Chip Fordís 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

Chip Ahoyís 2008 Coast of Maine Cruise

ďSeafaringĒ to Chebeague Island, Casco Bay, Maine and back

Even 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.

Ė Chip Ford
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 included.

ďThis isn't cruising, itís ĎseafaringíĒ
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 its battery.)

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.

Rounding 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 stage.

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 answer, sheesh.

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 steer by!

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 21 (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 impressive 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 my cockpit.

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 lighter adapter.

"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 of it.

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 waving farewell.

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 seas 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 whitecaps.

"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 last.

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 difference.

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 tonight.

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 nights.

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



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 it.

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 boat.

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 him.

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 cats.

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 slid in.

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 2005.

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 threatening yet.

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 down too.

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 and dogged.

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.




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 possible.

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

As expected, 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 another day.

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 so neat!

My new 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 the effort.

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 possible.

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 possible.

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 departing.

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 folks.

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 nights, #141.

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 approaching.

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. Visibility never reached beyond half a mile. Navigating by GPS got me here through the 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]

Finding 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 5:00 pm.

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 problem, Chip.

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 boat.

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 available?

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 launch?

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 mooring.

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 persistent.

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 soaked.

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 returned to 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 began.

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 prevalent.

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 of checkers.

"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 Thursday.

The sky is mostly clear for a brilliant sunrise, 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 getting it.

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.  [CHART]

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.

Passing through 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 heading north 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 effected.

Iím in a small cove about 50 yards down river from 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 "belong."

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 my tip.

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 gotten warm.

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 consistently interrupted.

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

Itís now 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 reprieve?

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 out!

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 replied:

"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 board."

"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 fact!

Friday looks worse: "SW winds 5-10 with gusts up to 20 knots in the afternoon. Seas 2-4 feet. Showers and thunderstorms likely."

"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 tried?

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 conditions arrive!

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 from there.

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 here.

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, Randy pulled 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 problem.

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 mushy.

"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 semi-sane?)

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 river currents.

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 looks nice.

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

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 slice.

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 early morning.

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 forecast.

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 earlier anyway.

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 sighting.

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 course.

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 prudent.

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 for tomorrow.)

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 ahead" arrive.

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 floods.

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 drains.

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 door.

"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 floods.

It's been a summer of high rainfall and unusually violent weather.

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 amount.

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 in Taunton.

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 behind 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 pleasure ships?

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 feet.

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 ordeal.

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 morning Ė

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 today.

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 there.

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 cruise.

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 have improved.

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 lighthouse.

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 Iíd anticipated.

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 a larger 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 absolutely perfect.

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 that again.

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)

Route Date Distance
Misery Island to Rockport, MA Sat., Jul 26 20.7 nm
Rockport to Portsmouth, NH Mon., Jul 28 27.8 nm
Portsmouth to Saco, ME Tues., Jul 29 35.6 nm
Saco to Portland, ME Wed., Jul 30 18.2 nm
Portland to Chebeague Island, Casco Bay, ME Sat., Aug 2 8.29 nm
Chebeague Island to Saco, ME Tues., Aug 5 25.1 nm
Saco to New Castle, NH Sat., Aug 9 11.9 nm
New Castle to Newburyport, MA Sun., Aug 10 35.6 nm
Newburyport to Home Wed., Aug 13 26.6 nm
Total roundtrip distance (nautical miles, from GPS trip odometer)

250 nm

Total roundtrip distance (statute miles)

287.5 mi


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, cloudless nights.

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 Service reported.

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.

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