Monthly Archives: September 2010

>Pandora’s back in Mystic and, oh, a visit to Nantucket for a wedding.

>Pandora is back in Mystic after a long visit to Maine.  I had planned to bring her back over the Labor Day weekend but hurricane Earle thought better of it so I left and went home to New Jersey.

Getting crew is always difficult as moving the boat is so weather dependent and plans can change quickly.  This year’s return from Maine proved to be more complex than most.  My plan for this year has always been to move Pandora back from Maine around Labor Day and then move her South to Annapolis for a bit of late season sailing.  With the demands of business, yes that pesky day job, I had to put Annapolis on the back burner for this season and instead keep Pandora in Norwalk for the winter. 

With my Labor Day run to CT dashed by hurricane warnings, I had to leave her in Rockland for two weeks while we visited Nantucket for the wedding of a friend the following weekend.   I have to say that visiting by ferry from Hyannis was a treat as Brenda and I had not visited the island for over 15 years, mostly because the cost to take a mooring in the harbor is the highest that we had encountered and just more than we have ever been comfortable.  On this visit I was told that the cost was something like $65 a night or more.   Contrast that to Martha’s Vineyard where they run $45 a night, and that’s without any sort of launch service included.  In other areas, like Maine for instance, moorings generally run in the $35 range and sometimes less. 

Nantucket is the most remote island you will run into within a modest distance of major cities on the Mid Atlantic and North East coast and, to me, it has a flavor that is a bit more sophisticated than the other islands I have visited in the area.   One point of interest on the island, worth noting, is the Nantucket Whaling Museum

I won’t say much about the museum except to say that it has a very impressive collection chronicling the history of the island and a lot of care has gone into putting the history of commercial whaling in context with the times.  The collection represents many cultures given the many places that whalers visited on their voyages.  A particularly impressive display is the skeleton of a whale hanging from the ceiling in the main hall salvaged from a dead whale that washed up on the Nantucket shore years ago.   It’s beautifully lit and displayed as you can see below.

And there is always the wonderful Brant Point Light, at the entrance to the harbor.   Who can resist the alure of the Rainbow Fleet of colorful Beetle Cat boats parading by this light?   Brenda and I served on the “steering committee” of the Catboat Association for many years so these wonderful little boats will always hold a special place in our heart.

Well, we had a great time in Nantucket and I have to say that the ferry from Hyannis and back was trouble free and very comfortable.  We won’t talk about the hours and hours that we drove to get from home to the Cape and back.  They even offer free WI-FI for passengers.

With the wedding weekend behind us I again turned my attention to finding yet another crew to bring Pandora back from Maine.  As the weeks ticked by the weather was only getting colder up in Maine and I was anxious to get the delivery over with.

It’s hard to find friends that have flexible schedules and the ability to leave for a trip with just a few days notice.  Beyond that, a trip to CT from Maine is “up hill” and against the prevailing winds, something that isn’t that appealing to most boaters.

I have made the run from Maine to CT many times over the 15 years that we have sailed in Maine and at the end of a long and wonderful season, and planning what is often an uncomfortable run can be stressful.  However, this trip proved to be much more pleasant than usual.

While sailors always prefer to, well, sail but that’s not normally the case when you have to go toward where the prevailing winds generally blow from.  In the North East that’s generally from the South West. 

In this case we got lucky and a front passing through the area brought North winds to help us get home without a fuss.   While we still had to motor nearly the entire way, 33 hours actually with a few hours of late afternoon sailing in Buzzard’s Bay, the trip was uneventful and thankfully, the wind was on our stern, if a bit light.

With a half moon and clear skies, we were treated to a fabulous view of the stars and a fair number of shooting stars.  It’s remarkable how clear the night sky is when you are away from the light of big cities.  At 1:30 on Saturday morning and 25 miles off of Boston, the light of the city was a just a red smudge on the Western sky.   With nothing obscure the night sky after the moon set at 1:30am, the view was breath taking. 

The run from Rockland to the Canal takes about 24 hours so we would be out over night for our run South.  We left Rockland harbor at 4pm on Friday and picked up the mooring in Mystic at 2am Sunday.  And that’s without stopping along the way.  Picking our way up the Mystic River in the dark was a bit of a challenge but we did it with a minimum of fuss.

There is always the hope that we will see whales along the way and this run didn’t disappoint.   A few finback whales, nearly 30 feet in length, came very close to Pandora.  They are beautiful and graceful animals.

Now that Pandora is in Mystic I will take this weekend off to do some chores around the house and then head out for one last weekend with some friends when I bring her to Norwalk and her home for the Winter.

Alas, a great season of sailing is coming to an end.   Hopefully, our 2011 season will again take us to Maine and South to Annapolis.  All and all, a great season on the water aboard Pandora for me and Brenda.

>Where’s Pandora, Hurricanes and old towing cables in Rockland.

>After much debate, just prior to the Labor Day weekend, we decided to leave Pandora in Rockland and head back to NJ and home while waiting for hurricane Earle to make his run up the East Coast.   I had arranged for crew to bring her back over the long weekend but it was clear that, direct hit or not, the seas and weather were going to be unsettled for days to come and I didn’t want to extend our visit by a week while we waited for favorable NW winds to make our trip home.  It’s also difficult to get crew on short notice that have the flexibility to make a run with short notice as most work full time and have those “pesky day jobs” to worry about.  Fortunately, after leaving the boat and heading home, Earl had a lot less impact than expected, although you wouldn’t have known it if you watched the breathless reporting by the networks and the Weather Channel. 

It is amazing how weather has turned into a national obsession.   Who would have ever expected there to be cable shows, with millions of viewers, based solely on reporting on the weather.  I for one, get my weather from the Web as it’s a bit more dispassionate in it’s reporting.  The National Weather Service has never been known for their editorializing, and NOAA, and his/her robotic voice on VHF weather certainly doesn’t have the breathless delivery of a network anchor.

My favorite source for weather is and with the former a great source of long range forecasts, such as they are, and the latter good for marine wind directions for most locations up and down the East Coast.

With Earl bearing down on New England we headed home with the hope that Pandora would not be pounded by hours of strong easterly winds, a direction from which the harbor is heavily exposed.  Well, the decision was made to get a mooring and head home to wait out the storm. 

If you have ever visited Rockland, you probably know it as a great harbor with loads of moorings as well as space to anchor fairly near to town.   While I usually get a mooring, on our last visit, after paying for so many moorings over our six week visit in Maine, I decided to anchor, something that I have done in Rockland off and on over the years.  However, as is so often the case in heavily used old harbors, there is a risk of hooking an anchor on some sort of old junk that was jettisoned overboard as no longer usable. 

In over 30 years of sailing I have only snagged my anchor on something big twice.  Once in New York Harbor when I pulled up a massive old cable when I anchored off of Governor’s Island during an op-sail in the early 90s, a place where I shouldn’t have been been in the first place, and again last week in Rockland. 

I had tried to anchor near the cement factory, to the left of the mooring field as you face town from the water, with my 65lb bruce anchor.   This anchor usually hooks in well without a lot of scope, but this time I had to put it down twice before it bit in well.  In actuality, it was hooked much more securely than I realized. 

Later that day I decided to move in closer to a mooring as I just wasn’t comfortable being out quite as far from town I was and decided to pull up the hook.  All went well until I had most of the chain in and was trying to pull the anchor out of the mud.  It seemed that the anchor just wouldn’t break out, something that sometimes happens after we have sat in fairly heavy winds overnight.   However, I had only had the anchor down for a few hours in this case.   Oddly, no matter how hard I used the windlass or the engine, I just couldn’t break it out. 

It wasn’t long before I realized that this wasn’t coming up using normal means and that more “extreme” measures were required.   After messing around with things for a while I decided to attach a line to the chain with a chain hook and ran the line to a winch on the mast to muscle the anchor up.  I took up the slack, such as it was, and secured it with another line so that I could again attach the chain hook, pull it in a bit more, remove the hook, take up the slack and so on, until I was able to, under extreme loads, get the anchor up to the surface. 

The strains on the line and chain were a bit daunting and as I winched it in and I began to fear that something would break under tension and, well, who knows what…

Finally, I was able to get the anchor up to the surface and saw what was going on.   I had picked up an old towing hawser from a barge, many loops of  a large steel cable used, at least prior to it being tossed over the side, for a tug to pull a barge under tow.  This shot shows how well hooked we were. 

Fortunately, someone on a nearby boat was watching me struggle with the anchor and came over to help.  With his assistance I was able to take a line from the bow loop it under the cable and back to the bow.  Once this was accomplished, and tensioned properly, I lowered the anchor slightly so that my helper was able to pull each loop off of the anchor so that it settled into the rope loop that I had put in from the bow. 

Once this was accomplished, I was able to get the now freed anchor out of the way and slip one end of the rope so that the cable dropped back down to the bottom.  The exercise, and yes it was good exercise and I was sweating fairly well by the time it was over, took nearly an hour but it worked, thankfully.  With out help I am not sure I would have been able to solve it as easily and certainly appreciated someone coming to my aid.   As this was unfolding Brenda was ashore so I was on my own. 

After freeing myself from the cable, I was able to get a mooring for the night and begin to preparing Pandora for the storm and our departure.    I have certainly make a mental note, and you should too, to think twice when you anchor in a harbor that has had lots of industrial use over the years.  Some make a habit of rigging a trip line when in an unfamiliar harbor so that they can more easily retrieve a snagged anchor.  Perhaps I will too in the future.

The storm passed without a whimper and I am now preparing to head back and bring her home.  The weather report suggests that we will have NW winds beginning on Wednesday which will hold for a few days while I bring Pandora back to Mystic.  The sailing season is about over for me as work is busy and I can’t spare the time to run her to Annapolis, our preference to extend the sailing season.

For now I will have to satisfy myself with a weekend or two aboard prior to pulling her out in Norwalk CT for the winter.  I can always think about sailing next season.  Hmm…

As I write this I am in Nantucket with Brenda for a friend’s wedding.  What a wonderful place. But, more about that later.

>Sailing Merchant Row in Maine aboard Pandora


Since my last post we moved Pandora back from the eastern Penobscot Bay toward Rockland and Camden.   Along the way we enjoyed visiting Merchant Row near Stonington, the home of one of the last operating granite quarries in Maine.  In the 1800s granite was a major building product, prior to the widespread use of concrete as a building material.  This shot is of a very active quarry, one that seems even more active than when we began cruising in Maine nearly 15 years ago.  You can really get a feel for the scale of the operation.  It’s interesting how smooth the cuts are and how massive the blocks are.

This area of Maine is dotted with small granite outcroppings and navigating among the islands can be tricky, especially in the fog.  Fortunately, this day was chrystal clear and sunny.  This shot of the chart plotter gives a good feel for just how “interesting” navigating in Merchant Row is at 7.5kts.

Note that the island in the upper left hand part of the display is Crotch Island, the one with the “crotch” in the middle of it, the granite quarry that is in the photo above.  The actual quarry is the Deer Isle Granite Quarry.  Their site shows that they sell small items for the home and it’s hard to believe that they don’t sell bigger pieces given the scale of the operation.    It would be fun to have kitchen counters from an area that we love.   I guess that even big chunks of granite are sometimes destined to become small trivets.  Not a very noble end for a magnificent island.  Go figure.  All of the islands in this area are made up of unbroken granite and are quite beautiful.  

Granite isn’t the only industry in Merchant Row.  This mussel “farm” is anchored off of a small island where the ever present currents keep the “crop” fresh and sweet.  When you purchase wild mussels in a grocery it’s likely that they came from a place like this.  By suspending them in water above the bottom they never get grit inside which makes them taste even better.   We have dug them ourselves and it takes lots of washing to be sure that you won’t get a mouth full of grit. 

There’s another new industry cropping up in Maine, and elsewhere in the US, and that’s wind power.  These three massive towers are the first on the Maine coast and generate enough power to supply the electrical needs of Vineyard Haven with enough left over to sell back into the power grid.  Some hate the look of wind generators but I think that they are wonderful.  To see these monsters slowly churning away is quite a site to behold.   Pandora is also fairly “green” with nearly all of our power coming from solar panels. When Pandora was launched in April we turned on the freezer and it’s been on all summer.  I can leave the Pandora at anchor for days, or weeks, at a time and never need to use the engine or generator to charge the batteries.  The solar panels put out a great deal of power, sometimes nearly 30 amps at their peak in the middle of the day.

 Back when schooners were the primary mode of transport in Maine, especially for heavy cargo like granite, the primary “trucks” of the day were the coasting schooners.   Today they take human cargo out for day and week long trips.  Merchant Row is a favorite stomping ground for the “dude schooners” and to me this is one of grandest of the schooners.  While I am not positive, I think that this one is “Heritage”, a wonderful schooner with really sweet lines. 

Views like this are fairly common place in Maine and this one with the Camden Hills in the background are particularly scenic.  If you want to spend time on a Maine schooner, you can book here.

As I write this I am back in New Jersey, courtesy of Hurricane Earl.  My plan was to bring Pandora back to Mystic from Maine over the Labor Day weekend but alas, she’s on a mooring in Rockland riding out the storm and I am in New Jersey.  It doesn’t look like Earl will be much of a threat in Maine after all with most of the strong winds coming from the North West. This means that wind driven waves won’t be a problem as the winds will be coming off of the land and there won’t be an opportunity for big seas to develop in the harbor.  While wind can wreck boats, it’s big seas that tend to be the worst culprit.  

As for getting Pandora back from Maine, as soon as the winds and seas get back to normal I will head back to Rockland with crew to bring Pandora home.  While I was planning to head down to Annapolis again for some late Fall Sailing, I think that I will just pull her out in CT and begin thinking about the 2011 season.   Work is a bit too busy and now with the delay in getting back to Mystic, I don’t think that Annapolis is in the cards.  Perhaps next year. 

All and all, we spent about six weeks sailing in Maine where I was able to keep working a full week and still enjoy the sailing life.

Forgive me but I can’t help myself as I close this post with yet another magnificent Maine sunset.  Pretty impressive, right?  Brenda and I think so and plan to make the summer of 2011 our 15th visit to Maine.