Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sound of glass

We are under way westbound in Long Island Sound, en route from Port Jefferson to Port Washington (dead presidents are big around here). Uncharacteristically, the sound is dead calm today, like a sheet of glass.

Shortly after my last post, we arrived to the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge, and dropped the hook near the south breakwater, about midway along (map). We had a quiet afternoon and a nice evening, at least until the tide rose to overtopping part of the breakwater and we had a little swell.

Sunset over Point Judith Harbor of Refuge

We awoke to even more swell in the morning, and so we got under way as soon as we had a cup of coffee in us. Once the stabilizers came online things got comfortable, and in short order we passed Block Island and then were being swept toward Long Island Sound by the incoming tide, at one point having close to three knots behind us. We made an s-curve in through the Race to avoid a heavy cross-current. We dropped the hook in a familiar spot, a cove off Truman's Beach in Southold, New York (map).

We awoke yesterday to perfect conditions on the sound, gentle rollers of less than a foot on a long period. We weighed anchor on a fair tide and had a very pleasant straight-line cruise to Port Jefferson Harbor, where we dropped the hook just on the north edge of the mooring field (map). We tendered in to the small dock at Centennial Park and met friends for dinner at Nantuckets, where we sat on the patio in the first shirtsleeve weather in a long time.

I follow a Youtuber who skippers a tug in New York, and at first I thought this might be his boat in Port Jeff. It turned out to be a sistership from the same fleet.

Fair tide gets later each day, and this morning we weighed anchor at 10:30, just at the turn of the tide, for the run to Port Washington. This is another familiar stop for us, and we know it's an easy walk to some much-needed provisions at a nice grocery. With luck we'll also find some outside dining for dinner ashore. Tomorrow we will make our way to New York City. That run is a busy time for me in the pilothouse, so when next you hear from me, we will be underway southbound in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Whaling City layover

We are under way westbound in Buzzards Bay, bound for Rhode Island Sound, after a full week in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Our stop there had been planned to be two or three days, but circumstances conspired against that.

We arrived at Onset last Friday with around two knots of current in the canal; I overestimated it a bit and had the boat lined up a bit early, but we made it through the narrow entrance with no issues, and proceeded into the harbor to drop the hook more or less right where we had previously (map). We had a quiet evening on board.

Sunset over Onset Harbor.

Saturday the forecast winds of 30-40mph arrived, and we were happy to be well-set in the protected harbor. I spent part of the morning unclogging the cross-over pipe between the two waste tanks; I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say it was an unpleasant but necessary project that could not wait.

By mid-afternoon things had calmed enough to splash the tender and bash my way ashore to scope things out. I found one restaurant with some outside tables in something of a lee, and made a dinner reservation there. By dinner time, though, winds were still too high to want to sit outside on a cold evening, and we ended up cancelling and I brought home Italian take-out from Marc Anthony's, which we remembered as being good from our last visit.

Marc Anthony's was decorated for Halloween, including this biker out front.

On Sunday we returned ashore for lunch with our friend Liz, who drove down to the cape for the day to meet up with us. Liz picked up lobster rolls and brought folding chairs, so we picked a sunny spot in the lee of a beachfront building and had a lovely couple of hours catching up. It was very nice of her to make the drive down and to bring us lunch.

The Glen Cove Hotel in Onset.

Monday morning we weighed anchor on a fair tide and shot out of the canal into Buzzards Bay. We pulled through the New Bedford hurricane barrier before lunch time and picked up a mooring ball near Crow's Island (map). For a holiday, the harbor was uncharacteristically quiet; the season is definitely winding down here. We were, however, amused to find Rising Sun moored at the state pier.

All of my Amazon packages were in the locker by mid-afternoon, and I splashed the tender and headed to the marina with the e-bike. While out and about I scoped some diner options that offered some shelter from the cold and wind. The marina is gated and I also picked up a card key, even though we basically never came ashore at the marina dock.

Vector in Onset Harbor.

My first indicator that we might be in for a longer stay was when the UPS tracking for my McMaster order, which had left Friday and was slated for a Monday delivery, indicated delivery would be delayed due to "holiday closures." UPS had claimed on its web site to be 100% open on Monday, and the marina was as well. When I pressed UPS, it turns out one of their intermediate facilities was closed. Harumph.

Having the McMaster parts arrive Tuesday instead was not a big deal. What was a big deal, however, was the 13' of sanitation hose that I had ordered from Defender. They had a computer glitch for several days; web ordering was down altogether, and they could not even take an order over the phone until Saturday. They told me it would ship Monday, but on Monday I learned it would be Tuesday instead.

The superyacht Rising Sun departing New Bedford harbor.

We returned ashore Monday evening, landing at the city dock, and had a nice dinner at The Black Whale right on the waterfront, who had a covered patio with most of a wrap-around windbreak. There was enough outdoor air to feel safe, but enough protection to be comfortable. I had the scallops, considering the east coast scallop fleet is all right here at the moment. They were very fresh and very good.

Tuesday my McMaster package arrived, as well as our mail, which included our ballots. I ran ashore to get them in the one 15-minute break in the rain all day; otherwise we never left the boat. That did give me the chance to finish up the remote microphone project and clean up the workshop. Between the rain, the onshore wind, and "king" (perigean spring) tides, the Coast Guard started making announcements toward high tide about closing the hurricane barrier at 6pm, but it remained open all day.

Completed remote mic installation, above a shelf in the stateroom. This lets us answer the radio and acknowledge weather alerts without traipsing upstairs.

The delay from Defender meant my hose did not arrive until Wednesday, which happened to be Louise's birthday. That nixed any hope of getting off the $45 per night mooring ball and into another harbor during the very short window we had on Wednesday morning, and committed us to staying inside the hurricane barrier through the next round of unsuitable offshore conditions.

New Bedford library, across from the city hall clock.

After picking up my hose, I took the e-bike ashore in Fairhaven to explore a bit, hoping maybe to find a nice venue for a birthday dinner. Oddly, Fairhaven has nothing I would describe as a "downtown," although there is a historic district rich in architectural treasure wherein one finds the library, City Hall, and a number of elaborate churches including Unitarian Memorial. I rode out to Walmart to pick up a few items before returning home.

With no real options in Fairhaven, we returned ashore to New Beford in the evening and hoofed it uphill to Cafe Italia downtown, where we were the only outdoor diners, on the sidewalk which had been commandeered for the purpose. The food turned out to be excellent, and the portions were huge. It was Louise's turn to have scallops, along with other seafood, and her dish fed her Wednesday and both of us Thursday -- that's how big the leftovers were. My leftovers are still in the fridge, for tonight.

The gothic revival Unitarian Memorial Church. We're sorry we could not see the inside.

Thursday morning we had the pumpout boat come out so that I could start my "projects." I replaced the discharge hose from the master head, as well as the crossover hose and fittings that connect the forward and aft waste tanks. These thick-walled, wire-reinforced hoses are stiff and difficult to work, so changing out a dozen feet of hose took me literally all day, and by the end I was very sore. Fortunately, nothing spilled into the bilge and everything went mostly to plan. With any luck we should get several more years out of these without having to go through this again.

I came out on deck for a break several times during the project. During one break, a delivery skipper arrived single-handed in the 50 Prestige Elora Greyson to pick up a mooring. These moorings were challenging for us double-handed, and with no immediate access to the deck from the helm in that boat, he was struggling. I hopped in the tender, ran over, took one of his lines out to the mooring and looped it back to him. Lovely boat, but that lack of access would keep me from recommending one.

Louise snapped me passing the mooring line to the skipper.

Friday morning it finally happened -- the tide got bad enough that the Corps of Engineers closed the barrier at 7:15. As it turned out, it closed just as the Elora Greyson and a cruising ketch were trying to leave the harbor. Both boats had to turn around and return to the marina to wait a full two hours. This is one of the key reasons we always have the radio on: the Coast Guard had been announcing that closure for at least two hours ahead of time. Neither of these skippers should have been caught off guard.

We went ashore Friday evening for one last meal in town. This time we were looking for covered seating, since rain was threatening. After hiking all over town, we ended up right back at Moby Dick Brewing, where we ate a couple of months ago, on the sidewalk under their overhang.  I again had the fresh scallops. Most of the scallop fleet has Cape May hailing ports; we've seen many of these same boats in Atlantic City and Cape May. We managed to stay dry all the way home.

Fairhaven town hall.

Yesterday, with the wind having clocked around to the east, we could finally leave the harbor, but not as far out as Buzzards Bay. We let go our mooring in the morning and motored over to the dock to take on water. With our tank mostly empty, we were at the dock well over an hour, shoving off right at lunch time.

We motored for about an hour to a harbor locally known as Padanaram, after the village of that name, which is really part of Dartmouth. The harbor is chock full of moorings, but at least anchoring is permitted just at the end of the mooring field, where we dropped the hook for the night (map). I had heard the village was interesting, and so we dropped the tender and headed ashore just to walk around, figuring it to be too cold for outdoor dining even if we found any. The Farm & Coast Market drew us in, though, and we ended up getting take-out before returning to Vector.

"Padanaram's front porch." Check out some of the sweets.

Current Covid-19 rules have us bypassing Rhode Island, lest we be mandated to quarantine for two weeks in New York. Ideally we would have left Massachusetts this morning, and run straight through to Long Island this afternoon. Unfortunately, that would put us at the entrance to Long Island Sound with some three knots of current against us. Instead we will shelter tonight at the Point Judith "Harbor of Refuge," an enormous anchorage enclosed by breakwaters near the point, but we will not land or go ashore.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Wrapping up in New England

We are under way across Massachusetts Bay, southbound for the canal, with the Boston skyline seeming to rise directly from the water to our starboard. We have precisely one good day of offshore weather, and we're making a run for it. We left Gloucester early, and we hope to have the anchor down in Onset, Massachusetts just before sunset, an uncharacteristic 60 nautical mile day.

When last I posted here, we had just dropped the hook at Rockport outer harbor, in the dark, to find a mildly annoying swell that was off-forecast. We made the best of it for the evening, but we both retired early, as any sort of motion is always more comfortable down in the master stateroom, more or less at the center of roll and pitch.

That turned out to be the harbinger of what was to come; we both awoke before dawn to the boat pitching rather dramatically in three foot waves from the east. Fortunately, we were bow-in to them; if this had been a rolling motion instead it would have been untenable. The forecast had been for waves out of the south, and we had positioned ourselves well for those, but these instead were coming from the northeast. The forecast remained incorrect the entire time.

We weighed anchor and got underway just as soon as it was light enough to see the pot floats. As soon as we cleared the harbor, past the remains of the old breakwater, we found conditions much rougher than anticipated. While we had previously contemplated going perhaps a bit farther than Gloucester on Monday, we opted not to bash through any more than we needed to, and we turned north into the harbor as soon as we rounded Cape Ann.

That immediately got us out of Monday's roughness, but we knew we had two days of high winds ahead of us, so we wanted to be tucked in to the inner harbor, where there is basically one spot just large enough for us to anchor. On our AIS, we could see the schooner Roseway anchored right where we needed to be; they had shadowed us out of Portsmouth, but we lost sight of them in the dark on our way into Rockport. Clearly they had sailed through the evening into Gloucester harbor.

Fishermen's Memorial. Some dweeb left his e-bike in the shot. Also, I kept wanting to scream  "They WHO go ..."

We circled around them hunting for a spot, but at 137', they pretty much took up the entire anchorage. Yet it looked like they were making ready to get under way. With no answer on the radio, we acted on our hunch, and dropped a lunch hook (breakfast hook?) at the north end of the outer harbor, near Black Rock (map).

Within an hour, the fuel barge pulled up alongside them, and we realized they were in that spot to bunker. After bunkering they moved back to the outer harbor where they had more swing room, and we quickly moved to our preferred spot, right across from the harbormaster docks (map).

With at least three nights ahead of us, we remained on board Monday evening. In hindsight, it was the most pleasant evening of our stay and would have afforded our only real chance to eat out (maybe). Tuesday we splashed the tender and I went ashore in search of parts for various projects I undertook during our stay.

On my walk around town I determined that the fairly well surrounded patio at Tonno would be our best bet for dinner, and we made reservations and headed ashore in the evening. The forecast winds were already picking up, and, unfortunately, the entrance to the patio enclosure was oriented perfectly to catch them. As soon as we were seated our menus blew away, and we bailed out. We ended up picking up take-out from the Topside Grill near the dock and eating back aboard.

Wednesday I went ashore with the e-bike to drop seven gallons of used motor oil off at the auto parts store for recycling, and picked up a few groceries while I was out. I also rode the waterfront, past the fishermen's memorial and across the Blynman Bridge to the old fort. I made it back aboard just as the winds began building in earnest and a few drops of rain arrived,

Fort Stage Park, where you can picnic next to a canon.

As if a gale-force wind forecast and marine advisory was not enough, a line of strong thunderstorms that spanned from New Hampshire to Rhode Island formed, and the weather alert went off a half dozen times in the span of a half hour. We paid out more chain, increasing scope to 6:1.

The storm gave us a good rinse and a wild ride, with the anemometer clocking winds of 50 mph. That was followed up by the previously forecast gale that lasted well into the night. Our anchor buried itself so far into the mud we had trouble pulling it up this morning, but we held fast. By contrast, a cruising sailboat just a hundred yards from us, who had picked up a municipal transient mooring for the storm, dragged that mooring at least a hundred feet. Yesterday morning he had to move to a different mooring.

Things calmed down throughout the day yesterday, and by dinner time it was certainly calm enough to go ashore. But it was also very cold, in the low 50's at dinner time. Comfortable for a walk, but not outside dining. We picked up a pizza at Leonardo's, not far from the dock, and carried it home in our insulated pizza carrier that makes me look like a Door Dash runner.

With three and a half full days of downtime I made some progress on the never-ending project front. I installed a control microphone for the pilothouse VHF radio down in the master stateroom, principally so we can acknowledge the weather alert down there when it goes off. Previously, one of us had to get out of bed and trudge upstairs to cancel the alarm, and often we'd miss the first sentence or two of the actual alert by the time we got there.

I also relocated a VHF antenna to see if that helps with a radio cross-talk problem we've been having, updated all the charts, and put together bills-of-materials and orders for the replacement of some of the waste hoses to get our system fully functional again.

In the middle of Massachusetts Bay this chickadee alighted on our windshield wiper for a rest, and hitched a ride for a few minutes. Duck unrelated.

I'm a little sad to be racing past this part of Massachusetts. I had hoped to stop maybe in Marblehead, or return to P-town, but we can't afford to be pinned down in either of those fairly exposed places when the weather window closes. And while I love Boston and its environs, the same things that make it attractive normally make it feel less than safe right now, and it's becoming too cold to just enjoy dinner out.

As we enter Cape Cod Bay, we are on track to enter the canal with a fair tide all the way to Onset. We could actually finish the whole canal, but there are really no protected harbors beyond for what is coming our way. At this writing, it looks like we will be hunkered down in Onset until Monday morning, when we can make a run for New Bedford.

I needed a delivery address for parts, and access to an Amazon locker, and a place to get our mail which will include our ballots, and New Bedford filled the bill. We've booked a mooring ball for a few nights, inside the hurricane barrier. New Bedford also has some of the cheapest diesel in New England, and we may top up before moving along.

Diesel is actually ten cents cheaper in Narragansett, but if we stop in Rhode Island at all, we'd be required to quarantine for two weeks upon entering NY/NJ/CT. That's not in the cards, so we'll be passing through without stopping, as much as I'd like to spend a night or two. I expect to be in New Bedford until we have a window to go all the way to Connecticut.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Working on our night moves

We are under way across Bigelow Bight in the Gulf of Maine. It's already almost cocktail hour, and we are on track for an uncharacteristic after-dark arrival at Rockport, Massachusetts, having made a late afternoon departure from Portsmouth.

We had a very pleasant night at Stage Island Harbor; a little bit of swell came in at times, particularly at high tide when it could cross one of the ledges, but it was otherwise very comfortable and serene. We weighed anchor early yesterday morning to be in Portsmouth for lunch time. That had us racing up the Piscataqua with, at times, three knots behind us. We were tied up to the Prescott Park docks (map) by noon.

Vector at the old wood docks at Prescott Park. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in background.

My cousins arrived at 12:30 as scheduled, bearing grinders from the local top-rated sandwich shop, and Italian pastries (my weakness) from a bakery in town. We won the weather lottery for the day, and it was warm enough on the aft deck to sit comfortably in shirt sleeves or light jackets. We had a great time catching up, and they stayed until a little past four.

Shortly after my cousins left, a small dinghy pulled up to the dock. It turned out to be our neighbors from Stage Island, Grace and Drew of the sailing vessel Juliana. We chatted briefly at a safe distance; they are new cruisers who've recently wrapped up their landlubber lives and are headed for points south. We exchanged contact information and hope we'll see them again along the way.

One last look at Portland as we departed, with Fort Gorges in the foreground at left.

Between the enormous sandwiches, a bag of chips, and too much dessert, we were well-fed for the day, and so at dinner time we just had a light snack on board rather than braving the Saturday crowds (it's still tourist season here) to get into any of the dozens of nice eateries in town, all of which now have outside tables.

We made up for it this morning by going out for brunch. It was a bit too crowded in the center of town for our sensibilities, so instead we had a surprisingly good meal at the Hammer Pub and Grille, formerly the iconic Rusty Hammer bar. In the mid-day sun it was very comfortable.

The seas were so glassy on our cruise out of Portland Friday that we were able to spot this pod of dolphins by their wake.

The choice to go out for brunch and also to put the e-bike on the ground for some fresh provisions meant that we missed the morning ebb. Rather than push our way out on the flood, we asked the dockmaster if we could just stay tied up until the tide changed this afternoon at 3:30. He had no one coming in and said it was no problem.

Our plan had been to drop lines at 3:30 and run downriver to Pepperrell Cove, which is actually in Maine, to anchor for the night. That would let us launch on the morning ebb, headed for Gloucester. It was a great plan, but when Louise re-checked the weather after brunch, tomorrow's forecast had deteriorated significantly.

Sunset over the Massachusetts coast from sea.

Rather than have an uncomfortable four hours to Cape Ann tomorrow, we decided to make a run for it in today's relatively benign conditions. That meant leaving the dock at 3pm with the last of the flood still against us, and arriving at Cape Ann well after sunset, at "nautical twilight." Coming in in the pitch dark is a bad idea, even though we've been there before and have a good track, because it becomes next to impossible to see the lobster floats.

It also meant heading for Rockport rather than Gloucester. Running the canal after dark would not be a good idea, and going around on the outside would put us in much later. As I am wrapping up typing the sun is beginning to set, and we still have over an hour to the anchorage.

The view from our anchorage on arrival: Rockport at night.

Heavy weather moves in tomorrow afternoon and will keep us pinned down for a few days. So in the morning we will weigh anchor first thing, and either head around the point to Gloucester Harbor, or else a little further south toward Massachusetts Bay, and hunker down someplace by mid-day.

Update: While I had hoped to just get this posted under way, it got dark enough that I had to stop typing or I couldn't see the pots. We're anchored in Rockport Harbor (map), more or less where we were on our last visit. This time there is an annoying swell that we did not predict based on the forecast. It was mostly dark when we arrived, but we managed to get all the way in without hitting any floats.

Friday, October 2, 2020

One final storm in Maine

We are underway southbound in the Atlantic Ocean, more specifically the Gulf of Maine. As I projected, I am finally getting to post as we depart Portland for points south, after a week of hunkering down for weather and knocking out some projects.

One of those "projects," by the way, turned out to be catching up on two months' worth of blog comments. Sometimes it takes all the wherewithal that I have left just to get to updating the blog, and so I am notoriously bad at keeping up with the comments. Louise has informed me that this would never fly in the quilting world. In any event, I think I am mostly caught up now.

Squirrel Point Light Station on the Kennebec. "Tilted" shed in background, left, is the boathouse, with launch tracks down to the river.

When last I posted, just over a week ago, we had just tied up in Bath, on a lovely day. I did some more walking around town, stopping at J.R. Maxwell's to reserve a table outside on the sidewalk for an early dinner. On my walk I circled around the old train station, now the visitor center, and past the Carlton Bridge, which still carries the rail line that goes all the way to Rockland. The old highway deck above the rail line ends abruptly, having been replaced by the Sagadahoc Bridge right next to it.

We returned to town at dinner time and had a nice meal at Maxwell's. We were fortunate to be under an awning during a light sprinkle. While we were sitting there the weekly BLM peaceful protest marched past us chanting. On the way home I again stopped at the very convenient IGA grocery to replenish the beer supply.

Bath station, looking unchanged from the days of passenger service.

Friday was our one good outside window to return to Casco Bay, and we dropped lines with the ebb and ran downriver to the ocean. As soon as we left the mostly pot-free Kennebec I was right back to steering around floats for the rest of the cruise. We rounded Cape Small and turned shoreward at Turnip Island, making our way to a familiar spot in Potts Harbor, where we dropped the hook. We arrived early enough in the day for me to get the main engine oil changed after a brief cool-down. We opted to remain aboard rather than brave the chill to go to the Dolphin Marina for dinner, as we had on our first visit.

In the morning we weighed anchor and made our way back to Portland, dropping the hook more or less in the same spot we had vacated five weeks earlier (map). We drove through light fog the whole cruise, even getting a late start due to visibility, but we drove out of it just as we got to Portland. It turned out to be a fairly nice afternoon there, and we made arrangements to meet our friends Stacey and Dave for dinner.

The road deck ends here abruptly on the historic Carlton bridge. It still connects to ground level on the other side.

We were able to snag a nice outside table at the Old Port Sea Grill just across the street from the tender landing, and had a great time catching up on cruising Maine. After dinner they drove over to the pier to drop off our loot, which included another pair of lithium batteries, the critical replacement pump for the master head, and our accumulated mail sent up from Green Cove Springs.

Having the pump in hand meant my fate for Sunday was sealed, and I spent the day working on the head. I will spare you the gory details, other than to say that the cause of the pump jam was a portmanteau whose second half derives from "concrete," which has accumulated over several years. I spent most of the time removing those deposits before I could install the new pump.

On our way out of Bath I snapped this pic of the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, DDG-1002, the third and final Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer, being fitted out at Bath Iron Works.

The pump came with a kit of installation parts, including the gasket that fixes it to the china, as well as the weird proprietary rubber discharge tube that connects it to the waste line. Of course, the new tube is the one designed for the tall version of the head, which we have in the guest stateroom, but it does not fit the low-profile model we have in the master. The replacement pump kit is the same part number for both.

That meant I had to reuse the old discharge tube, which was not a big deal because it's in good shape and there is not much that can go wrong with basically a rubber hose. But while the included replacement tube came with a stainless hose clamp to fit it to the new pump, the original tube was affixed with a crimp-on band similar to the ones I use to install PEX fittings. These are meant as throw-away items, including whatever they are clamping. I had to carefully cut it off using a Dremel tool, taking great pains not to damage the rubber tube.

At the Maine Maritime Museum, just downriver of the Iron Works, these five flagpoles are arranged as the masts of a full-rigged ship, framed by sculptures of a bow and stern. There are docks here for visitors arriving by boat.

It was a long, drawn-out project, but once I got the new pump installed (the old one can probably be salvaged, but that was beyond my ability in the moment) everything was working again, better than it has in quite a while. Sadly, within a couple of days we realized that the obstructions have just moved further down the sanitation hose, and we're back to using the forward head until I can replace the hose entirely.

Monday I set right to work getting the new batteries installed, since they were taking up considerable room in the saloon in their packing boxes. That meant fully charging the existing bank, then cutting back over to the old AGM batteries, which are still in place. That allowed me to disconnect and remove the lithiums so I could remove more of the compartment floor with my oscillating saw, relocating a stringer for the settee in the process.

On our way back from dinner in Portland we passed this wedding limo. Mindful of the horrific outbreak from a wedding in Millinocket, now at 175+ cases and 7 dead, we wondered just how much "social distance" this conveyance affords.

The six batteries all fit quite nicely in the compartment thus modified, although I did have to connect the third pair with some wire I had lying around. The copper bar I had ordered to make new bus bars had not arrived at our friends' house by the time we met for dinner. I did have enough bar left over to at least make the series connection for the new pair. I had all the batteries in place and cut back over by the end of the day.

I had ordered a number of items on Amazon for delivery to the Portland locker. They all had delivery scheduled for Sunday, but one item somehow did not arrive until Monday. As soon as I got the notice, just as I had wrapped up with the batteries, I tendered ashore with my backpack and made the trek to the locker. The deliveries included a battery monitor for the inverter, a remote microphone for one of our radios, replacements for the carabiner we use as a chain hook, which gave up its life here in Maine, and oil filters and test kits to replace those I'd consumed in the last week.

Looking very much like a turbo for a small engine, this is actually the new macerator pump for our head. I think a turbo is cheaper.

We tendered back ashore not long after I returned with my locker packages and enjoyed dinner at Flatbreads right by the dock. They've set up a shelter on their deck and added some propane heaters and we were quite comfortable; we've been joking that we need to invest in whoever makes those heaters.

My copper bar arrived at our friends' place Monday afternoon, and we made arrangements to have a final lunch with them Tuesday. We all underestimated how busy places would be just after lunch hour mid-week, but we found an outside table at local small chain eatery Elevation Burger and had a nice time. No idea when we will run into them again, but we look forward to it. After lunch we returned home and decked the tender.

I had to carefully cut this clamp off to remove the tube from the old pump. I used a cutting wheel on a Dremel to cut through the "crimp" at right so I would not nick the rubber.

The forecast for Tuesday evening and through Wednesday was bleak: 40-50 mph winds out of the south, with 7-9' waves in the ocean, which would send considerable swell into the harbor. And so around mid-day Tuesday we weighed anchor and moved over to an anchorage called Seal Cove, off Great Diamond Island (map), just a couple of miles from where we were. We set the anchor in deep mud and paid out a lot of chain.

That committed us to eating aboard for a couple of nights, but it was calm, quiet, and reasonably scenic there. We did ultimately see winds well in excess of 40 on Wednesday, but we were mostly protected and comfortable. I continued working on projects, and, in particular, with the copper bar now in hand I could finish up the batteries.

Weighing anchor after a full day of 40+ wind -- we were well-set in thick clay.

That meant once again shutting them down and running on the old AGMs while I installed new bus bars and the new battery monitor. For the former, I basically made two more long bars identical to the first pair. It can be argued that using longer bars to bridge all three pairs would be neater and more efficient, but that would have meant buying at least another foot of bar, plus would complicate installation and future maintenance. Having two bars to cross among three batteries meant I also had to make spacers with small pieces of the same bar so that it would all lie flat.

The battery monitor installation involved installing a "shunt" (a large, high-current, calibrated resistance) and a small electronic module which communicates with the inverter-charger. This lets the charger make decisions about charge rates based on what is actually flowing into the batteries, rather than guessing based on what's leaving the charger. Some of what leaves the charger goes to the loads instead of the batteries, so the guesswork is problematic.

Finished installation. Total space is about 21" square.

Of course, there was already a shunt in there, which supplies usage data to our State-of-Charge (SOC) meter at the helm. In theory, the new shunt and module obviate that need, because the usage information can be seen on the inverter display. That said, I wanted to keep the SOC meter, because it provides more detailed readings, and also has an alarm circuit which we have connected to a very bright warning light to tell us we need to charge.

That meant having two shunts, and I needed to move some things around to accommodate both and wire them together in series. When I initially designed the compartment and installed the SOC meter shunt, I had not counted on the kit for the inverter. Only after getting it all working did I realize that the charger was working at a disadvantage without this input.

Two shunts in series. New one, left, is for inverter/charger monitor; older one on right drives the SOC meter.

Fortunately I had enough terminal lugs and battery cable on hand to put it all together. I did have to drill out a 5/16" lug to 3/8" to make it all work; the new shunt has larger terminals. I was able to get it all back together and working by dinner time on Wednesday; I am only missing a couple of terminal boots, which were on backorder. The new system is now 100% operational, with 7.8kWh of capacity, and we are very happy with how it is working.

Yesterday morning was calm and serene, and we moved back to our old spot in Portland at mid-day, hoping to go back ashore for one last dinner and walk around town. But well before dinner time, the swell had moved back in from the ocean, and the rolling became intolerable. We ended up moving back across the harbor to a slightly different spot near Great Diamond Island (map) and eating aboard instead.

Box at right, with green LED, is the battery monitor module. It connects to the inverter with a network cable.

Today we weighed anchor at the turn of the tide and headed out to sea. Seas have been three feet on seven seconds, which is brushing the edge of comfort, but it's been tolerable and we've had a good cruise. The lobster floats are unending, and it's been a challenge to try to type here while having to steer manually every few minutes to avoid them.

Update: We are anchored in a small natural harbor near Cape Porpoise, called Stage Island Harbor (map). There is but a single other boat here, a cruising sailboat that came in just ahead of us. My route originally had us going to Cape Porpoise Harbor, just around the corner, where we might have gone ashore at the small dock and eaten at the waterfront pub there. But it was 55 and raining as we approached the cape, and with no appeal to go ashore, this spot was closer to our route and a more pleasant anchorage.

We had a lovely sunset at dinner last night in our anchorage at Great Diamond Island. A fitting finish to our Portland visit.

In the morning we will weigh anchor to have favorable tide on the Piscataqua on arrival. We have reservations at the Prescott Park docks in Portsmouth for the night. The nicer, newer concrete docks were unavailable, so we'll be on the older wooden dock with no power, but the off-season rate is favorable. We should be tied up by lunch time, and my cousins will come up from Chester to meet us in the warmth of the afternoon.

That will put us in New Hampshire tomorrow, and we will be out of Maine with three days to spare on our 60-day clock. When next you hear from me, we'll likely be in Massachusetts.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Bye, Teddy

We are underway downbound on the Kennebec. The really skinny stuff is behind me now, Otto is driving, and I have some time to type. We had a great stop in Augusta, where Hurricane Teddy was pretty much a non-event, just as we prefer it.

Teddy-driven surf at Ocean Point. Photo: Steve Demaranville

Tuesday our friends Ann and Steve from Boothbay drove up for a visit. We were hoping to sit out behind Cushnoc Brewing on one of their picnic tables for lunch, but apparently the back patio only opens at dinner time, and the two tables out front were occupied. We ended up getting two pizzas to go and walked them back to Vector, where we sat on the aft deck.

Louise and Ann showing off Kathleen's quilt. Photo: Steve Demaranville.

The pizza was quite good, and we had a pleasant conversation. Well, when we could hear each other. Apparently, Tuesday was the day when all the Augusta fire trucks have their pumps tested by a service company; every engine in town came down to the boat ramp across from us, connected to a giant suction hose in the river, and blasted water out of a deck gun that the service company had set up on the riverbank. When they ran the pumps up to full speed, the engine noise was a bit overwhelming.

The first of a half dozen fire engines testing their pumps. It was 40° when I took this shot.

I took the e-bike out for a spin around town both before and after lunch. In the morning I rode down to the Capitol, taking the rail trail to a small connector that comes out at Capitol Park. I then rode back to town along State Street, passing the governor's mansion and the Civil War memorial.

Maine Capitol from the eponymous Olmstead-designed park.

In the afternoon, I rode up to Mill Park, which is basically the filled-in remains of the controlling works for the Edwards Dam, which impounded the Kennebec north of Augusta for 162 years. It was the first dam ever to be denied a renewal of operating permit, and was removed in 1999; the native fish populations decimated by the dam are already recovering somewhat.

Standing on part of the old dam, now a park, looking across the river to the ruins of the powerhouse.

There I came across the Tuesday Farmers' Market in a nice pavilion. There was nothing we needed but I picked up a couple of home-made cookies for later. The park also sports a large p├ętanque court, the nicest I've seen. I spent a few minutes walking on the remains of the dam structure.

Farmers' market, Tuesdays 2-6.

Tuesday afternoon and evening, Teddy passed by offshore, on its way to Nova Scotia. The highest winds we saw in Augusta were perhaps fifteen. The coastal forecast was for dozen-footers, though, and I suggested to Ann and Steve that they swing by Ocean Point when they returned home to have a look. They sent us the photos of some spectacular surf.

Vector in downtown Augusta, as seen from Memorial Bridge. I had to crouch below the suicide fence to get this shot.

Following behind the storm were much warmer temperatures. Yesterday was a perfect day, and I took the e-bike out to big-box land near I-95. After a quick stop at Home Depot, a ride around the enormous mall grounds, and a half sandwich on an outside table at Panera Bread, I headed into the Walmart Supercenter for supplies.

Blaine House, the official governor's residence.

I needed four more gallons of motor oil for the main engine, which limited how much else I was able to carry, but still I was able to fill the whole list. The final item was batting for Louise's quilting; they had four packages left, and I took them all. That made the bike look like I rode out of the Grapes of Wrath, but it was all downhill to get home and I made it with no escapees.

Loaded up. The tiny wheels make it look all the more wonky. Not shown: the full backpack. I can only fit three gallons of oil in the basket. The fourth gallon and most of the groceries are in the pack.

With a day finally warm enough for the task, I changed the engine and gear oil on the dinghy outboard, slightly overdue, and then used the remains of the day to ride down to Hallowell on the rail trail. There I found Lee Ann tied to the dock; the skipper reported he was scraping bottom at low tide, so definitely not enough water for Vector. I am glad we did not attempt it on the way up.

The dock and bulkhead in Hallowell, with its colorful Adirondack chairs. Lee Ann just off frame at left.

I spent a few minutes riding around town before heading right back up the rail trail. Back in Augusta I made a quick loop of the eastern shore before returning to Vector and hoisting the e-bike back aboard. We strolled over to the Raging Bull Saloon for dinner on their "deck," a temporary platform in a parking spot. They were using bar stools to rope it off, except here the bar stools are western saddles on posts. We were the only ones dining al fresco.

Beer at the Raging Bull Saloon. Note the saddle-stools. This was our warmest evening.

All in all it was an excellent stop, but this morning the timing of the tide was favorable to leave (yesterday we would have had to leave before breakfast) and we dropped lines just ahead of high tide to have the best water for departure. NOAA discontinued its tide station in Augusta five years ago, so lacking reliable tide information, I've been recording sounder readings over the course of our stay and basically made my own table.

Downtown Hallowell.

That made all the difference, and the spot that read just seven feet on our way upriver carried ten feet on our way out, a much less nerve-wracking experience. We cruised right past Hallowell and also Gardiner, where we might have anchored but there was certainly no room at the dock. We arrived at the turn for Richmond just below mid-tide and falling, and while we probably could have easily cleared the shoal at the entrance and made it to the dock, we decided instead to keep riding the ebb downriver.

Civil War memorial.

Tonight we should be in Bath again, or else anchored nearby, and tomorrow we will use the first of two very nice outside windows to exit the Kennebec, round Cape Small, and make our way back into Casco Bay. My part for the master head is waiting for me in Portland, along with a third pair of lithium batteries, and we need to get those aboard before our clock expires in Maine. We'll get in a visit with our friends there, who have been gracious enough to receive all this, and then use the next available window to continue south. 

Lithgow Library.

Update: We are tied to the town dock in Bath (map), again with permission to stay the night. As I finish typing it's 80°, a far cry from two days ago when we did not even make it into the 60s. The riverside park is busy; clearly everyone is enjoying the nice weather.

When we were singling up this morning we found this wheel trapped with other detritus between the bow and the dock. The river always flows downstream here, where the outflow overcomes the tide. I pulled it out and left it on the dock.

My next post will likely be departing Portland.

The old arsenal. This shoal is covered at high tide. I shot this from the bridge, since I could not snap it from the helm while driving.

Gratuitous shot of the last engine of the day running its pump. Warmer now, at least.