Cruise Log 1
I promise NOT to turn this into a regular newsletter, but thought some of you might like an update after one week--if for no other reason than to prevent your imagining us in some idyllic (and therefore false) light...
I'm sitting on the floor on the second floor of the By the Sea B&B in Plymouth, Mass. I can see the Mayflower (reproduction) and the fat columns of the temple protecting Plymouth Rock in the foreground, and behind an entire harbor full of moored boats demonstrating what 35 knots sustained wind can do to the sea surface. Once of those boats is our "Dalliance". She will handle the wind and waves just fine, but we didn't like the idea of trying to sleep out on the mooring tonight with the wind tossing us around like a cork in a blender, so we packed a few clothes and came ashore to find a soft bed, and a phone jack so we could erase the 175 spam messages (each) that cluttered our email boxes, AND access the nice legit emails that were all but lost among the spam listings.
On the whole things are fine. In three consecutive days we bombed southwest, mooring in York Harbor, Maine, then Glouster, MA, and then here in Plymouth. Now we've been "resting" in Plymouth for 3 days, and will be here at least until Friday, when the seas will have subsided enough to make the next leg reasonably comfortable. The good news about those three days underway is that the weather was very easy (too hot on land, but fine at sea), the winds were very moderate, and occasionally non-existent, and the distance made good was impressive. In three days we covered the same distance that required six days on our 1992 voyage, thus eliminating stops in Biddeford Pool, Kennebunkport, Scituate MA, and so on. F made marvelous lunches while we were underway--big mixed green salads with tuna or chicken, and goat cheese and chutneys on crackers with chardonnay and iced tea, and...you get the idea. We used our autopilot to steer, and sat in the cockpit to lunch in leisurely fashion, standing every minute to check for collision course boats, whales, tankers, or other possible interruptions. We do not do overnight sails unless it is utterly necessary, so each evening meant finding a harbor, a mooring, then taking our ugly dinghy ashore to find the right restaurant, whenF was not in cooking mode. After dinner, F did lots of electronic navigation (and paper navigation backup) for the next day, then to sleep in the vee-berth.
The less happy news for those days involves the fact that the wind was never more than 20 degrees away from blowing directly on the nose--sailing the southwest course down the eastern seaboard in summer is almost ALWAYS directly into the prevailing SW winds, so we rarely raised sail. Rather, we just motored (averaging 6.5 knots), and watched the passing seascape. Even less happy were the usual near disasters. First was an attempt to raise a bascule bridge (the busiest drawbridge on the east coast) at the very bottom of the Blynnman Canal that allows you to avoid going around Cape Anne. It was Saturday, and by all accounts the busiest boating day of the summer in these parts, since the temperature was in the 90s and everyone wanted to get in the boating days they'd missed the rest of the summer, I guess. Anyway there were at least a thousand or more boats racing in the narrow channel of the canal, with hundreds of smaller boats beached and anchored and grounded on both sides and many thousand people in various swimwear solutions and much beer, and only a VERY few sailboats, since the canal is very shallow. We had the bad luck of having to transit the canal during maximum ebb current, so at the end of our very scary ride avoiding all kinds of very young people in very fast boats, we found ourselves facing a rising bridge with a 20 foot wide span for TWO WAY traffic, and almost three knots of current pushing us down on the bridge. No way to do a U-turn, since the other lane of the canal was full of incoming boats, bow to stern, bumper to bumper, and the line seemed endless. We officially had the right-of-way as southbound traffic and on ebb tide, but tell that to the 22 year old with the sport-fishing boat, who's busy impressing his girlfriend. We cleared the last incoming boat through by about 20 inches on our port side, and cleared the bridge stonework by about 20 inches on starboard, and somehow managed to slide into the one tiny spot and slip through before the next enormous yacht was entering, then out the other side into boiling water, with knees barely able to continue the job of supporting us. Next day coming into Plymouth, the scene was nearly identical--thousands of speeding boats in a channel that runs five miles between incredibly shallow shoals on both sides, and our depth-sounder showing less than necessary water under our keel through most of the entire trip. We then heard a horrible grinding sound that we'd heard once or twice before on the trip (and had attributed to running over a lobster pot warp). The sound started returning more often, and then just a half mile from the inner harbor of Plymouth, the temperature alarm started screaming--a sound I had never heard on the boat before. Wind on the nose and no way to sail in the tiny channel anyway. One to two feet of water on either side of the channel. Big boats going fast behind us, and in the outgoing lane next to us. And a $9,000 engine telling us that it was going to seize up and die in a very few minutes. F sensibly reminded me that we only had the option of anchoring dead in the channel and calling for a tow. I tried to comply--rushing to the bow to drag a few feet of chain up through the hause hole of the windlass, when I heard a man yelling under flashing blue lights to "haul that anchor back up, IMMEDIATELY!" It turned out to be (bless cops when you need them!) the harbor patrol hiding among moored boats to catch speeders, who'd caught us trying to anchor in the channel, and we yelled over that we were in trouble. They rushed to tie us alongside and tow us the last few hundred yards to a mooring at the Plymouth Yacht Club, where we shut down the engine, and again tried to find a way to make our knees support us....I guess we wanted adventure. Got it. I spent the next day upended in the quarterberth changing out the raw water impeller, having a diver come see whether we'd messed up the prop shaft with a warp wrap, and trying to be a boat mechanic. All seems to be working fine now, and I am VERY grateful that we managed to shut the engine down before it was ruined. Now we are waiting out this full gale and wondering what next....
Truth is we are still not sure what comes next. Most likely we will head on down towards NY/NJ/MD. But, given the rigors of the trip so far, we MAY still just turn around and go home to Maine to enjoy the Fall, luxuriate in our condo, and plan other sorts of trips. I actually suggested this yesterday morning, and F has threatened to write to everybody she knows that she is married to a very nutty man. I agree. We spend months planning, spending, dreaming, and three days in I'm ready to say, uh, Fran, we've changed a lot in ten years. I'll spare you the parameters: less novelty, ten years more on the musculature, less tolerance for claustrophobic spaces, aversion to fearful situations, and so on. It's very difficult to live elegantly on a small sailboat. Things get damp, you're always putting things away. the motion is endless (on land you still feel you are rolling about via the magic of the inner ear, I presume), salt cakes on the seats of the dinghy and sticks on your jeans on the trips back and forth to land, and so on.
On the other hand nature is amazing and awe-inspiring up close: bluefish frenzies, soaring birds, the constantly changing colors of the water, the beauty of the shoreline from the water. Like most other things in life it is a mix of blessings and curses. And we love the way that each day we can decide how to live that day, at what pace, and when to move on. And we do meet interesting people: latest was a man obviously in his 70s (late?) who was just back here from a sailboat trip to the Canadian maritimes with his Welch terrier as his only crew.
OK, enough blather. Time to get showers and go have cheap Italian dinner at Momma Mia's up the block.
Feel free to email. We probably won't have access to the internet or our usual email more often than every week to 10 days, so don't assume that the lack of a response means we have sunk, or that we don't appreciate your notes.
By next email we'll have decided whether this trip is REALLY what we want or not. We may be back in Maine!
Best thing is that F has been taking scores of photographs, and is very excited to be back in the groove with this old love of hers. They are not at all travelogue photos and I think they'll be wonderful, though we won't have an easy way to share them till we are back, I presume.
Anyway, hello to all, love and hugs all around,
and have a good Fall,
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