Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

The never-ending project to fill my hole in the ocean while bailing it out

An Extended "Long Weekend" to Provincetown
July 21 30, 2012

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Marblehead to Provincetown and back via Scituate


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Scituate to Provincetown and back

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Provincetown in and out routes

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On Chip Ahoy's mooring in Salem Harbor
Fri., July 20

Saturday, July 21, 2012; 5:15 am
Marblehead, MA
Chip Ahoy’s mooring

Two trips out on the launch yesterday afternoon and I had Chip Ahoy loaded up for the coming long weekend cruise over to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. I plan an early departure, not later than 8:00 am, to make the estimated ten-hour sail across Massachusetts Bay to Provincetown Harbor. I need to call ahead and see if a mooring is available, but expect there will be.

I had planned to sleep aboard Thursday night, depart yesterday morning, but a cold front rolled through in the late afternoon accompanied by severe thunderstorm, torrential downpours, and powerful wind (even a microburst nearby and reports of a funnel cloud over Peabody). Delaying my departure seemed more than prudent, especially with the fine weather forecast for the weekend once the front moved offshore.

It was a quiet night aboard. I got settled in, hooked up the laptop and 5MileWifi antenna and everything works. I got the boat organized and settled, went to sleep at about 9:00 pm.

The sun’s just peeking up over the Marblehead shoreline, I’m working on my first cup of tea-bag coffee, and the day ahead looks promising, but my return plan for Tuesday looks a bit questionable – I may need to extend the return until Wednesday now:




E WINDS 5 TO 10 KT. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT. 







It’s too many days out to count on an accurate forecast on Monday or Tuesday, but  AccuWeather is issuing a “WeatherAlarm” for Tuesday:  “High probability of thunderstorms occurring on Jul 24.” My plan was to return on Tuesday, but Wednesday is looking more probable at this point.

This trip is a challenge, a first for me:  Fifty miles across open water each way in a twenty-two foot boat, out of sight of land for most of it. Picking perfect weather is so important – there will be no harbor of refuge between Marblehead and Provincetown, nothing but open ocean – most of it across the major Boston shipping channel.

There was a significant whale sighting on Thursday off North Truro, when three humpbacks swam up behind a woman lounging on an inflatable raft – the incident, and photos a friend took from their nearby boat – made all the news. North Truro is just across Provincetown Harbor from Provincetown, so I have a good chance of seeing and photographing some whales today, I expect. When I sailed from Scituate across Cape Cod Bay to Provincetown I saw a nearby pod, but not close-up. (In Maine and coming home directly from Scituate it was pretty darned up-close.) This isn’t surprising, as Stellwagen Bank and Cape Cod Bay are famous for whale sightings and whalewatch cruise boats; humpbacks summer thereabouts – it’s a federal whale protection area.

From past experience in a 22-foot sailboat that’s always a thrill mixed with awe and even a bit of fear. At 30-40 feet long and weighing up to 75,000 pounds, when a humpback swims up alongside I can’t avoid remembering that famous line from “Jaws” – “We need a bigger boat!” I hope I get lucky today. I’ve got the Olympus Stylus Tough pocket camera ready for video (I think).

I’m almost done with my second cup of coffee (6:30 am) so it’s time to break camp, get things stowed and ready for departure. The sooner I depart the sooner I make it to Provincetown – and the sooner before dark the better.

Saturday, July 21, 2012; 7:30 pm
Scituate Harbor mooring

Oh well, roll with the punches I guess.

I called Provincetown Marina before departing this morning, was told as of then they had nothing available – apparently there is a big sailboat race today, lots of boats had come down from Marblehead. I hadn’t heard a word about this, had no idea:

The 2012 Beringer Bowl will be held on July 20th-21st.  The Beringer Bowl is an overnight race beginning in Marblehead on Friday and ending in Provincetown on Saturday, with festivities Saturday into Sunday morning. The race has changed over the years, as originally this race began in Marblehead, boats would sail around Massachusetts Bay all night and finish back in Marblehead sometime the next day. Many would then run off and sleep!

The Organizing Authority is the Boston Yacht Club (BYC). This race is a qualifier for the MBSA, North Shore Ocean, Marblehead Coney Ledge, Marblehead Overall.

Well talk about bad timing.

At just before 8:00 am I called, was told there was nothing whatsoever available – but when I told them I was out of Marblehead they advised that I call back in an hour. (They even asked if I was from the Marblehead crowd, but I thought little about it.)  I was on my way, told them I’d call at 9:00, but when I did they advised there was still no available moorings or slips (and forget about those slips anyway, at $140/night minimum).

Okay, so I’m out on Massachusetts Bay and Provincetown just got scratched off my destination list (first time ever that’s happened), so what now?  I pointed Chip Ahoy’s bow more south (better wind anyway) and looked for Option B – what now?

Scituate! I’m out here on the ocean, there’s a perfect day ahead, and I’m not turning around after all this and heading back. Maybe I can make all that navigational plotting and planning pay off, even if indirectly. (Bear in mind I still didn’t know about the big race). Maybe if I reach Scituate I can spend the night, then cross Cape Cod Bay to Provincetown instead – brilliant Ford, a seat-of-the-pants plan!

Get to Scituate and figure the next step from there.

So I readjusted my plan, location, coordinates, and GPS on the fly. It was such a beautiful morning that anything was possible – except Provincetown, today.

I headed for Scituate, called ahead and was assured of a mooring or slip, whichever. Okay, onward. I had a great day of sailing to somewhere I hadn’t intended and arrived at about 3:00 pm, grabbed a mooring right across from the harbormaster’s office – a clean one this time. I quickly settled in, got the 5MileWife system up the mast, have a great signal, but haven’t yet bothered with the pup tent. I’m still planning on Provincetown tomorrow, then home across Massachusetts Bay later.

8:10 pm

Okay, Frank at Provincetown Marina just assured me a mooring there tomorrow afternoon; just pull in past the breakwater and reach the launch on Channel 9, they’ll walk me in to it. Whew, the long, long way about to reach there.

Tonight there’s going to be fireworks starting a 10:30 pm, right above me. Do I need to haul out the fire extinguishers for this event?

I took the Easy Rider launch ashore earlier – picked up more bottled water and ice; a block and a bag. Regardless of where I'm going I'll need them. Boy that launch is slow this weekend – but I learned two things during my last stay here. One is to bring an insulated bag so the ice doesn’t melt on the dock while waiting for the launch; the second – which I forgot – is don’t buy the ice from the harbormaster’s office until you can see the launch coming! I’ll remember that next time.

So here I am, sort of awaiting the fireworks but all set to take off in the morning for Provincetown at last. The Big Plan now is to reach there tomorrow, sit out the threatening weather that’s forecast for Monday and Tuesday, do my big crossing on Wednesday back to Marblehead.

Sunday, July 22, 2012; 5:45 am
Scituate Harbor mooring

Right on schedule the fireworks went off with a boom last night – woke me from my sleep. Though Chip Ahoy’s mooring is very inside the harbor, the display was launched from further inside and posed no risk to the boats in the harbor.

The weather forecast for today looks great for my crossing to Provincetown – 34 miles across open Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays – but will be deteriorating tomorrow and Tuesday. As of last night, Wednesday looks good so far for my sail back to Marblehead from Provincetown, though according to this morning’s forecast perhaps a bit gusty and on the nose:

NWS – Zone Forecast: Massachusetts Bay and Ipswich Bay (ANZ251)

Last Update: 346 AM EDT SUN JUL 22 2012


Today: Sw winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming s 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt this afternoon. Seas 2 to 3 ft.

Tonight: S winds 10 to 15 kt...becoming sw 5 to 10 kt after midnight. Seas 2 to 3 ft.

Mon: Sw winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming s 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt in the afternoon. Seas 2 to 3 ft. Patchy fog. A chance of showers and tstms. Some tstms may produce heavy rainfall.

Mon Night: Sw winds 10 to 15 kt. Gusts up to 20 kt in the evening. Seas 2 to 3 ft. Patchy fog. A chance of showers and tstms. Some tstms may produce heavy rainfall. Vsby 1 to 3 nm.

Tue: W winds 10 to 15 kt. Gusts up to 20 kt in the afternoon. Seas 2 to 3 ft. Patchy fog. A chance of showers and tstms. Vsby 1 to 3 nm.

Tue Night: Nw winds 10 to 15 kt. Gusts up to 20 kt after midnight. Seas 2 to 3 ft. A chance of showers.

Wed: Nw winds 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft.

Wed Night: W winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas around 2 ft.

Thu: Sw winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas around 2 ft.

Thu Night: W winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas around 2 ft. winds and seas higher in and near tstms.

Grrrr. Now it looks like Thursday will be more perfect conditions for the sail home. Wednesday will be gusty but – most importantly – I’ll be sailing right into the NW wind, and 2-3 foot seas. This “long weekend” is becoming my summer vacation.

It’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen with the weather that far out. One step at a time is all I can do at this point: get to Provincetown and decide from there, I guess; see what shakes out with the weather forecast tomorrow and Tuesday. As I’ve too often discovered, that’s sailing.

I plan to drop the mooring here at about 9:00 am, motor over to the fuel dock and refill the spare gas tank. Yesterday I swapped tanks; the primary 6-gallon tank was down to maybe two gallons. I don’t expect to need the extra gas, but fueling up now is about as convenient as it ever gets – even at four-plus bucks a gallon – and as always, “Better to have and not need than need and not have.”

I’ve got a terrific Wifi signal here this time, since The Digital Docs back home fixed the 5MileWifi system problem. I had a brief discussion with a couple while coming back on the launch yesterday about onboard Wifi – told them about my system, pointed out the antenna up on the mast, but warned them about 5MileWifi’s support. They’d like to have this capability too on their mooring. As usual, I told them when it works 5MileWifi is incredible – but only when it works, and often it doesn’t, and don’t expect any help from them when it that time comes.

Okay, it’s 7:00 am and time to start breaking camp and making ready for today’s crossing. If I depart by 9:00 am, I should make Provincetown from here by about 5:00 pm if the forecasted 10 knots (gusting to 20) SW wind holds true.

Sunday, July 22, 2012; 10:15 pm
Provincetown Harbor mooring #205

I’ve arrived, safe and sound – and that surely wasn’t as easy as I expected with this morning’s auspicious dawn. Everything started off on the right track, according to plan.

I dropped the mooring just short of 9:00 am as planned, fueled up at the Miller’s Wharf Marina (a whopping $15 worth for them, and they disposed of my bag of trash – good for a buck tip). I was out of Scituate Harbor by 9:30 and heading for Provincetown in high spirits.

The first problem was when I hoisted the main sail. I couldn’t get it quite all the way up. I ran into this before too, so I grabbed the winch handle, wrapped the halyard around the starboard winch, and cranked away. I still couldn’t get it all the way up so stopped before I broke something.

Sailing out to the Scituate entrance sea buoy I looked and contemplated, and found the problem: the boom is about an inch or so too high on the mast. The boom stops didn’t stop it from creeping up, above its marks I'd made on the mast. What to do now, underway to Provincetown?

I played around with it for a while, but there was no budging the boom while under sail (of course) – so I decided to live with it for now. But I couldn’t, so out came the winch handle again, once I decided its pressure wasn’t about to break anything. I got the sail hoisted more smartly in the end, but that boom needs attention as soon as possible. In retrospect, I'm sure glad I bothered while I still could.

Onward and forward, to a long and boring day under sail to P-Town, still some thirty miles away in perfect weather.

All was going well for the first three or four hours, but then things began to deteriorate, rather quickly. Where were these building seas coming from? 2-3 feet was forecast, but they haven’t stopped building. Within another hour they were running 4-5 feet and growing it seemed. I was running just nose off the wind, finally furled the genoa, started the outboard. The choppy cross-current waves were getting a bit intimidating, coming from both the southeast and south. As they grew in height spacing between remained short and tight – up and down, splashing over the deck, I’m getting soaked.

Three times I luffed, went below to clean my salt-saturated glasses, then it gave up – left the glasses off. Why bother if I can’t see a minute later anyway? Everything above deck was soaked with spray, coating with salt. Down in the cabin was continual chaos: why bother with that either – deal with it later if I make it to P-Town. Just dig through it quickly to find whatever I may need.

Conditions worsened. I called Barbara and let her know it was threatening out here but thought I could manage it. Then the tiller-pilot died, my “first-mate.” Aw geez, this is serious – but not as if I could depend on it in these conditions anyway, when I needed my hand on the tiller while timing huge waves.

What a pounding Chip Ahoy was taking – literally a pounding – up and down waves, some of them 5-7 feet. The odd wave coming in from SW often looked as though it’d break over the cockpit and cabin, but we’d just roll up and over it with a lot of spray tossed up. Interestingly, the bigger waves coming at us – the 5-7 footers – were the easiest to ride out, and over. They seemed to come in a succession of threes, up and over, more like cresting swells. It was the 3-5 footers, close together and often confused, that were the worst. Those caused most of the pounding, throwing up most of the spray as Chip Ahoy rode them up then crashed into the deep, short troughs before rising again.

[NWS later reported – Wind S at 16 mph, gusting to 21]

My concern was that the situation was worsening and I was still a few hours away from Provincetown. I considered alternatives, like turning about and running with the waves, but to where? I could try to get back to Scituate, but it was some four hours all the way back, with the wind and waves but across a crazy sea. Marblehead was out of the question. Provincetown was the nearest port, if I can reach it.

I’d begun to fall into a rhythm. Chip Ahoy was handling it well so long as I kept the bow pointed at a decent angle into the waves, quartering them as much as possible. That angle wasn’t much off my route and the wind, but approaching the Provincetown sea buoy off Race Point and land directly ahead (see my inside, dotted track here) I had to nose closer into the waves, tighter into the southeast wind, play every edge I could as close as I dared. That’s when it got more challenging.

It was just a matter or endurance the rest of the way; watching the seas and adapting – but I admit to often hitting the “Page” button on my GPS to check for “Distance to Next Waypoint” and “Distance to Destination.”

I cut corners a little when I approached the harbor entrance sea buoy at the end of the hook, followed another larger (what isn’t?) sailboat coming in from the south. I hoped he knew what he was doing, but Chip Ahoy was in the clear according to the GPS. I’d already concluded that this hard left turn to the east wasn’t going to gain me much – still too open to the southerly wind and seas – that I wouldn’t find relief until inside the harbor breakwater. Sure enough, the following seas were difficult while dropping the main sail without the tiller-pilot to control direction. I used the tiller static lines in the cockpit to point me long enough to get it down, not cleanly – but good enough considering. It’d get me to a mooring.

I radioed Provincetown Marina on my hand-held VHF but our signal was breaking up. They knew I was here and looking for a mooring, advised me to call again when I reached the breakwater. I did, their launch (driver Cody) met me and pointed me to a mooring – when I had a hard time picking it up he directed me to another nearby. Then he told me the first one was fouled anyway. Sort of the story of my day.

Once on the mooring, first I took a long breath then went below. What a mess, wow. Everything was on the cabin floor – everything – so I began with moving things onto the seats. The gallon jug of water beneath the settee had spilled, everything around it was soaked. The shelves had emptied much of their contents, now mixed in with everything else. I sorted and repositioned. The full cans and bottles of drinks were wherever they chose to stop. What a mess.

I ate the other half of the sub sandwich I’d brought along. I just didn’t have the energy or inclination to take the launch ashore for dinner. I didn’t have the inclination to do much at all.

Heading out onto Massachusetts Bay
Sat., July 21

Heading for Scituate
Sat., July 21

The sea buoy off Boston Harbor
Sat., July 21

Approaching the Scituate breakwater
Sat., July 21

On the mooring in Scituate Harbor
Sat., July 21

Festivities ashore in Scituate
Sat., July 21

Fireworks over Scituate Harbor
Sat., July 21

The boom stop has loosened,
letting the boom raise on the mast
Sun., July 22

Departing Scituate for Provincetown, winching the main sail helped lift the boom a little
Sun., July 22

Heading for Provincetown
Sun., July 22

The seas began building about halfway across the bay
Sun., July 22

The seas were challenging for the final 3-4 hours crossing, some 16 miles.
Sun., July 22

Sunset over Provincetown
after arriving on a mooring
Sun., July 22

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Sun., July 22

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Sun., July 22

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Sun., July 22

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Sun., July 22

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Sailing Season 2012 is on!