Monthly Archives: September 2009

>A dash back to Norwalk and home


We spent the last two days in Wickford at one of our favorite places, Pleasant Street Wharf with our friends Sandy and Eric who co-own the yard with various family members. Our plan was to stay two days and then to bump down the coast and end up in Norwalk on Thursday afternoon. However, with some rain in the forecast in the next few days and strong winds from the NE we decided to make the run all the way to Norwalk from Wickford today, a run of just over 100 miles, a long way in a boat doing 6.5 knots. We left the dock at 07:30 today under power as the winds were very light and seas calm. We could have waited till Wednesday and sailed in strong NE winds but I don’t want to push my luck with Brenda who has been just terrific on this trip in spite of some really dramatic sailing. Fun for me but trying for her. Ask Brenda what her favorite part of sailing and she will happily say “being anchored”. So, no need to push my luck or do what our son Rob would say was a “career limiting move” by putting Brenda out in yet another snotty day of sailing on our trip home from Maine.
By 10am we passed Pt Judith and expect to be at the Race (where Long Island Sound empties into Block Island Sound) by early afternoon, unfortunately, just in time for the tide to turn against us. We normally cruise under power about 6.5 to 7 kts (a knot is about 1.1 Statute or land miles per hour). When the tide turns against us we will face a head tide running at 2-4 knots against us so it will be slow going for some time as the tides run hard in the eastern part of the Sound. We will continue to buck the tide for the next 7 hours until it turns in our favor and begins to flood or head west. While the current will be against us for the entire ebb tide, we will face a decreasing current as we move further west as it runs strongest in the eastern part of the Sound. After the tide turns in our favor late in the afternoon we will pick up a small boost of about 1 knot as we continue west toward Norwalk. It’s hard to predict how long it will take us to make it to Norwalk which depends on tides and wind but I expect that we will arrive around 2am on Wednesday morning.

This will be Brenda’s first night sail of any consequence but it will be a good experience for her as she is intimidated by the idea of being underway in the dark. Personally, I enjoy being out at night as there isn’t a lot of boat traffic and it’s usually calm.
We will have to see how it goes but we are certainly headed in the right direction.
A few months ago I did a post for our visit to Watch Hill RI and mentioned Aphrodite, a great boat built by the Purdy Boat Company back in in the 30s. It was restored a number of years ago in Brooklin Maine, where we saw her under construction, and is now in absolutely terrific shape. Interestingly, I received an e-mail today from his grandson and historian for the Purdy Boat Company, Alan Dinn, who had seen my blog posts on the boat that his Grandfather had built years ago. He mentioned that he had written a book on the history of the company and is currently writing one about Aphrodite. This is certainly great news and I hope to learn more about his plans.
Here’s what the Armchair Sailor book store had to say about Alan’s book.
“Sailors of the early twentieth century knew the reputation of Purdy Boats. “Anybody that wanted their boat kept like it was going to be in Tiffany’s window, that’s where you went, to Purdy’s”, one commented. That reputation for quality, not only in maintenance but also design and manufacture, led many captains of finance and industry (such as Walter P. Chrysler, Nelson Doubleday, Williams L. Mellon and Herbert L. Pratt) and boating enthusiasts (like Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, Adrian Iselin II, George Ratsey, and Charles F. Chapman) to buy their boats from the yard on the shore of Port Washington’s Manhasset Bay in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet just twenty years later, this remarkable producer of custom yachts and racing boats had built its last boat. Who were these boatbuilding Purdys – where did they come from, how did they learn their trade, how did they disappear so completely, and what were some of their classic products? Alan Dinn, a grandson of Ned Purdy, has compiled a rich, authoritative history of the Purdy Boat Company based on official company documents and correspondence and reminiscences of family members and boat owners. The intriguing story of the Purdys is augmented with many photographs and line drawings of classic Purdy Boats.”

Stay tuned for more information on Alan’s new book.

>Back into familiar waters


On Saturday we went through the Cape Cod Canal and re-entered the more familiar waters south of the Cape. The Canal was incredibly busy with lots of boat traffic coming and going. We can only go through with the current as it runs hard in both directions. We were able to time it well and entered on a solid ebb to the west which sped our passage.
We waved to the Coasties. They waved back.
A very nice trawler. If I didn’t have a sailboat, I’d have a trawler. However, it woudn’t be as big as this one. A great looking boat. I wasn’t able to read her hailing port but I’ll bet that they get around in this boat.
Our first stop was Hadley Harbor in Wood’s Hole, a place we have been visiting for nearly 3o years. However, we had never gone there on a holiday weekend. In spite of our best efforts we were unable to find a spot inside as it was just jammed with boats and had to anchor out in the harbor adjacent to the Woods Hole thoroughfare. With a forecast of 20 knots of wind from the northeast, I wasn’t looking forward to what would surely be a bumpy night. Well, the weather forecast did not disappoint and by 1:30am we were sitting in a very Roley anchorage with steady 20 knots of wind with gusts to 25. Very unpleasant. For the first time in many years I sat up for a few hours to be sure that we didn’t drag our anchor. I also set an alarm on the GPS that would go off if we moved too far toward shore.

I wasn’t the only one that was up for a while as a number of boats dragged including two that ended up on the rocks before they knew what was happening. The were all able to get off because the tide was rising. They were lucky. Lots of action in the anchorage as boats were moving around resetting their anchors. Quite chaotic and lots of fun at 2am. I don’t think that I will be able to convince Brenda to go there again for a while.

On Sunday morning we continued west with the very strong north east winds and left as soon as I was able to get the dog ashore for his morning visit. It was so rough that it took me about 5 approaches to get back on board from the dink. I kept on being blown off as the boat pitched in the rough chop.
Once we were underway, with solid winds in the 20s and higher gusts against a full flood tide going in the opposite direction of the wind we had a wild ride. Buzzard’s Bay is known for short steep waves and when the wind opposes the tide the waves really build up. I have spoken to folks who have sailed all over the world and they say that the “Buzzards Bay Chop” provides some of the nastiest conditions that they have encountered anywhere. Yesterday, it didn’t disappoint. Even with a full knot of tide against us we were showing a solid 8 knots on the GPS with some periods when we were going 9.5 knots. That suggests that we were actually going over 10, and that’s fast for our boat. As usual, we passed a number of other boats along the way, some much bigger and that made me happy. Pandora handled it very well and the autopilot was able to hold her on a broad reach, a difficult point of sail. We had one reef in the main and the jib up which was quite manageable. This video doesn’t do justice to the conditions as the waves looked much bigger to us. I guess it’s an excellent example of “you had to be there”. Brenda wasn’t happy but took it like a champ.

After an exhilarating run we decided to head to Wickford again and to visit Pleasant Street Wharf, our home away from home. Recall that we kept Pandora in Wickford for the month of July prior to running her to Maine. We had a very nice dinner with our friends Eric and Sandy last evening at the marina. Eric was kind enough to find a place on the dock for Pandora. We will be taking a lay day today and plan to head west tomorrow, Tuesday as we continue toward Norwalk.

>Rockport, continuing to the Canal

>On Thursday we headed from Isle of Shoals to Rockport, an impossibly small harbor on the tip of Cape Anne. That’s a treacherous point of land that juts out into the Gulf of Maine about half way between Portland and the Canal on Cape Cod. Gloucester is there but we opted to visit Rockland instead. To see the amazingly high breakwaters in the mouth of the harbor suggests that the seas get really big. At low tide they have to be over 25′ tall. In a local book store we saw a photo of seas breaking solidly over those same walls during the “Perfect Storm”. Water rushed down Main Street many feet deep and all white foam. Fortunately, while we were there it was much calmer. The harbor is so small that I could barely turn Pandora around in the channel. I was told that the waiting list for a mooring in the harbor is 25 years. Judging by the age of the folks getting off of their boats on the two days that we visited suggested that they may have waited even longer. We took a spot on the only guest float in the harbor. We were lucky to have been able to get it. I always want to be close to the dock so I can get ashore easily with Rip. In this case I couldn’t have gotten any closer. This is a shot of the yacht club, a very friendly place.If you can’t get a float the only option is to tie up to the pilings. Some prefer this as they can get right ashore. However, you have to climb up 12′ of slimy ladder at low tide. The range of tide here is over 9′. It would have been a tough call to convince Brenda that this was a better option than the float. Not sure how I would have managed getting Rip ashore. You can see how high the docks are, and it’s not even low tide yet. They say that this is the most photographed red building in America. How do they know that? I added to the number of photos I guess. It’s very picturesque. And the lobster boats really add to the ambiance. Below us on our float. Very convenient to the dock. On our trip out of Rockport to Situate we saw a massive sea turtle. Too bad that we couldn’t have gotten closer. He took a good luck at us and swam away. I was struck by how serene he looked. Not in a big rush but easily able to dive away and avoid us.

A lovely schooner headed across our stern into Boston, I think. Not much wind today and we had to motor much of the way.

Cape Anne is guarded by twin lights. This gives you an idea of how serious this area is and the need to avoid running ashore. This is the eastern approach to Gloucester and a very busy area for commercial fishing.

>Discovering the Isle of Shoals

>It’s early on Wednesday morning as I write this and we are sitting on a mooring at Isles of Shoals an archipelago of eight islands, half in Maine and half in New Hampshire Located six miles off of Portsmouth New Hampshire. Three of the islands are connected by breakwaters which create a snug harbor that is protected from the prevailing southwest winds.

Yesterday we made our way from Biddeford Pool, part of the way under sail and the rest under power, to this lovely group of islands. With the exception of a few rocky spots along the coast, Isles of Shoals is one of the only group of islands located between Portland and the Cape Cod Canal, a distance of more than one hundred miles. As has been the case since we arrived to bring Pandora back, the winds have been from the north or northeast, perfect, and not the standard as the prevailing winds are from the southwest, and right on the nose.

There is a long history here with the first description of the islands made by Captain John Smith in 1614 who was quite taken by the place. He described it as “Of the foure parts of the world that I have seene not inhabited could I have but the meanes to transport a conlonie, I would rather live here than any where.” When Europeans first settled here it was for fishing as the quantity of cod in these waters was unrivaled. Since that time the islands have been home to Blackbeard the pirate as well as a number of famous poets and colorful characters. Legend has it that Blackbeard buried treasure here. Unfortunately, with the exception of two large silver bars discovered in the 1800s, no treasure has been found yet in spite of some very determined searches. In 1872 a large resort was built called the Oceanic House which still stands today albeit operated by a different group, the Star Island Corporation The “hotel” is quite impressive as it’s very unusual to see such a massive structure of wood today. As you can imagine, there is a strict no smoking policy on the island. It’s primarily a religious retreat today and you can still sign up to spend a week or more in “contemplation”. Sounds entirely too quiet for me.

A view of some of the buildings on Star Island, with the “hotel” and lots of other historic buildings. It’s quite a wonderful little village. Some are community buildings for meetings and such.The island chapel. It seems that there are a lot of weddings held here. Albeit, casual affairs as that’s the theme of the island.A view through the door of the chapel. What a quaint place. The alter was decorated with local wild flowers. One of the lovely stone buildings. The place is well staffed and incredibly well kept.
The harbor is jammed with moorings, all on top of each other, and even on a weekday there are quite a few boats in residence including some that look like have come a bit of a way to get here. I saw one that hailed from Virginia and another from Westport CT. I can’t imagine how busy it must be on a major holiday weekend. This photo suggests that Pandora was on a mooring all by herself. Actually there were boats all around but most had left prior to our heading out. There are a collection of dories in the harbor for the locals to use in exploring the islands. This light guards the southern approach to the Shoals. This view was taken from Star Island. It was very close indeed. This flower, shot on the island, sums up the weather that we have been having all week.
We are still about 75 miles from the Canal and won’t be going very far today, probably down toward Gloucester.

>Leaving Maine soon and heading home

>As I write this it’s early on Tuesday morning and we are on a mooring in Biddeford Pool, just off of the mouth of the SACO river, just south of Portland Maine. Yesterday we had a really terrific sail, hard on a NW wind, thanks to the last hurricane that passed by over the weekend. Usually, the winds are from the SW which would have made this an uphill slog so the fair winds were welcomed. Here’s a video that I took with Brenda’s new web camera that I took while we were bashing along to windward on the way to Biddeford.

With heavy rains forecasted for Saturday we decided to stay home instead of joining Pandora in Maine on Friday evening. So, instead, we left early on Sunday morning and drove our rental car to the Portland Airport in Maine and had a car pick us up for the last 1 1/2 hour drive to the boat.

I had some work done on the boat to take some vibration out of the engine which had been causing some difficulty this summer while we were away. Well, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease as the guy who did the work last week left two of the main deck hatches open. Well, imagine what the main salon looked like after a day of heavy rain being scooped down below. It was a swamp with the area rugs and cushions just soaked. When I began to move all of our gear out to the boat I immediately noticed that the two hatches in the main cabin were open and nearly had a stroke. Down below as a real mess and I was overwhelmed and upset, to say the least. The rug was so wet that water ran out of it when I picked it up and the same for the setee cushions. And the dining table varnish had turned the color of wax and looked awful. All the wet cushions weighed a lot and even moving them to the cockpit made everything along the way wet. Ugh!!!

Our friends, who were letting us use their mooring, were very gracious and assisted in setting the cushions out in their basement with a heater and fans to see what we could do to get things dried out prior to our departure on Monday morning. It made for a frantic evening but all the cushions were, amazingly, much drier the next morning thanks to a heater that made the basement nearly 90 degrees over night. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if the boat had sat for a week in that condition.

We will have to see how it all works out but perhaps new cushions are in our future this Fall. Oh well, the fun of boat ownership. They say that “into every life a little rain must fall”. I wonder if “they” were referring to rain falling in the inside of a boat. Not likely.

After getting all of our sodden stuff off the boat our friends loaned us a car, again very nice, to head off for our planned dinner with our new friend Ed, who we met on one of our last evenings on our last trip when we spent the night in “oven mouth” about 5 miles from where we had moored Pandora. Ed, while hearing our tale of woe treated us to an amazing lobster dinner. He cooked 7, I think. What a feast!! We even cooked some large crabs that he had also caught. I wished that I had brought my camera along but in the rush to “escape” from the sodden Pandora I forgot it.

Ed took pity on us and offered a spare bedroom for us to say in. We enjoyed his company till nearly midnight and had really wonderful evening.

Ed’s home overlooks the water and is furnished in a really lovely semi-nautical decor. You can see a lifetime of experiences in what he has in his home where he lives with his dog Phoebe. He has a wonderful collection of Victorian oyster plates displayed on his wall. Very nice. These plates predate the wide use of shaved ice to serve oysters and have ornate indentations that you set shucked oysters in. I am not describing them well. Of course, a discussion about oyster plates wouldn’t be complete without a link to Lots of photos at that site but none as nice as Ed’s. Here’s one example from the site. In a day of lots of crushed ice these plates aren’t in style any more.

Another benefit of the two hurricanes that have run by in the last two weeks is that they have cleared out the unsettled weather that has dogged us all summer. The weather this week is just unbelievable with sunny days in the forecast for the next 10 days.

Our host at the quaint Biddeford Pool Yacht Club is a fellow SAGA owner Peter, a great guy. Peter is a retired new car dealer and has, with his partner, a substantial vintage car collection. His site shows what an amazing collection he has. I understand that his 507 1957 BMW is one of only 200 made. My son Rob, the family motorhead would loose his mind over that car, I am sure. We met Peter and his wife Gina last summer in Rockland Maine at an informal rendezvous of SAGA owners. There was even one couple who live in Juno Alaska, although only for the summer. They winter on their SAGA in Baha when it’s too cold up north.

Back to Biddeford Pool. This tiny harbor is easy access on the way south from Portland and, in it’s heyday, was the summer home of Howard Taft. In the yacht club is a photo of a paddle wheeler arriving with the president. He had his summer home on the point.

A casualty of the hurricane. Not fun and they hope to float the boat off with high tide scheduled for later in week at the full moon.

We went for a walk along the shore and enjoyed the sights.

The very quaint Biddeford Pool Yacht Club.

From Biddeford we continued south to Isle of Shoals off of Rye New Hamshire. More about that visit soon.