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 Autumnal Equinox Overnighter off Misery Island
September 22 - 23, 2012

Click thumbnails for a larger picture

I arrived aboard Chip Ahoy under overcast sky and no wind late Saturday morning.
Sat., Sep. 22, 2012

On Saturday morning – with the autumnal equinox arriving this morning and fall officially upon us – I decided to take Chip Ahoy out for a sail that would end at Misery Island’s cove for the night. The weather forecast was decent though the sky was gray: it would supposedly clear by late-morning with a breeze picking up later. The temperature would come close to reaching 70° and drop only to the low-60s overnight, but occasional and scattered showers would develop overnight and into early Sunday morning.

I took the launch out and was aboard by about 11:00 am, ready to cast off the mooring just before noon. The sky was still overcast and there was utterly no wind, so I motored out of the harbor and into Salem Sound, expecting something of a breeze out there, if not soon.

On the way out I motored by “Malacass” to see if John Graichen was out, but it was on its mooring. Maybe I’ll see him on Sunday on my way back in. Once out of the harbor and into the Sound there was nothing but dead air and gray overcast, the sea was flat. Another small sailboat was motoring in without sails, never a good sign of better things to come, so I kept motoring. Oh well, I’m cruising and that’s why I’ve got a reliable outboard, I guess.

I reached the cove of Misery Island at about 2:30 and picked out an empty mooring at its entrance, where I usually grab one – later to prove a mistake.  I prefer the outer moorings for convenience and privacy. The ones further in, closer to shore, are usually taken and crowded by the day-cruising party crowd. Today was no exception, with larger powerboats rafted up two and three on a single mooring.

Once tied up to an empty private mooring (labeled “Loren”) I settled in for the night. With rain showers overnight still in the forecast and the sky, though now only partly cloudy with breaks of sunshine, testifying to the probability or showers I deployed the “pup tent” over the boom. While I cooked dinner on the Origo stove a contest began between a visiting gull and a Canada goose for the scraps, later joined by a threesome of mallard ducks. As the evening set in some of the moored boats began departing; I was somewhat surprised by the number which remained, and a few more which arrived around or after dusk.

It was a quiet evening aboard. I hadn’t brought along the laptop for a mere overnighter so read for a while, finishing one of the books I’d brought along and starting another. It got cool quickly once the sun set (soon after 6:30 pm), so I closed up two cribboards, finally all three before crawling beneath the down-filled sleeping bag. By that time Chip Ahoy had begun rocking more than usual here.

I awoke around midnight to some real rocking and rolling – and what sounded like that old ‘keel thunk’ sound/vibration. I opened the companionway and checked things, found steady rollers coming in between Misery and House Islands. The boats further inside the cove were faring better but it was too late to move in closer – the ‘pup tent’ was up and would need to be taken down to make any move in the dark. Hey, I was on the lee of Misery Island, at the mouth of the cove where I’ve spent many a night comfortably. I closed up the boat and went back to sleep – but noted that even lying flat on my back I was rolling on the bunk with the swells – using isometric muscles even at rest – and the swells were building.

This went on all night, though I slept more or less well regardless. The thunking with each bigger swell kept me more awake than the rolling. By pre-dawn, morning fog had settled in, and the swells maintained the rolling. I observed the boats moored just a bit further inside the cove and made a mental note:  Never grab this outside mooring in the future, get further inside and grab one.

The seas were rolling in between Misery and House Islands to east, the surf crashing over the rocky nearby shore, but the wind was building from the northwest, getting stronger. While I was boiling water on the stove for the first cup of ‘tea bag’ coffee I turned on the VHF to the NWS weather channel. The wind was coming from the west at 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 – but supposedly would turn to SW and decrease to 5-10 later. Though I’d planned to depart around 10:00 am, taking down the ‘pup tent’ in this wind would be difficult. I decided to hold off until the wind calmed. While talking with Barbara on the cell phone one of the aft bungie cords securing the ‘pup tent’ popped free from the lifeline stanchion – a first ever – a corner of the tarp was snapping in the wind. I scurried to secure it, was amazed the cord was still aboard in the cockpit.

After a third cup of coffee and a short nap, at noon the wind was still blowing strong with no sign of diminishing. Even within the outer cove, with the rollers coming in from the east and the wind blowing from the SW, the water was choppy.

I decided to try figuring out a way to get the tarp off the boom without losing it. I removed the six bungie cords then climbed forward past the flapping tarp and retied its forward line, from being secured to the mast to just run around the mast and back to a grommet. Then from back in the cockpit (with the companionway hatch slid all the way forward) I could reach and unsecure it easily, walk the tarp back into the cockpit with some control, dump it into the cabin then loosen its aft line from the end of the boom. Folding up the tarp for stowage was still a challenge in that wind but it took merely patience.

With the ‘pup tent’ out of the way nothing was holding me back, so I was quickly off the mooring and on my way home to Salem Harbor. Once I motored clear of the cove I hoisted the main sail, but getting home required sailing directly into the wind. The 20-25 mph gusts while close-hauled were tricky; I was constantly playing the outhaul and tiller while heading into the chop and spray. Finally I just dropped the main sail and motored the rest of the way in.

Once inside the harbor proper the seas diminished to about a foot. I spotted Chip Ahoy’s mooring at about 3:30 pm, but there was a strange mooring buoy I thought was much too close to mine. I maneuvered into the wind and crept up on it – definitely way too close to mine. As I was easing up to the two, a small power boat just had to run between the two.

“Thanks for making this more difficult!” I shouted across to the idiot, who still didn’t have a clue. I managed to grab my mooring, scrambled forward and tied it off to the bow cleat, then noted the “alien” mooring ball banging against Chip Ahoy’s port side – wonderful. I got back to the stern quickly, raised and tilted the outboard as the ball banged into the prop them moved around the boat, fortunately not snagging the rudder on its pass. I radioed Mid-Harbor Launch Service and a launch quickly came out and moved the wayward mooring. It had no eye, pennants, or means to attach to it; the driver had to loop a line around the ball and its chain to drag it away.

When I got home I was exhausted, but couldn’t nap. It was the strangest sensation:  I was physically exhausted but mentally unable to sleep. When I slept aboard, my brain must have rested while my unconscious body was resisting the boat’s constant rolling. This was a new one for me.

It was supposed to clear soon, a breeze to pick up, so I prepared to get underway.
Sat., Sep. 22, 2012

Leaving the harbor I swung by Malacass, to see if John Graichen had taken it out.
Sat., Sep. 22, 2012

Out in Salem Sound the air remained dead, the sea flat.
Sat., Sep. 22, 2012

Approaching Misery and Bakers Islands, Fame was motor-sailing back in, a sloop was also motoring under bare pole.
Sat., Sep. 22, 2012

Once tied up to a mooring in Misery Island's outer cove some friends arrived to fight over scraps.
Sat., Sep. 22, 2012

Pre-dawn fog had blanketed the cove.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

Sunrise over House Island as the swells rolled in.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

Rollers breaking over the tip of Misery Island.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

Further inside the cove was smoother, if more crowded.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

Between the rollers and the increasing SW wind things looked like they were getting a bit dicey inside the cove.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

The three powerboats rafted together
weren't swinging with the crowd,
for a while seemed like a threat to the
sailboat moored nearby.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

It got pretty choppy even in the sheltered cove, but I managed to get the 'pup tent' down and headed home.
Sun., Sep. 23, 2012

Sailing Season 2012 is coming to a close . . .