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Blog Hiatus

storm 72 °F

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The ferry itself is of no particular note. It's called the Fast Ferry to Boston, able to make the trip in about 90 minutes, twice as fast as the other ferry which does not call itself the "Slow Ferry," although it is. The Fast Ferry is a catamaran, twin hulls. What is notable about the ferry, at least as it appertains to the blog, is that it was carrying Carol to Boston, from which she would fly to Florida to be able to more directly and more easily manage the issues deriving from her sister's hospitalization.

We have no idea how long she will have to remain in Florida to deal with the process, hopefully a term measured in days rather than weeks, but there are no guarantees; this is a familiar script. The window for visiting Maine was always tight .... arrive around July 1st with no more than three weeks there. That window has closed irrevocably. We will not share any victory toasts to Remember (the) Maine!

So, Provincetown is the apogee of the trip. There might be opportunities to do some more things south of here before we head the boat "back to the barn;" there may not. It all depends on how things go in Tallahassee. More time there .... less time here. This is by way of saying that this may be the last blog entry for this trip.

Posted by sailziveli 11:02 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

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)

Delaware City, DE

overcast 74 °F

We decided to head to Delaware City, on the Delaware River. That location should put us in reach of Cape May, NJ. The transit included the 14 mile long Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. I thought that the tide in the canal might be against us part of the way, slowing us down, so we chose to leave very early, giving us more time. I was up before 0530 and was very groggy, not having slept well the night before. It seemed a good idea to check the engine first thing lest I forget it later. Up went the hatch. Looked at the coolant .... good. Pulled the dipstick to check the oil .... good. Closed everything up and noticed as I headed to my next task that I still had 18-in. of dipstick in my hand. Ooooops! Not a good plan. We were underway by 0615, the sky overcast. the temperature comfortable, and with a haze on the water. Rather than restrict visibility, for some reason, that particular hazy quality of light made it much easier to see things on the water like buoys. Regardless, we turned on the navigation lights just as a caution.

We made good time, taking the same 1-1/2 hours for the reverse trip back to the Bay although at that point it seems to be more the Susquehanna River than the Chesapeake Bay. We had about 8 miles when we turned north, pretty straightforward, a wide deep channel suitable for commercial traffic which left us plenty of room as there was no commercial traffic. There were a couple of long, straight stretches that had lighted ranges, different from my USN days in the 60's when they were painted placards with lines down the center that had to be brought into alignment. The lights were very bright and visible at a distance of well over 6 miles.We passed close enough to one to get a decent look at the light .... a sealed parabolic reflector, probably no more that 6~8-in. in diameter. The light source had to be LED's, based on the quality of the light. I was amazed that something so small was visible at such a distance.

The trip to the canal was quite bucolic and quite pleasant. There were some houses along the way, but not so many and not so big; some barns and an occasional silo made it clear that this was the country not the suburbs. Most of the riverfront land was undeveloped, a startling change from many places where every inch of waterfront has been overrun, auctioned off and built up. There was a sole exception, something Carol and I had never seen in all our on water miles: a modular home park with great water views. And why not? There must have been several hundred of these looking out over the river/bay.

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We hit the canal about 0930 and, sure enough, the tide was slowing us down, way down to about 4.5 knots. The canal is an interesting piece of American history about which I had never heard until we started planning this trip. It first opened in 1829 after 65 years of discussion, planning and financial failure. The object was to get from Philadelphia to Baltimore more quickly and the canal absolutely aces that, knocking well over 200 miles off the trip. I just don't have the sense of economic history that makes that time saving an important goal.

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In its current iteration, the better part of two centuries on, it's a piece of work: 14-miles long, 450-ft. wide, 40~50-ft. deep. The canal is for ocean going vessels, maybe not the very largest, but pretty big. There are six bridges that span the canal. The run of the mill ICW bridge has 65-ft. of vertical clearance; all these bridges have a minimum of 135-ft. The first picture is the westernmost bridge at Chesapeake City. I suppose it is a bit of an artifact, probably built before the days of CAD/CAM, Excel and even calculators. Imagine a civil engineer building something with no more computing power than a slide rule and it remains standing. Of course, the Roman Aqueduct still stands and it predates even slide rules. The other bridge is a very old Conrail bridge; the center span goes up and down with cables, pulleys and huge concrete counterweights in the end towers. 135-ft. is about 2.5 times our mast clearance and neither Carol nor I thought that there was that much space above the mast going under the Conrail bridge. One of the other bridges seemed older and three were fairly contemporary including one that was a concrete suspension bridge similar to the ones in Charleston, SC and Brunswick, GA.

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We didn't pass any large vessels in the canal but we did have to dodge three large tugs with huge barges. Lots of room, lots of depth, no problems although the prop wash and wake ricocheted back and forth across the width of the canal making for a bumpy ride. For this reason, almost the entire length of both canal banks is lined with a rock layer to prevent erosion. Except for the Chesapeake City area the canal was largely undeveloped. It was a pretty and peaceful ride. There is some tree that grows in profusion, mile after mile, along the canal banks that was in full flower; I haven't yet figured out what tree it is but they added some beauty to the passage. I had speculated that when we got to the canal's midpoint that the tide would start to work for us and at 6.8 miles that exact thing happened and we made much better speed on the last leg.

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We exited the canal into the Delaware River and turned north into the tide and the river's current. The last mile was a long one, or at least a slow one. The marina is down a long, narrow channel but the water depth is pretty good. I'm not sure how we turn the boat around to head back to the channel but that's a problem for another day and the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. This marina has one point of distinction: it's the only one we have seen with landscaping and gardening. We noticed these rogue Iris out a starboard port, unexpected along the bank and so close to the water. Iris being Carol's favorite flower, although she much prefers purple ones, she lobbied for their inclusion in the blog. Big pressure on a captain to keep the crew in line.

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After a cloudy, overcast day our arrival at the marina was a shock: the sun came out, it got hot and we were beset with flies and flesh eating gnats, miniature winged piranha, which were having us for an after luncheon treat. We had thought that we had left these gnats behind in Brunswick, GA. Their appearance here was not a welcome surprise since they pretty much make the cockpit off limits. I have been worried about being too cold ... today Carol hinted about the air conditioning. Big Change!

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After several futile hours on the internet and blank stares from some local people I finally cracked and confirmed the code: the trees are Honey Locusts and they are ubiquitous in the area. I was told by Tim at the marina that they are thick along this street and are, now, at the end of their flowering season. A couple of weeks ago he said that the fragrance was almost overpowering. These are really big trees; we planted one at our first house in Chicago but it bore nothing in common with these giants. Maybe it just needed more years to grow; but, had it gotten this large it would have dwarfed the house.

Wednesday afternoon got quite warm by some people's standards. When I returned to the boat from a walk about Carol was splayed out on the settee, gasping, like a fish out of water, sweating, suffering and florid from the 82o "heat." In an act of mercy I turned on the A/C so that the Nordic Princess would not melt into a small puddle, dribble down to the bilge, and be pumped overboard. I thought that the weather felt pretty nice.

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The marina is quite different in one other aspect, there is only one long floating dock along the canal. There is a very nice walk way along the bank of the canal that ends up in the center of a very small town, one main street, one side with buildings, the other having a park that abuts the canal, a very nice effect. The promenade ends at this former and, according to the signs, future renovated and restored hotel dating from about 1830. Hard to see how that will make economic sense, but commercial real estate is not my field.

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I was unable to find when the town was established but it must have been a busy place by the early 1800's since the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal was first proposed in the 1760's These two houses positively reeked of 18-something, perhaps earlier, and look like they were designed by the same guy. The two churches that I saw dated to 1848, Episcopal, and 1852, Catholic.

Tuesday, 05/21/13, was the 49th day of the trip, seven weeks on the water. It has not gone as I planned it at the kitchen table in Spring Creek; in fact the only trip we made as laid out was from Cape Charles to Tangier Island. Everything else has been ad hoc. For all that the trip has gone well enough. I haven't shot Carol .... no guns on board; she hasn't left me .... no car. We had only two dates assigned to any part of the trip: (1) if we make it to Maine, don't arrive much before July 1st; (2) be back in a safe harbor by early August for hurricane season. Without any conscious plan, we have been drawing out the Chesapeake portion of the trip waiting on better, i.e. warmer, weather. My axiom in Chicago was that the weather was never consistently nice until after Memorial Day. We will get to Long Island after Memorial Day and that's probably an OK thing.

It's looking like I made a bad call on the weather. We laid over in Delaware City to avoid some weather that was inconvenient. We are now faced with weather that is too bad to head down the Delaware River to the Bay and then into Cape May, NJ. Carol, who can get sea sick sitting at the dock, would not appreciate the prospect of high winds over shallow water with big, choppy waves. The weather forecast has been moving the onset ever earlier on Friday, 05/24/13, the day I had thought to leave, from the evening to the early afternoon, closing the window and raising the stakes. After 66 years I'm pretty well used to doing stupid things but still aspire to avoid premeditated stupid things. So, it looks like we will spend the weekend here in Delaware City and wait for the weather to break fair.

Posted by sailziveli 09:34 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Havre de Grace, MD

sunny 75 °F

We decided to leave Baltimore on Saturday, not having much more there that we wanted to do. Baltimore, like many major eastern US cities has a little Italy. Carol selected an Italian restaurant for Friday evening at which she wanted to eat and that completed her agenda. Mercifully for the crab population in the bay, the Italians don't seem to have any red sauce covered culinary analogues to crab cakes. The marina started filling up on Friday, going from 1/4 full to, maybe 1/2 full. The Preakness was being run on Saturday and that was a big draw; Univ. of Maryland was having a graduation and that was also getting lots of people into town. Plus, the rates went up on the weekend so we left town.

We had thought to go to St, Michaels, a place we had skipped in order to organize the trip to Washington. But, that's south of Annapolis and I didn't want to retrace that much water. Jay had suggested Harve de Grace, as a candidate, allowing that he had not visited the town in 25 years. There are marinas there, they're pretty cheap, so with no better plan in mind we took off for that town since it is north and in the general direction of our travel.

The trip sort of typified a frustration about cruising in the Chesapeake. We were 7-1/2 hours on the water; two were to get from Baltimore to the Bay; 1-1/2 were to get from the Bay to Havre de Grace. We only spent 4 actual hours of covering miles that were new or we would not have to travel again. Almost every place off the Bay requires a hour to reach, most require more. I guess that the silver lining is that the days a getting quite long so this lateral motion doesn't completely kill progress.

The trip was perfectly boring and uneventful and that was fine with us having had a full measure of eventful in the prior five years. As we left the inner harbor we saw two shells, one a crew of one, the other of four. I figured that at 5.5 knots we would overtake both in short order. Not so! Both pulled away from us with the single oarsman leaving the crew of four far behind .... us too.

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We decided to take a shortcut, exiting the main shipping channel in favor of going "off road." When we had made the course change there was an information buoy that labeled the area, "crab lane." I expected the worst but there weren't so many crab traps. Along the way we saw these two lighthouses that aren't lighthouses. The taller, black and white structure is a range light, which, when aligned with another light tells ships if they are in the center of a channel. The other is obviously an old lighthouse but I could not find a lighthouse on the chart. Turns out that it was converted to the range light that complements the black and white structure to create the Craighill Range, the taller light being the upper range and the lighthouse the lower range. This is a range that we had used on the trip to Baltimore from Annapolis. The time in the Chesapeake Bay has been interesting in this sense: we have never been in a place that has such a large population of navigational aids and markers. Regardless of where a boat is on the water there always seems to be some aid visible to the naked eye. The issue becomes not finding a reference point but figuring out what reference point you're seeing because there are so many.

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Baltimore seems to me to be the end of the Bay. Above the city the Bay is more of a river and not a very big one for all that, much less than one mile from bank to bank with the whole area getting progressively shallower. Saturday afternoon the wind picked up a little and there were lots of boats out sailing, nowhere to go, just enjoying the wind. This was one of the boats that we saw, an older boat, probably a yawl. It seemed unusual that a boat like that would have kevlar sails, very pricy, and a spinnaker, but there it was. For all of the money invested in sails, a lot of money, the boat was not going very fast but looked very good regardless.

We arrived at Havre de Grace in the early afternoon, motoring all the way, the last 8 miles or so with a tide pushing us along toward the town up a narrow and tortuous channel. When we were settled I just had to look up the name to see what it means: Haven of Grace. The area is fairly sheltered so I got the haven part; I was not so sure about the grace unless it was discovered in dire circumstances or under divine providence. Turns out that it was named after Le Havre, France an interesting choice since the French were mainly much farther north and this area was assiduously British. After the war General Lafayette visited the place several times and commented that it reminded him of Le Havre in France which was originally named Le Havre de Grace. Improbably, from 200 years on, in 1789 the town was a contender for the site of the nation's permanent capital.

Plan! What plan??? We originally intended to stay the weekend and leave Monday but decided to attack a small boat problem: the strataglass in the center panel of the canvas surround, the most critical view, had become badly mottled making it almost opaque. The trip started with that issue as annoying and it recently became a problem. In bad weather the panel stays down but the boat pilot becomes partially blinded, not a good thing since the obstructed view is where we look for crab pots. So, we found a canvas guy here in town who was willing to replace the "glass" on short notice, a sufficient reason to stay another day.

On Tuesday, we're off for Delaware City. There will be some very windy weather on Wednesday and Thursday and the cruising guide says that the Delaware Bay can be difficult in those circumstances. So, we'll ride it out in shelter.

Posted by sailziveli 20:37 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Baltimore, MD

sunny 69 °F

It was cold, this morning, down in the 40's again. Every nice day has been followed by several extremely cool days and nights, struggling to break 50o at night and 60o during the day. The struggle has rarely been successful.

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It was Monday, and we had to get underway, having been banished from Annapolis. Carol had taken a liking to crabcakes at a particular restaurant. She would say, "I'll fix you breakfast and then I'll take a walk," the walk being to get and eat a crabcake. Or, "I'll fix you lunch and then I'll take a walk," the walk ending at the same place for the same reason; ditto for dinner. She ate so many crabcakes that the town was running out of inventory, sending tourist spending down 11.3% for the week we were there. The city council passed an emergency measure exiling us from the town, so we left.

We saw a couple of neat boats along the way. The first is at least a "go fast" boat, maybe a racing boat. It had kevlar sails, a squared off main, and a small bow sprit to handle spinnakers. There were several people in the cockpit so my guess is that it's a USNA boat that went out very early to return in time for a regular day. The second boat is a schooner that we saw in the Patapsco River, close to the Baltimore inner harbor. In a two masted schooner the rear mast is at least as tall, but usually taller, that the foremast. I imagine that at some earlier time we would have seen these in the dozens between Annapolis and Baltimore.

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The trip was pretty simple: go down the Severn River, turn left for an hour or two; then turn left again at the Patapsco River and go until you cannot go any farther. We passed these two lighthouses just north of the Bay Bridge. It seemed that the upper portion of both structures were brickwork. The white topped one, Baltimore Lighthouse, was, at one point, powered by a small nuclear generator, the first ever to be so powered. There were many more lighthouse, the traditional tower on land, as we neared Baltimore's inner harbor; there are so many that it almost seems like a connect the dots/lighthouses passage.

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Of course, we saw Ft. McHenry, of "O, say can you see..." fame. Without even having a clue, it seems that we are, in part, going over the very same waterways that the British traveled in the Chesapeake Bay campaign during the War of 1812. We first read about that in Solomons, MD. Up the Potomac, up the Patuxent, up the Patapsco went the British and so went we two. The War of 1812 is one about which I have scant knowledge. After the trip I will have to remedy that.

We passed an industrial site on the lower reach of the river, Sparrows Point. It is/was a part of Bethlehem Steel. Not a thing appeared to be happening ... shut down and shuttered. I researched that there is talk of putting an LNG terminal there. There was also a container port above the Ft. McHenry Memorial Bridge. All the boats were brightly painted and only one was recognizable: the green hulled boat is a car carrier with a ramp on the starboard side of the stern that goes down to load and unload cars. The two to the right are container vessels, but of a type I have never seen, maybe half for containers and half for who knows? The red hulled boat to the left: clueless.

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The marina was at the end of the harbor; had we gone another 50 yards we would have hit a sea wall. When we were researching the choices we selected this marina for its proximity to downtown, and downtown is about 200 yards away. What we didn't realize is that walking around the harbor to get to the downtown area is about a mile or so. Taking the dinghy across would be quicker and save a ton of steps.

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We were greeted at the dock by someone from the marina to handle the lines and by a smaller visitor, truly the size of a bathtub rubber duck, no feathers yet. It was either lost, or so small that it could not make headway into a fairly stiff wind, or, more probably, both. I have no clue whether it's a sea bird or some type of duck. Regardless, it was paddling courageously and energetically to no place in particular, generally managing a circle.

This is, more or less, what Carol and I see from the back of our boat. A pretty nice view in the waning light of the evening. The wave looking thing on the right is the Aquarium.

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Our son, Sean, arrived in Washington, DC on Tuesday for a vacation. Mamas love their babies even when their babies are older than 40 and weigh more than 200-lb. Sunday having been Mothers' Day, Carol's "suggestion" for her gift was a visit to WDC to see Sean. Neither he nor I chose to step in front of that truck. The trip was short, not much more than 50 miles. There was an interesting symmetry: having twice passed under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, we twice got to drive over it, Sean's hotel being in Alexandria, VA. We were back on the boat Wednesday in time for lunch. Mama was happy.

On Wednesday we were able to get together with my cousin Sue and Jay, who took us to Ft. McHenry to see the place from land. It was pretty interesting and closed a loop: in WDC we had visited the Museum of American History and saw the actual flag on display that flew that day and night in 1814. We went to dinner at a place that they said has the best crabcakes in MD, which suited Carol. Sue's brother, my cousin Bill, was also able to join us with his wife, Linda. It was a good time it having been a while since we had visited Sue and a longer while for Bill.

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Sue and Jay took us on Wednesday through a very old section of Baltimore called Fells Point. So, on Thursday we decided to revisit the area. We hopped aboard buses, at no charge, that got us there quickly and in air conditioning. The area is mostly gentrified but not quite all the way. Most of the houses were in exceptionally good shape, i.e. very well maintained, at least on the street side. My guesstimate is that most houses date from 18-something, maybe a few from 17-something. It was a great place to walk and rubberneck. There were whole streets where every house had a plaque denoting that it was registered as a historic location. The clapboard houses stood out in a sea of brickwork, notwithstanding the bright colors. There was a third one, but that picture didn't turn out. We passed by a real estate office and looked at the offerings in the window. The old houses, like in the pictures, didn't seem all that expensive; the newly built condos, on the other hand, were very dear. There were lots of places selling beer, almost as many selling food, most doing both. A good place to be hungry and thirsty. Better yet to be thirsty and Irish, about 1/2 the bars seeming to claim genetic descendancy from that emerald isle. I don't know why the Irish are so closely associated with alcohol, but they are.

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We also visited the USS Constellation, a restored vessel from 1854. It seemed unusual in that there was no structure on or above the deck, just the several masts rose higher that the gunwales with a clear view from stem to stern. The openness on the deck made it seem that the Constellation larger that the USS Alacrity on which I served, but in fact the Constellation is about 15-ft. shorter. They both were, however, wooden ships. History has judged which was the more compelling of the two. There are several other ships on display and open for visits in the harbor and we saw them all, a busman's holiday of boats.

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The boat has received small amounts of attention in the morning as we've performed modest maintenance, none of which has required much time or much energy. Mostly we've been enjoying the visit to the place and with family and the .... somewhat ..... warmer weather, a welcome change and, hopefully, a permanent one.

We're leaving tomorrow, Saturday, but I haven't yet decided where. We had thought to go straight on to Cape May, the jumping off place to Long Island. I am reluctant to arrive that far north too early due to temperatures. Marinas are out of the question, costing $5.00 ~ $6.00 per foot, per night, about the expense of a luxury hotel without the room service or the Godiva chocolates on the pillow.

Posted by sailziveli 08:31 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Annapolis, MD

overcast 77 °F

Carol needed a confidence builder so, she got to be Captain for a Day, the title of Queen for a Day being already taken. The plan, get us from the dock in Oxford, MD to the dock in Annapolis, MD, a trip of some 35 nm.

After narrowly avoiding two disasters in the first three minutes she got us out the channel and into the Tred Avon River, heading for the Choptank River. All was relatively uneventful. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the morning. The closest it came was to make the slate gray skies fade to dove gray, but only for a nanosecond; if you blinked, you missed it. Mostly it was overcast, a little rain, very cool, never breaking 60o, a chilly, damp trip.

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There was a fair amount of commercial boat traffic, i.e. really big things, going up and down the Bay, but we were never really very close to their lines of travel. Even in the deepest water, well over 40-ft. we saw crab pots, not so many, and not so dense. All the deep water crab pots seem to have a small flag on the buoy "mast." I don't know whether this is for the crabbers to be able to locate their traps or a requirement that allows other boaters to be better able to see the traps in more navigable waters. Regardless, these ubiquitous boats, running a little over 20-ft., are the proximate cause of all the trouble. There must be hundreds of these things in the Bay, all white, all genetic clones of a single design decades old.

Just south of Annapolis, on the western side of the Bay, is the Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse, a very old original. It was rebuilt in 1877, an earlier version succumbing to ice; it was manned by light keepers until 1986, over a century, then automated. It is the oldest of its kind still standing in U.S. waters. Pretty cool, I think.

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It took just about seven hours to make the passage, fighting the tide the whole trip. The mouth of the Severn River, which the cruising guides say can be nasty, was calm, benign, uneventful. Carol, after circling the harbor several times finally found the marina and tried to enter the slip. This was not going to work so I took over and got the boat into the slip as directed by the marina attendant. Except, the slip was too narrow, so we were directed to another slip, wider, but it required a port side tie and we were rigged for the starboard side. Clear, direct words were exchanged with the attendant who decided at that point to let us go wherever we wanted, a wise choice on his part. So after slip 13 and slip 14, slip 15 proved, mostly, to our liking. We've stayed at many marinas and the clear standard for excellence is still the guys at the city marina in St. Augustine, FL. They are the only ones from whom I have ever asked and heeded advice.

Carol's assessment of her captaincy for the day was, on a pass/fail basis, that she passed; my assessment of her assessment was that I would agree with her. For a guy like me, who has lived most of his adult life at the pointy end of several very sharp sticks, it's hard to understand the feeling of accomplishment and confidence that this "rite of passage" gave Carol.

This was our third trip to Annapolis: once to visit Ron & Shirley, once for a boat show, and this trip. After we had the boat buttoned up and secure, it dawned on Carol that we are moored in the middle of the boat show, at least where it was that particular year. Annapolis the the sailing center of the Eastern US, probably the whole country. I don't know how that came to be, it just is. A trip to Annapolis on a sailboat has some of the metaphysical overtones of a trip to Jerusalem, but without the sectarian bloodshed: THIS IS THE PLACE! When looking at the resident sailboats here it seems that folks here have a different relationship with their sailing their boats than do folks like us who cruise. There are few davits and dinghies; no solar panels or wind generators; no canvas surrounds, many boats with no cockpit canvas at all ....sailing is a wind in the face experience; whisker poles abound; jerry cans .... fuggedaboutit, most boats displaying their sleek, graceful shapes unencumbered by cruising paraphernalia. Even the most modest boats look anxious to harness the wind and to challenge the water.

As always, just when you're having fun .... real life intervenes. Carol had been concerned about some spots on her skin, so part of the reason for being in Annapolis is so that she could see a dermatologist and get some biopsies done. Not overly concerning at this point. We've been talking to friends back home and there are some health problems that are almost dire and some that are difficult in their consequences. We plan on visiting some friends that lived in Chicago and moved here to retire. Found out on Friday that she and I share some health issues, hers being less than a week old, so we compared notes over the phone.

The week, to date, has been quiet. A rainy Tuesday, a good day for reading on the boat, which we did, was followed by clear weather. Carol needed a way to get to the doctor's so we rented a car and spent a lot of time running boat errands getting to two different West Marine stores on several occasions and a couple of trips to Fawcett's the local guy here in Annapolis. The experience of no visibility the morning we left Colonial Beach made an impression. We have a USCG fog horn using compressed air and looking sort of like a can of Cheez Whiz for manhole covers; it will get us past any inspection but the bigger question was, "What happens if we really get socked in up north?" Da' Cheez Whiz wouldn't cut it. So, we cobbled together the parts and pieces to make an electric horn from the several visits to the several stores. The good news: I got it together, and it works. The bad news: rather than having a deep, penetrating, resonant basso profundo sound, it rather resembles the honk of a whining, petulant escapee horn from a Yugo automobile. Better than nothing. ..... mostly.

We were on the ICW for 4 days, Oriental to Norfolk. There must be something in the water, maybe decayed plant matter, that creates an ugly, marigold color patina on the hull. Usually, this is just at the water line; because it had been windy and wavy our entire hull was mottled in different degrees from top to bottom, stem to stern. Most acids seem to cut the crud, including citric acid, but this is slow. We bought some oxylic acid solution that was pretty aggressive, but required eye cover and something to prevent inhaling the aerosol. Acid for the water stains, Soft Scrub for everything else, up one side and then the other; it was like spit shining a school bus. But, work done, it looks a lot better.

Annapolis is a pretty neat place. It seems unusual to me to see buildings from 1790, 1890 and 1990 all in such close proximity. The old stuff is what fascinates me. The town, like many others, has a downloadable app which includes a walking tour. If you scribe a 1/4-mi. radius from the statehouse dome, that pretty much covers the tour; not a lot of walking involved. To me the sense of the age of the place comes from the side streets more than the tour locations. We also walked through the USNA, hard on the banks of the Severn River. It was a wonderful collage of old buildings with new, much more graceful than the U of F. There is a huge "chapel" at the Academy, much larger than most churches. There was a service of some sort today so we did not get to go inside. From the outside it looked amazing, the stained glass windows huge. The two coolest residences in town are both temporary: the Governor's mansion and the USNA Superintendent's house.

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One side street which we traveled had buildings with these great doors.

Friday was the second day of summer, the first being about a month ago in Norfolk. The sliver of water in which we are moored has the name of Ego Alley. The reason for this was not apparent until about 4pm when the alley came alive people at the clubs and boats on the water. Change the Beneteaus and Sea-Rays to Fords and Chevys and it could have been Main Street in Modesto, CA and we were watching American Graffiti. Boats, big boats, power and sail, entered the alley, traversed the length of it and the reversed to exit, some doing it again, seeing and being seen ... Ego Alley. The din from the people at the clubs on the other side of the alley was loud and combined with live music it sounded like a party and we were part of it. There was a lot of "dock & dine," boats pulling in for a few hours and then leaving. The party continued well into the wee hours but being deaf has its advantages and we slept through the rest of the event.

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We're off on Monday for Baltimore.

Posted by sailziveli 14:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oxford, MD

rain 59 °F

We got underway from Solomons at about 0730 on Friday, having watched a steady stream of private and charter fishing boats leave before us. Without exaggeration, each boat carried more than a dozen rod and reel combinations, some having at least 20, maybe more. Each rod was festooned with at least one yellow wiggly looking thing, that being followed by a bright balloon of yellow and gold streamers that could have served as pom-poms for most adolescent cheerleaders. It created a very festive atmosphere, it not being obvious whether the boats were going fishing or were in a procession for a "Blessing of the Fleet." We never saw a priest or any holy water so we guessed that they were fishing.

As we cleared into the Bay an hour later that became obvious. The boats were thick on the water, dancing water bugs gliding about in a curious and complex pavane. We were under sail, headed north, right into the floating mass. It's a close call as to who may have had the right of way. We were under sail, and that usually trumps in most circumstances. However, some of the larger boats had deployed floating paravanes to stream fishing lines to the side. There was a case to be made for those boats having limited maneuvering, causing us to yield to them. Most boats, however, were being powered by a toxic mix of diesel, beer and testosterone, men on the hunt, and they really didn't much give a damn about yielding anything to any stinkin' sailboat.

In the middle of the boat cluster, a near disaster struck. We avoided the problem but the crew did not respond well, at all. We finally cleared the bulk of boats and then headed up the Choptank River, into the wind and waves, a deadly dull, tedious and tiring slog. We finally hit the Tred Avon River and after a few miles on that water arrived at the marina.

Over the weekend it was time for some work attention to be directed to the boat, it being time for the 100 hour cycle of boat, not engine, maintenance. On Saturday I decided to start with the last item on the list. The sacrificial zinc was about 4 months old and I was not sure that we needed a new one but I was sure that I needed to look at the old one. Neither the air nor the water was very warm that day, so we hauled out the wet suit. Getting into one of those things is about like dressing up in a straight jacket except the arms are a little shorter. Being a skinny, scrawny guy, I have a natural flotation index of about: zero. It is amazing how much buoyancy the suit adds in the water. I cannot get below the boat wearing the wet suit without the weight belt, so that went on too, the only time that Carol and I are nearly the same in weight. Fins, mask and snorkel completed the ensemble. It was a good thing that I decided to check; the zinc had maybe one more week before it completely disintegrated and fell off the shaft. The real problem was visibility. Even with my mask the propeller's radius away, 8-in., I could not see the 3/16-in. hex head bolt. The water was some revolting combination of colors in the triangle of yellow, green and brown. Regardless, using the brail method of feeling about, the old one came off and the new one went on and we're good for another few months. On Sunday we did the rest of the list, finding no other issues needing attention.

Oxford is a stunningly pretty little town. The marina at which we stayed is at the tip of the strand, the strand literally being a thin strip of land surrounded by water. The houses facing the street that ran along the strand all have an unimpeded view of the Tred Avon River, there being no houses on the other side of the street. Most of the houses backed up against marinas and boatyards.

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The main street was delightful. There were no Gilded Age mansions to be seen. All of the houses were old, clapboards predominating with some painted cedar shakes, probably spanning about 25 years on either side of a century. They may have started as rather modest two story single family homes on typical city lots: not very wide, but pretty deep. Over time most seem to have morphed into small housing complexes. By looking at roof lines it seems that every house had a least one addition built onto the rear of the house, most looked like two. All the trees were hardwoods save for an occasion renegade pine. What struck me was that the main street could have as easily been in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or upstate New York.

This inn, the Robert Morris Inn, is at the intersection of the two main streets and Carol says that some small part of it dates to the 1780's; the third floor is not one of those parts.

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The town dates to 1683 and water has always been a part of its history. With all the boatyards and marinas there is also a boat builder/ marine architect, a purveyor of high end wooden boats, a rare thing today. And, maybe a trend starting here, another clock.

Posted by sailziveli 15:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New Plan! Solomons, MD

sunny 63 °F

Tuesday morning in Colonial Beach looked pretty much like a replay of Monday morning .... a good day to stay dry and warm inside the boat, tied to the dock. But, we had seen the best that Colonial Beach had to offer and it was time to be quit with that place. It wasn't exactly raining .... the droplets were too small; it wasn't exactly foggy .... the droplets were too big. A Goldilocks water vapor day, it was just perfect for wearing Gore-Tex, invented by Al Gore who also invented the internet, invented global warming and, in his spare time as VP, re-invented our Government.

I checked visibility which, at the dock, seemed OK. When we cleared the short, shallow channel into the Potomac we could see no more than a 1/4-mi. Radar on, running lights on, fog horn on deck, we cautiously crept along. After about 1/2-hr. things cleared up well enough to make normal speed and except for a few incidents we had good visibility the whole way. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the early afternoon; el sol demurred and it was cloudy, rainy, and dank the whole way. We had to open the side panels in order to see and that made the cockpit uncomfortably cool.

Carol spent the entire morning changing her clothes; it was like a game of Whack-a-Mole. We were keeping the companionway closed on the optimistic hope that the engine might warm the cabin .... a little. She would stick her head out the companionway to ask if I needed anything: "No, Carol." Whack! Her head disappeared and in a flurry of flying apparel she molted layers with green uncovering blue. Up she popped again. "Are you OK?" "Yes, Carol." Whack! Down she went to reemerge five minutes later, chameleon like, this time in red. "Do you need me topside?" "No, Carol." Whack! And so it went until she had exhausted her inexhaustible supply of warm clothing finding the perfect combination of warmth and color to match??? Well, I'm a regular guy and partially color blind so I really don't know what she matched, but she did look good.

We had planned to go directly to Oxford, MD. But Carol, who selected the places to visit along the Chesapeake Bay, decided that she wanted to go to Solomons, MD and thence to Oxford. I though that this could work out better. So, there was a flurry of activity before 0900 to make route plans, identify way points and to create them and to select an anchorage for the night. There were two possibilities. One a roadstead anchorage in the lee of Point Lookout on the river's northern side; the other an obscure cove on the southern shore that I found on Active Captain. Given the possibility of uncomfortable winds during the night we opted for the more sheltered anchorage. It added several miles to the trip to Solomons but it was probably the right choice since we moved and bounced around a lot even with the better shelter. The movement kept Carol awake and kept me up looking at our position during the night to see if the anchor was holding. I was concerned because I had shortened the chain's scope from the normal 5:1 down to 4:1 to restrict the swing radius into the surrounding shallow areas. The anchor held like it was welded to the bottom; I'm starting to feel more confident about our main anchor's holding in these waters.

After the anchor was set the crew had a lively evening: eat dinner, put on more warm clothes. Go to bed, put on more warm blankets. Really, it was much more exciting than it sounds.

We woke up Wednesday morning to a cool but not frigid boat. It was 55o in the cockpit and 62o in the cabin, tolerable but far from ideal for the cryophobic captain. The trip was only a little more than 30 nm so we were in no particular hurry to get underway. "No hurry" means the anchor was aweigh before 0730. The cove where we stayed was unusual: either good water or no water. Since the surrounding depths were so shallow there were many crab pots in the channel, that being the only deep water. Usually, this is a major PAIN! In this instance, not so much as the crab pots provided a clear demarcation of the channel. Not sure where to go? Follow the crab pots just like grains of rice.... but try not to foul the prop.

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It took about an hour to get back to the main channel of the Potomac. There was plenty of wind so when we hit the channel the sails went up and the motor went off. It was a simple sailing plan: make a long reach down the river and out into the Bay then make a single tack back toward the Patuxent River. It was working, too. We were sailing hard, probably too hard. My theory is that if we're going to sail, it is better to sail fast than to sail slow. As I'm sure I've related many times ..... with full sail at 10~15-knots our boat sails well and handles well; with full sail at 15~20 knots our boat sails well but is a challenge to handle; above 20-knots with full sail .... impossible. We were in the second mode today with a little less than all sail out and it was still a lot of work. Carol was having trouble moving about the cockpit and managing lines with a 20o heel while the boat was bouncing over and through the waves. I was working overtime trying to keep the boat on course and right with the wind; one spoke of helm-over position became two then three. I think that we both felt our ages a little bit today but we did go fast and it did feel good for the several hours that it lasted.

It lasted until we were hailed on VHF 16 by USN Target Range Ship 302. There is a clearly marked USN target area on the chart and we were on course to sail close by, but not into that area and the USN wanted to talk to the sailboat NE of Point No Point i.e. S/V Ziveli, us! Usually, being in the area, no hay problema; today, hay una grande problema and all boats were required to stay 3.5 nm from the target area. This required that we take in the sails, motor east into the wind until we hit shallow water, more crab pots, and sundry markers on the other side of the Bay, about a 2-hr. digression. But, what's a little sacrifice on the altar of national security.

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So, a little after 1500 we moored at Solomons, MD, a fairly easy area to navigate and we had a fairly easy approach to the dock. This area seems a little like Oriental, NC in that it is probably a close call whether the town has more people or more boats.

We've been monitoring the weather forecasts for several places, home, Chicago, wherever we are and the next few stops along the way. Frequently it has been warmer at our house, 3,300-ft. above sea level than here on the waters of the Chesapeake. Our next planned stop, Oxford, MD, on the eastern side of the Bay, has consistently had the coolest forecasts. No obvious reason for that, it just is. Whenever Carol talks to folks at the next stop, or two, all comment on how cool this Spring has been. When the sun is out, the days have generally been comfortable; no sun .... not so good.

Carol and I walked about on Thursday morning, a trip which included, of course, a West Marine store. They did not have what I wanted but Carol, as always, found something to buy that was mission critical. By accident we passed the Calvert County Marine Museum and saw this wonderfully reconstructed and restored lighthouse that once guarded the entrance to the Patuxent River, some two or three miles away, from the 1880's into the 1960's. It seems a good example of the genre of lighthouses that I have seen depicted in drawings and paintings. The height above the platform is about the same height above the water as the structure once stood. Light keeper would have been an attractive job for about two or three days without HD TV, the internet, etc. If these things still stood they would probably make great vacation destinations like the stilt houses in the South Pacific or the tree houses in Central America.

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Solomons, MD is a pretty little town. My first choice for "Church of the Day" (actually Church of the Trip, so far) is the Episcopal Church, enough, almost, to induce me to attend and to cure me of my heathen ways. Carol, being a good Christian woman of the Episcopal faith, needs no such inducements. Second place goes to the Methodist Church, John Wesley notwithstanding. It's easy to identify which is which: Methodists would never allow such a sinful color as red on a church front. The clock is an emotional favorite bringing to mind the Carson, Pirie Scott store on State Street in Chicago and the CD Peacock store on the same side of the same street both of which have clocks, respectively with four faces and two faces. The clock is beautiful but seems anomalous as a defining landmark for this place.

Tomorrow we are off for Oxford, MD, a short trip of 30 or so nm.

Posted by sailziveli 19:08 Archived in USA Tagged churches boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

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