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Entries about boating

A Salty Day, Indeed

storm 53 °F

It seemed like a good idea at 0640 this morning. The weather forecast looked pretty decent: mostly sunny, single digit winds from the ESE. What's not to like about that forecast? So we cast off our lines and headed out False Creek into the mouth of Vancouver Harbor. There must have been twenty various types of ocean going freighters at anchor. All sorts of national registries, all sorts of colors, all sorts of configurations save oil carriers. Every single one was riding high in the water, waiting for a load of some kind. Timber might be a good guess; also a lot of phosphate and potash come out of Canada.

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Getting through the maze of metal behemoths was easy enough; just go around their sterns to avoid any possible encounters with anchor chains. We saw this lighthouse going north. Not so many lighthouses have snow capped mountains on their flanks.

I had been concerned about how far to push north having given up some distance to clear customs in Vancouver. I wanted to get to a place called Pender Harbor which would a great jumping off place for the next legs of the cruise. I wasn't really sure we could make it there, so I had a bailout plan just in case. This boat travels comfortably at 6 knots, with an occasional tenth or so on a good day. So, putt-putt along at 6 knots we did.
A few hours out the wind began to freshen, a bit, coming almost dead over the stern. This can make for some fast sailing since the wind literally pushes the boat. It also makes an uncomfortable ride; you usually get a great deal of side to side motion as well as fore and aft. Having proven we could manage the foresail without an imminent disaster out it went. Pretty cool, we were now making 7 not 6 knots. It seemed like Pender Harbor could be a possibility.

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Fast forward another hour or so, and the wind is blowing a steady 15 to 20 knots and we are making 8 knots. Maybe more good fortune than we needed. There was about 50 miles of open water behind us and that is a very large fetch. The waves were building and, for the first time ever I felt unsafe in the cockpit of a boat. Of course, our boat had an enclosure of canvas and glassine; not impossible to go overboard, but it would have taken an unusual set of circumstances for that to happen. This boat did not come equipped with a jack line, tether or safety harness. So, Carol and I bought and brought our own. Prescient. I sent Carol below and attached the tether to a backstay. My hands were hidden because I did not want to show my white knuckles.

Given another hour we were getting getting gusts of 25 - 30 knots. So I reefed the already foresail and we started hitting 9 knots. At one point the wind overpowered the autopilot and we did a dangerous 360o doughnut. I am critical of this boat on several issues, but there is some first class equipment on board, one piece of which is the autopilot. It must be piston driven, and, attached to that hyper responsive rudder, it did a very good job of handling the weather. I don't know that I could have done half so well; machines don't get tired.About five miles out from Pender Harbor we came into the lee of some islands and the water quieted down a bit.

We hit the way point for the entrance to Pender Harbor and I thought that the issue was solved. Not even! We had to pick our way through a gantlet of islands without any navigation markers. Long story short, the trip I thought might take until 1800 was done by 1400. We took on fuel and water and buttoned things up for the night.

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Posted by sailziveli 19:10 Archived in Canada Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

Predictably, Chaos Ensued

semi-overcast 52 °F

At 0500 we were both awakened by a load thump. Being at anchor this is never a pleasant sound. Jumped up and looked outside to see if the anchor had dragged. No problem, so that was not it. Carol noticed that my toiletries bag had fallen from its hook. No more mystery. But what was mysterious was that our boat was doing 360's around the anchor. I had never, ever seen this before and would have been very concerned had not the other two boat in the anchorage been doing the same thing. Having had a few hours to think this through I am still clueless. Regardless, the anchor didn't drag and the boat was safe .... no harm, no foul.

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We got under weigh about 0630 heading north for Point Robert. To do so we had to share space in a major shipping channel, Rosario Straight. As we approached, there was a convoy of ships, freighters and container ships, heading south from Vancouver to the Pacific. It was interesting to watch as each ship repeated the exact same same movements as the one ahead as they changed their headings. It looked choreographed, which in a sense it was.

The weather was predicted to be rainy and windy. The forecast was precisely correct. As we entered the channel this island was to port with low hanging clouds; not even a hint of sun then or later in the day.

It took a few hours to get out of the shipping channel. Having done that it seemed time to practice raising the sails, so we did. The boat has immaculate documentation on how to do things, so I took the book to the cockpit and started going through the steps. Predictably, chaos ensued. One of the steps was to release the main sheet, which controls the mainsail boom. Having no restraints and no preventer line, the mainsail boom swung so wide, so violently, that it pulled the piston from the boom vang ( too complicated to explain). Regardless we had a broken piece of equipment and no solution. The on board tool kit had no screwdrivers, pliers, or other useful tools, unless I was going to rebuild the engine. I took a pass at trying to reassemble the two parts; no luck. Called the emergency numbers for San Juan Sailing; no one home. Since help and advice was not in the offing, the cruiser mentality took over. You are on your own, there are two people on the boat and only one of the two has a chance, however remote, of fixing the damn thing. So I did. Ended up with a small issue. When our phone call was finally returned I spoke with the company owner we decided that the small issue was not an impediment, so we turned the boat around and headed north again. We got our first look at the Canadian Rockies along the way.

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We had made reservations at a marina in Point Robert and arrived there easily enough. This was the second issue for the day: how to enter the marina all we could see was a 20-ft. tall seawall ..... no signs, no doors, no clue. Turns out that you entered from the side after almost going onto the beach. It was just one of the things where we had no local knowledge. We took on some fuel and with a little help because of the wind, we moored safely for the night.

We were told we could clear Canadian customs here; not so. Our next trick will be doing that. Then comes the awful moment; raising the sails again.

Posted by sailziveli 16:17 Archived in USA Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

Northward Bound

Bellingham Bay

sunny 70 °F

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We're off and we are both playing to type: Carol is excited and I'm nervous .... what did we forget, what did we not do that needed doing, ad infinitum et ultra. In dealing with performance pressure, a sailboat is an interesting challenge because the pressure starts immediately; you have to get underway from the dock without wrecking any other boats or generally embarrassing yourself with lousy boat handling skills. There seems to be a law of inverse proportions for this situation: the worse you do, the more people there are on the dock to see you do it. Nail it, and there's never anyone around. I was adequate so, good enough.

We have a plan, sort of. We will head north on the eastern side of the Salish Sea, which is continental British Columbia, and return south along the western side of the Salish Sea which is the east coast of Vancouver Island. The prevailing winds here are from the northwest quadrant so, tougher going on the northern leg and, maybe, good running to the south. Of course, this plan is based on exactly zero experience, so, go back to sentence #1 .... I'm nervous. All plans are good until execution exposes all the flaws, and my first one was that I assumed that my Google Earth places were tied to my email address and that I could access them from my laptop. Wrong! They have to be physically transferred from my desktop to may laptop. How silly is that. This means that I cannot locate all the way points that I created from my laptop. Fortunately, I have marked them on my charts so we should be OK.

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Most sailors obsess over weather and those that don't obsess at least worry about it. My assumption is that weather will be a big factor on this trip. I suppose that we are on what could be called an inland sea, and will never be very far from some land. But, storms are what they are, and I expect one or two, and a fair amount of rain. I had thought that the weather here was influenced by the Japanese current. That was approximately correct, but the currents in the northern hemisphere of the Pacific Ocean are much more complex than I was aware. The affecting ones are the North Pacific and the Alaska currents. Regardless of the names, the issue is still the same: warm moist air collides with cooler air and it rains.

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It's inevitable, I guess; any boat we are on will be compared to the one we owned, for better or for ill. The Maine boat was older, 80's vintage, and smaller, 30-ft., than ours. It was a tight fit, not much storage, and the forward v-berth was not very comfortable for sleeping. This boat is much newer, and longer, 34-ft. It has a separate v-berth and another sleeping berth, like our boat had. As on our boat the v-berth is being used as a closet and pantry, a shambolic arrangement best kept behind a closed door.

Yardarm issue solved: scotch for me and wine for Carol. This works.

We had a "captain's" meeting with the charter service on Friday evening before getting underway. Didn't know what to expect; didn't expect what happened. First there was a one hour meeting on safety regarding hazards and related issues in these navigable waters. Tidal currents are going to be a much bigger issue than I had anticipated. Probably should have seen that one coming, but didn't. Next we spent a couple of hours on the boat with a young lady who acquainted us with how it worked. Several first impressions: this is a way nice boat. It was built the same year as ours, 2005, and cost at least 50% to 75% more, despite being shorter. Second, it is a serious sailing vessel. It has running rigging that I could not identify by name. Each sail has more lines than both our sails did together. It is set up really nicely. And nothing, not a single thing, seemed to be an analog of anything on our boat. Different places, different setup, different usage; at one point it felt like six years of accumulated knowledge was rendered useless. And, of course, when things go south, which they may, we'll have to translate old speak into new speak and do so quickly. I don't do "overwhelmed" but if I did, that would have been what I felt walking off the dock. The sole saving grace is that they have incredible documentation. The book remembers if you can remember to look in the book. Boat details, a home made chart showing all the places and hazards where people have screwed the pooch. They also have a pretty good inventory of spare parts, hopefully, not needed. However, the diesel heater works so, everything else is a detail.

Our plan for getting under weigh was simple: get there about 7 am; start schlepping stuff onto the boat; Carol would drop off the rental car early; then she would work on stowing things and I would work on clearing out the old way points from the nav system and putting ours in. Maybe leave the dock by noon, maybe not. Didn't really happen like that. It took us more than four hours to load and semi-organize the boat. Stuff was, and still is strewn hither and yon. We has the folks off load some things so that we would have better access to storage. Carol probably nailed it when she commented that this is a pretty boat, but it's tough to beat Beneteau for overall livability.

So, we got under weigh about 12:30 with the goal of going to a small, near by cove called Pleasant Bay. It was a pure Mongolian cluster ______ trying to use the chart plotter. This one is different and newer than any of ours. It worked just fine, but I could not get it to do what I wanted. And, what I wanted was pretty simple stuff. SO, a couple of phone calls, and an in depth read of the owner's manual may have solved the issues, or maybe not. The chart plotter was such an issue that we did not even think about raising the sails. That will be the Marx Brothers meet the Three Stooges. absent pies in the face. That will have to wait for another day and the motor works just fine.

We caught a lucky day, today, sunny and warm, almost sun tan weather which was good for getting stuff onto the boat. Tomorrow, rainy, windy, not so nice. And, we have a 35 nm to 40 nm run to get to point Roberts, which has a marina and where we can clear customs into Canada before going farther north. So, until then we will enjoy our sheltered anchorage in Pleasant Bay, aptly named, it is pleasant and this is what we see to the west.

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Posted by sailziveli 17:36 Archived in USA Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

To the Water's Edge

overcast 59 °F

While sitting in the hotel lobby at zero dark thirty, waiting for a bus to take us to the airport, so we could walk to a gate to board a plane, to fly us to Seattle, where we would walk to a bus to shuttle us the the rental car place so we could walk to the car, I got to thinking about traveling in this day and age, the difference between travelling and a trip.

I am old enough to remember the 1950's, before Alfred Kahn deregulated air travel while working for Jimmy Carter, when people treated air travel differently, as a novel, and for many, a first time experience. That novelty meant suits and ties for men and, if the pictures are correct, dresses, hats and gloves for most women. Fast forward six decades .... what a difference. The jeans and t-shirts dress code is way better. The actual traveling,though, is an inconvenience to be endured not enjoyed, suffered not savored.

The Charlotte check in for the plane was fairly painless. Carol, in the full Nordic Princess mode, commandeered someone to help with the self check in process. Whether he was frightened by or fascinated by this lady towering over him by 8-in. or 9-in. I could not tell. Regardless, he made quick work of it and sent us on our way. Carol, having packed a bag the same size as a Greyhound bus, couldn't fit everything into it. Predictable. So she walked through the airport with sundry bags, articles of clothing, pillows and such festooned about her person like a bag lady in search of her shopping cart.

Today, Thursday, a disaster was avoided. I had gotten new glasses and frames in Asheville. I did not think that there were any mistakes left to be made: three wrong lenses, wrong frames, just a series of "never have happened in 60 years of wearing glasses" errors. I had scratched a lens and picked up a replacement on the way to Charlotte. They ordered the wrong prescription for the lens; I was almost seeing double. Fortunately, Carol had asked for the old lens and kept it with her. I carry a small glasses tool kit in my bag and, easy peasy, the old lens was back in. The scratch I can live with; the other would almost have ruined the trip.

After leaving Charlotte, with the temperature about 90o and the high humidity from tropical storm Alfredo's rain, Seattle was almost a shock. Very cool, in the 50's, overcast and very breezy. I don't think that there will be issues filling the sails; keeping me warm may be harder. We shipped ahead all our foul weather gear and fleece clothing. I'm sure that this will work out but it will not be toasty at the helm. I hope that the diesel heater performs well.

There were a couple of difficult questions packing for this trip. The first was: what electronics to bring since they all need charging. On our boat we probably had a dozen interior DC outlets, many of which I added myself. No problems. On the Maine boat there was only one interior DC outlet. Major inconvenience. Don't know about this boat. The computer was a simple decision ... no computer, no blog. Ditto the camera. We are taking both phones, just in case, and they will provide wi-fi hot spots when we can get a cell signal. We are both carrying our Kindle e-readers; lots of pages, no space and good battery life. I am also carrying a DC multi-outlet plug in case we have a similar paucity of outlets this time. Carol solved a major issue: cell phones. I had thought that we would have to buy an unlocked phone and get a plan from a Canadian service provider. Turns out that Verizon, which works on an older standard, has a roaming plan that will work in Canada. All we have to do is make a change in the setting for our phones to work in Canada, Pretty cool, very easy and way cheaper than the alternative.

The second question was harder: I know what gin & tonic weather is and this is definitively not it. The sun will traverse the yardarm sometime and all sailors want a healthy dram to celebrate its passage. We'll have to figure out what that will be. Carol is not much for dark beverages, e.g. scotch or rum. Other provisioning is always difficult with one person, guess who, viewing food as an emotional issue and the other seeing it as an existential issue. We will surely have more than enough food to survive and a sufficiency of choice.

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We seem to have come to the right place; this is a very big marina teeming with sailboats. The good news is that we are done with traveling for now; the trip will start when we are on the wet side of the water's edge, and we are only hours away from that time.

Posted by sailziveli 10:31 Archived in USA Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

Of Boats and Blogs

Swallowing the Anchor

sunny 95 °F

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The Boat: We purchased our boat on August 1st, 2007 with the intention of keeping it for five years. Today, we are two weeks into the seventh year of our five year plan. We have been to and through many of the Bahama Islands. We have been from Key West to, almost, Maine; we have been through the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays; we have been up and down the Potomac River. We have suffered gales and tropical storms. Just about everything that can breakdown on a boat has broken down on our boat.

This last trip probably covered about 2,000 miles; all in, we are comfortably over 5,000 miles but less than 10,000. There is not much more on the eastern seaboard that we want to do. Going well south into the Caribbean would require a commitment of a year, or so, something neither of us is inclined to do. And, in truth, this last trip was wearing and difficult. The mind is willing but the body does not easily follow.

Ecclesiastes 3:6 tells us that there is: a time to keep, and a time to cast away. We have kept the boat over six years and it is now time to cast it away. We're putting the boat up for sale with no regrets.

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The Blog: When we started to cruise, extended periods on the boat visiting watery places, we wanted a way to let our closest friends and family, specifically my mom, know where we were and what we were doing. I had, at the time, read a lot about blogs but had never actually read a blog. Coincidentally, at that same time, I was reading Mark Twain's (Samuel Clemens) book: Innocents Abroad. Written in 1869, it was a chronicle of his ocean voyage to Mediterranean Europe and the Holy Land. Published as a book, it was, in fact, a compilation of articles he had written and transmitted back to the USA for publication in newspapers, i.e. a travel blog based on the technologies of the time which were the telegraph and the printing press.

I was immediately struck by the fact that Aboard is an anagram of Abroad. I supposed that if one were to choose an American person of letters to emulate/plagiarize, it would be hard to do much better than Twain. And it all fit so neatly. We were, truly, innocent in the sense of naive and inexperienced, despite our serious efforts to learn about boats and boating and we were aboard our humble boat.

Thus was Innocents Aboard launched. This, the blog sign off, will be the 134th entry. Sadly, my mother passed, but the momentum of the blog continued. It has been a delight, mostly, to write about our adventures and misadventures. We have always viewed the boat not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end: new and shared experiences together. In that we have succeeded, having experiences that delighted and thrilled us, along with some experiences that were unexpected and a few, at least, that were unwanted. The best part of our six year pilgrimage was totally unanticipated: we have met so many nice, wonderful people with whom we have shared our boating lives.

As Rick said to Ilsa, "We'll always have Paris," I will be able to say to Carol,"We'll always have Ziveli."

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Posted by sailziveli 16:14 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

The Long Journey Home

Being There Is More Fun Than Getting There

semi-overcast 81 °F

As of the last blog entry, the battery monitor was not working and this was really bothering me; Carol, too. I knew that we relied on this thing but we didn't realize how much until we had the prospect of a long trip without it. As Sherlock said: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. When I ran the radar cable into the cabin I must have jogged the small wires and two had come loose, a fairly quick fix. The panel seems to be showing accurate battery bank voltage, so we will leave with some peace of mind.

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Order of Travel: Cape May, NJ to Portsmouth, VA

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The days are getting shorter now, maybe an hour shorter; it's been several weeks since the summer solstice. Sunrise in Cape May wasn't until 0550. We were away before that, by a few minutes, and got to see this sunrise over the bascule bridge spanning the New Jersey version of an ICW.

We had the devil's own time crossing the mouth of the Delaware Bay. We were pushed east and slowed down. I can account for either one of those happening but not both at the same time. By noon, things were better and we started making good time, very good time, sliding from New Jersey, through Delaware, past Maryland, headed for Virginia. The reason to leave when we did was the promise of a NW wind at the expense of some thunderstorms. Nothing much happened until midnight when things heated up, a bit, literally. The thunderstorms arrived ahead of the NW wind. It was kind of interesting watching XM weather on the laptop, the radar screen and out the "front window," sort of like Rashomon for weather. Rain on the radar screen forms dark smudges that look like amoebae having sex. First there is one blob, then it splits into two, and does it again, some disappearing, some merging and others welling up to replace them. Regardless of the number and direction of the several blobs, they all seemed to converge on the center of the screen, all the time: our boat. The wind and waves weren't much; the lightning, however, was concerning. It's fascinating to watch an electrical storm on the open water. There is nothing on the horizon to obscure the show, and what a show it can be. Beautiful to behold and terrifying to think that all that energy, when discharged, could use our mast as a path to get to ground. For a brief period, a gibbous moon hung in the night sky, lighting one quadrant of the horizon while next to it lightning strikes provided an even greater intensity of light across another.

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Regardless, this sunset showed that the maxim about, "red sky at night, sailor's delight" is just a maxim. Finally, about 0300 the NW winds arrived. We were heading about SSW which put this wind on the stbd. stern side, making for a wallowy ride. I came up for watch to see Carol hanging her head over the side, feeding the fish, despite having put on a scopolamine patch. She's done this enough times that she has learned to go to the lee side of the boat. The silver lining benefit of the storm .... cooler temperatures for the next few days.

Norfolk is very close to being halfway between Cape Cod, the northern apogee of our trip, and Brunswick, our southern destination. Carol and I both felt the same thing: Norfolk has a home court advantage for us, a place with which we are familiar and it's part of the South, Amen! We get to use our venerable Chart Kit for Norfolk to Florida, first purchased in July of 2007 in anticipation of moving the boat that August from Charleston, SC to Oriental, NC. It is dog-eared, pages are torn and smudged, stained with boat supplies and meals eaten underway, messy from drinks spilled and notes scribbled in haste. For all that, it is as comfortable as the proverbial "old shoe." We're glad to be here.

No free day on the boat is complete without adding to or deleting items from the eternal, inexhaustible To-Do list. Our layover day in Portsmouth was more of the same: work as a kind of (oxymoronic) rest therapy. So, we worked. There will be no more rest days, save for weather, until Morehead City or Charleston, SC.

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Order of Travel: Portsmouth, VA to Morehead City, NC

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Heading south from Norfolk & Portsmouth means dealing with bridges and locks for the first 15 or 20 miles, a timing and coordination challenge only slightly less complicated that the invasion of Europe in 1944. We actually did pretty well on that, only having to wait for one bridge, that one about 15 minutes. There were a couple of interesting moments along the way. As we approached a turn to head towards the first bridge, this monster came from the other direction. Too big to make the turn itself, it had two huge tugs to handle those navigation issues. We passed within 50 feet of it and the boat, Carol and I felt small, vulnerable and insignificant. The other incident came later. There was a rowing shell with a crew of four coming towards us; it moved left, we moved right and everything was OK ... until they were about 50-ft. away and decided that was the time to cut across our bow to the other side of the river. Our boat doesn't have any water brakes but we jerked the engine to reverse and avoided a disaster. It would have been our fault, regardless, because we were the vessel under power.

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Going from Virginia to NC we traveled a canal, straight and true. When we had last seen that area, 100 days ago, it was green, but a weak, winter green, the green of life surviving with no sign of Spring on offer. Now, 100 days later, the green was rich, deep and bright vibrant with life. In 130 miles, so far, we have seen beaucoup cypress trees along the banks and even more cypress stumps in the water. The lone sentinel is the only cypress tree we have seen thriving in the water, well away from shore. Few of the hundreds of osprey nests that we saw going north are now occupied; presumably the hatchlings have fletched and flown, and are now surviving on their own.

The trip is 180 nm from Portsmouth to Morehead City. On the first day we did exactly 45 nm, one quarter. We stopped in Coinjock, again, because there are no anchoring alternatives without much more travel south. Also, Carol has a predilection for the restaurant there which pretty well iced the stop. The irony was that she had what will probably be her last crab cake of the trip and she said that it was the worst of the trip.

The second day was just plain work. On the water, underway for more than 12 hours, covering more than 70 nm. We stopped a couple of miles short of Belhaven, NC; for practical purposes we did in one day going south what we had done in two days going north. The highlight of the day was when two tug/barge combinations tried to pass each other, in opposite directions, while in the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal. The three vessels ended up occupying a very small, piece of watery real estate. The thought for the day was: when elephants dance, mice tremble; we were the mice.

We could have made it through to Morehead City on day #3 of the ICW trip, but we decided to stop near Oriental, NC to see a friend. Probably just as well; lots of rain and poor visibility. The next morning, the trip from Oriental to Morehead City was short and easy.

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Order of Travel: Morehead City, NC to Charleston, SC

Things are supposed to get easier with practice, unless you're on a boat. In Morehead City we checked the offshore weather forecast: lots of 10~20 and 15~20 knot winds from the SW which, generally, is the direction we needed to go to get to Charleston. We could have waited a good while for the right weather and then still have had a two day trip south. Waiting did not fit my agenda ..... at all! We could get to Charleston in five days on the ICW. So that afternoon in Morehead City lots of stuff got done: laundry, shopping, oil change, other filters were changed. No lay over day.

We hate the ICW because of the "killer bee's:" bridges and boredom. We cannot go fast enough to make all of the schedules for the many, many bridges that still swing and lift. And, it's a challenge to hold station while a bridge gets ready to open with a single propellor vessel. This stretch of the ICW is, basically, huge chunks of boredom interspersed with the frustration and aggravation of waiting for bridges. The pattern seems to be that if an opening is supposed to happen on the hour, then that's when the bridgetender starts to think about finishing his/her cup of coffee.

As much as we dislike travelling this waterway, there is a certain ironic symmetry to what we're doing. We took possession of the boat on August 1st, 2007 and started moving it from Charleston to Oriental via the ICW. On August 1st, 2013, exactly six years later, we find ourselves moving the boat from Oriental to Charleston, via the ICW.

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It's been almost five years, November of 2008, since last we saw these waters. Most of it is not memorable but I remember with pellucid clarity all the places where I got confused (many), screwed up (several) and places where I ran aground (two). It's good not to repeat past mistakes so that we have the energy and enthusiasm for making new mistakes. There were some moments of nostalgia, actually lowlights, from the trip south in 2008. We saw the dock where we arose, one dark morning, to a boat, dock, mooring lines, electrical lines covered in ice. We passed the marina where Carol heaved her Thanksgiving dinner over the side (that's her in 2008 on the side of the boat) to a beautiful sunset. We passed Awenda Creek, where we tried to tried put out two anchors and fouled the propellor. We were so much younger then; we're wiser than that now.

Some things have gotten better over the years. One of those is my boat handling skill. On the very first trip to Oriental the captain we hired let me try some stuff, waiting for bridges, exiting marinas. Totally clueless! I have no idea about how well I do on an absolute scale; relatively the improvement has been exponential. If I don't know a lot, I do know enough to handle whatever has been served up.

It's been rainy, raining almost everyday since we left Cape May. These are summer rains, warm when they're falling and steamy when they're over. As I demanded my due on the way north, shore power to stay warm, Carol has been getting her due as we head south, shore power to stay cool. Neither one of us has been sleeping very well; that would be worse without the A/C.

It's summer, it's near the weekend and the stupids are on the water in force. Who are the stupids? They're people who:

• think it's their God-given right to anchor their fishing boats in the middle of narrow, shallow channels, made more shallow by the tide, because that's where God put the fish and the beer.

• cluster their boats in the center of the channel under 65-ft. bridges because the water is deeper there, ditto the fish and beer thing. Had to use the air horn to get their attention.

• cut in front of sailboats while pulling their children on tube floats so that the kids can fall off in the tubes in the center of the channel between us and a bridge that just opened while we're going full speed.

The jet skis don't even count, the people having the excuse of not being boaters. We must have seen every jet ski in South Carolina at least twice, some four, six and eight times as they buzzed by and buzzed by again and again.

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Sunrise on the Waccamaw River

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At Charleston, we will have travelled 469 miles from Norfolk/Portsmouth on the ICW; most of those miles meet W. C. Fields' criteria that, "I would rather be living in Philadelphia." There are, however, some miles that were meant to be savored. South of Myrtle Beach the ICW enters the Waccamaw River. The place we stayed that night was about three miles into the Waccamaw. It has, in our experience, a unique channel, reminiscent of the channels we saw in the Bahamas that were cut through the rock of the island. This channel was cut through the woods .... the trees were felled, the stumps pulled and the remainder dredged. It seemed that if you had the wingspan of Shaquille O'Neal you could have touched the trees on both sides as you entered. A pretty cool boating experience ... going through the woods.

The Waccamaw River is about 30 miles long and 20 of those miles are atavistic of the times before humankind walked on two legs. You could almost imagine Francis Marion, himself, stepping from behind a tree or, maybe, Mel (The Patriot) Gibson. The ride is/was gorgeous, the beauty unspoiled by development or other traces of human activity. The water through that stretch of river has an odd brown color, maybe the color of diluted Coca-Cola. I have been told that it is caused by tannin that leaches into the water from trees, probably cypress since they dominate. Interesting to look at, but it discolors white boats with a golden ring around the water line, which washes off, but not easily.

Along the way we saw many of these clumps of yellow flowers growing at the water's edge. They seemed to have a propensity for the bases of cypress trees, which is where these were growing. Those 20 miles almost pay the freight for all the rest.

On Sunday, we arrived in Charleston, taking five days to do what should have been done in four except for the dozen, or so, bridges for which we had to wait. Nine days, overall, from Norfolk/Portsmouth, about 52 miles per day, not bad but not great. Carol and I had mused that the Charleston City Marina might be an exception to my rants about public marinas being poorly managed. That debate was settled when we were about 50-ft. from the dock and the little princess not too bright on the VHF radio insisted that we switch all of our mooring lines and fenders from starboard to port. That did not happen; we moored at a place of my choosing.

It was and is good to be in the South, again. We have made the reacquaintance of several southern traditions: mosquitos (annoying), gnats (infuriating), deer flies (ouch-ing), humidity (sweating) and, for Carol, grits (yukking). We laid over a day there to accomplish several things. First, Carol wanted to get to Hyman's Restaurant, a mecca of lowland cooking, most of which has grits for dinner. I wanted to clean the cockpit to get rid of the several ka-jillion dead deer flies that we dispatched in transit. Finally, we scheduled appointments with two boat brokers to get a feel for the process and the options.

Order of Travel: Charleston, SC to Brunswick, GA

We concluded our business on Monday. This trip on the boat, probably our last trip on the boat, was NOT going to be down the ICW for four days .... been there, done that, didn't like it, ain't gonna do no mo'. On Tuesday the wind cooperated, sorta, being generally from the SE as we headed SW. We headed out the channel early, against the current, caring not a whit. From the Charleston sea buoy to the Brunswick sea buoy is a straight line, two waypoints 126 nm apart, pretty simple navigation, a trip we have made, both ways, several times. That part of the trip is easy: set the autopilot, lean back and enjoy the ride. It's the 35 nm going out one channel and then into the other where the time adds up, especially running against the tide.

The trip went faster than we had imagined and was not without some excitement. About 2000 on Tuesday Carol noticed that the bottom of the mainsail, a hook & loop system, was loose. A fairly simple fix, we had things back in order in about five minutes. The only obvious explanation is that the halyard stretched, but it's relatively new at about three years. Perplexing, but not to worry about now, at least. And, what trip would be complete without autopilot problems? Ours came at 0400 on the way to the Brunswick channel entrance. One of three things went wrong, two of which I can fix and the other is under warranty with Raymarine.

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We started the trip to take the boat north to Oriental, and beyond, on October 10th, 2012. 301 days later we are back where the northern journey began. The bridge over the Altamaha River was sort of like the finish tape for a running race. When we broke that plane the trip was over; all that was left to do was to motor up the East River, toss some lines and get hugs from Sherry and Cindy to welcome us back.

Trip Coda: This trip back to Georgia has seemed long to me. Notwithstanding the fact that it was long, about 1,000 net miles, it also took many days. We left Cape Cod on July 8th and arrived here on August 7th, a month in transit. It finally dawned on me that all our other return voyages were from the south; we could get to Brunswick from Miami in three days. This took 30 days, although a few of those were to accommodate Carol when she was sick.

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

Cape May, NJ ..... Again

rain 88 °F

Friday was not a good boat day which means that it was not a good day ..... at all. We started getting ready to leave about 0600; there was no reason to hurry, the trip from Atlantic City to Cape May is only about 40 nm, including both channels. Stowed the electrical cables, started the engine, singled up the mooring lines and then the fun began. Tried to power up the chart plotter ..... bupkus, nada, zip.

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Looked at the other electrical .... none of the DC circuits that recharge our several phones, iPads, computers, etc. were working; every device was draining power. It was deja vu all over again, a repeat of what happened in Oriental before we headed north. Same chart plotter symptom: no power to either unit .... at the helm or in the cabin.

Somehow, once again, a commonplace electrical issue had bled over from the DC outlets to the instrument circuit. This is, of course, still not possible, except that it has happened twice. I messed with things and made no progress for several hours. Finally, Carol rented a car so that we could go to West Marine and Radio Shack to get new parts and pieces. Worked some more hours with frustrations at every step of the way. The list is too long and it would sound like whining because it is whining. Every time I closed things up, thinking that I was through, something required going back and doing it again, and again, and again. About 1800 (6pm) everything actually worked. The concern is that I really don't know what the problem was so I don't know whether stuff worked because of what I did or despite what I did. Which is to say that it may happen again. Part of the issue is fuses, the old glass cylinder type, of which our boat has nine. The fuses look OK, ie the metal filament is intact, but either no power flows or reduced power flows. How this gets at the navigation system is the mystery. As a precaution, I stocked up on fuses.

Carol summed up the day when she said, "This will make it easy for you to sell the boat." Unfortunately, we have another issue with the chart plotter that we may be able to resolve in Cape May, having found someone to look at the issue. Either way, that may make it even easier.

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Saturday was an OK boat day and an OK day. We got to Cape May without issue. It was a bumpy ride into the wind but we made good enough time and were moored securely just after lunch, which suited Carol just fine. She had an appointment to get her hair done and was much concerned about keeping that appointment. There are just some things that "regular guys" will never understand about women, beauty parlours being, possibly, a top ten item on that list. There will never be a gender bending version of Steel Magnolias with old guys sitting around on lumpy chairs with torn naugahyde upholstery reading years old copies of Popular Science, Guns & Ammo and Sports Illustrated, but never the swimsuit issue, and getting more hair cut from their noses, ears and eyebrows than their heads. Not much visual drama there.

Carol was resplendent with her hair just the right shade of chemical red, replacing streaky mauve and puce with accent streaks of neon orange. A visit to the salon almost always makes her feel better, more confident, a better self image. I swear, from a mile away, that I could hear her singing as she walked back to the boat:

I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and bright

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Anyway, you have to be old enough to remember West Side Story. Point two on Carol's agenda was another visit to the Lobster House restaurant; having cooked one night in a row she thought that this was her due, so we did. Once again she managed to avoid the tuna melt. Of course, all the excitement of having her hair done, eating out and spending 10 minutes on the helm wore her out and she was asleep before 8PM.

My agenda only had one item: get nekkid and get into the very nice showers here at the marina. I did both.

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Sunday was not a good boat day which means that it was not a good day ..... at all. Our chart plotter/radar system is a monochrome antique but had always performed well and we are used to it; a color screen has never seemed, a priori, a value adding proposition. The system has two displays, one at the helm and one in the cabin. An area of the screen on the unit at the helm had gone bad, readable, but with difficulty. My bright idea was to swap the units which we did Saturday morning before getting underway. It mostly worked except for the radar, a resource on which we have come to depend. I called ahead and, improbably, had a guy that came over to the boat on Saturday afternoon to look at the system after we arrived. Warren looked more like a termite inspector that a marine electronics specialist, but he knew his stuff. He was unable to resolve the issue without a call to Raymarine, not open on Saturday. He did mention that the radar cable was usually 10 meters long and the cartoon "idea" light bulb went off over my head. If we could find the cable we could reroute it to the cabin and everything would work, MAYBE!

On Sunday morning we found the cable in a very inaccessible part of the boat and it seemed, on inspection, to be long enough to reach the main cabin. Then the fun began, a concatenation of actions that typify the most aggravating aspect of boating. The cable has a 1.25 inch connector/lock and was too big to get through the channel in the sole of the cockpit. So, to get the connector and cable through the cockpit sole it was necessary to remove the Morse cables that control the engine speed and transmission. In order to remove the Morse cables it was necessary to disassemble the Teleflex throttle control. To access the Teleflex throttle it was necessary to remove the helm and autopilot. To get to the pieces that I dropped I had to remove the panel with the rode chain counter. We had to empty one lazarette and most the the galley cabinets to access the cable run. We did all of these things. Finally, we rerouted the cable, drilled a bunch of holes, got the cable to the unit, hooked it up and, voilà, the payoff was a working, readable navigation system at the helm with radar. Eight hours on Sunday, several more on Monday. This type of work would have cost $100/hr. So, I guess, we can appreciate the sweat equity we have invested in the boat. But, if that's such a good deal, why didn't we enjoy it?

On the plus side, if there is one, I found two potential disasters. I had to get under the steering mechanism to access the Morse cables and the radar cable and, while there, found a nut and washer, one of four, on the steering mechanism that had fallen off. I probably hadn't been in that space in two years, or so. We have an emergency manual bilge pump built in and I noticed that part of it was cracked and it probably would not have worked. Finding these sorts of issues is never a positive thing because the next question is always: What else have I missed?

Monday was a very busy day but without the stress of: what if I cannot do this, what if I do it and it doesn't work. That was until I started checking out an error message on the battery monitor panel. It indicated a blown fuse, or interrupted circuit to the house battery bank. Using Occam's Razor, I took several of the right fuses to the lazarette and we both cleared things out to access the batteries. Sometimes the good friar's razor cuts wrong, to wit, we had a broken positive battery post connector, improbable to the max. It's a fairly simple replacement unless you have about a jillion wires connected, old hands and nearby negative terminals against with these positive wires can short, all true in this instance. Got this problem fixed and the battery monitor is still goofy. The question I cannot answer is whether there is a real problem or the monitor is hosed. I'm pretty sure it's the latter .... I hope.

It seems, at times, as if events are conspiring against us or, maybe, we're being tested; regardless, the number of hurdles between us and Brunswick has appeared unreasonably large and growing. Any pretense about a "fun trip" has gone away; we are now on a working trip to get the boat back to Brunswick, GA and the to-do list grows daily. Strangely, this is hectic but seems normal and, in a left handed way, comfortable despite the anxiety. We have a goal and are focused on that attaining that goal. It sometimes seems that Carol and I do better under adversity, working to achieve an end than we do in "playing and having fun."

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We had thought to go to Ocean City, MD before heading to Norfolk. That would have shortened the trip by about 40 nm. I think that Carol wanted to ride the roller coaster, ironic since in 2-ft. waves she is heaving chunks over the side. But the weather forecast has winds from the north on Wednesday and we plan to hitchhike on those to speed the trip south.

The order of travel is:

1. Cape May to Norfolk, VA: 180 nm ~ two days, one night
2. Norfolk to Morehead City, VA, via the ICW to avoid Cape Hatteras: 180 nm - four days, no night travel
3. Morehead City to Charleston, SC, 220 nm ~ two days, two nights
4. Charleston to Brunswick, 160 nm - two days, one night

And miles to go before we sleep,
And miles to go before we sleep
.

This will be the last blog entry for a while. This is all territory we have covered before. I will probably do a recap when we reach Brunswick.

Posted by sailziveli 14:23 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Atlantic City, NJ

sunny 92 °F

They came by boats into the Great Salt Pond; they came by ferries into the Old Harbor. Regardless, they came. Too many people .... an area much, much smaller than the township of Spring Creek had more people standing in line for restaurants and bars than there are in all of Madison County, NC. And it was hot, the warmest for that day on record. The Great Salt Pond was crowded with boats at anchor, not enough room to let out proper scope or to swing safely with the wind and tide. As much as we wanted to see the island, we had waited too long, the island was overrun. The time to have visited was in June like we did with Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

It was good to be quit with that place. At 0513 on Tuesday, there was light enough to see, barely, and we were underway for Atlantic City. The prevailing wind at this latitude at this time of year is from the SW, the exact direction we were headed. Normally this would have made for a long, not very pleasant slog into headwinds and waves. The other reason to leave was a brief window with winds from the N/NNE, not a lot of wind, and it was forecast to deform and diminish overnight. In the event, the wind held for more than 24 hours and provided an extra boost along the way. We motor sailed and made very good time, far better than expected, hitting the channel into Atlantic City before the marina opened at 0800.

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The weather was absolutely perfect, the wind helpful, the skies clear but a little hazy, the seas had a gentle swell, giving the boat a comfortable rolling motion so that we knew we were at sea. So what could spoil such an ideal passage? It's been five years since we have cruised in July or August and some things get forgotten. Block Island's parting gift for the trip was a cast of stowaways: most of the black flies that had been on the island hopped aboard the Ziveli in anticipation of a dinner cruise .... and Carol and I were the dinner. It was an insect version of Tora, Tora, Tora as wave after wave flew into, then attacked us in the cockpit. Kill some, others were waiting around outside to take their places. They weren't huge, except for the part that bites which was very large, indeed, able to cut through t-shirts. The fly swatters were busy but I seem to be losing some hand/eye coordination because I was a lot less than lethal, my SpK (swats per kill) ratio being unacceptably much higher than a perfect 1.0. As the bug body count mounted and so did the mess on the sole of the cockpit. This bodes ill for the four days that we will spend on the ICW, from Norfolk to Morehead City, to avoid Cape Hatteras.

Long Island passed below the horizon about noon. Not too much later we were south of Moriches Inlet, passing close by the location where TWA 800 fell from the sky, in pieces, one day early for the event anniversary on July 17th. It's closing in on twenty years, now, since that tragedy in 1996. It seems more recent than that. Too many disasters have created milestones which mark the passages of our lives.

Carol had remarked that we hadn't seen any porpoises since we arrived in Montauk. A little after lunch we saw our first ones, maybe five or six. For the five years and fifty weeks that we have owned the boat I have been trying to take a picture of any porpoise, any time, anywhere but these guys are way quick and all I have to show for my efforts are many porpoiseless pictures of ripples, splashes and empty water. In the evening a gam/pod/school swept by the boat, at least 50, probably more. A smaller group broke off and buzzed the boat which was way cool. I know it's sentimentally anthropomorphic, but they just seem so exuberant and playful, showing off just because they can. They also seem to define fluidity and grace in the water. Of course, if I were a 6-in. fish lower down the food chain my opinion would probably be different. Patience and perseverance were, finally, rewarded: a photo "trophy" at the end of a long hunt.

Carol saw some sea turtles, which I missed, no pictures. This seems farther north that I would have thought that they ranged.

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That night the sun seemed to sink into the muck and mire of haze and smog over New York. While the EPA may decry the pollution, observers can appreciate the unintended consequences of absorbing all of the light spectrum except for red and orange. There was a half moon overhead when I started my 0300 watch, bright and high in the sky. As the moon passed to the west and got lower in the sky, it went from white, to yellow through red, each shade of color a little less bright than the last as the light passed through more and more of the atmosphere. Finally, it seemed not so much to have set as to have been extinguished, just disappearing from view, the dimming light finally fading to nothingness. It was much more beautiful than I can describe; I understand the science of the event but cannot relate the inherent poetry of what I saw. What we didn't see was the penumbra of light on the horizon that usually marks large cities. I expected to see a large halo of light and that we would just aim for the middle. It's a good thing that the GPS worked.

We waited around the channel entrance for a while for someone from the marina to respond and give us mooring instructions. It's a municipal marina so they took their time. We had been observing a dredge in the channel area for a while; when we started into the channel it seemed to occupy all of the space with dredging stuff spread from side to side. It was pretty easy to decide I didn't know what I should be doing or where I should be going; turned around and headed back out. Tried to hail the dredge on VHF 16 ... no response. Called TowBoat US and they told me to try VHF 13, which worked. Got some instructions and had at it. It's not an overly complicated channel but with dodging stuff it was interesting enough.

The passage was remarkably easy and pleasant, about as big a no-brainer as these things can be: mash an autopilot button once in awhile, adjust sail trim when you get bored. But it was hot and dehydration causes fatigue. Regardless, we were both exhausted when the boat was finally moored. As an act of mercy, the first order of business was to hook up shore power and get the AC going. It was 94o when we arrived and Carol was in the full Nordic Princess mode, melting faster than Greenland's glaciers. No surprise there; she wears SPF one kajillion clothing that has the absorbency and comfort of Saran wrap; she lathers herself in sunscreen that, in a cooking emergency, could substitute for a can of Crisco, then goes into the hot weather and cooks herself like the chinese prepare beggar's chicken.

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The large building with the sloped top is interesting. From the front profile it looks huge; from the side it is only about two rooms wide, rather like a knife's blade, having a broad flat side and a thin, narrow edge. The first time I saw the side view I was unable to associate it with the front side until I saw the white dome on top.

Atlantic City's raison d'etre is simple: separate visitors from their money. This marina is no exception, being one of the most expensive in which we have stayed. Had I been able to guess that we would have made such good time, 6.4 knots vs. my "aggressive" estimate of 5.5 knots, I would have opted to head directly for Cape May which would have been easily doable at that speed. Since we're here, we'll spend a day looking around, if for no other reason than to convince ourselves that we don't want to stay any longer than that. In truth, we were both so worn out the next morning that getting underway would have been out of the question. It will be interesting to see how we hold up because we have four more night passages planned before reaching Brunswick.

From a distance, on the water, the city looked nice enough. When we started through the channel into the city, it got a lot rougher. Not much of the old Atlantic City remains; it has mostly been torn down, paved over and built up. There is not much grace or charm, even less of beauty here, I think, all three sacrificed to make the machine. There are some condos, townhouses and private residences in town. I can no more understand wanting to live here than these residents could understand wanting to live in Spring Creek. That divide is so alien as to be uncrossable.

We both did a little work each day but nothing very strenuous or tiring; it was just too hot and will remain so through the weekend. We are off tomorrow for Cape May, again and plan to stay there for the weekend.

Posted by sailziveli 19:26 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating tourist_sites Comments (0)

Block Island Sleepover

The Cruise Is Over .... It Just Hasn't Ended

sunny 84 °F

We figured that Carol could use another day to rest. So, after two days of maintenance we just hung out for the weekend in Newport. Nothing much that we wanted to do that we hadn't already done. Plus, we figured that the harbor in Block Island would clear out on Monday morning giving us a better chance of getting a mooring ball.

So, we did little in Newport. Carol started eating again managing to dine out two nights while we were there; kept it all down, too. Carol is an equal opportunity consumer of seafood, equally comfortable and satisfied with meals from each of the three major marine phyla: chordates (fish), arthropods (crabs & other crustaceans) and mollusks (shellfish). For all this, after years of watching, she has never ordered a $4.99 tuna melt, having a propensity for menu items that have market prices and for which the check comes with an AED lest the bill shock to the point of a heart attack. I always carry my nitro pills when we go out to eat... just in case.

Monday morning we were both up early, but in no hurry; it's only a 4-hr. trip. It was the first clear morning in a while, i.e. no fog. Busy with boat preparations, I kept noticing that the sunrise was really very nice. So, I had to stop my work and take another picture, and another, etc. Two different views of the same event on the same morning since I didn't want to choose between the two.

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The trip, as forecast, took just 4 hours, leaving at 0600 and arriving at 1000. The harbor master told us to take any lime green mooring ball that was open. What he neglected to say, until confronted face to face, was that there weren't any open lime green mooring balls. Anyone who believes that government works should go to a publicly managed marina (St. Augustine, FL, excluded) and compare that experience with any privately managed marina. No contest! Private enterprise wins 99 out of 100. So we anchored except this harbor is really deep. The shallow spot where we dropped the hook is over 20-ft. deep at low tide. Not a problem, just different, and a long way from the dinghy dock. We hung around the boat through lunch into the afternoon and the boats just kept coming and coming. We went ashore for dinner, Carol killing mollusks at this particular session. The place was just covered up. It's probably a sour grapes rationalization, but as much as we were looking forward to the visit, there are just too many people here for it to be much fun.

That afternoon, I decided to look at the wind forecast for the balance of the week. It pretty much came down to leave Tuesday and arrive in New Jersey on Wednesday or be prepared to stay here longer than a little while. We were not inclined to want to do that. Our enthusiasm for this visit is declining, so before 0500 Tuesday, 07/16, we will be underway for Atlantic City. The attraction of the place is that we can make the passage in two days and one night without too much worry, less than 36 hours. Cape May, the preferred destination, is 50 nm farther and requires two days and two nights. Who knows? Maybe we'll run into the Donald or the Boss.

The decision to make this crossing was not as spontaneous as our decision to leave the Abacos in 2012. But it has that hurried feel, unsettling, as if we are overlooking something important that will not be called to mind until it is too late. Hopefully, just nerves and not a premonition.

Posted by sailziveli 18:15 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating Comments (0)

Newport Isn't So Bad, Really

storm 73 °F

When getting ready to get underway, I decided to do the necessary, but recently useless, radio check. Sea Tow has an automated system that works in many areas. I had checked with them earlier and was told that channel 24 was at some remove from Provincetown but that it might work. Tried it .... got a response. So, maybe, the time, effort and money that went into replacing the VHF radio system was worth the investment, a rare nautical ROI.

Neither one of us was feeling very perky, both tired, both worn out. Carol had been understandably stressed for the three or four weeks since her sister's operation, something that takes a toll on her system. But, neither one of us was interested in hanging around Provincetown another day. The simple idea of being in motion, regardless of direction and destination, seemed therapeutic in itself.

So, we were underway that sunny Monday at 0730 for the Cape Cod Canal. The cormorants were lining the breakwater to see us off as we passed out of the harbor ..... maybe to wish us well, maybe to wish us gone. It's hard to tell with birds and cormorants are very tricky that way.

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If Cape Cod is a fishhook, then a brace of identical lighthouses mark both the ends of the barb, this one being the easternmost of the two. We passed both exiting the harbor and heading south.

I had thought that these square, not round, lighthouses were a modern addition to the Cape. Not so! They date to the 1870's. I'm not sure if they still work; I do not recall seeing this light in the harbor, although it may only show to the open water. I could check the chart, but some mystery is better.

They both sit near the beach by the open water, backed by natural dunes, uncluttered by any development. The land here is pretty low, the dunes, maybe, topping 20-ft. above mean low water; the rest much less. This portion of Cape Cod must certainly be awash when there is a storm surge of any note.

For all of the original art that we saw on display in town, I do not recall any devoted to this pair, which seems an oversight given their natural and beautiful surroundings.

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It was a simple plan: time the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal for a westward current, starting at 1043, go about another 25 nm from the canal, anchor for the night near New Bedford, then get to Block Island on Tuesday.

The plan was working, too. We hit the canal a little after 1100, zipped through in not much time, and then the frustration began. The wind forecast for the day was under 10 knots, a lousy day for sailing but a good day for motoring and making time, which we needed to do to get to New Bedford. We knew that the exit from the canal would be about like the entrance two weeks earlier: rough as a year old cob. This didn't disappoint. The wind in Buzzards Bay was a shock; once we left the canal it rarely was less than 25 knots, three times the prediction of eight knots. 25 knots directly on the bow is not good for motoring and making time. In fact, at the rate we were going it was problematic as to whether we could get to New Bedford before dark since we were generally running less than 4 knots into the wind and waves. I think that I may start to use kilometers instead of knots. 4 knots is very slow but 7.4 kilometers per hour is much faster.

About the waves .... they were breaking over the bow with such force that water was coming in through the canvas surround at the back stays, probably 33-ft. behind the bow of our 36-ft. boat. Haven't had that happen before. Not an easy day. There was another sailboat in front of us, less than 1/2 mile. It was larger, probably 44-ft., and, as a consequence, much heavier. It was amazing to watch that boat get tossed around, at times looking like it was going airborne, some inconsequential toy being enjoyed by a cosmic 3-year old. I could not imagine how we might have looked from a distance. We've been through gales on the open water and these waves were trifling by comparison. What is always the issue is not the size of the waves but the period between them. In the open water in bad weather there may be 10 seconds between waves and the boat can ride over them as it was designed to do. The period that day was, maybe, 2~3 seconds, just impossible for the boat, just impossible for the captain and the crew wasn't having any fun either.

When I had originally planned the transit from Provincetown to Block Island, I had broken it up into three days. I was cursing fate, and every named boating deity, while looking at the chart when I noticed that we were very close to Mattapoisett, MA, the place I had originally thought to stay at the end of day one of the three. We were both physically tired, the planned anchorages were OK for not much wind but would have been marginal for these winds, so we retired from Buzzards Bay for the shelter of a safe harbor in Mattapoisett. That's not quitting .... it's being a practical captain, the only kind that there is at 66 years of age. A warm shower, a cold drink and a hot dinner seemed like a good end to a difficult day. On my way to the warm shower I met another couple who also decided that Mattapoisett seemed like a better deal than getting beat up out on the Bay. So, maybe it wasn't a total wimp out.

Along the way, Carol, who had been feeling poorly, got full time sick .... stomach, intestinal, the whole magilla. Getting sick on the boat is ugly, any way, any day. The afternoon was so rough that it could only have made an already bad deal even worse. How sick was she? No interest in leaving the boat that evening for dinner. Poor baby!!!!

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I wasn't sure where we would stop on Tuesday; it might have been possible to get to Block Island from Mattapoisett, but that was not a given. What is usually a given is that I will have a firm navigation plan before we get underway, just not that day. Regardless, the earlier we started, the better the odds of reaching Block Island. Up at 0430, I was confronted with (a) a heavy fog, (b) the entire crew was very sick. I checked the weather forecast ... fog burns off by 0800; I can handle anything by myself for two hours.

When the light had gotten better I cast us off and headed out with the radar going. The question for the day was: what kind of fool would believe a weather forecast about fog burning off when the prior forecast did not even predict fog? Answer: one that looks a lot like me! 0800 came and went; the fog remained. Ditto 1000, 1100 and 1200 and 1300. Not much good in that situation except for this: I was concerned about a very empty radar screen so I started messing with settings and found a bunch of stuff that I had not much used. Changed the gain, changed some other stuff, changed the fine tuning settings and, voila, lots of stuff about which to be nervous, so I was. After having been surprised by four sailboats appearing like some Romulan warbird uncloaking next to us, all within 1/4 mile, i.e. very close, I had the eureka moment: very few sailboats up here have radar reflectors to improve their radar signatures. They spend hundreds of thousands on boats to sail, spend thousands on radar to see, but don't spend $50 to be seen. I would say that that makes them dangerous to themselves and to others, an abrogation of captains' fundamental responsibilities. But, I'm old and stupid, so what do I know?

Given the fog I decided that another stop in Newport, RI, seemed like a good idea. If Nantucket was my BA in fog, this trip was my graduate degree, well over 40 nm in a heavy fog. It wasn't until we were well into the main channel, approaching the inner harbor that things thinned out, maybe the last 2 nm. It was less fun than it sounds.

The other reason to stop in Newport was to get the bottom cleaned. In Provincetown we had picked up a hula skirt of bright green aquatic grass along the water line and I was concerned that the bottom might be getting covered too; plus the zinc needed to be replaced by this time. And, I knew it was about time for an oil change. To my disappointment when I checked my maintenance schedule, it was also time for the 250 hour engine service, a long and complicated list. The general boat maintenance list was 50 hours overdue. The two night stay in Newport became three nights to accommodate all the work to be done. I didn't know it at the time but the other "other reason" to stop in Newport was to get some Yanmar parts which we normally carry but had used the entire supply. There is a Yanmar dealer about three minutes away by dinghy and that business had all that we required.

I am truly getting to hate boat maintenance; on August 1st I will have been doing it for six years. It's ironic, I suppose, that at this point I actually mostly know what I am doing and can do it well enough having the right tools, the right parts and enough repetitious experience. But I'd rather take a whipping than change the alternator belt again.

I considered blowing off the list and just doing a minimum, like the oil. But, the sad fact is that there are untimed bombs on the list that can explode at any time. Having seen some of those bombs go off I get nervous when I break discipline. To wit, I always check fairleads and running rigging. For 5 years and 49 weeks, always the same thing: all is well, except during this inspection I found a fairlead that was badly deteriorated and, as a result, was sawing the main sheet in two, a situation most sailors would try to avoid. I carry spare fairleads but had to work to find a store that could replace the 70-ft. long 7/16-in line. All the running rigging is now as it should be.

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There is weather coming through, again; Carol is still feeling poorly, better but weak. So, rather than travel to Block Island as planned, we'll spend the weekend in Newport. Hopefully, she'll feel better. But, once again, we're sitting somewhere we don't want to be .... not moving, burning away the month of July to no particular end. Maine is gone, and it feels as if everything else is slipping away, too. Life on the boat, I guess.

Posted by sailziveli 14:25 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating lighthouse Comments (0)

Da' Blog .... Back on Line

sunny 75 °F

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Carol returned on Saturday, on the 1900, 7pm, ferry having left on Monday on the 1030 ferry. Things went well enough, her sister was well enough, enough of the right stuff got done that she was able to return to the boat. Her return was a good thing; the circumstances that allowed her to exercise the choice to return were good things. Those with very sharp eyes may be able to do the "Where's Waldo" thing and pick her out from the many passengers on deck.

Things always change. After eight days of unrelenting rain, bailing the dinghy once or twice a day; after eight days of unending winds, winds so strong that many days the wind generator had to be shut down and secured; after eight days where the sun never broke through the clouds .... the low pressure passed and was replaced by fair weather. In fact, the fair weather seemed a lot like actual summer ..... hot, way hot, with only desultory breezes to stir the air. Maybe it wasn't so much hot as it was the contrast, the contrast between cool, windy, rainy days and hot and still air that followed.

We talked on Sunday about the options: Maine remains an impractical option; it's too early to head back; so, we decided that we'll try to make lemonade of the situation by going to Block Island and then heading slowly West through Long Island Sound, topping along the way, then taking the East River through New York City and then hopscotching down the Jersey shore.

When we arrive back in Norfolk, VA, we will be in the boat delivery mode, headed south. That will probably entail a stopover in Charleston; Carol has an affinity for Hyman's restaurant, a purveyor of Carolina low country cuisine that seems to consist mostly of grits, grease and gravy. She likes it.

It should be fun; there are some good places to visit; we won't be under any particular time pressure to push a schedule. We'll have a chance to enjoy boating which we both dearly love.

Posted by sailziveli 19:03 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Still in Provincetown

storm 69 °F

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It has a certain beauty, I suppose, if beauty can be austere, maybe ascetic, without becoming an oxymoron. Days cast in shades of gray. The water ... dark slate punctuated with white froth. The sky ... charcoal, sometimes, low clouds thick, heavy and gravid with rain. The horizon .... light gray, sometimes, as low fog ebbs and flows, pushed and pulled by the wind, shrinking our visible world to just the few boats that are closest. That 252 ft. tower on the 100 ft. bluff ... might still be there, can't really tell, doesn't much matter anyway.

I thought it beautiful. This duck, however, seemed quite unimpressed with the aesthetics whole deal, more concerned about the immediate, practical implications of the weather, having to work quite hard to make headway against the wind and waves, a serious journey eclipsing our modest endeavors.

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We had had a couple of cloudy days, not much wind and the batteries were draining. Not serious, yet, but always a concern. Got up Friday morning at 0600 and we were down 75 Ah (amp hours), not quite 1/3 of the available power until the critical 50% point that should never be crossed. Battery central is on the rear bulkhead in the galley. No particular reason for it to be there. The top panel, for the solar panels, was there when we bought the boat. It seemed reasonable to put the, then, new Xantrex unit near it. Before 1800, 12 hours, the wind generator, BY ITSELF, had completely recharged the batteries, unprecedented during five years with both supplemental power systems. That is by way of saying that it has been windy averaging more than 20 kts., very steady, and well over 30 kts. in gusts.

Carol, generally unaware of such details, will be pleased, since we will probably be able shut the generator down for the night, to the benefit of her beauty sleep, and count on the wind to perform a similar miracle tomorrow.

It has rained over the several nights, once again filling the dinghy and floating the gas can. We have bailed and pumped the dinghy dry more times since we arrived at Lake Montauk than we have in all the years prior to that event. A dinghy ride to the dock to take a shower .... Fuggedaboutit‎! Clean and dry, I would quickly have become a wet salty dog if the dinghy made it back to our boat without capsizing. Had I tried that I would certainly have worn a life jacket, usually a needless appurtenance, despite the several laws requiring their use.

The harbor here is inside the "hook" of the Cape. That hook has truncated the fetch to about a mile and made the waves somewhat less severe. There is not enough height to the land to do anything about attenuating the wind, so it rumbles past us, and the duck, unabated. There will be more Magic Fingers Mattress Massager nights. You don't really need a water bed if your bed is on the water during nights like these.

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Everything is damp, the humidity at 100% although the Dew Point has not caused a problem; the inside walls of the boat are not dripping with condensation as happens occasionally. The fog outside the boat must also be inside the boat .... it's the same moisture saturated air, I think. Towels don't dry; cotton clothing left out wicks the moisture from the air and the clothing feels dank, clingy and unclean when worn. There has been enough rain that the cockpit is quite wet, high winds pushing the water through the openings in the canvas that accommodate the two backstays and the solar panels.

The barometer has been falling steadily for several days, now down to 29.56 inHg, the needle seemingly stuck there for the duration. The problem is that the entire East Coast is under the influence of a low pressure system; it's been there for a while and is forecast to hang around for a while yet. It is hard to see but there is a rainy section right over the tip of Cape Cod.

I have many failings as a human being; high on that list is patience, the lack of it. Boating has tried to train, encourage and foster patience, but that seed has fallen on barren ground. We waited for ten days in Bimini to head east; I think that we were almost three weeks in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL, waiting for the right weather to cross the Gulf Stream. There have been opportunities to travel; for some reason the effects of the system are less troublesome in Maine than they are here. The governing principle is that Carol says when we leave based on her assessment of Joan's situation. We will not leave Providence until Joan leaves the hospital and that is still a date uncertain. So, as Milton posited, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Posted by sailziveli 08:36 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

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)

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