Friday, September 7, 2007

The Return

It was calm this morning behind Wings Neck. I slept a bit late, not rising till about 7:30 and then somewhat stiffly. After breakfast I put the table up in the cabin and set up the laptop to write my morning entry. Then I sorted and semi-packed clothes into bags, and moved all the remaining perishables with the few remaining chunks of ice from the big boat cooler into the small carry-on cooler. I dumped some milk and humus I had forgotten to put away last night. When I was on deck a guy came over from a neighboring boat and basically welcomed me to Pocasset. We talked for a while. He offered to run me up the river in his dinghy into town, but I was eager to get on my way so I would get home before Nancy. I vowed to return and poke around in this corner of the Bay.

Buzzards Bay rarely disappoints. The breeze picked up from the southeast as I got the sails up and picked my way up the lee of Wings Neck. By the time I was out in Hog Island channel the wind was from the SSW and we were heeled way over. I got both sails in tight and picked the best upwind course I could. Then Autoleena took over. She does well upwind. We made it past the can off Bird Island without a tack, and in fact only made one tack all day, a quick one off Angelica Point. The last three miles or so we had fallen off the wind a bit and were just boiling along at 5.5 knots happy as could be. We sailed right up to the first buoys of the channel into my marina before I reeled in the sails. I tied up at my mooring at 2, was in my car by 3:30.

London is a small boat. I think you experience the sea and the weather more, shall we say, fully, in a small boat. The sea is right there. We can lean out of the cockpit and touch it, rinse our hands, or the supper pot.

Now back on land I realize how sore and stiff I am from being in the boat. I am covered in bruises and small wounds of whose cause and timing I have no idea. I am also recovering from a sprained wrist (Isle Au Haut) which I aggravated in the last few days of long 'Time And Distance' sails, probably by catching myself with my right hand when flung about by a wave or a gust of wind. The last couple days have been windy and strenuous. Yet I have had a wonderful time. I feel great.
Today is the first time I have been on land since Monday afternoon in Biddeford Pool -- that's three days afloat alone and about 150 miles. It was about another 130 miles from the Pool to Northeast harbor. So overall London probably sailed about 600 miles in the last few weeks. In the annals of seafaring this journey was not even a speck on the tiniest page of the smallest log book. But it is not about distance.

The weather has been fabulous, with only a little fog and humidity. Other than the rain at Biddeford Pool and Linekin Bay it has been dry. There have been calm days, but also days with plenty of wind. Although I wear a hat, sun block and spend much of my time trying to stay out of the sun, I am brown as a nut and feel thinner and stronger.
What more could one ask?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Buzzards Bay

Pocasset, Buzzards Bay, MA (Off Pocasset River)

The bluefish are feeding around the boat. A few terns have caught on and are flying overhead picking off the small fry forced to the surface. Ever since I rounded Cape Ann I have seen continuous bird and fish activity -- feeding frenzies. The number of seabirds in the air at Milk Island off Gloucester and at the eastern end of the Canal is absolutely biblical: scenes of diving and screeching, great waves and spiraling curls of birds fanning out overhead across the sky over silver fish tails slapping the surface, thousands of gray wingtips, pointy red beaks, and frantic black tern eyes.

The wind backed around me yesterday. We started downwind and brisk, then downwind and light. Those breezes blew from the northwest, then about lunch time, and beginning the second phase of the day, the wind began to sneak around to the east, first the northeast, then east and settled in, by the time I reached the canal, blowing from the southeast. 180 degrees in one day. Great stuff.

Off Plymouth was again the gustiest. It was too much for Autoleena, so I had to take the tiller for 3 hours to get us down to the canal. But we flew along at 5.5 knots and better for hour after hour. I made the canal earlier than I thought, and was in the entrance by 6. Unfortunately the railroad bridge came down in front of London so we turned just below the Bourne Bridge and ran up current. London's normal cruising speed was just enough to hold me in place. It is quite a sensation to face into the rushing turbulence of the canal's flow with the engine running full and look over at the bank to see we are going nowhere.

There was a French boat in the canal, sailing wing-on-wing until the patrol showed up. The boat looked custom, Trintella shaped, with a hull like a dark and a spectacular rigged dart. He entered the canal ahead of me after a beautiful show of sailing along the curve of the beach. Name: Rebel.

The other boating sight yesterday was off Duxbury, a twin hulled NOAA vessel, gray power boat with superstructure and many aerials was puttering along behind a man in a ocean kayak, several miles off shore.

I anchored last night off the Pocasset River in a spot I have used before coming and going through the canal. Dinner was Dirty Rice (New Orleans Style) with the last two turkey hot dogs and 1/2 bottle of red Rioja. Great dreams about when gravity becomes benign. I awoke with a big smile.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Time and Distance 3

Wednesday Sept 4. 10:30.

After passing Massachusetts Bay buoy BF, I took some pictures of the Boston skyscrapers peeking up over the horizon, a floating ephemeral city island across 20 miles of sea.

It is about 10:30 and the first part of the day is over. These days of making miles break into four or five parts. The first ends at about 10:30 with a snack. Then we start thinking about lunch, and dinner and where we will end up. There are always options. Today I want to at least get close to the end of the canal, if not go through it. The forecast has been for 10-15 with gusts to 20 from the NW. The breeze was good early but petered out (if you will excuse the expression) by 9:30. I am going dead downwind, which excepting going dead upwind, is London's slowest direction. The jib is in now, the main alone out and held in place with a preventer. Otherwise it would flop around in the light air and the following sea which makes the hull roll and corkscrew. Autoleena has made a few violent moves with the tiller this morning, one time through 160 degrees, but she seems to have caught on now.

I have been looking through the food lockers. Emptying them all out to see what's really there. Just had a fruit salad and then found another unopened Cadbury's Fruit and Nut chocolate bar. Must have hidden it from my sister and forgot all about it. Most of the food that is left is in boxes and cans, but I will get through the next two days.

Canal is 34 miles away. At current speed of 4.5 knots will get there in 6.5 ish hours. The current turns in my favor at 5pm which is just about when I should get there -- if everything stays like it is now -- which is unlikely.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Time and Distance 2

From Biddeford Pool, Maine at dawn (top picture) to Brace Cove in Gloucester (second picture) is about 60 miles. 60/5 knots = 12 hours.

It was a good sailing day. In the brief lulls I used the engine to push me along.

I saw a pair of birds today which were picture perfect adult Northern Gannets, all the others we've seen have been juvenils. In the tide rips off the Isles of Shoals I saw schools of small fish (4-5 inches long), dark on top silver underneath, jumping clear of the water. At other times there would be a tremendous turbulence and splashing on the surface. Judging by the size and violence of the splashes these were made by a large fish feeding on the surface .

Time And Distance

Tuesday AM

This morning I rose at 5 am when I heard the first skiff outboard start. The first fisherman out had a pony tail. A lobster-woman.
I dressed and ate breakfast, and cast off the mooring by 6am - high tide and the current in the pool was calm. Yesterday when I moved inside... into Biddeford Pool itself, the current was running in at 2 or 3 knots against a SW wind gusting to 20 or 25 knots. I had to choose between heading upwind or up current, I chose up current and it worked nicely. With the two opposing forces the boat almost hovered around its mooring, with the water racing by in one direction and spray blowing by in another. Once the boat was secure, I had a quick lunch, hailed the launch and went to the ocean beach for a swim. By the time I got back, several hours later, everything was much quieter.

By 8 am this morning Cape Porpoise was astern. I am sailing about three miles off the beach. I started on a broad reach with the engine at low revs, just to push me into the swell remaining from yesterday. I turned engine off about 9 am and am scooting along at 5.5 knots. A 9:45 am Boon Island is a bit more than 3 miles ahead. I know from my trip to Maine I should soon get a signal for my broadband wireless soon.
Today's goal is Rockport, MA, but it all depends on the weather. The sea is choppy from today's waves meeting yesterday's waves. I have the laptop strapped to the table with a pair of sail ties.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Biddeford Pool

Biddeford Pool Maine: Drift and Rhythm

The random noises seem a score. The rubbing of the jib line on the metal lifeline works like a bow on a string. The notes come in a quick group of three, a pause, and then two more, allegro. The wires in the mast snap like snare drums. The anchor rode squeaks in the chock. The water against the hull sings like a chorus, the hull works like a sound box and I find myself humming along, to my boat's anchored song. Underway it can be the same, the diesel plays a rumbling downbeat, the prop shaft an undulation.

I made a mistake two days ago and am paying now. When we had the strong NW wind we should have kept going Saturday evening on across Casco Bay. Now I am stuck for a day waiting for the wind to shift back to a more favorable direction. My timing was off yesterday, I got here a little too late in the day to make the next good harbor in daylight. That would be Portsmouth 30 miles down the coast. So now I sit and read and clean boat. I straightened up the cabin yesterday and then washed the dinghy. The good thing about being here is there are showers in the BPYC clubhouse. I have had two in the last 12 hours. The bad thing is there is no food in the local grocery.

Peter F ran out of time. I dropped him at the ferry dock at Chebeague Island about 8am and he arranged to be picked up at the ferry dock in Portland. He needs to get back. I am sure he's stayed longer than he planned. He is a good sport. By leaving him at Chebeague it allowed me to ride the last of the outgoing tide out of Casco Bay. I made good time until the SW wind started to blow in my face. Now it is howling, forecast 20-30 today. All the same if I can get away tomorrow. I should be back in Buzzards Bay by the end of the week.

After my nap yesterday afternoon it was dead high tide. I watched for my depth finder for a time, subtracting 10.5 feet for the tidal range and kept getting numbers too close to my 4' draft. So I hauled the anchor and moved myself further out. This is a difficult place to predict where the boat will settle: you need a lot of scope, it is windy and the current is strong. Having the wind and current at various angles leads to some peculiar situations. Last night the boat was being pulled one way and the dinghy another. The dinghy wanted to ride along the hull and bang it in the chop.

In the evening when everyone was out for the sunset I met the neighbors. A couple in a 28 Cape Dory just to my lee from York, ME. Their boat is same age as London - 30.
I got some good pictures of a group racing by in a dinghy and on their third pass they yelled over an email address for me to send them to.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tenants Harbor, Potts Harbor

Friday - Tenants Harbor, Maine

Today's forecast for sailing was promising. There were even small craft warnings... gusts to 25 MPH. None of it happened. After a few wisps of air along the northern end of Egemogin Reach, the sky solidified into a solid gray mass hovering with no intent and the wind died. We motored from 11 am until nearly 7 pm when we pulled into Tenants Harbor just ahead of a fog bank. We did spend the day moving with the tide though which runs at several knots through some of these channels.

As we were about 5 days ago, we are again stuck under a stalled cold front. The forecast now says it will clear early in the AM and tomorrow will be very windy.

We ate tonight at the Cod End, a waterfront fried fish place right on the water. One of those places where you can dinghy over and the food is served right on the dock. I made friends with a dog, a small Belgian poof, or a fluff or a flossy or something. Little Oscar was frightened by his 'parents' smashing their lobster's shells with big rocks on the picnic table. He backed up into my lap. I scratched his ear. He was grateful.

It was on this very dock that on the evening of Sept 11, 2001. I learned about what had happened that morning in New York and DC. This evening I saw the woman I'd spoken to about Afghanistan that evening when I'd said, "We've got to got over there and got those guys in Afghanistan."

She'd looked at me and asked, "How are you going to do that?"

Saturday - Potts Harbor, Maine

When we left the harbor this morning, a short time after Oscar and his parents, it seemed at first the wind forecast had again been without merit. But we were soon flying along on a crisp sparkling day with the water boiling under London's hull. If you could have taken all of today's wind and divided it between yesterday and today, we would have had two good sailing days rather than one dead and one wild one. By 10 am we had a reef in the main and were altering our course to be more offshore and off the wind for easier sailing. At noon we had passed the mouth of the St John's river and then the island of Seguin a little after two.

Peter F. at the tiller off Seguin.

Heading up to beat into Potts Harbor for the night slowed our progress as the tide was racing out. But we had the anchor down a little after 6pm. We had hoped to eat at the Dolphin restaurant, but the groups of people waiting on the pier and along the shore, were the sign of a long wait. We ate the frozen beef stew Peter F had found in Tenants Harbor.

During the day we came upon one of those big birds we take to be Northern Gannets resting on the water. We also saw the flopping black fin of an Ocean Sunfish, several porpoises and seals, and one bald eagle.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Wooden Boat

Thursday, Wooden Boat, Brooklin, Maine

Today began in the fog at Northeast Harbor, on Mt Desert. The previous evening we'd had a spectacular dinner in the village at a tavern on main street. Both of our meals were so good, we soon forgot there had been no hot water for our long sought hot showers. It takes an effort to keep clean on the boat. I do have a sun shower, which uses solar energy to heat 5 gallons of water on a sunny day. In the past I hung the shower from a halyard and bathed atop the cabin in a bathing suit, but recently I hang the shower from the boom over the cockpit and sit in the bottom of the cockpit, naked, while underway and well out at sea. I then wash as if in the tub at home. Peter Fifield snapped some pictures of me doing this the other day while we made our way into Burnt Coat. He is planning to download his pictures onto my laptop when we find a USB cable. I think those shots may disappear in the process.

The moorings in Northeast harbor are still only $20 a night. In Maine we have found when we wanted to moor the price has been between $15 and $20 -- much less than we often encounter in Southern New England. But there has been a lack of showers.
Northeast harbor was packed with boats and busy with craft coming and going from the slips and moorings, many dinghies loaded with people and their dogs, all going to and from shore. The dinghy dock must have had 150-200 inflatable or hard shell dinghies tied up, often two and three deep. Avoid the interior corners. We saw one red faced man tossing and shoving dinghies out of his way as he struggled to push his way out .

Despite all the busyness, the harbor seems to run efficiently, a place where a radio call to the harbormaster will be answered. You see them about in their boats or ashore in the office on the waterfront. We heard a rumor over at Friendship, Long Island that the harbormasters here had just ejected Steve Forbes's yacht -- for excessive generator noise.
Rental buoys are marked with numbers assigned by boat length. I learned the mooring fee collection agents are all school teachers this year. It was she who told us about the new place to eat in town.
There is always some uncertainly in entering a new harbor in your boat. Will the place be friendly to a visiting sailboat or too busy with fishing or other commercial activity to help? Bringing a sailboat into water where there is limited manueverability can be a challenge, and means pulling in the jib and lowering the main sail and getting the engine on. London is small and easy to handle, but like all full keeled boats, can be unpredictable when powering in reverse. For this reason I have been using reverse in manuervers this trip as much as possible. Which way will she go?
Tonight we tried to moor at Center Harbor in the town of Brooklyn, Maine. We attempted to get both the boatyard and the yacht club on phone and radio with no luck, but spotting a free mooring off the boat yard, with no dinghy attached, grabbed it. I then rowed in and found an employee leaving for the day. He said the boat which belonged on the mooring was away and we would probably be alright for the night. Unfortunately while rowing back to London I was hailed by another sailboat who said the mooring had been promised to them earlier in the day by phone. We dropped that mooring, and not wanting to anchor in the exposed water outside, moved a few miles back up Egemoggin Reach toward the harbor Wooden Boat uses with the intention of anchoring there. Here we found a mooring clearly marked for guests and a launch to welcome us. We were opting for a mooring for the night as another cold front was expected with all its forecast thunder and strong gusts of wind.

Once settled we set off on foot for a pub in the basement of the Brooklin Inn. The walk was a good 1.5 miles, but we had only gone .5 a mile when a man in a pickup truck offered us a lift. We hopped over the tailgate, sat in the truck bed and hung onto the bags of cement on the floor as he sped into town. Later after an excellent and very reasonable dinner at the pub, we found Larry had also finished his dinner at a residence nearby and driven to the Inn to look for us. He whisked us back to Wooden Boat and then used his flashlight to light our way down the gangway to the dinghy dock. Awfully nice guy. Maine has been consistently like that.
The sailing today varied between terrific and then non-existent, when we slid into pockets of calm, dead air. There was thick fog in the morning and I used the chart plotter with its radar overlay to help guide our way out of Northeast Harbor and out through Western Way. By the time we were through Casco Passage and had started up Egemoggin Reach, the tide was running strong against us, so I manuevered to run alone the eastern shore near the Babson Islands and then up a real race, wing-on-wing between Torrey Island and High Head.
After our pickup ride we rowed back out to London on her mooring. I had left the anchor light and a cabin light on so we could find her easier in the dark, and the flashlight I keep stuffed in a cockpit locker again came in handy. The phosphorescnce in the water was spectacular. Swirling constellations of pale green globules in three dimensions. We swung the dingy round a few times just to watch the show.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Northeast Harbor

Wed Aug 30

Today my copy of the 'Field Guide to The North Atlantic' (Proctor & Lynch., Yale University Press. 2005.) surfaced from the recesses of an on board shelf. I had searched from stem to stern for it days ago, when trying to identify the diving birds off Muscongus Bay. We now are fairly certain they are Northern Gannets because of the spectacular dives and their large size. (e.g., wingspans of 72 in!). How a book could remain hidden in a 27 foot boat for 4 days remains a mystery.

We spent a comfortable night at Burnt Coat Harbor on Swan Island last night and in the morning, after the fishing fleet had departed, we stopped for fuel and water at the Lobster Co-op.

According to the cruising guide the fishermen here have a hand in the mooring rental operation. This may account for their early morning courtesy. Often in working harbors, the morning starts with a roar of 50 diesel engines an hour or so before dawn, and the rocking of my little boat all their resultant wakes. At Burnt Coat Harbor I noticed the lobster boats crept out of the harbor with all the stealth of a husband trying not to awake his sleeping and cantankerous wife. The moorings are managed by Kevin, a proprietor of the Boat House, where they also serve food. Regretfully we had already dined on hot dogs on the way in. Pete tells me the Boat House also has music and Kevin plays a guitar and sings. He also fishes.

Both us rowed around the harbor to look at the schooners more closely. The Victory Chimes, Grace Bailey, Lewis E French, and Timberwinds were all in the harbor.

Tonight finds us in Northeast Harbor in Mt Desert. We went ashore for our long desired showers only to find there was no hot water. "Boiler out."

** quick editorial note:

1.) Several people have commented they thought some recent entries here had been written by Nancy. I think this confusion comes from the fact I am now travelling with a friend also named Peter and referring to him by name has obscured my authorial presence. To the best of my knowledge I have written all these entries and they are a reasonable, but imperfect, record of recent events.
2) Years ago I had another friend also named Peter, whose companion was also named Nancy. For some months I looked forward to going with them to some social event where I planned they would introduce themselves as Peter and Nancy. Then I would add, "And so are we."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Burnt Coat Harbor

Tuesday August 28,2007

Duck Harbor, Isle Au Haut

Duck Harbor is a small place, just a cut between two granite walls filled with sea water leading to an inner cove surrounded by rocky beach. Dark green spruce surround the harbor where they can find soil between the granite outcrops. In some places where the soil is too thin for trees or they have been toppled by some storm, there are meadows of grass and low bush blue berry. A small landing protrudes into the harbor from the southern shore. The ferry from Stonington lands here several times a day bringing walkers to the National Park. Anchoring space is at a premium. We were one of half-a-dozen boats and there was space for only one or two more. Our spot was near the opening of the cove and would have been rolly (snogg if it had not been such a quiet night. I woke once as the tide turned after midnight to find we had swung on the outging tide and lay among quietly between the moonlight bathed outcrops which mark the entrance.

In the morning we walked the trail up which leads over the height of Duck Harbor Mountain at this end of Isle Au Haut. The mountain is not tall, perhaps about 400 feet, but the trail often leads up steep outcrops of rock where you must pick your hand and foorholds carefully, especially on the descents. I found this difficult, especially as I had sprained my right wrist when I tripped and fell walking to the outhouse in the morning and could not put weight on it. The scenary and views were spectacular. Peter Fifield and I set out before the first ferry of hikers arrived and so we had the place to ourselves. In several places we dropped off the granite outcrops to make our way through lush cool canyons among the spruce. White and green mosses carpeted the ground. After an hour and a half, perhaps two we emerged on at an open beach covered in cobbles on the south side of the island.

After walking along the coast for 15 minutes to the west we found the dirt road and followed it back to the harbor. Handling the dinghy lines and even getting into the dinghy revealed just how sore my hand was, but Fifield made an icepack, I took some Advil and an hour later the swelling had gone down and I was at the tiller again.

We sailed close to the coast and explored Moore's harbor. Here Pete saw some curious birds and more trees on shore decorated with lobster traps. (picture to come) After sailing through the Isle Au Haut thorofare with a nice following breeze and a quick reach up to Merchants Island, the wind died while we were admiring the schooners we would follow into Burnt Coat Harbor on Swan Island.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On To Duck Harbor, Isle Au Haut

Monday. 27 August

During the night we awoke and shut all the open ports. The little breeze there was had died and the mosquitos attacked. After 20 years of living on two acres of wetland I have noticed that mosquitoes seek their prey by fluttering upwind, presumably following a gaseous carbon-dioxide trail to their warm fleshy victims. For this reason, and for reasons of freshness in our ripening boat, I insisted Pete leave the forward hatch over his bunk open during the evening, while I put netting over the compionway opening -- where the air exits. Thus we had a fair air flow through the boat until while we slept, until the breeeze quit and the bugs came at us every direction. In the dark we slammed the hatches shut and fell back asleep in our bunks.

We awoke in the anchorage at Harbor Island in Muscongus Bay at dawn as the front we have danced around all weekend finally shifted offshore and cleared with a fresh breeze from the North. This is the only direction the anchorage is not protected from. It quickly became choppy. We set off dressed in fleece and long pants. Once out of the narrow ledge strewn harbor we raised London's sails in the first yellow light of the day and slid off quickly to the east. By 7:55 am we had past Port Clyde and south of Mosquito Island entered Penobscot Bay. We made out way up through Muscle Ridge channel and slipped across the tide, south of Vinelhaven.

At mid-afternoon we stopped at Vinelhaven's Cutter's Harbor for ice and provisons. I asked a fisherman to point us to a free mooring we could use for an hour. As Pete grabbed it another fisherman yelled at us "To ask before we take a mooring." This is a busy short-tempered harbor at 3 in the afternoon. Fishing boats race in, stopping at the lobster docks to unload their catches and then rush to their moorings with the crewman on the foredeck with his boathook extended. Engine off and in moments they are both in the launch heading for shore. Lobster boats move in all directions, cutting through the mooring field and spinning in sharp quick turns. Everyone seems to move at full boor. The air is thick with the roar of deep powerful diesels. After Pete made it back with our ice and 'tube steaks' (hot dogs), we set off for Isle Au Haut. Tonight finds us in the snug Duck Harbor, on the south western shore of Isle Au Haut.

On our quiet sail across Penobscot Bay I noticed the sounds underway. The clanging of a bell buoy, the orgasmic squawks of sea gulls, the sounds of the rigging stretching and squeaking -- the rustle of the water on the hull.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weather Fronts

I think you have to be on the prairie or at sea to observe a slow
moving weather front. The approaching cold front with its reported
hail, violent wind and lightning died out last night just the other
side of Booth Bay. We watched the light show, prepared for the worst
and then went to bed. There was a splash of rain. No more.

This morning I was eager to get the boat tied to the dock at the boat
yard so we could get her cleaned up. I'd spotted a hose on the floats
the previous evening. Once tied up Pete scrubbed the waterline and then
foredeck while I wrote on my laptop. Later I flushed and scrubbed the
cockpit and filled the water tank while Pete wandered around the boat
yard taking more pictures. Somehow being among all those pretty boats
made it a necessity to clean mine. We were on our way at ten, with the
first morning breeze from the Southeast.

We sailed today, all day. The day started tacking downwind and with us
still believing the wind would reach its forecast 15 knots with some
gusts to 20. The swells were still out there. Big waves rose abeam and
made new sudden horizons of jagged water on our horizon. Off Pemaquid
Point we watch Gannets dive into the sea from 40 and 50 feet with such
violence the sea surface exploded and sent a plume of salt water high
into the air along the track of their attack. We also saw seals and an
unidentified fin.

But the real interest today was the front stalled overhead. We must
have crossed back and forth through it two or three times today. On one
side the wind would be cool and from the southeast, on the other, warm
and from the north west -- off the land with the scent of pine pitch and
sand. At other times the division obscured and one moment warm 80
degree puffs of air would warm us, a moment later we'd drift into pockets
of cool air, still damp from offshore. The light was a Luminists dream:
glassy and ominous, colors vibrated with new vividness. Islands shook
in the thermal haze. Mirages rode the waves and fell back into the sea.
Islands and sails came and vanished in sea bound fog.

We anchored tonight in Harbor Island in Musongus Bay.

Linekin Bay

Facing an approaching cold front and a strong wave of thunderstorms we stopped early for the night at the Paul E. Luke boatyard. The yard lies along the eastern shore of Linekin bay and is distinguished by a large Travellift and a series of sheds. The float is connected to the land with a covered gangway, much in the style of a New England covered bridge and weathered to a silver gray. It also seems to be used for storing masks and fishing gear.

This is one of those places where on a weekend, calling the office or hailing them on the radio does not seem to get results. So we first grabbed a mooring and I rowed to the floats find someone in the yard. The water at the float was so clear I could make out every peeble on the bottom.

Ashore I found a group sitting under the trees at the top of the bank overlooking the bay. A man with weathered gray hair and a ruddy complexion rose and came across the yard to meet me. Freindliness seems endemic up here. Frank Luke is a friendly man.

"You can stay right there on that mooring. 20,000 lb granite block on those. The ones further out ride smoother. Where'd you come from?"

"Near New Bedford."

"That's a way."

When I gave him the $15 dollars for the mooring, he said.

"Now that money is going from your vacation fund, into my vacation fund. He slipped the bills in his wallet and winked.

After we'd been on the mooring a bit we began to see the boats around us. Several wooden classic in tip top condition including a Herreshoff ketch and a gaff rigged schooner. We watched the many osprey dive and swirl in the air calling to one another with their peculiar chirps.

Today was humid, but out on the water it stayed cool. In the morning as we left New Meadows River the seas built to a good six feet, with a slight breeze out of the South. The motor stayed on all day to keep our speed up, we were eager to round Cape Small and get in on a mooring before the afternoon thunderstorms. Nancy had left in the car at 8:30 for Boston and Pete and I were off the mooring at Cundy's Harbor by 10 am. We passed Seguin Island at 12:30. In at the mooring here about 3pm.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nearly Back To Sea

Our week in Cundy's Harbor is nearly over. We have had riotous dinners with all 7 of us every night and up until yesterday, a series of warm sunny days and cool clear nights. Now we are back in the humid summer murk, with thick morning fog. Pete and I are getting ready to re-board London and head North. Looks like we will have plenty of wind this weekend.

Here are a few photos from the week.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cundy’s Harbor

There are waves under my mattress. I swear. Like the broad back of a relentless sea serpent, it sways and undulates beneath me.

Four days from Fairhaven, MA to Cundy’s Harbor, Maine. It could have been three but I slacked off after having Cape Elizabeth in sight, and being suddenly ahead of schedule.

The morning after the storm, Biddeford pool looked like this.

The weather man in his local summary said "Yesterday a cold front triggered wicked thunderstorms across New Hampshire and Southern Maine.”

Underway at 9 am I used the channel which led me across the mouth of the Saco River and out onto Saco Bay. The morning sparkled with a nice northeast breeze. I motor-sailed (What a euphanism!)… With the main up I powered into the swell and the breeze until I rounded Cape Elizabeth and turned into Casco Bay where the wind completely died. I could see the agitation on the glassy sea to my south east trying to reach us. Finally after lunch the motor went off and the sails went up. The rest of the afternoon I made my over to the entrance of Broad Sound and into Potts Harbor for the night. Had a great dinner plate at the Dolphin Restaurant ashore - grilled haddock and vegetables, fresh blueberry pie. In the morning a friend came out from Falmouth and met me at 7:30 for breakfast in the same place. I was on my way by nine.

During the night there had been more squally storms, distant thunder and in the very early morning, while it was still dark, much torrential rain. The sky was black to the north east, clearing to the south and west. I was to go north east. There was wind, lots in some places, none in others. When we’d walked out to the meadow on the point beyond the boatyard, the air was rushing down Broad Sound, rushing hell bent for Halfway rock out on the horizon, shaking the bushes on the bank over the water. Yet in the harbor, at the fuel dock it was still. There are currents of air in the sky, swirling up and down, eddies and pool, just like flows of water in the depths of the sea.

After I picked my way along the curvy channel out of Potts, I hoisted only the jib and flew out past Mackeral Cove and the end of Bailey's Island. Among the pines I could make out the houses where my cousins and I stayed when I was a boy. I learned to row out on the ledges and among the rock week round here.

Once inside Baileys and then Orrs islands the wind dropped off a bit and I rolled in the jib so I could hoist a single-reefed main and then let the jib out again. In this way I sailed across the mouth of Quahog Bay among the islets, until near the mouth of the New Meadows River I found myself surfing from one wave top to crash into the next: the jib fat and full, the bow down, the stern quarter up and the rushing of water all around. As I reached spot where I would turn upriver, I broached once and then again. It seemed I was in as much wind as I'd ever been in.

Upriver was a beat, close to the wind and London was sailing like a dinghy. One moment the mast would be vertical and the next, bang, we’d be heeled well over. She likes a lot of wind, expecially like now, when the water is flat. She can really point in conditions like this. I was having so much fun I almost past the entrance to our cove near Sheep Island.

In the wind I missed the mooring on the first pass. On the second I got it with the boat hook but could not lift it. On the third I hauled the mass of heavy orange goo encasing the mooring line up from the sea. The line was so heavily overgrown I could not find the loop and had to settle for tying onto the thin toggle line at first. I used a bread knife and rubber gloves to hack at the mess and cut the crud off the line. Pounds of orange sponge, mud, seaweed, sea squirts, mussels and other stuff went over the side. Little marine centipedes wiggled on deck among the gravel and broken shells. The foredeck was a mess and as I moved around the deck the mess spread like a virus. Muddy footprints down one side. Mud splattered white cabin from cutting and hacking in the wind. Tiny dams of dirt and pieces of vegetation in the spaces between the stanchions and rail from flushing the deck with gallons of seawater.

But from ashore, Nancy waved from the cabin door. In only two trips I handed her my gear, moved out of the boat and into our cabin for the week.

Friday, August 17, 2007


When you think about it is seems absurd. A single strand holds us in place. A braided line, some shackles, a length of chain. At the end a device forged from the best steel in some pre-hensile earth gripping shape, and engineered so the metal will dig into the earth and hold.

I last night awoke a few minutes after midnight in another, more violent thunderstorm. In the dark I could hear an ominous dripping. The wind hissed and then rose another octave. Rain drove against the cabin top.

“Oh no,” I groaned.

All I wanted was to stay in my sleeping bag, close my eyes and just make it all go away. My boat tore at her tether, swung and jerked again.

Standing in the gangway I could see in the flashes of lightning the cutter anchored next to me. We were both holding our ground. I began to worry how I would manage if the anchor broke loose. I’d have raise the anchor up, get the engine and electronics up and going, and do it all by myself, before we blew into Stage Island to the lee or the ledge that stretches out to the East. To my horror I saw another boat, a 35 footer which had been anchored well upwind drag between the cutter and London, as if she was steering a careful coarse between us.

There is something unreal about a boat dragging. Its anchor line still extends from the bow as if tied down, and yet the boat slides past, stern first at 2 or 3 knots. This one was dark. Her crew still asleep. Another crack of thunder and a blue flash that seemed to light everything for an instant. Didn’t they see? Stupid with sleep I could not think what to do to help. The squall was furious. If I went after them I would quickly be in trouble.

I grabbed my air horn and gave two blasts, waited and then another longer three. The drifting boat remained dark. I used the radio to call for the harbormaster. When it seemed as if the sailboat should be on the rocks, I saw its anchor light dart forward and then the navaigation lights came one. Incredibly it surged forward. I turned on my deck lights to give them a point a reference and went up on deck to lengthen my own line and watch them navigate by.

I had trouble falling asleep after that. An hour later it was nearly calm, and an hour after that foggy and still. This morning I was awakened by the putter of a diesel and a woman's voice calling: "Thank you, London.”

They circling my boat again.

“Did you sound the alarm? If it hadn’t been for you…”, and she trailed off.

I told them quickly about my own experience being aground not 1/4 mile from here. The loberstermen saved me. I was glad to be able to help someone else, especially so close to where I hit rock.

Not a bad way to begin a day, eh? “Thank you, London.”

Otherwise, just some log notes from yesterday. Motored most of the day in dead calm at 5 knots from Rockport, till the wind came up strong enough so I could maintain my speed. We past Boon Island at 12:30 and briefly got wireless signal. I was off Cape Porpoise by 3:05, sails up a bit later and at Wood Island by 4:30. I came into Biddeford Pool under sail and with no moorings available, set my anchor at 5:15 in 12 and a half feet of water. This was reduced to seven something a few hours later at low.

I took a sun shower by hanging the shower from the boom and sitting in the bottom of the cockpit. When I took my drying swim suit off the life line two moths flew out.
First seal of the trip splashing among lobster traps. A small one off Cape Porpoise.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bigelow Bight

As I pulled into Rockport's Sandy Bay to anchor a guy yelled over from a boat which came in to anchor right behind me.

“I read your book! I loved it. Especially the part about the… Maybe we can get togther later.”

Jim’s boat is also a Cape Dory 27, with a radar mounted like mine on the pole at the stern. But there the similarities end. His boat has a wheel, cushions in the cockpit and a teak floor in the cabin! My floor is white fiberglass.

Jim and his crew were all from the Tufts Medical School, two professors of Public Health and a recently graduated student. A fine ship with a friendly crew.

Yesterday, sailing here, I wished I had a crew. Before setting off I had sent out an email to about a dozen sailing friends, but all the responses I got were for the return trip or the later cruising in Maine segements. I was to have picked up one old friend in Portsmouth, NH today, but his band scheduled a gig and that was the end of that.

Yesterday morning as I passed Plymouth and moved along the coast toward Scituate the wind really began to blow. Fortunately it was all from astern, but I still reefed the main sail so Autoleena could steer. A broad reach is her weakest skill. The rolling swell didn’t help either. With a fluxgate compass and a computer chip for a brain your options are pretty limited, not that Autoleena isn't a wonderful instrument. I could not be out here alone for days on end without her. Autoleena is my auto-tiller and has been like an extra right arm to me for nearly 8 years now.

So while I was struggling to get the boat to sail herself and the forecast was getting more ominous, I remembered just how hard this it. It's scarry sometimes alone out here, living with that last decision: the poor anchorage selection which leaves you tired, the realization you’ve gone too far and it is going to get dark or stormy before you can tie up again. Guess that's why I love it.

This morning I left Rockport a bit after 6 am, probably just about the time Nancy’s alarm is going off at home. Again I had the main up and the kettle on as I raised the anchor. It was calm so I could go below and pour the breakfast tea while we motored. The sea is glass, the sky hazy and humid. Now at 8:30 am I am 8.5 miles NNE of Rockport - steaming at 4.8 knots. I just went over an underwater hill. The depth went from 320 feet to 179 in the space of 1/4 mile. Moving on out now over the deep Scantum Basin.

A small brown bird has landed in the dinghy I am towing. I often see creatures land. Yesterday in all that wind a monarch butterfly managed to settle on the sail. These little passengers are welcome. I try not to disturb them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Begin The 2007 Maine Cruise Journal

Aug 15, 2007 - Fairhaven, MA.

So many bags. A cooler, a tote with dry food, one small duffel of underwear, t-shirts and even a few white socks. My old and trusty Mac laptop and a PC. Books, bits of string, mineral oil for the depth finder. One entire bag of drink: mostly seltzer and diet coke, but yes, two and one half bottles of red wine. So it is, that the detritus of land follows me afloat.

On the drive across Massachusetts to the marina I was thinking about being on the water. There in the car, racing down the Buzzards Bay watershed, in between cell phone calls, it seemed to me that boating -- was all about floating. The rolling undulations are what we seek and bring us back. The frictionless glide across the surface layer where the mediums of liquid and gas meet. So blue. Always new.

I dropped my mooring pendant at West Island in Buzzards Bay at 1:50pm. The day was gorgeous, the wind out of the north-east. By 4 pm we were nearing Hog Island channel and by 5 entering the Cape Cod canal itself and doing about 4 knots as the last of the ebb current gave way to flood. By the time we were expelled out of the Canal into Cape Cod Bay, London was doing 7.5 knots over the ground. Time 6:40 pm.

The canal and Buzzards Bay were full of schools of blue fish and flocks of terns and gulls. I practically had to kick the birds out of the way to get through. In one case the fish were leaping completely out of the water. Silver fins sparkled in the air.

Once on Cape Cod Bay the immediate problem was to find an anchorage At this end of the canal there are not many choices. I should have opted for the beach off Peaked cliff, but I kept on, and soon encountered larger rollers from the north east. I had left the shelter of the long arm of the Cape and was exposed to the north-east swell. I decided on Manomet. I would just make it, in twilight.

The last time I stayed behind Manomet point the sea was still. Although the breeze was still from the east/south-east it was forecast to come round to the south. This I was sure would settle the waves.

You can pack a lot of stuff in even a small sized sailboat. And when you roll the boat violently from side to side or tip it from bow to stern or do both, the stuff comes loose and bangs around. Imagine rolling 30 degrees one way for 2 seconds and then back for two seconds. Add to that a bow to stern tip and yaw on a three or four second cycle and you have my evening of rattling motion. A few times after a particularily violent roll, I got up and looked out at the night, thought about moving, then made myself contemplate being out there in the dark, on watch again and I crawled back in the bunk and held on. Sometime after midnight I fell asleep. I woke once about 2:30 and the sea was nearly gentle, by morning quite calm.

This morning I put the kettle on for tea and then raised the anchor. Under sail we bobbed out between the Mary Ann rocks and red nun 17. Our course is 2 degrees magnetic which will bring us to land again near Gloucester.

Wind just came up – now making 4.1 knots. Time to sign off. The time is 8 a.m. Broad reach. Off Plymouth.

Friday, March 2, 2007

from Chapter 11 of "London Goes To Sea"

Sailing with the Dictionary of Allusions

After twelve years of careful cruising, I am ready. This morning I will finally join that most exalted club of keel scrapers. I knew my time, my initiation, would come. It comes to us all. An unexpected grinding sound, a sudden lift, and you are in the club.

There are only three kinds of skippers: Those who have run aground, those who will run aground, and those that have but won't admit it.

Sailing books and magazines are filled with information on how to get afloat after you have run aground, but I found a remarkable absence of literature on just how to drive your keel into something solid in the first place. Having now planted my keel firmly on a rocky ledge, I feel ready to share my insights.

While you may have your own special way of touching bottom, a manner of which you are particularly proud, what I am about to describe is a proven method, one that may help you get your hull up out of the water and onto that tempting shoal or ledge. Running aground can be a fairly long and difficult process. While sailing we are concerned with staying afloat, much as we are with the set of our sails. Both maximize boat speed. Dragging the keel across a hard surface has been shown to slow down the boat. It is something I was taught to avoid.

Underway, I try to keep a sharp eye on the depth meter, constantly cross-check my position with landmarks and reference buoys, and update my position on the chart at regular intervals. If you do all this, it can be fairly difficult, if not impossible, to run your boat aground. So what to do?

First, put yourself under some stress. It prepares you for making those final critical mistakes. You can build up that tension by pushing for a destination just at the limits of your range and energy, by being out in weather beyond your comfort level, or by carefully keeping your equipment poorly maintained. You will probably find that once you manage to get a few threads of tension going, others will arise as if of their own accord. Stress begets more stress.

When I dropped the anchor, I knew I would need to wake up during the night to check the depth of water under my keel. I am up nearly two hours before low tide. I stumble up onto the cold, dark deck and watch the electric red numbers of the depth finder. The digital display starts out at 5.6 feet but descends to 3.9 as beneath my bare shivering feet LONDON's hull swings slowly across the dark water in the tidal current. There is no time to be lost; there are rocks down there. I haul up the anchor, being careful not to drop the wet chain on my bare toes. The engine starts right up and I putt past the sleeping boats out into the harbor channel. It is so early. I try not to wake anyone else.

This brings us to another good way to get your boat roughly ashore. Sail in limited visibility. Dark and fog, or even better, both dark and fog, really improve your odds. And once you get underway in the dark or fog, don't worry. Be confident. You know what you are doing. You know where you are! I can't emphasize this enough. It is the critical belief. Let me repeat, You know where you are. It can be hard to read charts in the dark breezy cockpit. Don't bother. You have been through here before. It's fine.

I dimly watch a nun pass some distance to my starboard while I am heading for the lighthouse and out to sea. This does not bother me. I know where I am.

Do it at speed. Get the boat moving. I set all my sails full in a good breeze. All the running lights are on. I race along entranced by the beauty of the phosphorescent wake. I stand and watch my wake, almost mesmerized by it. Looking astern helps.

Finally, it is important to drive on. All situations—ledges, bars, and shoals—are different, but often the best thing you can do to make it a really solid landing is nothing. In my case, as the boat lurches and then begins to lift, I stand still in the cockpit, mouth agape, as the sails and wind pull the boat up higher onto the ledge. The rule here is, As you run aground, take no further action which might impede the grounding.

I experience a powerful sensation of wonder as the boat rises up out of the water and grinds to a stop. I have achieved the nearly impossible—driven my boat ashore while surrounded by modern navigation aids, charts, a couple of GPSs, and at least one compass. I am filled with feelings of disbelief and pride. I have attained a sailing milestone. I could almost grab the boathook and pat myself on the back. I am in the club.

What sirens lured me onto these rocks? Who sang that sweet song? The lovely melody of my own incompetence. I think about what I have done. My boat is up on Wood Islands rocky Negro Ledge.

I check below. The bilge is still dry. I try leaning out over the water on the lee shrouds. Nothing shifts. I am like Andromeda chained to her rock.

I turn on the deck lights and pace around the shores of my new island. To project myself somewhere else, I imagine how this looks from shore: a cone of white light shining down from high on a tilted mast onto a white deck askew, in the distance the lighthouse on the rocky island, and beyond that just the dimmest glow of deep blue above the dark line of the ocean horizon....