Leaving Saturday for Hampton? All systems “GO”.

It’s Thursday morning and I am pretty much ready to head to Hampton to hook up with the other boats heading south in the Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally.   We have loads of boats in the rally, about 80 with some 50 heading to Antigua, 20 to the Bahamas and the rest to other locations along the way.

It’s been a wild ride getting ready to head south.   Nothing new there based on past experience but with all systems on Pandora “go” I think that I am about set for departure.

Provisions are stowed, fuel is topped up, bow thruster “go”, fridge “go” and dings in keel fixed.  And I have even been able to get my new Iridium Go and Predict Wind accounts up and running or should I say “GOing”.

Speaking of my new Iridium Go system, I have to say that this unit has been a bit of  head scratcher to learn how to use it.  To that point, it seems to me that this is one of the most confusing setups I have ever encountered.  The “getting started” book is way to thick and they have online video tutorials that run some 2 hours long telling you how to set up things.

The list of “must do” items to make the GO ready to go includes getting an Iridium satellite phone number, an Iridium email address, downloading the Iridium Go and Predict Wind apps on my iPad and phone along with software to my laptop.  I also had to install an external antenna on the boat and rig up a spot to mount the “GO” unit itself.

After all this, I was still completely flummoxed by the whole deal and ended up contacting the Iridium folks.   Well, that didn’t work so I contacted the folks at Predict Wind.   A very nice person,  Keryn, in Auckland, NZ,where the company is located, agreed to walk me through the setup.  We had a bit of a tough time connecting due to the 12 hour time difference, but we ultimately we worked it out and last night she patiently walked me through the process of setting things up.

Keryn, the same person in the videos, really knows her stuff .  She took quite a long time to walk through the steps in setting up the apps.  For some reason, my laptop wasn’t able to run the app properly but the iPad worked fine so that’s what I will use.

There are literally hours of video tutorials to teach you how to use the system.  Have an hour?  Check out this one, the first of many and I do mean MANY. Watch them all and you’ll know the program inside-out but you might not have any time to go sailing.

Any  email you want to send over the system will have to be done via smart phone or tablet, not on the PC.  As a side note, I enjoy writing blog posts most days on passage and I do so in email, send them to Brenda who puts them on my blog, this blog.  The GO does not support email on the laptop app so I will have to type them on my iPad.   I HATE pecking away on my iPad for email so I ordered a keyboard, one that was recommended by the NY Times.

I have to say that the keyboard really works well and was very easy to set up, literally a few clicks of a button and it worked.

I wish that setting up the GO and Predict Wind was that easy but at least they have great customer service through Keryn.   As an added bonus, she has a very nice “Aussie” accent so all is better now.

The GO unit and Predict Wind will set you back more than a boat dollar but it’s way cool and if you love tech, you will love this system.

Perhaps the neatest part is the routing.  You put in some rudimentary polars, including your speed hard on the wind, on a reach and when heading down-wind and the computer does the rest.  Then you put in your departure and arrival points, download the gribs from multiple models, and the system calculates the likely route, one each for the various models you have chosen.

First put in the departure and arrival points.  The system has “land avoidance” so it will route you around any “hard stuff”. Then you choose which grib models you want to view.  In this case, I did all of them.  Then it calculates your assumed route and as you move the slider the boat moves down the course.  However, the route assumption in this case, doesn’t wait for a good “window” and assumed tthat I was planning to leave immediately, regardless of the weather that is forecast to be in my path.

As you can see from this, the wind is pretty stiff by day two of the trip.  Hard on the wind with apparent winds in the high 20s.  Not pleasant at all.

If I were to wait another day or two, say Saturday, the winds are a lot more pleasant.  But I haven’t figured out how to delay the start given the GRIBS that I downloaded.  I expect that can be done.  Details to come on that point. 

There is a blizzard of data available in the app, and I won’t even begin to try an explain all that you get but it’s overwhelming in a sort of cool way.   Highest wind speeds to be expected, time sailing verses motoring, percent of time hard on the wind, reaching and down wind sailing.  Me?  I’d nix the “hard on the wind” stuff. 

And, that’s where a weather routing guy like Chris Parker comes in.  The cold calculations of a computer and GRIB files does not take into account what might happen in the days following the 5 days that you have on file at any given time .  And anyone who has been offshore knows that things change.

Working with Chris will allow him to work with you to “put something in the bank” in case things change, which they surely will.

As they say “gentlemen do not go to weather” and while Predict Wind doesn’t know about that, Chris does.  Chris might have a different take on that saying, perhaps “if you want your crew to be happy, don’t go to weather”, except when you have no other choice.

And speaking of Chris, I plan to talk to him today to see if he still thinks that Saturday will be a good day to head out.

One more thing.  You can track me at this link as I make my way to Hampton at this link.   And, once the rally heads out, on November 1st or thereabouts, there will be a group tracking page with everyone listed so you can follow along.

Wish me luck.  At least I can say that with Pandora, all systems are “Go”, Predict Wind too and all the stuff that always seems to need attention on a boat.

At least I have a new toy to play with.  Hope I can remember all the buttons to push.

Almost ready to head south?

Yikes, what a month.  I’ll admit, and Brenda will willingly say, that every fall it is a whirlwind, and not in a good way.  Getting Pandora, and us, ready to go away for the winter is complicated.

Yes, every year is a challenge and this year, even worse, when you toss in all the responsibility that goes along with my role as rally director for The Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.

With nearly 80 boats heading to warmer climes, and me at the center of all the “fun”, it is turning out to be quite a ride.

You may recall that I took on this job as “interim rally director” last May when the “then current” director resigned abruptly and as I probably contributed to his departure, (don’t ask) I felt obligated to help keep things moving along.

So, here we are, months later and I am no longer able to hide behind “interim”.  I’ll admit that the job is a bit overwhelming.

Having said that, this role is turning out to be very rewarding, if in a “head snapping” sort of way as I lurch from one thing to another.  Trying to keep everyone involved in the rally happy and yet still keep up with our home here in CT and Pandora is a handful.

Pandora is now mostly ready with all mechanical systems working and ready to go.  But there are always last minute issues that crop up.  Fingers crossed…

In getting Pandora ready over the last few month, the big issues that needed addressing were the bow thruster that crapped out somehow over the winter and a refrigeration system that stopped working properly following our time in Maine.

First the refrigeration.  When I got back from Maine I noticed that things in the fridge were freezing and that the temperature was going down as low, sometimes lower than the freezer.  After a lot of back and forth with the manufacturer we determined that one of the zone valves that directs where the coolant is to go, fridge or freezer, had frozen in the open position so whenever the freezer called for cooling, the fridge got colder too.   Can you say, “popped sodas?”

As everyone knows, it’s nearly impossible to get someone to work on a boat these days and it took about a month to get someone out to fix things.  In order to be sure that the repairs could happen quickly, I ordered exactly what we needed and had it on hand when the tech arrived.

Not so fast it seems… the guy, and he was well recommended, wasted hours “diagnosing” the problem on his own, spending the better part of a day making some adjustments to the existing valves. declaring that the problem was fixed.  All the while his assistant sat by ready to hand him a tool but mostly just fiddling with his phone.

Well, it wasn’t fixed and again he came back to Pandora only to learn that he needed to do some fabrication in his shop.   Did he take the new valves with him when he left?  No, so I had to make a trip to his shop to drop the parts.

Ok, so back he came for a THIRD visit and finally fixed what I had told him was the problem from the beginning.   I won’t say how many hours went into what should have been a simple “fix” but it is finally done and the fridge is cooling happily.  The bill?  He adjusted it but it was still nearly a boat dollar.   Amazingly, the replacement of a single valve costs more than the installation of the entire new unit in St Lucia two years ago.  Painful…

Doesn’t look like much does it?  The little black square blocks are the two zone valves.   Messy but it works.  To make matters worse in replacing them, they are located under and behind the oven.  In order to get to them I had to invert the gimbled oven and open up an access panel, a really tight spot. Actually, the install looked a lot better before it was “fixed”, but one of the reasons that the valve failed is that it as oriented in the wrong direction.  The “correct” setup was to have the stem oriented vertically so that gravity could assist when the valve closed.  In the original install, when Pandora was built, the valves were not set up this way which caused them to fail over time.   I will say that it looked a lot less messy back then.  However it doesn’t show and now it works just fine, messy or not. Cold beer anyone?  Pandora’s got em.

The other issue, the malfunctioning bow thruster, took all summer to fix.  When I put Pandora up for last winter, the thruster worked fine but come spring it no longer “thrusted”.   The bad news is that there is only ONE company in the northeast that can even service the unit and they were booked solid and generally didn’t even return my calls.

Finally, after months of calls and emails, I was able to get them aboard.  There was a lot of back and forth about why it wasn’t working but finally the motor was removed just to be sure that it was ok, and it was but needed a bit of cleaning.  Back in place still no “thrust”.  At that point, we feared that it was the electronic controller that was at fault and replacements are unavailable.

One thing lead to another and the tech Andrew, who really knows these systems, narrowed the problem down to a corroded wire.  Isn’t that always the way?  A sort of “is it plugged in” answer that is so hard to figure out.

So simple and yet it took months to get it resolved, mostly because they were so swamped that they could not visit.

When Andrew visited for the second time and finally “fixed” the thruster, I could have hugged him.  Awkward as that might have been, nobody was more shocked that the unit was working again than me.  I expect that he was too.   The big issue looming over the job was that if the control box was damaged, I was screwed as the unit is no longer manufactured.   But it turned out to be OK and Pandora’s thruster is back in business.  Whew…

There have been myriad items to fix and add to get her ready to head south and I am very pleased that it’s all come together.   One upgrade, small though it may be, was the addition of a “storm window” on the front of the dodger, a hard plastic cover that I can clip over the opening window when things get snotty.

While the zipper window is mostly waterproof, sometimes a big wave can hit it and there is an annoying spray that comes through the zipper.  This addition will strengthen things a lot.  Chad, the canvas guy, did a nice job on this along with lots of other little “tweaks”.

And speaking of “tweaks”, my wind vane steering system, only really used on long passages, works pretty well but in order to keep the boat balanced, I have to lock the wheel with a bit of rudder to make it easier for the vane to steer the boat.  The problem is that the steering lock on the wheel hub isn’t strong enough to hold the wheel steady in big seas so I had to fabricate something to hold the wheel firmly against any movement and yet still be easy to release when needed.

I have tried a number of approaches over the years and none have worked particularly well.  However, after lots of “chin stroking” while sitting in the cockpit, I came up with a solution and fabricated it out of starboard, but not until I had made a number of trial designs out of plywood and pine.

Here’s the unit attached to the steering pedestal.  I think it’s pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. Each “jam cleat” is set up with a line that goes up from the bottom of the steering pedestal to one of the wheel spokes to hold things steady.  It’s easy to pull the line out of the cleat and to secure things for minute adjustments.  It will be interesting to see how it works.  I’m optimistic.

Perhaps the most concerning issue I faced in getting Pandora ready for the trip to Antigua was to have her hauled out yet one more time, to access the damage from a “grounding” in Maine over the summer.  I won’t go into much detail except to say that I misread a mark and hit a rock.

“You ran aground Bob?”  Yes, I did.   Of course, you know what they say about running aground don’t you?  “There are those who admit to running aground and those who lie about itveryone.”

Yes, I admit it, I ran aground and it was very upsetting.  I did dive on the boat right after it happened and I was pretty sure that the damage was cosmetic.  Fortunately, I was right.

Pandora, it seems, is a pretty tough boat and her keel is different than most boats.  The actual keel is composite and the only lead is the “torpedo” that is cross-bolted onto the bottom of the skeg.   And it’s a long keel so any “loads” put on it are distributed over a long area.  Especially helpful when you bump into something hard, like a granite bolder.

Fortunately, when we hit, we rode up on the rock as opposed to hitting the keel dead on, so the damage was cosmetic and on the bottom of the bulb.  It looked very nasty.  I won’t go into much detail except to say that I was able to clean things up beginning with a 5lb sledge hammer to bang down the high spots before filling things in with and apply some thickened West System epoxy.  It was cold outside that day and I needed to get three coats applied, faired and then coated with bottom paint, all within 24 hours.

In order to get things to set up faster, I tented the keel and put a heater and 500w flood light below. Happily, the damage was only cosmetic so now the keel is fair again and actually looks better than it did before the grounding.   Go me…The marina manager, Brian, was very accommodating and even took the time to launch me on a Sunday following a “short haul” that ended up not being quite as short as it should have been , 24 hours or not.  I appreciated his help.  He was actually pretty amazed that I was able to get her fixed and ready to launch so quickly.   Me too.

So, there you have it and I am hoping to be heading to Hampton to join up with the rest of the fleet, all vaccinated, before heading to Antigua, hopefully on November 1st.

There are still so many details like provisioning and getting clothing aboard for me and Brenda that it makes both of our heads spin.

Somehow all that’s going to get done by next week.  Oh yeah, we leave today to spend the next four days with our grandchildren in MD.  Now, that’s going to be fun.

I keep having to remind myself, and Brenda, that being in the tropics this winter will be a lot better than digging out from heavy snows.

Soon we will be aboard in Antigua again…Hanging out with all the Dawgs, and there will be plenty of them. Ok, so I’m almost ready to head south.  Now, if I can just get a weather window to head down to Hampton.  One step at a time…

What will Caribbean cruisers do this winter?

It’s about a month before the Salty Dawg Rally heads to Antigua and everyone is wondering what life in the Caribbean will be like this winter.

As rally director for the group, it is my job, among other tasks, to try and tease out what the coming season in the Caribbean will be like and how restrictive conditions will be for those heading south this year.

My primary focus has been on Antigua and in particular, the arrival of the fleet in mid November and the two weeks of events that are on the calendar.   When the fleet arrives in mid November, that’s early in the season so it is still unclear as to what we will encounter.

A big part of this uncertainty is that most islands in the Caribbean have seen tremendous vaccine hesitancy among their population and, as a result, a large increase in virus cases.  Unlike here in the US, where being vaccinated is more of a political statement and a desire, especially in the RED states, to show solidarity with a certain ex-president.

In Antigua, hesitancy is driven more by some of the more far out hoaxes like Bill Gates putting microchips into the vaccine.  Injectable microchips?  I thought that there was a “chip shortage” right now.  Heck, how can they put chips in billions of vaccine doses when car manufacturers can’t get enough to make cars.  Hmm…maybe Bill Gates purchased all of them and they have been injected…  Oh boy, that’s an idea…

Anyway, government leaders in Antigua realize that without tourists for yet another winter season visiting the island, that they will be in real trouble.  The simple fact is that the vast majority of cash fueling their economy is from visitors and with the virus raging there won’t be nearly as many tourists.

With that in mind, the Prime Minister recently implemented a mandate that makes vaccination compulsory for anyone employed by the government, hospitality workers and I think those businesses that get a large amount of their funding from the government.  Don’t hold me to the exact makeup of who is subject to this new ruling except to say that it effects a large part of their population.

So, as of October 1st, next week, anyone in those groups that hasn’t had at least one dose will be on furlough and stuck at home.  And, by October 15th, they will stop being paid.   Hesitant or not, I expect that not getting paid will be a big motivator.

And, speaking of personal liberties, curfews are now in place and beaches are closed except from 05:00 to noon every day.   Additionally, pleasure boating is banned on both Antigua and Barbuda.  No more clandestine trips to the beach for partying.

The goal of this program is to reach herd immunity by November and the only thing that really stands in the way at this time will be if officials back down.

I understand that there are even some highly placed government workers that are resisting this mandate and it will be interesting to see how things unfold.

“So, what about the rally?  How’s that going Bob?”

Thanks for asking.  The rally is going really well with more applications nearly every day.   As of a week ago we were running pretty well, well ahead of last year at this time.   We had a Zoom briefing to talk about all this and I was astounded that nearly 225 signed up to hear what we had to say.   Our record arrivals in Antigua was about 55 boats and I expect that we will easily beat that number this season.

So, from now until the week before the rally departs on November 1st we will be having weekly briefings for anyone who is signed up and paid on Fridays.   I expect that they will be well attended.   And, once we are in Hampton we will have daily briefings, again via Zoom to keep everyone up to date on plans and to keep an eye on weather for the passage.

One big question about the coming season will be how easy, or hard, it will be to travel from one island to the next as that inevitably means clearing in and out of yet another country.  In particular, France and the French islands have been cracking down very hard and the islands are basically closed to cruisers.

However, like Antigua, France is taking a very hard line with their “refuseniks”, with furloughs, banning the unvaccinated from restaurants and even outside dining.  Not unexpected, when these restrictions went into place, the vaccination rates went up overnight.

Getting many that are hesitant about “taking the jab” to go for it is often as simple as saying, sorry, you can’t visit your favorite café or bar unless you are up to date on your shots.   Simple yes and it seems to work.

Well, not so simple in the US, the land of liberty, where everyone feels that they can do what they want, when they want and to whom they want.   So much for social responsibility.

Fortunately, keeping everyone safe in the rally will be at least a bit easier as anyone who participates must show proof of vaccination in order to join the ra;ly or the fun in Hampton, our point of departure.  Heck, unless you are vaccinated and show proof of a negative PCR virus test,  there is no visiting Antigua anyway. Simple…

And speaking of “mandates” I have had a few uncomfortable discussions with those who want to do the rally and yet refused the shots, but the overwhelming reaction has been very positive.

And, speaking of being safe, we are working with a well known infection disease specialist, Dr. Richard Wenzel.  At the risk of pushing a pun to the limit, he’s a “big dawg” in the ID field.

Along with having published over 500 scientific papers published, he is also involved with the New England Journal of Medicine, a very prestigious journal in it’s own right.   This guy knows his stuff.

Would you take medical advice from this guy?  I would and we are…His recommendations to the feet also includes advice on how to keep everyone safe on passage.  Even those that are fully vaccinated run the risk of a “breakthrough” infection and the idea of being at sea, 500 miles from land and getting sick is pretty scary to me.

With that in mind, all of the predeparture events in Hampton will be held outside instead of in the pavilion that we have used for years.  It can be cold in Hampton in late October but we just can’t take the risk of someone getting sick on passage.

Our events will be split between a brew pub on the water, the Bull Island Brewing Company.  With as many as 200+ participants, it’s going to be crowded never the less. Our other events will center on a small street down town with lots of spots for outdoor dining, Queens Way, a short walk from the waterfront.The local Convention and Visitors bureau in Hampton has been very helpful in pulling this all together.  Good thing as I am just swamped with stuff in the buildup to departure.

And, in Antigua there is a small group there that has been very helpful in backing me up and helping to set up events every year.

So, now you can see why I have been a bit remis in writing posts in the last few months, which I will admit pains me.   I’ve been pretty busy.

And add to that a need to get Pandora ready for the run, getting crew and travel plans for the holidays.  No rest for the weary, retired cruiser.  That’s me…

So, with three weeks until I head to Hampton and then on to Antigua, there is a lot to get done.

This morning I meet up with a refrigeration guy to fix a creaky valve on my fridge and freezer so soon that system will be back in operation.  Fortunately, that’s a pretty simple fix, well simple in comparison to problems with my bow thruster where the tech finally showed up after months of chasing him down.

Fingers crossed that they can fix the problem.  The idea of trying to med-moor without a way to control the bow makes me very nervous.

Nope, I won’t go into all the stuff that I have already done to get Pandora ready for the trip except to say that the list is long and involved more than a couple “boat dollars”.  But no project has proven to be more daunting than coaxing Brenda back aboard as our run home to FL during the pandemic still looms large in her memory and not in a good way.

Oh, how I hope that sailing in the Caribbean will be easy and fun this season as being “locked down in paradise” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in spite of what some might think when snow is drifting up against their front door.

So, what will cruising the Caribbean this winter be like?  I am optimistic but only time will tell.   Optimistic?  That’s me, or as Brenda would say, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful…”

Well, lots to do so I’d better sign off.  More to come soon, I hope…

 

On our way home.

It’s almost time to leave Maine and head home.  With the remnants of Hurricane Ida to our east things are beginning to settle down here in Booth Bay Maine.

As recently as a few days ago, it was unclear as to what track Ida, even though she was much weakened, might take as she headed up the coast, so the forecast for Friday, tomorrow, was very uncertain.

When I spoke with Chris Parker, our weather router, a few days ago, the forecast was completely unclear with forecasts suggesting that the wind could be anywhere from about 10kts to 35kts NW with higher gusts.  It is very difficult to forecast wind with such a fast moving low.  Fortunately, now 24 hours away from our departure, the winds will likely be on the very low end of the forecast and while we will probably have to motor much of the way, it’s nice to know that it won’t be too “salty” a run to the Cape Cod canal.

Last night was really rainy and today the dink had about 5″ of water in it.   That’s a lot but the winds were very light and the rain a lot less than others faced in CT and NY where there was widespread flooding.

In any event, our plan is to head out from here in Boothbay Harbor for the canal, early tomorrow morning.  Fingers crossed that the wind will behave and drop to a reasonable level.

The crossing should take a bit less than 24 hours and with an 08:30 current change in the canal on Saturday, that should put us in Buzzards Bay fairly early on Saturday morning before expected westerlies will kick in.  The big question is how far west we will be able to get before the wind picks up right on our nose.

Time will tell but it will be nice to be heading home and wish us luck.

So, change of topic.  Since leaving Rockland a few days ago, Brenda and I made a brief stop at Allen Island, summer home of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth.  They owned, two islands off of Port Clyde, Allen and Benner Islands for many years and built a number of homes on both islands.  It is clear that a great deal of thought went into the design and siting of each dwelling as they blend into a wonderful image that evokes one of Andrew’s paintings.

We have visited this spot many years and have always picked up one of the half dozen courtesy moorings that the family keeps at the ready.  I have asked for permission over the years but on this visit we were the only boat in the harbor so I didn’t want to bother anyone on shore.

It was nice to be there again but sad too as the loss of Betsy and Andrew end an era.  I mentioned a visit “Knitting with Betsy” a number of years ago when we visited and saw Betsy knitting on her front porch while Brenda knitted aboard.   I Wrote about that wonderful experience, if from a distance, in this post.

Now that both Betsy and Andrew have passed, it looks like the only inhabitant on the islands is the caretaker who we saw when he took their resident lobster boat Archangel, to head into Port Clyde.  He didn’t seem concerned with our presence as he passed by in the morning prior to our departure.

This is a shot of the main house and the porch where Besty and her companion knitted so long ago.  Sadly, no Betsy on this visit. Behind, Pandora nothing to disturb the tranquility except the occasional lobster boat out checking traps and plenty of sea birds.On our way to Booth Bay we passed Eastern Egg Rock, where there is a colony of puffins.  Sadly, we did not see any as we passed by.  This is the only colony of puffins on the US East Coast as they were hunted to extinction 100 years ago.  This colony was carefully transplanted from Canada many years ago.

The colony was started by bringing young birds to the island, the first to be there since the late 1800s and became a model for rebuilding flocks of seabirds elsewhere with great success.  Today there are 1000 pairs nesting on the island.  Read about the project at this link, a rare example of us repairing the damage by man so long ago.

Sadly, we didn’t see any puffins but there were many birds flocking around the island, evidence of how many birds make Eastern Egg their home.

Maine is known for the many beautiful lighthouses and we passed on of the most unique one as we approached Booth Bay, the Ram Island Light, with it’s unique walkway heading out to the light.  I wonder what it is like to be on that walkway when the  seas are raging. Booth Bay Harbor is a beautiful spot and one that we have visited many times over the years.   The harbor is well protected and this church is particularly stunning when the sun is setting.  At night the face is lit.  The harbor is pretty built up but being so close to Brown’s Wharf has made for good wifi. Every night the sunset over the far side of the harbor is beautiful.  Of course, last night, not so nice as the remnants of Ida descended on us. However, 24 hours later the sun is out and while it’s still plenty windy, I can see how tomorrow will likely be a wonderful day as we cross the Gulf of Maine.

While I will miss Maine, it will be nice to be back home.

For sure, Mila our Chris’s and Melody’s husky will be happy to see me.

 

Maine: Almost over but the season is not.

Well, it’s nearly the end of August and Pandora will be heading toward home next week.  As I write this I am in Rockland, counting down the days and not in a good way.

Brenda spent much of yesterday with an artist’s, artist friend who lives in Maine full time and enjoyed her time with her.  Me, I just sat for hours in a coffee shop, wifi and all.

Somehow doing bills, working on some details next steps with Pandora and some Salty Dawg stuff ate up the entire morning.  When Brenda returned after lunch, her response was, “you’re still here?”.  Yup, still here and no blog post to show for myself.

So, it’s another beautiful day here in Rockland.  Last night a cold front came through and instead of the mid 80s humidity that we have endured for days not, today’s high is a more Maine Like mid 60s.  It will be lovely.

Before I go into some of the fun details of what the last two weeks here in Maine have been like, I’ll share yesterday’s sunrise, framed by a huge ketch anchored far out in the harbor.  What a perfect way to begin the day. Those of you that sleep late miss moments like this.  And, speaking of memorable sunrises, when we were in Castine, before hurricane Henri passed up the east coast.  The currents are swift in the river there and the sunrise made for a beautiful moment with the current pulling hard on a channel marker.Castine is the home of the Maine Maritime Academy and it was fun to see the cadets out marching through town.  Lots of “hup, hup” stuff going on and plenty of loud chants by the officers, dutifully repeated by the cadets. They also were out for training on their lifeboats, learning to row in perfect time.  Back and forth across the river they went with the bosun keeping time. Their “boat”, the State of Maine was in town.  At one point the cadets filed one at a time up the gangway to board the ship. It was unclear to me if that’s where they live or if there are dorms.  Castine is a charming little town with loads of history. There are a number of very nice independent book stores, something that seems to be fairly thriving in the small towns in Maine.  Perhaps their trade is driven by tourists that want to curl up with a good book when it’s foggy, cold and rainy.  Melody, an artist herself, saw a tiny kiosk mounted on a sidewalk post outside of one shop where artists can swap out their work.  Put in a piece of art and take one.  I love the idea.  Perhaps we need one in our home town. We also spent time in Buck’s Harbor where we had a lobster bake.  I wanted Chris and Melody to experience eating lobster outside on a picnic table overlooking a quintessential Maine harbor.  While we were there a schooner full of vacationers pulled in and dropped her hook.  There are many schooners in Maine that take out vacationers for week long cruises, stopping in one quaint spot after the next. Buck’s is home to a beautifully maintained Concordia yawl, a well regarded design coveted by those that love wooden classics.  Her owner also has a Pulsifer Hampton, another charming design.  I’ve never seen two of them together and with matching canvas, no less. From Buck’s we headed back up to Castine to wait out the hurricane.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a non-event and we never saw winds much more than a brief period in the high teens.  There were many boats in the harbor tucked down near shore including the 1030s vintage Ranger, one of a number of restored America’s Cup boats making the rounds of the classic racing regattas.  She is an impressive sight and huge at over 130′ long. She draws more than a dozen feet, which she needs to, in order to balance her impossibly tall mast. I was taken by this tug boat converted into a yacht.  I don’t know anything about her but our paths have crossed a number of times this season. It’s not always sunny and to see a schooner drifting by in the fog is an impressive and ageless sight. Sun, threats of hurricanes, fog, rain, the weather is always changing in Maine and is one of the reasons that I love being here.

So, as I finish up this post, we are planning to head to Allen Island, the site of the family summer home for Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, now diseased, the famous artist and his wife.  I’ll have more to say about that perhaps in a few days.  From there we hope to go to Booth Bay where my friend George will meet us and help me bring Pandora to Fall River MA where I am having some work done on her electronics.   Conveniently, Brenda will drive his car back home for him.  Very convenient.

Our time in Maine is nearing a close but I am optimistic that our cruising season is not and that we will soon be back in the Caribbean for a winter of cruising. However, I will say that the details of that are still up in the air due to the lasting threats of Covid-19 and the Delta variant.  Life is never simple, even for the vaccinated.

I’d better sign off as the coffee is ready.

 

The joy of conquering Joy

It’s a beautiful day here in Castine where we moved yesterday after a few days in Belfast.  The sunrise was spectacular.  However, you know what the say about “red sky in the morning”.   Rain this afternoon.  Castine is a wonderful place but that will have to wait on that point as I have scintillating news in the life of the giant rubber ducky Joy.

On our last night in Belfast I was still wondering if I was about to be arrested for illegal transport of the giant rubber duckie  when I moved her from another area of the harbor.  All day long we watched a parade of boats, large and small, passing by Joy to pay her tribute.

Late in the afternoon, three boys showed up in their dink, looking very determined to do something as they strung a rope over her back.   I could not imagine what they had in mind and we took our dink over to inqure about what they were planning. “we want to climb up on her back”, they said.

Ok, AWESOME, go for it!  I just HAD to record this and stood by, but I will admit, I was wondering if such a feat was even possible.  Actually, I was thinking NO WAY!

After perhaps a half hour of prep, here they are, getting ready to scale to the summit.  Note the drone, upper right, capturing the moment.   I have no idea who was the “driver” of the drone.  It wasn’t the trio. The would-be climbers had things pretty well thought out, I guess, and they proceeded to string a rope over her back so they had something to hold onto.  As everyone knows, rubber duckies are notoriously slippery.  To keep her from rolling over, one guy got into the water (very cold water) to balance things out.

Getting a boost.   Still not looking very promising. OMG!  Up he went…What would you do when you finally summit a giant rubber ducky?  What anyone would do.  Strike a pose!And how do you top that?   Jump off, of course, and be quick about it as, as their friend in the water was probably about to succumb to hypothermia. The three of them were pretty proud of their feat and willingly posed for a photo.  I wonder how they chose who would would be the climber?  The one to conquer the biggest rubber duckie in Maine?

Perhaps their planning discussions were about who would be THE ONE to summit.  Perhaps the same talk that Neil Armstrong must have had with fellow crew Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as to who was going to be the first to walk on the moon.

Who would take that “first to find the joy of being the first to summit Joy for all mankind”?

Ok, ok, I’ll admit that I am beating this to death but hey, the story was picked up in USA Today, so it must have been big news.   Don’t believe me?  Check out this link. 

Surely the Joy of conquering Joy is worth something.  At least when you are a kid you should take your wins when you can.

I thought it was awesome! Oh, to be young.

Me?  All I would be thinking about is how cold the water is.

But perhaps more importantly, where else will we find Joy?

Where there’s Hope, Joy will follow

Well, I am finally back in Belfast and aboard Pandora after three weeks back home.  Since returning from the Down East Rally, I’ve been hugely busy with Salty Dawg stuff and have been spending a lot of time interviewing applicants that are flagged to me as possibly having limited blue water experience.   I want to be sure that they have a good feel for what they might face and plan to invite  crew aboard that know what sailing hundreds of miles from land is all about.

There was also considerable discussion about how we were going to handle the question of vaccine requirement for those making the run south.   After months of factfinding the Board decided that the most prudent approach to insure the safety of all at sea, was to require vaccination for everyone.   Additionally, the islands that we plan to visit are really having a tough time with the virus and with sometimes small numbers of their people unvaccinated, it would not be fair to bring yet another unvaccinated person to their homes.    Additionally, most islands are taking a very hard line with those that are unvaccinated visiting and they are requiring testing and quarantine until they are certain that all is well.

I do expect that event the vaccinated will also continue to be tested before visiting or moving to other but, as of now, if their test is negative, they are free to go.   With breakthrough infections popping up among the vaccinated, it’s hard to say how this will all play out in the coming months.

As of today, Biden has announced that boosters are recommended and, Brenda and I will be lining up to do just that as soon as we are given the all clear.

Given how polarizing and political this issue has become here in the US, I had no idea what sort of blowback we might encounter.   Personally, I felt that most, if not all, cruisers were probably comfortable with the “jab”, but did wonder what might happen when the announcement was made.

Happily, there has been virtually no complaints about the plan, very good news.

We are getting a lot of applications for the rally and the recent webinars on Antigua and the Bahamas were very well attended.  It looks like we are on course to have a larger rally than has been the case in recent memory.   Fingers crossed that there will not be any surprises as we get closer to departure in early November.

So, here we are in Belfast for a few days with our son Christopher and his partner Melody.  Brenda and I are focused on giving them a good feel for what cruising Maine is like.  Wish us luck.

Our arrival in Belfast coincided with the mysterious appearance of a huge rubber duckie named Joy.  She?  He?  Im going with She and she, has been making a tour of the harbor in recent days.   Many have been taking her photo.  Me too. It seems that she recently made her mysterious appearance at the head of the harbor, where we are, and then drifted down and tangled with some of the moored boats.

This morning, under the influence of coffee, I decided that Joy needed to “return to her roots” at the head of the harbor.  The fact that we wanted to have her closer to Pandora had nothing to do with the decision to “rescue” her at all, I assure you.

I approached cautiously so as not to alarm her, lifted her moorings and off we went.
In spite of the fact that Joy has been moving around, it turns out that she has not one but two moorings to keep her in position.  They proved too heavy for me to hoist into the dink so I suspended both of them below the dink as best I could to prepare for Joy’s voyage.

Taking her home.The going was slow, as I did not want to alarm her.

Joy proved to be a willing, if not enthusiastic traveler as she followed obediently behind Hope.   Hope you say?   Hope is the name of our dink.A dink named Hope?   Remember the story of Pandora’s box?    When Pandora opened the box and all the evils went out into the world?   Well, after that, she looked into the box and all that was left was Hope.

Get it?  Pandora’s dink called Hope?

So there you have it, as long as there is Hope,  there’s Joy.  Well, at least there’s joy going for a ride. As she arrives at her new home, Joy continues to pursue Hope as we all do. So, Joy is now among us, as it should be. Guarding over us in the “hope” that we will enjoy Maine. It’s a beautiful day here in May and I am happy that I was able to bring a  bit of Joy, no, she’s HUGE so she’s brought a LOT of Joy into our lives.

I guess that it is safe to say that where there is Hope, Joy will follow.

That’s all for now…

“Yes, Bob, that’s more than enough!”

Belfast Maine, occasional home to some amazing boats.

The last stop on the “mini-cruise” that I organized for the Salty Dawg Down East Rally was Belfast Maine, home to Front Street Shipyard and some remarkable boats.

I can still recall when we first started visiting Maine with our Tartan 37 Electra back in the 80s, Belfast was a place that had been best known for it’s smelly chicken and sardine processing factories and not really as a place to stop on a cruise.   Last time Brenda and I visited Belfast was in 2011, ten years ago and by that time the chickens were long gone and it was actually a nice place to visit.

Checking a decade old post about that last visit brought back some nice memories.  Check it out.  To that point, I can’t believe that I began keeping this blog in 2007, 14 years ago.  And, even crazier, once I push the “publish” button, this will be my 989th post.  I guess I should think of something to do to celebrate my 1,000th post as that’s only a handful of posts away.

Anyway, back to Belfast.  Ten years later the town is still charming and the  harbor, exposed to the south, still acts like a funnel when it pipes up from the south, not so great.  To that point, I was on the phone with Jonathan, the dockmaster at Front Street Shipyard yesterday and he told me that it’s pretty bumpy out in the harbor today.  Yup, wind’s out of the south.  Glad I’m not aboard with Brenda.  She would not like that at all.

A lot has changed in Belfast over the last decade with perhaps the most notable being the emergence of the Front Street Shipyard that rose up quickly on the grounds of an abandoned sardine factory.  They are now a major employer, known for their expert craftsmanship on all manner of boats, perhaps most notably the “big kids”.

For this last stop on our mini-cruise, I was lucky to arrange a tour of the Ship Yard for the group.  It was fascinating.  Big group of Dawgs. The yard’s largest lift can handle nearly one million pounds.  It is one of the largest on the East Coast with 16 wheels.  It had better be strong to pick up this tug.  Her props are huge, about 8′ in diameter.  Each of them can rotate 180 degrees so she can move in any direction and is steered with a joy stick, not a wheel.   We were told that she had failed a recent survey and needed to have her stern re-plated.  Hold that thought about how they fabricate the plates for a moment.Big is the theme at the Shipyard.   The door to one of the buildings and they are all plenty big, is over 80′ tall.  That door is tall enough and the shed big enough, to fit this 126′ steam yacht with room to spare. She is Cangarda, the last surviving steam powered yacht in the US and one of only three surviving worldwide.  Built in Wilmington DE in 1901, she eventually fell into disrepair and in the early 1980s a restoration was attempted but eventually abandoned for a lack of funds, and she sunk in Boston Harbor.  I’m not sure how she got there, but she ended up on the West Coast and received a full restoration at Rutherford Boats that began in 2004 and was completed in 2010.   She was in pretty rough shape when they began the project.   Like, no kidding, totally rough… It’s hard to imagine all that went into such a detailed restoration when you consider what they had to work with.   Most of the materials in the boat are new now. However, she still has her original steam engines that were shipped to Europe to be completely rebuilt.  Really impressive work. While she is still true to her heritage as a lone survivor from the Victorian age, having hosted many world famous dignitaries, she is modern in ways that count with stabilizers and touch screen displays for her complex systems. I can’t imagine how much it costs to keep a yacht like this in prime condition.  It is reported that it took a crew of 30 8 years to complete the restoration at a cost estimated at $12 million.   It seems that her new owner, Robert McNeil, a venture capitalist, was able to look beyond her state of disrepair and had a vision of what she could become.

When the restoration was completed after 8 long years, what a transformation. I believe that she returned to New England waters on her own bottom, via the Panama canal, and since returning she has been cruising the North East and often wintering at Mystic Seaport where I saw her on a number of visits.   Originally she was coal fired but was converted to a diesel boiler during the restoration.  In addition to her primary steam engine, she has other smaller steam engines, I think a total of 5, that run her many systems.

What a magnificent vessel.   She still looks like new a decade following her restoration.  I so wish that I was able to get a tour inside her.  Interestingly, her spotless white bottom is nearly unmarred by thru-hulls.   She is as narrow as she is long.  Her slow turning prop is huge.  Craig gives some sense of scale. Cangarda’s future is now in doubt as Robert McNeil passed away on July 23rd the day after our group saw his boat in Belfast.   It will take a very special owner, with really deep pockets, to see what he saw in this remarkable yacht.

Feel like a steam yacht of your very own?  Hang around to see if she comes up for sale.

Clearly, Front Street has the knowhow to fix and maintain just about anything.  Along with huge lifts and some amazing stuff like huge table saws and all sorts of tools, they have perhaps the coolest machine of all.   A CNC pressure water cutter.

It seems that water can actually cut steel.  And Front Street has a machine that will smoothly cut through 9″ of stainless steel.  Water cutting steel?  Who knew?  It is an amazing machine and I was lucky enough to see it in action.

Note the operator on the right for scale. I was told that he is the only guy at Front Street that even knows how to operate it.Back to that tug boat with the gimpy stern plates.  It looks like they have some steel near the cutter ready to cut into the exact shape.   The yellow machine on top of the pile has suction cups so it can be picked up and deposited in the “pool”.  This suction thingy is attached to a 10 ton crane suspended from the celling.  Heavy plate steel or not, this would be a delicate operation, I expect.  The shape of the final object to be cut is put into a computer so that the cutter head can be programed to move in precise ways and make the cuts.

The unit can do some very intricate cuts and fortunately it was operating when I visited. When everything is ready to go, the operator steps aside.  Good move as I expect that a sneaker would a lot easier to cut than 9″ of stainless.  That said, steel toed safety shoes.  Hmm…

The actual cutting operation doesn’t look like much and is pretty quiet.   At the end of the process, the cutting head puts out an impressive burst of vapor, about the only evidence that anything important has actually happened. I can only imagine what it must cost to have them make a “special something” with that machine.  It’s so cool I almost want something to break on Pandora.  No, never mind but it is awesome.  I wonder if I could at least have them make me a paperweight?

I won’t bore you with an endless litany of awesome yachts that they have in their care except to show a few.  I was taken by this lovely trawler.  She’s actually wood but you have to get really close to see anything wood-like to give that away.She has really lovely lines.And, tied up on the city dock was this beautiful steel trawler.  She’s for sale. Ten years later, Main Street is still lovely with beautiful brick buildings lining the way down to the waterfront. There’s something for everyone and even a knitting store and some nice book shops that I am sure will interest Brenda when we rejoin Pandora next week.

And in the spirit of the Salty Dawg Rally, there is even the Salty Dog Pet Grooming salon.  Belfast really does have EVERYTHING!But wait, there’s more and, in particular, the city is currently home to a very special yacht, another legendary vessel, the ex-presidential yacht Sequoia.   She too has a remarkable history having served 8 presidents. 

In her glory days.With FDR aboard…  It seems he was having a good day.  He even had an elevator installed to accommodate his wheel chair.  Johnson had it removed when he used the yacht.  JFK celebrated what would be his last birthday aboard in 1963. Sequoia was built in 1925, was acquired by the US Government in 1931 and converted for use as the presidential yacht in 1933.  She was sold in 1977 as part of an austerity move by Jimmy Carter.

Sadly, Sequoia’s story has been checkered since she was sold passing through some 8 different owners.  I recall hearing about her sale by Carter who didn’t see that it was right to spend taxpayers dollars on such a luxury item.  In recent years she sat badly neglected in Virginia, nearly her final resting place.  This video shows how far she had fallen including becoming a home to a growing family of racoons.  After years of legal wrangling, last fall Sequoia was finally loaded aboard a barge for her journey from Virginia to Belfast.  She is now housed, under cover, at the French and Webb yard where she  is being restored.  It’s hard to even tell that this is the once regal Sequoia under her cover.But a view of her distinctive stern clearly gives away her Trumpy heritage. She is now being funded by a group of investors through Equator Capital who’s mission is rescuing and preserving assets that are significant to US history.  I guess that would suggest Sequoia is in good hands.  While there’s a long way to go, we should be optimistic that Sequoia will sail again.  I wonder if they might be interested in Cangarda?  No restoration required.  Just a thought…

This short video of her moving to her new “home” in Belfast from VA and has some impressive moments, especially as she is towed past the Statue of Liberty. Well, I guess that’s about enough for now.  Belfast, a place worth visiting and if stuff breaks along the way, and it will as IT’s A BOAT after all, I know just where you can have her fixed.

Having your boat worked on in Belfast, perhaps at Front Street Shipyard, would make sense as it’s already the sometime home of some really amazing boats.

Heck, maybe they will even use their totally cool water cutting machine to make some parts for you.  If they do, I’ll bet that they would let you watch.

And as they say, “if you have to say How Much, you can’t afford it.”

Wow, we had a good time on the Down East Rally!

Well, it’s over.   After months of preparation and my moving from “sure, I’ll do the Down East Rally” to becoming Rally Director and all the details that that position suggests.  Months of preparation and endless discussions with local businesses as I tried to find a way to arrange events at a time when the virus was raging and nobody was comfortable in committing to anything.  When I was doing all of the planning, the vaccine wasn’t even available and every social interaction was viewed as far to risky to even consider.  In spite of my assurance to everyone that any plans we made were tentative it wasn’t until literally days into the rally, that many of the events finally came together.

For months I had worked closely with Ryan the harbor master in Rockland on the idea of applying to the Harbor Commission and City Council to consider our arrival in Rockland as an “event” verses a marina visit.  This seemingly minor distinction changed things a lot and allowed us to cram 22 boats on the city docks at a rate of approximately $100 per boat, regardless of size, for the full three days.  I doubt that the city had ever seen that many boats packed into one place and they were shocked when they realized that our average boat was nearly 50′ long.   As a result of our being able to be viewed as an “event” the rate to dock was reduced substantially from $2.50/ft/day to less than the cost of a mooring.

The view of the full docks was impressive and this view only captures about half of the fleet. All of the captains and crew were thrilled as you can see from this group shot.  To see so many enjoying the result of the work that went into the rally by so many was very rewarding.  Note the couple on the far right, front row.  That’s Ruth and Herb of MV Ancient Mariners who visited us to join in the fun.    They were not a part of the rally but made a point of coming to Rockland to be with us. Here they are together on their boat aptly named Ancient Mariners.  Ruth is the “younger woman” at 95 and Herb is a very impressive 102.   To be out and about in Maine aboard their boat is a testament to the importance of staying active and I expect good genes helped as well.  Lucky them.

By the power (sort of) invested in me as a board member of SDSA and Rally Director, I gave them a rally flag and declared them “honorary Salty Dawgs”.  When my friend George of SV Peace and Plenty, and I were doing our events in Essex a few years back, Ruth and Herb, both VERY long term cruisers, showed up aboard their boat to the delight of everyone.  And here they are, years later, still going strong.

These days they keep their boat in Maine year round and winter at their home in Boca Raton, FL.  Good for them.  And good for us to have them with the fleet in Rockland where they had booked space for several weeks.  Craig and I had a lovely visit aboard their boat for a glass of wine.  Sadly, we had to cut our visit short as “duty called” and we had to rush off to yet another event.

After three days on the docks in Rockland and lots of fun, the fleet headed to nearby Pulpit Harbor, a favorite of mine.  It was nice to see the fleet filling the harbor.  At least a few of the locals, seeing their harbor jammed with boats, must have wondered who we were.    One of the other captains took this lovely shot of Pandora with the harbor’s namesake, the Pulpit, in the distance. That evening one couple on the trip opened up their boat for a cocktail party.  No wonder cruising cats have become so popular.   Loads of room up on the bow. And in the cockpit.   I was told that there were 35 aboard.  And it wasn’t all that crowded. From there we headed to Buck’s Harbor and the marina run by John Buck (no relation) and his wife Jessica along with their three children.   John, it seems, purchased the marina so he could have his family in Maine for the summers.  In his “real life” he owns a successful medical supply company.  Nicely done John.

Their children seem to be pretty happy to be there with the older ones helping out in the marina and the youngest having a grand old time, repeatedly jumping into the water, unconcerned about the cold waters. At the marina we had a “DYI lobster boil”.  John “boiled” and everyone brought along their own potatoes, corn and whatever else they wanted to include.

I had mentioned to the fleet that they should visit Hamilton Marine in Rockland and purchase bait bags to cook their potatoes and corn in.  I later learned that once the fleet descended on Hamilton the manager quickly set up a display of bibs, towels, crackers and of course bait bags.   It’s nice to know that the local merchants noticed an uptick in business with the Dawgs in town.

Lobsters are selling at an all time high this summer and yet, John offered them at a very reasonable price of $18 so everyone was able to get a generous 1.5lb lobster, cooked and ready to eat.   Interestingly, John carefully removed all of the rubber bands,  before cooking them, declaring that if you left them on they would leach into the water and give the lobsters a funny taste.   Also, he recommends steaming them but not submerging them into boiling water.  Who knew? The group seemed to have a great time.  When the heavens opened up with a late evening cloudburst, everyone just strolled into the office until things let up. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Buck’s Harbor, do it.  It’s a wonderful spot.  However, be prepared to live a bit more “off the grid” as the cell reception is very weak.   Actually, that’s probably a good thing given our obsession with being connected all the time, present company included.  Oh yeah, they have outdoor showers.   I generally shower aboard Pandora but could not resist doing so in the great outdoors with a view of the harbor.    It was in the high 50s and I can say that the experience of being out in the chilly air and under a steaming shower was singular.    After Buck’s we all headed to Belfast for a final event, a tour of Front Street Shipyard followed by a happy hour on their deck overlooking the harbor.

The Shipyard is a very impressive spot and while there’s lots to tell, I think that I will stop here and reserve all that for my next post in a few days.  It’s sufficient to say that the Shipyard and all of the huge yachts that they service was an amazing spot.   Perhaps I’ll tease you with this.  They have a machine that using nothing but high pressure water, can cut through 9″ of stainless steel.

I saw that in action.  Amazing and that was only one stop along the way.

Being in Maine again was such a treat and I can’t wait to head back up with Brenda, Chris and Melody in a few weeks for some more cruising.

Wow, that’s about all I can say about the experience of being in Maine again and  it was great fun to do the rally with so many others that were as enthusiastic about being there as I was.   I can’t wait to go back.

With the Down East Rally history, I can now turn my attention to the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.   No rest for the weary…

 

We made it to Maine. It’s good to be back.

It’s Sunday and the Down East Rally fleet has arrived in Rockland.  I was able to arrange for a special “event” with the city of Rockland that would allow us to take over the entire public pier for three days.  To see more than 20 of our boats tied up and happy to be in Rockland is rewarding to me as so much effort by me and so many other volunteers goes into each rally, it’s nice to see things come off with a minimum of mayhem.  Cruisers rarely pay for dock space when they are on the move as costs can add up and quickly overwhelm a cruising kitty.

Here in Rockland dockage normally, costs $2.50/ft/day, but for this “event” the total is only $125 per boat for the entire three days.  That’s a big discount and well worth the price.  To make this happen I had to apply for an special permit with both the harbor commission and city council.  It took several months to put everything in place.

The smallest boat in the fleet is Aquila at less than 30′ and she arrived after a very long crossing at nearly midnight last night.  I had been in touch with them once they were within cell range and had hoped that I’d be able to meet them at the dock and help tie them up.  However, as the night wore on, I suggested that they just pick up a mooring in the harbor and wait until light to move onto the dock.  Lori, one of two on board, is new to all this and she told me “we have stories to tell”.  I’ll bet.  They don’t have radar or AIS but they do have a good chart plotter so at least they can tell where they are going if not where others are going at the same time.   The ever-present issue that concerns all us in fog is how “two objects can not occupy the same space and time”.  Crunch…  Stressful.

We arrived in Rockland yesterday late morning with a number of other boats with the rest trickling in as the day progressed.    The 165 mile run from Mattapoisett began for most of us on Friday morning at 07:00 in the fog, which got progressively worse as we got closer to the canal where visibility was a little more than a few boat lengths.  Actually, from the moment that we left Newport on our way to Cuttyhunk and then on to Mattapoisett, we had three days of heavy fog.

Cuttyhunk Harbor was pretty thick.  Craig and I hiked up the the summit at the center of the island.   Seeing this picnic table brought back bitter sweet memories of a very special week of cruising years ago with my sons Rob and Christopher and my dad.  It was Dad’s last time aboard.
The scene on this trip was a lot more barren without the four of us.  I will admit that it made me a bit sad but what a wonderful memory. When we left Cuttyhunk, yep, more fog.  Not to be deterred, the crew of Gypsy Soul mugged for the camera. As we entered the canal the current was beginning to run in our favor which was a good thing as the current runs very hard, up to 5kts when it’s at full flood or ebb so there is no way that we could have gone through against it.

Fortunately, the current was a big help as we had timed our transit to coincide with the beginning of the flood.  However, the fog was so thick that we could only see about 75′ as we picked our way from buoy to buoy the last mile or so to the entrance.  It was nerve wracking.  At one point there were a number of small runabouts passing us and they were very had to see on radar and surely didn’t have AIS trackers.The most fun part was when a 100ft+ yacht finally loomed out of the fog.  I saw them on AIS and radar but they were actually beside us before we even saw them.

As the fog lifted, it was fun to see so many Dawg boats filing through the canal together. Brenda’s friend Karen, who lives on Cape, agreed to come down and wave to us as we passed by.  That was fun.  She took photos of nearly all the boats in the fleet as they came by including this one of Pandora.  Karen and George on the “quay”.  The fog persisted until we were nearly out into the Gulf of Maine.  Amazingly, the gulf side was completely clear and remained so all the way to Rockland.

There wasn’t much wind until we were about 25 miles into the gulf and it drove us along quite well until early evening when a squall line came through.  Someone on another boat sent me a photo.  I was so busy getting Pandora ready for the arrival of the squall that I didn’t have time to get a good photo.  I am told that this formation is called a roll cloud.   It looked pretty ominous bearing down on us.The rest of the trip was fairly benign and by the time we entered Penobscot Bay the seas were nearly glass calm.   As expected, there were loads of lobster pots to dodge.  Welcome to Maine.

You really get a feel for how remote some of these islands are.  Look at these houses lined up with low scrub as the only sign of vegetation.  I can only imagine what life here must be like in the winter.  Owls Head light is a beacon alerting us that Rockland was just a short distance away.   Seeing the light reminded me of so many other trips to Maine.  I think this may be my 16th in a series of three different boats.So, here we are all tied up, 21 boats, for three days in Rockland.Actually, I wasn’t able to fit all the boats in the frame.  Pandora and a few others are off to stage right.  The blue “boat” behind me is owned by the NY Developer Larry Silverstein.  You may remember that name as the guy who purchased the World Trade towers about two months before they were taken down in the 9/11 terrorist attack.  It took years to collect on the insurance from that disaster.  I guess he finally got his money. Today is rainy but the rest of the week promises to be pretty nice.  With a heat wave hitting the NY area, the high here today will be a chilly and rainy 65.

Later today, off to the Farnsworth Museum, home to paintings by three generations of the Wyeth family, NC, Andrew and Jamie.  looking forward to that.  Perhaps there will be time to see the Maine Lighthouse Museum too.

And, don’t forget a visit to Hamilton Marine to find some must have items.

Tonight all the Dawgs descend on a local brew pub.  When I asked the manager yesterday if that was Ok, his reaction “I guess I had better get another bar tender”, delivered in a classic Maine understatement.

We made it to Maine.  Indeed, it’s good to be here.

More to come, including Brenda on Sunday I HOPE!