September 8, 2006 - Marblehead, Massachusetts
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.
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
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
"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
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
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.
September 15, 2006 - Bristol, Rhode Island
September 18, 2006 - Stonington, Connecticut
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.
September 19, 2006 - The Thimbles, Connecticut
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.