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

Chip Ahoy’s 2007 Scituate Mini-Cruise
August 26 - 29, 2007
 

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It's been a slow sailing season for me after breaking my collar bone and a rib slipping and falling down my stairway in mid-May.   Chip Ahoy didn't get launched until July 28th -- before this cruise I'd sailed it for a total of four days this year.  What a waste of a boat and an already-short season.

I'd recently decided (just over a week ago) to not take off on my planned cruise for this season, up to Chebeague Island just outside of Portland, Maine.   Summer is waning, Labor Day Weekend is days away, hurricane season is upon us, and I wasn't confident enough of my shoulder yet.

So instead, I took a few days to sail down to Scituate on the South Shore of Massachusetts -- usually the destination when I do my pre-trip shakedown cruise.   It wasn't all that distant or long, but it was fun and got me "back out there."

Chip Ford
Thursday, August 30, 2007
 


The Log of Chip Ahoy’s 2007 Scituate Mini-Cruise

Sunday, August 26, 2007; 7:30 pm
My mooring – Salem Harbor

At last I’m going to get away, tomorrow morning at dawn.  It’s been a long and unproductive season since damaging my shoulder in mid-May:  But finally I’m about to set off alone going somewhere – even if only to Scituate, my regular shakedown cruise destination before lengthier trips.

The sun is setting and I just got settled aboard for the night.  At the crack of dawn tomorrow I’ll drop my mooring and begin the trip across Boston Harbor’s shipping channel at about 10 miles offshore, then down to the 4-5 miles stretch off the coast of the South Shore to reach Scituate.  I should arrive by early afternoon if everything goes right.  I’ve been assured by the Scituate harbormaster’s office that there will be a number of transient slips available upon my arrival.

It feels great just being aboard for the night again – the first time this season – with a destination ahead for the morning.  How I’ve missed this.

I picked my weather, put off my original planned departure last Friday morning when the wind would have been all wrong, going down and returning.   Tomorrow there’s supposed to be a NE wind at about 8 knots; coming back up on Wednesday it should be SW at about the same.  Seas are supposed to be 1-2 feet.   It should be sunny with temperatures in the mid-70s.  The forecast just before I came out were steady with my plans.

I came out earlier today and repaired the small hole in Chip Ahoy’s genoa with sail repair tape on both sides:  it'd grown from the size of a BB or .22 hold to that of a quarter.  All the other bugs and glitches should now be ironed out.  The boat I believe is ready to go at last!  And so am I, for sure.

I love this little cabin oil lamp – can’t beat the ambiance.  I’m aboard, so switched to Battery #1.  It’s now dark – almost a full moon after a great sunset.  When I checked all the lights I found them all working, for sure now.  This is the first time I’ve been able to see whether or not the anchor light at the top of the mast is working; happily it too is.

8:30 pm

Never mind "pick your weather" – know your weather so you can pick it!  I’m listening to NOAA weather radio:  the next three days still sound excellent.

9:15 pm

This will tell you I’ve got too much time on my hands (read:  bored).  I’m laying back looking up at Chip Ahoy's sliding hatch cover.  Repairing it was one of my very first projects on the boat.  It was cracked seriously – warped – from the previous owner leaving the mast laid on it for years.  I did my very first fiberglass repair on this hatch – no cloth, just epoxy – yet it has held together very well, amazingly so even yet.  It’s not pretty, but it’s remained functional.  This season I bought a teak handrail to add to the outside, to make opening and closing it from the cockpit easier – but lost the time to install it.  Still, for its shortcomings in beauty, the darned thing still functions near-perfectly.  Did I mention how much I love this oil lamp?

The new Humminbird depth-sounder beeps (squeals) when turned on.  Who knew? It took me a few minutes to figure out what that sound was, where it came from.  I knew from adding the tiny speaker that it emits sound if set to a depth level – but I’ve never set it.

Monday, August 27, 2007; 6:25 am
My mooring, Salem Harbor

Well it’s coffee, if instant in a "tea bag" – better than none and awfully convenient.  Since I want an early start, I had no intention of brewing a pot this morning.  Barbara came up with these two "filter bags" just before I left – Maxwell House Filter Pack Singles – and they work great without the big ritual then clean-up.  The new Origo 3000 stove fired right up, heats a pan of water surprisingly quickly for an almost invisible flame.

The sun’s just rising – I just closed the new curtains on the starboard side to stop from being blinded.  It’s nice having them at last.

The weather sill sounds good through at least Wednesday.  Today should be in the mid-70s, wind NE at 5-10 knots, waves one foot or less.  This should be near-perfect.  I plan to be underway within an hour, after another cup of coffee – which is actually quite good.  I’ll pick up more in Scituate and keep it onboard for other early morning starts.

I brought along only my small cooler for this relatively short trip:  A few beers, bottled water, a couple cans of Coke, and two chicken salad pocket sandwiches.  There was little room remaining for ice – maybe a third of a bag and it’s pretty much melted already.  I hope those sandwiches don’t go bad before I get to them.  The next ice is in Scituate.

After uncovering the main sail my first job is to attach the radar reflector and run it up its halyard to the starboard spreader.  I don’t expect it’s necessary – except while crossing the Boston Harbor shipping channel – some 15 miles across and about 10 from the nearest coast.  Visibility is perfect, but those big ships use radar.

Monday, August 27, 2007; 8:15 pm
A transient slip – town dock, Scituate Harbor

I didn’t depart my mooring this morning until 8:30 and the weather was on the mark according to the forecast.  For the first few hours anyway – then the wind picked up, the seas built quickly.  It became a bigger challenge than the leisurely sail I’d anticipated.

First came the man-eating flies, just after leaving Marblehead out onto Massachusetts Bay, with House Island still easily in sight just off my stern.  You know they have arrived after the first bite.  I jumped down into the cabin and came out with the always within reach can of ballistic Raid ("never leave port without it!"); I immediately closed up the cabin to keep them out.  I’ve learned the hard way! What finally chased them off wasn’t the casualty count – though I certainly did thin their swam – but the increasing wind.

As I was crossing into the Boston Harbor shipping channel, running between two huge freighters at anchor, the wind and sea began to build and continued – from about noon until around 3:00 pm.  NOAA’s "seas one foot or less" was in fact a good two to three feet; its NE wind at 5-10 knots became a good 15-20.  I furled my headsail a bit, then had to reef the main – yet Chip Ahoy’s speed (according to the GPS) remained 5-6 knots.  I almost rounded up even with the tiller-pilot doing the steering as I reefed, had to quickly grab the tiller and get the boat back on course manually.

At one point – a good 10 miles offshore – a tiny bird, a warbler, landed on the starboard cabin top handrail.  "Welcome aboard, little buddy," I said.  "I know how you feel.  Take a break," and he did for about 45 minutes.  He fluttered up to the boom then crawled into the folds of the reefed main sail, out of sight but for tail feathers for half an hour or so.  I had the top two cribboards out at the time, hoped he’d find the cabin to get out of the wind.  He came out, tried crawling down the main halyard, but was getting whacked by the loose downhaul alongside.  When I tightened the downhaul, my new crewmate took off heading toward land off on the horizon.  "Best of luck little buddy," I wished him as he winged out of sight over the waves.  I hope he made it the ten-plus miles to the nearest shore – but he did somehow manage to get out to Chip Ahoy on his own.  Prevailing winds should have given him a boost to shore.

The wind lessened later in the afternoon, down to 10-15 knots, but the seas out of the NE were steady all the way through Scituate’s breakwater – a good two feet, some larger, cresting and foaming past.  About an hour and a half before reaching the Scituate offshore sea buoy – off Minot Ledge – I shook out the reef and added headsail.  Half an hour earlier, the wind had slackened so much that I’d started the motor and furled the useless headsail entirely, leaving up the main sail to stabilize the boat’s roll in the waves hitting on the port quarter to broadside.

I reached the Scituate sea buoy just before 4:00 pm and dropped the main sail.  Chip Ahoy surfed the two-foot rolling swells from the northeast through the breakwater and into the harbor, where the surface immediately flattened.  A radio call (channel 9, switch to 14) as instructed arranged my slip for two nights.  I was tied up to it by 4:30.

I called Barbara to let her know that I’d arrived, then went about setting up the boat for a stay:  Plugging into shore power; digging out and hooking up the battery charger; hanging the "pup tent" over the cockpit; setting up the various charging units for the handheld VHF radio and the AM/FM radio unit.

Settled in, I walked up to the harbormaster’s office and settled up for my stay ($2/foot per night).  Surprisingly, they won’t accept credit cards:  Cash or checks only.  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  In most marinas I’ve stayed at they prefer credit cards, won’t accept personal checks.  I’ve had difficulty in some getting them to accept traveler’s checks.  For this short of a trip I didn’t bring a lot of cash along, or any traveler’s checks – and certainly not my checkbook.  I’m $88.00 cash-lighter now but will get by until Wednesday’s return.

Just before I called it a night, the near full moon came up over the harbor and sea beyond.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007; 7:00 am
A transient slip – town dock, Scituate Harbor

With all the cabin curtains closed last night, I slept later than usual for me, until just after sunrise, now streaming over the stern and into the companionway.  I needed the rest after yesterday – was exhausted last night by "lights out" at about 9:30 pm.

Coffee was the first order of business this morning.  I decided, instead of bothering with percolating a pot, dragging out the stove and all the fixings then cleaning up, to walk up to the nearby Dunkin Donuts, use their bathroom while at it.  I’m back aboard with two large cups and a couple of donuts.  The top cribboard is in, to block the glaring sunrise.

Last night, after leaving the harbormaster’s office, I walked over to the Mill Wharf Restaurant for a good meal.  Yikes, it was expensive – $32.00 for a broiled haddock dinner and a frozen Margarita – but they accepted credit cards!  The hostess asked if I wanted a table inside or out on their deck overlooking the harbor.  With all the sun I got sailing and on the "outside" I’d already done all day, I told her inside would be just fine.  I took out the paperback novel and enjoyed my leisurely drink and meal, barely looking out the plate-glass windows at the harbor below.

Scituate Harbor is busy with lobster boats going out in the morning, returning in the afternoon.  About a dozen have passed close astern so far, rocking Chip Ahoy gently but noticeably.

I’m looking forward to a relaxing day of R&R in port today.  I’ve got some work to do aboard after yesterday’s experience.  I want to re-run my reefing line from the mast down to the aft-most step plate block now used by the jib halyard – instead of the middle one.  Just swap them over.  I had a bit of difficulty when I had to reef yesterday with the line binding, being hard to tighten down.  This should help at least somewhat.

Small world!  "Ahoy, Chip Ahoy," someone in a small outboard dinghy just shouted from astern.  I stepped out to the cockpit and met Robert McPherson – who’s been to the Chip Ahoy website and recognized my boat in his harbor! "How many Catalina 22s with red hulls are there?" he asked with a grin.  I told him that I knew of two others owned by subscribers to my discussion group list.

Incredibly, he knew all about Chip Ahoy and my cruises, asked where I was heading.  I explained this year’s problem and that this annual "shakedown" cruise was my annual event for the season.

Amazing.  Have I become famous, infamous, or notorious?!?

The weather remains as predicted a couple of day ago – for all that’s worth after yesterday’s experience.  Today is supposed to be in the low- to mid-80s and sunny:  wind N turning E later, seas "one-foot or less." Tomorrow, for my trip home, the temperature should remain about the same:  wind SW turning SE late in the day; seas "one-foot or less."

I just called my Tennessee buddy, Bob Keim.  "I’ve got a probably dumb question to ask," I told him.  "Then I’ve probably got a brilliant answer!" he replied.  I related yesterday’s "seas one foot or less" experience and explained that I have wondered since if, after all these years on those cruises, I’ve been somehow mis-defining how waves are measured.  He confirmed my interpretation:  From trough to crest.  He added that he too has often found NOAA predictions to be inaccurate.  What confused me was – even after spending a few hours out in 2-3 foot seas, after arriving here – NOAA was still reporting "seas one foot or less" out there.

By the way – Bad cell phone service/signal down here on the docks.  I thought it was my phone last night, now fully recharged.  I couldn’t get my calls out from down here, but it worked fine outside the harbormaster’s office up on land.

5:25 pm

NOAA weather is now predicting SE winds for tomorrow, 5-10 knots; seas one foot or less.  Turning S in the evening/overnight.  We’ll see .  .  .

Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 6:15 am
A transient slip – town dock, Scituate Harbor

Another brilliant sunrise blasting in over the transom and harbor.  It should be a good sail home ahead today:  Mid-80s with the wind coming from the S at 5-10 knots; waves one foot or less; wind turning SW late this afternoon.

Yesterday I laid back after correcting the jib halyard and reefing lines, straightening out the boat a bit more.  I took a nap after reading for a while.  My buddy from Scituate, Norm Paley, returned my call/message from the morning – I was invited to his home to watch the Red Sox-Yankees game but declined.  I’d rather be aboard.

The lobster boat fleet is on the move out; quite a busy working harbor now.

I just returned from Dunkin Donuts with another two large cups of coffee and breakfast.  Soon as I’m done I’ll start "breaking camp" and preparing for departure, I expect shortly after 8:00 am.  Norm is supposed to stop down for coffee and to say hello – or more accurately bon voyage, I suppose.

Thursday, August 30, 2007; 6:00 am
Marblehead, Massachusetts

Yesterday I had Chip Ahoy ready to head home by 7:45 am, but waited a while for Norm Paley to arrive for his short visit.  I’d forgotten to tell him where Chip Ahoy was docked, but thought he’d find it eventually.  Coming back down to the boat from the harbormaster’s office I found him on the dock alongside my boat.  A Coast Guard utility boat was docked right behind me, and a guardsmen from the local station was aboard testing its equipment.  When Norm arrived, he saw its flashing blue light.  "I figured if I followed the flashing blue light I’d find your boat nearby," he explained.

We talked for about 45 minutes then he gave me a hand with the dock lines and I was on my way at 8:45.

NOAA weather radio called for winds from the south at 5-10 knots, seas one foot or less.  When I motored through the Scituate breakwater and out into the ocean on a flat almost oily sea heading toward the sea buoy a mile or two out it was almost dead on into the wind, blowing at maybe 5 knots.  I headed a little further south than the buoy and hoisted the sails quickly.  Back on the first leg of my northerly course toward the Minot Ledge sea buoy, my next waypoint, the wind was coming out of the SE still at about 5 knots, but gradually increased to 10 by late morning, maybe 15 by mid-afternoon and became more SSE.

The calm ocean built a bit by the time I reached the Minot Ledge sea buoy (Green "21" flashing green 4 seconds, whistle), larger gently rolling swells and waves about a foot but mounting.  Chip Ahoy managed to keep up a steady 3 to 3˝ knots running almost before the wind wing-and-wing – it coming from just a few degrees just off starboard of the transom.  I figured that the boat and I would do better beyond my next waypoint, the Boston Harbor sea buoy, when my route would take us more northeasterly and the afternoon would likely increase the breeze.

With Boston skyscrapers way off on the distant horizon, coming across the Boston Harbor shipping channel I had to slow a bit to wait for a large freighter coming out of Boston at a good clip to cross heading out to sea.  By then, around noon, one o’clock, the breeze had increased to a steady 10 knots and the sea coming at my starboard quarter, almost following, continued to build; larger swells, waves 1-2 feet.  Off the Boston Harbor sea buoy I was making about four knots – I kept it about a mile off Chip Ahoy’s port side as the next leg would jag more northeast anyway and heading closer to the buoy would have cost me speed.  By then I had ended the wing-and-wing run, but could have used a gin pole during it to hold out the roller-furled genoa as it filled then flapped then filled.

Taking a more northeasterly heading toward the first Marblehead sea buoy ("TR" gong, green light) Chip Ahoy’s speed picked up to about 5 knots as the seas continued to build.  The wind too seemed to be increasing as I’d expected, to a steady ten knots or better.  By the time I reached the buoy, the wind was at about 15 knots and the seas were running 2-3 feet, still off the starboard quarter.  Chip Ahoy was making over five knots steady.

The sail to the next sea buoy marking the entrance to Salem Sound and Marblehead Harbor ("FR" bell, red/green, flashing 2+1, red 6 seconds) got interesting.  The seas were still building, then at 2-3 feet; the wind had increased to about 15 knots, more from the ESE.  The Coast Guard was out doing what appeared to be a search pattern or grid.  I turned on my handheld VHF radio to Channel 16 and sure enough, a 25-foot powerboat had been reported overdue and a major search for it was in progress:  Other boats in the area were asked to keep a lookout for it.  At least they weren’t looking for an overdue Catalina 22 named Chip Ahoy!

Rounding the Salem Sound entrance sea buoy toward Marblehead Harbor I was running before the wind again, wing-and-wing.  So close to home and at mid-tide, I decided to risk taking the close-to-shore route between the rocky coastline nearby off to port, and the rocky shoals and small islands and rocks with their day markers sticking up into the air close to starboard, through the shallows.  On the other side and approaching the mooring area, I furled the genoa then lowered and started the motor.  As I entered the "No Wake" zone I dropped the main sail.  The wind was howling through the mooring harbor, as it often does like a wind tunnel, but I managed to reach and pick up my mooring on the first approach as usual.  I arrived at it at 4:15 pm.

On the mooring I called Barbara to let her know I was back, spent the next hour straightening up the boat, making it shipshape.  I packed up my seabag, my backpack, and the cooler that’d all be coming home with me, then I decided to take a nap before calling the launch and going ashore – I was exhausted.  At 7:30 pm I took the launch in to the dock, where Barbara met and drove me and my baggage up the hill to home.

All in all it was a good three-day cruise – a little more challenging than I’d anticipated, even day-to-day, but overall excellent weather.  I’m still tired from it, using muscles and focus that aren’t ordinarily called upon on land, but at least the floor beneath me has almost stopped rolling at last.

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