Tuesday, July 20, 2010; 9:46 pm
On the mooring, Salem Harbor off Village Street
What a day – what a few days! – but at last here I
It’s been a wrestling match to get here, seemingly
every step of the way no matter which way I turned.
The Garmin GPS of course should have worked – it
worked last season! – but it didn’t this year. And
of course, Garmin doesn’t provide customer support
on weekends – when I discovered the problem –
because of course none of their consumers would ever
run into a problem on their time off; they only use
their marine plotters during workday working hours!
So yesterday, after wasting 3½ hours on the phone,
mostly in two 35-minute queues – after being
disconnected after the first 35-minute wait, then
transferred from general support to software
support, twice – which put my departure back a day –
we were able to finally get my GPSMap 478 to accept
uploads from the MapChart software on this laptop to
Today was a whole different set of hurdles: Just
getting Chip Ahoy to the dock and loaded with all my
First was my buddy – who was to help with the
Chinese Fire-Drill of needing someone to stay in the
“live parked” Blazer (Barbara was the planned
sacrifice), while some helped lug down and stand
over the gear on the dock, while I went out to get
the boat and bring it in to the dock then mule the
remaining gear down the dock – who at the last
moment became P-whipped and couldn’t make it on
Next came Barbara and me attempting to do it
ourselves – until we hit the “no parking” zone down
at the dock, only to find it blocked by unoccupied
parked vehicles, one even blocking a fire hydrant. I
walked down the dock to find the miscreants, made a
couple of new enemies, came nose-to-nose close to a
knock-down-drag-out confrontation, and was convinced
that discretion was the better part of valor; put
off the departure until conditions were more
favorable – after getting the other guy’s license
Oh well, it worked out better anyway. Back at home,
Vaughn arrived a few minutes later. As Barbara had
an event to attend, she’d not be able to be part of
a later triumvirate, so I called another buddy, Ace
from the boatyard, and both showed up at 7 pm – high
With Vaughn behind my Blazer’s steering wheel, Ace
and I muled most of the gear (with the help of an
acquaintance of his we happened to meet so timely at
its head) down the dock and the amazingly waiting
launch. We quickly tossed everything into the cabin,
dropped the mooring and brought Chip Ahoy back to
the dock. Still before sunset, we had Chip Ahoy
loaded: Ice and food perishables transferred from a
few small coolers into the boat’s main cooler, a
couple gallons of gas to top off the port 6-gallon
tank. As I was using the dockside hose to clean out
the cockpit (primarily from spilled gasoline),
Vaughn came down to announce he had to leave; I
dismissed Ace as well, both of them with my eternal
gratitude. I was aboard; this cruise for all intent
Once I had the boat cleaned up, I took off for the
mooring again. Back on it, I went below and spent
the next hour or so sorting and organizing – how’
all this stuff ever fit before? Ironically, I’m
bringing somewhat less along this time (though I
almost forgot tools since leaving the toolbox off in
the spring, which could have been a real mistake),
but arrangements and configurations, I’ve
discovered, must and can be different.
I’m settled in for the cruise, comfortable.
Everything more of less has found its place.
Obviously, I’m on the laptop. I have a good Wifi
signal from the nearby yacht club; the power from
Battery 2 is doing well to run the laptop; my five
new LED cabin lights are a serious improvement while
the oil lamp still provided its ambiance – and can
actually see the keyboard after sunset. There was a
dramatic sunset though not overly remarkable – a
display of towering thunderstorm on the horizon
then, but no effects.
Cruise 2010 has begun. It feels great to be out here
and away at last on the dawn.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010; 7:10 am
On the mooring, Salem Harbor off Village Street
What a nice place to awaken and be having my morning
coffee, on a clear summer day with the sun rising
out over Naugus Head. There’s not a ripple in the
water, but clouds appear to be slowly moving in from
When I came to enough to realize I wasn’t home it
was exciting. “Hey, I’m aboard and on Day One of my
cruise!” After the chicken sandwich I brought
aboard, a little reading, last night I slept like
the proverbial log (whatever that means). I fell
asleep with the radio on (like I often do at home),
so unconsciously I didn’t skip a beat – at first
expected that indeed I was waking at home as usual.
I feel almost guilty sitting here comfortably, in no
rush to be on my way, a cup of coffee resting on the
companionway step alongside me, the laptop still
connected from last night on my – well, on my lap.
Like maybe I should be rushing to get underway to
Scituate or something. But I’m on vacation and this
is Cruise 2010, Day One. It’s nice that everything
is working or seems to be; “Enjoy the moment,” I’m
Hooked up through Wifi to NOAA Weather is much
better than trying to listen to it numerous times on
the VHF radio to get all the details for this log:
21 Jul 2010 (Wed); NOAA for Marblehead
Today: A chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly
between 4pm and 5pm, then a chance of thunderstorms
after 5pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86.
Southeast wind between 3 and 10 mph. Chance of
precipitation is 30%.
Tonight: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly
before midnight. Some storms could be severe, with
large hail and damaging winds. Mostly cloudy, then
gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around
67. South wind 8 to 10 mph becoming west. Chance of
precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a
tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts
possible in thunderstorms.
Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. West
wind between 13 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 26
Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 66.
Northwest wind between 7 and 11 mph.
COASTAL WATERS EAST OF IPSWICH BAY AND THE
STELLWAGEN BANK NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY - 422 AM
EDT WED JUL 21 2010
S WINDS 5 TO 10 KT...INCREASING TO 10 TO 15 KT LATE.
SEAS 2 TO 3 FT. A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SHOWERS. A SLIGHT
CHANCE OF TSTMS. PATCHY FOG THIS MORNING. SOME TSTMS
MAY PRODUCE DAMAGING WINDS AND LARGE HAIL THIS
AFTERNOON. VSBY 1 TO 3 NM THIS MORNING.
S WINDS 10 TO 15 KT...BECOMING SW AFTER MIDNIGHT.
SEAS 2 TO 3 FT. PATCHY FOG. A CHANCE OF TSTMS IN THE
CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND TSTMS AFTER MIDNIGHT. SOME
TSTMS MAY PRODUCE DAMAGING WINDS AND LARGE HAIL IN
THE EVENING. VSBY 1 TO 3 NM AFTER MIDNIGHT.
W WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. GUSTS UP TO 20 KT IN THE
MORNING. SEAS 2 TO 4 FT. PATCHY FOG IN THE MORNING
WITH VSBY 1 TO 3 NM.
NW WINDS 10 TO 15 KT...DIMINISHING TO 5 TO 10 KT
AFTER MIDNIGHT. SEAS 2 TO 4 FT.
So the plan is to make my second cup of coffee then
prepare for departure.
The first thing I have to undo is take down the
5-Mile-Wifi antenna from the mast, disconnect the
laptop and stow everything. Putting up the antenna
in absolute darkness last night was much assisted by
the mast deck light – working now since the
boatyard’s repair a couple of weeks ago (simple bulb
connection corrosion). I haven’t had it working
since I installed the antenna and its sail slide
channel on the mast. The light is located perfectly
for this job, I discovered last night – though
sometimes looking up directly into it is a drawback.
I wonder why it seems that every time I sail down to
Scituate the wind is pretty much in my face, and
usually reverses in time for the trip back too?
It’s dead-on high tide, so I can take the shorter,
close-to-shore inside the shoals, route out past
Marblehead Harbor to Massachusetts Bay this morning,
soon. I’ll get the sails up, but it looks like the
trusty Honda will earn its keep for much of today if
I’m to reach Scituate (about 30 nm) at a decent
Chip Ahoy is pretty much organized – actually, I
kind of like where everything finally got settled
(crammed in). I was able to reach the Pelican Case
with the Nikon DSLR camera equipment much easier
this morning than on previous cruises – so expect
I’ll use it more as a result. Same thing with the
laptop bag and contents. I’ve located much more
forward, over the uncushioned v-berth, keeping clear
the most forward two anchor chain/road locker covers
in case an emergency deployment is demanded.
– 8:00 am –
Half a cup of coffee to go then it’ll be time to
break down and head out. Wow, I’m feeling pretty
lazy sitting here, comfortable. The best is ahead
and I know it; I’m into Newton’s Law about objects
at rest, objects in motion. Once I break out of this
new comfort of the cabin and start moving about, the
mission will become everything; reaching Scituate,
and that’ll take a good 6-8 hours of today, later.
For the moment I’m internalizing and appreciating
that The Cruise is finally here and happening, and
I’m here to enjoy it – and am!
Scituate Town Marina
Wednesday, July 21, 2010; 9:30 pm
This morning began with an extraordinarily calm
situation. I left Chip Ahoy’s mooring at about 9 am.
The conditions continued through until and beyond
reaching some sort of junior race regatta happening
out from Marblehead Harbor.
Once through the maze of small sailboats, I was on
my way, to Boston Harbor channel and south to
Scituate today and beyond.
The seas soon picked up out beyond the shelter of
the sounds, soon and often quickly building to three
feet with the wind (dare I say as usual?) coming at
me from the SE soon to change to south.
I motor-sailed most of the day, with the main up,
having given up on the flogging genoa. It got a
little rough while approaching off Minot Light, seas
3-4 feet head on from the south, lots of bouncing
and spray in the cockpit.
I arrived in Scituate Harbor at about 4:00 pm.
This getaway jaunt still is not going well. The
culmination of today’s crossing to Scituate was to
do a perfect one-foot-on-boat-the-other-on-dock
split and drop into the harbor as I brought Chip
Ahoy to its slip. Lesson learned: Prepare to
singlehand if you are singlehanding; never depend on
the summer high-school temporary dockhands – or let
them get in your way. Sometimes the “convenience”
can become a liability.
I had my stern line cleated aboard and ready, the
long bow line coiled but uncleated, ready to toss as
I edged Chip Ahoy into its assigned slip. I tossed
the young dockhand the bow line and stepped off onto
the slip, secured the stern line to the dock cleat,
looked forward expecting the bow line to be cleated
to one of the three bow cleats aboard. He’d missed
or dropped the bow line, was grabbing for the
pulpit, just out of his reach as the bow was
swinging away in the breeze.
I grabbed a lifeline,
told him to get and toss me the bow line, and tried
to hold the boat – one foot still on the dock, the
other on the boat – attempting to hold the bow from
drifting out further. The gap widening too quickly; decision: “You’re
going in, pick your landing!” With the kid
scrambling to find the line, recognizing my foolish
predicament, I let go of the lifeline and fell into
A couple guys on the 25-foot Proline tied up on the
other side of my very narrow slip jumped down, gave
me a hand getting out, and helped the kid pull Chip
Ahoy’s bow in. The kid tied it off using a length of
old lobster trap line. I have no idea where he found
that, but my bow line, still coiled, was soon
discovered on the edge of the Proline’s foredeck;
nobody can explain how it got there.
[See lesson learned,
After getting the boat tied up properly and squared
away below, the pup tent up with the help of my
rescuer and new friend, “Rist,” he invited me along
to “T. K. O’Malley’s,” a local dockside restaurant
and pub. Though I’ve been to Scituate a number of
times, this was a first for me. Rist introduced me
to a couple of his friends with, “Look who I just
pulled out of the water.”
Scituate Town Marina
Thursday, July 22, 2010; 10:30 am
Oh yeah, I sure did something to my right knee when
I went into the drink; it’s swollen and sore as
hell. By the time I got back from dinner last night
it had begun aching, a little swelling. On Barbara’s
phone advice, I wrapped it with a plastic trash bag
filled with ice cubes, slept with it on. This
morning it hurts worse, is now obviously swollen.
I limped over to Dunkin Donuts at about 8:30,
decided on ice coffee instead of hot, and a couple
donuts. Back aboard and finished with breakfast, I
dug out the battery charger and shore power cord,
hooked them up. I got a block and couple bags of ice
up the harbormaster’s office, now have another ice
wrap around the knee, hoping to reduce the swelling
The last time I was here, last summer at about the
same time on my last attempt to reach Cape Cod, it
became the turning point. After extending my stay by
a few extra days, I decided the pain from the
spleenectomy and my surprising malaise, sort of
exhaustion, was too much – the fun had gone from the
cruise, I had no motivation to continue. On the
advice of many, I decided not to push any further,
to head home.
I’m hoping this knee injury doesn’t turn into the
same result – but I must admit, I’m considering it
an option. If it doesn’t improve soon (can’t bend it
without considerable pain), I’ll have to think about
staying another night if possible, see how it feels
– 8:00 pm –
I hobbled over to the nearby CVS drug store early
this afternoon for a knee Ace bandage; found one and
something even better. The Futuro Knee Support seems
to be helping, but the CVS “Peas Cold Therapy” is an
additional benefit, much easier to use than ice
cubes in a plastic bag wrapped around my knee with a
sail bungie cord. It’s shaped like a donut, with a
Velcro strap to hold it in place over the knee. It’s
filled with pea-size gel-filled balls that conform
to the knee’s shape. I dropped it onto a block of
ice in the Igloo cooler for a few hours then applied
it (for 20 minutes as recommended). It’s back on the
ice block, the knee support is back on. I hate to be
too optimistic, but I believe the knee is feeling
I also arranged to keep this slip for an additional
night tomorrow. This afternoon I still hadn’t raised
the outboard or rudder, decided to see how
attempting that would go. It’s my right knee against
the transom that provides leverage, and that
required bending it. This wasn’t going to happen. I
did finally manage to get them both raised; the
rudder from the starboard side, but it was a real
struggle, a challenge finding some position that
provided the leverage. If performing this simple
task was so difficult, I decided to see about
spending an additional night, give my knee another
day to hopefully heal better.
I decided to settle in for a stay – plugged in all
the electronics chargers (handheld VHF radio, two
camera battery chargers). The cell phone charges
using a 12v cigarette lighter plug (do we still call
them that?), and I can charge the laptop through
another, connected to a 12v to 110v inverter though
the laptop seems to prefer shore power. I stowed the
inverter and plugged in the laptop.
The Wifi signal from the harbormaster’s office
wasn’t strong enough to connect to my home/office
computer through LogMeIn, so I ran the 5-Mile-Wifi
antenna up the mast and connected its signal and
power USB cables to the laptop. What a difference
that made – the maximum five bars of “excellent”
signal (54 Mbps speed) connected to my home/office
I’d planned to have dinner with longtime friends,
Norm and Joan Paley – a tradition whenever I land in
Scituate – but called and postponed until tomorrow,
now that I’m here for another day. I want to give
the knee as much downtime as possible. They
graciously invited me instead to their home for
dinner, but I declined that as well. I’ve got food
aboard that’ll hold me over without putting
unnecessary mileage on the knee.
Today was a scheduled, intended layover day in
Scituate and I lucked out, not only just because of
the unanticipated knee injury and being able to stay
another day. The wind out of the north was blowing
at a steady 20 or so mph with 30-plus mph gusts;
seas running 3-4 feet according to NOAA weather. A
small craft advisory was posted all day, at least
until 6:00 pm. The couple and their four small dogs
who pulled in to the slip on the other side of Chip
Ahoy aboard Bon Bini, a Grady-White Sailfish 25
Sport Bridge on their way back home to Newburyport,
came up through the canal from Nantucket – reported
it was a really rough trip, especially crossing
Scituate Town Marina
Friday, July 23, 2010; 7:45 am
Ironic, when I left Chip Ahoy’s mooring in
Marblehead a couple of days ago, my only
health/medical concerns were first, my left elbow;
after banging it a month or so ago, then doing
something to pull forearm muscles (tossing my seabag
aboard from the launch a couple weeks later), I’ve
been using an Ace elbow bandage. It was still a bit
sore, a weak point I thought would work itself out
so long as I am careful using it. Second, I was
hoping the still weakened stomach muscles from the
spleenectomy would hold together; last year, I
learned the hard way not to stretch and yank down on
a halyard – I planned to respect this knowledge
learned the hard way.
Instead, I have a new ‘handicap’ to consider after
doing the dockside split and falling in; the right
knee is now my primary medical concern. When you’re
singlehanding, everything needs to be working;
nobody else can do what you can’t. Capability is and
must be the primary consideration.
It’s feeling better this morning; I slept well last
night even when rolling over on the bunk. I put on
the knee brace upon awakening, before taking the
walk up the dock ramp and over to Dunkin Donuts for
my morning coffee and donuts. The knee is still
sore, “out of sorts” is the best way I can describe
it this morning; just not right. At least the
swelling seems to be down. I’ve got the “frozen
gel-peas” ice pack wrapped around it again.
The NOAA marine weather forecast for today seems to
make staying another day not too inconvenient:
Synopsis: HIGH PRES BEGINS TO MOVE OFFSHORE TODAY. A
WARM FRONT WILL APPROACH THE REGION TONIGHT AND LIFT
N BY SAT. A PRE-FRONTAL TROUGH WILL CROSS THE AREA
SAT FOLLOWED BY A COLD FRONT SUNDAY. HI PRES FOLLOWS
FOR MON AND TUES.
EASTERN PLYMOUTH MA - INCLUDING THE CITIES OF ...COHASSET ...HINGHAM ...MARSHFIELD ...PLYMOUTH ...SCITUATE
338 AM EDT FRI JUL 23 2010
PARTLY SUNNY THIS MORNING...THEN MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH
A CHANCE OF SHOWERS WITH ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS THIS
AFTERNOON. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 80S. WEST WINDS AROUND
5 MPH...BECOMING SOUTHWEST WITH GUSTS UP TO 20 MPH
THIS AFTERNOON. CHANCE OF RAIN 50 PERCENT.
SHOWERS WITH A CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS IN THE
EVENING...THEN A CHANCE OF SHOWERS AFTER MIDNIGHT.
PATCHY FOG. HUMID WITH LOWS IN THE UPPER 60S. SOUTH
WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH...BECOMING SOUTHWEST AFTER
MIDNIGHT. CHANCE OF RAIN 80 PERCENT.
The weather forecast for tomorrow and my cruise down
NOAA marine forecast for Plymouth, MA
Forecast valid: 9am EDT Jul 23, 2010-6pm EDT Jul 29,
Saturday: N wind 5 to 8 kt becoming E in the
afternoon. A slight chance of showers after 2pm.
Patchy fog before 2pm, then Patchy fog after 3pm.
Seas around 1 ft.
Saturday Night: Variable winds less than 5 kt
becoming SSW around 6 kt after midnight. A chance of
showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 9pm. Seas
around 1 ft.
North wind 5 to 8 knots, becoming East in the
afternoon, perfect for once -- seas around one foot
sounds wonderful after the pounding and spray on the
trip down on Wednesday! “Chance of showers and
thunderstorms” is almost always appended to any NOAA
forecast in the summer, is assumed a possibility by
most of us.
– 10:00 am –
Gray sky; the clouds have rolled in. Not much wind,
a slight breeze, more like air moving; some flags on
other boats are moving, but not Chip Ahoy’s.
I just had the neighbors in the Grady-White take a
couple photos of me wearing Wes Iiames’ “Miss Spent
Youth” hat, standing alongside Chip Ahoy, told them
the story of how it came from Ohio. Thanks again,
Wes – but this was the first time I’ve donned a cap
so far on this cruise; did it just for you, buddy!
The neighbors are preparing to depart for
Newburyport. It should be a good trip with their
twin Yahama 200s and enclosed bridge.
– 11:15 am –
What went wrong:
I’ve given a lot of thought to what happened wrong
coming into this slip on Wednesday ever since, and
came to a simple enough conclusion this morning –
before the 38-foot Saber, “Cetacea” out of Hingham,
arrived to take the now empty slip alongside Chip
My mistake was to not cleat the bow line before
tossing it, expecting the dockhand to know what to
do with it. I expected he’d grab it, the bow pulpit
(which is what they’ve always gone for before), wrap
it around any of the three bow cleats at hand, tie
off the other end to a dock cleat.
My new buddy, Rist, and the other couple guys aboard
the Proline 25 alongside when I came in, later told
me how impressed they were as I maneuvered Chip Ahoy
into the slip, how smoothly I stepped off and tied
off the stern line. Then everything went to hell
when the dockhand lost the bow and it started
swinging away from the dock, his grasp. That’s when
I attempted to scramble back aboard and didn’t make
My mistake was not cleating off the bow line before
tossing it to him. What was I thinking?
It's a small boat, the cleat is easily available at
the bow; anyone catching the line can quickly cleat
it. Wrong, and a stupid assumption on my part.
I had a system that worked. I should have
stuck to it.
Alternatively, my mistake was accepting assistance.
I’ve got singlehanded docking down to a method that
has never failed, if doing it alone. But that
requires having bow and stern lines cleated and in
hand. “Easier” is not the same as better – or even
As I watched Cetacea figuring out how to come in, I
stepped out onto the dock in case he needed a hand.
(I also wanted to see how the knee would work when I
wasn’t thinking about it.) Two of the dockhands
arrived just in time, but still needed my assist to
get it in alongside Chip Ahoy – very tricky on such
short, narrow slips. The owner and his dad worked
efficiently; dad at the controls, the owner running
around the deck preparing lines. They backed in and
tossed us lines – attached to deck cleats, proving
out my assessment of what I did wrong. Never assume
someone on the other end of your line knows what to
do with it. Never assume.
Damn, I still wish someone was taking photos or
video of me going in. What a great lesson; what a great article for
my next MainBrace article – if only I had some
visuals. Rist told me he could have taken a picture
with his cell phone, but hadn’t given it a thought,
was focused on pulling me out. He added that I should count my blessings; but I see
it as a learning experience, something I can pass on
perhaps. “That which doesn’t kill you makes you
stronger.” I don’t think my knee would agree with
that stronger part . . . but maybe "makes you smarter"?
– 2:25 pm –
I just returned from walking a few blocks to the
local ship’s store and a supermarket nearby, picked
up a copy of the 2010 edition of Eldridge Tide and
Pilot Book. I’ve usually bought one every year, keep
it aboard, but haven’t needed it for so long that I
didn’t bother this year; the closer you get to the
canal, the easier they are to obtain.
My knee is feeling much better, so when I leave
tomorrow morning I’ll be pointing Chip Ahoy south
again, down to Plymouth next. I just went over my
charting, got the phone number handy for Brewer’s
Plymouth Marina. I’ll call ahead tomorrow, see if I
can score a slip; if not there’s the local yacht
club or town dock for likely a mooring anyway.
– 5:45 pm –
It’s pouring out there, and the temperature has
dropped considerably; mid-60s perhaps, down from the
low- to mid-80s. It awoke me from a nap, I had to
move fast to close the forward hatch before any more
rain got inside. The forecast calls for rain through
the night with the chance of thunderstorms. It’s
supposed to clear for tomorrow morning – I hope
before I need to break camp. Stowing everything
below wet is not my favorite idea. The pup tent over
the boom is doing a nice job keeping it dry down
here in the cabin, though I just closed the sliding
hatch. Oh yeah, this is a downpour.
Scituate Town Marina
Saturday, July 24, 2010; 4:45 am
It’s still dark – it won’t be sunrise for another 45
minutes or so – cool (low-60s) with very dense fog.
I went to sleep pretty early last night, about 9:30,
with ice around the knee; awoke a few times with
discomfort from it. I put the brace back on, then
tried elevating the leg (using the foul-weather
jacket I needed earlier and some towels and
clothing). Finally, about half an hour ago, I did
more ice and decided sleeping was over, I couldn’t
find a comfortable position; it was time to get up
and start thinking about today: Do I go on to
Plymouth, try to spend another day here, or just
head back home to Marblehead again?
Last night I called off dinner plans with the Paleys
again. It was raining just too hard to climb the
dock and reach the closest restaurant, or even the
parking lot if I accepted their offer again for
dinner at their home. Besides, I really didn’t feel
like moving. Norm will be coming down this morning
to say hello, give me a hand casting off.
After we talked, just before 8:00 when Dunkin Donuts
would close, the rain had let up. I put on the
foul-weather jacket and limped over for a large
coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and use of their men’s
room. When I came out, it was pouring again – I was
soaked by the time I got back to Chip Ahoy, the
paper bag that held the sandwich was saturated
almost to falling apart.
– 8:45 am –
After walking over to Dunkin Donuts at about 6:00 am
to pickup my morning coffee fix and a couple of
donuts, back on board I decided that my knee was
feeling good enough to shoot for Plymouth once the
fog cleared. Done with breakfast, I began breaking
camp: Put away the laptop and all its peripherals,
disconnected the battery charger, lowered the Wifi
antenna, rudder and outboard (the latter two go down
much easier than they come up!), dug out and
organized all my cruising equipment so it was ready
to go, then waited for Norm to arrive before taking
down the pup tent (hoping it’d dry more).
I figured when he arrived I could be on my way to
Plymouth within 15 or so minutes. Just before
unplugging the shore power cord, at 7:30 I decided
to call the Brewer Plymouth Marina, see if anyone
was in yet, and try to arrange for a slip
reservation. The woman who answered told me at this
early moment in the morning they had nothing
available. She put Chip Ahoy at the top of a waiting
list, took my information and cell phone number, and
promised to call if anything opened up. She
suggested I call the Plymouth harbormaster, see if
he had anything available.
When I reached him, he told me they could find me a
spot for the night. When I told him the size of my
boat and our location, he asked, “When are you
“Very soon,” I replied, “about 9:00, 9:30 the
“Don’t even think about it,” he replied.
“We’ve got zero visibility right now and expect this
fog to hang around until at least mid-afternoon.
There’s zero wind, so you’d need to motor down all
the way blind. Isn’t it foggy up there in Scituate?”
I told him that it was lifting, that all the weather
reports I’ve got – VHF radio, NOAA/NWS online, and
AM radio stations – have forecast the fog
dissipating by mid-morning followed by sunny skies,
light wind out of the NW.
“Not here,” he asserted. “We’ll be lucky if this fog
lifts sometime this afternoon.”
We talked a while about my experience in fog
(Maine), but he was adamant.
“A twenty-two foot sailboat doesn’t belong out there
in this kind of fog. You got radar?”
I told him Chip Ahoy didn’t, but had a radar
“That’s great if everyone out here is watching
theirs – we’ve got charter boats running all over,
all kinds of bigger boats than yours out there. You
got a GPS aboard? I told him I had three, which
placated him a bit I think.
“You don’t want to be out there in this fog, believe
me,” he insisted. “You’ll need enough gas to motor
the whole way down, there’s no wind, and it’ll be
entirely by GPS.”
I assured him that I had sufficient gas (and made a
note to have Norm bring me down a couple more
gallons), that I’ve done the route a few times
“Stay where you are. That’s my best advice; just
stay where you are today. Call me after noon if you
want and I’ll give you an update on the conditions.”
Oh boy, I planned an early start to get me to
Plymouth before the forecasted late afternoon
showers and thunderstorms. It’s a six hour cruise
down to Plymouth at 4-5 knots. Leaving after noon
would get me to Plymouth with any luck by six, seven
o’clock pm. I doubted I could remain in this slip
(especially on a Saturday) until noon without paying
for another night, and if I wanted to stay
overnight, now was the time to see if I could extend
I went up to the Scituate harbormaster’s office,
told him his counterpart’s advice, asked if another
night’s stay was possible. No problem (they like my
$66/night cash – no credit cards accepted), and the
assistant told me they were picking up all kinds of
“Secureté” calls on their VHF about the conditions.
Another assistant walked in and told us he couldn’t
see across the street from his house.
The first laughed, “We were just talking about
So I’m back down aboard Chip Ahoy at its slip; just
got done unpacking, running the Wifi antenna back up
the mast, still need to raise the outboard and
rudder again. I’ve got the laptop back to a
user-friendly state and am settled in for another
day in Scituate. I called and told Norm the
situation; he’ll be down later, will bring a couple
gallons of gas with him.
The sun is out, brilliantly (9:40 am), no sign of
fog here – but it does still seem to be hanging to
the south. I don’t know, but from here and what I
can see, I think I probably could have made it to
Plymouth. But maybe they’re still socked in down
there. I’ve got the VHF on switched to Channel 16,
and “Secureté” calls are still coming in.
Oh well, better to be safe than sorry – and it won’t
hurt to give the knee another day to heal more.
Plymouth Brewer Marine
Sunday, July 25, 2010; 5:20 pm
I guess it was worth a day’s wait to arrive here
after a perfect day of sailing. Such days are a rare
It’s gray and overcase, just became so an hour or
two ago. I should be checking on the weather (for
some reason) but right now I’m being serenaded with
Reggie/Calypso music from the nearby Plymouth Yacht
Club, how utterly nice and atmospheric! I’m here for
tonight and tomorrow night too, so I’ll worry about
I was up at sunrise this morning ready to go; well
almost. First I had to fetch my morning caffeine fix
from Dunkin Donuts, along with a couple donuts for
breakfast, and check the weather conditions for the
coming day while enjoying breakfast aboard.
But for the usual CYA tag line, “a chance of showers
and thunderstorms,” today in the early afternoon and
later in the evening, the NOAA/NWS forecast sounded
SW WINDS 10 TO 15 KT...BECOMING W LATE THIS MORNING
AND AFTERNOON. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT. A SLIGHT CHANCE OF
SHOWERS AND TSTMS THIS MORNING WITH VSBY 1 TO 3 NM.
NW WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. SEAS 2 TO 4 FT.
Today: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms
before 5pm, then a slight chance of thunderstorms
after 5pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 91. West
wind between 10 and 14 mph. Chance of precipitation
Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 63. West
wind around 7 mph.
This, from many weather sources, sounded great. I
started breaking camp again even before calling
ahead to find a slip, mooring, anchorage, whatever.
I was going sailing, so I needed to get ready.
– 6:20 pm –
Ah well, a near-perfect day still. The Reggae music
just stopped as the showers arrived. Apparently the
yacht club had a live band playing outdoors. I just
pulled in my shower towel, hung out to dry, and shut
down the forward hatch in a quick scramble. Getting
to the forward hatch over the Igloo cooler then
v-berth is a hobbling process. My knee still isn’t
much up for crawling over things in tight quarters,
but it’s manageable with a little forethought.
This morning I had everything ready to go by shortly
after 8 o’clock – even unplugged the shore power and
took down and stowed the pup tent.
At 8:30 I called the Plymouth Brewer Marina,
arranged a slip for the night using my credit card.
Wow, things were suddenly breaking my way!
By 9:00 I had the cruising equipment in place and in
place, where it belongs when needed, and booted up
the outboard. When it’d warmed up I shut it down and
went up to the harbormaster’s office, thanked them
for their extended hospitality and was again invited
back (always nice), and one of the assistants
offered to come down with me to help see me off (how
can that hurt?). I left the slip at 9:20 am heading
Once outside the Scituate Harbor jetty and heading
out to the sea buoy (amongst a minefield of lobster
trap buoys), I finally found an opening where I
could head into the NW wind (about 6-8 knots, I’d
estimate) and hoist the main sail without picking up
any extra lobster trap baggage. I was almost out to
the buoy before finding my slot!
Getting on my track to Farnum Rock and the entrance
to Plymouth Harbor beyond, I raised the genoa –
wing-to-wing for quite a while, but at least the
outboard noise ceased. (Is there a finer feeling
than that abrupt silence?) Seas were running a
comfortable 1-2 feet and more or less following.
The wind shifted through the day, from NW to SE just
before reaching the entrance to Plymouth (and
Duxbury) harbor, losing some strength while
shifting, a few times for a short while fluky, but I
didn’t need to lower and start the outboard till
close to the end of the day – when I realized I was
behind arrival schedule. (Likely only cruisers will
appreciate this anxiety). Throughout the day, Chip
Ahoy averaged about 4 knots.
Chip Ahoy and I arrived at the dock in Plymouth at
3:40 pm; pretty much what I estimated when I told
Lisa this morning when booking the slip, “3-4 pm if
everything works out.” They put Chip Ahoy on the
side-front dock for the night, almost if not exactly
(GPS coordinates) where it was back on August 13,
After a good and rewarding day of sailing, and a
couple of days without, I couldn’t wait to take a
shower and change clothes. It was hot, low-90s. I
had to suck down the final half a Coke can then two
bottles of water before I could even begin to settle
in the boat. I was wiped out. The knee held up
despite the few necessary excursions out onto the
foredeck while underway; I just had to think ahead.
I think the worst on the knee was just sitting in
place at the tiller for hours. I had to think to
keep stretching it over onto the opposite seat.
Moving – anyplace, I think – was beneficial.
Plymouth Harbor’s long, distant entrance channel is
now in serious competition with the Merrimac River’s
entrance to Newburyport with powerboat nutcases;
One boat – a huge 52-footer (my estimate) with a
flying bridge named something like “CHookem and
Eat’em” or some damn thing (believe me, I had more
to think about than grabbing its name, and the .45
was buried too far below out of reach, thankfully)
sat behind me while a huge charter boat charged down
on us, but as soon as that charter boat was out of
the way he opened throttles, veered around Chip
Ahoy, and created an immediate 4-5 foot wake
alongside. Oh if only I could have reached “The
Equalizer” in that moment I could have downed a “big
I wonder if any of those nutcase, power-crazed,
impotent-otherwise “boaters” have ever given a
thought to what they literally leave in their wake.
Think of that phrase, and its derivative. From where
did it originate? “Leave in its wake”?
Leave it in its wake . . .
Coming into Plymouth Harbor, comparing the powerboat
craziness to the similar upon the Merrimack River,
and thinking for some time about writing a newspaper
column about this breed of powerboater’s, I sailed
along with of course thoughts running through my
mind. I casually vented them all on the poor, lowly
dockhand who did a right job of getting me tied up
to the dock in Plymouth (granted, I gave no room for
exception, or error this time).
The observable thing was, is, and has been; a
powerboater is never there to see the results of his
actions, the consequences. When you are rolling in
his wake, mast and rigging clawing, chances are he’s
a quarter, half a mile beyond.
He’s not a bad guy, probably doesn’t mean to be.
He’s just frigging clueless of the wreckage he
leaves behind, in his wake.
Oh God, I feel a column coming, I’m ripe.
The last one was publish in the Salem News by
been quietly capturing photos, collecting names and
I’m bidding my time.
When I stepped off the boat on the dock in Plymouth
this afternoon, tied off the stern line and the
young guy tied off the bow – I was watching with my
other eye and thanked him – and explained why.
Then, I told him: “When I become the next Emperor,
on my first day I shall decree that all lobster pot
buoys are BANNED, to no longer require boatsmen to
factor them into critical navigation decisions.
Decree #2: Powerboat license tests will require a
week aboard a small sailboat. (Oh, we don’t have
boating licenses yet? We will when I’m “The Great
Benefactor.” (And I’m a libertarian!) Only
powerboaters, when I’m El Duce!
If ever Emperor, I reserve the right to keep my .45
within close reach.
But I digress . . .
I can’t help it once in a while. Often I think too
much, and one never has more time to think
uninterrupted than singlehanding for hours at a
time. Honestly, what else is there?
Where I left off:
Last night my buddy Norm picked me up at the
harbormaster’s office with drizzle coming down. I
had my foul-weather jacket on, but really didn’t
need it. Thought I might. We picked up a case of
Coke for the boat at the local supermarket then he
took me home. Joan heated up a huge plate of fresh
seafood – more than the three of us could do away
with. Their two dogs were great, and the kitty took
on to me just before I asked to be returned to the
I was exhausted and didn’t last long awake when back
aboard. Up early, no nap, that’s why I’m catching up
Plymouth Brewer Marine
Monday, July 26, 2010; 6:15 am
Semi-awake just before dawn, I got some pretty great
shots of not only the sunrise but a full moon
setting on the opposite horizon.
Back aboard I pulled out the Origo alcohol stove and
boiled up a pan of water, got out the coffee
teabags. I’m sipping hot coffee and watching the sun
rise, another vacation day ahead and nobody but me
is awake yet. My moment.
It’s so nice, relaxing, knowing I’m here for the
day; I’m glad I made the decision when I got in
immediately, instead of agonizing each morning as I
did in Scituate.
Part of that decision was that I’ve got to call
Garmin again, wrestle with them again over the
uploading issue I spent last Monday doing. It took
hours then on the phone and my computer to upload my
final routes and waypoints. I tried again yesterday
before departing to upload a minor (technically, not
navigationally!) change. Same problem. Garmin’s
ultimate solution last week was to reset the GPSMap
478 from scratch, then upload the mapping software.
I considered (and looked up the steps from a prior
e-mail from Robert Bemben, another C22 sailor who’d
had the same problem) trying it again – but feared
losing what I had that’d get me here to Plymouth. I
decided to get here with what I had and was working,
worry about the critical correction I made from the
top of the canal (east end, I understand) to
Falmouth; the error would have run Chip Ahoy
That’s my project for this morning, which will
probably turn into my project for today. Gamin’s
phone number is etched into my mind; don’t even need
to search for it [800-800-1020], which says
something. This unit will be going back to Garmin
when I get home – if I make it back. Thank goodness
for the two handheld backups – to them I was able to
upload the corrections!
But to do this, I will need an Internet connection,
I suspect. I wanted one anyway, ran the 5-Mile-Wifi
antenna up the mast while setting up here yesterday.
But I couldn’t get a connection, and this is weird.
There are many strong signals, but the Wifi was
taken over by two local networks; taken over. There
are two other non-secured networks with reasonably
strong signals which I should be able to connect,
but can’t. The powerful Beacon Wifi takes over any
connections – somehow. After over fours hours last
night wrestling with this, I’m only beginning to
understand how, and why.
When I couldn’t pick up anything but their two
signals, and the marina, of course, was closed, I
headed out onto the dock and asked around, got lots
of advice here. The huge yacht (ship), Tin Man, out
at the end of our face dock gave me their user name
and password. It didn’t work either. Someone else
sent me down another dock to see a woman who lives
aboard and is “computer savvy.”
I found Ellen aboard Andriamo, working on her
computer, her husband watching TV, and sought
permission to come aboard.
Ellen said, “Oh, let me shut off my computer,” to
which I quickly replied, “Please, don’t. This is
what I need your help with!”
We talked a bit, then she gave me the contact
information for the Wifi provider to the marina.
I called them, spent the next couple of hours trying
to “subscribe,” connect to no avail. (I now have
about two dozen attempted user names and passwords
that don’t work.) I needed a 12-digit code that I
didn’t have – or didn’t know I did.
When I registered at the office, they burdened me
with a large folder filled with Chamber of Commerce
stuff, like many marinas do when registering
transients. Utterly in desperation, I dumped it all
out on the cabin floor and sifted through the
detritus. I found a business card. On the reverse
side was the code for Wifi registration!
I guess that’s one way to get you to look at all
those commercial flyers and pamphlets.
Like finding the winning lottery ticket, I went back
and plugged in that number. Rejected! Another phone
call, more time on the phone wrestling with it, and
finally I’m connected!
Not bad, eh? Two nights here and it only took one of
them to just connect to the free Wifi Service!
In Scituate, all I needed to do was turn on my
I wonder if I still have access? Oh well, the marina
office should be open in another hour – not that I
think they have any tech support for their
farmed-out Wifi service.
Plymouth Brewer Marine
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; 7:15 am
Another beautiful day ahead, according to the
weather forecasts: “Sunny, with a high near 87. West
wind around 9 mph,” according to NOAA/NWS for the
Plymouth area; seas 1-2 feet.
Yesterday was a quiet one aboard at the dock, pretty
much a tech support day spent much on the phone. The
first problem with uploading the GPS brought a good
hour on the phone trying all sorts of things with no
success. The GPSMap 478 will not accept changes from
the laptop, no matter what the tech support agent
had me try. In the end, we did the factory reset,
then uploaded the saved file. That worked, but still
would not upload the added waypoint and changed
route, which would run me into rocks off Falmouth. I
was advised to send the unit to Garmin for
inspection and possible repair.
After getting off the phone with him, I tried
copying the route from the old file to the new one
(where I had deleted it), and it worked – there
along with the changes!
Later I called Nikon tech support about an error
message the D90 kept giving me (“F_ _”), refusing to
shoot. I learned it means the lens isn’t connected
properly; removing and reconnecting it seems to have
worked. I made a new friend with this guy (wish I
got his name), who’s going to visit my website,
e-mail me later. We had a long conversation about
cameras and boats. He wants to stay in touch.
I took a walk up to the center of town for a late
lunch, and looking for a package of D batteries for
the AM/FM radio. Incredibly, I couldn’t find any.
The knee is feeling much better.
My plan for today is to depart here around 9:00 and
head for the canal. I’ll call the Sandwich Marina in
a few minutes, see if I can reserve a slip there for
tonight. That’ll set me up perfectly for getting
down through the canal with its current.
The weather ahead looks good, until tomorrow night.
Thursday looks bad with a new front moving up; rain
and thunderstorms forecast for the day and
overnight. My plan is to reach Falmouth Brewer
Marina tomorrow, sit out Thursday there.
(aka, “Harbor of Refuge”)
Sandwich, Massachusetts (Inside Cape Cod Canal)
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; 6:15 pm
I pulled in this afternoon at about 2:30, with the
current running strong from east to west (from Cape
Cod Bay to Buzzard’s Bay). It began its ebb at 11:30
this morning, so I caught it pretty much in full
flow – and what a current it is, up to some six
knots. Just crabbing across the canal to the marina
on the other side was an adventure, being swept
deeper down into it, especially with me not clearly
remembering exactly where its entrance was, but that
it’s just inside the mouth on the opposite side.
Once inside the entrance to the “Harbor of Refuge,”
a cut in the canal wall, the water calmed and I was
able to easily tie up to the fuel dock, where a
couple dockhands were waiting at the pumps to
assist. Since I did a lot of motoring to get down
here today, I filled up the port side gas tank while
there (it took almost four gallons at $2.99/gallon –
not a bad price at a marina). Once registered and
paid for the stay, I was directed to a nearby slip
where I’ll spend the night.
I didn’t bother putting up the pup tent – too much
work for too short a stay; I intend to be out of
here tomorrow with the current, which means just
before noon. I wasn’t going to bother hoisting the
5-Mile-Wifi antenna either, but (for work-related
reasons) I had to connect to my home/office PC and
the marina’s Wifi signal wasn’t strong enough. With
the antenna hoisted up the mast, I am getting an
“Excellent” five-bar signal, and connected through
The trip down was uneventful, almost boring. I left
Plymouth at 9:20 am. It took about an hour just to
get through the long, winding channel with the
outboard and out to the sea buoy, where I was hoping
to find a breeze. Nada. The sea was flat, no air
movement. Like the other sailboats out there today,
I continued motoring without even attempting to
hoist a sail. The forecast had called for the wind
to be from the west at about 9 mph; but if it was, I
couldn’t find any of it. Not “almost boring,” boring
period but for navigating – until I reached the
Entering the canal became real exciting, with its
powerful current. I arrived just over two hours
after it began its ebb, from east to west (I still
think it’s more from north to south, but am
internalizing the terminology). I crabbed across the
current to get to the opposite side, where the
marina is located, just inside the mouth. I’d been
running at about 5 knots with the outboard; all of a
sudden I was flying at over six, straight down the
canal sideways. I crabbed across the canal, moving
faster sideways than forward. I wondered if I could
get across in time, or would be swept past the
I made it to the other side, found the entrance in
the wall behind which the marina is located, and
scooted in with more outboard throttle. And the
current stopped, once inside. I’d entered another
dimension, wow. “The Harbor of Refuge” indeed.
I pulled up to the fuel dock, though I’d been
assigned slip B-18 on the phone. I had no idea where
to even begin to look for “B-18,” and it’s tight in
here. Once tied off, I was able to register for the
night, and filled the port side gas tank as long as
I was there ($2.99/gallon, not bad for marine fuel);
it took almost four gallons.
I’d switched over to the starboard tank out at the
canal’s entrance buoy before committing; I didn’t
want to run out of gas before I reached the marina,
and the tank felt light. Regardless, it still had
almost two gallons remaining. But, for a few
moments, I wondered what would happen if I missed
the marina’s hole-in-the-wall entrance.
I also wondered why I didn’t just race down the
canal with the current all the way through to
Falmouth on the other end, my next destination. Poor
planning – ignorant planning is more accurate. I
could have reached Falmouth Brewer Marina this
afternoon, at least by evening, had I done this
before. The current was perfect for my unintentional
I’ve talked with a few locals and the harbormaster’s
office about this current – it can reach 8 knots,
and might as we’re under a full moon tide. If the
railroad bridge ahead is lowered as I approach
(raised is its default position, unless a train is
coming), I could find myself in some trouble – but
I’m assured this is “unlikely.” The train is – ready
for this? – sort of a tourist thing, for sightseeing
Talking about trains, while I’ve been writing this
(over perhaps two hours between other tasks,
intermittently), a nearby and passing train keeps
blowing long blasts of its whistle. There is a
railroad crossing up at the head of the harbor,
across the road that goes into the town center. I
need to find out whether the two are connected,
because if they are, that bridge must be going up
and down a lot more frequently than I’ve been led to
The knee did well today, no problem though a bit
uncomfortable being in the static sitting position
at the tiller all day.
Heidi, the harbormaster or an assistant, was closing
shop when I stopped in and asked where the closest
local supermarket was. She gave me directions, then
offered to drop me off there, which I accepted.
Carrying a 12-pack of Lemonade and a few other
things (found D batteries, forgot coffee tea bags,
grrr) and heading back, a good mile or more, I
realized this was not a good idea, especially with
the knee still in its brace. I called and got a taxi
back to the marina ($6.25 plus tip).
I called for a taxi – I still don’t believe it! But
I was thinking “Pennywise and pound foolish.” The
$6.25 plus tip to the driver was still cheaper than
if I needed to spring for another fifty bucks a
night here for the slip if I further damaged the
knee. The brace alone cost three times more than the
The ebb current sets westward tomorrow at noon. My
plan is to be ready to go and be out of here just
before; say 11:30 as it slackens. No rush in the
morning tomorrow, though I didn’t even put up the
pup tent for this afternoon and could have used its
shade; sunny and low 90s. I’m now enjoying my second
cup of “cowboy coffee,” the stove’s out there in the
cockpit, ready for another go come morning.
(aka, “Harbor of Refuge”)
Sandwich, Massachusetts (Inside Cape Cod Canal)
Wednesday, July 28, 2010; 8:30 am
My luck is great so far today; let’s hope it sticks
around for the rest of the day, at least through the
I called Brewer Fiddler’s Cove Marina in North
Falmouth at 8:00 to try making a reservation. “We’ve
got nothing available,” I was told, not even a
mooring. I left my cell phone number and asked them
to call if anything opened up soon, then dug out the
charts, my cruising notebook, and began searching
for an alternative.
I’ve already plotted a course to Onset Harbor from a
previous attempt to make it through the canal
(2006), loaded into the GPS units, so that was a
possibility – though it’s on the other side of
Buzzard’s Bay from where I want to be. The guy at
the marina suggested I try calling Kingman Marine,
also in Fiddler’s Cove; they might have a mooring. I
was just about to try that when the cell phone rang.
It was Brian at Brewer’s Marina – and he found me a
slip after all! I’m all set for two or three nights
there. (Bad weather is coming in tonight through
tomorrow, so I plan to stay wherever I wind up
tonight through at least tomorrow.) I think I’ll
stay in North Falmouth for three nights then head
back to Marblehead, instead of continuing on through
Woods Hole to the other side of Falmouth, then on to
Cotuit where Wally and his wife have their summer
It’s still a long trip back to Marblehead, will be
longer when I make it through the canal. It’s been a
week since I departed, so it’s time to start heading
back. Well, almost time, but I don’t want to go any
further before turning around.
Onset Bay Marina
(Just outside the Cape Cod Canal in Buzzard’s Bay)
Wednesday, July 28, 2010; 6:00 pm
Wow, I really am still alive.
The cabin is a mess, I’m still straightening it out,
putting things back on shelves and seats, evidence
of the near disaster.
I got in here around 3:30, maybe 4:00 this
afternoon, who knows; but I got in here and am tied
up to a slip. Decompressing. Earlier today I didn’t expect to ever
need a slip again in this mortal coil, honestly.
The canal was a challenge with the SW head wind, stronger
than I’d expected (a steady 20 knots, it turned out). Most of the way from northeast to
southwest in the canal's 5-6 knot ebb current, spray was coming over the bow. No big thing,
but it made photography difficult, not to
mention visuality with glasses. Soon into the canal a huge
barge came up behind me pushing a huge bow wave with
another big tug following with its own wake.
The barge's bow wave quickly and surprisingly
Once out of the canal I expected clear sailing to
West Falmouth – for
some reason. Boy, was I ever wrong.
I’ve experienced the mouth of the Merrimack and
Piscataqua Rivers on a strong outgoing current into
It’s rough, clashing natural forces, until you get
through them. I thought I was dealing with the same
phenomenon – once out beyond the clash, the seas
Boy was I ever wrong, and getting wronger.
The clash became greater, four foot seas coming at
me as I navigated between channel buoys, five foot
and still they kept coming, building. Six foot,
seven and Chip Ahoy and I were taking a pounding.
When they kept coming steady and still building,
I headed out of the channel, hoping for calmer
water, there was a small fishing boat anchored over
there, watching the depth
gauge. 40 feet, dropping, 30, 20, still dropping and
boat and I are still being battered – maybe not
quite so much, but the depth was dropping too
quickly for comfort. I crawled forward to the
bulkhead to squint at the depth gauge to be sure.
Yes, not feet, fractions of feet: 8.2 feet,
6.0, uh oh, head
back out. Yeow, no good options, none. We were
Back into the 6-7 footers, I’m starting to freak out
a bit. I open the cabin, jump below, grab the PLB [personal EPIRB] and stick it in my pocket, close up the
boat, jump back into the helmsman’s seat, clip the PLB to my belt, stare at the sea and wonder WTF am I
doing out here in this little boat. I don't have
the time to grab my foul-weather jacket (I was
soaked already anyway) nor the SAR life jacket,
never mind get them on. This came on too abruptly,
without any warning.
I have to stick with the inflatable vest I'm wearing and hope I won't need more
and that it won't go off, settle for being
wet; foul weather gear won't do any good now anyway. I thought about
grabbing the safety harness tether but decided I wasn't all that sure I
wanted to be attached to the boat if it goes down.
A prayer of gratitude went out to Frank Butler,
Catalina Yachts designer. Chip Ahoy was holding together,
though a C22 isn’t designed for these conditions.
Which will go first, I wonder: mast or keel; maybe
the rudder? Please God, not the outboard. The
hull’s sure taking a ferocious pounding too; maybe
something will split, break? Jesus, what am I doing
out here in this?
I’m tacking under motor only, just to quarter the
huge waves, roll a bit with them instead of them
busting over my bow. I’m trying to play the edges,
still hoping to reach Falmouth – what a story this
will be if I can make it! I can, just don’t panic,
Ford. Play the angles, tack if you must. Play the
angles, the edges.
Six feet of water below Chip Ahoy, motor-tack out
quick without broaching. Seven and eight foot seas
hungrily greet me to play with Chip Ahoy. This is
nuts, insanity. But I have no options. The canal
current is still running out; I can’t return. These
seas are going to swallow me soon if I don’t. A rock
and a hard place.
Out of options. That calming sensation returned for the
since ’76 aboard the Even Song.
Ford, you’re going to die, so relax and handle it as
best you can. Choose your exit strategy.
That should be pointing back, show I wasn't totally
stupid – they should understand when
the boat goes down that I had turned back, that I'd
recognized that going on was crazy. I timed
the turn between waves to avoid a broach, cut hard
at the right moment, and came about. Chip Ahoy was
heading back to the canal’s sphincter without
broaching. Now what?
I have no idea, but Chip Ahoy is pointing in the
smartest direction. Now what?
gave up ducking the spray coming out of the canal.
It was impossible to duck, so I just sucked it up.
But quickly my glasses were not only wet but
salt-coated. Wiping them only smeared the salt film
on the lenses. I couldn’t see out of them, so
pushed them up onto my forehead, beneath the wide
brim of the floppy hat. The GPS was in the same
condition. The “waterproof” chart was saturated.
With the sea and waves now following,
I called Barbara, filled her in (probably saying
goodbye), asked her to quickly find me a contact
number for the Onset harbormaster. I still had a
route and waypoints on the GPS to Onset Harbor from
my 2006 trip. I could at least find it – and it was
between my current location and the canal’s anus.
Maybe I can reach it, get out of this mess, survive?
Barbara, in turn, called Wally (my second cruise
backup), filled him in. He called me, then called
ahead to the Onset Bay Marina and reserved me a
slip, called me back and helped talked me in.
Once I found the harbor’s entrance buoy, just short
of the canal, I pulled into the lee of the land and
the roiling seas were left behind. Wow, relief –
incredibly wondrous. But the wind was still blowing
hard. I contacted the marina on channel 9, as Wally
had advised, and was soon heading for my slip
alongside the fuel dock.
Even idling with enough power for steerage I was
coming in too fast with the following wind and short
sea even within the harbor. I timed it, hit neutral
early as I was right on target, two dockhands were
awaiting, had to hit reverse as I came alongside the
slip, still hit the dock with my bow. We had Chip
Ahoy tied up quickly, without further event.
I was soaked – everything was soaked, things below
looked like a bomb had gone off. Between what I could make out
on the chart
without glasses, occasionally locate my
position with the salt-coated GPS screen by a
thumb-wipe, I was able to find my way here.
I was actually less blind without my glasses, figure
I took some photos randomly – point-and-shoot
snapshots so I had something to show if I survived – but I didn’t capture
what could have been the best: When my life was
seriously threatened and my focus was entirely on
survival; when so much ocean spray was coming over
the bow it would have been a waste of time and risk
of camera. Damn, wish I had a few of them – but the
ones I managed to literally point-and-shoot without
aiming ought to provide some atmospherics.
See Chip Ahoy's track coming out of the canal into
Buzzard's Bay, then back up and into Onset Bay -- a
really glad that I decided not to tow along “Chip
Mate,” the dinghy. I doubt it would have survived
the conditions, at best it would have been a major
distraction, if not contributed to a disaster. So far, I’ve never come close to
needing it anyway; the dinghy hasn’t really been
necessary except for the coast of Maine cruises.
See Note below on the
conditions this day, later provided by Robert Bemben,
another C22 owner who sails the Great Lakes out of
Onset Bay Marina
Thursday, July 29, 2010; 7:35 pm
A quiet, relaxing day here today. I awoke at the
usual time, pre-sunrise, but went back to sleep – a
first for some time.
Later this morning I hiked up to the men’s room and
took a shower. The laundry room next door was empty,
so I began the laundry drill, which became a
competition when I arrived. I was apparently
competing with someone else, a couple of hundred
yards away up the dock and to the laundry room. At
first, the washer was full but done and unattended.
I finally transited it from washer to atop the
dryer. Mission finally accomplished at 5:30 this
evening, incredibly. How many hours spent on
laundry? You don’t want to know.
I took advantage of the shower amidst the laundry
exercise, then took off for town (Wareham) –
wherever that is – for essential supplies: A 12-pack
of Coke and a box of tea-bag coffee at the
supermarket. I took a taxi again; most expensive
Coke and coffee I’ll ever consume.
Onset Bay Marina
Friday, July 30, 2010; 9:00 am
Back aboard yesterday afternoon, the laundry
situation continued, my competition’s load was now
in the dryer. After a considerable wait, I gave up,
returned to Chip Ahoy. I needed more ice for the
cooler, so drained the cold water into the cockpit,
bought another block and bag of cubes, refilled the
cooler. While I was in the dock office, I paid for
another night’s stay here, through tonight.
The next hike up to the laundry room found an empty
dryer; I was almost done. At 5:30, just before the
marina would lock up the laundry room, I pulled my
clean and dry clothes out and brought them back down
to the boat, sorted and stowed them. One otherwise
simple domestic chore was completed; I’ve got clean
clothes for my return trip, and enough ice to keep
the cooler’s contents cool for another day or two.
For supper last night, I opened a can of Campbell’s
beef and bean chili, heated it up on the Origo
stove, and enjoyed it.
It’s a beautiful day with an almost mirror image
forecast for tomorrow. Rain is supposed to arrive by
late Sunday. The temperature until then is supposed
to reach highs of a moderate mid- to upper-70s, low
humidity, wind from the NW at 5-10 mph.
-- 1:40 pm –
My plan is to leave here early tomorrow, around 7:00
am. There will be no time for coffee tomorrow
morning; just take everything down and stow it after
sunrise, set everything up for cruising. The canal
current turns east, back up the canal, at 7:26 am.
By the time I reach the entrance (and railroad
bridge) it will be flooding. Chip Ahoy should be
able to rocket right up through it into Cape Cod
Bay, arrive by about 10:00 am and keep going back up
to Plymouth Harbor; no need to stop at the top in
Sandwich, the Harbor of Refuge.
I’ve arranged for a slip back at Brewer Plymouth
Marina for tomorrow night (then will move on to
Scituate on Sunday morning). Too bad it’s a good six
miles through the winding channel and into the
harbor from the ocean, then back out again.
The trip from here to the marina in Plymouth is
about 35 miles. It’ll be a long day reaching it, but
Chip Ahoy should fly through the canal’s ten miles
from Onset on at least a five knots current.
The forecast for Sunday looks good, but with clouds
and showers moving in late in the day. I’ll have to
wing it, but maybe have to decide to spend an
additional night in Scituate before continuing on
I’m surprised how little gas I used on Wednesday,
coming down through the canal then fighting for my
life against those seas until arriving here. I’d
filled the 6-gallon tank in Sandwich, at the top of
the canal. The tank feels like it’s down by only 1-2
gallons and I did a lot of motoring. I was going to
fill it here, be ready for my early departure, but
it’s not worth it. (I still have the starboard side
6-gallon tank for backup, and it too is pretty well
filled. I can’t even imagine I could need that much
just to reach Plymouth.)
Onset Bay Marina
Saturday, July 31, 2010; 4:25 am
If I wanted coffee before departing this morning, I
had to get up early. I have a lot to do before
departure, so I had the pot of water boiling by 4:00
am, my first (of two) cup of “tea bag” coffee is in
hand while I check the weather reports again, look
over my route up the canal to Plymouth. I’ll begin
breaking camp here in a half hour; remove the pup
tent, lower the wifi mast antenna, unhook and coil
the shore power cord after sunrise, stow everything.
Then I’ll move the cruising equipment out into the
cockpit and get set up for departure. I’ll be ready
to cast off at about 7:00 to meet the changing
current at 7:30 up into the canal.
This will be a longer than usual day – about 35
miles up to Plymouth. It will also be an unusually
early departure, so I can still make it by late
The NOAA/NWS weather forecast: “Mostly sunny, with a
high near 77. Calm wind becoming northeast between 5
and 8 mph.” This pretty much mirrors the AccuWeather
forecast, so it’s going to be a relatively easy
cruise – especially compared to the one getting down
Talking to one of the locals yesterday, he told me
if the wind’s blowing from the SW, they take their
boats up through the canal to the Cape Cod Bay side
to avoid what I experienced coming in on Wednesday.
If there wind’s from the north, they do their
boating down here in Buzzard’s Bay.
The wind will be coming out of the NE today, though
light. I expect to run into some chop when exiting
the canal and its current – as I did the last time,
in 2006. It’s pretty rough, but manageable and short
Plymouth Brewer Marine
Saturday, July 31, 2010; 5:00 pm
I made it here at about 3:40 pm after a long day. I
departed Onset Bay Marina at 6:30 am, headed for the
canal’s southern/western entrance. The current was
still coming out when I hit Buzzard’s Bay but due to
slow and turn. By the time the current was flooding,
I was past the railroad bridge and on my way home.
The trip – 7 :10 am entry, 8:40 exit – saw Chip Ahoy
reach, according to the GPS, a top speed of 7.4
knots just before the canal spit us out into Cape
Cod Bay. With a NW wind, I expected some serious
chop at the exit, but it was worse the last time I
went through it. That NW wind made cruising north
difficult all day, even as it shifted to NE in the
late morning. I had the main sail up for the trip,
tried the genoa for a short period before furling it
back in, kept the motor running to ride the 2-3 foot
seas at a relatively comfortable roll.
Everyone else boating around me today was doing the
same, some with bare poles. It was a day of
I considered going on to Scituate today; thought I
had an early enough start and was making enough
progress (averaged almost 4 knots all day) to reach
Scituate without stopping in Plymouth. But the more
I considered it, the less reasonable it sounded – a
case of irrational exuberance on my part, the
results of fraudulent charges against me and foolish
challenges made on the C22 discussion group. A few
would like to accomplish nothing more than killing
me with their ignorance, stupidity, or duplicity, so
I stuck to my plan – 35 miles today is enough;
enough for me.
I got tied up here, settled in and paid up, then hit
the marina restaurant for my first real meal for a
while; fish and chips, excellent.
Back aboard, I started to relax, write, when a large
boat loomed outside Chip Ahoy’s starboard windows. I
stuck my head out and found “Zoot” from Marblehead,
a MainsShip Pilot 34 Rumrunner II, idling up for
dock space. I couldn’t believe it was going to try
coming in between Chip Ahoy and the next boat back,
though there was some space. Sure enough, so I
jumped out onto the dock to offer assistance, caught
docklines coming at me from every direction, tied
them off as fast as I could while the driver ran his
bow thrusters. Soon they were in, tied up, with not
an inch to spare.
The woman – a very experienced hand; the owner’s
wife? – just knocked on Chip Ahoy and delivered a
delicious big slice of chocolate cake!
This is the first time along a cruise that I’ve had
back-porch neighbors, five or six of them; of all
the boats here, Zoot is the only one pointing in a
different direction, instead of bow-to-stern, but
whatever. I just hope they don’t mind my all-purpose
bucket actions during the night! They’re gone now,
maybe they’re not staying aboard tonight? Probably
too many of them to do so; too old to rough it
My plan is to enjoy my couple cups of coffee in the
morning then leisurely slide out of here and head
for Scituate. I didn’t hang the pup tent; did hoist
the Wifi antenna and connect to shore power. It
won’t take long to break camp and depart; I expect
to be on my way by 9:30 am, maybe 10:00, no rush.
I’ve got a reservation for a slip in Scituate for
Plymouth Brewer Marine
Sunday, August 1, 2010; 8:30 am
A beautiful morning: sunny, low humidity, though
turning cloudy with a chance of showers in the
afternoon and overnight.
I’ll need to refill the cooler with ice, then fill
the port side gas tank here on the way out; swapped
over to the starboard tank as I came into Plymouth
Harbor. The port tank is pretty light, but it
probably still holds a gallon or two – I’m always
surprised that it does when I think it’s near empty.
I just don’t want to run out of gas at a critical
moment while docking or something, so play it safe.
I woke up at dawn this morning, but rolled over and
went back to sleep; unusual for me, usually
impossible. I got up at about 7:30, took a stroll up
to the men’s room, looked over the gas dock
situation, came back to the boat and pulled out the
Origo stove and “tea bag” coffee fixings.
I’d like to take a shower, but that can wait until I
reach Scituate (singlehanding has its advantages!) –
I just called the harbormaster’s office there and
reserved a slip for tonight and tomorrow night.
Scituate is just over 22 miles from here; if I leave
by 11:00, I should reach it by late afternoon/early
evening before sunset.
On a Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider Mooring Company
Sunday, August 1, 2010; 7:00 pm
A great day of sailing from Plymouth to Scituate,
favorable winds and following seas; for what more
can a sailor ask?
I got an earlier start than I’d expected, leaving
the dock at about 9:00 am, but needed gas. I’d
checked out the gas dock – wanted to find it and
determine how to reach it – and found it empty. I
walked down to the boat and cast off, headed for the
dock, found a very large powerboat had moved in. A
neighboring boat’s two occupants told me across our
space that it’d just pulled in would likely be there
filling up for a while. Wonderful.
I circled the tight mooring area, reached the fuel
dock on VHF, was advised that there was a little
room on the end of the other side of the fuel dock
if I could get in. I had left Chip Ahoy rigged for a
port side tie-up, fenders and all, from leaving the
dock. I had planned ahead, for what it was worth. I
didn’t have room in the mooring area to run around
changing lines and fenders for the starboard side,
decided it would be as-is, port side. I would try
I pulled in slowly, pointed at a nearby dock, put
the outboard in reverse, pointed both outboard and
rudder toward the fuel dock, and – amazingly –
backed right into it.
The dock hand and the guy fueling the big powerboat
were ready for my tossed bow and stern lines, had
Chip Ahoy tied up smartly.
“Very impressive, captain,” the guy from the
powerboat commented. “Apparently you’ve done this
“No,” I replied, “But there’s a first time for
I was pretty impressed too that I could get Chip
Ahoy in so well in the situation, in reverse.
Out to the harbor ten or fifteen minutes later with
two full gas tanks, I motored through the channel
(caught up with the paddle-wheeler, “Miss Plymouth,”
and eventually passed it), entered Plymouth Bay and
hoisted sails while dodging lobster trap buoys. The
wind was out of the east, light, maybe 10 knots,
almost bow-on but that would change.
Outside the bay, I headed north toward Farnum Rock
and Scituate beyond. What a perfectly pleasurable
day of sailing, almost close-hauled with a gentle
sea, a foot or two. Is there anything more calming
than that moment when the motor is shut off and
lifted, the silence of pure sailing? These
conditions lasted until Farnum Rock, as the sea
began to build gradually. By the time Chip Ahoy and
I were approaching the entrance to Scituate Harbor,
the sea had built to about three feet, following.
Outside the harbor, I started the motor, dropped
sails, and prepared for docking while I had room.
What a let-down, but a picture-perfect ending to a
less than perfect cruise; it all fits together. It
all started here in Scituate after all, with the
knee. Oh well, what are you going to do but roll
with the punches.
When I arrived in Scituate Harbor at about 4 pm, as
instructed this morning I called the harbormaster’s
office to find out where Chip Ahoy would dock.
“Who?” I was asked, then was quickly informed that
they had no room in the inn for my boat, no record
of my reservation. Basically I was on my own, sorry
Okay, get over POed and onto Now What. They told me
to call “one of the mooring companies, see if they
had a vacancy.”
“Err, here’s the situation. I’m singlehanding, I’m
in your harbor, I’m holding the radio in one hand,
the tiller in the other, I’m looking for
instructions on what side I should be preparing to
dock, I don’t have a Yellow Pages, need another hand
to use the cell phone which isn’t available. Please
The harbormaster’s office advised that I use channel
9 to contact a transient mooring company, signed
off. I sure did, probably not the story they wanted
related over the channel 9 working station;
definitely not the PR they’d prefer. I got a couple
of replies, jumped on “Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider”
for a mooring for the night.
A Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider boat met and led me to
the mooring, where I tied up to it, quite easily it
turned out. I expected more complications but it all
worked out well; my boat hook on a floating Coke
bottle attached to the mooring’s pennant.
I’m POed, and took the Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider
launch in to the town dock. “Calm down, Ford” I tell
myself. These have been always accommodating,
considerate folks who just screwed up, big time on
me. They are good folks. Calm down.
I walked up to the office and did that thing my
mother always used to do – hadn’t thought about the
gesture since: Two index fingers crossing/rubbing
over each other; “Shame on you.”
Mike, the assistant behind the desk, said he was
there at 8:30 this morning when I called, it wasn’t
him who took the call. He was, as always, helpful
otherwise. I can use their showers, get ice there,
just like I’m staying as a guest.
What can I say? Someone screwed up and left me
stranded. He and none of his buddies are going to
give him up. It’s not worth making a big issue of it
(grrrrr), I’m settled out on a mooring off the dock
for the night. That’s just how it is. Honestly, I’m
glad I have the damned mooring, given the
incompetent screwup and the option of nothing.
-- 9:00 pm –
I’m well settled in, and found that I actually like
it out here on my little private mooring, maybe even
more than across at the town dock. It really didn’t
take long. When I got back from my first visit via
launch, it began. Barbara was due on the radio and I
wanted to hear her, but at ‘the top of the news’ the
radio station reported rain showers tonight into
tomorrow morning; I reacted by putting up the pup
tent, calling and asking if I could spent another
night on this mooring if so desired. Yes.
I’ve got to check the weather in the morning.
The point is, I’ve set up this boat to be right
here. We are self-sustaining, and it’s working.
Cabin lights: Self-contained LEDs, running off their
own small batteries, for which I have a few packages
Laptop computer: I have options. I can run it off a
direct 12v (cigarette) ‘power source’ (which
apparently doesn’t recharge) or through the 12v-110v
inverter, which does. The usage is or should be
obvious, the drain on house batteries negligible.
Then there’s always firing up the outboard with its
alternator to recharge them.
Five-Mile-Wifi: It function’s as advertised. I love
it. I’m running it up the mast at every port I make.
4-5 times the reach and power.
It won’t be nearby (damn) Dunkin Donuts coffee, but
I make the next best, and a pot of ‘cowboy coffee’
Fun, in a sort of way, and satisfying.
On a Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider mooring
Monday, August 2, 2010; 6:15 am
A beautiful sunrise, a comfortable place to be, and
I had a good night’s sleep. The leftover coffee’s
been reheated; I have the first cup in hand. This
mooring might be a godsend, I may return to Scituate
Launch / E-Z Rider Moorings the next time I come to
Scituate. Most of the time spent here I don’t need
access to shore anyway. The shore power electric
hookup is nice, but I can live aboard without it. I
miss walking up to Dunkin Donuts, but can do without
the convenience. The price of a mooring is half that
of a slip.
I’ve got the 4-way battery switch set to battery
one, so I can’t kill both batteries. The laptop is
being powered through the 12v-110v inverter, the
Wifi signal from the harbormaster’s office is lower
out here (for some reason – it’s right there within
sight) but still sufficient thanks to the
5-Mile-Wifi antenna. Very relaxing, and the
all-purpose bucket works well out here in my
The weather forecast looks pretty good through
tomorrow. There is a “chance” of showers today and
dark clouds are building to the west, looks like
rain. I put up the pup tent last night because
showers were forecast for overnight and this
morning, but didn’t occur. I could leave and be home
this afternoon, but I think I’ll sit it out here for
the day; leave tomorrow morning.
– 6:00 pm –
It was a coin toss this morning: Stay for another
day or go, head home. I decided to stay, extend my
vacation cruise aboard for another day. When I make
it home tomorrow, it’ll be officially two weeks from
After finishing up the leftover coffee from last
night, I made another couple cups and just relaxed
aboard, finished off the donuts I brought back last
night. This mooring is actually rather comfortable,
more private than being tied up on the dock with all
the other boats, neighbors, and traffic.
I called for and took the launch ashore at about
1:00 pm. After taking a much-needed shower at the
harbormaster’s office, I walked over to the Mill
Wharf Restaurant and had a large bowl of excellent
The launch took me back out to Chip Ahoy, where I
edited Barbara’s weekly newspaper column using Wifi
and LogMeIn to get it. The Wifi signal out here is
reasonably good – it seems to come in strong, but
fade to weak intermittently – but at least I’ve got
a connection, didn’t pay for it and don’t need a
I discovered that the laptop’s battery isn’t
charging, despite being connected to the inverter.
After much wrestling with it, and testing the
inverter with other 110v (camera) chargers, the
problem seems to be with the laptop’s 110v power
supply – the one I just bought for last summer’s
cruise, which doesn’t have more than 30-40 hours on
it. I’ve got the original that came with the laptop,
at home. I’ll try that when I get home, but in the
meantime, I can run the laptop off the 12v power
supply adapter I bought at the same time, cigarette
lighter connection, but it doesn’t charge the
laptop’s battery. Oh well, good enough for tonight,
and I’ll be home tomorrow night.
No rain yet, but it’s still in the forecast; showers
overnight. I closed the forward hatch before going
ashore this afternoon, just in case the rain
arrived, have left it closed. With the mid-70s
temperature, I haven’t needed the additional
Tomorrow’s forecast sounds good: SW wind all the
way, 8-12 mph gusting to 20 later in the afternoon,
a possible thunderstorm late but I hope to be on
Chip Ahoy’s mooring by then, a trip of about 25
I plan to be on my way home tomorrow morning, off
this mooring by 9:00 am.
On a Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider mooring
Tuesday, August 3, 2010; 6:00 am
“SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM NOON EDT TODAY
THROUGH THIS EVENING.”
The NOAA/NWS forecast sounds menacing for later
“SW WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. GUSTS UP TO 30 KT. SEAS 2 TO
4 FT. A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SHOWERS THIS AFTERNOON.”
Today: Partly sunny, with a high near 79. Southwest
wind between 9 and 15 mph.
Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70.
Southwest wind between 11 and 14 mph, with gusts as
high as 30 mph.
Today: A slight chance of showers after 3pm. Mostly
cloudy, with a high near 80. Southwest wind between
7 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69.
Southwest wind around 11 mph.
I note that the first forecast uses knots in its
wind speed, while the Scituate and Marblehead
forecasts use miles per hour.
If I leave within an hour, 7:30 am, I’ll reach
Marblehead by maybe 1:00 pm, an hour after the small
craft advisory is in effect. It’ll be a rough trip
home, but at least the wind and seas will be
following instead of bow-on. Fifteen miles per hour
winds are one thing, but gusts to 30 are too much.
2-4 foot seas fall into that category too, if
avoidable – and right now these conditions are
avoidable if I stay another day.
I want to get home, but these conditions sound like
too much to risk. Oh I hate this indecision, making
this call. Once I’m out there, there will be no
turning back, and nowhere to go but making it all
the way home.
Right now, the forecast for tomorrow is not much
better; slightly lower winds still from the SW at
10-15 knots with gusts up to 20), but with seas
running 3-5 feet – no small craft advisory, at least
Conditions don’t seem to be much better until
Thursday, when wind and seas lessen with a new high
pressure area moving in.
– 9:20 am –
Okay, I’m staying for another day (at least). I
reached Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider just after 8:00,
got the mooring for another day. I left a phone
message on their answering machine at 7:30 but
didn’t get a call back by 8:30, so reached the
launch on Channel 9 and got the okay to stay. The
owner came out in a launch a few minutes ago to
confirm receiving my phone message, reaffirm another
I told him of the early weather reports; he said
“Yeah, we’re in for a bit of a blow today. Smart
I just checked the mooring line, whether it was
chafing on the tip of Chip Ahoy’s anchor, as it does
at home. It was, a bit, so I rigged the anchor up
higher on the pulpit as I do at home. More wind will
mean more swinging and pull on the mooring.
So it’s another day in Scituate for Chip Ahoy and
me. The wind’s blowing at 20 mph according to NSW
current observations, with stronger gusts, swinging
Chip Ahoy considerably with each one.
According to the most current NWS observation from
Logan International Airport (Boston) at 8:54 am:
“Wind from the SW (230 degrees) at 20 MPH (17 KT)
gusting to 24 MPH (21 KT).”
After two cups of “tea bag” coffee I stowed away all
the coffee fixings, shut down the Origo stove to let
it cool before stowing it below too. I still hoped
to get away. I just made a percolator of “cowboy
coffee,” am on my second cup, but the stove’s
running out of alcohol. I filled the stove’s two
tanks back in Onset Bay, emptied the gallon of
denatured alcohol into the empty quart of
“clean-burning marina stove alcohol,” threw it away.
I thought this would get me back home, but I’ll have
to find more when I go ashore today.
I’ll likely sit here all day wondering whether I
made the right decision or not, but already the wind
has increased by 8 mph since I awoke five hours ago;
there’s still two hours before the small craft
advisory kicks in through midnight. The pup tent
over the cockpit is flapping and snapping, straining
at its bungee cords. Maybe I’ll need to take it
down? I really wanted to be home tonight, but that
assumes safely. I’ve got too many doubts about that
“safely” part at the moment. Given the facts and
forecast at hand, and my personal observations here,
this was probably the best decision.
– 5:00 pm –
It’s been blowing here in Scituate Harbor pretty
strongly all day, According to AccuWeather from 12
mph early this morning to SW at 17 at 4:00 pm. The
Small Craft Advisory has been in effect since noon
and runs until midnight; the gusts have been
downgraded from 30 to 25 mph. The gusts are strong,
abruptly swinging Chip Ahoy about its mooring. I
think the pup tent is catching a lot of them, acting
almost like a sail. I went out earlier this
afternoon before going ashore and tied off a couple
of its free aft grommets with a line back to the
stern pulpit, to keep the tarp from flogging,
possibly ripping. But the static line I used might
instead cause the grommets to be pulled out.
I just checked other locations as of 4:00 pm:
Boston (Logan Int’l Airport): Wind SW at 20 mph.
Beverly (Municipal Airport): Wind WSW at 14 mph.
Neither of those NSW pages give warnings of gusts,
just steady wind speed. NOAA/NWS are calling the
gusts at 25 mph.
I took the launch ashore to the town dock at around
1:00 pm again, used the harbormaster’s men’s room,
tossed my trash, found a nearby hardware store and
picked up a quart of denatured alcohol, had lunch at
T. K. O’Malley’s. Back at the dock I picked up two
bags of ice cubes then called and waited for the E-Z
Rider launch to take me back out to Chip Ahoy. It
took the launch 25 minutes to pick me up, as I
watched the ice cubes melt in 80-plus degree
When the driver arrived I held up the melting bags
of ice and said, “Like watching the sands of time
pass through an hour-glass.” He apologized, told me
he was out in the outer harbor helping another small
boat get into a mooring, and they had a real tough
time of it.
I asked him how far out he runs the shuttle; all the
way out to the breakwater at the outer harbor’s
entrance. I asked how conditions were out there; he
told me very rough and choppy, that I wouldn’t want
to be out there any further. I told him of my
indecision this morning, whether to leave or stay.
“Believe me, captain, you did the right thing.”
I can stay tomorrow too if I so decide, and the
conditions don’t look a whole lot different, at
least until maybe Thursday. It’s beginning to look
like the cruise back from Chebeague Island, Maine,
when I got locked into a stretch of storms and
downpours on the Saco River – only this time it’s
strong winds and high seas.
I’ve been watching the harbormaster’s small utility
boats out all afternoon just passing through and
around the harbor, sort of aimlessly but I’m sure
looking for troubles. The young kids in their small
sailboats have been scooting around here in the
inner harbor all day putting on quite a
demonstration – I watched one of them (four kids
aboard that little boat) run aground and wrestle
until he finally sailed off again. These kids are
good, and real ballsy in this wind. While they have
a club chase boat looking over them, I suspect this
is one of the reasons for the harbormaster’s utility
boat activity today. About an hour ago the
harbormaster’s boat towed in a downed windsurfer by
its mast, along with its two occupants. A lot of
activity is going on all around.
On a Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider Mooring Company
Wednesday, August 4, 2010; 7:20 am
Another morning of indecision and frustration, but
it looks like it’ll be another day in Scituate.
Tomorrow looks much better; today’s forecast is
quirky depending on which reports I view:
Overall, according to NOAA/NSW, the trip looks
marginally doable (and I want to get home!) – but
again, I don’t want to be caught sometime in the
early afternoon out in the middle of Massachusetts
Bay in rough, threatening conditions with a few more
hours of sailing to go to reach Salem Sound and my
According to NOAA/NWS, current wind conditions at
Logan International Airport (Boston) are “Wind from
the SW (220 degrees) at 14 MPH (12 KT).” At Beverly
Municipal Airport (closest to Marblehead) they
report “Wind from the SW (220 degrees) at 8 MPH (7
KT).” Note the 6 MPH/5 KT difference – only some
15-20 miles apart (with Beverly/Marblehead to the
north). This became important in my later decision.
It seems such a relatively short distance can make
such a difference.
Reaching a decision on whether to depart this
morning or not, the first consideration was – duh,
what’s happening outside. The wind is still blowing,
has all night, and the gusts are picking up again.
Once up (at about 5:30 am) and with the “cowboy
coffee” percolator brewing, I turned on the VHF
marine weather forecast, fired up the laptop, and
began my morning weather research routine.
To reach Marblehead from Scituate will take me a
good six hours over a wide-open Massachusetts Bay,
across the 15-mile wide Boston shipping channel. I
want to know the forecasts for Scituate (for the
morning), Boston (for mid-day), and Marblehead (for
I subscribe to AccuWeather Premium, have found it to
be extremely accurate. It’s forecasts for those
three locations call for much more extreme wind than
the NWS does:
For Scituate, from 8 am – noon, the wind builds from
13 mph (gusts of 17) to 15 mph (gusts of 24). I
figure I’ll be out of this area and into the Boston
zone around noon.
For Boston, from 10 am – 2 pm, the wind builds from
14 mph (gusts of 20) to 17 mph (gusts of 30).
For Marblehead – and here’s where it gets hairy –
from 1 pm – 5 pm, about when Chip Ahoy and I should
be approaching home, the wind is forecast to reach
19 mph (gusts of 35) and diminish to 17 mph (gusts
NOAA/NWS simply states “SW winds 10 to 15 KT. Gusts
up to 20 KT late this morning and afternoon. Seas 2
to 4 FT. Isolated showers this morning.” The NWS, in
this case, uses knots, while AccuWeather uses miles
per hour. (If you need to translate, a knot is 1.15
miles per hour.)
Today’s NOAA/NWS forecast for Marblehead: “Partly
sunny, with a high near 84. Southwest wind between 9
and 13 mph.” Here they use miles per hour.
So is it 9-14 mph in Marblehead all day, no gusts?
Or do I trust AccuWeather’s hour-by hour forecasts
of 19 mph winds with gusts of 35? Quite a difference
– like between making it or not perhaps?
Tomorrow looks like the best opportunity, NOAA/NWS
and Accuweather basically agree: The SW wind will
continue but drop to 10 knots, gusts to 20, with
seas running 2-3 feet.
I’ve decided to wait for tomorrow to depart.
– 4:25 pm –
Current wind conditions in Marblehead at 3:53 pm:
From the west at 11 mph. (Forecast for 5 pm: From
the WSW at 13, gusting to 24 mph.)
I blew it today, trusting the weather forecasts; I
should have departed this morning, would have made
it home easily. Here in Scituate, AccuWeather shows
wind from the WSW at 16 mph (same as Boston).
Despite the pattern I thought I saw this morning,
with it blowing more the further northeast I went
the later in the day, the wind’s actually higher
here in Scituate than if I was approaching
Marblehead, where I expected to be about now had I
Better safe than sorry – until you’re not, I guess.
When the E-Z Rider launch picked me up just before
noon, the driver said he thought I’d have been on my
way this morning. I explained my weather research,
but while awaiting his arrival and looking around
Scituate Harbor thought to myself, “Geez this isn’t
bad at all; I should have left.”
I got up to the harbormaster’s office and on their
whiteboard was posted “Gusts to 20 mph, Seas 3-5
feet.” I had a long chat with the assistant, a
former owner of a C22, who thought I did the right
thing by staying. It was nice to hear, but I still
It’s always a call: Sometimes it’s a good one,
sometimes not. You have to make it in the moment
with best information available at that time; that’s
all you can do. Later, like yesterday, you can say
“Great call!” or like today, say “Damn, I could have
made it!” Win some, lose some. I lost today – but I
didn’t put boat and me at risk.
Just before noon I took the E-Z Rider launch in to
the town dock; a beautiful day in the high-80s to
low-90s and sunny. Ashore I took a shower, deposited
my accumulated trash into the dumpster, then took
off my daily shore leave. I picked up some
CoffeeMate (almost out, almost picked up another can
of ground “cowboy coffee” but thought I can make it
home where there’s more); another quart of denatured
alcohol (on a mooring, the stove sucked up most of
what I had); found a book store to renew my reading
materials (I thought the two books I brought along
would last the trip); then had lunch at T. K.
O’Malley’s again, their “award winning” fish
chowder. Back at the dock, after calling the launch
and seeking an ETA, I picked up another two bags of
ice cubes. If I knew I’d be staying in Scituate this
long, I’d have gone for a block a couple of days ago
instead of cubes! I was back aboard in about five
minutes this time.
I’ve got a pot of coffee percolating, reheating the
unused from this morning. For the first time in my
cruising experience, I’ve used more than half of the
five-gallon fresh water c0llapsible fresh water tank
(primarily for making coffee). If I was going on
much further, I’d have to consider refilling it.
This morning I fired up the Honda 8 four-stroke just
to charge the #1 battery I’ve been draining with the
laptop. First, I was curious if it would
electric-start (no problem) after the drain I’ve
been putting on Battery #1 while on the mooring.
I’ve got the battery switch set to #1, so #2 should
be fully charged and ready as a backup with the
twist of the switch. I ran the outboard at a bit
over idle for half an hour. (I’ve still got almost
12 gallons of gas – and its weight – so this wasn’t
a consideration.) I’ve been making sure the sliding
hatch isn’t covering the small solar panel: While it
provides little on the short term, every little bit
counts in these situations. So far everything is
still good, working as expected. Quite satisfying
after all the thought and work I’ve put into it.
On a Scituate Launch / E-Z Rider Mooring Company
Thursday, August 5, 2010; 4:15 am
Up very early this morning, I’m anxious to get
started home. Today it’s not the wind, it’s the
“strong thunderstorms” threat. If I had the
patience, I’d wait until tomorrow when the weather’s
forecast – at least at the moment – is for perfect
conditions: Sunny, SW wind 10-12 mph, seas about a
foot. Today every forecast calls for showers for
most of the day and scattered storms from this
morning through tonight.
NOAA/NWS: SW winds 5 to 10 KT. Seas 2 to 3 FT.
Patchy fog. A chance of showers in the morning ...
then showers likely with a chance of TSTMS in the
afternoon. VSBY 1 NM or less ... increasing to 1 to
3 NM in the afternoon.
AccuWeather pinpoints the time of the expected
“strong thunderstorms,” but after its erroneous
forecast of winds yesterday I’ve lost faith in it. I
mean, do they make this stuff up?
Scituate: 7 am, 10 am, 4 pm
Boston: 4 am, 1 pm, 3 pm
Marblehead: 7 am, 1 pm, 7 pm
I’m on my second cup of “tea bag” coffee, ready to
start preparing the boat once the sun comes up. It’s
too dark still to see the sky, clouds; but I don’t
see any stars of the sliver of moon that was up
there before I went to sleep last night at about
9:00 pm. The wind here has begun gusting, so there
might be a storm lurking nearby – I can’t tell. My
plan when I awoke at 3:30 was to be on my way before
7 am, but if it’s pouring I won’t be moving until it
ends. After all this time here, I expected to at
least be able to take down a dry pup tent tarp. What
a hassle this weather has become – just one day away
from home when I arrived on Sunday. I expected to be
home on Monday. This is very frustrating. Even with
the various weather forecasts I’ve checked, I don’t
know what to expect today.
Home in Marblehead
August 5, 2010; 8:00 pm
An interesting day, but the bottom line is that I
beat the severe thunderstorms, if barely. Never mind
that it was by just an hour, I beat them and arrived
ahead. As I suspected, the AccuWeather forecast with
times and places when and where they’d occur were
off the wall. The only one I experienced was back on
my mooring, and nowhere near the time frame
I’m sitting at my office desk now, but the room’s
rolling. I’ve come to expect this after an extended
liveaboard cruise, it’ll last for another day or
two; something about the inner ear or whatever.
This morning, after my third cup of coffee and more
indecision, I pulled the trigger; decided I’d be off
for home. I was tired of weather forecasts that
exaggerated, afternoons of regret. I would likely
get wet if I was wrong, so I’d be wet. I laid out
the foul-weather gear in preparation; and the
cribboards to close up the boat if and when the need
At 7 am I dropped the mooring, headed out of
Scituate Harbor. I had no idea what to expect, but I
hoped to reach home today. I expected to get wet
along the way.
All was going well until I motored through the
breakwater and headed out to the sea buoy – into
increasingly heavy fog.
A quarter of a mile out I couldn’t see more than
about 20-30 yards, the lobster trap buoys as they
appeared ahead. Uh oh, I thought, maybe this isn’t
such a good idea, maybe I should turn about and head
back right now.
But I’ve done dense fog before, hoped it’d burn off
– after all, it was only about 7:30 am and some
forecasts had called for “patchy fog.” Besides, I
have GPS and have done this whole trip back to
Marblehead (from Plymouth) blind before depending on
it entirely. And I have the two handheld backup GPSs.
I can handle this, right?
By Minot Light off Cohasset the fog had somewhat
lifted, visibility increased to about half,
three-quarters of a mile. No land was in sight, but
it was 3-4 miles off. I think I could make out the
top of the lighthouse out on its rocky peninsula a
mile or so off, maybe. The ocean was flat, barely a
ripple. There was some sort of breeze (SW) so I
hoisted the main sail. It was doing nothing, so I
dropped it and revved up the outboard again. I
needed to get home before the thunderstorms.
I had the Boston shipping channel (about 15 miles
wide) to cross yet. When I called and spoke to
Barbara, I told her I intended to radio Boston Coast
Guard Control to see if there was any shipping
traffic coming in or out. If there was, I probably
wouldn’t see it coming soon enough; a serious risk
when crossing in fog.
Before I could, the CG began calling out on Channel
16 a “secureté” warning that an LNG tanker was
enroute with a security cordon around it. Oh, great
timing on my part! I radio the CG, described my
boat, location, its direction, and my limited
visibility, informed them that I had a radar
reflector but no radar, asked what they suggested I
do. I was told to do nothing unless I saw
approaching security vessels, which would see me
first and warn me off. The escort vessels would be a
mile ahead and astern of the tanker, 500 yards off
its port and starboard.
God, what fun.
Sometime later, a huge ship loomed out of the fog. I
quickly veered to starboard in an effort to get out
of its way, not cross its track. It didn’t seem to
be moving. I recalled seeing anchored ships out here
in the middle before, a sort of holding area. I
watched, it didn’t move. It was anchored. I got back
on my GPS course.
The more I closed with the Marblehead coast, the
thicker the fog became. Soon it was back to 20 yards
or less visibility, totally blind again, lucky to
see lobster pot buoys before entangling with them.
Nerve-wracking. I stayed on my GPS course, kept
aiming at the navigation buoy waypoints, kept
running up on the buoys where they belonged – when
they suddenly loomed out of the gray ahead, 20
It was getting later, no thunderstorms yet. Just a
few showers. I’d donned my foul-weather jacket,
closed up the cabin, a couple hours ago.
Approaching the entry buoy into Salem Sound (off
Marblehead) I heard the first horn from another
blind boat. I grabbed mine from within the lazarette
and blew it back. A few more responded. Oh boy, I’m
not alone out here – we’re all feeling our way
It sure felt like I was.
So for the next half hour or so, we all located each
other with horns – at least let each other know we
were out here too. There was virtually no visibility
and obviously there were other boats out here. I had
to open up the cabin and grab my backup air-horn
cannister to keep my end of the serenade going,
while inching my way homeward, an eye on the GPS as
that’s all I had. Spooky. A large sailboat emerged
out of the fog briefly just to my stern; it got a
double-blast of my air-horn, before it turned into
(according to GPS and chart) Marblehead Harbor.
Once inside Salem Sound, visibility abruptly
increased, amazingly. I broke out of it, could see a
sort of wedge of fog reaching from the power plant
ahead out to the islands off to starboard. Small
sailboats and powerboats were playing inside the
competing fog banks. What a different world,
dimension, this became.
Shortly after, Chip Ahoy was on its mooring, home at
last at around 1:30 pm.
I called and told Barbara I was back, that it’d take
a while to settle the boat and pack things up, that
I thought I’d take a short nap before calling for
the launch. This turned out to be a mistake, a
necessary one as I was drained but then came the
thunderstorms, and they were severe for sure.
I awoke from my nap about an hour later, continued
with settling the boat, got the sail cover on just
as the first drops began falling. In the cabin I
closed up the cribboards just as all hell broke
loose: an incredible deluge accompanied by fierce
lightning and thunder, which immediately reminded me
to disconnect the mast top VHF coax cable from the
back of the radio before it got struck again.
I found the leak inside the cabin: Both starboard
windows! I couldn’t believe it, but the proof was
evident. The forward one leaks the most, the aft
pretty steadily. I stuck the “cowboy coffee”
percolator beneath the forward leak, the small
cooking pot beneath the aft, the small frying pan
beneath the cribboards where the teak vent in the
top one was leaking slightly at its seal. Wonderful.
All that work on the windows project accomplished
little if anything; that project all started over a
leak in that aft window seal. At least first, this
was the only such nasty weather of this cruise;
second, I was aboard to witness the leak sources;
When the storms passed (there was a brief break
between thunder and lightning), about an hour later,
I was ready to move. I grabbed my sea bag, the Nikon
camera equipment in its Pelican case, and the laptop
bag, closed up the boat, and called the launch. I
called Barbara on the cell phone on my way in; she
was waiting for me at the head of the dock when I
muled everything up. I was back home a couple of
It is good to be home.
Every one of my seafaring cruises seem to have its
own lessons. Each leaves me with new experiences,
added knowledge, and greater respect. Some of the
challenges are the same, but there are almost always
new ones that need to be adapted to and learned
from. From this seafaring cruise in a very small
sailboat I learned:
First and foremost, do not have one leg on the dock,
the other on the boat, and expect you can keep the
boat from drifting away from the dock! The ensuing
injury (after falling in) is still with me, my knee
remains wrapped in the Ace bandage brace. It made
the rest of the trip more uncomfortable than it
needed to be – and kept me in Scituate longer than
I’d planned, recovering.
Second, do not venture out into Buzzard’s Bay with
the Cape Cod Canal’s flood current into a SW wind
and running seas in a small boat. It cannot be done
– as the locals later attested – either comfortably
A slip in Scituate ($3/foot X 22 feet = $66/night)
is not worth the minor convenience and shore power
than the cost of a mooring there ($35/night), with
the launch service available on call and free.
Especially if you can live without shore power, as
Chip Ahoy can for a time. I liked the privacy of the
mooring better anyway.
If you have a good GPS (and a backup), and know how
to navigate, have a working VHF radio (and backup),
departing into fog is manageable – if a bit
nerve-wracking, being constantly alert until through
it. “Through it” might mean all day, at the end of
which you will be exhausted from tension.
The laptop ceased working on the 12v/110v inverter
connected to Battery #1. I thought the problem was
with the laptop’s power supply pack – the inverter’s
indicator lights worked when connected to the boat’s
battery. The laptop’s 12v “cigarette lighter”
converter worked, connected to Battery #1 directly
with alligator clips but wouldn’t charge the
laptop’s battery (a Dell error message). Having a
second means of powering the laptop was essential.
The laptop’s 110v power supply pack works here at
home, so the problem is somewhere between the boat’s
battery and the inverter, I believe. I wonder if the
inverter was charging my handheld VHF radio and
other electronic accessories, or was the laptop just
demanding too much from/through it? (Running the
outboard for half an hour to charge the battery may
not have been enough?)
I hate to admit it, and don’t advise this, but I
won’t accept weather forecasts as certain or even
very reliable in the future. Though they usually
give a good “big picture,” along this trip I’ve
found them frequently wrong, sometimes even alarmist
worst-case predictions. More often than not, they’re
pretty close – just not all the time. Still, always
better safe than sorry.
best I can say about blinding fog is, it comes with
no real nasty wind that'd blow it away. Give me the
wind and a clear day!