Saturday, July 21, 2012; 5:15 am
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
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
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:
COASTAL WATERS EAST OF IPSWICH BAY
AND THE STELLWAGEN BANK NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY - 343 AM EDT SAT
JUL 21 2012
E WINDS 5 TO 10 KT. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT.
SE WINDS 5 TO 10 KT...BECOMING SW
AFTER MIDNIGHT. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT.
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.
S WINDS 15 TO 20 KT...BECOMING SW 10
TO 15 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT. SEAS 2 TO 4 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!
Authority is the Boston Yacht Club (BYC). This race is a qualifier
for the MBSA, North Shore Ocean, Marblehead Coney Ledge, Marblehead
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
Get to Scituate and figure the next step
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)
Update: 346 AM EDT SUN JUL 22 2012
Synopsis...HIGH PRESSURE OFFSHORE
WILL BRING A SOUTH TO SOUTHWEST WIND TO THE WATERS TODAY THROUGH
TUESDAY. A COLD FRONT WILL MOVE ACROSS THE WATERS TUE NIGHT. HIGH
PRESSURE FOLLOWS FOR MIDWEEK.
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
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
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
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
[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
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