Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The final push

We fueled up -- only took about five gallons -- in Port Jefferson. I feel today that I ought to retract some of my harsh words about Long Island, since the young fella running the pump proved to be intimately familiar with old Pearsons and their engines. He assured me that the 13 HP Yanmar 2-cylinder I have is practically indestructible, which was gratifying.

Before George and I left our anchorage, we had noticed a sailboat's mast cocked at an odd angle somewhere near the harbor entrance -- hard to say just where it was, since the sandbar blocked the hull from view.

As we approached the entrance, on our way out after refueling, we saw the melancholy spectacle shown above (George's photo). The boat is actually inside the harbor; it doesn't look like a case of missing the narrow entrance and coming to grief on one side or the other. If that had happened, the boat wouldn't be so far in. I think.

So what did happen? Came free of its mooring and drifted down onto this beach? There's a rather crowded mooring field just inside the harbor, in an attractive-looking little cove just to the west of the harbor entrance. And the wind last night was from the west.

Or was the boat coming into the harbor and the engine failed? In that case, mightn't they have tried to anchor? Or did it all just happen too fast?

Or did they make it safely in, and turn too sharply, heading for the same anchorage we were in?

Here's the sitch, as they say:


View Port Jefferson, September 2013 in a larger map

The wind was quite brisk when we got out of the harbor, but it was dead foul, so we resigned ourselves to motoring. At first the water was too choppy for self-steering, but after noon it got calmer and we indulged ourselves.

Through Hell Gate toward the end of the ebb, and down the East River.

There was a nasty moment when the engine gave a protesting wail and stopped. Tried to start again, same wail, no dice. Dropped the hook -- we were in 27 feet of water, down around 34th Street, I think. George somehow intuited that something had fouled the prop. Engine started fine in neutral, squealed and stopped as soon as you put it in gear. George suggested alternately trying reverse and forward, and after two or three cycles of that, whatever it was came loose. Some unidentifiable object -- a piece of rope? A retired mobster's toupe? -- drifted astern. We recovered the anchor from the mucilaginous bottom, and went our way rejoicing.

Nice guy to have around, George.

Got onto the mooring at 79th Street about 8 PM. It wasn't clear how we were going to get the last 20 feet to dry land, since we didn't have our dinghy along.

The dinghy was in the marina, but hadn't been run since late July, and I was doubtful that it would start. I hoped that we could catch a lift with somebody, but thought we might have to wait a while.

In the event, 'a while' proved to be about five minutes. We flagged down a couple of chaps in a tiny, tiny aluminum dinghy, who turned out to be Aussies recently arrived -- from Australia. Five years out, via the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, and the Med. They were on their way out to their boat, but it they had to go back and pick up some guests anyway, so George and I buttoned up the boat any old how and rode back to the marina with them.

Couldn't find a cab for love nor money, so we ended up ignominiously taking the bus back to my apartment. Showers were taken -- long overdue in my case -- and so to our nice cozy land-borne beds.

Both of us noticed, for the next couple of days, that solid ground seemed to be reeling beneath our feet. I get this feeling for a short while, after I've been on the boat for more than a few hours. But in this case neither of us had been on terra firma for longer than it took to refuel, for nearly a week. And the effect was correspondingly long-lived. I was still noticing it three days later.

Here we are, pussyfooting our way into the moooring field, looking for my ball -- which, by the way, proved to be occupied by somebody else; but that's another story:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day Five: back into the Sound



After the usual quick coffee, George and I sailed off our anchor -- again! -- about 8 AM and took advantage of a brisk northerly breeze to try and beat the current change at The Race -- the narrow, turbulent entrance to Long Island Sound, where the tidal current is strong enough that a sailboat skipper would be very foolish to fight it.

Of course, this was the skipper who fought the current through the Cape Cod canal, so who knows what further folly he might commit.

As it happened, no folly was needed; we nipped through The Race under sail with plenty of time to spare. The picture above (George's) shows the Race Rock light, a handsome structure with an interesting history. Love the gingerbready house on top of the Cyclopean pedestal.

In the early afternoon the wind failed, and since we were both feeling a certain sense of urgency, we motored to Port Jefferson -- a frequent stop, for me, as faithful readers here will know. We arrived about ten PM, and were nearly run down, in quick succession, by the Bridgeport car ferry (in the case, the P T Barnum) and some kind of party boat. The latter's skipper was clearly paying no attention at all and was headed right for our stern at about fifteen knots, until I shone a flashlight in his direction, and was rewarded with a torrent of coarse abuse and hollow threats for my pains.

To be sure I handed out a bit of coarse abuse myself. I did stop short of the hollow threats, however.

Welcome to Long Island. These people were conceived in cars, born in cars, grew up in cars, paired off in cars, and no doubt beget their own lumpish, muddy-skinned hellspawn in cars. They would probably be buried in their cars, if they had the option.  Windshield perspective has taken them over. Their minds are colonized by their cars, and they never stop being drivers; not on the water, and not even, I dare say, in their dreams. 

*  *  *  *  *

I haven't talked much about food on this trip, though George and I ate very well. We had seven bags of ice in the cooler, which lasted admirably. We had a cold roast chicken and a nice pork tenderloin, marinated and grilled on the old barbecue before we left Ithaca.  We had bacon and we had eggs. And we had sausages.

After we passed Race Rock I discovered that Penelope, thoughful girl that she is, had also squirreled away a couple of onions in one of the drawers.

George and I had cooked bacon in the mornings, while the bacon lasted, and being a Southern boy, I can't stand to see good bacon grease go to waste. So I had kept it in a repurposed plastic container that once held nuts, or greens, or something else impeccably vegan.  (Hah! Take that!)

George was steering, I was pottering, and it was getting on for lunch time, so I sliced the onions and fired up the alcohol stove -- a complicated, rather comical process, which really deserves a YouTube video. Slathered a generous dollop of bacon fat in the skillet, fried the onions and then browned some sausages.

The smell of the onions seething in the bacon fat was a high point of the trip.

George and I devoured the result, up in the cockpit, like velociraptors. On the water, very simple cuisine is a keen pleasure.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day Four, continued


View Larger Map

George and I napped for two-three hours, awoke around 10 AM. The ebb had begun in Buzzards Bay, and the wind was light but favorable -- northwesterly, more or less. So we hoisted the main and sailed ourselves off the anchorage.

This is always a bold, perhaps needlessly bold, move. Or so I fear. But I was eager to get going, and didn't want to putt-putt out into the channel, and heave-to, or try to motor head-to-wind, while raising the sail. That's a tedious, arduous process on this boat. The forces involved are so much stronger than they were on the Scapegrace (STTL).

It worked out OK, though we had to make our way over some flats with ten feet of water. George was steering and I was trying to recover the anchor.

It came up nice and clean and crisp from the sandy bottom, but then, rather ludicrously, the anchor rode was streaming out sternwards at maybe a 45-degree angle; we must have been making three knots or so under sail. I was actually worried that it might come up and bang into the prop, or the rudder, so I strained my elderly muscles to the utmost, and found that three knots of headway, added to the not inconsiderable weight of the anchor and its chain, was almost more than I could handle.

Only almost, however: panting and gasping and sweating like a pig(*), I finally rassled the thing aboard and into its bracket.

The wind held pretty fair and took us out of Buzzards Bay, but began to exhibit a strange weak levity, as Dr Maturin says in a different context. It became pretty clear, as the day wore on, that we would not make it to The Race -- the narrow, turbulent entrance to Long Island Sound -- in time to ride the flood. And besides, we were tired.

So 'long about sunset we nipped into a little bay near Watch Hill and dropped the hook. Map above.

As usual with me, the only thing this anchorage could boast was shallow water and land within swimming distance, if the worst came to the worst. In any kind of weather, from almost any direction, this would be a bad spot. But the forecast for the next few hours was benign.

George's photo of the lighthouse on the point, below.

-------------

(*) Why do we say that? Pigs don't sweat.











Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Homeward bound, Day Four: Poor reading skills

As noted, we arrived at the Cape Cod canal's eastern entrance a little before dawn on Day Four. I had consulted Eldridge and concluded, from my researches, that the current would be turning to the ebb at just about that time, and we would ride it in the usual log-flume fashion into Buzzards Bay.

A half-mile or so into the canal, it became clear that we were not moving as fast as I would have expected. I consulted Eldridge again, and realized, with a deep blush of shame, that I had got it wrong. It was the flood that had just begun, not the ebb.

Shown above is my shadowed visage at about the time this insight sank in, a bit past the Sagamore Bridge. We had the option to turn around, go back outside of Sandwich, anchor and take a nap, and in retrospect, this probably would have been the right choice.

But neither of us really felt like doing that, and so we cranked up the engine to 25 KRPM, and toiled along making maybe a knot, knot and a half, over the ground, through the roiling, upwelling, eddying waters of the canal, past gawping early-morning fishermen who clearly couldn't believe what they were seeing. The rocks they were standing on were leaving wakes, for Heaven's sake.

I felt like such an idiot.

By the time we got to the railway bridge, within sight of the canal's western entrance, the current was running so strong we were making maybe half a knot, and I seriously wondered whether we'd have to give up, drop all the way back, and start over. (You can't really anchor in the canal, and you're certainly not supposed to.)

But the little old engine-that-could pushed us through into the broader waters of Buzzards Bay.

There, the tide was still making, and the wind wasn't favorable, and we were dead tired, so we anchored here:


View Larger Map

... and napped for a couple of hours, until the tide turned.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Homeward bound, Day Three: A good run


Above, Pepperell Cove as it appeared early in the morning of Day Three (George's photo). That was a very handsome boat next to us.

We popped across the river to the Portsmouth Yacht club for an eye-opener Martini.

(Of course that's a lie. The PYC operates a very efficient and easily-accessed fuel dock, and we got our tank topped up, sans Martinis. But there's something about the phrase 'yacht club' that seems so out of keeping with my particular kind of sailing that I can't resist these puerile jokes.)

The wind was more or less from the west, so thirty seconds after we left the fuel dock, we had the jib up, and sailed majestically down the Piscataqua estuary with the following wind, fortunately at the very tail of the ebb. (I'm told the tidal current hereabouts is as bad as the Hudson.) This was sheer dumb luck; I hadn't checked the tables, or known how strong the current can be.

Once we were out in the open water we raised the main -- reefed, because the wind seemed pretty brisk -- and bounced along on a beam reach for the next three hours or so, which brought us into the lee of Cape Ann.

There, the wind got very fluky and frustrating, so we ran a couple miles offshore, shook out the reef, and picked up the wind again. It had come a little southerly, so we thought we'd head for Provincetown -- no coarse humor here, please.

That proved perfectly feasible, and in fact we pegged the tiller and adjusted the sails just so and brother GPS told us we were headed right for those famous fleshpots, so we made lunch and relaxed and let the boat sail herself.

This is my idea of sailing, actually.

A bit later I checked our heading and discovered that the wind had veered west again, and now, without any effort on our part, we were headed straight for Sandwich, the entrance to the Cape Cod canal, not that much farther away and very much more on our way.

So we acceded to our good fortune and took turns popping our heads up every few minutes, to check for shipping and fishing boats and so on, through the afternoon and evening and night. We arrived about a mile or two from Sandwich at four AM the following morning, almost literally without touching a sheet -- though I can't resist the occasional tweak, like one of those annoying guys who always pokes the fire about five minutes before he needs to.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Homeward bound: Day Two


If you want to know what that strange structure is, in the image above, you will have to read -- or at least scroll -- to the end of this brief post.

George and I weighed anchor and took off from pretty Harmon Harbor at about 8 AM on Day Two. The skies had cleared, and there wasn't much actual rain -- just a little spit, from time to time -- but the fog was still 'patchy', as the Maine weather channel says, meaning that sometimes you could see a mile and other times you could see ten feet. Nice fog, though, in the unseen morning light -- pearly and opalescent, not the gray damp wool of evening fog.

Hey, I can't explain these things. I'm just reporting.

Light wind from the south-southwest, which strengthened a bit as the day wore on and the fog thinned.  Almost dead foul for a run all the way across the open water to Sandwich, reversing our downcoast course two weeks ago, but just right for Portsmouth and Kittery.

So that's where we went, and arrived about 11 PM. We have friends in Kittery -- notably, a guy a I have written about before, here -- but we got in late and wanted to leave early, so we figured that auld-lang-syne might have to wait for another occasion.

So that's one of the sights of Pepperell Cove, above -- Fort McClary. It doesn't look quite the same, these days, but pretty close. We anchored in 20 feet of water, about 200 yards from this monument, and slept like babies.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Homeward bound


I signed up another crewman for the trip home: George, the son of an old friend of mine. George is a kind of honorary nephew, or maybe it would be more nearly correct to say that I'm an honorary uncle. Anyway, George is a great guy, very competent, and excellent company, and I felt strongly that I was lucky to have him along.

We had planned to leave Ithaca bright and early on Labor Day itself, the Monday. But that morning the weather was thoroughly dire: pelting rain, wind not quite howling but certainly making its views clearly known, thunder clapping and even lightning flashing -- in an oblique, reflected way. There were no actual bolts visibly streaking across the sky, or smiting a proud tower; more like a camera flash going off in the next room. Followed, five or six seconds later, by a sullen growl, as if God were abusing the manual transmission in His supernal car -- shifting without using the clutch.

George and I took a brief thoughtful look at the waters and the sky, and returned meekly to our Ithacan megaron. I don't know what George did, but I went back to sleep.

'Long about noon, things looked a lot better. The sky had cleared, the wind was from the northeast, birds were singing, raindrops were glistening on the grass in the weak, barely-recovered sun, etc etc -- all the usual pastoral cliches. Very nice, though.

So George and I decided to make a go of it. We got the boat off the mooring and down to the Port Of Ithaca dock, to fill up our water tank and load food and clothes and so on.

A gaggle of Ithacans gathered to see us off. One of them was Scott, an Ithacan who is also an airline pilot, and knows a lot about weather. He drew me aside and showed me a radar sequence on his Kibble, or iProd, or tofflet or whatever. 'A line is coming through,' he said. Loved that phrase, 'a line'. And it was a line, too, a vividly-colored row of little turbulent knots on the screen, plainly moving along the coast from Casco Bay in our direction.

They were a lot smaller than the vast tangled gnarly monster, a sort of octopus on methedrine, that had just passed through. But they were still rather scary-looking. 

I wanted to say 'forget it, we're not going,' and I believe that Scott, without directly saying so, felt that that might be the better part of valor. But I just couldn't do it, with all these people watching.

Compromise: reef the main. There's really nothing jiffy about jiffy reefing, so this took another ten minutes, which lent a flat air of anticlimax to the scene. But finally we got it done, and fired up the engine, and put-putted away from the dock. Waving and so on.

We got about three miles down the river and the heavens opened. Oh, it wasn't rough or anything; in fact, there was no wind at all. But it was a great deal like standing uder a cold shower. So we decided to bag it and dodged into the very pretty Harmon Harbor, shown above and below(*), and dropped the hook, and made a little dinner, and tried to dry our clothes -- the portlights leak, in a heavy rain -- and then went to sleep.
---------------
(*) Photos by George. 



Sunday, September 8, 2013

No sooner arrived than departed



Homer, wisely no doubt, omitted from his story the domestic life of Odysseus and Penelope. Telemachus is running with that fast vulgar crowd from Cephalonia; the poor dog seems very frail; Eumaeus is retiring, and it's so hard to find good swineherds nowadays.

Something, after all, had to be left for Updike.

Following the great Chian's distinguished example, I'll omit from this narrative my weeks in Ithaca, except to say that they passed pleasantly and quickly. The boat was transferred to a mooring, and whatever was leaking had stopped leaking.

I did discover something interesting, however.

The automatic bilge pump is not controlled by a float switch. It has a razzle-dazzle Hall field effect sensor that tells it when to switch on and when to switch off.

Now I had noticed, back in  Mattapoisett, when I dumped a lot of water into the bilge for lustrational purposes, that the bilge pump would go on, just fine, when the water level was high enough. But it wouldn't go off again, once the bilge was more or less dry. I had to switch it off manually. Otherwise it would just keep sucking air until the cows came home.

I did a bit of product research, and it turns out that this is a well-known failure of this particular pump (Rule, 1100 gpm: Anathema sit!).

So now I have a new theory about the Bastille Day near-sinking. I think it was a combination of two things:

1) The stuffing box was leaking more than it should. It is amazing to me now, that after the Liberty Landing folks re-packed it, there is essentially no water coming in through it -- or none that evaporation couldn't deal with. It was definitely a dripping faucet before.

2) The pump at some point kicked in; the well-known failure failed; the pump ran and ran and drained the batteries after six or seven hours. And the water kept coming.

Anyway, that's my theory now, and I'm sticking with it.

And that's it for boat news in Ithaca. Next: The trip home.



Day Four: Arrival




Shown above, Five Islands, a very nice little easy-in easy-out harbor on the Sheepscot River. It boasts at least two important amenities: Five Islands Lobster Co. ('Home of the big boys', as it accurately boasts), which is a fine seafood eatery with a public dock big enough, and in water deep enough, to accommodate us. A frequent destination for those in these parts. 

Also there is a fuel dock, which is a bit tricky to approach – close quarters with a lot of Maine rock – but well-run by an amiable couple. There's a little shop as well, where you can buy necessaries like fuel stabilizer and motor oil.

On this occasion, however, we bypassed Five Islands. I just mentioned the place because I like it, and would love to send some business their way.

So after our nice day-and-a-half run from Sandwich, night fell again, and with it the wind, and we rather disgustedly motored the last twenty miles or so to... to... let's call it Ithaca, after a much more distinguished sailor's home port.

Ithaca, like many places in Maine, is reached by a rather twisty, narrow channel, plenty deep in the middle but with unforgiving rock a few feet to either side. On previous occasions I have had to grope my way in through a fog as thick as Heidegger's prose, but this time we had clear skies and a splendid moon.

There was a rather disquieting moment as we came to our anchorage: the shift wouldn't go into reverse gear. Overheated, maybe, after a lengthy run under power? I had had the engine up to 28 KRPM, being eager to reach Ithaca (and of course its chatelaine Penelope).

So we went in circles a few times, to take the way off the boat. This girl will pull the anchor line out at a smoking rate with any way on at all, and you with it – through the chock – if you try to interfere. Finally we dropped the hook, to a round of slightly derisive applause from the pier.

What were the Ithacan indigenes doing on the pier at that hour, anyway?

My cell phone had stopped working about forty miles out, so negotiations with Penelope were handled by one of the crew. Misunderstandings arose. None of us really wanted to spend another night on board, in our somewhat fragrant Three Men In A Boat condition. But Penelope wasn't that crazy about coming out to fetch us either.

She's a good sport, though, and put-putted out and picked us up. I was rather gloomy and sullen, alas; worried about that reverse gear problem – Oh shit, now it's the transmission?!

I wonder whether Odysseus may have let fall a grouchy word or two about all those suitors, once the dust settled. I hope his Penelope brought him up short if he did. Mine was pretty kind about my bad temper, but I did try to be extra nice the next couple of days.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day Three and a Half: overnight, over water

Day Three, across Cape Cod Bay and Massachusetts Bay, passed uneventfully, though with a following wind and a quartering sea, the boat required a lot of steering.

Night fell, as is its wont, with a nearly full moon riding high. Tom -- who once had a hair-raising night steering the dear Scapegrace on these waters, while I slept like the proverbial baby -- felt unequal to the helmsman's task, so Steve and I agreed to take two hours on and two hours off. It got pretty cold; even with all the swaddling I brought, two hours was plenty for me.

But the night was clear, and in spite of the moon, and the skyglow from Boston and Portsmouth and maybe even Portland,  visible twenty miles out, you could see a lot of stars.

Our course was just about due north, so I forgot about the compass and the little nav app on my phone and just lined up the bow with Polaris. Steered very light -- you feel the quartering swell coming, after a few minutes' experience, and you steer to meet it, then then you steer off again, even before it's fully passed. There's a certain hypnotic pleasure in it.

I used to do the amateur astronomy thing, but it's been a while, and my eyesight is not what it was. I was ashamed at how few constellations I could remember. There were the Bears, of course, and Cassiopeia, and the Pleiades off in the east -- mentioned in my absolute all-time favorite Greek lyric -- and good old Bootes, and Cygnus, and pretty little Delphinus, and Orion, fell harbinger of winter, who heaved his titanic, ancient form above the horizon an hour or so before dawn.

Dawn brought Steve fully awake again, morning person that he is, and he cooked the breakfast shown above, on the sluggish, not-very-hot alcohol stove (original equipment, I think). The picture isn't very flattering but the breakfast was delicious: scrambled eggs with pepperoni.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Two in the crew: Day Three

Steve was up with the birds on Thursday morning, in spite of the previous evening's Martinis, and took a swim in the bracing waters of Mattapoisett before I was conscious. He was in extraordinarily cheerful spirits as I made my coffee, but I bore with it manfully.

I was just starting to feel human again, with the caffeine coursing through my veins, when the holding tank for the head sprang a leak. And I don't mean a little trickle of a leak, either. I mean arterial bleeding, a geyser of, well...  "Shit!" I said, in a mild, reflective tone, and then added, pedantically, "In the literal sense."

The tank is not in fact a tank; it is a rubber bladder lurking like a giant garden slug under the starboard-side settee. I had inadvertently pumped it too full while trying to get the seawater-intake side of the pump working; the valve was in the wrong position, and so while I thought I was pumping seawater in and seawater out, I was in fact inflating this gruesome Sack-O-Shit to horrific proportions.

Now there is a vent on the tank, so this should not have led to an explosion. But apparently the vent is blocked.   

It could have been worse. The head had not seen heavy use, and most of what was in the tank was sea water. I had faithfully added some digestif compound to the tank at intervals, which mitigated the noisomeness of the brew. It all drained into the bilge, and a few bucketfuls of fresh Mattapoisett seawater and a bit of pumping restored the salubrity of the cabin atmosphere.

After this delightful start to the day, we motored uneventfully through the Cap Cod canal, pulled into the Sandwich city marina, a nice place, at the eastern end of the canal, to refuel and pump out whatever was left in the holding tank, and there picked up, by pre-arrangement, another crew member, call him Tom, the chap shown on the right above.

Once we emerged from the canal, about noon, the wind was about ten knots, from the southwest, and the forecast was benign, and so we decided to head straight from Sandwich to our destination in midcoast Maine. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Retrospective: Day Two

Sunset at our anchorage behind Sachem Head, mentioned in the previous post. Arose the next morning early and had the anchor up by 7 or so. Light air once we got into the Sound again, but it freshened and we nipped through The Race just before the flood started, around noon. Had to stem a bit of current through Block Island Sound but found ourselves entering Buzzards Bay just about sunset. All under sail, doing six and seven knots steadily. Hell of a good run, by my standards.

I had expected to get through the Cape Cod canal overnight, and anchor on the other side; we're picking up a third crew member, let's call him Tom, early tomorrow morning. At the rate we we going we could have squeaked through before the current came foul. But the westerly wind came up pretty strong, and a nasty chop built up, and we had too much canvas up for the conditions.

I was sailing and Steve was sleeping a well-deserved sleep, since he had done most of the steering through the day. I tried to heave-to and douse the main, which produced enough noise and abrupt motion (and swearing, of course) that Steve woke up. The heaving-to was OK but it proved quite difficult to get the boom onto the topping lift, what with the motion of the boat and the sail knocking around.

(The boom is quite high above the cockpit in this boat, which is nice insofar as it reduces your chances of a concussion when you gybe, but makes it awkward for a short guy like me to manhandle it onto the lift. I think I need to rig a little block for this purpose. Fortunately on this occasion I had Steve, who is probably a foot taller than I am.)

I didn't really want to be in the open water at the Sandwich end of the canal with this amount of west wind -- there's no shelter at all, except in the tiny Sandwich city marina, and I figured it would be full. So we headed up into Mattapoisett Harbor, a nice easy-in, easy-out little place, sheltered from the west wind. Anchored maybe a quarter-mile or less from the Ned Point light, in about 20 feet of water.

The satellite image below was taken at the wrong time of year, so it doesn't show the very crowded mooring field in the inner harbor, to the northwest.

It had been a strenuous hour or two. Midnight is probably a bit late for Martinis, but Steve and I improvised one apiece, and then another, and then turned in.



View Larger Map

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Retrospective: Day One



That's my enthusiastic crew above; let's call him Steve. Steve is the husband of a valued colleague of mine, call her Georgia, to whom I poured out my tale of woe about ruined schedules and vanished crew after poor Ginger's near-sinking(*).

Georgia quickly responded that her husband would jump at the chance to go along on this madcap adventure. I jumped at the chance to have him along.

Steve and I spoke on the phone once or twice before D-Day, but finally met for the first time in the parking area of Liberty Landing marina on the afternoon of Monday the 12th, where Steve was trundling a rolling suitcase across the gravelly muddy ground. I had given him very poor directions,  I'm afraid, but he got there anyway.

Half an hour after we met, we were embarked. We fueled up at the marina, dodged the usual attempts on our lives by the Staten Island Ferry, and motored with the current up the East River and through Hell Gate and into the Sound.

There was a bit of a west wind once we were past the Throgs Neck.

Steve and I had gotten to know each other a bit during our trip up the river.  It turned out that Steve was a veteran of the old Soviet merchant marine and was very familiar with life on the water -- buoys, running lights and so on -- though he hadn't done much time on a sailboat before.

So I left him to steer and did my favorite thing on the boat, namely, go into the cabin and take a nap while somebody else does the work.

It came on to rain a bit. Steve had rain gear, so that was okay. But the wind also completely died, and Steve was left sitting in the cockpit while the boat described those maddening idle rotations, sails flapping, halliards slapping idiotically against the mast -- a most annoying sound. In the helmsman's heart a wild hope springs whenever a false zephyrette caresses his cheek, taunting teasing wanton that she is. Then she fleets away, laughing at one's gullibility.

Steve was too polite to wake me up.  If he had done, I'd've lit up the engine and motored us along.

So he endured, what, three hours of misery;  and he had begun -- more than begun, I think -- to reconsider this whole sailing gig. Finally something woke me and I popped my head through the hatch. Assessing the situation at a glance -- you can see the captain mentality growing upon me here -- I started the motor and gave him a turn below.

At dawn there was wind from the north. We scraped along under sail up the Sound until the wind came northeast -- more or less dead foul for us -- and after a bit of unproductive tacking back and forth across the Sound, we ran into a pleasant little bay behind Sachem Head, near Guilford, Connecticut, and dropped the hook about sundown, a bit more than 24 hours after we left Jersey City.

Not a bad run, really, as you'll see if you zoom out on the map below; more than halfway up the Sound, even with poor Steve's frustrating dead hours in the rain.

Better were to come, however.


View Larger Map

-----------------------
(*) I now think I know why that happened, actually; it's a subject for a post of its own.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New York to Maine in four days

Not my photo, but that's the Seguin Island light, above, our first landfall after about 120 nautical miles(*) and 30 hours across Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and the Gulf of Maine, after leaving Sandwich, at the east end of the Cape Cod canal. The last leg of what was, by my leisurely standards, a remarkably quick passage.

Day-by-day details to follow, including the usual comical mishaps, accompanied by oaths, expletives, imprecations, and appeals to the Gods on the skipper's part. 

----------------------
(*) That's forty leagues, for you Patrick O'Brien fans: a bit farther than Ushant to Scilly, in the song Jack Aubrey was so fond of