This is the first place that we have seen schooners as personal, not business, boats. The problem with these as a boat to own is that most have wooden hulls, are very long due to the bowsprit and have little space and not much in the way of amenities below. So, I guess that unless I want to start gypsy marine freight business based on wind power we'll stay with what we have. I keep repeating: first, last and only boat!

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The island is fairly large, about 25 miles east to west, and 88 sq. mi., roughly comparable to the Spring Creek Fire District at 90 sq. mi. This is by way of saying that it's way too big to cover on foot, especially if two of those feet are mine. So, we rented a car for the day, Monday, to explore the island. It was a fine day .... sunny and warm. I may have lost count but I think that this was the third summer day we have had.

There are three towns on the island and several other named places having little in the way of population: Tisbury, aka Vineyard Haven or vice versa where the boat is, Edgartown and Oak Bluff.

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With no particular plan in mind, we set out for Edgartown early and got there before most things had opened; total trip, maybe 5 miles. What a wonderful place that was. I'd have much prefered to stay there than here. I was raised in New England until about the age of 12, and there must have been some strong impressions made. When I think of houses here two styles come to my mind: White Clapboards with black shutters, which my mother would have insisted have a red door, and cedar shakes. Those two styles just about covered all of Edgartown.

The houses were pretty dense in the neighborhood, at one time ample but not pretentious houses where regular folks lived. Most of these house we saw are now worth incredible amounts of money and, as such, most are immaculately maintained; those few that are not are ready to be rehabbed at considerable expense which will be recovered in spades.

Edgartown also has the oldest extant house on the island (bottom left), built in 1672, now part of a preservation project. There were several really neat churches in town, this being one of them. Whatever my Puritan, New England ancestors were doing, and I have about 400 years of them, condemning witches, trading slaves, or fomenting revolution, they had no doubt that it was all God's will and they had houses of worship where they made sure He was listening.

We got to talking with a young man, working at a gallery, about living on the island and he said that there were issues for regular folks like him. A place that might rent for $1,500 a month most of the year, would go to $3,500 a week when the tens of thousands of Bostonians descend on the island in July and August. The year round population of about 10,000 is said to go to 100,000 in those months. It's a big island, but not that big. There aren't even any 4-lane roads.

Edgartown is also the place from which the island of Chappaquiddick is accessed and the place where a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, met her untimely end as a result of a man who thought to be President in 1980. It's important to remember names like these so that facts trump myths.

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The young man with whom we spoke said that we must go to Gay Head, I'm not making this name up .... it's on the map. So we did, but took a detour to see American Beach, just south of Edgartown. It was a wonderful beach, like that on Cape Cod .... white sand, dunes, sea grass, open ocean. The area around this beach had some mega-mansions .... huge! To their credit, the folks who built them used the cedar shake architecture so they actually seemed to blend with the landscape pretty well.

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The etymology of the name Gay Head is: the location is the very western tip of the island, a headland. The cliffs which appear to be whitish gray were once, purportedly, red and orange, gay colors to sober Puritans and tired sea captains. The land's elevation is about 250-ft. above sea level so the lighthouse was fairly short by lighthouse standards. It was a little hazy that day; we were told that on a clear day the bridge at Newport, RI is visible.

We ate lunch there and Carol had her first lobster roll: chunked up cold lobster meat with mayonnaise on a hot dog bun. She was nice enough to share it with me .... very good! The park at Gay Head was a first for me: in Newport we had to pay for a shower, $1.75 for 7 minutes. At Gay Head we had to pay to pee, $0.50 each; no time or volume limit was specified.

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A nice man at the park said that we should be sure to see Menemsha, so we did that too. It is a small village built around an inlet to a salt "pond." That's what they're called. There were several old sheds along the waterfront that put me in mind of Quint's shed in Jaws. The dunes at American Beach also fit the movie. So, I checked .... the movie was mostly filmed here on Martha's Vineyard although these buildings were not part of the film.

There was also a US Coast Guard station at Menemsha. I have seen many of these on our trip and they are always one of the coolest looking building around, pristine and immaculate as is this one.

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The ride through the middle of the island was interesting and engaging, very different from the eastern side. There were hardwood forests, oaks, maples and ash although few were very large, probably due to wind from nor'easters, gales and hurricanes. Some of the land was state park but there was a lot of open space. Many of the homesteads had rock walls along their property lines which made Carol and I think that there had probably been farms here. We did see, actual count, four cows and two horses, not exactly Green Acres. Houses were well separated and many had some acreage, not of the estate kind. It was very flat but had a rural feel not unlike home. I have given Carol's Episcopalian faith fair blog credit. In Chilmark we saw this Congregational church, the faith of my New England childhood. If there ever were to be a prototype for a typical New England church, this one would do the job quite nicely. One of the reasons that I was struck by the church is quite personal. Carol and I renewed our vows (yes, she married me again) in 1997 in a church, rather like this, in Wayne, Il. If we had one of these in Spring Creek I'd probably haul myself to it on Sundays except during football season.

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The last place we visited was Oak Bluff, another place that made me wish we had stayed there instead. It was a pretty place and I was busy taking pictures; Carol was busy, hard to guess, talking. In this case, as she often tells me, her talking benefits us. There were some unusual "gingerbread" houses overlooking the harbor, all dated from about 1867. The man Carol had engaged in conversation owned one of them and offered to show us his house and relate its history. His house was, at the time, one of about 600 all of a style but quite different in exterior execution. His in 1867 had no kitchen .... it was communal. He had expanded his by about a factor of 2X adding a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. The home is seasonal, no insulation but June is in season. He then allowed that we might be OK and told us that we should walk up a narrow lane and look for an tabernacle, so we did. What a place it was, something that we would never have found on our own. The 600 homes were built around the open air tabernacle, the site of camp meetings and revivals during the 3d and final "Great Awakening," vacation homes for the faithful while they heard the word.

This is a piece of history to which I would have been oblivious and am grateful that I got to see it. I had studied the Great Awakenings as part of college history courses; a place like this just seems to make that sterile history come alive in ways that are compelling.

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These islands, bays and sounds are much ferry-ed places. We are right next to a ferry that runs from the island to Woods Hole, the southwestern extremity of Cape Cod. There are two other ferries to different parts of the island from several points of departure. We've been close to a few on the open water and they seem to fly, probably about 15 knots, and they don't seem inclined to want to dodge sailboats .... so we get out of the way. The ferry is not much bothersome; being mostly deaf we hear only the required sound of its horn as it gets underway.

This particular ferry has an unusual construction: two identical bridges, one at each end so they never have to turn around; they just walk to the other end of the boat, that becomes the bow, and they go. This sounded simple at the time but rudders and propellers have to be somewhere.

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Martha's Vineyard has been the apogee of the trip, so far. It is a place to which we both can imagine returning, although probably not on a boat amd not between the 4th of July and Labor Day.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, we are off for Nantucket.

Posted by sailziveli 18:50 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Newport, RI

storm 66 °F

The sun was up early that Sunday morning and so were we, getting the boat ready and getting underway by 0530. We joined a parade of small commercial fishing boats heading out the harbor for the open water. Our route took us along the western side of Block Island, and then around the northern tip. There were some rocks or a reef between the northern buoy and the island and the fishing boats there were thick on the water. After we passed to the east of the island we picked up a heavy swell from the Atlantic, 6~8-ft., there being nothing between Block Island and Africa to the southeast, a very long fetch indeed. The ride was very rolly but Carol, fortunately, didn't get sick.

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For a pretty nice Sunday there weren't too many boats on the water, early in the day at least. But by noon, as we approached Narragansett Bay, the wind picked up and every sailboat in the area must have been out on the water, all sailing with no particular place to go. We watched these three, seemingly identical, boats racing or, maybe, just showing off. It's hard to see in the picture, but along the deck of each boat are a bunch of people hanging over the windward edge of the deck providing weight to counterbalance the wind. I later learned that these are 12-meter yachts, former America's Cup participants, that carry folks on charters for the day. There are at least six that do this although we only saw these three on the water.

Since we left Cape May, NJ, through all the miles, the deepest water we had seen was 101-ft, somewhere in the vicinity of the Port of New York. When we went through the channel to enter Newport, RI, the channel being no more than a mile wide, the depths were about 140-ft., deeper even that the open water approach to the harbor.

We were under power and so had to yield the right of way to every idiot learning a point of sail. That seemed like a lot until we hit the inner harbor which was even more crowded, with maybe a hundred small racing boats, each with a two man crew, both hiked out trying to hold the wind. We almost hit one, rather were almost hit by one, when it and another boat both changed course and we had no way to avoid them both. I'm sure the guy to whom we came closest thought that I'm a real jerk; the feeling was mutual.

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This port entrance, like so many we have seen this trip, was guarded by a huge stone fort, Fort Adams, in various iterations, protecting the Bay since the War of 1812.

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I have repeated the supposed truism that Annapolis, MD, is the sailing capital of the US. And so I thought, like many others. Having visited Newport, I'm not so sure anymore. For starters the harbor at Newport is many times larger that Annapolis and accommodates many more boats, most of them sail. Carol and I have seen lots of boats in lots of places but this is the only place we've ever been where the vanity boats have sails. The profusion of types, sizes, construction and mast configurations amazes me. Annapolis had nothing that compares. Some of the most interesting boats are smaller, 20~30-ft. or so, that are obviously older, decades older, but have been lovingly and meticulously restored. It is quite unusual to see as many wooden masts as there are in this harbor.

The first two pictures are of the yacht Columbia, and its sail cover, winner of the America's Cup in 1958, the first race featuring the 12-meter class of boats.

The next two are simple megayachts with sails; the cutter rigged sloop is easily over 100-ft. long; the other, a ketch, if not, is very close.

I'm not sure what the old-timey boat is, but it is authentic, it is in use because I saw a lady on deck doing some chores. There are no sails rigged so it's not going anywhere. And it does have what appear to be openings on the hull where cannons could be rolled out. Maybe it's a reproduction of an earlier boat.

The last boat is another, newer 12-meter racing yacht, that competed in the 1970 races but did not win.

I love looking at sailboats and this is the best place I have ever been to do that. Every boat on every mooring ball or at anchor looks like it has a story. There are, of course, a few power boats and there is a sort of ego-alley where lots of them are moored. But, mostly, this place is about sailing. There are a few cruising boats in the harbor with tell tale wind generators and solar panels. I have seen only one other boat in the harbor with jerry cans on deck; we're ruining the neighborhood and running down the property values with all of our topside barnacles and carbuncles.

We went in to shower and have supper on our first night here. Along the way we ran into Bill who we had met at Delaware City, a couple of weeks past. He, and most of the others that stayed there, had moved up the New Jersey coast, hopscotching from harbor to harbor, then going through the port of New York, up the East River and into Long Island Sound. Despite our layover in Cape May to wait for weather, it was interesting that we both arrived at Newport on the same day about one hour apart.

While I was motoring about in the dinghy, an ocean racer, Donnybrook, docked. That boat looks fast even when it is tied to a dock. If there is a marine equivalent of a greyhound, sleek, lithe and lean, this boat is it. These pictures show the beauty of the boat better than mine ever could.

Link to Images of Donnybrook

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Two of the places we most want to go are Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, both islands south of Cape Cod and east of Long Island, both very exposed to the weather from the open ocean usually not attenuated by any other land masses. I have loaded both locations into our various weather programs. After studying the reports for a few days some patterns became clear that were pretty obvious if I had thought about it, which I did not. Because both islands are so exposed, whatever the weather/wind is on the mainland it is at least 1.5X on Martha's Vineyard and 2.0X, or more, on Nantucket. We're waiting in the harbor where winds might get up to about 25 knots. On Nantucket they are forecast to hit 60 knots, in gusts, and that is hurricane speed. Nantucket, in particular, may be hard to get to and then, when there, may be hard to leave, something that never entered my imagination.

The other thing that has been happening is that we have been losing more days to weather since we hit Delaware City. Notwithstanding Andrea, there have been many days when it has been a bad idea to get the boat into open waters, e.g. today as an example: fogged in and rainy. Not being able to travel is one issue; being boat bound is another. If we get to Maine, I guess that a weather factor of 50% may be a good plan.

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The weather cleared on Tuesday, at least for a while, and Carol and I had a walkabout the town. We both wanted to see the estates and had a general idea of the area. Turned out to be pretty easy to find, not too very far to walk. I don't know if there is such a field of study as forensic architectural anthropology; but if there were, Newport, RI would be a great place in which to ply the profession.

Regular Homes:

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We walked down streets and side streets and saw the ordinary homes and houses, of which there were many. Plaque after plaque noted that houses were on the National Register of Historic Places. The oldest of these homes dated from 1701; most were from the 1700's to the early 1800's. The oldest building we saw was a Baptist Church from 1635; it was in some disrepair so the age was believable. Owning one of these homes is probably interesting; but, when the building's age is measured in centuries, maintenance and upkeep is probably extreme undertaking.

One interesting factoid we learned: there was an active Jewish community in Newport from the 1670's. That surprised me.

Now that we're here, I've got to wondering why this town and this harbor never became more important. The town was prosperous and water access was the key to that prosperity. But Boston and New York clearly eclipsed this place and I do not know why.

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Estates, Mansions & Magnificent Homes:

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These were just a few of the estates that we saw, a pastiche of styles each with an architectual credit to a man long forgotten. It didn't seem as if any of them were actual habitations. Most were now museums, managed and maintained by the local preservation society. One or two had been subdivided. Most dated from about 1870 to 1900, the Gilded Age of the robber barons. It seems good to me that they have been preserved for they are economic and cultural milestones on the way to the values that our country embraces today: so few had so much. Those fortunes have all passed and been dissipated, no enduring privilege conveyed, no enduring economic legacy created, the names of the owners remembered only by the identifying signs on the mansions. Chicago had a similar group of mansions from the same era; almost all were abandoned, fell into disrepair, and, eventually, razed. The only similar place of which I know is Jekyll Island, GA, where the state is preserving the "cottages" from the same era.

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Having concluded the unsponsored "real estate" section of the blog, on to more serious matters. We had wanted to leave today, Thursday, for Martha's Vineyard, an 8~9-hr. trip. We knew weather was coming in but it seemed like we could complete the trip ahead of its arrival and snug in for a very rough 30 hours. We decided to stay in Newport because Carol's sister is having another of her serial reconstructive surgeries today and Carol wanted to be available by phone; tough to argue with that. Probably a good thing, too, since the weather arrived a couple of hours earlier than originally forecast.

So, maybe Saturday is the day, maybe not. At this pace we will lucky to have visited those two islands and then have made our way to Provincetown. MA, at the tip of Cape Cod by the beginning of July.

Excluding WDC, which is sui generis, to me this is the most interesting place we have yet visited and was well worth the trip.

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Posted by sailziveli 09:11 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

After Andrea

semi-overcast 66 °F

Mostly, it was no big deal. The barometer got down to 29.50. We read through most of the storm and slept through the rest. It did get pretty windy which kept the wind generator going; we probably could have powered the eastern end of the island with our excess electrical output. The forecast had the highest winds coming later in the evening, 25~40 knots, so we shut the wind generator down for the night. Having almost destroyed an index finger in similar circumstances at Emerald Bay, I was very cautious. That caution was justified because the winds were so strong that I had trouble pulling the unit away from the wind to shut it down.

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The only mistake was not accounting for the amount of rain. We left the dinghy in the water and it became an 8-ft. catch basin. There was no concern about it sinking, even with the motor attached. The level of water in the dinghy was close to the level of the fuel separator which, long shot, could have absorbed some water into the fuel system. The other thing is that gas has a specific gravity less than water, ergo the gas can started floating and, had the hose parted, we would have violated all sorts of Federal laws about dumping nasty stuff into protected waters.

What a difference 12 hours makes. The lake is placid; the sun is shining; there's a fresh breeze; things are starting to dry out; we bailed out the dinghy and tested the motor. We are trying to figure out where we go next and what comes after that next. Carol is not enthusiastic about going to Maine, safety and security issues I suppose, but will go if I want to do so.

We went into town on Saturday afternoon. For having been a pretty lousy Friday, weatherwise, the motels were all "No Vacancy" when we walked around, which didn't take too long because it's not a very big town. We looked at the displays in some real estate offices; major bucks for not very much house or land. We took a walk down to the beach. It was almost strange seeing the water from land after all these weeks on the boat.

The beach sand and salt seems like a pretty hostile environment for most plants but these purple flowers were blooming in profusion. The water was still very rough in the aftermath of the storm.

The trip has been defined by weather, both good and a lot of bad. This week there is more stuff coming through on Tuesday and Wednesday. What we don't have is any sense of what normal is. I think that our preparation was good enough on the things for which we could prepare: routes, places to stay, things to do. I'm not sure how we could have prepared for weather. A lot of it just seems to come down to looking out a porthole.

So, tomorrow, Sunday, we are off for Newport, RI for a planned visit that will allow us to ride out the coming weather on a secure mooring ball. It will also position us to make a run to Nantucket when the weather breaks.

Posted by sailziveli 18:21 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

What a Surprise Was ANDREA!

storm 57 °F

We have been mostly concerned about the weather between where we are and where we want to go. On a boat, the weather some place else cannot cause problems for the boat. So, I've been lax about checking the NHC for hurricanes this early in the season. Not too bright. I dialed up the NHC to see about a low pressure system just off the coast of South America. There, sitting on the coast of the eastern US was tropical storm ANDREA about which I had been oblivious. We're sitting here in near gale conditions, the tropical storm having passed off the coast of Long Island a little earlier today, Friday, 06/07/2013. At this point, the cost of a secure mooring ball is worth way more than we were charged. But the chances that we'll take the dinghy to the dock this afternoon to get a shower are looking pretty slim.

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Posted by sailziveli 15:03 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

New Plan! The Passage to Montauk Lake

storm 58 °F

We passed a milestone of a sort. When we started we carried three "bricks" of books, each brick wrapped in a gigantic ziploc baggie suitable for an ad hoc body bag and each secured with large bungee cords. We have now gone through 1.7 bricks. Since the trip is close to the halfway point that works pretty well. The irony is that we have not been able to off-load the completed books; the recent run of marinas have not had book exchanges. So, the books get read but the cabin does not get any emptier. With the iPads and Kindle we are in no danger of running out of books ... this trip or any other trip.

It's not exactly celebrity alley but, having extolled the virtues and value of the website, ActiveCaptain, we found ourselves, in Cape May, about 5-ft. away from the active captain himself, the guy who owns the website. The website business must be pretty good because he has a pretty nice 53-ft. boat, much to be admired. The website name is on the boat which probably means that he can declare some/all of the boat and related expenses as business deductions. You don't get a boat like that being dumb. We chatted about stuff for a while; he's from Maine, so he passed along some insights and opinions which could be helpful.

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Having put the words to "paper" in the blog about my low enthusiasm and high concern about the route I had planned I spent most of Sunday morning thinking about and trying to give voice to my concerns. One was top of mind, and had been for a while: we were going farther offshore than we had previously been. The distance from shore was not a concern but being that long out of normal VHF radio range was .... big time, although the USCG operates much more powerful units which should hear us if we needed to call. The other came later: that I had no contingency plans on how to bail were that need to arise and we were a long way from any points to which we could bail. From Cape Hatteras to Key West I know the coast and the points of entry from the ocean in case of emergency; here .... absolutely clueless, a very unsettling thing.

So, out came the charts, the computer and related gear to see what, if any alternatives there might be. There was a clear coast hugging route, staying a mile or so off shore, but that's too close in and there would probably be small boat traffic that's hard to see on radar. So, I cobbled together a string of waypoints that kept us 5~15 miles off shore for the whole trip, which attenuated some of the effects of the wind and waves, less fetch. It also added about 10% to the time and distance, but that actually worked better pushing the trip more to 45~48 hrs meaning less chance of going too fast and arriving in the dark. I also noted and planned for all places where the boat could exit the ocean were there to be a problem; there are several on the eastern shore of New Jersey, fewer on the southern shore of Long Island. I guess that I must have liked the new plan because my misgivings evaporated and my confidence returned. The only residual concern, regardless of route, is that we have to pass through the several shipping channels for the port of New York. If we can pick up a cell signal in the area I will be able to monitor commercial shipping traffic on an AIS (Automatic Identification System) website. And, we always have the radar.

Monday was the day; I issued the float plan on Sunday. Then Monday morning broke rainy and the waves were predicted at 7~8-ft. since the water had not yet settled down from all the wind. Carol gets seasick easily, even with the scopolamine patch, and that seemed like it might be a bit much for her. It's hard handling the boat and standing a watch while heaving chunks. I know having suffered greatly on a wooden ship but doing well now. So, a wet Monday rolled over to a nicer, high atmospheric pressure Tuesday.

During planning, I had broken the trip up into four component parts: the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Long Island Sound and the Islands, Maine and the return trip south. Cape May was the transition point between the first two segments. When we left the dock at Cape May we were fully into the second phase. The first phase went little as planned, cool weather mostly, but not a disappointment. It was fun; we got to see and do lots of interesting things; got to see Sean and got to see my cousins. There were no major boat disasters, a rare stretch of good news for us. I had rather imagined that we would have been farther north by June 4th but this was not a problem either. There is no schedule, although I will probably drop a couple of marginal interest ports of call. The big difference will be marinas. South is cheap ..... north is dear. We've paid $1.50~$2.00 per foot so far, not inexpensive but quite doable. In most places we will visit the marinas cost $4.00~$6.00 per foot; absolutely insane! Mooring balls will cost about what a marina costs in the south, $50 and up. So, lots of being on anchor, fortunately, a thing both Carol and I enjoy.

The weather looked pretty good, a rising barometer, not much positive wind for sailing, but not blowing a gale either. We reissued the float plan; did a few chores and errands that morning and got underway before noon Tuesday; the tide was dead low, but slack, not an issue. And, I figured that at a reasonable speed we should arrive very early on Thursday. Leaving the harbor was not exactly daunting, but this was our first open water leg of the trip, something we had not done since October, 2012. And, since everything in this area is new there was an appropriate level of concern.

Jack lines were rigged, once bright red nylon, now faded to a more muted and mottled color from the years of sun and salt; safety harnesses were dug out with tethers for the coming nights under way. We went off shore power and stowed the cables, probably not to be used again for many, many weeks. Securing the pilot's chair is my job since Carol's womanly woman's hips do not accommodate themselves to the space available. Then we too were ready, the last boat to leave the marina on that Tuesday morning.

As we motored to the channel, Carol was busy stowing mooring lines and fenders. The last thing that she did was to close the lifelines where we had been getting off and on the boat. There is an interesting semiotic finality to hearing those two snap shackles lock. Our new world was bounded by white wires, a fence that surrounds 36-ft. of length and 12-ft. of width and encloses a population of exactly two and whatever must to be done will be done by those, we, two. My main concern basically is about us. As our stamina wanes, which appears to be the case, these long trips exact a larger toll on our bodies which seem to recover a little bit more slowly each time.

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The trip from dock to sea buoy was about 30 minutes, not much traffic, plenty of water despite the low tide. We passed a couple of other marinas ... each was wall-to-wall with sport fishing boats. I would never have guessed that game fishing was such a big deal this far north.

It would have been hard to design a nicer first few hours on the open water. The sky was Carolina blue, the temperature was comfortable and the Atlantic Ocean was a most pacific ocean, not a whitecap to be seen. Of course that meant not much wind. So, we put out the sails and motor sailed, taking what the wind would give us, using the engine RPM's to keep our speed between 5.0~5.5 kts. The gentle swell felt good and, hopefully, helped Carol to get her sea legs back.

A few miles north of the channel we saw a huge amusement park, ferris wheel, roller coasters, loop-de-loop rides. It would have been fun to go there if we had known of it.

By 1600 on the first afternoon we were able to see Atlantic City very clearly despite being 10~15 miles south, lots of tall building quite visible over that short horizon. I had hoped to see the city's lights from the water, but we were well past the city by 1900, an hour and a half before sunset. So we saw this instead. Pictures like this give me hope that New Jersey actually could be a garden state.

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We have an unusual watch schedule, unique to us; most boats, I assume, do 3/4 on and 3/4 off. Our watch schedule is built around accommodating Carol's need for sleep, beauty and otherwise. From 6pm to 6am I stay on the helm eight hours to her four: 6pm to 9pm; 11pm to 1am; 3am to 6am. She stands the reciprocal times during the daylight hours. The 3am to 6am just wears on me, but once is survivable; standing the same watch a second night just about does me in. I have been dreading this passage, not for anything to do with the water but because I know how I will feel after the second night: very tired and aware of each of my 66 years.

To my surprise, the first night wasn't quite so bad. I actually got, maybe, two hours sleep of the four off watch, Carol being kind enough to lend me her puce colored sleep mask (it's on her color chart). Given my inclination to blue jeans and gray t-shirts wearing that was probably the most fashionable I'll look the whole trip. The rewards of being up at 0300 were many. A little past 0330 I saw a dim smudge of white to the east, almost overpowered by the bright working lights on some vessels. As I watched the light broke higher and it was the very thin crescent of a waning moon. As the moon rose higher I saw the first hints of dawn's penumbra starting to light the sky. As "dawn's early light" climbed higher in the sky, so did the crescent moon which remained in the dark of the horizon. It looked as if the moon was floating on the sun's light, ever higher as the day started to break. Remarkably beautiful beyond my poor description.

Near some obscure Jersey shore city called Manasquan there was an eruption of fishing vessels headed east well before sunrise. The radar scope got very crowded and these guys really didn't care about stinkin' effete sailboats in their way. A lot of really close calls of 1/4-mi. or less. No fractured fiberglass so it must have ended OK. We passed this boat just as it was between us and the point of sunrise. It's probably some sort of long-line fishing boat, or maybe it hauls a net on the drum; it's after I don't know what.

I was taking pictures to the east and focused on the sunrise, got some good ones, when I decided to put the camera away. When I looked ahead I saw the windows of Manhattan turning red and gold, glowing with the sun's rise. Not the world's best picture but one heck of a sight.

When I got off watch I checked the phone and there was a signal so I looked at the AIS website. There was a lot of activity on the water but from where we were the approaches to NYC seemed not very busy.

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At mid-morning we had to dodge a 1,000-ft. container ship and saw this boat working the harbor. It is, I assume, the pilot boat mother ship, anchored in position and having, that morning, two boats to dispatch and retrieve pilots to and from their client vessels. Seems like a pretty simple program. As we turned East along the southern shore of Long Island we went through an anchorage with 12 big vessels of which one was a container ship and all the rest were clones of this ship, Nord Swan, of the Norient Line. All are oil carriers, all configured the same, all empty and riding high in the water, all with huge No Smoking signs painted across the fronts of their superstructures. My guess was that maybe these are being taken out of service, mothballed due to the increased domestic oil production. I researched the Nord Swan and it was last active in early May, so maybe .... maybe not.

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About a third of the way down Long Island lies Fire Island, a barrier island and recreation area. Robert, on dock #4 at BLM, related how he and his wife used to have a place on this island in the 60's, which he gave up in a divorce. He was a CPA and was auditing a major advertising agency at the time, and his stories about the place might make Mad Men seem tepid. It was sunny, but not overly warm, high 60's, but the beach seemed quite crowded for a weekday. The Fire Island lighthouse is one of several we saw along the southern shore.

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Long Island really is a very long island, at 118 miles; we traveled along 99 of those miles. The westernmost half of the island's south shore is very pristine, being devoted to state and national parks, with little, if any, private development. From a couple of miles out the dunes and sea grasses could as easily been in the Bahamas as this far north. About midway there must have been a line because on the other side of that line were houses, large and larger, literally exterior wall to exterior wall as far as we could see.
The sun went down over the island and after a while we could only see lights but there were a lot of lights.

The trip was pretty boring, not much water traffic of any kind. So, we putted along at 5 knots, executing the plan to hit a waypoint at 0330 and to be settled by 0600. In the event we hit the waypoint at 0335 and were settled at 0615. I have since decided that my plan stunk .... there were many ways we could have done this that would have been better by any measure. However, as every general knows superb execution can occasionally overcome a bad plan. That about sums up this passage.

We saw a great sunset over Long Island, the developed part; and another great sunrise as we turned the end of the island and headed west to Lake Montauk. I had a lot of trouble getting the bird to sit still for the shot. When I arrived on deck for my 0300 watch it seemed as if we were getting fogged in .... very poor visibility. Turns out that was just condensation on the outer strata-glass. My bright idea was to open the panels to equalize the temperature, it worked, but just made it possible for the inside to fog up also. VFR is better than IFR but we really couldn't see very much.

Getting into the harbor was easy enough, save for a tough current right at the jetty's mouth. Carol decided that she wanted to be on a mooring ball rather that anchor out; or, maybe, she thought that I wanted to be on a mooring ball. Regardless, we are very secure at the Montauk Yacht Club, a nice luxury since we will both be taking sleeping aids tonight to try to recover from the sleep we lost.

The first priority: launch the dinghy and replace 20 gallons of diesel fuel, both of which we did. The motor started on the very first pull; I'm not superstitious and don't believe in omens, but that was a very good omen.

We've stayed in a lot of marinas over these past years and I've sort of adopted a rule of thumb that evaluates marinas on their shower facilities, a critical function of which are the number of hooks to hang towels, etc, and general cleanliness. Where we stayed in Cape May .... absolutely the best. This mooring ball gives us access to the Montauk Yacht Club; their showers are great, top decile easily, probably top demi decile. The clincher ..... a sauna bath, something I have not been able to enjoy for over a decade. When I was doing a lot of traveling in the Orient, I started at a loss on how to connect with a people whose customs were so different from ours. Turned out that they like to get naked and go into hot air, hot steam or hot water, and then drink lots of beer. That was an easy connection and something I enjoy to this day. What a luxury that sauna bath was after the two long days to get here.

Irony is an interesting outcome, but less so when you find yourself the object of irony. We hung out in Cape May to avoid a weekend of high winds on Long Island. Having arrived we find ourselves in the midst of a weekend of high winds on Long Island; the weather is almost a copy & paste replica of the days we sought to avoid; there will be winds in the range of 34~40 knots, a gale on the Beaufort scale. The dinghy dock is, maybe, a quarter mile from the mooring, in this weather, a rough and wet quarter mile. The marina will shuttle us to town, too far to walk, but the rain and winds have us comfortably boat bound. We've also given up the first week of June, which will reduce the number of places that we can visit if we still intend to try for Maine. So, we'll use the downtime review the ports of call and to decide which are important and which to abandon.

Posted by sailziveli 10:33 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating Comments (0)

Cape May, NJ

The End of the Beginning

sunny 82 °F

We hung around Delaware City for a couple of days. Rainy and windy, sunny and windy, always windy, approaching gale force windy, a good reason to have hung around Delaware City. We didn't do very much; there's not very much to do here and even if there were, it wasn't the right weather to do it. I cleaned the boat which was badly needed; Carol did some laundry, mostly needed. We went from having the A/C on in 80o temperatures one evening to having the heater on in 40o temperatures the next morning. Go figure! Even Carol found comfort in the covering blankets. Whoever is in charge of weather must also be in charge of the IRS; both seem to be equally dysfunctional. The wind has made the roughest part of the trip here at the dock. When we arrived we were the last boat on the dock; the dock extending a good way past us. In the interim the dock completely filled up, some boats rafted to others, all boaters looking for some necessary shelter from the wind.

The wind blew the last Honey Locust flower petals from the trees, many of which landed on the water where we were. Seeing all the white petals floating on the water was pretty, looking like some sort of Oriental religious ceremony conducted for our sole pleasure. In Delaware City we had our first exposure to fairly big tides, in this case over 6-ft. I expect that we will see more of this as we head north.

The question of the hour, the only question, really, was do we leave on Sunday or do we wait until Monday, Memorial Day. The answer came down to inertia: Monday, because it was tough getting going on Sunday. Carol called the marina and changed our arrival date and the marina guy told Carol that we had made a good choice; it was still windy and ugly down there. Staying in Delaware City seemed to be a collective, hive-like decision; the entire marina stayed put, electing for Monday. So, to celebrate we all got together Sunday evening and told tales of brave Ulysses, drank some "grog" and had a good time. The reality of shared experience seems to make it easy for boaters to find common ground, enjoying each others' company, the social process lubricated by alcohol and the fact that all the women seem to get to know each other from the showers or the laundry room or the grocery stores.

Monday morning at first light, well before sun-up, there was a jail break. Boats, large and small, sail and power, exited the canal and headed down the river towards the Delaware Bay, most bound for Cape May, at least one turning New Jersey's corner out into the North Atlantic, headed for New York. Tim, the owner-dockmaster was there to help us off at 0455, the tidal current being uncooperative and unconducive to us shoving off by ourselves. We were the second boat underway that morning. The canal was reasonably well lighted from the street lamps along the walkway. We crept out of the canal, there's a shallow spot right at the entrance, and turned the bow downstream. The combined river current and tidal flow grabbed the boat and hurled it south, going from 2 knots to 8 knots almost in an instant, kind of fast considering that I really couldn't tell what color the channel lights were .... that's Carol's job. I had always thought that exiting a place we had entered should be easy, just do the reverse. It doesn't seem to work like that; visual cues and references all seem different from another angle.

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I was barely awake, brain turned on but not processing much data. I saw a light array ahead that I knew was a tug .... good; I didn't see the huge barge it was pushing .... bad. It looked like we were on a converging course downstream .... good. As we got closer, there was enough light to see that the tug and barge were headed straight across our bow .... bad. Turned out not to be a problem .... good, because I wasn't thinking very clearly .... bad.

There were several similar lighthouses marking progress down, or up, the Bay. This is the Miah Maull lighthouse, fairly far down, toward the mouth of the Bay. It looked to be all steel and had a full complement of birds guarding the railings. It's really hard getting a level picture on a moving boat in the telephoto mode. I don't drink underway, it just appears so.

The reason we left so early was to try to capture as much of the current as we could until the tide turned. It was a little like surfing, at one point the boat going more than 9.5 kts, silly fast. It lasted for about 3.5 hours, about the time that the tidal flow reversed and the Delaware River, narrow, became the Delaware Bay, wide. All the motor vessels that left after us passed us along the way and at some point I decided the push the engine a little harder for more speed. The trip from dock to dock was over 55 nm and we did it in 8 hours flat, something I would not have believed possible. There was a fair amount of big stuff moving, most coming up river, not a concern but interesting to see. The fun started when we entered the Cape May Canal. It was Memorial Day, a holiday, and a very nice day, sunny, bright and warm. Every boat was out and every boat was committed to going full throttle, me first, not quite as bad as our first trip up the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, but definitely a contender. I have taken a markdown on the entire population of New Jersey boaters.

The marina is OK but was a little hard to find, sort of around, down and behind. It has just about the nicest showers we have ever seen, marina, hotel, wherever and I've stayed in some really nice hotels overseas. We may extend our stay here just so I can get naked and shower some more. This row of houses, kinda' interesting, is our view over the stern.

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We are in the same "alley" as the fuel dock and a boat pulled in with this guy on the deck: a mako shark, about 7-ft. long and 300-lb. After fueling up the took the shark to the dock to display it hanging by the tail, of course, also weighing it. Each guy on the boat posed with the beastie for many pictures. It looked just like the dock scene in Jaws except it was real. Sport fishing seems to be an important part of the water scene here in Cape May.

We will have to do some work here; it's time for the 100-hr. engine maintenance schedule which includes the much hated motor mount bolts .... AGAIN!!! Mostly, it's the three F's: fuel, fluids and filters .... topping off, replacing and refreshing. Fortunately, this work does not take a lot of time or effort; a couple of hours here and there gets things done with plenty of time for doing not very much. I had been a little cavalier in my management of spare parts knowing that I should be able to replenish along the way. When I dug through trying to find a fuel filter there were exactly zero on board, a bad number for a part that has the life expectancy of a kleenex. There's a Yanmar dealer just a short walk away so we have been busily getting plenty of replacements for the rest of the trip.

Carol has been preparing for the rest of the trip .... in her own ineffable way, which has nothing to do with the boat. As we head north there will be less crab available, now a staple of her diet. So she selected a restaurant nearby, The Lobster House, to adjust her palate to more boreal waters by having her first lobster, probably anticipating these as the new staple of her diet. We tried some raw oysters from the Delaware Bay and they were very good, almost as good as the ones from the Chesapeake Bay but with a slightly saltier flavor. Probably a 1B to the southern 1A.

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Cape May, NJ, is a resort town, growing around the same time as Newport, RI and the north shore of Long Island. The marina is on a small island, not too much larger than our 18.8 acres, about a mile or so from town. The walk to town, down Washington St. is delightful. Most of the houses along the way were fairly modest as we started the walk and grew larger and more elaborate as we neared town. Per the ubiquitous signs, most dated from about the 1880's and ran through the 1920's, regular houses trimmed out, Victorians and some Craftsman style houses. Carol liked the white house, which was for sale, but not enough, she said, to leave our mountains. A good thing as it was way too expensive. There were many homes for sale, most listed by Sotheby's, not a low ticket dealer. Downtown was pretty neat, the old main street closed off and made into a pedestrian mall with the usual assortment of shops and restaurants, but very nicely done. The beach, sort of the raison d' etre for the town, was spectacular, at least as nice as Miami's, and maybe natural, a claim the Miami cannot make since that beach was trucked in after years of erosion. It was hard to tell how long the beach and boardwalk are, probably a couple of miles, maybe more.

Life on the boat is by its very nature secluded and solitary, not so many folks around. It seems strange, sometimes, to be among so many people as there were today, on a weekend. The last shot, the yellow building, is the original fire department for Cape May, now a museum adjacent to a huge new complex.

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For the first time this trip we find ourselves waiting for the weather to make the two night passage to eastern Long Island. I had wanted to leave Thursday which would have had us arriving early Saturday. But, that arrival would have put us on the cusp of some very high winds in a new and uncertain anchorage in Lake Montauk .... which may or may not have any usable mooring balls, or if they are usable may not be available. Plus the wind, from the right direction for a change, SW, would have been a minimum of 15-kts with lots of wind well over 20-kts and a little over 30-kts. Our boat is too light and, as a consequence, too much to handle under those conditions for that long a passage. So, I bailed. However, in the interim, at least eight sailboats have come and gone while we sat and stayed. The water at the beach today was very calm, not a whitecap to be seen. There's a fine line between mature judgement and wimping out and I hope I'm closer to the former than the latter but I'm beginning to wonder. I'm looking forward to being in the islands off New England but I am also having trouble mustering any enthusiasm for the passage necessary to be there. Don't know why that is. We've waited in Marathon, FL for weeks to get to the Bahamas so I guess a week in Cape May is not a big deal. Monday doesn't look perfect but, 48-hrs. out, it looks like it might be good enough.

Posted by sailziveli 12:18 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

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