Chip Fordís 1974 Catalina 22
Sail #3282 l Marblehead, Massachusetts
Chip Ahoyís 2008
Coast of Maine Cruise
to Chebeague Island, Casco Bay, Maine and back
before my first cruise up the coast to Maine in 2005, I've been invited
to stop by Chebeague Island, one of the many in Casco Bay, Maine.
Each time I've been in Portland, I've always been in a hurry to move on
to my next planned destination, never taking Marianne up on her
invitation. Marianne Brenton is a retired Massachusetts state
legislator, a longtime friend and ally when she was a state
representative. We've stayed in touch over the years, and last
year (2007) my cruise destination was finally a visit to her island --
until I fell and broke my shoulder that May.
This year, I picked up where I'd left off before my
injury -- planning to cruise up the coast to Chebeague Island at last.
In the past, I had great luck with weather along these annual cruises.
This year more than made up for that good luck, with mostly miserable
conditions. These conditions actually began before my journey did,
postponing its departure by a week. I thought, after that week of
torrential rain, the sky had to be wrung out, that weather conditions
could only improve. Boy, was I ever wrong. This summer will
go down in the record books as the rainiest in a long time, if not
history. But, unlike during past cruises, this time I hit every river
current, incoming and outgoing, absolutely perfect.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Links to some of the photos from the
cruise album are included
within the text below.
Links to some of Chip Ahoy's
cruise charts are also
ďThis isn't cruising, itís
The Log of Chip Ahoyís 2008 Chebeague Island Cruise
Friday, July 25, 2008; 9:10 pm Ė 73į
Misery Island Cove, Salem Sound, MA
Finally, after a weekís delay due to hellacious
weather, Chip Ahoy and I are off the mooring and on our way to Chebeague
Island on Casco Bay, Maine.
Michael Sullivan ("Carpe Diem") of Haverhill
came to my house at 3:00 this afternoon to give me a hand loading the
boat down at the dock. After the "pre-departure cookout" of my "world
famous burgers," he, Barbara, and I drove down the street to the top of
the dock with my Blazer loaded up with all my cruising necessities. I
took Chip Mate, the dinghy, out to Chip Ahoy and brought the boat in to
the dock for loading. We finished, I got my send off by my send-off
team, and was underway at 5:30 pm.
Once the clouds cleared in mid-morning and I got Chip
Mate bailed out for the final time before departure, the Blazer loaded,
the weather improved radically: Sunny, warm, with a light breeze out of
the SE by the time I got underway. I motor-sailed out to Misery Island
with only the roller-furled jib raised as I wanted to grab a mooring out
there for the night, and wanted to arrive before dark to find one Ė and
it was Friday evening, when mooring owners might want to grab their private little
cove space for the weekend.
I arrived at 7:15 pm [CHART] and picked up an empty mooring
in a crowded cove on the outside. Another sailboat with family aboard
came in right after me and grabbed the mooring just in front of Chip
Ahoy, but soon a large powerboat with a high flying-bridge showed up,
claimed the mooring as his, and forced the sailing family to move to
another nearby mooring. On arrival I almost grabbed that one instead of
the one Iím on. My voyage is off to a propitious start.
I just finished up stowing everything out of the way,
to where it "belongs" to the best of my memory Ė did all this stuff
really fit comfortably on my past cruises? Iím sure in the next couple
or few days Iíll settle in and everything will find it place of most
convenience. I just made coffee using boiled water on the Origo 3000
alcohol stove and the Maxwell House "Coffee Singles," coffee in a tea
bag, am on my second cup while writing this. You canít beat the
convenience! Iíve got my percolator aboard and the fixings for pots of
"cowboy coffee" when the time comes, but tomorrow morning I want a quick
and early start up to Rockport.
It feels good to be sitting out here rocking under
the stars with two weeks of cruising ahead. . . .
Okay, back again. Itís apparently going to take a bit
to reacquaint myself with my electronics, and test out my setup. The
laptop was sucking up battery power quickly Ė it was below 80 percent
from just writing the above. I dug into my chargers/cables/electrical
connectors tupperware box to find the proper adapter for running the
laptop off the boatís battery (#1 Ė #2 is switched off). I brought out
the 12v to 110v inverter and was ready to hook it up to the cigarette
lighter adapter thatís charging my cell phone 24/7. Then I came across
the Lind charging adapter Ė hmm, whatís this? Itís the custom-for-Dell
adapter for running and charging the laptop! Whew, forgot I even had it.
I unplugged the cell phone and connected the Lind
laptop charger to the cigarette lighter adapt0r but its green pilot
light didnít illuminate, so I traced the lighter cables to their ends.
One of the alligator clips wasnít connected to the battery, had come
free. The cell phone hadnít been charging either! The pilot light is now
lit green and the laptop is charging. Itís good to have caught this now.
I needed this night at Misery Island just to test drive things before
the real cruising begins tomorrow. (The laptop is now 92 percent
recharged. It doesnít seem to take much time to discharge or recharge
Where was I? Oh yeah . . . It feels good to be
sitting out here rocking under the stars with two weeks of cruising
ahead. At the moment the plan is to reach Rockport tomorrow and hope for
a space at the town dock or a mooring at the yacht club. Iím not sure
what will happen after that. The NOAA weather channel and commercial
radio forecasts continue to project great weather for tomorrow: Well
into the 80s, wind SW at 5-10 mph, seas 2-4 feet. Sunday a new front
moves in from the west: Wind S at 10-15 by afternoon with gusts to 20
mph, seas 2-3 feet Ė scattered showers and thunderstorms, seas higher.
This sounds decent but weíll see tomorrow.
As usual, Iíll decide my next move and when itíll be
after I reach Rockport and get the latest weather forecast.
Saturday, July 26, 2008; 8:40 pm Ė 75į
Rockport Harbor, MA
I didnít get as early a start as Iíd expected but
didnít need it for the relatively short jump from Misery Island to
Rockport Harbor [CHART], a straight line course of 15.4 miles up to and around
Cape Ann. The weather was as good as forecasted at 7:00 this morning:
Wind S at 5-10 mph turning SW later in the day at 10-15; seas 2-4 feet.
One of the first things I noticed when checking over
the boat this morning was that battery #1 was low on the voltmeter, from
using so much battery power last evening with this laptop and a cabin
light running off it, and keeping the cell phone plugged into its 12v
cigarette lighter adapter. When I started the motor, it ground over
slowly Ė I thought I might need to switch over to battery #2 Ė but it
caught quickly and fired up. Having two batteries and isolating them
when using 12v power is a smart tactic, as this experience indicated.
This morning I dug out the new CCRadioís small custom
solar panel, after leaving the radio on all night unintentionally. I
wedged it into the cabinís forward starboard-side window (a nice taper
to it) but needed to fasten its aft top corner. The duck tape in the
tool compartment would work nicely, if I could have reached it without
first moving so much else out of the way, so I improvised Ė used a
Bandaid from the box of them kept handy on the cabin shelf.
Another thing I caught during my morning walk-around
was a long clevis pin laying on the cabin top: "Whereíd this come
from?" It was the pin that holds the boomkicker to the mast! How it got
loose, and why it was still aboard is a mystery, but I got it back in
place and thanked the powers that be that it hadnít unknowingly gone ker-plunk-splash.
Of all the parts and hardware I have aboard, I donít have a replacement
for that. As I laid on my bunk last evening looking up out the
companionway up at the boom, Iíd wondered why it seemed a bit twisted.
This find explained it.
After two cups of "tea bag" coffee, a listen to the
NOAA weather forecast, and reorganizing the boat for the day ahead, I
dropped the borrowed mooring in Misery Islandís cove this morning at
8:15 am. I motored Chip Ahoy and dinghy around the "backside" of the
island between Sauli Rock and House Island, hoisted sails while dodging
lobster pot buoys on the way out to pick up my pre-programmed route
outside Bakers Island. As forecasted, the wind was very light at 9:00
am, so I lowered and restarted the outboard after about an hour under
sail moving at about a knot, knot-and-a-half. (The GPS estimated my
arrival to destination at that speed would take about 20 hours!) Battery
#1 needed to be charged anyway. I got considerable exercise through the
day optimistically raising and tilting the motor then realistically
lowering and starting it again when what little breeze there was
dissipated to less-to-nil.
Thatchers Island (with a dirigible floating
by overhead) and heading NW toward Avery Ledge the breeze began to pick
up favorably, so I shut off and again raised the motor. Past the ledge
and turning toward Rockport Harbor, reaching into the freshening breeze,
Chip Ahoy flew toward the harbor until I had to lower the sails before
entering the breakwater and small basin.
Iíd called ahead to the Rockport harbormaster at
10:00 this morning and arranged for a dock for the night; they were
waiting on the pier when I arrived at 3:30 pm and gave me a hand tying
up to the single floating dock Ė
directly in front of and below
famous Motif #1 inside the sheltered harbor, and just long enough for
Chip Ahoy. As I found the last time I stayed here, the wooden ladder
from dock up to pier is vertical and a tricky climb those additional
nine feet at low tide, as it was near to upon my arrival. At a buck a
foot ($22), Iím not complaining, even if there is no electric hook-up or
water. There are public restrooms nearby (for the Rockport tourist
traffic, of which there is considerable), and the Sandy Bay Yacht Club
is right alongside, where I picked up a bag of ice cubes for a buck.
I dug out and put up the pup-tent for the first time
this season, today for its shade; opened the forward hatch wide. It was
hot, in the mid- to high-80s, under a bright sun and an almost cloudless
sky. After settling up with the harbormaster (actually at the yacht
club), I grabbed lunch/dinner at The Greenery then took a nap aboard.
NOAA weather is still forecasting for tomorrow that a
strong cold front will move in over the water sometime in the afternoon,
producing showers and thunderstorms: Wind SW at 10-15 mph with gusts to
20, stronger in thunderstorms; 2-4 foot seas, higher near thunderstorms.
Thatís been consistent for a couple of days now, so Iíd say itís most
likely. Iíll check again tomorrow morning before making a go/no-go
decision to Rye Harbor, NH, a 30 mile straight line distance from here.
Sunday, July 27, 2008; 6:15 am Ė 64į
Rockport Harbor, MA
I awoke an hour ago, just before sunrise at 5:30, to
the sound of rain. Itís been raining on and off since under gray sky.
Iím glad I put the pup-tent up yesterday, and thought to lower the
forward deck hatch to about 2 inches before turning in at about
midnight. Iím on my first cup of "tea bag" coffee and listening to NOAA
weather: It doesnít sound too pleasant or promising.
The lobstermen and boats are heading out one by one,
giving me hope. But I also realize these are professional watermen and
theyíll be working familiar grounds. And they will probably be back in
from working their traps by early afternoon when the predicted showers
and thunderstorms arrive.
Todayís forecast is for a strong high pressure ridge
to move in from the west bringing a cold front with it. This morning
showers and isolated thunderstorms are possible (weíve got the showers
already), then some clearing is expected by late morning Ė partly sunny.
The wind should be coming out of the S at 10-15 mph, gusting to 20, with
3-4 foot seas. Visibility 1-3 nms. And then the main act takes the
This afternoon the showers will return and "touch
off" likely thunderstorms, "Some may be severe with large hail and
damaging wind this afternoon Ė seas higher in and around thunderstorms."
"Chance of rain is 60 percent."
I would like to be on my way, at least be out of here
to Rye and beyond, but prudence is nagging at me. I sat out this past
week back in Marblehead due to such conditions and was glad I did. This
forecast sounds quite similar to those earlier this week. At best, itíd
be a rather miserable day spent wet out there. If I can keep this dock
until tomorrow morning, Iím inclined to spend tonight here. If I am to leave
it should be very soon, within the hour, but I wonít know about the dock
until the harbormaster gets in Ė a Catch 22 for sure.
Ė 5:30 pm Ė
Itís been a frustrating day, but itís working out for
the best. Iím still here in Rockport playing it safe. As usual,
wondering why. Itís been a pretty nice day. Mostly cloudy but bright. A
decent wind. Why am I not out there on my way? Why am I sitting here?
This weather isnít bad at all. . .
I was given the Sandy Bay Yacht Clubís WiFi code by
the harbormaster this morning and tried connecting Ė and thatís when the
first of frustrations began. I couldnít, but noticed that the computer,
connected to the boatís battery, was not charging. It was running on its
own battery and down to 90% and discharging. At 80% I gave up trying to
connect to the Internet and shut down the laptop.
I called the Rye harbormaster at 9:30 this morning Ė
after a number of calls to locate his number including the Rye police
department Ė and left a message. Leo Axton (sp?) returned my call this
afternoon: "Sorry, but we donít have anything open." Just as good I
didnít leave this morning heading there before talking with him. The Rye
harbormaster suggested I contact Wentworth Marina, just inside the mouth
of the Piscataqua River, "about 3 miles north" of Rye. I called there,
but Ann advised me they had a 36' minimum. "How much?" I asked.
$130/night! That isnít going to happen by any stretch, even if I am on
vacation time and money.
So it looks like itís going to be up the Piscataqua
River to the old standby, the Prescott Park town dock in Portsmouth, NH
Ė if I can arrange a slip. Iíve got a call in to the Czar of all NH Port
Services, since this morning actually when seeking the Rye harbormaster,
to make a reservation. Prescott Park dock has regular 8-5, Monday-Friday
business hours. Iíll be underway tomorrow heading there before I have an
So I needed to change my GPS routing, again, and that
took starting up the laptop again. Maybe itíd charge this time, just
needed to be rebooted? No such luck. But it had enough battery power to
do what I needed: Add a new route and upload it to my two handheld GPS
units. This required that I dig out the 110v inverter for the GPS units'
computer connection adapter. I hooked it up to the cigarette lighter
adapter and, for the first time ever, got a "ground fault" error red
light and audible alarm. I dug out the ownerís manual and read that one
cause is a low battery source, below 10 volts.
I tried electric starting the outboard and, sure
enough Ė battery #1 was almost drained again, the motor just caught and
is now running. This is a compromise: Precious fuel vs. precious battery
power. Battery power won this decision. (Iíve got the full backup
6-gallon tank if necessary.) Sure enough. Back in the cabin the inverter
worked just fine; I uploaded the new route from Rockport to Portsmouth
onto both GPSs. Then I connected the laptopís 12v power cord and Ė itís
charging again too! The whole problem was a low boat battery #1.
Apparently the adapters shut down when the source battery weakens to a
certain level. (And apparently the cell phone charger doesnít.)
While I was doing this, the sky began to darken and
appear intimidating, so I turned on the VHF radio and tuned in NOAA
weather. It has issued "Severe Thunderstorm Watch #760," in effect until
8:oo pm this evening: Winds in excess of 60 mph; moving east at 44 mph -
this severe thunderstorm has "a history of producing destructive winds"
Ė heavy rainfall Ė large hail. Including eastern Massachusetts
(specifically naming Gloucester, the city next door). A Weather Alert
just blasted in at 6:00 pm: "Special marine warning Ė high waves,
dangerous lightning." Iíve battened down the forward hatch, the pup tent
is still up, and am waiting. It does look threatening; glad Iím not
almost to Rye Harbor seeing this coming and not yet knowing thereís no
room for me at the inn!
The laptop battery is now recharged to 99% and the
outboard is still running, and will for another half hour or so.
Monday, July 28, 2008; 10:00 pm Ė 68į
Prescott Park Dock, Portsmouth, NH
A long day of sailing [CHART], but a good one for sure. I
left Rockport this morning at 7:00, without so much as a cup of coffee.
I wanted an early start and got it. Up at dawn I made the boat ready,
took down and stowed away the pup-tent, and cast off the dock lines
along with the lobstermen. I popped open a can of Coke to satisfy my
morning caffeine craving as I motored out of the harbor. Once outside I
hoisted sail and was on my way in a mild SW wind on flat waters. After
about an hour I had to start the motor when the breeze died if I was to
make Portsmouth sometime today. About half an hour later the wind picked
up so the motor was retired for most of the remainder of the day, until
approaching Portsmouth Harbor.
I made an average of about 3-3.5 knots all day,
hitting over five a few times for a short while, making the dropping in
and securing of the lower cribboard prudent on a good heel. Other times
I questioned whether or not to lower and start the motor. The batteries
needed charging anyway, but I rejected the option. I figured I was
making way and in no rush. High tide in Portsmouth wasnít until 8:15 pm
Ė about sunset, still daylight Ė and I wanted to hit the incoming
current just before it slackened if possible.
By 10:00 am Iíd made arrangements via cell phone for
a dock overnight Ė Prescott Park had plenty of room I was advised, but
there would probably be nobody around when I arrived to assist with
docking. The rates, I was warned, had increased to $50/night. I believe
it was $40 the last time I was here, but they provide power and water so
itís worth it Ė and sure beats the $130 I was quoted for a slip at
Wentworth Marina just down the river!
I had SW winds for the mostly sunny day, varying from
5-10 mph with occasional gusts of maybe 15 Ė more in a couple of
situations. One of those was while crossing the entrance to the
Merrimack River, about a mile out while approaching and passing the sea
buoy. The racing outgoing current, even that far out, was powerful. The
lobster pot buoys in the local minefield were being dragged underwater,
almost impossible to see until I was upon them. Approaching the distant
mouth, suddenly I was hit with a powerful gust that remained steady
until well past the river entrance, perhaps a mile on a broad reach and
starboard rail almost awash. Quick, slide in the lower cribboard, dodge
that lobster pot buoy, get back on course now.
Earlier, a couple hours after leaving Rockport but
well before reaching the currents of the river, I came across a curious
observation. Ahead was a line across the ocean surface stretching to
port and starboard as far as my eyes could see, a light tan, almost
yellow in color, a narrow band. Shallows? Nah, couldnít be: I was a
couple miles offshore in 100-plus feet of ocean depth. As I passed
through it, it turned out to be a band of some sort of pollen, algae or
something stretching beyond sight in both direction.
Something similar but different occurred later, this
time a surface rippling in a narrow band in both directions as far as I
could see. I first thought it was the indication of a wind gust, but
different than Iíd ever before observed, narrow. After passing through
it, I settled for it being a large school of small bait fish churning up
the surface Ė for lack of a better explanation.
The first real lobster pot buoy minefields appeared
when approaching the coast of Hampton, NH. From there on, it was dodging
buoys like a downhill slalom the rest of the day. Boy, do they do a job
on navigation and planned routes Ė let alone using a tiller pilot to
I made it to the mouth of the Piscataqua River at
about 4:30 with a negligible current to my pleasant surprise. When
Memorial Bridge was in sight, the Prescott Park dock coming up on Chip
Ahoyís starboard bow, I headed in for and beyond the red nun "2" as Iíd
learned in the past. I didnít need to, the current was so unexpectedly
slack. I pulled right into the slip and tied up without a problem. This
was especially good as there was nobody on the docks to lend a hand, no
other boats at all. I recall only too well my first arrival at these
docks, dealing with this strong current, and my gratitude for the assist
from others then docked here in my moment of need.
Michael Sullivan ("Carpe Diem") came down soon after
to greet me and go out for dinner. First we picked up two gallons of gas
to top off my boatís tank, and some groceries, then had dinner at Molly
Maloneís, appropriate considering our mutual Irish heritage. Grrr, I
couldnít pick up the bill.
"The Ghost" paid a visit while we were away, dropped
off the dock bill, it was just there in the cockpit as usual. I
nicknamed dockmaster Michael Warhurst on my first stay here, when my
dock bills mysteriously appeared in the cockpit without apparent human
delivery. They were just there even when I was aboard, came out of the
cabin in the morning to discover it. I finally met Michael one day and
we laughed over his stealth deliveries: He doesnít like to disturb
guests, he told me. I named him "The Ghost" and he loved it.
Tomorrow . . . well, thatís tomorrow, another day.
Chip Ahoy is settled in after making 30 nm today, is now plugged into
shore power, its batteries are recharging. At the moment Iím exhausted,
but tomorrowís weather is forecast to be great. Iíd hate to squander it
parked here. Saco is 35 nm up the coast Ė another real good dayís
sail. Pushing it and with another early start I could be there tomorrow
then on to Portland in another day. From here to Kennebunkport is about
(statute) miles Ė if I can find a place to spend the night upon arrival; another
20 miles further up the coast will get me to Saco from there. I must yet
coordinate my departure with the local river current and Iím too tired
to deal with the calculations now. So many considerations, so much
thought, Iím tired. Tomorrow . . .
Tuesday, July 29, 2008; 7:00 am Ė 67į
Prescott Park Dock, Portsmouth, NH
NOAA weather: Today mostly sunny, temperature in the
mid-80s. A slight chance of rain and thunderstorms this afternoon. Wind
W at 5-10 mph. Seas 2-3 feet. Chance of rain is 20%. Tonight the chance
of rain and thunderstorms increases to 60%.
High tide is at 9:04 am and Iím watching the current.
From past visits here, I think the best time to leave the dock and cross
it will be at 9:30-10:00 Ė decent timing for a leisure departure.
According to the Maine Coast cruising guide there are a lot of marinas
in Kennebunkport where I might get a slip with amenities. Iíll call
around after 8:00 and see what I can arrange for the night. The weather
report is just too good to sit out here.
I just put a $50 bill and two ones in the envelope
"The Ghost" provided last evening, along with one of my "Chip Ahoy"
business cards. Apparently not only has the dock rate increased, but
theyíre now charging an additional two dollars per dinghy. I stuck the
envelope in the office mail slot as instructed Ė as usual, no human
presence. So strange for a friendly, accommodating place.
Ė 8:00 am Ė I just picked up a large cup of
coffee at a nearby convenience store, along with a bag of ice while I
was there. I should have gotten ice last night when Michael was
chauffeuring me around town, but it would have melted while we ate
dinner. Earlier I wandered around the park looking over its
flower gardens. Prescott Park is
quite a spot, very well maintained for
a municipal space. The amphitheater is set up for some ongoing
production it appears, probably on weekends. On one of my previous stays
there was a concert that evening that I could attend without moving from
Both of Chip Ahoyís batteries should be fully charged
by now: I turned the battery selector switch to "both" before hitting my
bunk. The laptop is at 99%, but I took it off the 110v shore power cord
last night to free up a plug to recharge the handheld VHF radio, as well
as the CCRadio. The cell phone is recharging through its cigarette
"The Ghost" was back while I stepped out however
briefly. Another envelope in the cockpit was awaiting my return. It held
my receipt and my two dollar bills with a note: "No charge for the
dinghy"! I swear, Michael must be watching for me to leave the boat.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008; 9:15 pm Ė 69į
Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME
What was that to hit Chip Ahoy and me this afternoon?
Iíve never experienced a weather phenomenon like it before, but more on
it later. Iíve got NOAA weather on now to see if they have any mention
I timed my departure from Portsmouth perfectly this
time with the current, and did it without assistance though The Ghost
had offered to give me a hand casting off. When I was ready, exactly 20
minutes as we agreed, he had Ė of course! Ė disappeared. As I was
pulling out I heard a shout and looked back over my shoulder. There was
The Ghost, or his apparition standing up at the dockmasterís office
High tide was at 9:04 am, but at the time the current
was still coming in. I cast off Chip Ahoyís dock lines at 9:45 and it
was still moving in but not too strongly. I had an easy time getting out
of the marina and across the current to the channel. The wind was
pushing Chip Ahoy against its dock gently; the current was negligible in
the marina, almost not a factor as I backed out into the small basin
then headed out onto the river across the slackening incoming current.
At the first turn in the river just beyond the Coast
Guard station I was startled to see a
gigantic tanker surrounded by
its retinue of large tugboats. A harbor police boat raced at me with blue
lights flashing, a Coast Guard utility hovered between. The harbor
police warned me to stay out of the tankerís path (as if I needed
this insight), to stay outside the channel as close to the navigation
buoys as possible. I must have caught the current perfectly Ė as Iím
sure the tanker did.
Once outside the mouth of the Piscataqua River and on
my way northeast [CHART], hoisting sails was no easy feat amidst lobster pot
buoy minefields. I kept waiting for the perfect moment to point into the
wind, but after almost half an hour it didnít appear. Finally I headed
directly out into deeper water until the trap buoys thinned, found a
hole in a minefield, turned about and quickly got the main sail up. The
roller-furled genoa is always easy to raise and adjust once the main is
up and set.
The weather was as predicted, absolutely beautiful
with a good wind direction for my day, coming out of the SW. The
were running 1-2 feet, just enough for decent speed with comfort. I was
averaging about 4 knots all morning into mid-afternoon on a port reach.
As always up here, the trick was staying alert to slalom through the
minefields of lobster pot buoys. The tiller pilot is useful, but not
without a sharp and ceaseless good eye ahead for potential snares.
At about 4:00 pm Chip Ahoy and I were some 3-4 miles
off the coast of Hampton, NH when it struck out of nowhere without
warning or any visible indication. The gust almost knocked us down. But
it wasnít just a gust Ė it was sustained high wind. I quickly released
the main sheet but the wind only picked up stronger; I slackened the jib
sheet too. Not good enough Ė I let it run and let out more main sheet
with the starboard rail awash and all kinds of crashing sounds from
below in the cabin. I pointed the bow up into the wind and regained
control, but the wind continued howling at me, and Chip Ahoy was quickly
heading into a minefield of buoys, while the seas were suddenly building
"What is this?!?" I thought as I furled the
head sail, brought the main sail in from perpendicular but with no
possibility to reef it in the conditions. I asked that question a number
of times through the afternoon. I lowered and fired up the outboard and
headed back out to sea, a sea that had quickly built and was building
higher, fast. Iíve never seen anything quite like this. Within ten
minutes the sea went from a comfortable two foot roll to 3-4 feet of
white capped near frenzy. And it didnít abate, not all afternoon. The
sky was clear and sunny but for puffy fair weather cumulus clouds, yet
the strong winds persisted and the seas remained at 4-5 feet running
close together. I ran the remaining 10-12 miles of my course with the
motor doing most of the work, the main sail sheeted just enough for
stability in the rolling and quartering sea.
While dodging lobster pot buoys all afternoon, I
spotted something ahead that didnít quite qualify Ė or it was one of
those submerged mines you usually donít see until too late. As Chip Ahoy
got closer, I suspected it was more likely some animal, likely dead and
washed out to sea. As I passed the "carcass" a head popped up: It was a
very large seal which simply gawked at me, probably wondering what I was
doing out there in this disturbing it.
Upon getting closer to Wood Island and its lighthouse
at the entrance to Saco Bay I decided to cut corners a bit and left my
GPS route to get into the lee and shelter of the bay as soon as I could.
This took Chip Ahoy into denser minefields of lobster pot buoys and the
tight slalom was on and lasted for a good hour.
The more sheltered bay presented its own challenge,
for now I was heading directly west into the late afternoon sun but an
hour and a half before it set. I was blinded by the sun and its
reflection off the ocean; picking out the lobster pot buoys became near
impossible and worse Ė sun-blinded, when I looked down I couldnít see my
chart, the GPS, or the depth gauge. I was truly winging it in most of
the way to this marina. If I hadnít been here before and remembered how
I got in, I doubt I could have made it without running aground or worse.
And I know Ė know! Ė I had a chart for the Saco River the last
time. I didnít this time, or couldnít find it Ė and it wasnít programmed
into the GPS beyond its breakwater entrance either. This is so unlike me.
I pulled into the fuel dock at Marstonís Marina, as
arranged by cell phone earlier in the day, and as I was advised was
likely after six oíclock, there was nobody here to greet or assist.
Fortunately Iíd hit the small Saco Riverís strong current just perfectly
too. This is my trip Ė at least so far Ė of hitting river currents
perfectly, through planning or just dumb luck like this. The current was
near-slack so singlehanding to the dock went smoothly: Step off the boat
with bow and stern lines in hand, tie them off, adjust later.
While I was reorganizing the cabin's crashing
calamity and otherwise squaring away the boat, my old new friend Randy
Randall came down to greet and welcome me back at long last. He gave me
the abbreviated version of amenities and offered to drive me into town
tomorrow morning if I need anything. After our reunion I hooked up to
the shore power; everythingís being charged again. Next I took a
much-needed and too long overdue shower, changed into clean clothes at
The dusk/dawn mosquito attack wasnít bad this evening
Ė but I knew enough to close up the cabin in advance. That forward hatch
I put in since the last time I stopped by here, and especially the
screen I added this year primarily for this occasion, made a huge
Tomorrow, what to do tomorrow. Do I stay or do I move
on to Portland, the next stop? About 50 miles from the dock in
Portsmouth to the one here today; 37 or so miles from Rockport to
Portsmouth the day before. Iím getting pretty worn out, need a break. I
plan to spend two nights in Portland when I get there. Itís about 25
miles further up the coast, relatively an easy day; I could be there for
tomorrow night. I donít know what the situation is here if I were to
stay another night.
Tomorrow; another day for decisions. Tomorrow again .
Wednesday, July 30, 2008; 7:45 am Ė 68į
Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME
I apparently slept in this morning and must have
needed it; I awoke about half an hour ago, just after 7:00. I think I
remember turning over at about dawn but deciding to go back to sleep for
a while longer. For me, thatís unusual.
Part of this is a bit of exhaustion Iím sure. But
there was no reason to get up. First, thereís mosquito hour just around
dawn and the best place to be is in the cabin with it closed up until
they call it quits. Then, Iíve got to wait for the marina office to open
to settle up, and I want to buy a copy of Randyís book; heís got a few
copies for sale up there. I need ice and gas, and my buddy has offered
to drive me into town if I need any supplies. I doubt theyíll let me
stay tied up here at the gas dock, will want to put Chip Ahoy on a
mooring if I stay the day, and I had problems with them the last time I
stayed, discovering when I tried picking them (both) up that the strong
river current had twisted the pennants in useless knots. Besides, if Iím
leaving this morning itís not going to be until the sun rises high
enough that Iím not blinded again running into it through the lobster
trap buoy minefield out in Saco Bay.
The weather is looking good for getting to Portland
today, about 25 miles up the coast Ė then some miserable weather moves
in tonight and hangs around, according to NOAA weather, with lots of
showers and thunderstorms through the weekend and into the early part of
next week before moving out to sea. Today we have "one nice day before
unsettled weather moves in for a lengthy period." A cold front ridge
comes in tonight then stalls offshore. It is followed by a slow moving
area of low pressure. Tomorrow and Friday thunderstorms are "likely."
Its forecast for today: Winds from the W at 5-10
knots, SW late in the morning then S through the afternoon. Seas 2-3
feet. A chance of thunderstorms tonight. High tide in Portland is 10:00
Pushing on to Portland looks like the smart move for
today. Time to get the boat and me prepared and on our way. If I get out
of here by 10:00 I should do fine with my Portland arrival. I need to
call DiMilloís Marina soon and see it I can arrange a slip for a couple
Wednesday, July 30, 2008; 5:30 pm Ė 75į
DiMilloís Marina, Portland, ME (Slip B-13)
I dropped the dock lines at Marstonís Marina at 9:30
am, after filling up with gas and grabbing a block of ice from young and
able Logan. I picked up a copy of Randy Randallís book, "Sandbox Camp
Tales From a Maine Storyteller," at the office while paying my bill.
Randy was supposed to meet me down at the dock this morning, offered to
drive me into town if I need supplies, but the weather forecast
convinced me to move, now. I asked the young guy running the office to
apologize to Randy for my hasty departure and explain why. Geez, I wish
I knew I was leaving this morning: I didnít even get a photo of Randy.
(I should have taken one last night, grr.)
I caught the outgoing river current again perfectly,
just short of high tide as it thought about which way it was going.
Idling out on this bucolic small but lively river gave me time to get
the boat ready for a day of sailing, at least for the 25 or so
(nautical) miles I had ahead today. Then, apparently, the strange thing
occurred. Coming up to the mouth of the river I took a look about,
nothing nearby, so ducked below to lower the keel. As I was cranking the
winch down there was a distinctive thunk, a solid sort of contact feel
to it. Yikes! I cranked the winch up about ten turns then leaped into
the cockpit. I was exactly were I thought I should be, right on course
with a red nun close to Chip Ahoyís port side Ė nothing suspect anywhere
in sight, no cause for that thunk that I could figure. I made the stupid
mistake of "writing off" the immediate inexplicable. I leaned back into
the cabin and continued lowering the keel, shrugging off the strange
interruption. Ah, 20/20 hindsight is such a wonderful thing.
A bit further along I noticed the boat wasnít
pointing where it should with the outboard running and the tiller pilot
steering. I thought the motor just needed a little pointing adjustment
to get it aimed true, but found unusual resistance. I looked over the
transom and saw what I thought was a thick rope of brown kelp, no big
thing. I brought out the boat hook and thought Iíd just pull it off and
release it. I grabbed it with the boat hook Ė but it was solid! What?!?
I poked it with the end of the hook and it sure was solid. I threw the
motor into neutral and as the boat slowed Ė discovered a 3-4 foot length
of hand-made wooden ladder snagged somehow on the outboardís lower unit,
between its end rungs! What?!? Nobody could put that ladder
around that shaft even if they intended to and had a plan, nobody!
Yikes. I lifted the motor, but still couldnít free its long shaft from
the ladder. I tilted the outboard next, poked the ladder with the boat
hook, and it floated free (whew) Ė floated, mind you. I watched it
disappear behind the boat, staying on the surface though somewhat
waterlogged. Thank god it was held by the leading edge of the lower
unit, that the prop never hit the next rung or thatíd be all she wrote.
Thereís a good band playing on the outside upper deck
of the DiMilloís Restaurant, a converted cruise ship turned docked
restaurant, so Iím being serenaded as I write. I just walked up to get a
better look, but was told itís a private party. The best seat is
probably right here, aboard one of the boats the invited guests are
overlooking and probably wishing they had -- albeit the smallest.
The rest of the dayís trip was uneventful and
pleasant Ė if a bit boring. As was my plan, I had the sails up soon
after pulling out of the mouth of the river, before running into the
lobster pot buoy minefields ahead that pollute Saco Bay. For all the
good having sails did for me today. The ocean was virtually flat; a
small rolling of swells but
oily-looking. That bright sun was hot,
beating down. The only clouds were miles off in the distance over land.
The zephyrs were from the S-SW at virtually nothing, maybe 5 knots. When
I shut down and lifted the motor I had an ETA in Portland of about 20
hours at 1.5 knots, so down went the outboard again. Chip Ahoy averaged
about 4 knots to Portland motor-sailing, arriving at 3:00 pm. Here I do
R&R for two nights: Nap, eat, shop, relax, catch up with e-mail, and
otherwise simply vacation and relax.
I spotted a tugboat off in the distance when Cape
Elizabeth was coming into sight, and something else large out there well
behind the tug. I checked my chart but could find no islands or anything
else that might explain it. I kept an eye on it as I approached closer,
it seemed to have a superstructure. At last I realized what it was: The
tug was towing a huge barge,
some two hundred yards behind. Of
course, I gave them and the connecting cable wide berth; they soon
passed well off Chip Ahoyís starboard.
Coming around Cape Elizabeth toward Portland I
started cutting corners again, and saved considerable distance and time.
Using the chart and the GPS I ignored my plotted routes and headed more
directly into the harbor. I first had the insight from watching a larger
sailboat powering much closer along the coast and checked my chart. This
seemed prudent to me in clear weather like we had. My plotted routes
were and are provided for blind conditions, and Iíve learned from
previous Maine cruises that one can get much closer to the coast,
islands, and rocks due to the drop off of depth in most situations. I
reduced probably 2-3 miles from my plotted route by this dead-reckoning
exception to my usual practices. [CHART]
NOAA still predicts basically the same weather
forecast as this morning: Tonight S winds 5-10 knots, chance of showers
and thunderstorms after midnight. Tomorrow, SE winds at about 10 knots,
showers and thunderstorms likely. The threat of rain and thunderstorms
sounded considerably stronger this morning, but the same approaching
weather dynamic persists.
443 PM EDT WED JUL 30 2008
SYNOPSIS FOR STONINGTON ME TO MERRIMACK RIVER MA OUT
TO 25 NM... WEAK HIGH PRES WILL CREST OVER THE WATERS THIS EVENING...
THEN A WARM FRONT WILL CROSS THE WATERS LATER TONIGHT. A COLD FRONT WILL
MOVE SLOWLY ACROSS THE REGION THU THEN MOVE OFF THE COAST FRI MORNING.
ANOTHER STRONGER DISTURBANCE WILL MOVE SLOWLY THROUGH
THE WATERS SAT AND SAT NIGHT. HIGH PRES WILL BUILD ACROSS THE WATERS
EARLY NEXT WEEK.
All in all, Iím glad I decided to depart Saco for
Portland this morning and get ahead of this incoming weather. I thought
Iíd be, once here sitting beneath the pup-tent while the band plays on
up there on the nearby upper deck (the Doobie Brothersí "Without Love"
at the moment), relaxing for a couple of days Ė on vacation and feeling
Thursday, July 31, 2008; 8:10 am Ė 70į
DiMilloís Marina, Portland, ME (Slip B-13 Ė still!)
Curt, one of the old dock crew at DiMilloís I met on
previous stays, stopped by about 45 minutes ago to apologize and tell me
I might have to move Chip Ahoy to another slip, The owner of B13 might
be back today and would need his slip; he put me in here yesterday not
realizing I requested two nights. Aw geez, Iím all settled in,
everythingís set up, hooked up. This is why I was looking forward to my
stay here Ė so I could get settled in for a day or two, relax Ė I told
him. He advised that I donít get too concerned yet, heíd contact the
owner and see what could be worked out, if the boat would actually be
arriving today. (He did tell me that, if Chip Ahoy needed to me moved,
theyíd take care of moving it with their work boat Ė but if it needs to
be moved, Iíd rather move it myself, if it comes to having to move it.)
He just returned with good news. He spoke with the
owner, whoíll be bringing his boat in only briefly before he and the
family head back out again; heíll take another slip for his short stay
instead of making Chip Ahoy move. Curt told me the owner is a very nice
guy. I agree wholeheartedly!
This was the little drama that began my morning. I
slept in again later than usual, up around 6:30. It felt good knowing I
had nowhere to rush off to this morning, that I was settled in for the
day. I decided to not pull out the Origo stove and make coffee Ė instead
I walked up to Portland Coffee Roasting Company on Commercial Street
just up from the marina, picked up two jumbos and brought them back to
The thick fog is lifting slowly, but the boatís
barometer reads 1010 and is falling. NOAA weather is forecasting that
the low pressure over us will be stationary for today through Sunday
with a cold front moving in later today. Unsettled weather will "linger
into the coming work week." Today is supposed to be mostly cloudy and
humid. SE wind 5-10 knots, seas 2-3 feet. Showers and thunderstorms are
possible this morning, likely late this morning and early this
afternoon. Chance of rain, 70%.
Tomorrow (Friday): Partly cloudy with possible
thunderstorms, humidity continues. Wind light and variable, E at 5
knots, S in afternoon. Seas 1-2 feet. A chance of thunderstorms. Chance
of rain, 50%.
Since Iíve got a WiFi connection here (at last, one
that works, for $10/day), I caught up with my e-mail last night Ė at
least downloaded it from my cruising address. (Some 250 messages just
from the discussion group!) One of the messages sent directly to me was
from Dianna Fletcher, a new C22 owner whoíd contacted me after finding
the Chip Ahoy website some months back. She told me back then that sheíd
love to meet and look over my boat if I ever got back up to Portland, so
weíve been in touch recently and are supposed to meet today. Aaron
Mosher, a list subscriber, is also supposed to come by for a visit and
lunch again, as he did the last time I was I Portland. Iím hoping to
introduce the two. Dianneís PR/marketing company apparently does some
business with the company where Aaron works; she thinks she might know
At now 10:00 am, some weather seems to be
approaching: The cloud cover is thickening, a breeze is picking up . . .
Ė 12:20 pm Ė
Dianna Fletcher is supposed to come by soon; Iíll
meet Aaron Mosher for lunch at Three Dollar Deweyís around 1:30. Itís
hard to relate to them still having working hours while Iím sitting here
luxuriating aboard my boat. As I said in an e-mail to the two of them
last night, getting them here at the same time will be like herding
I just got back from hiking up to Hamilton Marine
Supply and found it at last! Iíve been looking for a "waterproof"
chartbook that covers north of Cape Ann for years. I settled for a
relatively huge one for my first coast of Maine cruise, but itís too
large and unwieldy to fit in the cockpit handily. This trip, the wind
tore pages loose from its spiral binding; it was becoming a mess of
unwieldy. Besides, the unwieldy was also not waterproof, so stayed wet
when it got rained upon; its pages sort of gluing themselves to each
other. But Iíd been unable to find a smaller version locally back home.
I figured if I was to find one anywhere, itíd be up here, at Hamiltonís,
and sure enough! It covers where my "home" chartbook leaves off: Cape
Ann (MA) to Portland (ME) including Chebeague Island and just north of
it Ė perfect. It doesnít take much to make a happy sailor.
Ė 3:30 pm Ė
Such a relaxing stay so far.
Dianna made it down and
we had a nice visit and useful I hope discussion on her and her
husband's C22, under preparation for launch hopefully by next month. She
took a look around Chip Ahoy and had a few questions, realizes Iíve had
five years to bring it to where it is. She and her husband are at the
"cleaning out the bilges" stage after years of neglect. We laughed over
our common experiences, me with Barbara as backup if I got stuck
crawling around down there cleaning out years of gunk, my cell phone
with me Ė her with her husband squeezed in below the cockpit scrapping
out the years of crud, wondering if he could crawl back out the way he
As she was preparing to leave and get back to work,
Aaron called from the gate above. I walked Dianna out where we met
Aaron. Sure enough, he recognized her from business in the past. She
left, Aaron and I went over to Jís Oyster next door to the marina
parking lot for lunch. (We didnít bother with Three Dollar Deweyís
restaurant and pub up the street this time; he was in a bit of a rush
with his work/job.) First Aaron came down and looked over Chip Ahoy and
itís improvements and upgrades since the last time heíd been aboard, in
Iím now considering staying for another night Ė but
that means Iíd almost definitely need to move Chip Ahoy to a different
slip. Maybe that wouldnít be so difficult, if I can leave most of the
settled-in setup intact (e.g., the pup tent and everything
electrical/electronic below), bring around the dinghy separately. Iím
still a bit worn out, could use another day here Ė plus inertia, Iím
sure, has taken a hold. Iíd blame it on the weather but, besides the
overcast gray sky all afternoon, thereís been nothing close to
Ė 4:15 pm Ė
Todayís afternoon showers and thunderstorms have
arrived and commenced. The thunder I hear is from a cell 6 miles NW of
Biddeford (Saco) moving this way at 20 mph; The warning is in effect
through 5:00 pm. It brings large hail; winds up to 45 mph "can be
expected" along with downpours producing up to 1 inch an hour. "Boaters
should seek safe harbor as soon as possible." If caught in it, "seek
shelter below deck immediately." Time to close up the companionway; even
beneath the pup-tent the rainís begun blowing in. Iíve got the forward
hatch opened maybe two inches for ventilation. I may have to dogged that
Iíve just arranged to stay for another (tomorrow)
night, leave Saturday morning, but as expected will have to move Chip
Ahoy to another slip. Iím hoping this can be accomplished without
"breaking camp" too much. I wonít know where Chip Ahoy will be
reassigned until the morning.
I donít expect the weather is going to improve all
that much between tomorrow and Saturday morning, or through the weekend
for that matter, according to NOAA weather radio. This kindía sucks but
is what it is. Hey, Iím on vacation Ė donít need to sweat the small
stuff like weather. Whoa, that strike was nearby! At least here at
DiMilloís, little Chip Ahoy isnít the tallest boat around.
Ė 10:00 pm Ė
The rain began coming down at 4:30 pm. I closed up
the boat and took a long nap. The rain is still coming in occasional
showers but nothing serious; Iíve got the companionway open, the forward
hatch still closed after finding that rain was squeezing in between the
minor 2 inch gap.
Iím somewhat distracted by the apparent port list to
Chip Ahoy Ė judging by the
angle of the gimbaled oil lamp here in the
cabin. Iíve noticed this before, but it seems especially pronounced this
evening. I just removed the cushions and hatch covers Ė no easy feat in
such confined quarters with it raining outside Ė and the bilges are dry,
so the boatís not taking on water. (When suspicious, investigate!) The
gimbaled compass on the cabin trunk in the cockpit looks normal, a very
slight, almost imperceptible port list to it. Itís apparently just
stowage weight distribution, and me sitting on the port side writing.
Still, that oil lampís tilt bothers me.
It - is - just - so - good sitting here in a
well-protected marina while the rain comes down, when thunderstorms
reign; connected to shore power with everything fully recharged Ė even
the pocket-camera battery and spare; cabin light on with impunity.
Everything I need Ė no, might want Ė is just a walk up the dock
and a short distance away. And nowhere to go tomorrow but to move the
boat to a different slip. This isnít cruising in its truest sense: Itís
vacationing! I can actually afford to notice bothersome little
distractions like the tilt of the oil lamp, and look into it.
Friday, August 1, 2008; 8:10 am Ė 67į
DiMilloís Marina, Portland, ME (Slip B-13)
Itís very foggy, cool, and wet; everything topside is
wet from yesterdayís rain and thunderstorms and last nightís showers.
The pup-tent did its job nicely, but the forward hatch remains closed
NOAA weather for today: Wind E at 5 knots, waves 1-2
feet. Chance of thunderstorms and showers. For tomorrow: Warm, humid and
unsettled with occasional showers and thunderstorms in the morning,
likely in the afternoon, through the weekend. Dense fog mostly mornings
and nights. Wind from the E at 5-10 knots, light and variable.
ANZ081-011430 - GULF OF MAINE TO THE HAGUE LINE - 400
AM EDT FRI AUG 1 2008
SYNOPSIS FOR NEW ENGLAND WATERS
A WEAK STATIONARY FRONT EXTENDING W TO E ACROSS
GEORGES BANK WILL DRIFT N AND DISSIPATE TODAY AND TONIGHT... AS WEAK LOW
PRES MOVES E ALONG THE FRONT. STRONGER LOW PRES WILL MOVE OFF THE NJ
COAST LATE SAT... NE ACROSS THE WATERS SUN... THEN SLOWLY DRIFT E OF THE
REGION MON. HIGH PRES RIDGE WILL BUILD INTO THE AREA TUE.
Today: A chance of showers, with thunderstorms also
possible after 2pm. Patchy fog before 2pm. Otherwise, mostly cloudy,
with a high near 72. East wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is
40%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher
amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tonight: A chance of showers, mainly before 2am.
Areas of dense fog. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. East
wind between 3 and 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall
amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Saturday: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly
after 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 73. East wind between 7 and 9
mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a
quarter and half of an inch possible.
Saturday Night: Showers likely. Patchy fog.
Otherwise, cloudy, with a low around 62. East wind around 10 mph. Chance
of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and
one inch possible.
Sunday: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Cloudy,
with a high near 74. North wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation
is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch
I walked over to Portland Roasting Company again this
morning and brought back two jumbo cups of coffee. On the way I
belatedly remembered the thermos stowed in the odds-and-ends locker
beneath the forward dinette seat; on my return I poured the coffee into
it to keep it warm. (Yesterdayís second cup had cooled to luke warm
before I got to it.) As I was listening and reading the NOAA weather
forecast I got a call from the marina office about this morningís move
to another slip, C-19. I just walked around to look over the situation:
This is a really simple move just around the end of B dock into the slip
at the end of C dock. Bow in, I donít even need to change over my dock
lines and fenders: Just disconnect the power cord, start the motor, drop
the rudder, untie the dock lines, idle around the end of B dock, and tie
up in my new spot. I wonít even need to take down the pup-tent. For
having to move from settled in, this is an easy one.
Ė 10:30 am Ė Slip C-19
the move went easily. It was almost not
worth starting the motor for the fumes it took to get here Ė it probably
used more gas just warming up. Chip Ahoy and I are settled in again, for
Barbara will be a guest on Michael Grahamís radio
program from 11:00-noon on WTKK FM-96.9, then on The Eagan & Braude
program from noon until 1:00 filling in for Margery with her old nemesis
and friend, Jim Braude. I canít pick up the FM station on the CCRadio,
but am now listening to WTKK over the Internet. Technology and WiFi are
CCRadio Plus has been a disappointment. It is supposed to be able to
pick up especially distant AM radio signals with its special internal
ferrite antenna. I havenít noticed any difference from my regular
el-cheapo AM/FM radio/lights/siren/fan combo. Its speaker sounds better
when I lock onto a channel, but Iíve found little difference in picking
up distant radio stations. I expected a more significant improvement.
Ė 7:15 pm Ė
I had lunch this afternoon at Jís Oyster next door Ė
the fish chowder Iíd promised myself yesterday. While there, I met a
couple young guys sitting next to me, both electricians and both with
small boat experience [Gary Hockney, master electrician: 207-693-6094].
We got talking (after I asked for directions to the nearby deli I was
told sold cold cuts) about boats, boating, and what I was doing up here.
When the discussion got to lightning, they were very interested in what
happened when Chip Ahoy was struck in 2006. I gave them one of my Chip
Ahoy business cards and told them Iíd be back aboard in an hour, invited
them to stop down and look over my boat. Micucci Grocery Company was, as
I visualized, near Hamilton Marine Supply, about a mileís walk away. I
bought my three dollars worth of sliced ham and sliced cheese, then
returned to the boat as I got Garyís call. We met at DiMillos a few
minutes later and they looked over Chip Ahoy.
Gary told me heíd heard that Catalinaís were good,
well-built, reliable boats and loved mine and what Iíve done with it. I
thought they wanted to look over its wiring, but I guess not. Just as
good. That would have meant moving all kinds of things out of the way to
access the electrical stuff. It would have been nice to get a
professional opinion, but I didnít push it; really didnít want to make
Saturday, August 2, 2008; 6:30 am Ė 65į
DiMilloís Marina, Portland, ME (Slip C-19)
NWS Forecast for: Portland ME - 43.66N-70.24W
Issued by: National Weather Service Gray/Portland, ME
Last Update: 5:53 am EDT Aug 2, 2008
Today: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after
2pm. Areas of fog before 11 am. Otherwise, cloudy, with a high near 74.
East wind between 3 and 8 mph. Seas one foot or less. Chance of
precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an
inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms. Some
thunderstorms my produce small hail and gusty winds.
Tonight: Showers and thunderstorms. Patchy fog. Low
around 63. Southeast wind around 8 mph. Seas 1-2 feet. Chance of
precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between one and two inches
Sunday: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 74.
East wind around 8 mph. Seas 2-3 feet. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch
The weather doesnít look very inviting at all for my
trip out to Chebeague Island this morning. Though the text forecast
(above) indicates the chance of rain at 70%, NOAA weather radio calls
for "near 100%" today. The route Iíve plotted is 9.54 miles, so I should
be there within three hours after departing here. Thereís a flood watch
issued for interior northern New Hampshire and western Maine with 3
inches of rain expected to fall.
I just got back from filling the thermos with coffee,
this morning from the Standard Bakery, a block further up Commercial
Street from Portland Roasting Company, which hadnít opened yet. The
coffeeís quite good, but their baked on the premises fare looked great.
The thermos was a gift from Monica on my cruise up to
her place in South Addison in 2005; she hadnít used it and thought I
might be able to. I havenít until this cruise, but brought it along and
only remembered having it aboard yesterday. Itís very handy, will get
more use in the future for sure.
Back aboard, I dug out my jeans, socks and a sweater
(the red "British & Islandian Yachting," a gift from Barbara she
discovered stored away from years ago) Ė for the first time this trip.
Itís too cool, damp, and foggy for just shorts and t-shirt this morning.
When I climbed out of my sleeping bag this morning it felt considerably
cool, but I expected the temperature to come up by now. I may need the
extra clothing for the rest of the day, it sounds like Ė along with my
foul-weather gear before the dayís over. Iíll make it handy before
Last evening I watched a 36-foot-or-so Mainship,
"Cerulean," motor into slip B13, where Iíd spent the last two nights. I
walked over and introduced myself to John and his wife, thanked them for
not insisting on repossessing their slip on Thursday so I didnít have to
"break camp" and move. Curt was right; he and his wife were very nice
Ė 8:30 am Ė
The fogís still thick Ė unseen fog horns are blowing
in the distance and closer almost as if theyíre communicating with each
other. Whatís a bit unsettling is that some of those horns are moving
out there, accompanied by the sound of large engines throbbing Ė
belonging no doubt to huge tankers and freighters plodding along
blindly. Theyíre presence is intimidating enough when you see them
coming at a distance and have time to get out of their way.
Oh yeah, thatís what it is alright! I just walked out
to the outer fuel dock as the horn blasted louder, the throbbing closer.
There it was ghosting by, a
mighty freighter being led through the dense
fog by a pilot boat.
Timing this departure is getting tricky. I want to be
out of here by 11:00 am to arrive at my mooring off Chebeague Island
before 2:00 pm, when the worst of the weather is predicted to arrive.
But I canít leave until this fog lifts Ė especially on the route Iíve
plotted out of Portland Harbor and through the narrow channel just
inside Little and Great Diamond Islands. Once beyond Great Diamond Island, itís
a pretty much straight shot up to Great Chebeague Island, though it gets
tricky again when approaching close to Littlejohn Island and the
submerged shallows protruding from Great Chebeague. There is little room
for error there, Iíve been warned, with a large reach of barely
submerged rocks that needs to be kept to starboard up to red nun "18" --
a broad field that can appear to be a very tempting shortcut for the
unwary mariner. Apparently many have tried, unsuccessfully. High tide
today here is at 12:30 pm, so the shallow rocks will likely be covered
by an outgoing tide.
I called and spoke with Marianne last night, so sheís
aware I should be arriving early this afternoon. Next I called the
Chebeague Inn, spoke with Nancy, and reserved a mooring there for two
NOAA weather is now calling for showers and
thunderstorm late this morning as "likely" Ė this afternoon there seems
to be no question of them. Iíll be motoring all the way today, if I can
get out of here soon. Along with foul-weather gear, the air-horn will be
within reach. This is feeling more like another adventure about to
happen. I donít like leaving with this fog, which seems to be somewhat
lifting, but departure time to beat the storms at the other end is
Saturday, August 2, 2008; 2:05 pm Ė 74į
Chegeague Inn Mooring
For this afternoon and tonight, NOAA weather radio is
now forecasting: Showers and wide-spread thunderstorms likely; some
thunderstorms may be severe with strong wind, small hail, and frequent
lightning. "Recreational boaters should stay alert to the rapidly
changing conditions, seek shelter immediately when a storm threatens."
Iíve disconnected the mast top antennaís coax cable from the VHF radio;
am now listening to the solar-charging CCRadioís weather channel.
Chip Ahoy and I departed DiMilloís Marina at 10:20
this morning and headed into what I hoped would be clearing fog. It
never quite did, in fact in some areas it thickened.
reached beyond half a mile. Navigating by GPS got me here through
fog at 12:30 pm. The oceanís surface was flat, which was good in low
visibility while crossing 10 miles of lobster pot buoy minefields. I ran
into some very light showers, drizzle, for a while; donned my
foul-weather jacket over the sweater.
I reached my
ultimate destination in 125 nautical
miles (about 144 statute miles) since leaving Marblehead, according to the GPS trip odometer. It
sure seems like I covered more distance! [CHART]
my mooring upon arrival was a big hassle Ė
actually the directions coming from the innís front office over my cell
phone were, err, misleading and inaccurate at best Ė in fact, not even
close. They finally sent the launch out to lead me to one. The mooring
wasnít even stripped blue and white as I was told to look for.
Oh well, Iím here now and settled in for a couple of
days, pup-tent up and all, ahead of the storms. Thereís no WiFi signal
out here on the mooring, but Iím told the inn has access I can use. To
bring my dinghy ashore would be an additional charge of $10/day, on top
of the $45/day for this mooring. But strangely, the innís launch is at
my disposal free of charge with a phone call to the innís front desk.
Iím told by the launch driver that Iíll understand why when I see the
packed dinghy dock.
I called Marianne and told her Iíd made it. She was
going to come right down and pick me up, but I told her I was in no rush
Ė in fact could use a nap. That was good for her too; she was just about
to take one as well before my call. Sheís having a family cookout this
evening to which Iím invited: Grilled pork chops, corn, "and the other
usual fixings" she said, and hoped this was good for me. I told her it
sounded excellent. Sheíll drive down to the dock and pick me up at about
At 2:55 pm, here comes the first real rainfall as the
small-as-ferries-go "Islander" ferry runs past again, this time on its
mainland inbound route.
Sunday, August 3, 2008; 7:00 am Ė 64į
Chegeague Inn Mooring, #270
Showers threatened all day yesterday, were light on
and off. The weather didnít arrive in earnest until about 8:30 pm, just
as I was being shuttled back to Chip Ahoy by Andy in the innís small
launch, a Boston Whaler with a 40 hp Honda 4-stroke. He blasted out to
deliver me before the rain got heavy.
Back onboard and after a look around to make sure all
was well and as should be, I battened down the hatches and sprawled out
the bunk, tried to hook up the CCRadioís optional LED lamp, to read by.
I found a way to suspend its power wire from the window curtainsí velcro
closures, but the lamp provides no attachment points so it was a less
than ideal solution but worked. Iíve found that the gimbaled oil-lamp is
good for overall ambient light in the cabin, but it doesnít provide
enough light for reading by. I seem to recall that it used to, so maybe
itís my eyes? Nah, must be the lamp Ė I just got new glasses a few
months ago, a stronger prescription!
Itís comfortable sitting out here on this mooring all
alone in the early morning, using the "all-purpose bucket" without
concern. There are some two dozen other boats moored around Chip Ahoy,
but this is nothing compared to its crowded homeport in Salem Harbor.
Most are local lobster boats and other work boats; two are sailboats Ė
larger than Chip Ahoy, of course. The Origo stove in the cockpit is
cooking water for my "tea bag" coffee as the boat rolls gently on flat
water with a mild breeze from the southwest. The fog is pretty dense
again, though I can see the innís dock about 300 yards away, just make
out a hint of the inn up on the hill beyond the 9-hole golf course.
Yesterday I called Marianne soon after finding a
mooring and tying up, getting the boat settled in for the stay, the
pup-tent up. We arranged for her to pick me up at 5:00 pm and take me to
her house (one of two it turned out) for a regular family cookout. After
what I went through with the innís front desk while trying to find my
assigned mooring, I thought it wise to get more specific answers to
lingering questions about the innís launch service. The exchange over my
cell phone, and the lesson it reinforced, is worthy of recount:
ME: I understand I cannot bring my dinghy into your
dock without an additional charge, but that the inn provides free launch
service back and forth for guests on moorings. So Iíll be using your
launch service to get ashore, but I have a question. How late does your
launch service run?
LADY AT THE DESK; Oh, that should be no
ME: Good, but you didnít answer my question. How late
does your launch service run?
DESK: When you get back, just call the front desk
and weíll send the launch driver right down to take you out to your
ME: But you still havenít answered my question. How
late does your launch service run?
DESK: Weíll I donít know, but there should be no
problem . . .
ME: If I get back down to your dock at, say, midnight
Ė the launch will still be available with my phone call?
DESK: Well, I donít know about midnight. Do you
expect to need it at midnight?
ME: I just want to know the situation. If I need the
launch to get back out to my boat, how late can I expect it to be
DESK: I think you can expect it to be available
whenever you need it.
ME: Thatís very nice, I appreciate it, the service
and all Ė but Iíve heard "We appreciate your patience and apologize for
your inconvenience" after the fact too many times. This time, my
"inconvenience" for which you will casually apologize tomorrow morning
might be me sleeping in the fetal position at the end of your dock after
a night of showers and thunderstorms with me beneath them and my boat
out there unreachable. I donít want you to need apologize for that, and
you donít want to have to, trust me. So why donít you just tell me when
your launch service wonít be available, so I donít have to sleep on the
end of your dock.
DESK: Hold on, let me check (background
conversation). Andy just walked in Ė heís the launch driver Ė Iíll have
you speak with him.
ANDY: Hello Chip. What time do you plan to need the
ME: I donít know. [I explained my situation and
invitation to the cookout.] I donít expect Iíll be back and need to get
out to my boat later than nine oíclock. I want to know for sure that
Iíll be able to.
Andy gave me his personal cell phone number to call
so I didnít need to go through the innís front desk, and told me 9:00
was no problem, heíd be available. Thatís all I needed, whew. Almost all
I needed. When it was time to be picked up and
taken ashore, instead of
calling the front desk I used Andyís private number. It worked.
Then he drove me up to the inn in its golf cart, where I could look out
over Chip Ahoy on its
I still wasnít 100 percent confident/comfortable, so
made sure I was brought back to the dock from the cookout early, at
8:30, before the launch turned into a pumpkin. A call to Andyís cell
phone and he was right down, took me right out to Chip Ahoy. Allís well
that ends well.
Ė 8:05 am Ė
Thunder is rumbling nearby, coming closer. The dense
fog is dissipating somewhat. The Islander ferry is on a mainland-bound
run close off Chip Ahoyís stern. Itís surprising how little of a wake it
leaves, almost imperceptible.
I disconnected Chip Ahoyís mast top VHF antenna upon
arrival here yesterday and it remains so. Instead, Iím listening to the
NOAA weather forecast on the CCRadio this morning, not that Iím going
anywhere or moving the boat today. The weather ahead looks pretty
miserable Ė Tuesday seems like the next window, after this low moves off
on Monday, before the next one moves in on Wednesday bringing "another
round of unsettled weather with showers and thunderstorms." I think Iíll
use that to get back to Portland Ė sheesh, only ten miles toward home.
Iím looking over my charts, considering creating a new course/route from
here around and outside Chebeague Island and directly to Saco Ė but
thatís a pretty good run for one day. It doesnít appear that itíd save
many miles if any, even while putting me further offshore.
The closing rumble of thunder has become more
I planned to take the launch in this morning, have
the innís breakfast and take advantage of its WiFi service, but now am
going to sit out whatever is moving at us here. Two cups of "tea bag"
coffee down, time to boil more water for a third. Andy told me his
launch will be available this morning after 7:00 am, but Iím in no rush
at the moment; actually quite comfortable right here. Iíve got the
laptop plugged into the boatís battery (switched to just #1); hoping I
donít run it down with this journal/log writing on the mooring.
Learn something new every day. With that statement I
noticed the laptop was no longer charging, was in fact down to 48%
internal battery power. The 12v Lind charger cable is plugged in and
lit, at the cigarette lighter adapter and at its inverter box. I
experienced this earlier along this trip Ė the problem was a draining
boat battery, #1 again. I just lowered and started the outboard for its
alternator and, sure enough, the laptop is charging again. Battery #1 Ė
now in its fifth year since I bought and installed it new, must be on
its last legs. At this moment Iím especially gratified that I added the
second battery and 4-way battery switch. Strange is that I motored the
ten miles here from Portland with the switch set to "both," so expected
that both batteries were fully charged. This morning I checked the volt
meter and both appeared to be so. The trade-off now seems to be gas for
electrical power, my outboard now becoming a generator. Iím glad Iíve
got the full 6-gallon spare tank available. (I can see C22 racers
gnashing their teeth from here at my cruising redundancies, but possibly
now appreciating the need for them.) Once #1 is fully charged (the
electric starter turned right over without any hesitation Ė unlike the
last time) Iím going to try switching over to newer Battery #2 for
onboard use on the mooring, see what happens.
I took the launch ashore yesterday at just after 4:00
pm to allow time for me to investigate the inn, see what is available
before Marianne was due at 5:00 to pick me up. When she arrived we had a
brief reunion before she drove us back toward her house, stopping at the
one-and-only grocery and general store on the island, Doughtyís, a small
place with the essentials. Iíll be able to get ice there but cubes only
it appeared. (Blocks last so much longer.)
At her house I met the first few from her large
family summering on the island in that and her other house. Noting all
the names of everyone I met last night will be impossible here and now,
but there was Joe and one of her daughters, and Peter her son and owner
of a 23-foot sailboat, a "Compaq" or something like that built in
Florida and moored on the other side of the island. Marianne stopped by
the boatyard/post office/gift shop off of which itís moored and, from a
distance, it looked bigger than twenty-three feet. Peterís supposed to
bring it around to here later today so we can compare boats. (The
thunderís still rumbling all around, still getting closer, but itís
actually brightening here. Whoa that last clap was real close by!
The storm cell is very near now and the skyís darkening again
dramatically to the southwest.)
The cookout fare was excellent: Grilled pork chops
and chicken, all sorts of side dishes including corn on the cob, salad,
etc., along with cheese, crackers, chips, and humus dip for appetizers.
Quite a great meal, and really nice folks. Peter drove me back to the
dock where the launch took me out to Chip Ahoy.
Ė 10:15 am Ė
Boy, would this ever be
miserable weather Ė if I
cared or was going anywhere. Itís raining as hard as rain knows how to
come down, the lightning and thunder have been overhead and nearby since
I shut down the laptop. Very nasty, but no hail or high winds at least.
Down below in the cabin Iím comfortable, but racing out beneath the
pup-tent into the rain to shut down the outboard and raise it got me
While I was talking to Barbara on the cell phone
during my morning report-in, Marianne called at 9:00 to tell me they
were heading down to the inn for breakfast, invited me to join them. I
told her I wasnít moving until this storm passed. I told her to not
worry about me, that Iím on vacation Ė my own "island time" and would
fend. I feel bad if she thinks itís her responsibility to entertain me,
as Iím sure she must. I hope that I can convince her otherwise. Sheís
got her family here for the weekend: Entertaining them is enough for her
to need consider. Iím already behind by hours with potentials to explore
just ashore, thanks to this weather.
It has been pretty intense: Very heavy rain and
lightning strikes all about nearby for the past hour or so.
Iíve discovered a slight leak in the aft,
starboard-side cabin window Ė exactly above where I usually have my
portable electrical/electronics things laid out. Itís the first time
Iíve noticed it; but then, itís the first time in a long time Iíve been
aboard during such a deluge to catch it. One of next yearís Chip Ahoy
projects will be to reseal the windows; but Iíd considered doing that
anyway. Now I know it needs to be done, the sooner the better.
Ė 10:35 Ė
The sky is clearing, I see some blue amongst the
clouds and low-laying fog, almost even sunshine breaking through. Itís
time to head ashore and see what else is there on the island. Letís see
if I can connect to the innís WiFi and get a cup of their coffee.
Ė 5:10 pm Ė
What a wonderful afternoon after all.
I got ashore by launch, taken up to the inn in the
electric golf cart, and found a WiFi signal and electrical hookup. Prior
to that, though, on the way in I noticed I was bleeding on my yellow
foul-weather jacket, damn. Iíd cut my hand yesterday, nothing unusual
for me, but I didnít put a band-aid over it so I didnít bleed on things
until I healed. Grr, I thought Iíd learned that lesson. Andy, the launch
shuttle master, advised that I speak to the lady at the front desk, that
she was good with advice for getting blood out. (Now thatíd make anyone
think twice, I suspect!) I did, and she told me to take it into the menís
room and run the jacket under cold water then wipe off the blood
stains with a paper hand towel and hand soap. Darned if it didnít work,
removed the blood smears completely.
But before sending me off to my task she wanted to
tend to my (negligible in my estimation, just another) wound; came back
with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to clean it, bacitracin to disinfect
it, and a bandaid -- and a spare bandaid for later when I'd need it! Thereís no limit to the innís service I guess. It was
only later that I learned that this lady was Marianneís daughter, who
works there and was in today working the front desk. . . .
Time out: Something buggyís going on with the
electrical. The computerís already down to 87% on its internal battery.
Iíve had the boatís switch set to battery #2 after the last similar
situation. Iíve just started the outboard again for its charging
alternator. According to the onboard volt meter on the two boat
batteries, everythingís fine. Somethingís wrong Ė eureka, of course.
The alligator clips for the cigarette lighter adapter are connected
only to battery #1. Battery #2 is connected independently through
the busses, the configuration intended to prevent exactly this
sort of situation. I set it up this way to avoid even an accidental
occurrence, duh. Nice at least to be able to look it over, check it out,
remind myself what I did personally when I hooked
everything all up way back then and especially why.
Smart in the long run (when I forgot, which was
exactly what I was planning for back then), but an inconvenience at the
moment. I think battery #1 is tired. I want to try running the laptop
off battery #2 for a comparison. This will take a little work and time.
Iím thinking itís maybe a curse, enjoying working on your boat as much
as using it? . . .
Iíve switched the alligator clips for the cigarette
lighter adapter to battery #2, mostly out of curiosity, have shut off
the 8 hp Honda "electrical power generating plant" hanging off Chip
Ahoyís transom. I suspect that battery #1 has reached the end of its
life expectancy and isnít holding a charge as it used to, should Ė needs
to be retired soon; or reserved just as the starting battery and rely on
#2 as the "house" battery.
. . . I did my e-mail, read the local (Boston)
newspapers to catch up, sent relevant articles home to my work address
for when I get back and want/need them, and had lunch. It was a strange
menu the inn offered: No sandwiches, just something called "Tojas."
Asked what they were, the waiter told me "tiny sandwiches." I ordered a
bowl of seafood chowder. It was pretty decent and most of all
convenient; it was served right at the table in the innís "Great Room"
where I had set up my temporary office, could look out from the porch at
Chip Ahoy below.
I got a call from Marianne. She was at her son
Peterís boat: They were about to head over here, would arrive within an
hour and a half. Perfect for me too. I took my time then
Chip Ahoy, got prepared to accept guests aboard, a rafting.
They showed up right on time; called as they
approached. Iíd sighted and been watching them come in. As they
approached I told them to take up Chip Ahoyís starboard side, which Iíd
prepared. Once we were rafted together under a sunlit sky the relaxing
Peterís Com-Pac 23, "EllaJ," is actually 23-point-something Ė
but the difference is that his boat has a short bowsprit, just over a
foot in length. I regret I didnít take the opportunity to board and look
over his boat Ė not "more" but at all. It was one of those afternoons. I
also regret that I didnít get photos of the folks alongside and aboard Ė
despite my best intentions and plan, even to putting the camera just
inside my cabin within reach of the cockpit where I couldnít miss it Ė
or theoretically even forget it was there. Somehow, I managed to
accomplish both. I missed some important cruise photos, but Marianne has
comforted me that she captured most if not all of them on her own
camera, such as . . .
Finally -- for the first time ever Ė somebody
crazy enough to jump into the frigid water up here without threat or
aggrandizement agreed to test my boarding ladder, installed by me how
many years ago and never tested? One of Peterís daughters, young Abbie
Isenberg (age 11), was determined to go swimming off our sterns, asked
dad to deploy his boarding ladder. "Hey, use mine Ė test it out for me,
be the first to use it!" I interjected. So she did, and it worked as
expected. Even an eleven-year-old could release the bungie cord, drop it
on her own and climb into the cockpit comfortably, she said. I expected
sheíd have no problem Ė but still, it was the first practical test of
something (the release) Iíd designed in 2004 but had never real-world
tested. It worked as expected: Even an eleven-year-old managed it
effortlessly on her first try, with no help from me or anyone else.
Marianne, Peter, and I had sat in Chip Ahoyís cockpit
for a couple of hours when they mentioned going back, invited me to
dinner with them at an island restaurant over on the other side. I was
all for it, until I was informed this meant me leaving Chip Ahoy when
they left. It was going to take a bit of time to close up the boat,
especially considering the rafting situation. But then I looked over my
shoulder at the sky, and the incoming weather situation; considered the
timing of their plan.
"See that gray cloud mass coming in from the
southwest?" I pointed out. "Thatís nasty weather approaching, looks like
soon. I need a half hour to close up my boat if Iím going with you Ė and
really, you donít have that half-hour. You should be going soon if not
now if you want to avoid it."
Marianne argued to give me time to first shut up Chip
Ahoy. I asserted that they donít really have that time, they should
leave sooner. I pointed at the edge of the cloud mass moving at us
rather quickly, at the sun-highlighted towering cloud. "Thatís a cumulo-nimbus
cloud, a thunderhead in the near distance." It was in the same basic
location from which this morningís thunder-boomers originated and seemed
Peter blew me away, humbled me: "If he thinks we
should go now, then we should go now. He does this, knows the weather."
Hell, in the end it never arrived here over us Ė so much for confidence
in my prognostication. But it didnít miss by much and the clouds have
steadily moved back in, dark sky now and thunder in the near distance.
It is coming. I asked them to call me when they made it back to Peterís
mooring. They did, are home. From my perspective, itís always better to
err on the safe side. No regrets. It was a great afternoon with an
unexpected amount of sunshine, really a gift, and some good people
aboard/alongside. It doesnít get any better Ė unless you remember to
catch your photos while you can and when you should. Shame on me.
[The laptop Ė running off boat battery #2 Ė is now
charged at 100% and the outboard motor/generator hasnít been turned on
since the switch-over. Iíve got a dying battery #1 that needs to be
replaced by next spring. Ah well, nothing lasts forever.]
Monday, August 4, 2008; 7:30 am Ė 64į
Chegeague Inn Mooring, #270
Waking in dense fog has become the norm for the past
few days, with the constant possibility of showers and thunderstorms.
Weatherwise, this cruise has been pretty much a bust Ė probably the
wettest Iíve ever done. Iíd hoped it was behind me after that
inauspicious departure a week behind schedule. Everything aboard is damp
and thereís been little if any chance for drying out. The phrase
"showers and thunderstorms" in the forecasts has been relentless and
become monotonous, almost inevitable. Solar panels are useless.
Iíve extended my stay here for another night; the
weather is supposed to be usual (Iíd say bad, but thatís the usual).
Getting home from here is going to be a challenge, according to the long
range weather forecast. Thereís a change coming later today, with better
weather (better, not ideal or close to it) for tomorrow. Then itís
another lousy day on Wednesday. Thursday looks decent, but more nasty
comes in that night and, well, into the weekend again it looks Ė but
thatís still a ways off. Hereís the NOAA forecast for the next few days,
transcribed from the radio in little snatches over the past hour.
Today: Mostly cloudy. Wind NE 10-15 knots turning NW
in the afternoon. Seas 2 feet or less. Chance of showers and
thunderstorms this morning, likely this afternoon with heavy rain. Winds
and seas higher near thunderstorms. The low thatís stuck us with this
weather is moving out east up to Nova Scotia today.
Tomorrow looks decent: Partly sunny, wind N at 5-10
knots turning light and variable; seas 1-2 feet.
Wednesday is supposed to be unsettled with a new low
pressure area coming in from the west, bringing more showers and
thunderstorms; seas 2-4 feet; chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Thursday looks decent.
Ė 8:15 am Ė
Itís raining, again; showers. That forward hatch I
installed has seen minimal use during this trip. By comparison, the
pup-tent over the companionway hatch and forward part of the cockpit has
a right to feel worn out. It remains the saving grace of living aboard
during this rainy cruise. I need to design something similar to stretch
above the forward hatch to keep out rain but allow air: This is when its
circulation is most appreciated Ė to keep the dampness at least moving.
Iíd have taken the launch up to the inn for their
coffee and WiFi access if it werenít for the rain and its risk to the
laptop. Soon I shall anyway. The sky to the east is brightening, blue
streaks even. This shower will likely pass over soon. Marianneís tour of
the island planned for today should be nice. She just called on schedule
at 9:00, just after I called and spoke with Barbara, my usual morning
check-in call. Iíll now go ashore after a call to the inn, decide what
to bring along. Iíd like to find a shower, either at the inn if
available or perhaps at Marianneís place. I knew I should have brought
along that small backpack to carry my shower stuff and change of
clothes: It was in the pile of things in my living room to take aboard
and bring along; but I couldnít think of why I would need it, so left it
behind. Now I recall why it was added to my list after the last cruise.
Ė 9:20 pm Ė
"I apologize for your inconvenience, and appreciate
your patience." So said the lady at the innís front desk this morning at my
insistence, when they couldnít find their launch driver, or any
launch driver to come out and take me ashore, leaving me stuck aboard
for over an hour.
"So maybe now you understand my insistence on Sunday
that you give me more information about when your launch service will
stop running," I asserted. "Remember how I told you I did not
want to find myself curled in the fetal position at the end of your dock
in the morning suffering hypothermia after suffering torrential
downpours all night when you finally got in; how I didnít want to hear
pathetic excuses for your launch service; how I didnít buy your
assurances that Ďit will available and there whenever you need ití? What
happened to your vow that it will be always available? Where is your
launch. Iím waiting. I want to hear you say it, I told you that youíd be
offering those words sooner or later. After me Ė ĎI
apologize for your inconvenience and appreciate your patience.í"
She gave me Andyís cell phone number to call: I
told her I had it, that Andy told me yesterday that heíd be on the
mainland, someone else would be running the launch. So she gave me
Andyís home and office phone numbers! I told her Iíd try to reach him,
then submit my bill for services rendered to the inn. When I did, Andy
told me the inn knew he wasnít coming out to the island today, that
someone else was supposed to be filling in today; told me to call back
the inn, ask for Nancy instead. The lady answering the phone was new, didnít know what was
going on yet! After another half hour or more, I finally managed to get
the launch to come out and get me to shore. What a frigging fiasco up
there at the inn: The left hand doesnít know what it was doing, let
alone what the right hand was doing.
But they did arrange a shower for me when I finally
arrived (for an additional $10), and found a cup of coffee for me since
Iíd missed their breakfast and coffee by about an hour, thanks to being
abandoned out aboard Chip Ahoy.
The weather was disgustingly miserable all day with
heavy showers more often than not throughout the day Ė some quite
ferocious. After my shower and some time using the innís WiFi
connection, Marianne drove down and picked me up. We picked up a couple
"Italian sandwiches" at Doughtyís Store Ė the only place other
than the inn to buy anything to eat. After lunch around her kitchen
table, the sun broke through. We took advantage of it quickly: She gave
me a leisurely tour of her impressive
wildflower garden spread all around
her property, the intriguing
butterfly bush with
its butterflies, and her vegetable garden; showed me the little cabin
behind her house in which she was born 75 or so years ago.
After the tour, I worked with my laptop and the flash
stick me son had provided with the photos they took of Chip Ahoy during
our raft-up yesterday. I couldnít make it work on the laptop; will take
it home and hopefully have better luck on my office computer.
Then Marianne took me for a tour around the island,
showing me views of the ocean and other surrounding islands and channels
from a number of vantages. The weather remained in flux: Sunny amidst
surrounding storm clouds, then showers and downpours; then brief
interludes of sunshine. When we got back to her house I grabbed an
hourís nap on her living room couch.
I took her out to dinner at the inn, a buffet meal
that draws many of the islanders on Monday and Tuesday evenings. The
rest of the week the inn serves dinner with a menu, quite pricey
Marianne told me. We had a good meal and an opportunity to catch up on
things political back home.
We said our farewells outside the inn, I took the
shuttle golf cart down to the dock with another couple who have their
sailboat out on a mooring too. The shuttle cart driver took us out in
the launch to our boats. On the way,
the sky to the northwest was
extremely menacing, towering clouds running across the horizon as
far as the eye could see. The launch driver didnít think itíd head this
way. I disagreed: "Iím here, so it will be here eventually as well."
Everyone had a chuckle, but I was serious, very serious.
I was dropped off first. Once aboard I opened up the
boat, piled in all the stuff Iíd taken ashore, and opened the forward
hatch just to get some air flow. I didnít expect it to last long Ė kept
the path to the forward hatch clear so I could crawl to it quickly. Sure
enough, that wall of dark was approaching, its
gray screens of slanting
rain closing, and then prolonged gusts of about 25 mph struck. I got the
forward hatch closed just as the showers arrived. The deluge began and
lasted for about half an hour before passing off to the southeast.
My immediate task was plotting a new route and
uploading it into the two GPSs for my planned early start tomorrow
morning. I have a one day window of perhaps decent weather before the
storms roll in again with a new low pressure area moving in late
tomorrow and parking for another day. Thursday might be another
opportunity to move toward home; weíll see. The weather for the coming
week looks to be just more of the same misery with a couple days better
than the others, giving me a chance to move closer to home like a game
"This week is shaping up to be quite wet," NOAA
weather radio just announced. "Showers and thunderstorms will be quite
numerous on Wednesday. Sunshine will sometimes break through the clouds
and showers, but will not last."
My revised plan is to reach Saco by late tomorrow by
a new route, bypassing Portland entirely by going through Hussey Soundís
channel between Great Diamond Island and Long Island, south of Chebeague
Island. This will put me onto Casco Bay on the outside of Peaks Island.
From there I can run a direct route to the sea buoy off Portland Head
then onto my regular route to Saco and up its river to Marstonís Marina
again, 29 miles as the crow flies. With an early start, which I plan, I
should be able to make it by mid- to late-afternoon. Iíll call Marstonís
in the morning to make sure I have a place for the night Ė and the next
day: Wednesday sounds miserable and threatening.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008; 5:30 am Ė 64į
Chegeague Inn Mooring, #270
Wow, I awoke at 2:15 am with the boat pitching
violently, the bow smacking into oncoming waves, the jib halyard
drumming sharply against the mast and the wind whistling through the
rigging. The pup-tent was staining and snapping against the strong wind
blowing in from the northeast. I went out into the cockpit for a look
around, and it was blowing but under a clear sky full of stars. Chip
Ahoy was straining against its mooring line but all looked well. With
the flashlight I checked the compass to get the wind direction, and
watched the action for a few minutes to make sure everything was
holding. I estimate the wind was blowing at a good 20-25 mph and the waves were
rolling into the cove in a tight two foot chop. Assured the boat was
fine, if a bit uncomfortable, I went back down below and crawled back
into my sleeping bag.
The swing keel, fully lowered the entire time Iíve
been moored here, resting on its pivot pin and hangers, showed that the
keel thunk repair project worked: Not a single thunk all night. If it
was going to play games, last night was itís opportunity. Though in the
past most of the thunking had come with lateral motion, rolling not
pitching Ė e.g., a passing boatís wake Ė I realized even wakes from the
passing lobster boats here and the ferry regularly going nearby back and
forth to the mainland had no effect on the keel. Last night, in fact,
was the first time Iíd given it any thought.
Earlier last night when I lit the oil lamp, I
discovered it was out of oil. I filled it and the flame burned brighter
Ė not higher, but brighter. This explains my complaint about its
illumination a couple of nights ago, though I had checked the lamp oil
and it was low but not empty. Until now, Iíd thought any oil in the lamp
indicated plenty of oil to the wick. Apparently this is not so. I was
able to read comfortably using just the light from the lamp.
NOAA weather radio this morning is calling for NE
winds 5-15 knots with gusts to 20 this morning, becoming S early this
afternoon; seas 2-4 feet. Itís a one-day weather opportunity still,
according to the forecast, with another low coming in late tonight and
providing more miserable weather for tomorrow, perhaps even into
The sky is mostly clear for a
especially toward the east. Itís just over the horizon now, pouring into
the cabin through the forward starboard window. Iíve lowered its curtain
so I, facing it, can see to write. There are some lower level clouds to
the north and northwest. For the first time in a long time, there is no
fog anywhere I can see Ė visibility is perfect.
I decided to make a second cup of "tea bag" coffee
before preparing to get on my way. I have much to do to make ready, so
planned on only one cup, but the clouds have moved in overhead and are
thickening. Iíve got time to wait them out and see what they bring. Iíve
gotten gun-shy with this weather, expecting the worst and usually
The wind is still blowing strong from the northeast.
That jib halyard is back to drumming the mast. I believe Iíll start out
this morning with the main sail reefed. I can always shake it out later;
easier than putting it in if I find the need later; I expect I might.
Iíve got to pull the dinghy alongside, drop into it and bail it out
before departure. Iíll switch Chip Ahoyís gas tanks to the full one to
be on the safe side Ė though I believe thereís still some two gallons
remaining in the working tank that should be enough for todayís expected
trip. Iíll get them both filled when I reach Marstonís Marina.
"Picking my wardrobe" for today is tricky too. Itís
still quite chilly. I havenít changed from jeans, t-shirt and shirt or
sweater (the latter at the moment), socks and boat shoes since I first
dug them out a few days ago. Theyíll stay on, but Iíll put out shorts
and sandals for a quick change just in case I get lucky later today. Of
course, the foul-weather gear will remain within reach.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008; 5:40 pm Ė 64į
Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME Ė Mooring #F10
I left my mooring at Chebeague Island this morning at
8:20, and arrived at this mooring on the Saco River at about 2:45 pm.
Before leaving I had to bail out Chip Mate, the
dinghy Ė and it was the fullest Iíve seen it. Towing it behind where the
bottomís out of sight for the most part (I could always have pulled it
in and checked!) is not a good idea over a couple days of downpours. I
had to climb down into it carefully so as not to capsize it. Gallons,
many gallons of water were scooped out before it was emptied.
It was a most unusual day on the ocean, in these the
most of unusual weather days. As planned, before dropping the mooring
this morning I reefed the main sail. It seemed like a good idea at the
time, prudent. But there was little wind heading south along the
backside of Chebeague Island. [CHART]
I thought this might be because I was motor-sailing
and my apparent wind was stealing any indication of true wind, until I
saw another sailboat coming up with no sails, just motoring. I figured I
must be confusing the hell out of him with my reefed main, that it was
time to either shake out the reef or lower the main entirely. I took out the
reef and raised the main for about an hour with no effect, so dropped it
and motored on. What little wind there was came at me gently from the
south, in the direction I was heading to beat the next storm to Saco.
Hussey Sound channel, between Long
and Great Diamond islands [CHART] among all the
lobster pot buoys, the boat seemed to have somehow have bogged
down; the feelingís hard to explain but I felt it. I looked over the
transom and saw large ropes of seaweed wrapped around the outboard and
trailing far behind Chip Ahoy. It took a while to free them from the
motor; in the meantime I discovered the seaweed was also wrapped around
the rudder: It wouldnít automatically lift even with the power assist.
This is why God created boat hooks! Finally free from the seaweed
drogue, Chip Ahoy began to respond better Ė but was still dragging, I
could sense. The keel and its cable?!? So I winched up and let down the
keel a number of times, then left it taut hoping that "keel hum"
vibration would loosen any remaining ropes of seaweed. Eventually, soon,
everything felt back to right.
During the entire day there was a wall of active dark
clouds to west over the land and sunshine out over the open ocean to the
east, with a diagonal line cutting the horizon ahead starkly,
marking the separation. That line of demarcation never seemed to change
all day, while the weather over land varied in
appearance of threat.
I motored most of the afternoon as there was
no wind. I
changed clothes a few times, from heavy to light Ė shorts, shirtless and
barefoot Ė but it never lasted long, maybe two hours in shorts for one
stretch. Iím now back to wearing jeans, but just a t-shirt and sandals Ė
but socks and boat shoes will be added to the smart boating ensemble
soon, probably a sweater too for that high chic eveningwear feel.
All in all it was a productive day for the trip home.
Iíve made it to Saco Ė in theory only another three days from home,
weather permitting. Of course thatís not going to happen, not this
summer. My idea of cutting out Portland by going outside the Casco Bay
inner islands was sound, and successful. Saco to Portland, then Portland
to Chebeague was unnecessary, but I did want to stop in at DiMilloís
this time too. Heading home, it was a burden, or would have been. I would have been
weathered-in at DiMilloís again, for who knew how long again.
Everyone along the way is commiserating with me that
this has been a miserable summer, both July and so far August. "The
worst in at least seven years," one old-timer commented. And thereís no
hope for relief in the immediate future. (NOAA: "Today New England
enjoyed its driest weather in quite some time.")
Wednesday, August 6, 2008; 6:15 am Ė 64į
Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME Ė Mooring #F10
Iíve got a WiFi connection here every now and then:
It comes and goes, but I was able to download e-mail last night and send
a couple messages to the discussion group. There are a couple of weak
signals, "unsecured" networks Iíve been able to use, but theyíre so weak
that reception seems to depend on how Chip Ahoy is swinging on its
mooring. I know the NOAA radio signal on the CCRadio is being so
Iím in a small cove about 50 yards down river
the dock; out of the direct current which is now running out strongly.
But there are wandering, confused eddies gently swinging "Jack of
Harts," a lobster boat out of Kennebunk, "Sea Otter," a pretty Cape Dory
26 out of Lanesborough, MA, and a 24-foot, low-slung, sleek Wellcraft
Scarab powerboat, in random arcs in differing directions around Chip
Ahoy. I noticed this when I came in yesterday, so pulled Chip Mate, the
dinghy, alongside instead of trailing it from the stern Ė where there
looked to be no space on certain combinations of swinging boats. This
was an accurate prediction, Iíve now observed.
After getting the "tea bag" coffee going, I began
trying to organize this cabin a bit: Itís looking "late-cruise" in here.
Everything had its place, in the beginning. Itís begun to feel very
disorganized with things that have come out just sort of tucked
everywhere for "convenience." Iíve reached the inevitable point where,
to get at something a dozen other things must be moved out of the way
first. That, and then thereís the stuff I picked up at the Shawís
supermarket yesterday in Saco which still have to be put away where they
When I got in yesterday afternoon, after putting up
the pup-tent and getting the boat settled I took the dinghy in to the
gas dock. (The little outboard is running poorly, wanting to die unless
I keep goosing the throttle.) I paid my mooring rental for two nights
then Todd called a taxi for me. Ed from Twin Cities Taxi drove me to
Shaws, I did my shopping (it took maybe fifteen minutes), then called
and Ed picked me up and drove me back to the marina: $10 each way plus
Back at the dock I picked up a block of ice and a bag
of cubes: When I got in to Marston's, the cooler held only water that I
hoped had stayed cool enough so the cold cuts, cheese, and other
perishables didnít go bad. The only place I could find ice on Chebeague
Island was in bags of cubes at Doughtyís Store, and the logistics of
getting at least some of it back to the boat still in solid form were
too daunting. I took the dinghy back to Chip Ahoy and filled the cooler.
Iíd emptied the water before leaving for the dock so Iíd have an empty
cooler on my return to stick the ice into without losing any of it.
Blocks of ice last much longer than cubes, are usually good for three
days while cubes might last one. But cubes chill everything down
quicker, surrounding bottles and cans. The cubes from yesterday are
already almost gone, having done the job of cooling everything that had
Before I got back into the dinghy, Todd who is
running the marinaís office and gas dock, offered me a box of pizza to
take back aboard Chip Ahoy. Apparently it was left over from some
"special" deal he and his friends couldnít eat. Perfect timing: I was
starving and had never given pizza even a passing thought.
[Itís interesting to watch this network connection
fading off and on with regularity as the boat swings. I think my theory
is on the mark.]
This morning started with a
brilliant sunrise, but at
7:30 now and a couple cups of coffee later the sky is clouding over,
again. The sunrise was so bright I was forced to close a few of the
cabin curtains as Chip Ahoy was swinging and I was being blinded. The
curtains are back up, so I can see whatís going on around me, enjoy the
ambiance and atmosphere surrounding me. This is one of the most relaxing
spots I stop at, and itís why I stop here. Iím here to do that, as well
as dodge the approaching weather.
"Steady rain is on its way, expected to reach the
region this morning. Rain, heavy at times, is expected. Showers and
thunderstorms will be most numerous in the afternoon. Chance of rain is
near 100 percent," NOAA radio just reported. So whatís new this trip?
My buddy Randy came out last evening, paddling his
new canoe from the dock to Chip Ahoy. At last we had a good reunion
visit, exchanged stories of what weíve been doing since we last met,
back in 2004 on my first cruise up this way. I still donít have a photo
of him Ė he came out after dark -- but heíll be back out later today. I
assured him Iíd be here overnight tonight, told him Iíd paid for two
nights in advance. Heíd watched the TV weather before coming out, told
me I was right, the weather looked miserable Ė through the weekend.
Wonderful, whatís new?
When the mosquitoes arrived I closed up the
companionway, told Randy that Marstonís Marina is the specific reason
why I added the screen to the forward hatch, then open. He got a laugh
out of that, told me the mosquitoes havenít been bad so far this season
thanks to all the downpours, but tonight they were unusually bad. Not to
worry Ė Iíve got my screened hatch!
After Randy headed back to the dock and his home
overlooking it, I did some writing, then at Randyís insistence tried for
a WiFi connection again (Iíd failed at finding one last week when I was
here). This time I succeeded Ė even if the signal was weak and
Ah, itís nice to know Iím here for another night,
just relaxing for the day. Iíve now got everything I need aboard, out of
the way of needing. Iíll get more ice, right up on the dock. I donít
have to move, but to get the ice and take a shower later. This is what
cruisingís all about!
I was thinking about that coming from Chebeague
Island yesterday under a bare mast with the outboard running all day.
There seems to be three types of Catalina 22 owners, not limited to just
this class. There are the day-sailors who trailer here and there, step
their masts, sail for the day, unstep their masts, and trailer their
boats home. Thatís what our C22s were designed for, I guess.
Then there are the racers, who hone both their boats
and themselves for cutting-edge class competition. They donít want to
have any more weight aboard than is absolutely essential, and they donít
want to use anything unless competing. These, I feel, are the C22
"specialists," who push their boats to the extremes of the C22 design,
for short periods of time.
And last, there are us cruisers, no less specialized
than the racers Ė but in a different direction, with a completely
different set of priorities and an entirely different view of our boats
and our abilities. To us, racing is a sport: Cruising is a lifestyle.
Coming across open Casco Bay yesterday, deciding to
drop the main sail, just get its futility out of the way in my
determination to reach my objective before bad weather arrived, it came
to me. My goal Ė my mission Ė was to make distance as quickly as
I could, by whatever means this required. For me yesterday, that was
using the motor. Four and five miles offshore on the ocean with weather
approaching I wanted a safe harbor, and the sooner the better. Point A
to Point B was a certain, measurable distance which would take a certain
amount of time to reach dependent on speed and course heading. Caught in
a storm between points would not be comfortable, to say the least.
It would have been fun yesterday to play with the
light winds, see what Chip Ahoy could do in and with them, though that
would have required a lot of tacking. But I wasnít just playing around
in Salem Sound, where I could run back to my mooring if things got too
dicey. I had a destination that needed to be reached before predicted
conditions arrived. I had a goal to achieve, by whatever means. And so I
motored, and was glad I had the full backup 6-gallon tank of gas to fall
back on, there being none practicably available on Chebeague Island.
While cruising, preparations and what you have on hand can make the
difference between life and death at sea. Having "a little boat" like
ours out there is no advantage when push comes to shove. "Being smart"
is the only way to do this. I still hear, when folks see Marblehead, MA
on Chip Ahoyís transom, "In that little boat?!?"
Ė 9:35 am Ė
Here are the
showers; rain again, as forecast. I just
closed the forward and sliding hatches. Time to make some more coffee.
VHF radio traffic from nearby working boats out there somewhere are
reporting the same.
Ė 10:30 Ė
pouring out there.
Ė12:20 PM Ė
A relentless downpour. Boy, am I ever glad Iím
sitting here with the pup-tent up. Iíve got the outboard running as a 12
volt generator again, recharging draining battery #2; Iíve been using
the laptop and the VHF all morning, listening to the working fishermen
out there bitching about this weather too. Itís killing them. One
fisherman apparently further out than the other told the other to not
waste his time coming out, that he himself was heading in: The seas were
building, visibility was down to almost nothing, the rain was pelting
down, and conditions were only going to get worse. That was an hour ago,
and they have worsened from what I can tell where Iím sitting this out.
Even the local Coast Guard Auxiliary boat, "The Moose," just pulled back
into port here at the dock. It is nasty. Sheesh, will we never get a
Ė 6:30 pm Ė
About an hour and a half ago I decided it was time to
head to the dock, grab a shower and a bag of ice for the cooler. After
bailing it out, I dropped into Chip Mate alongside, with shower kit and
finally dry towel in a plastic bag, and tried starting the little 3 hp
old Johnson. As usual lately, it did not want to start Ė and then the
rain showers returned. I climbed back aboard Chip Ahoy and waited it out
for fifteen minutes, then started all over again. Failing to get the
motor started for the short trip to the dock, I decided to just use the
oars, then got pissed off in the current and took my frustration out on
the outboard. Under threat of death it finally started and brought me
into the dock. It just wonít idle.
At the dock, Logan saw me coming in and was waiting
to grab the bow line, which was good, for as soon as I slowed Chip
Mateís outboard to idle it stalled, again. On land, I spoke to him of my
plan for tomorrow to leave early, asked what time the gas dock opened.
Not until 9:00 am, and I wanted to be out of here before that on my 41
mile trip to Portsmouth, NH, in dubious weather.
No problem, Logan told me. Heíd come out to Chip Ahoy
on the marinaís work boat and grab my gas tanks, refill them, then bring
them back out! So post-shower and
back on the mooring thatís what we did, and I now have two
full six-gallon tanks. (I did tip him nicely for the service, though I
think it was quite unexpected and probably unnecessary.) After heíd
left, I suddenly remembered Iíd gone ashore, besides a shower, to get
ice. Logan had told me if I needed anything else before he closed up the
office in a few minutes to call, so I did. He said heíd bring it right
When he arrived with the two bags of cubes, I invited
him aboard. Heís a most interesting young guy, in his late teens working
here for the summer, a full-time student at the Maine Maritime Academy.
As a freshman, heíll be crewing on an academy cruise down to the
Caribbean next semester, which I assured him would be an excellent
experience Ė told him I wish Iíd had such an opportunity when young.
This is another facet of cruising that intrigues me:
Meeting new people. I donít think this differs from other sorts of
sailing (trailer-sailing, racing, and et cetera Ė more about that below)
but it sure is fun, and somehow focuses me. Being someplace new with
people and faces Iíll likely never see again sharpens my awareness of
them. Each becomes noteworthy, or more so for some reason.
I promised more about Catalina 22 owners and the
three classes Iíd broken them down into. This morning, in a brief snatch
of WiFi connection, I sent an excerpt from this journal to my C22
discussion group. Pat Hollabaugh ("La Strega II") of Arlington, Texas
"I would add one more type of owner. There are those
of us who love the competition of racing and do strip our boats down for
this, but at the same time my wife and I love to take our grandsons ( 9,
5 and 19 months) out for long weekends to other area lakes. I promise
that when grandma and the kids are on board, the table, every cushion
imaginable, bar-b-que grill, galley box, jack lines, two anchors, ice
chests, inverter, portable DVD player and larger battery are all on
"Pat, I think this makes you and your situation a
hybrid," I responded. "You're getting the best from both worlds!" This
might make for a fourth class, but I donít think so. Itís just utilizing
your boat without going to the extremes demanded of both a serious racer
or a serious cruiser. I donít see how you can mutually accomplish both
to the limit with the same boat.
Itís still drizzling out there. This is miserable
weather Ė I canít say it enough. This entire cruise has been ruined by
it. I just want to get home, where itís dry and the weatherís outside;
where everything I touch isnít damp or wet. Now Iíve just got to get
there, and itís only a few days ahead Ė weather permitting. You never
fully appreciate home until youíve got it back.
Tomorrow Iíll push on to Portsmouth, 41 statute miles
down the coast, a long day for Chip Ahoy and me. I hope to make it
before any of bad weather thatís forecasted by NOAA might arrive:
Thursday: SE winds 5-10 knots. Seas around 2 feet. A
chance of showers. A chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Visibility 1-3 nm.
"A chance of . . ." is the key phrase. I canít let
that get in my way. Thereís always "a chance of" frigging anything
Ė and at this point, a mere "chance of" sounds almost promising, good in
Friday looks worse: "SW winds 5-10 with gusts up to
20 knots in the afternoon. Seas 2-4 feet. Showers and thunderstorms
"Likely" now gets my attention. Tomorrowís the day to
make my next move to get closer to home. As I said, this is like a game
of checkers; one move at a time.
Ė 9:20 pm Ė
What a great visit with Randy! He came out in his
canoe under threatening skies and not only did he spend some time aboard
but decided he needed to go back to the office to get for me a couple of
official Marstonís Marina t-shirts; not only a gray one for me but a
pink one for Barbara too.
I really wanted
a photo of Randy to add to the
collection, so called him earlier at home. The weather was of course
difficult, but he nonetheless agreed to come out for the occasion. We
had a really good time Ė he thinks I should submit an article about this
cruise to Points East magazine, that theyíre hungry for this kind
of story. Iíll do that when I get home. Randy left in a drizzle and
coming showers again. I got my photo, by the way.
Ė 10:20 pm Ė
Itís pouring out again, sortía ho-hum at this point,
whatchagonnado. Soon Iíll evolve to gills, I expect. I wonder where
theyíll form, about the neck probably. I canít wait; itíll be good to
evolve. Iím ready.
Thursday, August 7, 2008; 6:45 am Ė 62į
Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME Ė Mooring #F10
The weather forecast does not sound promising; a bit
downgraded from yesterdayís forecast for today, poorer. A chance of
showers this morning is in it now, along with likely showers and
possible thunderstorms late this morning and early afternoon Winds SE
10-15 knots. Seas 2-3 feet. Wind and seas higher near thunderstorms.
NOAA is calling for strong thunderstorms in interior New Hampshire today
with damaging winds.
But tomorrow looks worse than today, still. Small
Craft Advisories will likely be issued due to higher seas and stronger
winds, an even better chance of showers and thunderstorms. If I donít
leave this morning, I wonít be leaving tomorrow from wherever I am. I
want to get home, put this miserable trip behind me!
Itís down to choosing between the lesser of two
evils, Iím afraid Ė not the most prudent way to make decisions. This
weather is really getting old, and thereís no good news, or even hope
for any improvement until maybe Sunday Ė "the better of two" weekend
days. "The better of"! According to the National Weather Service,
this area has received 3 inches more rain in August than normal, and I
can personally attest to that.
Itís a one-cup-of-coffee morning, primarily because
the stoveís still in the cockpit and was ready to go, the pan filled
with yesterdayís rain water. I just had to fire it up. Itís time to
break camp, get on my way if Iím going to make those 41 miles ahead to
Portsmouth Ė for the next couple of nights.
At least I have two full six-gallon tanks of gas,
which will get me there easily and then some. Since Iíll be
motoring/motor-sailing as quickly as I can, I wonít have that concern
nagging on me.
Thursday, August 7, 2008; 10:45 am Ė 68į
Back at Ė Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME Ė Mooring #F10
Now that was an exciting experience, a real
adventure even if it turned into a full-fledged retreat. Nobody can say
that I didnít try, but what a mistake trying was. Who knew, until
I was packed up and ready for the Saco to Portsmouth
leg, dropped the mooring at 8:10 am catching the outgoing river current
nicely. I was making 5 knots with the outboard just idling for steerage.
Iíd be in Portsmouth in no time at this rate, I thought with a smile.
The sky was gray as usual, but this was expected. As Chip Ahoy
approached the mouth of the river the showers began, and the water began
to get choppier. The choppiness I attributed to the current meeting
ocean; Iíd soon be beyond it as I got further out into the ocean.
The further out I got, the rougher the ocean became.
By the time I reached the red-and-white "SA" buoy off Wood Island and
its lighthouse Ė in the middle of the lobster pot buoy minefields Ė I
was into good 3-4 foot seas. The little obstructions were disappearing
beneath the surface of each incoming swell. Chip Ahoy already was riding
the seas high and low, waves breaking over the bow in each trough. The
rain was coming down steadily. I managed to get into my foul-weather
jacket but the pants were impossible amidst the minefields; never mind
digging out the boots still in the locker. I got the cabin closed up to
keep everything below damp but not wetter. I kept heading out as the
seas built ahead, growing to at least five foot swells coming in short
together. Chip Ahoy was riding them, but in each trough after the bang
Iíd catch the spray over the bow.
I looked to the south, toward Portsmouth, and saw
nothing but dark gray, some areas darker with slanting rain beneath.
"This is not good," I thought as I approached my point-of-no-return, sea
buoy "WI" still a couple miles ahead. I gave it some thought over a few
minutes, then cut the rudder hard to starboard between big swells and
headed back in. Another "Scituate" moment:
Full retreat until better
All the way back toward the entrance to Saco River,
Chip Mate the dinghy kept surfing down the face of the following swells
and banging into Chip Ahoyís transom Ė despite it being towed 20 feet
behind. This concerned me, but as there was nothing more I could do
about it, I motored on dodging the lobster pot buoys in the downpour.
Iíd have been miserable if Iíd had the luxury; I just wanted to get Chip
Ahoy out of these conditions Iíd put it into as soon as possible. I was
soaked and, honestly, intimidated by the conditions. I knew I could get
through them with patience, perseverance, and a good eye for those
lobster pot buoys Ė but had to remove my glasses which were only
blinding me with rain. Ah, much better Ė but now I canít read the chart
or GPS, oh well. I knew where I was going, more or less. Iíd just come
Once on the river its "idyllic" effect was back: Flat
though an outgoing current still of course, only a little over an hour
after my perfectly-timed departure with it. Even the rain soon stopped,
more or less, becoming only drizzle. It almost felt like Iíd reached
home when I spotted my previous mooring, naturally still unoccupied. I
picked it up then called the marina. Iím good for another two nights
NOAA weather radio just now broadcasted: "This
unusual summer weather scenario. . . . as is the pattern will bring
another round of soaking rain on Friday." Frigging wonderful, and today
was the "the better of the two"!
Oh well, now I can have that second cup of coffee . .
Ė 8:00 pm Ė
Itís been a quiet day on the mooring. Though the sky
remained overcast Ė didnít see the sun all day Ė it hasnít rained nor
have thunderstorms appeared. On the AM band of the CCRadio I was picking
up the static from lightning somewhere not to distant away, but nothing
here. The Portland radio station, WGAN-AM 560, is calling for showers
tonight Ė but thatís been standard fare for any weather forecast for as
long as I can recall.
Soon after getting resettled in,
alongside in the marinaís work boat, announcing "Mail delivery!" He
brought out two copies of Points East magazine, July and August,
and the August issue of the Maine Coastal News ("The State of
Maineís Boating Newspaper"). He has had a few articles published in
Points East and suggests that I submit some of my experiences. I
told him I had another I was writing up, from this morningís crazy
two-hour adventure. He thought itíd fit in perfectly with what the
magazineís looking for.
He called a bit later and invited me out kayaking
with him but I declined; Iíd just finished up my journal entry, was
making a sandwich for late lunch, and planned to do some reading (of the
stuff heíd brought out) then take a nap.
An interesting news note from WGAN just now. State
officials are warning canoeists theyíre "better off staying home this
weekend" due to rain water runoffs creating swift and dangerous river
currents. The Saco River was specifically named. What a summer; what a
cruise; what a waste.
While rooting out dinner from the food locker (a can
of beef stew sounds good for tonight), filling the stoveís other burner
with denatured alcohol, and finding the other pan, I discovered I didnít
bring bowls along somehow, unless theyíre tucked away someplace else
where they donít belong. An empty covered small tupperware container I
found will do the job.
During this shuffling process, I came across the new
package of Velcro fasteners Iíd been considering, but thought were
buried in the tools locker, beneath too much cruising stuff to move
around unless absolutely necessary. The CCRadio has an LED light
attachment, but no way by which to hang or attach it. Iíve tried using
it overhead and behind my shoulder for reading at night, but itís been
almost useless. Iíve now stuck a velcro patch on the overhead and the
other side of it to the back of the light. It seems to work, solves my
With that done, itís on to heating the beef stew and
enjoying my dinner.
Friday, August 8, 2008; 6:50 am Ė 61į
Back at Ė Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME Ė Mooring #F10
I will never again say "It canít rain any harder,"
because I keep being proved wrong. There must be some point at which it
canít, but I donít think weíve seen it yet, though Iíve never seen it
rain so hard for such an extended period, and keep coming down even
harder and heavier. Pounding rain. And the rumble of thunder often
nearby has become almost white noise, going unnoticed itís become so
much a part of everyday life.
I am soaked, even wearing my foul-weather jacket, but
there was no avoiding it Ė the
dinghy alongside was
almost half-full of
rain water and looking precarious. It was too deep and overloaded with
weight to think about climbing down into it. I used the "all-purpose
bucket" from the cockpit above to haul bucket loads out hand-over-hand,
dump them alongside, fill the bucket again, until Chip Mate was down to
only a few inches in its bottom. It still needs work, but a deluge is
coming down, only refilling everything. Even the "All-purpose bucket"
sitting out in the cockpit in the open was half full when I went for it
earlier, had to be emptied first. The pan I use to boil water for coffee
was full; I didnít have to use the onboard fresh water, which was as I
expected when I left it out last night.
Last night I didnít bother making the beef stew after
all. The lightning and deluge rolled over us just as I was making moves
to start the stove and open the can. I thought the storm cell would
pass, downpour at least lessen. It only got worse. I put in the two
lower cribboards and called it quits at about 9:30 pm, dug out granola
bars and a can of cashews to hold me over, cracked open one of the cans
of Moxie that Randy had given me, had a brownie for dessert and called
this "dinner" for the night.
I donít know if the rain ever relented overnight: I
slept very well. But the pounding deluge woke me at 5:15 this morning,
it was spraying in through the one open top cribboard in the
companionway, despite the pup-tent overhead, wetting things below. Yep,
thereís the flash and report of nearby thunder. Nothing had changed or
appears will any time soon. Iím glad I gritted my teeth and bailed out
the dinghy already. I doubt it could have taken much more, and this
isnít letting up; it just keeps coming in relentless waves: heavy then
heavier. A short respite of just rain then the sky opens and dumps
everything its got.
Iím running out of dry towels. I bought a whole new
batch of them this spring for the cruise, eight or ten of them. Iíve
gone through towels in the past, but thereís always been an opportunity
for them to dry out, hung on the lifelines with clothespins, then put
back into use. Small towels and washcloths are invaluable aboard a small
boat just in daily use to wipe up wetness, e.g., dew collected on the
cockpit seats overnight, before spreading out the cruising gear, chart,
cushion, etc. I keep one over the companionway step to reduce wet from
getting any further into the cabin. In the past, hanging them to dry
over the day did the trick. None of them have ever dried along this
trip. Chip Ahoy is beginning to look like a Gypsy wagon: Itís a good
thing Iíve got lifelines all around and lots of clothespins. I took in
my larger shower towel when it got as dry as it was going to: Folded and
hung on the settee backrest, itís now contributing to the cabinís
dampness, judged by cardboard containers in here turning soft, nearing
"2-3 inches of rain have fallen in the last two
hours," according to NOAA radio. A flash flood watch has been issued by
the National Weather Service. "Flooding is apparent or eminent." Thereís
the NOAA report: "Chance of rain near 100 percent," again. Or is it
"still"? I have never experienced such a completely miserable cruise.
Iím considering this as my last, since seeing what is possible. All I
want to do now is get home, park Chip Ahoy on its mooring, and become
dry for the first time in some two weeks. This was a driving motivation
yesterday when I left here, a factor before deciding to do an about face
and retreat back here instead of risking death out there. This is wrong,
a bad decision-making factor, too risky. Iíve got to get control of it Ė
even if I must remain wet and miserable for a while longer.
Ė 8:10 am Ė
The rain has Ė dare I say? Ė stopped, at least for
now. The sky is actually brightening, or is this more false hope before
the next wave? I think itís the latter, according to the weather
forecast. At least itís not dark and downpouring for now. Iíll take it,
even if it lasts only fifteen minutes. Time to bail out the remaining
water in the dinghy, wring out the towels hanging out there. The dinghy
is necessary; I donít know why Iíll bother with the towels. Apparently
the only way theyíre ever going to get dry again is if I find a
laundromat and use its dryer. I should run the outboard for a while,
too: My 12-volt battery charger.
The extended weather forecast this morning sounds
like its deteriorating somewhat from yesterdayís Ė bringing more rain of
course. Tomorrow was supposed to be clearing, chance of showers in the
morning and partly sunny in the afternoon; Sunday was going to be mostly
sunny, and Monday was to be beautiful.
Ė 8:45 am Ė
There, the dinghyís emptied, the towels have been
wrung out (why bother), and the third cup of "tea bag" coffee is cooking
up. I found a dry-enough towel to wipe my bare feet (before lowering
myself into the dinghyís 4-5 inches of water), put my socks and boat
shoes back on. The 12-volt battery charger, aka, the 8 hp Honda, is one
joy of this trip: Itís electric start has kicked in with just a touch of
the starter button, every time so far Ė even after somewhat draining the
starting battery. I hope I didnít just put a curse on it!
Ė 1:40 pm Ė
Back and settled in from a groceries run. When I went
to Shawís market by taxi the other day, I thought Iíd picked up enough
to get home. Who knew I was going to be living here for the duration? I
just stocked up for probably four more days, instead of needing a taxi
again to reach food and amenities: Bread (down to three slices), more
cold cuts and cheese (I have doubts about the supply and its longevity),
more juice and Cokes for all this down time, more cashew nuts for when
dinner turns out to not happen (still have plenty of granola bars
anyway), and of course, two more bags of ice cubes. I settled up for the
mooring with Logan in the marina office for last night and tonight. Iím
still hoping to get out of here (again) tomorrow morning, reach
Portsmouth Ė claw closer to home and arrive there eventually, someday.
Each bite gets me closer, I think. It always used to. . .
Another sailboat, about a 28-foot sloop
well-appointed, obviously cruising sloop, just came in, crewed by
apparently tired sailors. I called across as they passed, fenders
hanging so headed for the fuel dock; asked them of the conditions out
there. "Rough," I was told; "Very choppy." I related my experience
yesterday: They told me Iíd made the right decision.
Ė2:40 pm Ė
The sailboat that just came in belongs on my old
mooring; I had to move on their arrival, which explains their fenders to
tie up at the fuel dock. Logan came out to give me the news and an
assist. No big thing; it just took me a few minutes to put critical
things away and move fifty yards to another mooring. The mooring I was
assigned was the same one I had "issues" with in 2004 Ė the on which the
pennant line was wrapped tightly around the mooring ball with nothing
available to use; I improvised, used one of my dock lines to secure to
it. Uh, oh I thought. But Logan was there in the workboat to get the
pennant/lines unwrapped this time. No problem; not nearly the problem as
it was in the past.
The good news is, the WiFi signal is stronger Ė it
must be originating from one of the houses along the river bank to which
Chip Ahoy is now closer. The bad news is that I may have to move the
boat again to another mooring Ė across the river on the Biddeford side,
across from Marstonís fuel dock. When I was on the fuel dock (was it
really?) about two weeks ago, there was no signal at all. Oh well,
nothing good lasts forever. If I have to move Chip Ahoy again, Loganís
supposed to call first and give me a heads up in advance.
Talk about bored? Whenís the last time anyone ever
took apart and meticulously cleaned out a mouse? I just did it. It was
sort of sticking, skipping, and getting me pissed off Ė not that this
takes much these days. Wow, there are all sorts of little, complex
working parts in there, tiny wheels and rolling pins, more than Iíd ever
played with. Usually opening it up, removing the ball, and a good blow
cleans them out. Tweezers from the "shaving bag" and the tip of my small
pocket knife made them work properly again Ė the mouse now rolls on its
pad like new! Yay, a small accomplishment on an otherwise dead and
useless day. (Please excuse my ramblings, but itís these little
distractions along a cruise that keeps one semi-sane. Am I still
Ė 5:00 pm Ė
Maybe a "brilliant" idea. It hasnít rained for two
hours, perhaps even three now. I just took the towels in off the "back
porch" lifelines. Theyíre not going to get any dryer out there now,
though are not by any means dry yet. When the next downpours arrive,
theyíre inside and wonít get any wetter at least. Maybe tomorrow
underway theyíll dry, at least more after hanging them out again!
Frigging rocket science. You wonder sometimes how you can be so
brilliant Ė or so stupid.
Ė6:00 pm Ė
Youíve got to love your buddies! John Graichen ("Malacass")
earlier wrote to the discussion group: "It maybe it might be time to
look at a rescue operation . . . someone not too distant to bring a
trailer up and get you home."
I responded that I might have an insurmountable
obstacle to that idea: "Remember that trailer hitch lock I bought this
spring? It's locked on Chip Ahoy's trailer now back alongside my house,
and one of its keys is on the boat's key ring. I'd like to think the
other is on my home/car key ring, which I left behind and Barbara has,
but I'm not sure where it is. So being "rescued" may or may not be an
option! (Who ever thought that was even close to a possibility?!?) I'll
tell you, though: I've had enough of this for at least another year --
if not longer, like ever again."
Marston's Marina has a launch ramp I noticed a short
while ago, which is what got me thinking when I took the dinghy ashore
and was looking around . . . hmmm. But it's tight, between the bottom of
the ramp and the closest dock -- doable I suppose, but certainly not a
straight run in to the trailer, sort of a quick right hook and
immediately onto the trailer. The rain runoff is racing down the ramp
from the parking lot and beyond (up the street) like its own swift
little river, emptying of course into the Saco River where all the
runoff is winding up around here, thus the NWS warnings about floods and
Eric was just out here setting up a new mooring
(Logan just called too, to tell me I wouldnít need to move Chip Ahoy to
a different mooring) alongside this one. I asked him about their ramp. I
should have no problem if I decide to use it, he assured me. Then John
Graichen returned my call.
He can come up on Sunday. Barbara found my spare
trailer hitch lock key on my home/car key chain, so that works. (I
thought I would have put it somewhere that was "logical" to me at the
time.) This is the last thing I want to do. He can hook the trailer to
my Blazer and drive it up in a couple hours tops; a few more to get Chip
Ahoy into my front yard. I swore after the 2005 cruise that if I
couldnít sail from and back to my mooring in Salem Harbor I wasnít
going. Iím so damned close to home now Ė but still three days off!
Personally, for me this would be surrender. I donít like defeat, at all.
But I donít like what Iím enduring either. I havenít decided which I
dislike more, or if I really have the luxury of a choice much longer. My
planned two weeks are up, but not limited to just two.
Saturday, August 9, 2008; 6:15 am Ė 59į
Marstonís Marina, Saco River, ME Ė On the mooring
Geez, whatís that
brilliance out there Ė and the sky
is a strange blue color, I donít see any gray or clouds! Whatís
wrong?!? The world in not right this morning at sunrise, it actually
Iím out of here soon,
back on my way to Portsmouth and home in a day or two after. A
one-cup-of-coffee morning while I listen to the weather forecast. NOAA
is saying it looks great for today Ė of course just about any
improvement looks great about now, but this oneís good:
NW winds 5 to 10 knots; becoming S this afternoon.
Seas 1-2 feet; Patchy fog early this morning. A slight chance of showers
or thunderstorms. Visibility 1 km or less in morning fog.
"A slight chance of showers or thunderstorms" is the
best news Iíve heard in over a week!
Tomorrowís weather looks good as well. I wonder if I
can make it from Portsmouth all the way home tomorrow? Iíll have to
check my charts tonight after reaching the Prescott Park dock, 45 miles
away when I cast off the mooring this morning. A quick look at my
chart-plotting program shows Portsmouth to Marblehead to be 48 miles if
I go through the Annisquam River into Gloucester Harbor instead of
around Cape Ann. This is sounding good, especially if I can catch the
current right. Itís possible to be home tomorrow night, maybe, even if I
need to sleep on my own mooring. Come Monday, more "unsettled weather"
and higher seas are predicted.
Saturday, August 9, 2008; 7:30 pm Ė 68į
Wentworth by the Sea Marina Ė New Castle, NH Ė Slip #C-37
Well Iím on my way home, at least getting closer Ė
and I sure canít afford spending another night here even if I wanted to.
$130/night doesnít buy much here, not even a 110v shore power electric
hookup. Thatís another $17/night. Oh yeah, and for WiFi add on $8.95 a
day. Ann in the office told me Iíd lucked out, this morning when I
called and made a reservation: It was the marinaís pizza and beer night.
She failed to mention until I checked in that it was $25/person for all
you can eat and drink!
"How about just two slices of pizza?" I asked.
"Twenty-five dollars, she grinned." A little later I managed to scoop
two slices for nothing, by just blending in with the small crowd. As the
young uniformed cop told me, theyíve got more pizza than theyíll ever go
through tonight, itíll only go to waste, as he went for his second free
I left my mooring at Marstonís Marina this morning at
8:00 am under blue sky and bright sun. The weather forecast was good for
today into tomorrow. I let out the dinghy, got the keel lowered, the
main sail raised before leaving the mouth of the Saco River Ė before
confronting the lobster pot buoy minefields ahead. Beyond the
red-and-white "SA" buoy, instead of heading out to the sea buoy I cut
the corner a bit heading closer to the Wood Island lighthouse through
the minefields until I picked up my offshore route further along [CHART]. Once
Chip Ahoy was a couple miles offshore the lobster trap buoys thinned Ė
though never to the point where you didnít need to remain vigilant with
sharp eyes ahead.
I motor-sailed all day, first with the
main sail and genoa, then
furled the genoa as I headed southeast into a SSE breeze.
The genoa was doing a lot of flogging and I didnít want to tack Ė Iím on
my way home by the shortest, quickest route possible now. The main sail
did nicely all day by itself, with an assist from Honda.
At about two oíclock I ducked below long enough to
make a sandwich and bob back up to the helm with it. It had begun to get
a little rough, choppy. I figured if I was going to go below, then this
was the time. I was right on the mark. By 3:00 pm the smooth, gently
rolling two foot seas had picked up markedly, to about three feet and
very choppy. Chip Ahoy was pitching and smashing into the oncoming chop,
to a point where I backed off the outboard, dropped from 4.5 knots to
just over 3 to minimize the pounding. It was cool all day: I wore jeans,
sock and boat shoes, along with a t-shirt and my new Marstonís Marina
long-sleeved t-shirt, and the insulated sweater beneath the lifevest.
The constant spray over the bow was somewhat of a problem, wetting the
cockpit, chart, GPS and my glasses. But at least the towels had all
dried by then, been tossed below, so I had them to wipe things!
I reached sight of the Portsmouth shoreline around
4:30 pm, spotted the lighthouse, found the sea buoy where it was
supposed to be (opposed to the Kennebunk sea buoy, which wasnít there).
Approaching the coastline, some sort of sailboat race (large boats
pouring it on, well healed over) was happening. I had to dodge more
lobster pot buoys while trying to stay out of the racersí way, and find
the new-for-me Wentworth Marina in there somewhere before the entrance
to the Piscataqua River. I decided to spring for this very
expensive arrangement to cut off going up the river then back down, so I
could get a closer start home in the morning.
I pulled in here at about 5:30 pm, got
tied up to my
slip and settled in for the night. I didnít bother with the pup-tent, as
thereís no rain in the forecast for once and I want to get out of here
as soon as possible in the morning. As it is, Iíll need to break down
and store the power cord, battery charger, and other equipment Iíve got
recharging (this is the first shore power Iíve had since leaving DiMilloís Marina in Portland). I donít know if Iíll bother pulling out
the stove for coffee in the morning either Ė depends on what time I wake
up. Iím exhausted; itíll probably be soon to bed for me, so likely an
The weather for tomorrow sounds iffy already, but I
have to get out of this marina. I donít know how far Iíll get, but I
doubt itíll be home: Thatís still a good 50 miles off.
Sunday, August 10, 2008; 6:00 am Ė 62į
Wentworth by the Sea Marina Ė New Castle, NH Ė Slip #C37
I slept like a log last night, but am up early
checking the weather forecast. It doesnít look good again Ė one good
day, yesterday, out of a string of bad ones. "A slight chance of showers
between 11am and 2pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after
2pm. Some of the storms could produce small hail, gusty winds, and heavy
rain." The day starts reasonably decent, but the weather deteriorates as
it goes along and come tomorrow the seas will be increasing to 2-4 feet
through Tuesday morning. Tomorrow heavy showers and thunderstorms are
After all of yesterdayís motor-sailing, I need to top
off a gas tank at the fuel dock when it opens before leaving here for
Newburyport, MA, up the powerful Merrimack River later today Ė about 22
miles away. Iím hoping I can get a slip at the marina there for the
night, probably through tomorrow. The bright sunrise has disappeared as
clouds and dense fog move in; with that fog ("Less than a half mile
visibility," NOAA just reported), I wouldnít be pulling out of here much
Ė 7:10 am Ė
Fog horns are blowing mournfully in the near
distance, speaking to each other; the
fog is thickening, settling in on
the marina like a heavy blanket. So much for early starts during the
cruise from hell. I canít afford to spend another night here Ė have no
desire to whatsoever. If this fog doesnít clear out by late morning (I
expect it will), maybe Iíll have to run up the Piscataqua River anyway
and grab a slip at Prescott Park to sit out the latest round of nasty
weather on its way.
Iíve got to get Chip Ahoy somewhere secure by
mid-afternoon before the storms arrive, where I can sit them out for the
duration. This trip is getting nuts. I just want to get back to
Marblehead and my dry, comfortable home, now only two days away but
still out of reach. Itís frustrating, becoming infuriating. But I have
to subdue the urge to just run for home, think instead of safety first.
The fog horns have now been joined by apparently
boats out there unable to see and doing the right thing, blowing their
boatsí horns. Iím sure glad I didnít leave too early this morning and
now be stuck out there too Ė radar reflector or not. Now I wish Iíd made
coffee earlier, since Iím still here.
While talking to the cop up at the pizza party, he
told me about a 24-foot sailboat, new to its owners, just put in the
water. It ran outside the breakwater here a couple of weeks ago, "got
into some trouble," and ran up onto the rocky shallows. Before help to
reach it, itíd broken up, smashed on the rocks. The cop said it all
happened very quickly. I passed the site coming in, and will be going
right by it on my way out of here. I want to at least be able to see it!
Sunday, August 10, 2008; 5:00 pm Ė 62į
Newburyport Harbor Marina Ė Newburyport, MA
Iím getting closer anyway, back in Massachusetts
finally. I made it as far as the Merrimack River and up into Newburyport
Harbor, arriving at about 3:45 pm. [CHART] Iím just
settled in while police boat
sirens blare racing out to the riverís mouth. VHF radio chatter
indicates a small boat has overturned out at the mouth where itís
exceedingly rough, where the river current and sea clash. "A capsized
canoe" seems to be the rescue target. It was difficult enough out there
aboard Chip Ahoy, never mind in a canoe! That spot is supposed to have
the most boating fatalities in the state every year.
The sky to the west is darkening dramatically Ė
definitely a storm approaches. I just spoke with Barbara: thunderstorms
are over Marblehead. Iím settled in for the duration, pup-tent up and
shore power connected.
What a difference a day makes. Newburyport Harbor
Marina is much more my kind of place: Very pleasant without being
pretentious, overly filled with their own value. Iím paying about half
of what I paid at that nickeled-and-dimed-to-death money-grubbing
establishment last night. $3.25/foot with no minimum boat length
(36-foot minimum last night), $8/night for shore power, compared to the
$17-something last night to run my battery charger, and no charge for
the marinaís WiFi connection, compared to $9.50/day last night. Jay
Larcome, the dockmaster, and Pat, who manages the office, run this
marina and are much more real, down-to-earth folks. Someone else owns
all four marinas in Newburyport, I understand. Sounds like my buddy
Ralph in Marblehead.
I left at 10:00 am with what I thought was to be a
lifting fog. I was wrong, as was NOAA which had informed me. That dense fog
was with me all day, for the 20 miles to the sea buoy off Newburyport,
approaching the Merrimack
River breakwater -- and suddenly it cleared. NOAA reported that visibility in patches of dense fog could be "under a
quarter of a mile." It was right on the money there. I measured it early
this afternoon when approaching the sea buoy off Hampton (NH) when the
sea buoy first appeared, using the GPS: point-27 miles ahead on my
The 2-3 foot seas were pretty much following today,
from just over my port quarter, a strong but not uncomfortable roll.
With nothing in sight but lobster pot buoys when they broke through the
fog, my primary job today was dodging them and staying close to my GPS
GPS is fabulous in this situation. Without it, you
can maintain a compass course accurately, but perhaps not account for
drift (e.g., the "Even Song," which we lost due to this phenomenon),
thus wind up eventually way off-course over time Ė though still on your
compass heading. The GPS watches your boatís track as well as its
heading. When youíre off-track, youíre aware of it, if youíre paying
attention. I was able to find that sweet spot where I over-compensated
with the tiller-pilot and steering a bit Ė running the GPSís arrow
position indicator just off-route Ė and maintain my route despite the
swells pushing me off-course and in toward the coast Ė just as happened
disastrously with the "Even Song" in Ď76, onto the sandbar off
Wachapregue Inlet, Virginia, a mile or two out.
Fog is a strange thing, the denser it is the stranger
it affects when youíre out in it. Your senses become easily confused,
sight especially followed by hearing. Iíve boated through fog before and
learned to trust my instruments regardless of any doubts. In the past
that was simply my plotted chart course, sound buoy to sound buoy so you
can hear them when you get close even if you canít see them Ė the boatís
compass, and estimated time to arrival at the next buoy. Back then we
had no electronics, especially no GPS. When you got to the next expected
buoy you had to listen for it, but trust your navigation regardless.
Once you strayed off-course, you were from then on truly lost in the
fog. Sometimes that patience could get a little nerve-wracking.
One time years ago, while crossing from the Cape Cod
Canal to Beverly Harbor up Cape Cod Bay and across Massachusetts Bay in
dense fog, the crew began to question our location when the buoy didnít
arrive when we expected it. There was all kinds of advice for which
direction we should go. As the tripís navigator, I refused to listen or
allow a course change Ė we would be lost as soon as we did, I explained
adamantly. We would keep going on the plotted course for a while longer.
Sure enough, in another ten or fifteen minutes the crewmate up on the
bow heard the slow, mournful hoot of the sea buoyís whistle we were
looking for, slightly off to port. It came out of the fog ahead and
nearby enough to visually identify Ė right where it and we were supposed
to be. After that, everyone thought I was a magician, didnít question my
navigation skill any more: We all became more confident with it.
We made Beverly Harbor and our dock late that afternoon, navigating
blindly through the fog the entire way.
With two friends aboard for a cruise down to Plymouth
the first summer I owned Chip Ahoy we found ourselves in much the same
situation Ė with the same response from the two crew. "Go a little this
way," said one. "No, I think we need to go a little more that way,"
argued the other. "No," I asserted, "We are right on course and the
buoyís just ahead." Sure enough, it came up a few minutes later, dead
ahead. That time, I was using my new handheld GPS Ė I knew exactly
where the sound buoy was, within feet, and had already learned I could
rely on GPS.
Still, moving through dense fog out to sea is
unnerving even when you know itís going to be unnerving in advance, have
done it before with good luck. Yesterdayís fog was supposed to lift by
late morning. It never did until I approached the mouth of the Merrimack
River coming in from my 20-mile trip 3-4 miles offshore. It became
denser the more south I got. At first, I could just make out the
coastline, even some buildings on it. Soon it disappeared, I was
surrounded in fog. Now the senses started rebelling Ė almost like
hallucinations. Large navigation buoys coming up that didnít appear on
my chart or GPS turned into small lobster pot buoys coming up out of the
gray. What looked like land ahead or close by was revealed as just ocean
swells and waves. I abandoned my perceptions, set them aside, except for
a sharp eye to keep dodging the lobster pot buoys as they suddenly came
out of the fog dead ahead or just alongside. I relied on the GPS for my
position and route, and kept track of my position on the chart as I
reached each next sound sea buoy, feeling the great relief of arriving
at it as planned.
It was good looking up and seeing that radar
reflector hanging from the starboard spreader. I was real glad I went
through the additional effort and cost of getting it back up there
before departing. I just hoped any other boats in the area had radar,
had it on, and the captain was watching the screen! We take our little
comforts wherever and whenever we find them.
While out there alone all day with plenty of time to
contemplate, I thought about Catalina 22s and the discussions of the
difference between racers and cruisers Ė and realized that itís not that
simple. What I do isnít really cruising either. Itís seafaring.
I'm not trying to squeeze every fraction of a knot
possible out of Chip Ahoyís sails, as a racer would be doing, but then
Iím definitely not in that class. Iím not even trying to use strictly
just the boatís sails to arrive at my next destination, as typical
cruisers aboard our little boats might do. I'm trying to reach a
destination aboard Chip Ahoy. Most of my accomplishing that is simply
surviving from Point A to Point B by whatever means is at hand, and
doing so in the most direct route possible and as speedily as is
I'm mostly dealing with just getting the boat and me
intact from and to those points, a day at a time, day after day, without
one small mistake, alone. Iím usually between 3-5 miles offshore,
entirely on my own, in open ocean. Weather is the biggest factor that
confronts me. Even getting directly onto the rocks or beach from
wherever I happen to be at any given moment, running the motor and
moving at 5 knots will ordinarily take Chip Ahoy close to an hour. But
hitting the nearest coastline is no accomplishment nor a practical
consideration. I need to find a safe harbor if Iím running in, and they
are few and far between, beyond dangerous rocks and shoals, in usually
tough sea conditions if youíre running into them, through convoluted and
narrow channels where mistakes are easily made and probably deadly.
Thus, I concluded, what I do and am doing is better
defined as "seafaring." I go to sea for a while, a couple of weeks or
three, and expect to make it home in the end, hopefully.
Monday, August 11, 2008; 6:45 am Ė 64į
Newburyport Harbor Marina Ė Newburyport, MA
More showers are coming down Ė again, showers not
downpours. The marina office here opens early and prepares coffee. I
just got a cup and asked how much. "No charge, help yourself," Jay the
dockmaster told me. What a difference from that pretentious Wentworthís,
where the coffee sold by the cup and I didnít dare even ask how much.
Yesterday, Jay and I were talking about my trip so
far, my desire to make it home in another day out of here, but how I
intended to spend two nights here. He thought today wouldnít be too bad,
that I might want to head out this morning. I didnít think so but kept
it to myself, my options open. Either way was no problem for him, leave
this morning or stay another night.
"Itís a bit snotty out there alright, especially for
heading south," he just agreed when I told him Iíd be staying until
tomorrow, trying again then.
The weather forecast is somewhat confusing this
morning, depending on its source. NOAA is calling for more showers, some
heavy, and thunderstorms late this morning and early this afternoon.
"Some thunderstorms may produce heavy downpours, high winds, and small
hail." Seas 1-2 feet building to 2-3 this afternoon. Wind E at 5-10
knots, gusts to 25. More of the same tomorrow (Tuesday) but with higher
seas, 2-4 feet.
"Today: Scattered showers and thunderstorms before
11am, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm between 11am and
1pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 1pm and 3pm,
then a chance of showers after 3pm. Cloudy, with a high near 65. East
wind between 8 and 11 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Chance of
precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of
an inch possible."
AccuWeather is calling for much the same today, but
its forecast for tomorrow is for partly sunny by late morning, a chance
of showers and thunderstorms by late afternoon. Winds NW at 10 mph (not
knots) gusting to 12. (NOAA just tossed in the "partly sunny" mention
Naturally, Wednesday looks much more favorable from
both forecast sources Ė but then, that far off, itís subject to change,
as the weather has done constantly along this trip by the time "days
Michael Sullivan called shortly after Iíd arrived
here, came by later to take me out to dinner. When he arrived we walked
over to the Starboard Galley, his favorite restaurant in Newburyport and
mine too from previous visits. (They have the best seafood chowder,
tomato-based, Iíve ever had. Barbara and I drove up once just so I could
order it.) I finally had a steak, deliciously perfect Ė the first real
dinner Iíve had in days. He paid the tab with, he later told me,
proceeds from the sale of "Carpe Diem," which I sold to him last year
after buying it from Wally Riddle for its trailer.
Michael commented on how dark I was despite the
miserable weather Iíve had along this cruise. I chalked it up to just
the elements; god knows it wasnít from the sun Ė at least not entirely.
I could feel sun beating down yesterday through the fog, but youíd never
recognize it as true sunshine. I think though that the sky above the
dense fog was clear; it was just low-level blindness at sea level and
just above. Iíve had a few sunny days here and there to pick up some
tan, but all things considered with the preponderance of rain and
clouds, that doesnít explain my darkness Ė at least I donít believe so.
Hell, I thought I'd have evolved gills by now, maybe even scales.
While I was waiting for him to arrive, John Graichen
("Malacass") called to check in with me, see how I was doing. Heíd been
out on "Malacass," had parked in my lot for the afternoon, had just
spoken with Barbara while there. With Michael, John, and Wally Riddle,
what a C22 community of friends Ė and backup if/when needed Ė I have.
Ė 8:45 am Ė
I just had to put the cribboards in, close off the
cockpit. A southeast wind has picked up noticeably. The showers are
blowing in over Chip Ahoyís transom, beneath the pup-tent and into the
cabin sprinkling the interior Ė and the laptop. Between the strong
outgoing river current and the opposing incoming wind itís become rather
roily aboard. Chip Ahoy is pulling hard on its dock lines, giving its
cleats and fenders a real workout; squeaks, jerking, and banging. This
current is something else, very impressive.
Ė 9:45 am Ė
Preparing for a much-needed shower, I just rooted
through the clean clothes locker, a large plastic box with cover, more
or less waterproof, stored beneath the port side cockpit seat, accessed
through the hinged drop-down panel I cut behind the aft dinette seat
some years ago. (I donít use the seat-back cushions, as I donít use the
table: Itís always down as my bunk and hanging-out area.) Iíve still got
lots of shorts in there Ė I went through two pairs since leaving
Marblehead -- but am into my third and last pair of clean jeans. It was
definitely a jeans cruise, along with socks (one pair remaining after
this change) permanently and boat shoes (the boat sandals were tossed
aside at least a week ago, and barefoot was out).
I just improved the jerk/creak sound coming from the
bow with each sharp jerk by the current, which now has got to be
running flat out. The bow line is running over the anchor chain. Each
jerk of the bow line is crushing the chain into the deck, has already
worn a minor gouge in the gelcoat from this repeated action. I used a
towel between the chain and deck to cushion the blows. Iíd retie the bow
line beneath the anchor chain Ė but thereís no way in hell I can release
the bow line without losing the boat to the current. That will have to
wait. While I was up there, I also tied off the additional end of
the bow line to a second, smaller bow cleat, just in case the larger one
in the center of the deck loosens or fails. I donít particularly like
Chip Ahoyís spring lines being tied off to lifeline stanchions on the
starboard side, but thereís nowhere else to tie them, and this setupís
always worked in the past Ė but never in such extreme current, bouncing
and jerking. The spring lines are tied off close to their bases, so Iím
reasonably confident because I installed the stanchions and their
heavy-duty backing plates, solid stainless steel Ė better than the deck
cleatsí old plywood backing. If I find water intrusion inside the cabin
in the future, Iíll know why and where to look first; it wonít be the
stanchions. Theyíll get my second look.
The latest turbulent weather, which is forecast
to continue at least through today, was expected to produce about 1
to 2 inches of rain in Massachusetts, although some pockets of the
state could see double that - putting those areas at risk for flash
It's been a summer of high rainfall and unusually
violent weather. . . .
The possibility of flash floods is the latest
fallout from summer rainfall averages in Massachusetts that are much
higher than usual. Since June 1, a little more than a foot of rain
has fallen at Logan Airport, about 5 inches more than normal, and in
Worcester, nearly 16 inches have fallen, nearly double the normal
amount. . . .
The turbulent weather across New England is
expected to last into next week, according to the National Weather
Service. And even when that weather pattern clears up, New England
can brace itself for hurricane season, which is starting to ramp up.
The Boston Globe
Monday, August 11, 2008
Line of thunderstorms pounds region
By James Vaznis and John M. Guilfoil
A line of powerful thunderstorms roared through
New England yesterday, downing trees, washing out several area
roads, and dumping nickel-sized hail in locations from Dorchester to
southern New Hampshire.
The heavy downpours sent people scurrying for
cover, while emergency and public work crews in places such as
Cambridge and Everett closed down streets and cleared clogged
Aracelis Fontenot, 30, of Chelsea, was detoured
right into a flash flood on Third Street in Everett yesterday
afternoon and had to be rescued by a firefighter after her car
stalled in rising water.
"There were cars passing through the puddle, so I
figured I was OK, but when I realized I wasn't going to make it, I
went in reverse," said Fontenot, who is 4 1/2 months pregnant.
"There was a car behind me and I stalled out,"
she said. "The car flooded and the water started rising."
By the time police and fire rescuers arrived,
Fontenot's car was flooded to the windows, and she couldn't open the
"I was scared - I was panicked," she said.
A firefighter forced open the car door and
carried her to safety. Fontenot was uninjured but said her car was
probably a total loss.
The latest turbulent weather, which is forecast
to continue at least through today, was expected to produce about 1
to 2 inches of rain in Massachusetts, although some pockets of the
state could see double that - putting those areas at risk for flash
It's been a summer of high rainfall and unusually
Last week, a 7-year-old Rhode Island girl drowned
in Ashland, N.H., after her family's Ford Explorer was swept into a
surging brook during a flash flood, trapping her inside the vehicle
for more than two hours. On that same day, another flash flood at
Weirs Beach created a 50-foot-wide sinkhole that destroyed a portion
of a pier and a set of train tracks.
And last month, a tornado tore through a stretch
of central New Hampshire, killing a 57-year-old woman as she tried
to save her 3-month-old stepson, who survived, while nine soccer
spectators in Dorchester were struck by lightning while standing
under a tree.
The possibility of flash floods is the latest
fallout from summer rainfall averages in Massachusetts that are much
higher than usual. Since June 1, a little more than a foot of rain
has fallen at Logan Airport, about 5 inches more than normal, and in
Worcester, nearly 16 inches have fallen, nearly double the normal
The rain has so saturated land across
Massachusetts while also causing rivers to swell well above normal
averages that it would take only 4 inches of rain to fall within 12
hours in most areas to cause a flash flood, said Glenn Field, a
warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service
The weather service posted flood advisories
earlier in the day for many Massachusetts counties, including
Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, and
Worcester. The heavy rain was expected to cause some creeks and
small rivers to overflow, while also causing water to gather in
urban areas with poor drainage.
Yesterday, much of central and northern New
Hampshire - one of the hardest-hit regions of New England by this
summer's rain - remained under a flash-flood watch. The state opened
its statewide emergency operations center last night to assist local
fire departments and rescue units with any storm-related problems.
"If we get through the next 24 hours, we should
be OK," said Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the New Hampshire
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in an
interview early yesterday afternoon, "but we are not getting out of
the woods any time soon."
The turbulent weather across New England is
expected to last into next week, according to the National Weather
Service. And even when that weather pattern clears up, New England
can brace itself for hurricane season, which is starting to ramp up.
Ė 3:15 pm Ė
Whoa, that was one big ship to just pull in
Chip Ahoy: The 117-foot "Sandrine" from Fort Lauderdale. It came in on
the dead slack current and still the dock and shipís crew (and me as an
extra pair of eyes on the next slip) were able to just squeeze it in
between the two (it takes up both) with lots of maneuvering
(bow-thrusters certainly do have an advantage), maybe with two feet on
the starboard (windward) side left over, maybe. I thought "News" out of
George Town, Caymen Islands, that was here when I arrived and leaving
next week, was huge, but this suckerís even slightly bigger, but with an
additional deck above and a crew of five I'm told. Who owns these
Itís still "snotty" out there; showering, blustering,
and blowing out of the northeast now. The current has come to rest, 3:30
pm; should begin coming back in shortly if it hasnít already. I figure
Chip Ahoy should be good to go on a slack outgoing current which I
calculate at 9:00-10:00 tomorrow morning, weather-permitting. High tide
is at 8:52 am, so the changeover works closer here than in Portsmouth,
according to my notes from the last trip. If so, thatíll be nice;
convenient timing for me with even a cup of marina office coffee thrown
in Ė weather-permitting. Iím disappointed that I didnít observe and note
this currentís attributes on my last trip here in my little cruising
pocket notebook where I make and keep such things: I just checked my
2004 log on the website too, and thereís no mention, shame on me. Poor
"seafaring" on my part back then! It must have been when I thought
myself to be a cruiser . . .
Ė 6:00 pm Ė
Itís sure nasty out there now. I just heard on NOAA
radio that at the Isle of Shoals, offshore from Portsmouth, NH, the wind
is NE at 21 knots, gusting to 23 with seas 3 feet. I passed between it
and the coastline coming down from Portsmouth yesterday; Iím about 15
miles south of the Isle now, but up the river, almost 4 miles inland.
"Numerous showers and thunderstorms tonight," NOAA
just forecast. No kidding, itís raining now, was pouring half an hour
ago. "Seas 2-4 feet." It feels like that in here right now.
Chip Ahoy is bouncing hard at the dock with the now
incoming tide; the strain on cleats coming from aft. I sure wish Iíd put
those cleats in myself, or at least checked their backing plates more
closely. The dinghy doesnít have cleats, only the bow line and its
eye-bolt. Iíve got a line tied around the outboard holding the dinghy to
the dock. Iíve used this method before, but never in conditions even
close to this where itís outboard is actually acting as a cleat with
force on it. It seems to be holding up, but I donít like the setup at
all. Next spring the dinghy gets cleats Ė if it makes it back to
Marblehead in the next day or two. Note I said day or two . . .
NOAA is moving that halfway-decent weather target goal post ahead again
as it approaches, as usual:
Tomorrow (Tuesday): NW winds 10-15 knots gusting to
20, becoming W 5-10 knots early in the afternoon. Seas 2-4 feet. A
chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Wednesday: NW winds 10-15 knots. Seas around 2-3
Thursday: NW winds 5-10 knots, becoming E early in
the afternoon. Seas 1 foot or less.
"Torrential downpours . . . 3-4 inches an hour"
tonight. A "flash flood watch" too. Yeah, so whatís new? Geez, will this
weather never relent, cut us a break, even for one day? This is
insane, almost impossible. It canít be happening. It canít continue like
this forever . . . can it?
Even sitting "safely" in a marina, Chip Ahoy is
taking a pounding against its slip and dock lines. The boatís at least
not pounding against the slip like before Ė the wind and current are
pushing it away from the slip, the dock lines are all thatís holding it,
with only an occasional jolt, but lots of shipboard creaks.
I just got back from a bowl of fishermanís chowder
across the parking lot at the Starboard Galley Restaurant. When I left
the boat, I almost didnít take my foul-weather jacket; it wasnít raining
and looked to be clearing a bit. Iíd only be gone for an hour, you know?
While eating, overlooking the marina, the sky opened again with a
deluge. I walked back in a downpour, glad I grabbed the hooded jacket. I
used to call this my annual "vacation getaway." Never again. Iím writing
down these details so that I never, ever forget them and this
Though Iíve got NOAA weather on the boatís VHF, the
mast top antenna coax cable is just plugged in, not screwed, so I can
pull it out with the first sign of lightning or rumble of thunder. Out
the open top cribboard space in the companionway, Iím watching huge
white clouds against the gray sky out over the ocean to the northeast.
To the west the sky is much darker, moving this way from the direction
one local salt last night told me to watch for here. The thunderstorms
arenít far off, are all around.
Thereís been a constant sound all day, like a quiet,
low-key siren, winding up and down. I just went out into the cockpit to
investigate its source, between showers. It seems to be just wind
blowing through the rigging of marina sailboats, running through the
flying bridges of the sportfishing boats. I canít otherwise explain it,
but itís always there in the background.
Iíve never written so much about weather observations
and weatherís effects on my boat. But thereís little else to do along
this cruise Ė and never have I had a better chance to do it. Ah, the sky
just opened up again, another deluge this time . . .
Ė 8:45 pm Ė
The deluge continues, "in excess of two inches,"
according to NOAA radio (from the CCRadio, not the boatís VHF, the mast
top antenna for which has been disconnected in anticipation of the
thunderstorms). When I lit the oil lamp and turned on the cabin light
behind me, I had another of those brilliant (why didnít I think of this
before?!?) flashes. Iíve had a difficult time seeing the keyboard of the
laptop from where I sit using it, across from all its connections and
the shore power cord. I grabbed another piece of velcro and stuck it
overhead; connected the LED lamp from the CCRadio to it. Problem solved,
in about three minutes. Now I have two locations to stick that lamp when
needed. Itís starting to become quite useful, and it runs independently
off the CCRadioís lithium battery Ė running/charging now off the 110v
shore power, otherwise being charged by its solar panel, able to be
charged with its 12v cigarette lighter adapter.
"It canít rain any harder" Ė famous last words of the
uninitiated. Thankfully, the wind has lessened and moved to more from
the north, rather broadside, so the pup-tent seems to be keeping it out
of the cabin with one cribboard out.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008; 6:45 am Ė 62į
Newburyport Harbor Marina Ė Newburyport, MA
NOAA radio weather report for today:
Coastal waters from Merrimack River, MA, out 25 nm to
Plymouth, MA out 40 nm, including Stellwagen Bank National Marine
Sanctuary Ė 552 AM EDT Tue, Aug 12 2008
Ė Small Craft Advisory in effect until 10AM EDT this
Today: N winds 10-15 knots with gusts up to 25 knots,
becoming NW 10-20 knots late this morning and afternoon. Seas 3-5 feet.
Showers likely early. A chance of thunderstorms early. A chance of
showers late this morning and afternoon. Some thunderstorms may produce
gusty winds and frequent lightning early. Visibility 1 nm or less early,
then 1 nm or less this afternoon.
I awoke at 6:00 am listening to this, thinking I must
be still asleep, having a bad dream. "Small Craft Advisory in effect"?!?
This cannot be for real! Before I went to sleep, there was no small
craft advisory mentioned on NOAA weather radio, just iffy weather, seas
probably a little higher than comfortable Ė and my river current-timing
plan to leave just after 9:00 am this morning.
I awoke to heavy showers and low visibility Ė not
dense fog like on Sunday, but gray in the distance obscuring land on the
riverís far bank, though I could still make it out. Yeah, seas 3-5 feet
all the way home would be higher than comfortable for sure. I listened
through another round of NOAA radio and there it was again, "A Small
Craft Advisory is in effect until 10:00 am Eastern Daylight time this
morning." Sheesh, this just canít be happening, again Ė still.
I just got done bailing out the dinghy again,
bucketing out 3-4 inches of rainwater that accumulated yesterday and
overnight. Put on the foul-weather jacket, remove shoes and socks, roll
up the legs of the jeans into cuffs, then have at it. First comes the
"all-purpose bucket," leaning over the dock to empty enough water to
drop into Chip Mate without capsizing it. Then sit in it and remove what
remains with the half-gallon scoop while the rain is coming down,
back-filling. Itís kind of crazy, considering how little I needed to
bring the dinghy along on this trip. The most use Iíve made of it is
just bailing it out and moving it around at various docks to get it out
of the way. Marston's Marina was the only time I used, twice, it
on the entire trip.
While getting my first cup of marina office coffee I
spoke with Jay, the dockmaster, about the conditions and the SCA, asked
if I could stay another day. Itís no problem for him, but he mentioned
we might want to move Chip Ahoy around this dock to the other side of
the two ships where itíll be more protected and comfortable. That sounds
good, but itís an awful lot of work to break camp just to move around to
the other side of the dock Ė then thereís the current to time. Weíd have
to do it like, right now. And the 117-foot "Sandrine" that came in
yesterday has one of its thick bow lines running across to the further
slip where Jay mentioned moving Chip Ahoy, which would need to be
removed to get my boat in and eventually out.
Ė 9:20 am Ė
Good; it looks like Chip Ahoy will remain right where
itís been, no moving necessary. I just returned from the office (for my
third cup of coffee) and Jay said no more about moving me and my boat.
Itís pretty calm and comfortable aboard right now, but my estimated
timing of the current was off by maybe an hour. Instead of planning to
leave between 9:00-10:00 this morning on a slack current, the current
was actually slack at about 8:00 am. Itís now moving out noticeably, and
will get much stronger in the hours ahead.
Tomorrow looks to be a sunny day (if you can believe
the forecasts when you hear sunny), according to both NOAA and
AccuWeather. In fact, the next few days should be sunny as well, or so
itís forecast this morning. If I can get out of here tomorrow morning at
9:00-9:30 am, I should catch that perfect current I was hoping for
The showers are still coming down, but more lightly
and the sky appears to be brightening; probably just wishful thinking on
my part or a trick of the eye. Darker gray low-laying clouds are visible
further down the river and out to sea; I expect itís quite foggy out
Ė 11:30 am Ė
At 10:22 am the National Weather Service extended the
Small Craft Advisory until 6:00 pm this evening for coastal waters from
the Merrimack River (here) to Watch Hill, RI and out to 25 nms. NOAA is
now reporting five foot seas out there. I had a feeling this was coming
for some reason Ė probably the pessimism thatís settled into me of late:
"If it can rain, itíll be over me; if the weather can get any worse, it
will." But the sun is busting out! Though weíre surrounded by
ominous-looking clouds, things are starting to dry out, e.g., the
cockpit and pup-tent. Iíve removed the long-sleeve t-shirt and bared the
short-sleeve one beneath it Ė itís actually warming up for the first
time in days. I even just opened the forward hatch Ė which on this trip
has been almost as useful as the dinghy!
I think I should make two lists for future reference:
The most useful and the most useless things Iíve brought along for this
Up there at the top of the "most useless" list, along
with the dinghy and forward hatch, is shorts: Maybe Iíll get to put that
second pair I broke out a week or two ago back on for the sail home to
Marblehead? Iíll never touch the other four pair. The cell phoneís 110v
charger was simply redundant. If Iím connected to shore power 110v, then
the boatís batteries are charging Ė and the phoneís usual method of
charging using the cigarette lighter connected to the battery works
perfectly. The expensive Nikon D50 SLR camera with all its lenses has
never left its Pelican case. I didnít want to risk damaging it in the
weather, and the little pocket Olympus Stylus 720SW (for shock resistant
and waterproof) digital has done a yeomanís job along the way.
Topping the "most useful" list are: By far "the
all-purpose bucket," and lots of towels Ė more than I ever expected to
need. The new long-sleeve t-shirt, the gift from Randy at Marstonís
Marina, will be along on every cruise ever again; Iíve been literally
living in it ever since. To think, he apologized for having only
long-sleeve shirts when presenting it! Three pairs of jeans should do
the trick, though I broke out the last clean pair yesterday. I should
have been home before having to do that Ė that third pair were intended
for backup. Three pairs are minimum; dump so many pairs of shorts to
make up the space.
This will be a work-in-progress. Iíll be back to add
more as they come to mind.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008; 5:50 am Ė 63į
Newburyport Harbor Marina Ė Newburyport, MA
This is the day, at last Ė I should be home in my own
bed tonight! I awoke to a bright pre-sunrise, pink sky out the
companionway hatch and over the transom, the sun is just peeking above
the horizon, highlighting fair weather clouds stretching out to sea from
beneath. The weather forecast sounds ideal.
NOAA weather forecast for today: SW winds 5-10 knots,
becoming S early this afternoon. Seas around 2 feet.
No mention at all of showers or thunderstorms; not
threatening nor even potential until after midnight, when thereís a
"slight chance of showers." Right through the week the weathers seems to
The river current should be slack at around 9:00
before turning outgoing. I want to be ready to cast off then for the
ride out the river and be on my way down to Ipswich Bay and onto the
Annisquam River. Iíve decided to save the 15 miles around Rockport and
Cape Ann by taking the river and coming out in Gloucester Harbor. Once
out of there, itís a pretty easy run to Bakers and Misery Islands then
between them and home. I should arrive at Chip Ahoy's home mooring
sometime mid- to late-afternoon, covering about 32 miles.
Yesterday was leisurely. I caught up with news on the
laptop for an hour or two, read for a short while, then took a long nap
in the afternoon. In the early evening I walked over the Starboard
Galley restaurant and ordered another steak for dinner Ė they serve a
great New York sirloin.
Back onboard, I called and checked in with Barbara,
then did some online research about the Annisquam River. Iíve got to
make sure this morning that both bridges are working: There was a
problem with the second one where the river meets Gloucester Harbor a
couple years ago Ė it had to be permanently closed, blocking boat
traffic. Iím confident itís been repaired and is working by now, but
Iíll check for sure Ė after all, this is Massachusetts where no public
works project is ever completed "on time and on budget." Getting all the
way down that narrow, twisty, winding, shallow river only to find its
exit blocked would be a real kick in the teeth at this point! I found
some useful phone numbers to call if needed along the way: a couple
local marinas and the Annisquam YC, the Gloucester harbormaster, etc.
One of them will know.
I did this route on the way home from Maine in 2004.
The Annisquam River is a pleasant motoring experience Ė definitely not
intended for sailing. Though itís tricky with its current (which can run
at 5 knots when peak flowing, based on the tide in Gloucester Harbor),
and it twists and turns all the way in quite shallow water, with the
rocky shore, marshes, beaches, and sand bars often close at hand. Though
tricky, itís well-marked with numerous navigation buoys, but you must
take them in order, one at a time, and keep track of where you are at
every moment. Four years ago, though I had a green can within reach Ė
literally, not more than two feet off Ė on my port side, a sand bar was
reaching out on the starboard side that looked awfully close and very
shallow. It was: Chip Ahoyís cranked-up keel bumped twice before getting
past the sand bar. I still had a few turns to go on the swing keel when
we bumped, so this time the keel will be cranked up all the way before
entering the river from Ipswich Bay after passing the Annisquam Harbor
The sunrise is pouring into the cabin, blinding me
now. I just put the top two cribboards in to block it. I think anything
brighter than gray sky will seem blinding after the past week or two!
But Iíve got the lower cribboard out and the sliding hatch wide open
beneath the pup-tent.
Well, I guess itís time to get this show on the road,
begin breaking camp and stowing things away for the last time.
Thursday, August 14, 2008; 6:00 am
Home (Marblehead, MA)
Oh it feels so good to be home again, even if the
rooms are still pitching and rolling, after so long away seafaring. Even
my bed last night felt like it was rolling and I fell asleep in moments.
Yesterday morning started earlier than Iíd
anticipated. After my last sentence in yesterday's entry, I walked up to
the marina office for a cup of coffee. I thought I still had a couple
hours before slack tide, before the Merrimack River then started running
out. Walking up to the office and standing on the high pier overlooking
the marina and river, it seemed to be darned close to slack tide at the
moment, about 6:45 am. I asked Jay, the dockmaster, when he thought the
current would be dead slack and begin turning.
"In about 45 minutes, Iíd say," he replied. Uh oh, my
prediction of 9:00 was off again, by about an hour and a half. I made
half a cup of coffee instead, settled up with the marina, then hurried
back down to the boat and began quickly breaking camp, stowing the mess
in the cabin where things belonged for getting underway. Iíve gotten
pretty efficient with the process: Had the shore power things (battery
charger, shore power cord, etc.) put in their proper places, the
pup-tent down and stowed, and the cabin organized within a half hour or
so, had the dinghy untied from the dock and attached to Chip Ahoy's
stern, the rudder and outboard down and the motor running within 45
minutes, and sure enough the current was dead slack. Jay came down and,
after thanking him for a great stay, he gave me a hand with the bow line
as I cast off, backed out, and got back onto the river. It was 7:45 am
as I headed for home, an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of the schedule
It couldnít have worked out better. Halfway down the
river Chip Ahoy was moving out at five knots with the outboard running a
bit above idle more for steerage than speed. Along the way out, though
the boat traffic was considerably lighter, it being a weekday, other
passing boaters showed much more etiquette and recognition of my small
sailboat, slowing as they overtook me, reducing their wakes; even most
of the lobstermen.
The entrance was as calm as Iíve seen it, the riverís
mouth producing only comfortable rolls where outgoing current met the
ocean, and Chip Ahoy was soon beyond them. At the first entrance sea
buoy and beyond the lobster trap buoys I turned Chip Ahoy back toward
land, into the NW breeze, and hoisted sails. Back on my route south the
sailing was perfect, and the seas were gentle, 1-2 foot calm rollers. It
doesnít get any better.
By about 12:30 pm I had crossed
Ipswich Bay and was
approaching the Annisquam Harbor lighthouse [CHART]. I lowered and started the
motor, dropped the sails, and cranked the swing keel all the way up
tight. Boat traffic was pretty light here too [CHART]. Once
on the river, I
followed the buoys closely as I motored against a moderate current. The
timing here too couldnít have been better Ė I wanted the current to be
coming at Chip Ahoy so Iíd have control when I approached the two
bridges, wouldnít be getting pushed into them. It turned out to be a big
advantage when I reached both.
In the past, Iíve bumped bottom along a narrow
stretch of the river, but this time had plenty of water Ė no shallower
than 5-6 feet in a few areas, usually more like 6-7 feet. Following the
buoys with chart and GPS was pretty easy, so long as I kept track of
exactly where I was and what was ahead. For a while I followed
sailboat out of Mattapoisett, MA, which made
following the markers that
much simpler. I wondered why it veered about 100 yards ahead: when I
arrived, I found a patch of lobster pot buoys that needed avoiding. They
even stick the darned things in the middle of this narrow river channel!
The "Mattapoisett" craft gained distance on Chip Ahoy
along the way, was about 250 yards ahead when we reached the railroad
bridge, made it through. I called ahead (Ch. 13) to make sure the
bridge-tender saw Chip Ahoy coming too Ė that no boats were coming from
the other side. Getting under the bridge requires a sharp ninety degree
turn, so you canít see whatís coming from the other direction. I was
told to stand by; a train was coming momentarily and the bridge was on
its way down. (Itís kept in the up and open position until a train
approaches.) I was glad I was running into the current for control, but
still had to do a couple of circles while waiting in place. When the
train passed, the bridge was
quickly reopened and I was through the
narrow passage and on to the next one, at the end of the Blyman
Canal crossed by state Route 127. Again I was required to take up a
holding pattern until the roadway bridge could be eventually cleared of
vehicle and pedestrian traffic and opened,
about 10 minutes after I radioed the bridge-tender of my approach.
I continued to motor out into Gloucester Harbor [CHART], but
as soon as I found a free spot I pointed Chip Ahoy into the wind, now
coming strong out of the SE like Iíd passed into another world, raised and
tilted the motor, and sailed out
beyond Eastern Point and into the
ocean [CHART]. The last lap of my trip was underway: Gloucester to the channel
between Misery and Bakers Islands into Salem Sound, then home to Chip Ahoyís mooring in Salem Harbor.
Again I had perfect sailing conditions, with the wind
providing for a port tack instead of the starboard tack Iíd been on all
morning. The seas were a slight bit larger, two to maybe three feet, but
still gently rolling and comfortable. Once through the Misery/Bakers
Islands channel they dropped to 1-2 feet and the wind dropped a little
to about 5-10 knots, but still enough to sail nicely back to the
entrance of Salem Harbor.
Approaching the no wake zone, where there is still
room to maneuver before the crowded harbor moorings, I lowered and
started the motor, dropped sails and got the boat ready for its mooring.
Though I needed to tie up at the Village Street dock to offload all the
cruising gear, I wanted to make sure my mooring was still there and
available, and picking it up would provide a chance to get everything
coming ashore together. I reached the mooring at 5:30 pm, called Barbara
to let here know Iíd made it, was home. At about 7:00, space at the dock
opened, so I motored in and tied up. Barbara met me there with her SUV
and my muling of the stuff up the dock to her vehicle began.
After everything aboard going home was hauled up to
the street and loaded into her Honda CRV, I took Chip Ahoy back out to
its mooring then dropped into the dinghy with its oars, expecting to
wrestle with the old Johnson outboard, but it started up with three
pulls Ė the first time along the trip I didnít have to yank my brains
out! It must have been happy to be home too, it never stuttered,
sputtered, or missed a beat on the way in, didnít even stall out as I
idled it into the dock. And the dinghy ring Iíd been temporarily
assigned before leaving was still vacant, so I tied it up there and,
grabbing the oars, was home minutes later, just after sunset. Whew,
pulling into our yard never felt so good.
Coming into Salem Harbor, I checked the GPS trip
odometer: It read 249 nautical miles round-trip Ė but moved to 250
before I reached the mooring, a nice round number! (Thatís 287.5 statute
miles, round-trip.) I had a few decent sailing days in the 20 days I was
off seafaring in the most miserable summer weather anyone can recall,
but so seemingly long ago theyíre hard to recall (which is why I keep
this log/journal). Most of yesterday Chip Ahoy was averaging 3-5 knots
under sail alone and bright sunshine, even hit over 5 knots once in a
while. It was fantastic having the final day, coming home, be so
But I'll never forget this trip, this seafaring
cruise from hell for its miserable weather conditions. It'll be a
long time if ever before I want to risk going through something like
One regret I have is missing some of the
better photos of the more harrowing experiences, such as the big blow
off Hampton, NH on the way to Saco, ME, or leaving Marston's Marina on
my return trip only to hit high, rough seas, turning about, and
high-tailing it back in. And I took none of the day of fog upon
leaving New Castle, NH heading for Newburyport. I guess it's human
nature to not think about cameras and photos when one feels threatened,
but there were a few other shots I wish I'd thought to take along the
way, such as the last bridge leaving the Annisquam River into Gloucester
Harbor, and rafting up with Peter, Marianne, and family off Chebeague
Island (though Marianne took some of which she'll send me copies).
All in all, though, I've captured enough to keep the memory fresh in my
mind, and provide others with some insight into this experience.
Chip Ahoy's 2008 Voyage
(per Garmin BlueChart routes)
Island to Rockport, MA
Sat., Jul 26
Rockport to Portsmouth, NH
Mon., Jul 28
to Saco, ME
Tues., Jul 29
Saco to Portland, ME
Wed., Jul 30
Chebeague Island, Casco Bay, ME
Sat., Aug 2
Chebeague Island to Saco, ME
Tues., Aug 5
|Saco to New
Sat., Aug 9
New Castle to Newburyport, MA
Sun., Aug 10
Newburyport to Home
Wed., Aug 13
Total roundtrip distance (nautical miles, from
GPS trip odometer)
Total roundtrip distance (statute miles)
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sun surfing into town
By Katy Jorda
Beachcombers breathe easy.
The rest of the week
is proving to be one of the best of the
summer with warm days and cool,
ďAfter we get through today, weíre looking
at lots of sunshine, clear nights and
temperatures in the mid-80s,Ē said National
Weather Service spokeswoman Nicole Belk.
There is a slight chance of rain early
today. But itís clear
sailing after that.
For students returning to school in the
coming weeks, this final week of sunshine is
a much-needed vacation
from a summer of storms.
Todayís temperatures, expected to reach the
mid 80s, will be just shy of the sweltering
87 degrees clocked at Logan International
Airport yesterday, the National Weather
Belk said the rest of
the week will be nothing but sunny.
ďThereís some cool air headed our way
tomorrow though,Ē Belk said, with tomorrowís
temperatures reaching only the 70s and the
evening plummeting to a cool 50 degrees.
ďThereís a big (weather) pattern change
happening here,Ē Belk said. ďWhat weíve been
lacking this summer is this large area of
high, cool pressure.Ē
ďNow we will have a nice quiet stretch,Ē she
added, as we watch summer come to a close.