Thursday, May 09, 2013

Boston to Portsmouth (well, New Castle, which is close)

[Kyle]The wind forecast for our next leg to Portsmouth (New Hampshire) indicated that the best thing for us to do was leave as soon as possible after I got home from work. I was scheduled to spend another miserable night in the crew room as I had the week before. This time, however, I managed to drop my last two flights, saving me seven hours of work. Even better, I was able to make it home the same day, eighteen hours before I had originally expected. I arrived at Begonia well rested and ready to go.

Maryanne had the boat cleaned up beautifully. She also had done almost the entire pre-sailing checklist. All that remained once I was on board was hoist and secure the dinghy, start the engines and cast off the mooring line.

The wind, however, was not playing nice. Every forecast I could find said it should be out if the south, gradually weakening to nothing by the next day. The strength was right on, but the direction was way off. Instead, it was out of the ENE. This was pretty much the exact direction we would have to go for the first few miles until we were out of Boston Harbor. My plan had been to motor out of the mooring field, then shut down the engines and get sailing. I shut down one after a while to save fuel, but now we were fighting both wind and current with only one of our undersized engines. It was starting to look like it was going to be hours before we would be able to safely shut down the second.

To increase our speed, I raised the mainsail and bore away from the wind, leaving the engine running as insurance against the narrow channel and shipping traffic. Our speed shot way up, but the incoming current made our track a series of very acute tacks. We sailed from one side of the harbor to the other, but were still making the same speed toward the exit. At least the mainsail would already be up when we hit open water.

I checked the forecasts again, hoping for some sign of relief coming. They were all the same, saying I should have already been in south winds all day. I was hoping that meant our east winds were a local phenomenon caused by topography or a perturbation in the sea breeze and that once we made it to open water, things would normalize. As we passed Logan airport, it occurred to me to check the aviation forecast. The airport forecast was for ENE winds, turning south any minute.

A few minutes later, I unrolled the genoa, shut down the engine, and we were finally making good speed toward Cape Ann in seas that were not too lumpy as the sun set in a cloudless sky.

I went off watch to get some rest. Maryanne woke me at two a.m. We were rounding the cape. The wind had decreased, Begonia had slowed and the motion was just right to lull her to sleep.

In the wee hours, there was a steady procession of fishing boats coming in and out of Gloucester. Just at sunrise, I snagged a pot float in the port rudder. The last time this happened, I was in Delaware Bay and the water was warm enough to dive in and free it. This time, it was way to cold to even consider the same solution. Fortunately, I was able to stop the boat and then move slowly backwards under sail. With a little yanking and tugging with a boathook, it came free and we were back underway no worse for wear. I was sure I would wake up Maryanne with all of the noise right under our bunk, but she slept right through it all.

The morning air was so humid the boat was heavily coated in dew and the sea was covered in occasional patches of fog. Even though it wasn’t that cold, I could see my breath, each one of which lingered for another two or three before dissipating. An hour later or so, Maryanne emerged into a sunny morning just in time to see a pod of humpback whales pass by about a quarter of a mile to starboard. Their steamy breath shot plumes 30 feet up. They looked like a pod of locomotives.

The wind continued to decrease until we were ghosting along on a flat, mercurial sea. These lulls usually happen around sunrise, so I wasn’t bothered too much. Then we drifted to a stop and just bobbed there. The Piscataqua River at Portsmouth reputedly has the highest currents on the U.S. east coast. It is very sensible to arrive near slack water. Our distance was such that it made sense to run an engine for an hour or so until the wind returned. It never did.

We did manage to arrive at the Portsmouth Yacht Club just as all of the boats were swinging different directions on their moorings. An hour later, we were all pointed upstream leaving wakes behind in the fast-moving river.

Begonia arrives at Portsmouth Yacht Club

When we checked in to pay, we discovered that nothing was quite as we had hoped, mostly because the season just started about two days before. We were welcome to use the yacht club’s facilities, except when they lock up for the day, which is most of the time, since it’s out of season. There was even a short while where it was not sure if we could even enter or leave the boat while the yacht club was closed for the evening. The bus to Portsmouth (the yacht club is in nearby New Castle) doesn’t run this time of year and there are no stores open in town. Portsmouth is about an hour’s walk.

One good thing, though, was free wifi that was strong enough to be picked up at the mooring even down below in our berth. The staff was nice, too.

In the morning, which was a day I had originally not expected to have spare, we were given a ride into town. We wandered for a few hours, had a big lunch, and then enjoyed a long walk and talk on the exceedingly pretty route home. Along the way, looking for ice cream (the gelato place in town was closed for the season, but I wasn’t giving up), we managed to find a little hole-in-the-wall place where we got a brownie sundae and an oddly named whoopee pie which consisted of two slices of devil’s food with marshmallow crème sandwiched between. I wished we hadn’t already eaten lunch; this 100 year old, family owned, rustic restaurant (Gino’s) was in a quiet spot on the water, smelled great, was inexpensive and was full of friendly, local characters.

Whoopie Pie, ready for eating!

The day was over much too quickly. It was already time for me to start preparing for the long commute back to Newark the next day. We shared a bottle of wine in the cockpit until our revolving solarium spun 180º on the tide, then called it an early night.

{Maryanne: We'd visited Portsmouth before when we were shopping for boats in 2012 and fallen in love with this beautiful New England town, Kyle remembered so well my love for the place, he made sure we had it as a stop on our route}

1 comment:

kate said...

No wonder Maryanne loved Portsmouth - it looks absolutely charming. And you saw humpback whales, had a whoopie pie and Kyle enjoyed an unexpected day off work - that's nothing to sneeze at! Good news all around.