Sunday, July 27, 2008

It started with a horn

[Kyle]A beautiful weekend for sailing but not for us, because we were working on the boat. If this were a car with a 100,000 mile warranty, I'd bet we were right at about 100,002 miles right now. Everything seems to be failing virtually at once. My plan for my short 2 day weekend was to replace the hailer horn that had failed once we left Maine's fog (see post The Twilight zone). During the interim our autopilot quit working reliably and we began to have trouble using forward gear (normally considered quite useful). We were told by Raymarine (makers of the autopilot) to send off the parts for repair, which effectively disabled all of our electronics; and later in the week Maryanne was occupied with diagnostic checks on the transmission issue - resulting in the recommendation of a new transmission.

So now without instruments, or a useful engine, stuck at the back of a mooring field too busy to sail out of, we decided the short weekend would be good for maintenance tasks and more spring cleaning. (We will be sightseeing eventually).

As is usual on my last workday of the week, I got up very early and by the time I arrived home it had already been a very long day and I was exhausted. Planning on dinner and a cocktail, followed by a cozy bed, Maryanne told me just before she went to meet me that the head (toilet) stopped pumping. In the tradition of male denial I went in there and tried to work it a few dozen times before brilliantly proclaiming it didn't work. Maryanne gave me the by now familiar eye roll. To her credit she did agree to try and fix the problem while I did the dishes (of which there were a great many). After taking as much time with the dishes as I could get away with, she still hadn't made any real progress and I was forced to take over what has got to be one of the most unpleasant jobs one can have on the boat - dismantling the toilet - while Maryanne nodded off on the sofa (I was exhausted and in no mood by that time to have help - I just wanted to push through it). Several hours later I finally had the thing back together and working better than when new. Having turned into a 21 hour day I was ready to collapse; Maryanne was very sweet and cleaned up and put everything away after me.

The next day, I finally got up the mast to replace the horn. The removal and installation made difficult due to the many wakes, leaving me swinging around or clinging hold of the mast; and due to the fact it had to be installed and removed 3 times before eventually working reliably. I kept getting it all together and Maryanne would call up to tell me it did not work; so I'd have to back up and start again - all while balancing the unscrewed radome (radar transmitter/receiver) on its stand while swinging around. Maryanne stayed below on deck to act as moral support, recover dropped items and send up anything I might have forgotten but needed.

[Maryanne]Life as support crew involves lots of waiting. The local Launch came by to ask where I got the maintenance guy from (I suspect he thought I'd smuggled in an outside contractor - and Kyle felt smug, thinking he must have looked like a professional rigger). Several hours later he came by again and said "I hope your not paying by the hour". I pretended not to be amused for Kyle's sake; by then he had been dangling from the mast on an uncomfortable bench seat for hours in the blazing sun - Jokes were not an option.

[Kyle]Making the most of being up the mast, I also inspected the rig, installed a new flag halyard and greased the top roller furling bearings.

The next day the forecast was for yet more storms, but I managed to retention the rig (the wires that hold up the mast) a - another 2 hour job.

[Maryanne] Anyway, the good news is the horn is now working again; and hopefully over the next two weeks we should have our electronics and transmission back and working. We still don't have the steering wheel off, despite several specialized tools and have more muscle arriving next week. This week we also found seawater in one of our buoyancy tanks, and I nearly blew my face off wondering why one of the stove burners would not light. I did however get all my money back from my abused credit card.

Definition of Cruising: Boat maintenance in exotic places (if you call Boston exotic).

Even my phone stopped working this weekend, although I did catch another fish, I had to return it to the deep as it was (at 22") undersized per Massachusetts fishing laws.

So, it did start with the horn, but I'm well and truly ready to for "it" to be over, and for cruising to return to traveling and preventative maintenance only - no more repairs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Boat Woes Weigh Heavy (but are lightening up)

[Maryanne]Right after sending off the autopilot to be fixed under warranty, we discover we need a new transmission. Yikes! Luckily this too is covered under warranty, AND we are not having our cruising plans disturbed too much with all this equipment out of action.

As you can imagine, my life has been occupied with matters above for the last few days, I have still yet to really be that tourist in Boston I keep imagining. Also the weather has been lousy with heavy thunderstorms daily, so I've been working on a little spring cleaning.

We keep some food in the locker under the sink, there is a hatch from the counter top to get into that locker. Unfortunately spilled and splashed water inevitably leaks into the locker, and food crumbs have a habit of making their way in there too. Every few months I clean it out, discover where the soy sauce went, and bleach it like crazy, but it is not a pretty sight.

Along with the spring clean we are attempting a boat weight loss program. I sorted through some of my clothes and donated them away - especially my old work clothes. I also managed to wear a white t-shirt for most of the engine work and fluid changes recently - failing to understand the obvious attraction of engine oil and grime and white t-shirts - so that can go in the trash now! Finally (and much harder) I've identified books that we can possibly live without - all to help lighten the load.

Much more effective for the boat weight loss program is all the wine I'm drinking that we no longer have to store. :-)

All in all, a pretty dull life for now - the wine helps.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Island Exploring

[Kyle]This weekend, with a long weekend to explore by boat, we took a sailing tour of most of the rest of the islands in Hingham and Boston Harbor. Many of the islands are rocky islets or unsuitable for landing due to shoals and other hazards; so we spent the first day weaving a course between them and enjoying the view from the boat.

As on most weekends the harbor was filled with boaters of all types doing essentially the same thing; it really is a nice place to be out in a boat for the weekend and in spite of the fact that Boston has many non-boating related activities (which we'll get to), it is difficult to see all the boats on the water and not feel that you want to join in. If I didn't have a boat, I'd certainly want to buy one so I could experience it!

We started with the islands of Hingham bay (near our marina), which were mostly small and rocky, covered with coniferous trees with a feel of Maine about them, and then headed out into the bay to see the more rugged Brewster Islands (one of which is home to Boston Light), and then out to the more remote Graves Island (home to its larger, but less glamorous cousin, Graves Light. The Graves has been worn by erosion down to a series of menacing looking granite (teeth for destroying boats) - it's unmanned lighthouse a lonely sentinel to protect boaters from its shores.

We then sailed North to the smooth rock mounds of Nahant bay on the North side of the harbor. From there we turned back South and headed closer to our "home waters", rounding Georges Island in the company of many other inbound boats and eventually anchoring for the night off Lovells Island in sight of Peddocks, Gallop and Georges Islands. The channel we were on the edge of, until very recently represented the only safe deep water route into Boston Harbor. Quite narrow, it is a strategic location to fortify and historically has been filled with mines, and surrounded by guns.

As regular readers know, my favorite way to anchor is under sail; on Lovells we managed to do this while heading dead down wind at its steep shore. Since the bottom slopes up so quickly the band of depth suitable for anchoring is very narrow and lies close to the shore - and the wind was blowing directly on shore so we only had one chance to set our anchor and prevent us being blown ashore (or starting the engine in a hurry); This required careful coordination between Maryanne on the bow, and myself at the helm. At about three boat lengths from shore, when both of our eyes started getting pretty big at the approaching beach, we turned the boat upwind and let the sail slow us and start backing us up. As soon as we stopped moving forward Maryanne dropped the anchor and the boat started backing up quickly - quickly enough to set the anchor as Maryanne halted the chain at the required scope. It was still a little disconcerting to be so close to shore but after a couple of gusty storms passed we were sure we were pretty safe and slept well for the evening; except for the three things the guidebook warns of: loud party boats, the fog signal from the nearby beacon, and the air traffic flying in and out of Logan airport - but all died off in the middle of the night and we did sleep well.

The next morning we decided to leave Footprint anchored and set off in the dinghy to Lovells Island to explore. Currently a favorite camping spot, it is littered with fortifications, serving Boston from the Spanish-American War (1898+), through to WWII. Most survive on the island only as heavily overgrown foundations, but there is an impressive battery which has stone steps running up and down along a length of possibly 1000'. We clambered over them all and enjoyed the harbor views from the tops.

We returned to the boat for Lunch and then rowed across the narrow (Called "the Narrows" - and luckily quiet) channel to Georges Island. Unlike its sleepy cousin across the channel, Georges Island was teeming with people (volleyball playing, picnicking families - seemingly used by Bostonians like any land locked park in the city). Comprising almost the entire island is Fort Warren, built in 1833, and active from 1850s through WWII. Unlike the military structures on the other islands, Fort Warren was in good structural condition and is the most impressive of all the structures we had seen. We spent hours wandering around the inner and outer grounds along long rows of gun batteries and through room after room, detouring via dark stairways and passageways, never totally sure where each may lead us.

To give an idea of the size of the place, the inner grounds were approximately the size of a large stadium (think football or concert), yet had the tranquil and grand feeling of any ivy league university. Huge oak trees line some of the paths that lead through the courtyard. It really was splendid. The forecast was for a possible storm and it materialized as we were exploring some of the cavernous rooms. We took shelter along with a few others and watched the wind and rain whistle into the doorway and echo its way through the corridors. By the time the storm was finally over it seemed we had the fort to ourselves. Eventually we, like the other visitors, left the island, but we rowed ourselves back to Footprint for dinner and a good nights sleep (hopefully - that may depend on that fog horn!).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

But you promised me pasta tonight!

[Kyle] This being one of the last three day weekends I will have off in Boston, Maryanne and I decided to go sailing again and explore some of the areas we didn't get to last week. We had a great sail with flat seas and plenty of wind, weaving our way in and among the many islands. Occasionally, another boat would be going in the same general direction and a 'race' would be on. We managed to overtake everybody going our direction and some of those boats were heeled over, man. We turned into Massachusetts Bay and headed for the scenery of Nahant Bay. We saw lots of people fishing and Maryanne finally gave in and put a lure out, ready to be disappointed yet again.

We had just entered Nahant Bay around the time our log crossed 3000 miles. Then I heard a noise. The reel on our fishing rod was spinning away. I said to Maryanne "You gonna get that fish?" She rolled her eyes and, looking put out, slowly got up to find out how much seaweed she caught. The rod was really bent over, so she told me to slow down. She reeled and reeled and said it didn't feel like anything was on the line. Then I saw it jump. It was a real fish! A Striped Bass. She gave me the rod and got the net. The fish was too big for the net! Luckily, the poor thing was so tired that it didn't put up much of a struggle. She gutted and filleted it while I kept from hitting things.

Now she's already talking about needing a 'fighting belt' for the next, bigger one.

[Maryanne]I can't explain how elated I feel, that we have finally caught a fish. I can't imagine anything we did much differently from the many other times, but we were using the new "popper" lure that my new expert adviser brushed with luck for me. I guess it was my turn :-). I have previously fished for much smaller fish (mackerel, etc) - so when it came to preparing the fish, my usual technique did not work. I made a mess of filleting the fish - but we did manage two big steaks for our dinner tonight.

I had planned to cook my first fish on the grill - but the weather was threatening a thunderstorm and I didn't want to risk ruining anything, so I prepared them baked, with a breadcrumb based crust recipe from my good friend and master chef Kate in Norfolk.

3000 nautical miles with our Gemini and 1 fish - I'm hoping I don't have to wait another 3000 for the next one. Before I even met Kyle I tried to explain the allure of sailing - and part of it included "fishing for one's supper", I'm not sure if one fish every 3 months is going to stave off starvation, but tonight I am very happy.

Kyle was sweet, he could not watch while I killed it, and said a few kind words of thanks before he ate the fish. It was GOOD! I don't think Kyle was too worried he didn't get his pasta tonight.

She's got a way of putting things

[Kyle] At work the other day, I turned on my phone after a flight and Maryanne had left me a message. It was mostly the usual stuff: "Good morning, darling. I hope your flight went well. I'm up now, so if you want, you can call me." She then gave a brief rundown of her plans for the day and a couple of news items. Then, just as she as finishing up, she said "oh, I can't remember. Why don't you like tie-dye?"

Well, that was weird. I can't remember ever telling her I don't like tie-dye. If my high school didn't think organized sports were so fascist, we almost certainly would have had tie-dye uniforms.

I called her back. "You must be thinking of somebody else, dear. I like tie-dye."

"Oh, that's good." came her response, "'cause that's what your sheets look like now...and a couple of your shirts."

Ooh, I walked right into that one! It turns out she didn't get the lid on the bleach bottle fully tightened before throwing it into the laundry bag for transport. This is how she tells me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fishing Hope?

[Maryanne] Those that follow the blog will know that despite LOTS of trying, we have still failed to catch a single fish. This is a picture of some of my lure collection (I mostly use those in the middle bands), I also have a "popper" not shown (see how far I have come, until this year I didn't even know what a popper was). I will take all the tips I can get. I troll, cast, and jiggle with no luck. We have been cruising now for 3.5 months and fishing at least 3 days a week, often more (every day we sail, and sometime when just on the hook). As you can imagine all this gear for "trying" is yet to be anything like an investment. Heck, my GPS even tells me when is a good, or even excellent time to be fishing each day - but even this does not seem to change the odds.

On Monday this week we were moored and relaxing on the boat when a huge flurry of disturbance headed towards us as a patch on the water (clearly a bunch of fish feeding). We cast into that mess until it moved too far away, and not once did anything even nibble.

I have been slowly elbowing my way into groups of fishermen at piers or on the dock, stealing a look at the bait and lures they are using, and asking direct questions but still no luck. This week I ventured into a marine store for some new dock lines, and while I was there asked to speak with the resident fishing expert. Here is how I relayed it to another friend.

He asked lots of pertinent questions and says I'm doing everything right - my lures, my reel, my methods, my line, my leader, everything. He made a few suggestions, and also offered to check out my full rig and give me some casting lessons/tips if I just bring my gear in to the store. I have to wait until next week to take him up on the offer as he is currently in Martha's Vineyard competing in a shark fishing tournament (see he really is an expert).

I have 3 fishing books already and have pretty much worn them out trying to establish why I have not caught anything yet - I guess I'm just not lucky.

As you can imagine I'm very excited to think I may actually catch a fish soon with all this advice.

I plan to experiment with live bait (well, defrosted actually for now, until I actually catch some bait). I also plan to attempt fishing from the dinghy. All tips VERY GRATEFULLY received.

What else is going on? This week has been a little frustrating - traveling miles on foot and public transport on failed missions (you won't believe how hard it is to buy colored thread among other things); my bank account has been drawn upon by someone other than me (someone buying gas/petrol in Florida - no idea how that happens), and our autopilot needs to be sent off for repair. On the plus side, I did finally install some hand holds inside the boat - but this really is not much to show for 4 days of effort! All that would be insignificant if I actually manged to catch a fish.

What a Marina!

[Maryanne]I'm the kind of person who finds it easy to complain and little to be impressed by (especially where service is concerned) - but here we really have to give credit where credit is due. Remember Kyle saying how impressed he was with the Marina Staff at Hewitt's Cove / Hingham Shipyard Marina (see "Twilight Zone" post)? Well last night they impressed me even more.

On Wednesday night the Marina hosted a session by the author of a new book Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands about (I bet you can guess) the Boston Harbor Islands. They provided cheese and wine, and a free copy of the book for all the seasonal residents of the Marina (it was available to purchase for others); anyone with a copy of the book could have it signed by the author (Chris Klein) and all had the opportunity to chat with him and ask questions. They plan to have a regular seminar series for the marina residents and guests, pretty cool.

During the evening I met with one of the proof readers for the book - a fellow Brit Julie Saunders - and I got a copy of the book (since Kyle could not be there) signed by the author who gave me considerable time chatting about the islands and his next project (especially given the queue behind me!). The talk by the author, and the contents of the book have given me a wonderful new understanding of the islands, the book is full or interesting tidbits of information e.g. the lighthouse keeper (Sally Snowman) of The Boston Light was actually married at the lighthouse - she loved it so much - and that was years before she ever got the job!

The Marina owners (Jane and Mark Hirsh) clearly have a passion for the area and the water. They provide resources for local commercial fishermen, and pleasure boaters alike; and love introducing children and adults to the bay (they have even organized for the tall Ship HMS Rose to visit and for local school children to tour the ship once it arrived). With events like the seminar last night, they keep existing boaters aware and interested in the area too. They know very well that actions speak louder than words - CONGRATULATIONS to the Hirsh Family and Hingham Shipyard Marina!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sailing Boston Harbor and Islands

[Maryanne]Back at the boat for the weekend, we decided to sail Footprint into Boston Harbor, and then out back into the Islands to tour.

The wind was great, and the Harbor was busy with sailors and power boaters with boats of all sizes - and of course the many ferries running back and forth. The ferries are amazingly maneuverable and they alter course before you even worry if there is any risk of collision - we watched them zig zag through crowds of boasters without issue and were very impressed. Unfortunately most pleasure boaters are as good at boating as Bostonians are at driving (i.e. INfamously BAD). Even sail boaters would not give way as the rules obliged, power boaters would not divert to pass behind us, and we often had to stop in the water under sail to avoid hitting them as they passed just feet in front of our bow. Quite a journey. Oh and they don't wave much either.

Getting up close and personal with the Boston skyline WAS fun - and we poked our way up and down all the inlets until they ended or we were blocked by low bridges. Chelsea area is industrial and run down, in fact there are signs of heavy industry EVERYWHERE in the harbor and bay, but still plenty of cool stuff to look at too.

Once we had fully explored the City area of the Harbor, we left to wander the islands just outside. The islands are all (now) national park areas and open to the public (with the exception of Thompson Island, used as an Outward Bound Center), but in the past they have been the home of: Insane Asylums; Military defenses; children's hospitals; gambling and prostitution centers; small pox quarantine centers; etc. Some are even supposed to have sunken/buried treasure. Some of the islands have cafes and crowds, some are wild and rugged with rare visitors.

You don't need your own boat to visit as there is an active ferry schedule to the many of the islands.

Dominating the view is Deer Island with its towering "eggs" - a central feature to the city water treatment plant and credited with cleaning up the harbor.

We chose Peddocks Island to anchor for the weekend and ended the day with dinner to another sunset. Next morning (actually it was afternoon before we surfaced) we rowed ashore to Peddocks Island to explore. We landed on the South-Western Tip, and circumnavigated by foot. Walking was hard going - either on cobble beaches, or inland through mosquito infested trails. From the Center to the NE end, paved paths appear, and we passed a few holiday/summer cottages (mostly collapsing, and some long abandoned; as owners die, the property is turned over to the National park services.. and so far they are doing nothing with them). At the far NE end is a complete (disused) Military base (Fort Andrews) with plenty of large brick buildings (used both as a defense base and to house Italian Prisoners of War). Again the buildings are clearly falling into disrepair - roofs collapsing, windows boarded, doors locked. We came across the two "live in" park rangers but they didn't add much to our tour.

We took a lazy day the following day, returning to our mooring, and preparing for the week ahead. The weather has been great, and we ended the day again on deck watching the sun set (unfortunately the bugs joined us again, luckily for me, they prefer Kyle)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Side Trips (by plane)

[Maryanne]Kyle's recent work trip involved an unusual amount of time off hanging out in hotel rooms - a full day in Moncton Canada, and an afternoon in Kansas City. Normally his work involves late nights and early starts (and little sleep) - so this trip was indeed a luxury. I agreed to join him. In a hotel room I always appreciate some time with a real bathroom and I can also get enough of a TV fix to be glad I don't have one on the boat.

Now I know that Moncton and Kansas City are not exactly tourist hot spots - but I was determined to try. Moncton was unexpectedly HOT (and humid) - but we did get out and I managed a river walk (Kyle ran, until he decided it was too hot, and then to turn around and catch up with me!). There are some pretty cool geological sites and is by the Bay of Fundy - famed for the largest tidal range in the world - but all the really cool sites were 30+miles away - so we confined ourself to the banks of Petitcodiac River for this trip - If I go again, we'll rent a car and explore further afield. The river itself is pretty interesting (mostly because of that huge tidal range, but also the rich chocolate color soil and water ) and has a dedicated foot/boardwalk for miles on the Moncton side of the river.

In Kansas City, we had just an afternoon, but I'd consulted my "Rough Guide to the USA" and was determined to do some thing - I decided a trip to the 30th floor observation deck of the City Hall would keep me happy. While Kyle took a nap, I walked the few blocks from the hotel to the City Hall; they are filled with Art Deco style buildings and fountained court yards, but also with bus terminals, bail bond stores, etc... an odd mix. When I arrived at the City Hall, I had assumed I could just hop on an elevator and take a look around the deck - nope! The place is off limits without a guard escort - so an hour later I had a personal tour of the observation deck and the views of Missouri and Kansas - pretty cool. I was told to take as long as I wanted, the weather was sunny and the sky clear - a perfect day for viewing. There is no printed guide so I relied on the guide, Linda, and her knowledge to point out the interesting sites (not too many, but still cool). There are also nesting Peregrine Falcons on top of the building. I didn't see the birds - but did see remains of their dinner.

So - now we are headed back to the boat for a weekend of exploring the Boston Area. If I can be a tourist in Moncton and Kansas City - I will have no problem in Boston.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Power Supply

[Maryanne]Living aboard a boat, and not connected to the mains, we are required to make and store our own electricity. For the most part this seems to work out pretty well, but after our stint at sea in cloudy weather with no wind (and using the radar and other instruments) we were very low...

After a couple of nights "rest", there was still no sun or wind and we were starting to ration even the use of cabin lights. When we first arrived in the Boston area we anchored off Peddocks Island - still it was dull and windless. In the distance we could see a large wind generator just about turning. We had a little chat with ours and asked it to look to its big brother - maybe it could learn a thing or two. As you may expect, it ignored us; but now we have had a cloud free day and are battery rich again - whew!

I'm keen to explore Boston, but we spent our first few days here resting and repairing (or attempting to repair!). I plan to spend the next few days joining Kyle at work - where we hope to have some time to explore Moncton (New Brunswick, Canada) and Kansas City (Missouri, USA). This of course depends on space available for me to travel in the plane - but so far it is looking good. Once we get back to Boston we hope to be real tourists here - and as usual will tell you anything we find of interest. For now though, we have traveled far enough South that it is HOT! And we are already complaining. I've picked up a few more fishing tips (but still caught nothing).. Hope to report more later.

The Twilight Zone

[Kyle] Okay, so here's the way marinas are. They need your business to stay in business but they almost universally hate having real boaters around because we always need something and actually require services in return for our mooring buck. This is as opposed to the vast majority, who leave their boats completely unattended and whose presence is only known because of automatic payments for the boat they forgot about that is mouldering away at the slip. At Ocean Marine in Portsmouth, the dock master was openly hostile to anyone who required him to do anything. This included having to get up in the morning for work. As appalling as this sounds, this is typical dock master behavior. The best you can generally hope for is complete indifference

So...It was with this in mind that we showed up at Hewitt's Cove Marina in Hingham, Massachusetts. The place is huge so we expected the staff to be proportionately annoyed at pretty much everything. Not so. Instead, everybody was creepily friendly. They actually seemed glad to see us! The woman in the office offered to chase up public transportation schedules (which she did) for us then, get this, she actually told us where she lived, just in case we thought of anything we needed after hours. Incredible! There's a grocery store right across the street, propane a little further and pretty much anything else you could want between the two. The facilities are nice and new and clean, they'll run us as many times as we want back and forth to the boat in the launch - cheerfully and, AND it's cheap! I like cheap.

One of my first orders of business here was to go up the mast in the bosun's chair and figure out what happened to our hailer horn. After an hour and a half in the blazing sun taking apart the whole hailer/radar setup I was able to determine that the hailer horn didn't work. We need another one. When Peter Kennedy installed this one, he mentioned that all horns were notoriously unreliable and that we may only get a couple of years at best out of it. I guess he was right but what a drag going up there to replace it is going to be. There's no way to do it without taking apart everything up there and putting it back together again, particularly since it's actually summer here and it's hot, man!

[Maryanne]Our previous marinas really have not been as bad as Kyle portrays - although he definitely has the right flavor; he is a little too harsh! I have found all the Marinas we have stayed at have at least one person who does more than he need... However so far, Hewittit's Cove Marina has been especially helpful.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Journey To Boston for 4th July

[Maryanne]After a glorious last day in Maine, we set off early for the trip to Boston. As you may expect, it was thick fog, which made us even more grateful for the previous day. We had occasional glimpses of land or other boats, but mostly we navigated by radar and chart plotter; listening out for the fog horns of others. We were once again very grateful for our automatic hailer – which sounded the appropriate fog horn for us at least every 2 minutes.

Early in the journey we saw seals (which were such a common sight in the area) – but one in particular displayed a behavior I had personally never seen; and it seemed intended just to please us! The seal dove head first – raising its feet/tail out of the water and curling and flicking its hind quarters to make a huge splash. I understand other larger mammals do something similar to stun fish locally – but I have no idea if this is what the seal was up to! It repeated the show about 5 times and each time seemed to check out we were watching before it started.

At one point on the journey, I had just retired for some sleep and Kyle was skipper – I heard a radio call to us. Basically asking if we knew the area – were we lost (the lobsterman could obviously not understand what a sail boat was doing out towards sea in the fog). Kyle explained all was well, and thanked him for his concern. Immediately we heard the same lobsterman on the radio with a colleague – explaining there was a sailboat “out here – not sure if he knows even where he is”. His friend replied – “they probably have a better chart plotter than you do!”. I heard Kyle laugh heartily for a good 10 minutes after that.

Once at sea the wind was variable – during the journey we had fully reefed everything at times – easily managing 5-6kt, and at other times our biggest lightweight sail (the screacher) and still moving barely at less than 1 knot.

A direct route path from start to finish was 147 nautical miles, but we knew before we started that the wind direction was such that we could not sail directly in the direction we wanted – we needed to zig zag and tack our way to our destination. [Kyle: Following winds were not forecast to last long enough to get the whole way.] And because we are in the ocean with bigger, waves, we have to do larger tacks than we would do in calmer conditions to ease the ride. [Kyle: I absolutely hate having to tack back and forth to get anywhere offshore. It can be great fun in a harbor in flat water as a way of 'playing' with the boat but in big offshore waves it is always a test of endurance and misery. The boat and the crew get pounded to death. It is almost impossible to sleep in those conditions. This is made worse by the fact that almost all forward progress has stopped and the bashing is going to take FOREVER. One good thing was that on the end of one tack, we got one more look at Maine on a clear day at Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland.] Eventually the journey took 182 nautical miles – not too bad, but the journey took us 2.5 days – about 70 miles a day and much of that was frustratingly slow, or at a good clip but pounding into the seas. We probably did a few more miles than that - but our speed wheel stops working at slow speeds of less than 1 kt. Poor Kyle was sea sick, but amazingly I was fine for the whole trip.

Boston harbor is accessed from sea, via the Massachusetts Bay – and we turned from sea into the Bay on Friday around 7am – turning close to Cape Anne (Gloucester). It was not until 10pm that we finally arrived at our anchorage at one of the Boston Harbor Islands at a snail’s pace. There were three things that kept us entertained. Firstly for that whole day in Mass. Harbor – we saw very few boats – maybe 20 in total. This is on a FRIDAY of a long weekend / holiday in the USA – where was everyone? Secondly – there was one of those rare amazing sunsets – and we in particular enjoyed some spectacular views of the Boston Light (the US only remaining manned lighthouse) and the Boston Skyline all with a beautiful glow of the sunset. [Kyle: About the sunset. There's no way I can be sure, of course, but this may have been the prettiest sunset I have ever seen. As we sailed/drifted into Boston Harbor on a shimmering, mirror flat sea, the sky turned red. Then it turned even more red and then even redder still. It actually got to where it hurt to look at it. It reminded me of being in a darkroom developing photos. It's possible to see, but your eyes and brain struggle to make sense of everything in the weird light, trying to make it fit into a mental map you have of the world. This sunset was like that. All of the other colors gradually bled out until there was nothing but deep red sky reflected in deep red water with the islands and the city in silhouette.] Finally it was a holiday, my first 4th July as a citizen of the USA and we were lucky enough to enjoy at least 30 different firework displays as we crawled to our anchorage – felt like quite a welcome to the Boston area. [Kyle: Because of where we anchored, we were completely surrounded on all sides as we set anchor in the still night. it was hard to know where to look. between the sunset and the fireworks, our arrival in the Boston area was beyond spectacular.] We have reserved our marina mooring for Sunday onward, so for now we are resting up and enjoying our views.

On our last day we skipped the standard watch schedule and spent most of the day together in the cockpit enjoying the views. We often quiz ourselves and Kyle wanted to know what the fog signal was for a vessel limited in its ability to maneuver - I told him, it is the same as a vessel under sail. Kyle loves our hailer with all its fancy options, and wanted to see if it had this particular option on the menu - but the hailer would not work - broken! [Kyle: I distinctly remember Maryanne turning the fog signal off after clearing the Maine fog. I think it must have failed somehow during the subsequent beating we took. Still, it lasted EXACTLY as long as we needed it.] Obviously we have to fix it but we consider ourselves lucky that it lasted while we needed it in Maine.

Kyle hates motoring, and we had recently checked our engine hours per trip (2.5 engine hours per trip) stat and engine hours per hour underway (28% of time is under motor). Kyle was particularly unhappy with the answer. He was on a mission. For this leg we motored for the first hour and a half (no wind and we wanted to clear the islands in the thick fog) – but sailed the rest of the journey (64.5 hours in total). That should help the stats, and certainly made Kyle feel better (only 2% of the journey under engine power)!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Last full day in Maine

[Kyle]As part of my "get up early" routine, I got up even earlier (02:30), went outside and found the boat enshrouded with fog and covered with dew. I came in and made some coffee, sat down at the computer and downloaded the latest weather. Then they came, by the dozens - flying towards the light - a plague like Maryanne experienced in Bangor had found us again. The air was so thick with flying bugs I had to remember to keep my mouth closed and coffee covered. Fortunately these did not seem interested in biting me, but he sound of them buzzing around and hitting the ceiling, made me think it had started raining on a couple of occasions. After a couple of brief (and futile) attempts at zapping them failed, I finally hunkered down and endured it like a chimpanzee in the rain. Eventually daylight arrived and the flies quickly vanished (many found later drowned in the dew on the boat).

Anyway - back to the trip. The weather forecast indicated there was no point in sailing for the first half of the day so we set off under motor in the thickest fog we have so far seen. We heard and saw on the radar several targets that passed within 500' of us, but we never saw them by eye. There was occasional panic swerving to avoid a lobster pot float. We were both disappointed that apart from a half show on our first 1/2 day in Somes Sound, we never really got to see this area of Maine in its full glory. Maine will be Maine. Our route back to Southern Penobscot Bay was via two thoroughfares (passages between islands) - Deer Island and Fox Island Thoroughfares. By the time we arrived at Deer Island Thorofare, after crossing Blue Hill Bay (the first bay of the day to cross) the fog began to clear up and we were treated to a beautiful warm day with clear blue skies as we wove our way through the Deer Islands. The many small islands were smooth hunks of pink granite with tufts of trees atop. Everywhere we looked we were impressed by the beauty. Maryanne actually stopped taking photographs as the beauty was overwhelming and all around.

Also in the thoroughfare was the highest density of lobster pots we had ever experienced; there was no straight course to be steered safely. It was often difficult to find gaps for the boat to pass between pots. Once we got through Deer Island Thorofare, the wind picked up (finally!) and we hoisted our biggest sail for a fast reach across the Penobscot Bay, and on to the Fox Islands Thorofare (where the wind promptly stopped). Here the islands were covered with the same tufts of trees, but the rock base was very different and more rugged (I believe Till). We had originally planed to anchor in the guidebook recommended and very pretty Perry Creek. It really is stunningly pretty, but also filled with private mooring balls and no suitable place remaining to anchor. We changed to plan B - the wide open expanse of Waterman Bay; exposed enough to run our wind generator, but protected enough from any swell. I was glad that our last full day in Maine ended clear and sunny; I was worried we would leave in cold and fog and cast a pall over our impression of the place. One thing about this place though, is that it is so beautiful to begin with, and much of the time you experience it as almost complete sensory deprivation, so when it does clear up and allow you to see its vastness and beauty, it seems so much the sweeter for it.

I will miss Maine's beauty, but there is so much more to see, and it is already time to start heading south to stay ahead of the Winter.

[Maryanne]Wow - out with a blast. Maine really showed us its best side today (along with a morning of fog and dodging lobster boats and floats); we had the full taste of Maine all in a day. Wow again, it is SO BEAUTIFUL. I really did get overwhelmed taking photographs - how many stunning island photographs do you need (of course I doubt the photographs will do the actual view justice, but you feel obliged to try). We managed to enjoy our dinner out in the cockpit - warm, no flies and a great view - what a parting gift. Next stop Boston!

Southern Mount Desert Island

For pictures - imagine fog!

[Kyle]After Somes Harbor we sailed back through the sound and headed east to Seal Harbor. Since we came into the Somes Sound a day early, we had a short sailing day head of us. As we have come to expect, the day started out foggy, but luckily with wind. We pulled up the anchor and went to a nearby marina to purchase fuel. There was no hose down to the floating dock, but we could fill up and carry the fuel down to the boat in fuel jugs/tanks – luckily we only needed on jugs worth. I set the jerry can down outside the office to go and pay, paid, and returned to the boat.. Not realizing until after preparing to throw off our lines that I had left the fuel by the door of the office. My excuse? I guess I’m accustomed to paying for it only AFTER it is in the boat tank. We cleared the mooring field and set sail for the beat down the Sound in thick fog. (very glad we got to actually see the mountains the day before!).

It was pretty eerie; we sailed on one tack until a wall of trees and granite would appear from the fog head of us, tack and repeat. (The channel remains deep right up to the wall). We could hear our fog signal echoing off the cliffs. (Don’t think we were relying just on the visual sighting – we also had our chart plotter giving us a good idea how close to the edge we were!), We left the sound, passed Southwest harbor (which we never saw) and turned East towards Seal Harbor. I’m sure it must be very pretty around there, but again, like Eggemoggin Reach, we were not able to enjoy the views (or even see them). Our guidebook said that Seal Harbor was a nice quiet protected anchorage, but even before we turned the corner, on the radar I could see it was full of boats. We picked our way through and as the night before tried to find a shallow spot beyond the mooring field. (Maryanne suggested we just tie up to the Rockefeller dock – but I dismissed that one). We spent a great deal of time trying to find a spot large enough for the swing we would need. The most promising spot was near a couple of lobster pots away from the moored boats in JUST enough water. In the process of backing away from one of the lobster floats, I backed into another, caught around the prop and killing the engine (our first catch). Luckily the engine was at idle speed so the line only wrapped around a couple of times. Maryanne dropped the anchor to keep us from pulling too far, and we both managed to unwrap the line of the float from the prop using a boat hook – no damage to boat or Lobster pot/line/etc. Whew!

We carefully returned to our selected spot, and dropped the anchor – but it would not set – the reason why was clear as we pulled up the anchor – covered in huge truck tire/tyre size fronds of kelp. No wonder we could not hold!

With the kelp, the lobster pots and the mooring field we gave up with Seal Harbor, and decided to head somewhere else. My first thought was South East Harbor (just back where we had come from) but Maryanne looked it up and even the guidebook said anchoring was not allowed. Eventually we settled on Cranberry Harbor (to the South) between the Cranberry islands. We found a protected cove, with good holding, all to ourselves.

Lobster Pots

[Maryanne]Maine and the whole NE of the USA is famous for its Lobster pots – we read early on in a guidebook, that there are places you feel you can walk across the water stepping from pot buoy to pot buoy (we have come close). For this reason we have deliberately NOT entered any harbor at night, and made sure in any fog we have a good look out. We learned that as a pot floats become detached and drift ashore, you are not allowed to remove it from the shore – all you can do is “advertise it” for the owner to come and collect – so all over the NE there are racks of lobster pot floats

The patterns on the pots are registered with the state, and each lobsterman has his own – these range from solid colors, rings, stripes, even large polka dots. Each pot buoy has its owners color scheme and the owner carries a sample on his lobster boat in clear view – so you can have fun guessing which way the lobster boat may go through a field of floats. What has amazed us most, is that we find fields of buoys in the middle of really deep channels (200’+). We are careful to avoid them and if we are unsure, throw our engine into neutral if motoring. Most floats seem to be made from a Styrofoam like material (painted) but we see others that look like inflatable fenders. Some are in such deep water that extra flotation is added (either on a separate, but attached piece of rope, or threaded onto a single wooden pole like a stack of doughnuts. Each day we are amused by some new combination of color or shape!

[Kyle]After spending so much time in Chesapeake Bay, I still have to think to call them lobster pots and not crab pots!

Eggemoggin Reach

[Kyle]Since I was slowly acclimatizing for night watches for the offshore passage to Boston, I have been gradually getting up earlier and earlier. This morning when I went outside in the dark and fog, I remembered what Maryanne had told me the night before – the anchorage looked like a field of candles (all the other boats anchored, showing their anchor lights, and bobbing around at anchor).

Our plan for the day was to sail through Eggemoggin Reach (Between Penobscot Bay and Mount Desert Island) For those of you who don’t know the area, Mount Desert is pronounced Mount Dessert. Eggemoggin Reach has been described as one of the most beautiful passages in Maine with classic boats moored along the sides and breathtaking scenery all along the way. We would not know, however, since we didn’t get to see any of it. We had thick fog the whole journey. All we observed was the occasional shapeless gray silhouette of a rock or another boat coming out of the fog, and the bridge we passed under. Beyond that, we were not able to enjoy nor be impressed with Eggemoggin Reach. The fog did begin to clear up just as we left Eggemoggin Reach, heading across Blue Hill Bay for Mount Desert Island. Maine has an area known to the locals as “Down East”. We don’t think we quite made it – or at least we can’t tell for sure if we did – as different books and people have “down east” starting in different places. We found one report that suggested Eggemoggin Reach was the border – so if that is the case, we DID make it Down East.

We had originally planned to anchor in Bass Harbor, on the South West side of Mount Desert Island, but since it was exposed to the forecast strong winds, we changed our plans, and pressed on a little further to Somes Harbor. Somes Harbor lies at the North end of Somes Sound which almost bisects Mount Desert Island in two. Somes Sound has been called the only Fjord on the East Coast of the USA, although some dispute that (including Maryanne – who thinks although impressive, it is NOT a Fjord).. The entrance to the Sound is just on the other side of the town of South West Harbor which was FILLED with moored boats of mostly classic types including a couple of gaff rigged cutters under sail. Passing these we entered the Sound itself, lined on both sides with steep mountains, covered with green trees and pink granite. Mount Desert Island is home to Arcadia National Park and on the way up the sound we saw plenty of tourists camping, and snapping pictures from the roadside. Somes Harbor itself was surrounded by meadow, a shallow anchorage protected from any swell by an Island at the entrance. On entering, we noticed the Valkyrie, a large power cruiser that had been docked beside us (with Footprint and Prydwen) in Ocean Marine, back in Norfolk (over winter 2006/2007). We pulled alongside and chatted for a while, before moving on to find a good place to anchor. We anchored beyond the Northern end of the mooring field, in a shallow spot (about 3’ at low tide / 15’ at high). From our anchorage we could see campgrounds from the park with dinner fires going. There were 3 seals trawling the harbor for their dinner – fish jumping around, even a duck had a fish in its beak (I didn’t even know they ate fish). This inspired Maryanne to have another go at fishing. It seems the fish actually jump away from our lures – every time we saw a fish, she would cast in that direction and the fish would leap out and go elsewhere (so unfair). Luckily we had some store bought Tuna steaks and enjoyed that for our dinner on the BBQ

[Maryanne]This leg of our trip we knew we were in for some real scenery. There was a slight fog most of the day, so we didn’t get to see the distances we expected, but we were still impressed by the Sound in particular. I longed to stop and spend some time in Arcadia National park, but the detour just to see it was more than I our original plans allowed for, so I tried not to whine too much. Arcadia National Park is one of the most visited / used in the USA.

An aside, “anchorages” in Maine are often hard to find, even when the bottom is suitable (i.e. not rock), the anchorage is marked on the charts, and listed in guide books, they turn out to be a field of mooring balls, which often cost as much as a hotel room to tie up to for the night. We were lucky in Somes Harbor that we could navigate our way beyond the mooring field and into the shallow mud to anchor.

Leaving Bangor

[Kyle] The night before we left Bangor, my flight was oversold so I ended up taking a plane to Boston and then doing the 5 hour bus ride to Bangor THEN I walked the 6 miles home to the boat. I got home around midnight and Maryanne had to come row out in the dinghy and get me. I think we're both pretty much done with Bangor.

We left at about 6:00 to catch the tide for the 20 mile trip to Penobscot Bay. We didn't want to tack in the narrow river and we wanted to top off our fuel along the way so we motored out, making a quick trip of it with the help of a fast current. We stopped at a marina in Winterport to get fuel. The place was clearly open (literally, we could have just gone through the open door behind the counter and turned on the pump ourselves) but nobody was around. After taking a nice walking tour of the area looking for anybody, we found a nice boater who directed us to the guy who was pottering around on the boat RIGHT BEHIND US. He actually turned out to be very helpful and friendly in that Maine way, which is to say not initially. He was accompanied by a very happy, friendly, smiley German Shepard (Alsatian for you English). This dog, however, was by far the smelliest dog I have ever encountered. There is something WRONG with that dog. At first as she was coming up to us, we thought 'Oh, friendly puppy! Come here, friendly puppy." then at about 10 feet the smell attacked us like a swarm of angry bees. Fighting our urges to turn and sprint away, we switched to "Nice puppy. (cough!) Run along now. (gag!) off you go. Please, please get away from us!" Now I know why Marina Man was clutching a big, fat, smelly stogie (cigar) between his teeth. After we got our fuel, Friendly Dog came bounding down to see us off and I very nearly did a modified Portland Dinghy Jump off the other side of Footprint to get away. By the time we got around the next corner we could breathe again.

Once we got into the Bay, the direct headwind turned into an almost direct headwind and we unfurled the sails and sailed close hauled in thickening fog down to our anchorage just south of Castine Harbor. Just before we got there, it cleared up enough for us to see the beautiful bay as we tacked back and forth into the little anchorage. There were about three other boats anchored (crowds!). We tacked through the anchorage, found a spot and dropped the anchor under sail. We tidied up briefly and then, exhausted from a week with no sleep (air travel is no fun for your crews either, folks.) we went for a nap.

About 3 minutes later we were awoken by a guy from a boat that had just arrived. He asked where we were from in clear view of the Portland Oregon on the transom. The question really seemed to me to be "Why are you here?". He explained that they (as in not us) were having a get together and they may be a bit loud.

"you haven't been invited, have you?"

"Um, no."

"Oh," loong pause, "well, you're invited."

Then he rowed off really fast.

In quick succession, 15 or 20 more boats showed up and all hoisted the same burgee. The 'get together' ended up being a giant dinghy raft up. everybody donned their best cold weather gear and then just tied up to each other as a guy in a dinghy on the end with a motor pushed the whole raft in circles around the anchorage. They sounded like they were having good fun. I briefly considered joining them but I was too tired to want to deal with putting the dinghy in the water so we passed on it. Just before breaking up for the night, they had a dinghy race and then sang something along the lines of 'Kumbaya'. Maybe it's best we didn't go after all.

[Maryanne]I had REALLY wanted to stop off and spend some time in Castine, it is the home of one of the top Maritime Marine Academies, supposedly set in a beautiful elm filled town, and with regular tours of the training vessels and facilities; Kyle was just exhausted so we gave it a miss..... Next time. The Maine coast is full of Seals, and I'm really enjoying them (reminds me of my time in Scotland) and we are also seeing occasional lone and shy porpoises. Still no catching of fish....