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Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunday Sept 16 - Monday morning Sept 17: Portsmouth and Kathy comes home

Sunday we left Rockport for the easy trip to Portsmouth, NH where we had planned to meet up with friends we'd met earlier this summer in Camden, ME.  Dan listed himself as Captain of the Port for Penobscot Bay and we were contacted in early June by a couple from Minnesota who had left their Monk 36 Adirondack in Rockland for the winter.  They were looking for a mooring and other information.  They've been cruising these waters before (they've cruised all over, having done both the Down East Circle and the Great Loop) but any and all knowledge sharing and chit chat with kindred souls among cruisers is always welcome.  Dan offered them our mooring in Camden for as long as they needed it and they invited us to cruise here for a weekend in June, then offered the boat to us to use while they spent time in upstate New York with family.  Their boat, Adirondack, was exactly the kind of vessel we'd been looking for and we jumped at the chance to use it, but only managed a quick overnight ourselves due to our own crazy schedules this summer.

Jeff and Sally had secured marina sites for both our boats at Badger's Island Marina on the Kittery side of the Piscataqua river, the river that is the border between Maine and New Hampshire.  Again we ended up on a side dock, this time broadside to the river with its very, very busy traffic, most of whom completely ignored the 'no wake' zone.  To escape our bouncing vessels, we walked to the market for some supper items and took advantage of the marina's grill and patio area for a nice cook out and a lengthy chat about our respective adventures this summer.  The meal was great and the company was outstanding.
Adirondack rounds Whaleback Light into the mouth of the Piscataqua.

Monday morning Adirondack departed for Boston and points South.  I gathered my things together to jump ship.  It's been a wonderful month of cruising, but I have commitments I can't ignore, even for a few more days.  A good friend of ours, Bill Page, drove down to join Dan for the last leg of bringing Wille Dawes home and kindly let me drive his truck back to Camden.  Dan will finish this blog when he is home, probably Thursday or Friday, weather depending. 

Friday Sept 14-Saturday Sept 15: Through the Cape Cod Canal; whales; Rockport MA

It was a beautiful clear day in New Bedford on Friday morning.  I can't say I've only been there in the fog now.  We had planned a somewhat lazy day - taking our time before leaving, with Onset Harbor (thirteen nautical miles away) as the destination.  But the day was so pretty and the timing with currents and tides was right, so we passed by Onset and entered the Cape Cod Canal around two-thirty that afternoon. 
Entrance to the Cape Cod Canal
We decided to stop for the night in Sandwich MA instead, at the end of the Canal.  Yes, it meant yet another marina stay - we have stayed at a LOT of marinas on this trip - but it would get us ten miles closer to either Gloucester or Provincetown for Saturday night, making it a possible eight run on Saturday instead of a ten hour run, with time built in for some whale watching.

Sandwich Marina is a harbor of refuge - a man made basin stuffed with docks - just inside the East end of the Cape Cod  Canal.  It's not a harbor; there is no room for anchoring.  There isn't a lot of room for larger cruising vessels, either.  They assigned us to the dock that was right on the launch ramp channel.  It's a very busy launch ramp - for hours after we arrived, well into the night boats motored up to the launch ramp to be trailered away.  (Just before dawn they started being launched, one right after the other.  We had to interrupt their surprisingly smooth operations in order to leave our dock.)

We walked the mile or so into the Cape Cod town of Sandwich Friday evening, admiring the Cape Cod capes and the other buildings erected in the late 1600s.  There is a working grist mill in the center of town which still grinds corn (as a museum) and sells the meal to tourists.  On the way back to the marina we found a great food wagon that would have fit in well in the Bahamas, and we stopped for some pulled pork and blackened cod for supper.

Saturday we interrupted the steady stream of boats being launched (they'd started well before dawn) to pull away from the dock and set off.  The day couldn't have been much nicer for cruising Cape Cod Bay into Massachusetts Bay - the seas were glassy with a slight rolling swell and there was very little wind.  A bank of fog lined the shore, but out on the Bay we had at least ten miles visibility.  We set a course that would take us across the edge of Stellwagen Bank, hoping to see some whales.  It didn't take long for us to see the clump of boats that usually means there is whale activity.  We spent over an hour watching humpbacks move lazily around.  Some were even sleeping, their bodies barely breaking the surface, snorting occasionally to let everyone know where they were.

As we turned toward shore to find our spot for the night, we spotted an unusual black mound that we couldn't quite make out, so we headed toward it to see what it was.  It turned out to be a dead humpback whale floating on the water.  We don't know why it had died, but it was a sad, somber sight.
This whale is belly up, with one flipper off to the side.
We ended up in Rockport, MA for the night.  Rockport is a crowded little ancient village that has become quite the touristy attraction, with a very tiny harbor sporting the most photographed scene in the entire US.  They call it Motif #1.  We called the harbor master hoping for a mooring and were told they had just given away the last mooring, but we could dock at Motif #1.  As picturesque as it is, docking there is a stressful event.  There is a ten foot tide and you need fender boards the length of your vessel as well as extra fenders and very long spring lines to stay there.  And it's not always easy to get on an off the vessel.  
Stock photo.
We called some local friends of ours - Mark and Jenny - to come down for a visit, and we spent a nice evening with them at a local restaurant catching up.
Willie Dawes at Motif # 1

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Sept 13: New Alternator in New Bedford

It rained all night and most of the morning on Thursday.  I've been to New Bedford/Fairhaven three times now, twice by boat and once by car and this was the only kind of weather I've experienced here.  I guess we'll have to come back sometime when it's sunny.

Dan took an Uber ride to the alternator place, lugging along the starter too, in case they could also fix that.  Leo Boulanger & Son (Jerrod) are the real deal when it comes to rebuilding engine parts.  They couldn't help us with the starter, but during the course of the day they took apart the alternator and declared it "toast", had the replacement parts to fix it, and had it ready for us to pick up at 3:30 this afternoon.  Dan returned to the boat to re-install the starter (it works, and it will get us home) while I worked on office stuff and other things (finished the laundry, cleaned the heads) and just after noon we set off on foot to walk back to town and find a place to eat. 

New alternator!
New Bedford is a diverse area of blacks, hispanics, and Portuguese.  Catholicism is the predominant religion and there are very large churches everywhere. We also noticed carports consisting of grape arbors.  Very cool to see the bunches of grapes hanging down and the cars tucked under a ceiling of leaves.  Shady in the summer - wonder how it does in the winter?  And would such a thing be possible in Maine?  We found a great little hispanic restaurant with "authentic Guatemalan sauce" and had a late lunch.  Dan had shrimp and fried fish with his beans and rice and I had chicken taquitos.  That authentic sauce was very spicy and very good.

We collected his newly re-built alternator and headed for home.  Just outside the marina we came across a statue of St. Henry the Navigator, donated by Portugal and the St. Henry Society.  The inscription reads: "God wills, Man dreams, the work is born.  God willed that all the Earth be one.  That seas unite and never separate."  Fernando Pessoa in "Mensagem"
St Henry the Navigator

Tuesday - Wednesday Sept 11-12: Through Long Island Sound

Tuesday the forecast was for calm seas and light SW winds.  We got up at dawn planning a long day.  Anchor was up and we were on our way before seven am, eating breakfast on the way.  The seas were still a little lumpy but the wind was very light (they were NW, not SW) and we were determined to get as far as we could, initially planning for either Fisher Island, or Gardiner Island.  By noon everything calmed right down and the sun came out and we started thinking about getting even farther if we could.  The long range forecast was all about what Hurricane Florence might do, and we were hoping to get out of the Sound and into Massachusetts Bay sooner rather than later.  We had one window of good weather before the wind turned Easterly again, and an East wind on Long Island Sound is not a very comfortable wind.  As we came past Gardiner Island we started encountering big swells and we headed toward the Connecticut shore thinking it would be better over there.  You can tell a large storm is brewing.  Our last several hours on Tuesday were a bit of a roller coaster ride, but we made it a 90+ mile day - a record for us - and got all the way to Block Island despite the fog setting in.
The sun through the fog as we come to Block Island
We were hoping for little to no fog on this trip.  Dan had installed a radar, but it's choosing not to work.  Add it to the list of things that need to be fixed or replaced, along with the finicky starter.  We noticed starter problems back in the Canal; the boat started just fine every morning, but sometimes after a short run she didn't want to start back up again.  This happened a couple times in locks, when Dan would turn off the motor briefly as we waited for the water to fill or lower.  So far it was working when we needed it to, but the unreliability was a concern. 

Wednesday morning we got up even earlier to get underway during the calmest part of the day.  It was also the foggiest part of the day.  Thick, thick pea soup fog surrounded us, and like days of yore when people traveled without all the electronics that make cruising so much easier, we headed out into it.  Monster swells greeted us in Block Island Sound.  We sat on the flybridge so we could see better, blowing the fog horn every few minutes, and watching the very occasional (and die-hard) fishermen materialize out of the fog.  We sat through the rain.  And finally, about noon, the fog shrank back enough to where we could see for several miles, and we came back inside to shed our wet clothes and have a hot lunch. 

That's when Dan noticed the tachometer had stopped working...  we had lost our alternator. 
Dan checking the alternator.
Ok, plan B - instead of trying for Onset Harbor, which had been the original destination, we set our sights on New Bedford, where there was a highly recommended 'alternator guy' who might even be able to fix the starter.  We called ahead to make arrangements for the guy and a marina and entered the hurricane barrier of the New Bedford/Fairhaven harbor by 3 pm.  If Florence should make a turn for the North (not likely, we hear) we'll be in one of the safest places we could be.
The entrance to New Bedford/Fairhaven

Saturday-Monday Sept 8-10: Oyster Bay, NY

Oyster Bay is a cute little upscale bedroom community of New York City, and was home to Theodore Roosevelt, as plaques everywhere like to point out.  This is where he ran the 'summer White House' while he was in office, and this is where he died at the age of 61.  There is a large waterfront park named for him, with walking trails, a large baseball field, tennis courts, playgrounds, beach area, and many pavilions for picnicking or just gathering.  On Saturday afternoon, the nicest day of our weekend here, we walked all through the park, and came upon this great little memorial of stones commemorating all the milestones in TR's life.  Embedding in the walls are rocks or bricks from places, representing where he was born (New York City), when he ended the coal strike in Pennsylvania, when he oversaw the building of the Panama Canal and more.  The artist who put this together called these "chapters" in Roosevelt's life.  There are more than twenty chapters depicted here.

We also found a small motorcycle shop that was actually a motorcycle display of Billy Joel's collection, and we befriended the man who worked there.  He gave us tips on where to eat and who might possibly be able to replace or fix our starter.  (More on that in the next blog.)  We took note of the restaurants and their menus for a meal on Sunday - the weather looking like we'll be in place through Monday.  We visited the library and walked the side streets until it began to rain lightly, getting our steps in until we returned to the boat for the night.

Sunday it was cool and misty - promising more rain.  We had a leisurely morning, then suited up for the trip ashore to see if we could find the football game playing somewhere.  We had to settle for watching the Jaguars beat the Giants in a small bar/restaurant, then we took a short walk, had an early supper at a small diner advertising the biggest and best burgers of New York State (there were big, and they were very good) and dinghied back in the rain.  The forecast says Monday is going to be all rain and wind.  We weighed anchor and moved to a more protected spot in the harbor, right off the beach of the Theodore Roosevelt Park.

Monday was a long, quiet day of reading, tinkering, and playing Scrabble.  Outside the wind howled and the rain whipped at the windows. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Tuesday Sept 4 - Friday Sept 7: Down the Hudson and into the Sound

It’s time to start South now, and say goodbye to the Erie Canal.  Tuesday we spent a few hours getting ready.  Dan called for an Uber ride to the nearest Walmart to pick up a spare battery while I took care of business and pleasure and did a good walk-through of the boat to make sure things were stowed properly.  The coming journey into the Hudson with its strong currents and possibly windy conditions was going to be very different from the placid cruising we’d done so far.  We didn’t want to be forgetful that the counters should be empty and the cabinets locked.  The weather was already hot when we left at 1015, and this heat wave is supposed to last for several more days.  The Hudson was very calm and any wind was self-made.  We decided we’d splurge on a marina for the night, and found a nice little one just inside Catskill Creek at Riverside Marine.  The temperature was hovering around 90, humidity level close to that, and dead calm 1.  We waited til sunset to go for a walk in the cute little village of Catskill, which sported magnificent architecture as well as a collection of decorative cat statues all up and down the main street.  There will be an auction at the end of this month. 

Wednesday we tried to beat the heat by getting underway by 0700.  The early morning was nice and cool, but as the sun rose and the low-lying fog burned off, the temperature started rising rapidly.  We did have a breeze, though, which was very welcome.  Wednesday was our longest cruising day so far - we kept a steady 7 knots or so for the next 65 miles, and anchored off Rockland Lake State Park, across the river from Croton-on-Hudson.  This was our first anchorage in this boat.  Dan set a trip line and we kept a wary eye on everything for an hour or so.  Once we trusted that we were holding well, we decided to go for a swim.  This river has a current even at slack water, so we had the life ring out with a long line to hang on to.  Oh that water felt good!

The trip line decided to dance with the prop in the early Thursday morning:  Dan ended up having to dive to cut it free.  Good thing the water was warm and we have a hand swim platform for him to hang onto.  I stood by with the life ring and a life jacket to throw, as the current was fairly swift, but he managed to cut it off without incident and there was no damage done to anything but the line itself.  We spent a leisurely morning waiting for favorable tides for the rest of the ride down the Hudson and through New York Harbor into the East River.  Once we got going, the currents were almost a slingshot through the area:  we were making 12 knots at one point.  We’ve been through this area four times now, and this definitely was the fastest passage.  We tucked into Manhasset Bay for the night, as the predicted thunderstorms started taking over the skies.

Friday we thought we’d get a good start into Long Island Sound, hoping to make the islands off the Connecticut shore for the night.  We changed our minds out on the Sound - whitecaps and wind made it very rough going, and though the current was against us, it would soon turn, which meant it would be against the wind.  We didn’t want to face that and turned around.  Dan spent some time familiarizing himself with the wires, hoses, and plumbing that travel through the engine room.  I made Eggs Benedict for lunch.  About midafternoon it seemed calmer and we decided to head out into the Sound again.  The new Willie Dawes was slightly more comfortable than the old Willie Dawes, but it was still a roller coaster ride.  And we learned what things need to be more secured during such a passage.  This time we stuck it out long enough to make the next bay over and dropped the hook in Oyster Bay.  

The Easterly winds are predicted to be steady and strong over the weekend.  We will probably be here for the duration.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Labor Day Weekend: Guests Aboard

We spent much of Labor Day weekend in or near Waterford.  Our son Joe and his fiancee Joanna were coming to join us for a night and there were things we wanted to do to get ready for them and for the coming trip down the Hudson and into the ocean waters.  Dan has a growing list of repairs and changes he wants and needs to make, and Saturday was a day for prioritizing.  He wanted to change the placement of the hose for the propane tank, hoping to put an end to that alarm going off, he hoped to change the oil, and he wanted to do some electrical work.  There seems to be an issue with batteries charging.  All of his plans necessitated supplies, and we found a NAPA place that delivered, which was great.  But it also meant a couple of long walks for us chasing down a bronze piece for the propane and a few other things… much of Saturday afternoon was taken up by walks to various auto and hardware stores in the area.  We walked over ten miles and got to the know the greater Waterford area pretty well.  Dan didn’t get to most things on his list, but he did re-lead the propane hose and we are fairly well supplied now with oil and filters and other things.  In the course of our walks, we found a section of the old Champlain Canal with a winding path through the woods.

Sunday morning was laundry and grocery day.  (There is a Hannaford’s here that allows boaters to take their carts off property and leave them here at the harbor.  How is that for service?!)  AND there was a Farmer’s Market right here at the Waterford Harbor Welcome Center with many stands and live music.  Lots of fresh veggies, and meats and eggs…

we shopped there first before walking over to the grocery store.  Joe and Joanna arrived about two pm and we set off shortly thereafter for our overnight adventure into the Hudson and turning North to go up the Champlain Canal, to give them some lock experience and us some new scenery.  We put in for the night at the small town of Mechanicville and took a walk around, stumbling onto this tie to Henry Knox of Thomaston fame:
"Through this place passed General Henry Knox in the winter of 1775-1776 to deliver to Gen. George Washington at Cambridge the train of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga used to force the British Army to evacuate Boston"

Labor Day we went up through Lock 4 on the Champlain Canal, tied up for another little walk through a small park there, and then came back down the Canal and to Waterford.  It’s a five hour trip back to Portland for J & J, and they didn’t want to get on the road too late.  It was wonderful having guests aboard!  We’ll spend the night in Waterford and get back onto our journey tomorrow.