Monthly Archives: January 2019

Like minded, blue water sailors together!

Ok, perhaps the title of this post doesn’t exactly flow off the tongue.  Let me explain.

For the last six years my cruiser friend George and I have been putting on an event in Essex CT at the Essex Yacht Club, with the goal of offering what George would refer to as an opportunity to bring together a group of “like minded people”, folks that enjoy being on the water.  Every June we have put on a two to three day event that includes a series of talks about cruising on small boats in partnership with The Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA.

This year, with all of that free time I have on my hands, I thought that I’d try something new and likely more complex.  Silly me.   Free time you ask?  Did I mention that Pandora is on the hard and I am stuck in this Arctic place for the ENTIRE winter?

Well, here I am and as I write this it’s -1 degree F outside so at least I can think about sailing to warmer waters.   However, if doing an event with one group wasn’t complicated enough, how about organizing an event with three?    Along with my membership in SSCA, I am also a member of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, SDSA and am a fairly new member of the Ocean Cruising Club, OCC.  That’s three groups with complimentary missions so three it is.

At the risk of someone taking issue with my description of what these groups are all about, here’s how I see their missions.

SSCA is the group that years ago brought me and Brenda into the fold of cruising and living aboard for extended periods.  Simply stated the group celebrates the cruising lifestyle.  A simple mission and a group loaded with many folks like our friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo and the Melinda and her late husband Harry of Sea Schell, that nurtured me and Brenda along the way on our first winter heading south on the Intra Coastal Waterway, ICW.

Of course, there were many more SSCA members, as we made our way south, that held out hands as we adjusted to life afloat during that first eight month run south in 2012.  Maureen and Melinda, were so great and went out of their way to make Brenda feel special for her birthday that first year.   That’s Bill in the background waiting for his piece of chocolate cake. The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, a group that in only a few short years became the organizers of what is now the largest rally to the Caribbean from the US East Coast.   SDSA, is dedicated to educating sailors and their crew to prepare for the rigors of offshore sailing and they do a wonderful job at it.   It’s very exciting to be part of the nearly week long events in Hampton VA as skippers and crew from nearly 100 boats attend seminars, have parties and get ready to head south.

For the last two years, I have held the position of Port Captain for the rally in  Antigua and let me tell you, it’s been a wonderful experience.  Along with the fun I’ve had with the folks headed to Antigua, I have also made some great friends on that island.  Antigua isn’t the only landfall for the group and some boats opt to go to the BVIs or the Bahamas, but I’m biased and feel that Antigua is THE PLACE to make landfall in the Caribbean.  I wrote quite a few posts about Antigua but perhaps this recent post best sums up the fun we had when the fleet arrived in November.   I can not stress enough how supportive everyone in Antigua has been to our rally.

The third group that is involved in this year’s event is the Ocean Cruising Club, a group that I joined just over a year ago when I was in Antigua.  They celebrate blue water sailing and to join you must complete at least one ocean passage of a minimum of 1,000 miles, and you have to do it in a boat that’s less than 70 long.  No 3,000 passenger cruise ship rides for their members!

Just for fun, I wrote about my joining the group last winter in this post along with a bit about the wonder of sitting on Pandora’s bow and ringing in the New Year, complete with fireworks, in historic Nelson’s Dockyard.  OCC is out of the UK and has around 2,500 members worldwide, making them one of the largest groups of it’s kind.

As a side note, Brenda and I were trying to decide where in Europe to go in the spring and hearing about the annual meeting of OCC, to be held in Wales, clinched the deal.   So, we’re headed to the UK for a few weeks in early April.  We plan on covering a lot of ground in England, Wales and Scotland while are there so it will be great to get some local knowledge from the folks at the Wales event.  So far, they have been amazingly supportive and we are getting very excited about the trip.

Part of the three day event will be held in clubhouse of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club.  Among their claims to fame is that their clubhouse, located in a castle no less, is the oldest clubhouse of any yacht club in the world, originally built in 1283.  However, the club isn’t nearly that old.  Heck, it’s practically brand new as it was only founded in 1847.   Ok, perhaps the place doesn’t look quite the same these days as in this etching below, but it’s still in a castle, which is awesome, for sure.  I couldn’t come up with any decent photos so you’ll have to wait till April.  I wonder if they serve mead in the bar?  Hmm…There wasn’t much yachting going on in the 13th century, more like sailing around and pillaging, I expect.  One way or the other, it will be fun to visit a club that can say, with a straight face, “our home is a castle.”  

These three groups share a common bond as cruisers who love to spend time on the water but their missions are unique and very complimentary.  Happily, all three, along with the Essex Yacht Club have agreed to be involved.

George and I are pretty excited about this event, scheduled to run for three days, beginning with a rendezvous of members of the clubs in nearby Hamburg Cove, about a mile north of Essex.  This is a beautiful perfectly protected harbor and as if that’s not enough, it’s fresh water, something that we cruisers don’t see much of.

Hamburg cove is filled with moorings.  Most of the moorings are only used on weekends, when the hordes show up, but if you visit during the week you will be virtually alone in a beautiful spot.

I don’t seem to have any shots of the harbor, that I can find at least, but this shot taken by my friend Liz shows the Onrust, a reproduction of Adrian Block’s boat, the one that he cruised the area with back in the “olden days”.  I expect that the members of the RWYC would remind you that Block was late in the game, nearly 400 years after the first buildings of the castle where there clubhouse is located was first built,  Anyway, here’s the Onrust on the river just outside of Hamburg cove.  The river is very scenic.  Just a bit farther up the river is Selden Creek, a really narrow and beautiful, cut off of the river.  It can be tough to get over the bar at the entrance but once but once you are inside, it’s plenty deep and stunning.  You can anchor fore and aft if you tie up to a spot on the bank.  There’s an iron ring cemented into a cliff on the bank.  This was our first Pandora, a SAGA 43 tied up there, way back in 2007.As tempting as it may be to climb up the rock and jump into the water, don’t do it as it’s private property.  Years ago, our son Rob broke the rules.  Don’t tell anyone. He and a friend jumped off of the “private” rock. What goes up, must come down.
So, first we will have a rendezvous in Hamburg Cove with those who are attending the event at the Essex Yacht Club.

Then off for the one mile run to the Essex Yacht Club and the village of Essex, the home to the CT River Museum ,where the Onrust is berthed these days.  She’s available for cruises on the river through the CT River Museum, also a great place to visit.   I wrote about her in this post when she first arrived in the area.  She’s beautifully built and worth seeing. Essex Harbor is quite large and while there are lots of moorings for rent, there is also plenty of room to anchor on the far side of the river.   This shot, from the air, is compliments of the CT River Museum. It’s a beautiful harbor, especially in the early morning.  Fresh water here too.
There’s plenty to do in Essex, after hours.  A particularly popular spot is the bar in the Griswold Inn, known locally as simply, The Gris.  It’s one of the oldest,  or perhaps the oldest, pubs in the country, operating continuously since 1776.My favorite event, held every Monday night at the Gris, is sea chanteys performed by the group the Jovial Crew.  They always pack the house with a very colorful mix of locals and visitors.  If you join in the rowdy fun, you’ll see  folks wearing everything from foul weather gear, to suits and even an occasional kilt, complete with waxed mustache.   Trust me, it’s way more crowded and interesting than this shot suggests, and totally worth it. And, let’s not forget the Essex Yacht Club, where the event will be held, with Pandora conveniently out in front in this shot.  The agenda is coming along nicely and will include a program on weather routing by Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center, who’s flying up from FL to speak to us.  He will talk about changes in weather forecasting and weather routing as well as some information about passages to the Caribbean.   Here’s Chris at a past event when he spoke at the museum.   Yes, that’s a reproduction of a really early submarine, the Turtle.  It lives at the CT River Museum. We’ll also have talks about cruising in Maine, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.  All with a bent toward blue water sailing.

My friend, editor and publisher of Blue Water Sailing Magazine, George Day will also lead a number of round tables with experts on preparing for blue water sailing and passage making.

The plan is also to have a number of boats on display for boarding on the club bulkhead so that attendees can see, first hand, boats that are well fitted out for ocean voyaging.  It will be fun to compare notes with the folks that are out there doing it.

I also expect that we’ll be visited by the United States Coast Guard, that’s if the government shutdown ever ends and they start getting paid again.   The plan is to stage a live search and rescue demonstration with a J-Hawk chopper along with a visit by one of their cutters.  This is a shot of one of their choppers that I took up at the USCG station on Cape Cod.  Brenda and I were given a tour a few years ago.   What an awesome machine, and one that I never hope to get plucked out of the water by.  I wrote about our visit in this post. Well, there’s still more in the planning stages but George and I are really excited about how things shaping up so stay tuned to learn more.

Oh yeah, we’ll have some great meals at EYC and Chef Michael is known as one of the best chefs at any club on Long Island Sound.

One way or the other, if you enjoy blue water passage making or dream about doing it yourself one day, you should mark your calendar for June 21st to 23rd at the Essex Yacht Club.  It’s going to be great.

As George has often said, what’s better than being in the midst of a group of “like minded” people who love cruising and that’s exactly what we plan.

Like minded people who enjoy sailing on the ocean blue.

 

 

Those sweet waters of the Adirondacks.

When I was young, my parents took us to upstate NY in the Adirondacks each summer for a two week vacation.  In all the years we visited, and it was for as many summers as I can remember, it was always to the same spot, Lake Clear, just north of Saranac Lake.

I have wonderful vivid memories of those summer breaks, fishing, sailing on an old Sunfish and time spent watersking for hours each day.  I also remember the daily trips to a local gas station with my dad to fill up the fuel tanks for the boat.  Wow, but that boat, that we dubbed the “super pig” used gas.

When Brenda and I were newly married, we too took our time at Lake Clear and even considered buying a cottage, balking at what seemed like an unfathomably high cost of $50,000 for lakefront property in the late 70s.

While we had not yet begun to focus on sailing, I felt a strong pull to the water.

The cottage that we rented belonged to the Lathrops who were second generation owners of the property.  The cottage was impossibly quaint if a bit rough around the edges.  I seem to recall bringing our own vacuum to tidy up a bit when we arrived.    During those years, Brenda played the guitar.  Sadly, not these days but she has recently taken up the ukulele.   Fingers crossed that she will catch that bug again. I fell in love with the traditional boats of the area.  Perhaps the most iconic boat design of the region is the Guide Boat, so named because it was used for hunting and fishing by “sports” who visited the region by train from NYC to “rusticate”, beginning in the years after the close of the Civil War.  These boats were crewed by the builders themselves, who spent winters building the boats and summers taking visitors on guided hunting and fishing trips.   Guide boats are known for being easy to row and for being able to carry a lot of gear and as they had to as often it was a hunter, guide and any game that they may have bagged.

Windslow Homer spent time in the area too and painted this iconic image of a guide and his “sport”.   However, this may not actually be a guideboat but you get the general idea.I got the bug to have one of these beautiful boats but couldn’t afford to buy a “real” one.  Instead, I found someone who was offering a “bare hull” in Kevlar which I finished with walnut decks and cane seats.  I even carved out oars to pretty exact specs.   This is one sweet boat to row and very light. The hull and fitting design were taken off of the lines of a particular boat “Ghost”, built by H.D Grant.   The original boat is now in the collection of the Adirondack Museum, renamed the Adirondack Experience.

Plans for the boat, which I purchased from the museum, are now available from, oddly, Mystic Seaport.  The 16′ boat has beautiful lines and with her 8′ overlapping oars, is a dream to row.   It is said that a traditional guide boat is the fastest rowing boat you can find without a sliding seat.  The boat Ghost itself and museum are located on Blue Mountain Lake.  It’s a really great place to visit and has examples of many boats that plied the waters of the many lakes that dot the area.

Here’s are some of the sheets of the plans that I purchased. The plans even specify details down to the oarlocks which I was able to purchase from a foundry that had duplicated the design to be true to the original.  This design of boats has been remarkably popular for over 100 years and there are still boats being constructed using the exact same techniques and materials.  These boats are very tough to make as the materials are impossibly thin to keep the weight of the boats to a minimum given the need to portage, or hand carry, from one lake to the next.  There were many hotels dotting the lakes that featured guideboats for hire, complete with guides.We had many wonderful times heading out on picnics on the lake and nearby St Regis Lake.   Wow, what a dish.  Nice boat too. St Regis Lake was and is still today, home to many of the “Great Camps” where wealthy city dwellers would spend time “rusticating” in somewhat less than rustic conditions.

One of the most famous is the camp, Top Ridge, was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post, which she called a “rustic retreat”.  While the lake is home to many “camps”, hers was the most lavish, featuring nearly 70 buildings, including a Russian dacha.  She collected Russian art and her connection to the country was her third husband that served as the ambassador to the Soviet Union for a time.

I can still vividly recall seeing a plane at the nearby Adirondack Airport that my dad, an airplane buff, told me was hers as she still used the camp for vacationing and lavish entertaining when my family visited Lake Clear in the early years.    This is a photo of what was probably the plane I saw so many years ago as it’s the one that she used traveled in when she visited Top Ridge.  I’d guess that my father knew it was her plane because her name was right on the bow, “Merriweather.”While there was eventually there was a service road to the estate, during Post’s ownership all materials and visitors arrived by water, landing at this magnificent boathouse.  The largest building for the estate, above the boathouse, featured what was, at the time, the largest piece of plate glass in the area, offering a beautiful view of the lake. Following her death in 1973, she willed the compound to NY State that used it as a retreat for a number of years.  During that period it was open to the public so Brenda and I visited.  The state eventually sold the property to the flamboyant Roger Jakubowski, who had made millions selling hotdogs in the NY City area.

This article in Adirondack Life gives some interesting information about him, the property and it’s furnishings.  When we visited the estate, prior to his ownership, the main cabin was open for visitors and I recall many of the furnishings mentioned in the article.  This photo of the great room in the main building, is out of a wonderful book, Great Camps of the Adirondacks, that chronicles the history of these remarkable “camps”, er, estates.   It’s no longer in print but used copies are available at a very reasonable price on Amazon. Anyway, the estate is now owned by Hartlan Crow, a developer from Texas, who has substantially restored the camp.

Marjorie wealth was as a result of being the owner of General Foods and she was for a long time,  the wealthiest women in the country.  She became wealthy the old fashioned way, at the tender age of 27 she inherited the Postum Cereal Company, the predecessor to the company we’ve all heard of today.

The lake is also the home of a class of a very unique gaff rigged sloops, the Idem class.  Originally designed for the St Regis Yacht Club in 1899, the fleet consisted of a dozen boats.  How about this for a serious looking group of owners?Here’s a shot of them racing in 1900. Those same boats racing 100 years later. This is one we saw when Brenda and I visited the lake in our guideboat. One of the original dozen that were built is now on display in the Adirondack Museum with all of the others lovingly maintained and still kept on the lake.  In 2004 a new boat was built to the class so that now, once again, there are a dozen boats on the lake that race together.

As you can imagine, a great deal of work and care goes into keeping these boats in top shape more than 100 years after they were launched.  There is one shop in particular, Nik and Sons, that specializes in keeping these beauties on the water.  Here’s a shot of Idem Elfmere getting all new fastenings, 3000 in all.  When Post married for the second time, it was to E.F. Hutton and subsequently she and Hutton were the owners of Sea Cloud, built in Germany and launched in 1931.   When launched she was the largest privately owned yacht in the world.  We spied Sea Cloud in Bequia last winter, now a boutique cruise ship,  having many lives since being sold by Post in 1955,Post was also the builder and first owner of Mar-a-Lago, now owned by our current president, Trump, if somehow you missed his tweet reminding you.

Anyway, back to Lake Clear.  We took our guideboat up to St Regis and passed Topridge but by that time it was in private hands.  We portaged to nearby ponds and often stopped for a break at this spot, a huge rock just breaking the surface of Bear Pond.   This shot must have been from when we only had little Rob.  I recall that the water had a strange blue-green color and was impossibly clear. Anyway, visiting Lake Clear was a big part of my early years as well as when Brenda and I were newly married.   We spent many hours around the proverbial campfire at the Lathrop’s cabin nearby, first with just Rob and then Chris too. The four of us went on outings in the Guideboat.  And sat on the dock.  In our early years together, we rented a cabin with my parents.  This is them on the top of Whiteface mountain.  My mom is now nearly 90 and my dad’s been gone for about 5 years.  He was a great guy and I think about him every day and still miss him terribly.  Personally, I think he should have been given more time for “good behavior”. Not sure what this was all about but there were lots of shenanigans while the Osborn clan was visiting.
These days I am still very much a boat lover and spend as much time afloat as I can but then you already know that.  Today we spend more of our time on salt water with the sweet kind which is limited to our time on the CT River near our home.

However, is was those early days spending time on the sweet waters of the lakes of the Adirondacks and Lake Clear that ingrained, in me, a love of being on the water.

I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if Brenda and I had taken the plunge and purchased a camp.  While it would surely not have been a “great camp” it would have been terrific, never the less, all those years ago.

Who knows.  But, either way, it’s worked out pretty well.  Sweet, I’d say.  Yes, very sweet.

The boys on the boat. Is that safe?

As I have mentioned, Pandora is on the hard and me landlocked in freezing New England for the winter.   As a result of my “incarceration on the hard” I have also found myself thinking about “summers of old” and the sailing that Brenda and I did together and then later, with the boys, Rob and Chris who arrived on the scene, in that order.

From the time that Brenda and I married in 1977, you can do the math, but it’s been a good long while, we have had a boat, beginning two years after we married and with only a single year break when our second, Christopher was born.  Boating has been a big part of our lives together.

Recently I wrote about the purchases of Tao, our first boat, in the late 70s and since that post, I uncovered this lovely shot of her.  Chris and Pat were aboard for that particular run.    Those were the “pre-child” years and we had a lot of fun.

Note the long bowsprit that I added, complete with a laminated in “hog”, or bend.   The point was to set a small jib on it to get a bit more speed.  It really never worked all that well but sure looked snazzy and was a great spot to hang a CQR anchor.   And, with her “sprit”, what a great looking boat.Anyway, I was speaking of fun, but I won’t talk about the fateful evening that Pat, who happens to be of second generation of Japanese heritage, about how she acquainted us with sake.  No, I take that back, I will tell… 

Anyway, we were anchored off of Norwalk CT on Long Island Sound and somehow, after a cup or more, perhaps a lot more, of sake, we somehow managed to drop the sake-heating pan overboard.

“So, Bob, were you able to get the pot back?”   Actually, I did as somehow I had the presence of mind, in the “heat of the moment”, get it, the pot we “heated” the sake in?,  to drop a “lead line” over the stern with a float, to mark the spot.

Lead line you ask?  For those of you that aren’t “of a certain age”, it’s a lead weight of several pounds that is attached to a piece of line with knots every 6′, or fathom, that is tossed overboard to determine the depth.  Of course, you have to hold the bitter end.  However, nobody carries one of those these days with the advent of electronic depth finders.

Anyway, the next morning I went for a swim to retrieve the pot and probably to clear my sake muddled head.    Over the years we spent many days and nights with Chris and Pat and once they purchased their own boat, a lovely little 23′ Seasprite and we rafted up nearly every weekend.   Of course, by that point we had sold Tao and moved up as well, if going from 20′ to 22′ was really “up”, to our Marshall 22 Sappho. We had many fun weekends aboard and some still involved sake.  So, after perhaps one too many nights afloat, perhaps with more sake, somehow Brenda began to change shape, especially in one particular spot.  How’d that happen?Suddenly, we had babies on board.   Both Rob and Chris were aboard by 3 months old, 25 months apart, of course.

And, speaking of having small children aboard, Brenda recalls a particularly upsetting visit with Christopher’s pediatrician when he questioned her about the mosquito bites that he had “acquired” the prior weekend.   When she told him that he had been aboard a small boat. his reaction was a less than supportive when he said “is that safe”.  In her head she wailed “I, I, I don’t knoooow…”

Go ahead Chris, have a sip of beer, it will take the edge off of those skeeter bites.
Boating aside, we still vacationed up in the Adirondacks for a number of years before chucking that for more time aboard.  Yes, I know that this doesn’t really fit in the post but it’s such a great shot, I had to use it. 
Over the years, the boys got bigger. And bigger still.  And then even a bit bigger.  We fed ducks.  Isn’t that what all kids do?  And always with the most nutritious white Wonder Bread, of course.
Along the way we joined in on a big celebration of The Catboat Association at Mystic Seaport.   There were many catboats, a lot of catboats.   These photos were taken from high up in the rigging of the Charles W. Morgan.   Not by me, I am too much of a chicken for heights and it was a clandestine visit to boot. Those were great times.   Then we were “post-catboat” and onto our much larger at 38′ long, a Pearson Invicta yawl Artemis.  The boys were getting bigger too. Along the way, Chris and Pat decided to get in on the action and had one of their own, Travers, the first of two for them. The too got a bigger boat. a Luders 33, which they still own, to this day. Always a bit of a daredevel, Rob always wanted to go aloft.  This time on a friends boat, a lovely, Alajuea 38, Cimba, owned by our friends Linda and Frank.  Years later they cruised all through the Caribbean, both east and west, staying away for 7 years before “retiring” to Maine.

As an interesting side note, their son Peter, after growing up around all sorts of boats, opted to sail around the world when he graduated from college.  His mother wasn’t amused but he made it back safely. Frank spent time with Rob teaching him some knots.   And yes, Rob was bigger then as well. His brother Christopher wasn’t going to be left out from all that fun up the mast.  Both Chris and Rob were relentless in wanting to be aloft, sometimes when we were underway, to the constant torment of their Mother.    I recall a particularly fun time aloft for the boys as I put them each up the mast while we were sailing near Martha’s Vineyard West Chop,  a particularly bumpy piece of water.   As we bucked along each boy was repeatedly yanked up from the water, by the motion of the boat, and dramatically dumped into the next wave.  They just loved it.

As reported, their mother was not amused.  Perhaps the words of that pediatrician were still echoing in her head “are you sure that’s safe?”  Probably not, but they were wearing life preservers and just loved it.  Safe enough… I guess.

Brenda much preferred it when they horsed around closer to the surface of the water.   At that time we had a lovely little Dyer Dow, a great sailing dink.  However, as we all got bigger, there just wan’t enough freeboard to keep us safe so we graduated to an inflatable, the first of many until I finally got the memo to spend the “big bucks” to get a quality brand that would last more than a few years.  There was even some time for homework, or was it just coloring?
Sure enough, summer turned to fall but that didn’t keep us from the water.   And yes, you can see, if you look closely, that Christopher is wearing a safety harness under his winter coat, attached to a lifeline, to keep him safe, of course.As you can tell, I’ve been digging again through old photos and it’s been a lot of fun thinking back on all those years sailing weekends and on summer vacations aboard a series of increasingly bigger and unfortunately, more complicated and way more expensive boats.

And, as the boats got larger and more complicated, so did the boys.   They are both out on their own now, Rob, with a rapidly growing family, “now they are five”, and Chris so far away, out in Oakland CA, which his mother and I just hate, the distance, not CA.  But they are both doing really well and it’s great to watch them find their way in the world.

Anyway, before I get too weepy, I’ll wrap this up.  For sure, remembering is fun and we sure did have some really nice times aboard with the “boys on the boat”.

Who knows, perhaps soon Brenda and I will be able to take the next generation aboard Pandora and begin the whole process all over again.

But first, we’ll have to convince the mother of those adorable grandchildren that the answer to that question posed by that pediatrician so many years ago “is that safe?” is yes.

Who knows, perhaps one day one of them will decide to sail around the world.

You never know…  And, it would be doubly great if I’m still be around to follow along.  When the time comes, if it does, perhaps I’ll find myself wondering and worrying too if it’s safe.