September 8, 2006 - Marblehead, Massachusetts
It wouldn't be a trip to Maine without fog, and fog we got. The forecast was for only patchy fog, visibility between one and three nautical miles, but soon the mist closed in on us and only got thicker for the next eighteen hours. We'd left Northeast Harbor early afternoon after topping off the fuel and water tanks at Clifton Dock, somewhat unnerved because a muted vibration under power had come back as soon as we left the mooring. Life is like that, sending broken engine mounts and killer stingrays around so you're reminded to take nothing for granted. We had motored around for almost two hours the day before testing things with not a hint of trouble, and now that whole experience seemed like a cruel hoax. After I jumped around adjusting hose clamps and throwing my hands in the air the sound disappeared again, so we continued out to sea.

I didn't want to leave Acadia National Park. There were trails we hadn't hiked, whales we hadn't seen, an anniversary lobster dinner we hadn't eaten. Alas, the day of departure was the 21st anniversary of the day Annie and I were married, and I hadn't even gotten her a card. But even if the days in Northeast Harbor were still beautiful, the nights were getting colder, the bus was running a reduced schedule, and clearly summer was ending in Maine. Already we had the full cockpit enclosure up. A cold front was due over the weekend, and the storm called Florence would be whipping up ten foot seas for at least a few more days after that. With a forecast of light winds and calm seas, the decision to move now and move quickly seemed right. Of course, we might have changed our minds had we known about the fog, but once we were that far out, it was too late to turn back.

Annie and I spent our times in the cockpit watching the radar, fiddling with the gain knob, listening to the constant throb of the engine, occasionally dodging blobs on the screen. It's said that the ocean is an empty and lonely place, but that's not true. The ocean is lonely, all right, but anything but empty. Even when there's nothing there, the mind wants to fill in the blank. Twenty-five miles off the shore of Maine I saw a figure slumped over in a kayak, a lost soul swept out to sea in the fog, but when I circled back it was just a log without even as much as a bump on it. When the fog finally started to lift in the late morning, I could see sea birds resting on the calm waters, objects all around. An aluminum can came floating up over the horizon then disappeared behind. Fishing boats prowled randomly in the distance. The Coast Guard reported on the location of a humpback whale, but even with that for a hint the leviathans remained elusive. While munching on tortilla chips for breakfast, I broke a crown and must now contemplate another expensive trip to the dentist. Life is like that, always tossing you something new to think about when you least expect it.

Foggy Cockpit Broken Engine Bracket
Photos: (1) The only reliable window out of the cockpit was the radar screen. (2) Engine brackets, teeth: everything breaks, but we persevere.

After 28 hours at sea we're 180 miles from where we started yesterday, happy on a mooring in Marblehead with two thousand other boats around us, and thinking about heading towards Boston tomorrow. It feels warmer already.

September 9, 2006 - Hull Cove near Boston, Massachusetts
Now we understand why there are thousands of boats moored over at Marblehead. No one can afford to keep a boat in Boston.

When we left Tennessee, we thought anything over $1/foot for a slip in a marina was expensive. Ho, boy! In Boston the going rate is $3.50/foot and up, electricity not included. So we're anchored out in a somewhat exposed position in Hull Cove, probably the only boat at anchor for a hundred miles. And it doesn't look like we'll be visiting Boston anytime soon. In contrast, I have to sing the praises of Marblehead. The launch from the Corinthian Yacht Club hadn't ever come back to collect the mooring fee, and when I called this morning they said that since we hadn't used their launch service (we were too tired to go anywhere) there was no charge for the mooring.

Ships Note: we filled up with diesel this morning at the Boston Yacht Club in Marblehead, 19 gallons for 28 hours of motoring...well off our usual half gallon an hour. Jeepers, that was some dense fog.

September 10, 2006 - Sandwich Marina at Cape Cod Canal
When we finally got up this morning you could hear the weather window slamming shut. The wind was already up to 15-20 out of the northeast with the big seas from Hurricane Florence forecast to start hitting New England by afternoon. So we stared at maps and forecasts, trying to decide if it would be better to strike out for Cape Cod and make it back to Bristol in time for the Newport Boat Show or play it safe and stay anchored in the protected waters around Boston. Smart cruisers always play it safe, and we'd certainly been burned by short windows before (I'm thinking of the time we tried to make it from Provo to Cat Island before the seas got up and thought the boat was going to sink out from under us). But we'll never learn. Since we had to pull the anchor anyway--with the windshift our spot behind Bumpkin Island was now getting lots of chop--we motored on out into Massachusetts Bay to see just how bad it could be.

"We've seen worse!" Annie said. Fifteen hundred miles to the south, I imagined Bruce Van Sant rolling his eyes.

On the positive side, we sailed the vast majority of the forty miles down to the Cape Cod Canal, beating the hurricane swells and almost assuring that we could make it to the boat show. On the negative side, we needed to sail because my attempts to adjust the engine mounts the night before had made things dramatically worse. But the seas were actually not all that bad and the only real excitement came when the high water alarm went off. I figured out later that we'd dumped some extra water in the bilge when we took showers while underway from Maine, so that was a non-issue. After fighting our way upstream a mile inside the breakwater to the Cape Cod Canal, we pulled into Sandwich Marina for the night. We'll leave tomorrow sometime after Noon to ride the current through the canal.

September 11, 2006 - Woods Hole, Massachusetts
As Cat Stevens once said, morning has broken, and I spent most of the morning getting it fixed. The drain to the anchor locker, which is a thru-hull on the very bow of the boat, had been smashed against something many moons ago and since then had been leaking water into the locker beneath Laura's bunk. I installed a new thru-hull using lots of Boatlife caulking, various lengths of hose and adapters and a half dozen hose clamps. Next I adjusted the troubled engine mount back to its previous position, noting that both of my hose clamps around it had broken. So I put a third one on. Finally, I changed the rollers around on the Delta's bow roller so that the good roller was in front where it was needed.

The current in the canal didn't go our direction until 1:00 PM, so in the meantime I enjoyed talking with a nice fellow named Ed who runs the fuel dock at Sandwich Marina. Lots of rich and famous folks stop by here in their sailboats according to Ed. Ted Kennedy is a regular who impresses Ed by remembering his name. Heraldo Rivera is a nice guy who is friendly to those who recognize him. Walter Conkite was just at the dock just a couple of days previously.

The current switched, the boat was ready, and it was time to go. Unfortunately, a twenty knot wind was pinning us to the dock, and a fender caught between pulled so hard on the lifeline it was attached to that the lifeline broke. I guess it's good to test those things once in a while. We sped through the canal and out into Buzzards Bay. Typically the southwest wind opposes an outgoing current here and makes life miserable, but today we had that twenty knots behind us. I watched the knotmeter go regularly into the nine's as we surfed down waves and once thought it might hit ten (I saw 9.8 for just an instant). After ten miles or so we pulled into the well protected Hadley Harbor where we hoped to find a vacant mooring, but found none. We made one attempt to anchor (it dragged) and headed for Woods Hole, frantically trying to call the marina there in hopes of getting a mooring. The famous Woods Hole Passage was roaring along with four knots of current against us, but at full throttle we slowly powered through it. Still no answer from the marina, but we asked some folks on a boat for advice and one of them offered us the use of his mooring, where we later enjoyed a wonderful happy hour.

September 13, 2006 - Bristol, Rhode Island
Corona time! It's great to be "home" in Bristol after another typical delivery day. I've decided that we are basically doing deliveries, except that we're delivering our own boat. Seems like we're often focused (too focused, I suppose) on getting to the next destination.

Yesterday morning we faced a dilemma. We'd slept late and missed the slack water in the Woods Hole Passage, and I was not eager to go through it again in four knots of current. The Woods Hole Passage is a frightening stretch of water, only about fifty feet wide, lined with hard rock, and split in two near the harbor with more rocks in the middle. One of the cruising guides that Janet and Rhonda loaned us devotes seven pages just to Woods Hole Passage. To add to our reluctance to leave, we also wanted to see the sights in town, the most famous the oceanographic research center in the world. The problem was that we needed to get off our borrowed mooring. While there were plenty of others ripe for the taking, I didn't like borrowing someone's mooring unless we stayed on the boat in case the owner happened to need it. I talked with Woods Hole Marina on the phone but they had nothing available. The solution, which took me a surprising amount of time to deduce, was to anchor. We dropped the Delta in 35 feet of water off to the side of the mooring field and put out 180 feet of scope, then put the Danforth off the rear to keep us from swinging into the moorings. The holding was excellent (very heavy mud) and this plan worked fine.

Once anchored, we took the dinghy under the very low drawbridge into Eel Pond and walked around Woods Hole all afternoon, visiting the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Exhibit Center, and the National Marine Fisheries Service Aquarium. All of these are relatively small facilities but well done and more than worth the admission price (just a small donation suggested or, for the Aquarium, free).

Today we pulled up the anchors and went out the Passage at slack tide, then motored and motorsailed around forty miles back to Bristol. We'll probably be here through the weekend, then continue south with plans to stop at Philadelphia and Washington DC on the way down the Chesapeake.

WHOI Exhibit Center
Photo: Outside the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Exhibit Center.

September 15, 2006 - Bristol, Rhode Island
Thanks again to the wonderful generosity of Janet and Rhonda we are having a relaxing time here in Bristol. Janet loaned us her car so yesterday we were able to get me to a dentist for a temporary crown, do laundry in their basement, and visit the excellent Audubon Society exhibit center just down Highway 114. Today we will do a big trip to the grocery store and install a new motor mount. This weekend the plan is to join Janet and Rhonda on Promise for a trip down to Newport and the boat show.

September 18, 2006 - Stonington, Connecticut
It was tough to leave Bristol. In fact it took us a half dozen tries to leave the mooring field. Having talked with various experts at the Newport Boat Show, we had figured out that the knocking we hear in the drive train comes from the shaft hitting the sides of the stern tube where the shaft exits the boat. Last night I disconnected the shaft from the transmission and got out the feeler gauges to check the alignment; but however logical this process may be, on our boat it's a fraud, a myth! In fact, Counselor, isn't it true that it is quite possible to have a perfect fit between the couplings and still have the shaft rubbing on the stern tube? Yes...I admit it! Jeepers, I've been reading too many legal thrillers.

So we used trail-and-error to tune up the mounts, making an adjustment, leaving the mooring for a test run, going back for more adjustments. Eventually we had things good enough that we could motorsail down the Bay and through Rhode Island Sound to Stonington, where we fueled up at Dobson's Marine (16 gallons, hour meter still unreliable) and then anchored near John and Jeanie on Island Time. They had joined us on Promise just yesterday for the trip down to the boat show, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Although some leaned toward the Hylas 54, my favorite boat was the good old Valiant 42, the double-ender Bob Perry design that's been around forever. They don't make 'em like that anymore (okay, actually they do, which says a lot about the design).

We'll always remember our visits to Bristol, where Janet and Rhonda truly spoiled us. The meals! The laundry! The entertainment! They did everything short off buying us a Hylas, and probably would have done that if we'd dropped just a few more hints.

Newport Boat Show
Photo: On the stainless steel bow of a Hylas. Still, I preferred the Valiant, where we could open cabinets and hear stories about how the sturdy design handles forty foot rogue waves on the way back from Bermuda.

September 19, 2006 - The Thimbles, Connecticut
There's nothing like coming into a new anchorage surrounded by rocks just before dark with no working depth sounder. We have two sounders, one of which is normally a bit intermittent, but I became a bit out of sorts when the Interphase Probe stopped working as well. The Thimbles are a pretty series of small islands that look like something out of Maine, with opportunities to anchor mixed together with dangerous rocks. We used the chartplotter along with the Maptech charts to navigate in on faith, and picked up one of several vacant yacht club moorings. Here as elsewhere in New England, the prime anchoring ground had been taken over with moorings, but like most of the summer homes around us, the moorings were deserted. It's almost spooky out here at night, alone among all the rocks and dark, empty houses.

Our exit from Stonington was in discord as well because my attempts to adjust the knock out of the drive shaft were, as usual, counterproductive. But the rest of the day was uneventful as we motorsailed about thirty miles up Long Island Sound, shutting down the engine for a while but later relying on the diesel again to boost us past an uncooperative current. The idea of going outside all the way down to Cape May had been intriguing--we could get to Cape May with just one long overnight--but not practical given the forecast, so we'll continue up the Sound and hang out until things improve offshore next week.

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