June 15 - 29, 2001
Whim's Cruise to Maine
(If you like, you can skip down through the prose and go straight to the pictures below!)
The crew: Mel Converse, owner of Whim, a 35' Allied Seabreeze yawl; Steve Blecher & Rick Van Mell, crew and fellow Dartmouth alums.
The Story: Taking Whim up Chesapeake Bay, through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, down Delaware Bay, out Cape May to Long Island Sound, then up Buzzards Bay, through the Cape Cod Canal, north to Gloucester and finally on to the border of Maine at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Friday June 15, 2001
Rick touched down at BWI only 12 minutes late - remarkable with a completely full plane, stuffed with school-year-end travelers, a line of thunderstorms across the Ohio Valley, and the remains of tropical storm Allison sliding north over Washington and Baltimore.
Mel was waiting at the gate, and baggage dumped Rick's sea bag on the carousel with little fuss. Grey, muggy and humid was evident lugging bags to the car, but not unbearably hot. Arrived at West River Sailing Club just after the 8 pm scheduled end of the BBQ cookout, but managed to grab chicken to grill on the still-burning fire, some corn on the cob and the last of the baked beans. The cake was gone, but our long faces inspired a search which turned up an even better treat - Chocolate Chip Cookies. A few rounds of chatter in the fading twilight, and then aboard Whim.
Didn't take long to stow gear, however we paid attention to the continuing threats of "flash flood watch", "2-3 inches of rain" and similar NOAA propaganda. An extension of the dodger was rigged aft to the mizzen to at least shield the east-facing companionway and some of the cockpit from any rain the 20 knot easterlies were promising. We chatted in the cockpit for a while, then, with fans running below, we reluctantly closed the ports to prevent rain from dripping onto the bunks, and turned in for the night about 2330.
Saturday June 16, 2001
Mel's Rocky Coast Roast coffee at 0630, followed by cold OJ, sufficed for breakfast. As usual, talk turned to course options given the various weather combinations floating about. An alternative to the planned route around the outer end of Long Island, around Montauk Point to Westbrook, was to go up through New York Harbor and the East River. However, the Jersey coast is practically void of any safe harbor in bad weather north of Atlantic City, and the current was likely to be unfavorable for 10 hours at The Narrows and the East River.
Talking courses was a natural segue into computers and GPS. Rigging up Rick's GPS and turning on Whim's confirmed that we were both in the same place - within about 15 feet at any rate. We downloaded Rick's laptop with Whim's 209 waypoints all the way to Maine, then did the same with 9 routes for various parts of the trip. Finally, we uploaded them to Rick's GPS, so now each could be a backup for the other. Rick's would track on the computer chart, and Whim's was tied to the radar screen. Gads - what ever happened to looking out the window?!
Partially worn out from the effort, and maybe feeling a little hungry, we reviewed the meal plan and started an inventory of food aboard. One drawer and six lockers later we were done and ready to go shopping. Dockside visitors stopped by to chat, and shortly after noon we lowered the hatches to a minimum opening (the threatened rain has yet to arrive), and headed for lunch at the Topside Inn. Another detour picked up two pounds of fresh crabmeat which was immediately taken back to the boat and put on ice. Then on to a shopping spree which extended all the way into Annapolis. Mel wanted a new Cruising Guide, and Rick was looking for a present for Whim - an engine hour meter to replace the one Mel claimed "never worked since we bought the boat".
A stop at Barnes & Noble failed to find the required guide, so it was off to Fawcett's Marine in Annapolis. Now the promised rain arrived with a vengeance. Buckets of it kept us holed up in Fawcett's for about 15 minutes, then we got a nice soaking dashing into West Marine where the engine hour meter was found. We fretted about the slightly open hatches in the main cabin and forepeak - expecting to return to soaking bunk for sure. Besides, the next stop was getting the better part of two weeks supply of food, and we didn't relish the thought of trying to load it into the car in a downpour, much less getting it out the 150 yards of parking lot and dock to the boat.
The gray-black stratus started to show breaks and individual clouds as the rain tapered off a bit, so we took a chance and headed into Safeway. By the time we'd topped the cart, the rain had diminished to light sprinkles, and we quickly headed for the boat. Managed to find a tarp to put over the cart full of food to get it down the dock in the light rain, and got it aboard without loss. The cockpit awning had kept water from below, but the cockpit was soaked, yet astonishingly only a few drops had penetrated the two open hatches. In an effort Fibber McGee would be proud of, we stowed the food into lockers and impossible looking spaces and the cabin again looked clean.
Mel found a canvas cover for the forward hatch and put it in place to get more air below. Then we headed off for dinner. A glimmer of an orange disk showed just as we entered the restaurant - we left the umbrella we had now taken in the car. Hardly had we finished a plate of onion rings when the bucket brigade started again - slanting in on NW winds across the windows. Let's see, NW was the direction the now-open forward hatch faced. We wondered if the cover would be much protection. We lingered over the Richard's Corner Inn dinner as the rain pulsed on and off, even watching some golf far across the room on the TV until it seemed safe to venture out. The drive back to the boat was slowed significantly when the car in front of us plowed through a small lake across the road. Back aboard, the hatch cover worked, and we were dry.
With the engine hour meter in hand, we set to work to find the likely connection points on the back of the instrument panel. Luckily these were accessible from the cabin, protected from the remaining rain. While locating hot and ground leads, Mel remarked that the instrument lights also did not work. We discovered that the yard had nicely set up a common bus for the light leads, but had failed to supply power to the bus. We test wired a jumper, and bingo, we had 3 of 4 lights. Enough success for one night, we turned in about 2230.
Sunday June 17, 2001
Sunshine streaming below was a welcome companion to Mel's coffee. Blue sky, refreshing northwest winds and low humidity were toasted with the morning glass of OJ. Then it was time to wipe down the remaining water in the cockpit, set the soaking cushions to dry, and hoist aloft the Dartmouth Corinthian Yacht Club burgee on the repaired pigstick at the masthead. Daylight made it easier to see the identified connections on the instrument panel, particularly with the cockpit locker open and sun streaming in. The one reluctant light on the engine RPM gauge was finally persuaded to work, and the wiring harness for the meter and the lights was pieced together. By 0930 the engine had run for 6 minutes and the hour meter clicked over its first tenth of an hour, all four instrument lights glowing in celebration.
Then it was back to the WRSC where Rick & Mel were signed up to be race committee for a small offshore race. After a fragmented search the horn, flags and starting mark were found and loaded aboard the Boston Whaler. 10 - 15 knots from the NW set up a little chop as we set the starting line about a mile from the club, then managed a clean start for the four boats that showed up.
Back aboard we bedded down the new meter, then chomped on the first of Rick's ham, cheese, onion, tomato and lettuce sandwiches, washed down with root beer, and munched Oreos and strawberries for dessert. While Mel topped off the water in the batteries and the tanks, Rick started this log. And then it was time to go pick up Steve at the Amtrak station adjacent to BWI airport.
Back aboard, Steve stowed his gear, neighbors came aboard to wish Mel well on his ride north, and we broke out the first of the goodies. Crabmeat on Carr's crackers with a bowl of peanuts made several rounds, and even attracted a dinghy-load or two to stop by. We hardly needed the follow-on dinner at Pirates Cove to finish off the evening.
Finding a second set of four twenty-five pound blocks of ice in the dark wasn't much of a challenge, but getting it into the icebox, including the food, was a tribute to Mel's skill with an ice pick. So fed and watered, we headed for bed. With the 0530 planned departure we debated setting an alarm, but Steve was sure one of us would hear the ship's clock bells strike the wakeup clarion.
Monday June 18, 2001
In a reprise of the 1961 cruise Aboard Ardelle when Steve awoke in the middle of the night to proclaim, "Aura Lee!" (the song we couldn't remember that evening), it happened again. This time Steve's clear call called all hands to rise and shine - it was surely 0500. As Rick & Mel stirred and began dressing, Mel asked with a yawn, "Are you sure it's 5 am?" Rick fumbled for his glasses and in the forepeak light clearly read out 0305! So back to sleep we all went, but did manage the appointed 0500 reveille.
Like the team they were, the departure began smoothly under the growing clear light of dawn. Gear was stowed, Power cord disconnected and coiled. Dock lines singled up and as Mel stepped aboard from the head, the engine obediently started and we were backing out of the slip, as the log recorded, at 0535. Whimper, the rubber dinghy, was hauled aboard on the foredeck, lashed down and we were under way. Coffee & OJ prepared and consumed under way was the perfect way to watch the ospreys rising in their nests. Rick clicked a few more pictures for the log, catching the sunrise reflected in Steve's glasses.
A steady NW breeze prompted the setting of the jib as we cleared into the West River channel, and the speedo climbed steadily to 7.2 knots through the water. Satellite tracking, however, told the GPS that we were only doing about 6.5 over the bottom. Remember that old saying, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature?" Just when we thought the curse of tropical storm Allison was safely past us, her legacy would haunt us for the next ten hours. The last two days of torrential rains for perhaps a thousand square miles over Maryland, Pennsylvania and even New York were now flowing down every river into Chesapeake Bay, and combined with the strong NW wind which had driven Bay levels well below normal, the ebb tide stole one to two knots from us all day, adding three hours to the trip. Despite the slow pace, it was easy going. As the sun rose and the wind backed off, we rigged the awning over the cockpit for shade.
The usual sandwich lunch came and went, barges passed, power boats rocked us with their wakes, and then we started playing with the toys. Out came the computer, hooked to the GPS. As the waypoints slowly slipped by, under Steve's guidance, we pulled out more charts and established waypoints for rounding Montauk Point on Thursday morning and heading on into Westbrook. At one point we remarked that Plum Gut was only 217 miles away - over many, many miles of hard land! But as we finally passed barely two boat lengths off the herons walking on Howell Point and crossed the stream of the ebbing Sasafras River, the current began to abate. Turkey Point slipped abeam, almost nine hours after we started, and the current began to decline. An hour later the current was in our favor and we topped 8.5 over the bottom for a whole 20 minutes as we came to our anchorage in the basin at Chesapeake City in the middle of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
The basin is clear of the strong current, but has a shallow spot in the middle. We kissed its edge on the way in as the depth sounding shrank to 3.6 feet - certainly less than the 4 feet we need. Clear into the back of the basin we set the anchor with a chuckle. Alongside was another boat called "Whim" - owned by the original owners of the Whim we were sailing! We settled back to watch other boats kiss or stick in the mud, rolled out a reprise of crabmeat and crackers, and a round of cocktails.
A walk of the town, dinner at a nice restaurant, then dessert on the patio of the harbor-side inn, complete with guitars, singing, and frolicking locals finished off the evening. The writing of the log ended in the dark with Steve holding a pen light on the keyboard in the cockpit. Besides, the mosquitoes were getting quite hungry and persistent, and Tuesday was another 0530 start to catch the current into Delaware Bay. We slid into our bunks, doing our evening ablutions with a minimum of light lest we invite the hungry mosquitoes to feast.
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
Two bells on the morning watch, clear and true, found Mel making coffee, Rick in the head and Steve already stirring. A pleasantly cool breeze had filtered below and the still pre-dawn light had not yet washed out the tiny crescent of the last days of the waning moon nor the sparkle of Jupiter low in the east. The still of the basin was already alive as three boats pulled anchor, worked past the shallow spot, and slipped into the favorable current for the run to Reedy Point and Delaware Bay.
With Steve & Mel on deck catching waypoints along the canal, Rick stirred up tarragon and basil scrambled eggs with sides of tomato, orange slices and English muffins, washed down with Mel's coffee and OJ. For at least 12 miles the current was with us again - making a fair 8.7 knots on occasion. But the current gods took their pound of flesh as we cleared Reedy point into the upper reaches of the Bay and our over-ground speed dropped to 4.5 while the speedo continued its steady 6.5 stare. Mel took the helm, Rick cleaned out the strainer on the head sink, and Steve rolled into the bunk for a nap - today would be the start of watch-keeping. It will be about 60 hours until we all sleep at the same time again.
Rick & Mel used the GPS linked to the computer to detour into shallow water trying to reduce the current impact and improve speed. Three to five tenths was the best they could do, threading along among crab pots on the 12 foot contour of the chart. Then back into deeper water near the channel about mid-morning in anticipation of the current change from flood to ebb. Photogenic Ship John Shoal light was captured in the lens as we passed. These monuments to seafaring construction made of stone, brick and concrete have been largely replaced by tall steel piling structures devoid of character and romance. But a few are still lit, a pleasure to see, and a reminder of how difficult it must have been a century ago to sail a ship up the Delaware to Philadelphia.
Defying logic, the tide was slow to turn, but finally approached slack water around 1100. The wind gods appeared much more cooperative. With a gentle SW wind to help, we set jib, main and mizzen - adding about half a knot to 7.0 through the water. It looked like things were turning our way. Alas, the current gods talked to the wind gods, and the wind went first light, then ahead, then started to increase. At channel mark 32, which we nicknamed Cormorant Hotel for the flock that had nested there, we bore off to the north of Cross Ledge to carry sail a little longer. Only the massive round foundation of a former lighthouse marked the eastern end of the ledge and its ship-killing two feet of water. It made you admire and appreciate, as you looked across miles of sparkling water in every direction, the courage and skill of the mariners who first charted these waters. Many, of course, who gave their lives without ever being able to pass on their costly knowledge.
For almost three hours the tide was with us, but by now the wind had shifted south, then east of south - dead on the nose. Sails were furled; progress slowed; the short chop started Whim to hobbyhorse; and the current turned against us again. Fishing craft of every size converged with us toward the Bay entrance to the Cape May Canal. We must have been doing something right however, as two dolphin swam slowly across our bow as we arrived - must be a good omen.
Though a short 5 miles through the very southern tip of New Jersey, the canal avoids about 5 miles of a tricky passage through shoals on the coast, or more than 18 miles following the deep-water ship channel. Though shorter, the current gods again showed no mercy as we plodded along a 4.5 knots over the bottom while making 6.5 through the water. At the highway bridge, Whim slipped the top of her mainmast flag about two feet below the steel girders, then staggered stoically through the railroad bridge making barely 3.4 knots over the bottom against the flow.
Turning into Canyon Club marina, we stopped to top off the fuel and water tanks. This resort port caters to first-class deep-sea fishing, attested to by more than 50, fifty foot gleaming sport fishing boats tied stern-to with their outriggers angled high above the dock forming a formidable gauntlet. It's a wonder there are any fish left in the sea! We hosed down Whim with a fresh water bath, and cast off for the open ocean at 1700 hours.
Current gods being what they are, they showed their power to (what we thought was) the end. As we powered against the boiling two-knot current in the channel and the standing waves at the mouth, they rose up and threw one last large wave across the bow as we turned NE and set sail. 060 on the compass, 198 miles to the little shoal off the tip of Long Island's Montauk Point. The route surprisingly runs parallel to the shore for about 8 miles past the amusement park at Wildwood, then the shore drops away to the west. A steady 12-15 knot wind made for fine sailing. Mel presented Rick with a gift of a West River Sailing Club chef's apron - a not-so-subtle hint that it was dinner time.
Nothing special. London broil, garlic mashed potatoes and salad were consumed as the sun slowly settled to the horizon. The last of the chocolate cream Oreos finished it off. The wind backed off a little, the trusty Kaboda was fired up again, and we power sailed into twilight. The jack lines had been rigged back at Canyon Club - strong web straps running from the cleats at the bow down each side to padeyes on the rail aft. We could clip our safety harnesses on to these and move from one end of the boat to the other in the dark and still be attached to the boat if anyone fell overboard. Rick and Mel headed below to their bunks and Steve, dressed in wet gear and harness, took up station at the helm. An hour and twenty minutes later, Mel would relieve Steve, and another eighty minutes later, Rick would relieve Mel - a total of fours. And so it continued all night.
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
At 0100 Steve relieved Rick to start the second watch cycle. Atlantic City glowed astern. On deck is was warm enough for a tee-shirt, though wet-gear pants were necessary to avoid the dew on deck. Above the moon-less sky sparkled with stars. The edge of Cassiopeia marked a convenient steering point, the Milky Way arched above the masthead. The white of the bow light reflecting off the jib and back side of the main made it easy to check the wind and trim sail when needed. The speedo and GPS marked our progress (yes, the current gods were still at times against us), the radar screen advised of the occasional vessel traffic. It was a beautiful night for a passage.
In the early hours, the wind went light and the mizzen and jib furled to keep from slatting in the rolling sea from astern. At 0500 Steve again relieved Rick with a warm pastel palate on the horizon dead ahead, ready to draw a perfect sunrise. With the sun, wind returned, and all sails set. The forecast was for SW to south winds, increasing to 15-20 knots for the day. And they were filling in right on schedule. Ten gallons of diesel from the spare jugs was poured into the main tank while the going was still smooth. 100 miles out from Cape May, 100 miles to Montauk, as nice a day as you could ask for. Bright sun, sparkling water, white horses gathering astern, and a bone in her teeth. Time for lunch.
Lest the evening breezes piled up too many lumps, we dined on a hearty chicken chow mien with noodles. A school of tuna jumped across our wake, perhaps looking for lunch themselves. While finishing off the banana and strawberry compote for dessert, we casually turned on the "Old Man of the Sea" for the latest from NOAA. The first words we heard were, "…severe thunderstorm watch until 9 pm". We thought we'd listen a little more closely. It seems the cold front that was supposed to stall back in Pennsylvania got a little more interested in east coast sights and was now heading for a landing about New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The forecasts which had been for the continuation of the favorable SW and south winds, now mentioned the dreaded NE quadrant, as in, "tonight, SW winds increasing to 15-20, going NE late".
Not too bad though. At the rate we were going we'd be around Montauk Point before midnight. The wind gods had been most favorable for almost 24 hours, but the current gods were ready for their revenge. Our 7 knots through the water was only good enough for about 6 over the bottom. With wind increasing, but giving us a great sleighride down the building seas, we had an early dinner of chef's salad using the second half of the London Broil, sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese, and hot baked biscuits.
Our clear blue sky darkened slowly in the northwest, then came marching out overhead as weather radio now converted the watch into a severe thunderstorm warning for the areas surrounding New York City, about 75 miles upwind. At first it did stall almost above us. Clear skies to the east, the sun long gone in the west. We shortened sail down to just the jib, furling the mizzen and main, and lashing them down tight. Like the Edmund Fitzgerald, just fifteen miles to the Point when the gremlins started arriving.
An occasional, unexplained grinding or grating noise began to appear. Despite a number of checked possibilities, the source stayed elusive. The wind was now going light, usually a precursor to a shift, but the seas continued to roll under the quarter producing an uncomfortable, cork-screw, bouncing ride. Mel pulled all the gear from the starboard cockpit locker, piling it around us until there was no room to sit, then climbed in to look at the propeller shaft under the cockpit. Sure enough, the lock nut on the stuffing box had backed off and was occasionally rattling on the shaft. We stopped the engine, and Mel had it back in place in minutes and the engine running again.
Having pulled out the two remaining spare fuel jugs, we decided to put one in as a precaution. Again Steve at the helm, Rick held the funnel, and Mel poured. Shortly before the last drop was in, Steve announced that the wind was shifting west. We quickly finished off the fueling, furled the jib, and the new wind blew in. We battened down all the hatches, stowed the last of the gear and resumed our watch system. It was about 2000, only 15 miles to the point, but the current was increasing against us.
Thursday, June 21, 2001
The summer solstice; the shortest night; Stonehenge. Mel mused aloud if the Druids were holding their annual rituals on the hills above Camden, Maine. Maybe they were related to the current gods who had now clearly defeated the wind gods.
Four hours to cover 15 miles. At 0015 hours we cleared the Great Eastern Rock waypoint and turned into Long Island Sound. It was a pyhrric victory at best. Rick now had the distinction of holding both the fastest and slowest speed records. The ebb from the Sound poured around the point and we made just 2.9 knots, with steering offsets over 20 degrees to stay on course. Slowly we inched our way around the point in the dark. In an hour and twenty minutes, making 9 miles through the water, we made just over 3.5 miles over the bottom.
So it continued all night. Past Shagwong Reef, past 1GI buoy north of Gardiners Island, through Plum Gut and past Orient Point , and the long leg to the west end of Long Sand Shoal. The NE wind appeared. The main and jib were set. Boat speed climbed to 7.5. Speed across the bottom crept up to 5 knots.
At 0645, almost abruptly, the current changed in our favor. The sun had risen, red, above the eastern clouds, and suddenly we were doing 7.5 over the bottom and only 7 through the water. We had just 3.76 miles left to go. So we cleared Long Sand Shoal buoy, furled sails and stood into Westbrook harbor at 0730. Passage complete.
Refuel, hose down, showers, and breakfast. Update the log, look for an e-mail connection, and by noon the sky was gray, the NE wind damp and NOAA predicting a half inch of rain in the next few hours. At good time to stay below and relax. Steve hosted lunch aboard Javelin now that we were in his home port. A piping bowl of soup and crackers did the trick, made even better in Rick's view because Steve cooked and cleaned up. What a great guy!
Downloading and re-sizing about 40 digital pictures and formatting them into a web page took most of the afternoon. The rest went in uploading the pictures and HTML file to the web site for you to enjoy.
A fish & Chips dinner at the dockside restaurant, again compliments of Steve, was both good and convenient. Then back aboard Javelin for a special treat. Steve had the four hour DVD disk movie Gettysburg, with a special connection to pipe the sound into Javelin's superb stereo system. The effect of the sounds and movie filling the cabin was spellbinding. It was midnight when we finished and headed for bed.
Friday, June 22, 2001
Cold, damp fog wrapped the boats Friday morning. Steve's friend, Hank Jonas was not returning from Montreal to go for a sail after all, and we'd had enough sailing lately that even the prospect of putting Javelin through her paces was not enough. So we left her in her slip. We pondered the currents - against us all morning - and then decided it would be good to get Whim under way and start east again with the afternoon ebb. Steve helped Mel & Rick shove, wished them well for the rest of the journey to Maine, and prepared to catch the 2:40 pm train home.
So we added 50 pounds of ice to the ice box, topped off the water tank, and headed out a little before noon. We hadn't gone more than a mile when the sun started to break up the fog, and soon we were powering east behind Long Sand Shoal. If the current gods were appeased for a change, the wind gods were not ready to relinquish control just yet. The wind was on the bow, so we powered on.
Behind Fishers Island both sets of gods smiled on us as we set the jib, picked up our boat speed to 7 knots, and the currents added another 1.8 knots for an 8,8 knot dash over the bottom. We had two possible destinations, Stonington or Point Judith, depending on which we could reach before dark, with a margin of safety. The added sail and current made the decision, so we held on for Point Judith. The last 15 miles was a glorious sail, doing a little over 7 through the water, though by the end we were beginning to see the current gods stealing three tenths of a knot. At 1845 we cleared the breakwater into Point Judith Harbor of Refuge.
About a mile in circumference, this man-made harbor has two large openings to Block Island Sound. But back along the shore, the wave action is somewhat stilled by the massive stone breakwaters - though still subject to endless power boat wakes on a Friday evening. That, plus the SE wind lined up with the eastern entrance let more than few long swells roll the length of the harbor.
Sardines and crackers in the cockpit followed by a simple spaghetti and salad dinner fed the body. A little log writing and e-mail reading (from yesterday's downloads) took care of the soul. Sleep, if it didn't roll too much, would recharge our energy. But before we turned in, a towel was strategically placed to stop the dishes from rolling, both the galled and head sliding locker doors were stuffed with paper towels, and the head door jammed with a clip to keep their respective parts from clicking on every roll.
Saturday, June 23, 2001
Splattering rain on the cabin top prompted Mel to rise and close the vent hatch about 0300. The wind and rain pattered on as we returned to dream land. Mel returned to life about 0530 to start coffee, and while waiting for the water to boil, pulled out a wrench and tightened up the oil pressure bracket on the engine which has shown signs of working loose.
Fog had settled in and a boat anchored about 200 feet away was just visible. By 0630 Rick was up enjoying a cup of coffee and visibility had improved all the way to the edges of the harbor. 0710 we fired up the engine and headed out. The fog had retreated only to the shoreline, and engulfed us as we poked out into Rhode Island Sound, crossing east below Newport, headed for Buzzards Bay. The radar tracked the few fishing boats out and about, but the challenge of the morning was the light wind and rolling seas from the south and SE. Somewhere offshore it had been blowing enough to build up 4 foot seas, with occasional 5 footers, now rolling in dead abeam. Whim rolled enough to dump cushions off the cockpit seats, and we were delighted to at last unfurl the jib with a little southeast wind.
The current gods were up to their old tricks, about a half knot against us. We turned on NOAA's Old Scratchy (he has many names!) and he intoned about how "rain moved up through New England last night, with torrential downpours up through Rhode Island." We knew. The forecast still called for SE winds, becoming south "around noon" and increasing to 20 knots.
By 1030 the fog started to lift. By 1100 the sun was shining and we had main and jib set. At 1125 we passed Buoy #2 into Buzzards Bay, and at noon the wind increased to about 20 knots - remarkable forecast! Now a glorious sail with the engine silent.
For two years Jay Evans has been touting the virtues of Tarpaulin Cove on the Martha's Vineyard side of Naushon Island. A small, quiet cove with a little beach and wooded shore. It's fault lies in the open exposure to SE and south winds. The day being now so glorious, we set up waypoints to pass Cuttyhunk, slide south through Quick's Hole into Vinyard Sound, then east past Robinson's Hole to Tarpaulin. As we approached Quick's Hole, the southerlies increased and fast, black whispy clouds appeared headed our way. We bore off along the northern side of the Elizabeth Island chain - Tarpaulin would have to wait til another day.
Plan B was Hadley Harbor. Tucked along the side of Woods Hole at the southwest corner of Cape Cod, this is the picture perfect, totally enclosed essence of an East Coast gunk hole. It's a lovely spot owned by a private association that welcomes cruisers to anchor or pick up a vacant mooring. The picture of the black gaff-rigged cutter moored before the Brenton Red barn with its marine railway says it all.
We arrived here early, 1430, and worked our way to the bottom of the inner harbor where we dropped our hook among a field of moorings. Guess we misjudged a little however, as the harbor master came by two hours later and asked us to move out of the fairway. Easily done in about 5 minutes.
Patching the roller furling cover on the jib had been added to the list of chores, and this was a good time to lower the jib and apply some tape. Then up went the shade awning and we settled down to relax. Just on shore a treetop osprey nest had the parents out hunting and a hungry mouth to feed. Perhaps the picture will turn out. Miller Time! Now to relax and write the log while puffs of wind ruffled the harbor and the trees.
Suddenly a staccato tattoo of raindrops broke the spell. It lasted perhaps a minute. But the computer was quickly slammed, the camera stowed below and hatches closed. It was over before we finished the scramble. I guess that counted as Old Scratchy's "80% chance of rain". Though the sun was out again, it was now after 1700, so we decided to take the awning down lest the chore fell to an even less opportune time. A few gusts that rattled the rigging marked the passage of that squall, and tranquility returned to Hadley Harbor.
Boats of all kinds sailed into, around and out. A classic Luders 16, a Shields, a modern, tall-rig, club jib sloop was casually, but very adroitly single-handed through the moorings. Wood hulled classics, plastic made to look like classic, and a nice gaff-rigged dinghy sailed past. This may not be as good as it gets, but it's pretty close.
Dinner of Brunswick Stew aboard, and afterward Rick ran a Top Gun school for gulls by throwing pieces of stale bread in the air to help the birds develop eye-to-beak coordination. Several dog(bird)fights ensued.
Finished off the evening updating our respective logs and adding pictures to the web page, and enjoying one of Mel's signature cups of hot chocolate.
Sunday, June 24, 2001
Mel's usual coffee was right on schedule around 0600. It had been a delightfully cool, still, soft night. We leisurely did the morning chores. Mel set up the day's waypoints in a route to Jay and Hasty Evans' house, a short 10.6 miles almost due north to Scraggy Neck at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. Rick rigged the GPS and computer to track our progress.
The saturated air continued flowing from south to north, but this morning, shortly after 0700, it started to give up its moisture. Not particularly hard, but enough to stow the chart book and the cushions back below, and don wet gear before pulling the hook at 0720.
Easing out of the protection of Hadley, the southerly wind was blowing a fresh 15+ knots, and we were soon sailing wing and wig with main and jib set, due north in the light rain. Even without the engine we were making over 6 knots at first. About an hour under way, the wind backed off a bit, and the rain cell moved on to the north and east. It was a great relief to take off wet gear. Without it you got wet. With it, in the very humid air, you sweated. Rolling along, we passed the lower end of the channel to the Canal at Cleveland Ledge light, then gybed about abeam of Scraggy Neck to make the turn around the shoals into Jay's mooring on the north side of Scraggy.
We had just furled the main and picked up the mooring line when Jay started rowing out from shore. His hail had two messages at once. "Welcome," and "I need you for crew for a race that starts in 90 minutes." We grabbed wet gear, closed up, jumped in the dinghy and were ashore in no time.
Actually, Mel and Rick were, at best, ringers for the terrific Evans family crew of Jay, Hasty and daughters Tay and Tamsen. Tam, for example was teaching sailing this summer. But we arrived at Chapaquoit Yacht Club in West Falmouth (talk about historic names, but that's another story) just in time to dash out to their J35 Witch of the Wave. This was actually a race to defend Jay's honor. Not only had he won the race last year, this first-of-the-season, let's-get-everyone-out to sail fun race, but he invented it a short while ago when he was Commodore.
Buzzards Bay was living up to its southwesterly breeze reputation, with whitecaps and 15+ knots of wind. The course was simple - out to Cleveland Ledge Light, round it to port, then back in. First one to finish wins, no handicaps, just go for it. Jay pulled a nice start at the preferred weather end of the line, quickly rolled over one competitor to leeward and had the fleet tucked astern where we wanted them. There was however, once exception. A small catamaran with two boys aboard was blasting away on this perfect beam reach. Though we held on, and steadily increased our lead over all the monohull boats, the scalded cat flew ahead and finished a full ten minutes ahead. So Jay had to give up the big club flag which was the trophy. But we sure had fun.
Then a little shopping and a late lunch. While Jay and Hasty returned to the YC for the prize ceremony, Mel and Rick pounded away on their computers and relaxed on the porch enjoying the great view of the Bay with Whim moored just offshore. Jay, by the way, has a wonderful collection of ship and sailboat models throughout the house. Like any hobby where there is always one more goal to achieve, Jay has found a model of the square rigger Witch of the Wave once sailed by his grandfather Captain Tay (hence the origin of Tay's name, and the name of their J 35). It's sitting in a Boston store filled with seafaring treasures, but the asking price, as Hasty says, "is a year's retirement!"
When Jay and Hasty returned, there was a message from oldest daughter Posey, arriving in Boston on an earlier plane. Posey, also a Dartmouth graduate, is the subject of the wedding Hasty and Jay are planning for August 4th - complete with tent on the beach at the dock overlooking the harbor.
After a quick dinner of steak, corn on the cob and asparagus (Whim's chef was imported ashore), Jay departed for the airport while Mel, Hasty and Rick settled down to ginger ice cream topped with blueberries and whipped cream. A cup of coffee on the deck in the fading light finished the evening - particularly when a few drops a bit heavier than dew sprinkled us all. All three trundled down to the shore, launched the Evans dinghy, and quietly rowed through the mist to Whim. Hasty bid the crew fair winds, and rowed to shore.
Monday, June 25, 2001
Mel delivered a steaming cup of his perfect Java to Rick still in his forepeak bunk about 0515. Light was already filtering into the cabin, and Mel reported there was no longer any fog, just gray and calm. At 0541 Mel snapped a picture of Rick dropping the mooring line off the bow, and we were on our way to Gloucester.
We knew the tide was not due to change in our direction until 0709 at the railroad bridge in Cape Cod Canal, but a 2 knot current was still against us as we made our way the short mile and a half to the lower buoys of the canal. With buoys 1 and 2 astern we slid slowly up the channel. At first, it just looked like the tide rip was abating a few buoys further ahead. A second look and there was no water to be seen. The towers of the railroad bridge were there, the houses along the shore were there, but there was no water, and no more buoys to be seen. Fog, hardly fifteen feet deep, but quite thick lay across the channel at water level. The top of buoy 13 could be seen, but not its base. At times we could not see either side of the canal - perhaps 50 yards wide. The radar picked out the high ground, and the computer showed the boat's position and projected course to guide us. At 6.5 knots we glided through the fog, an apparition with a stick, as we must have looked to someone watching from the shore. Atop the banks we could occasionally see bike riders, and even one roller blader (she was going faster than we were), but still nothing in front of us.
With chart and radar help, we found the fuel dock at the east end of the canal, topped off the diesel, water and ice, and pushed on into Cape Cod Bay. Clearing the last buoy in the fog, we emerged into sparkling sunlight and a mirrored bay. We unfurled and dropped the jib to add an extra patch to Hadley Harbor's handiwork, and continued on our way. With the forecast for SE to SW winds, the wind filled in from the north, dead on the bow - no sailing for a while - but it was light and didn't hold Whim back very much. The current gods were at it again though, stealing from one to half a knot all day. As they say, it was the wrong time of the month, moon-wise. Now three hours into the morning, 0845, Rick served up toasted English muffins with PB&J for a snack.
Abeam to starboard, across Cape Cod Bay was the Provincetown tower at the tip of the cape. Here the Mayflower first stopped on its journey. But the cape was sandy and barren and they pushed across to Plymouth, and the rest (as they say) was history. Looking at Plymouth harbor on a chart today, you would conclude this is one of the worst possible places to start new colony. Today the water is so shallow the Mayflower could never have gotten near Plymouth Rock. The channels are shoal and twisting, almost guaranteeing upwind work for any sailing vessel coming or going. We speculated that 300 years ago the water was deeper, but still not a terribly wise place to prosper. That is probably why Boston and Gloucester flourished with their superb natural harbors, and Plymouth remains a history book footnote supporting a tourist trade!
After lunch the wind went light, then filled in a little from the east. Tried the sails, picked up a tenth or two for a little while, then took them down. A pilot whale made two lazy arcs as it swam across our bow just ten miles out from Gloucester. Guess it knows it's now a protected species.
Taking a few pictures on the way in, we were tied up at a mooring in tiny Smith Cove inside Rocky Neck in Gloucester Harbor just twelve hours after our departure. The current gods has added at least five miles to our trip, but it had been an easy one. So easy, if fact, that Mel decided it would be a good time to change the engine oil. Half a roll of heavy duty paper towels later the job was done.
Then we cleaned up, launched Whim's dinghy "Whimper" from its home on the foredeck and went ashore for dinner. Mel treated Rick to a fine repast at the Madfish Grillle, the salmon and fish & chips being of excellent quality, and excess quantity. We walked the short streets of the Neck in the fading light, window shopping the various galleries, noting the ice cream parlor, and the shipyard looking particularly high and dry at low tide. Then we turned in for a peaceful night.
Tuesday, June 26, 2001
Tranquility ruled the home port of the Perfect Storm. Even the coffee was not poured until shortly after 6 bells. Blueberries and English muffins followed coffee. Mel made friends with a passing swan which ate right from his hand. With a clear sky and warm day forecast, we rigged the awning, then piled into Whimper and set out for the short dinghy ride to Brown's boatyard.
Yep, the same Brown's Marine of Storm fame. They didn't have the oil filters Mel wanted on hand, but a local phone call promised they would be there shortly - wonderful small-town, tightly-knit marine community that Gloucester is. Mel and Rick walked East Main Street toward town, stopping to supervise the lowering of signal flags aboard a beautiful blue 100' Mediterranean-style mega-yacht. What made the project so intriguing was that they had to send a hand 125' up to the top of the mast to get the flags down. We were sure we could have rigged them so going aloft would not have been required.
We walked on, stopping at the Three Lanterns marine supply store. Unique among such stores, this one carries a full supply of gear for deep-sea commercial fishing. Things like 1000' reels of 300 lb. test monofilament line, lures larger than the fish most people catch, hooks by the bin - some looking the size of meat hangers in a butcher shop, bait bags, and net repair gear, and on and on.
Hannah Boden, also of Storm fame, rested in the adjacent slip. Her green was more faded than last year, and an inquiry suggested she doesn't go out too often any more - too few fish. And yes, that's the pier where Bob Brown did indeed have his fatal heart attack. Not mentioned was the local's gratis comment, "he got what he deserved." Seems locals felt the fishing had a higher value than humans to him.
Walking back to Brown's we picked up a few provisions, picked up the filters which had arrived during our walk, packed a fresh 40 lbs. of ice into Whimper and were back aboard Whim before 1100. Continuing our laid-back morning, we stretched out in the cockpit and read the New York Times until lunch, stopping only when Mel's feathered friends returned for another handout. They accepted the first batch of Carrs crackers, but didn't seem to like the next batch - perhaps it was the garlic.
After the usual lunch of sandwiches, pickles, grapes and cookies, we turned to some more useful work. The decorative line wrapping on the wheel was in need of replacement - or at least that is what Molly had been suggesting to Mel. Together we removed the old lashing, and then working in tandem, wound 150' of bright white, 1/8 inch nylon line around the whole circumference. Mel finished it off with a decorative Turk's Head knot. Goat cheese & crackers plus pretzels sufficed for cocktail hour, steak and mashed potatoes for dinner. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, the days of soda, and pretzels and beer, were certainly patterned after this one.
Wednesday, June 27, 2001
An early, if leisurely start had us underway a around 0715. Under power we slipped up the right branch of the inner harbor for a picture of Brown's Marine, then up the right for a shot of the Hannah Boden. A last stop at the harbormaster's dock paid the night's $20 mooring fee, then pulled Whimper aboard and headed out to sea.
A mild west-southwest wind ruffled the water as we turned eastward for the run around Cape Ann and north to the Isles of Shoals. Sails were set as we rounded the cape and Whim settled into a delightful groove close hauled and feeling alive and happy for the last long leg of the cruise.
Ninety degree temperatures ashore started to create an on-shore thermal, dropping Whim's speed to under 5 knots. Even slower over the bottom with the current gods still holding a grudge, but we enjoyed soup for lunch and sailed into Gosport Harbor about 1345. Isles of Shoals has a split personality. White, Lunging and Star islands are in New Hampshire. Cedar, Smuttynose, Appledore and Duck islands are in Maine. We picked up a mooring that is probably just on the Maine side of the line. A look at the chart shows this anchorage is entirely open to the west and northwest. The prediction, earlier in the day was for southwest winds 10-15 knots going northwest as a dry cold front approached. Not a good place to lie if the forecast came true. But so far, by mid-afternoon, winds were hardly close to 10 knots, with no sea at all.
Around us perhaps 20 boats were hanging on moorings or anchors. The high-pitched squeals of children hitting cold water suggested it best just to hang a foot over the side and enjoy simple refreshment in the clear, cool water that way. No sense inviting a contractive coronary with full immersion! As we pondered our options, the wind continued light, NOAA 's Scratchy hedged the forecast with a delayed arrival of the front and a shift to northeast, rather than northwest winds. We decided to stay.
Rick started reading The Storm & The Ship, the loss of the 282 foot Fantome to hurricane Mitch. Distractions included the coming and going fo boats, swimmers and rowers around the anchorage, and finally the squeals and cheers of the two dozen or so young campers from the hotel on Star island as they ran the 100 yards down the grassy slope, out the short pier, down the gangway to the floating dock, and plunged one by one, like lemmings, into the cold water. All to the cheering of 50 or 60 people at the hotel and the hoot of horns from the boats in the anchorage.
A simple chicken chow mien over rice dinner, and more reading. Many boats cast off and headed back the 6 miles into Portsmouth, NH after their swims or dinner. A trim, stout, gaff-rigged cruiser of about 50 feet, including bowsprit, flying the French flag, sailed in and anchored. Around us the little fleet dwindled until only a dozen remained for the night. The first quarter moon cast faint shadows in the cockpit, washed out the stars of Leo, and left visible only the brighter Ursa Major, Cygnus, and Cassiopeia as we retired below.
Thursday, June 28, 2001
The gulls' raucous rookery was alive at 0500. The front rattled the rigging in the growing sunrise. Rising as a red ball through the few clouds, the sun quickly dissipated them and dawned the last day of the cruise. Before Mel's Rocky Coast Roast made its welcome appearance around 0530 the front was through, and the wind remained in the west, but with little push.
Waters from nine states has passed under the keel. Though our destination today was just back across the line in Portsmouth (NH), Whim was in Maine, and tomorrow Molly would join Mel to live aboard and cruise Maine for the next two and a half months.
We powered dead upwind the short 6 miles to Wentworth Marina in Portsmouth, just a mile into New Hampshire from Maine. The current gods stole their last fiew tenths of a knot, then we were refueled and tied snug in a slip. The first order of business was to scrub down fore and aft, cleaning out all the nooks and crannies. Then fill the water tanks and rig the awning for shade.
The promised northwest winds arrived with a few blustery gusts which rattled the awning but kept us cool. For the first time we even had a telephone line strung aboard. Below, Rick and Mel faced each other across the salon table, turned athwartships with dueling laptops, finishing up the log, pictures and e-mail. Laundry was the accompanying multi-tasking event.
Brian & Lise Klinger, living in Rye, NH just down the road, arrived a little after 1800 for cocktails, then treated Mel and Rick to a fine dinner at the Metro. Sea stories abounded. On August 2nd, Brian will be joining Steve's Javelin crew for the J-Boat Rendezvous in Northeast Harbor, Maine and the return trip to Westbrook, CT. Melly and Molly will rendezvous Whim with Javelin in Castine, Maine on August 5th. So, with that to look forward to, these old friends called it a night, and the end to a fine cruise north.
Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return. Photos by Rick, Steve & Mel.
Steve boards Whim, at Galesville, MD Mel & Steve in the cockpit. Steve gets stowed below. Mel checks in with Molly. There are lots of bags to stow! All this for three people?!. Departure - 0535, Monday June 18, 2001. A beautiful day to start a cruise. Sunrise reflected in Steve's glasses. Now the EPA is requiring Ospreys to get permits!!!!! Thoms Point light at the end of the West River Channel. Beneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The range marker at Howell Point. To avoid the current, we were crowding the herons! We wern't really going this fast at the Elk River entrance to the C&D canal. But we were glad to have it astern. Mel adjusts the radar range. Steve steers into the canal.. Whim rests easily in the basin at Chesapeake City. Serene at sunset.. The natives are ready to party at the Chesepeake Inn. Ok, Ok, who's going to dance next? Rick's omelet comming up. Mel & Steve leave the Reedy Point Bridge astern and head into Delaware Bay. Mel keeps an eye on the chart and the computer. It shows us around the Salem Power Plant. Guess it knew where we were! R32 - Cormorant Hotel. Ship John Shoal coming up. Who found it? How did they build it?! Mel's present to Rick as we enter the Atlantic at Cape May. Guess it worked - hot biscuits and all. Mel at midnight off Montauk Point. Whim safely at Westbrook - Steve's home port for Javelin. Steve's Javelin in her slip.. Want to cross the Atlantic like a Viking? Gunnar Marel, a descendent of Lief Erikson, did it in this 75' Knarr replica. Prefer something faster? It seems the Coast Guard is reluctant to license it!. 1000 years of design difference side by side. Cruising by North Dumpling light into Fishers Island Sound. Not a bad place to live. Just some of the spectacular, ever-changing clouds along the way. Point Judith light. Classic New England - Hadley Harbor. Small boat dock at Hadley. Boats rafted ahead of Whim. Boats astern of Whim. Baby osprey waiting for mom or dad. Feeding time! Mel checks tides late in Hadley Harbor. Jay & Hasty Evans' house at Scraggy Neck - from Whim. FUGAWI shows our position at Scraggy. Rick casting off at 0541 Monday morning 6/25 Just under way heading for Cape Cod Canal channel. Blue line is a bird's eye route end to end. Can you find the top of channel mark 13 in the fog? Approaching the railroad bridge (upper right) as shown by FUGAWI. What it looked like on deck! NOT to be confused with the famous The Man at the Wheel statue in Gloucester Harbor. THIS is The Man at the Wheel. Gloucester Harbor Light. A lazy sail in a little gaff-rigged boat. The EPA would not approve this paint factory. The indescribeable vessel in Gloucester's Smith Cove. Mel befriends a native of Gloucester Harbor. Gloucester moon. Nav station in a basket. Mel gets Whim under way leaving Gloucester. Brown's Marine - the owner's family of the Perfect Storm. Danish schooner in Gloucester.. Perfect Storm's Hannah Boden in July 2000. A year later. Isles of Shoals - Looking forward at the Gosport Hotel on Star Island, New Hampshire. Looking aft at houses on Appledore, Maine. A lonesome shack on Cedar Island. French-flagged family cruiser Provence at sunrise in Isles of Shoals, Maine.
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