Saturday, August 18, 2018

A fortuitous find of a fabulous festival

We are under way in the North Atlantic, between Cape Cod Bay and Massachusetts Bay. We had a nice three-night stay in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where we dropped the hook in 60' right in the middle of the bight (map).

Not long after I last posted here, we steamed into the bight, rounding Long Point with its square lighthouse. The harbor was chock-full of boats, and we soon discovered that virtually every spot in the harbor in 20' or less of water (at low tide, which swings a full ten feet here) had a mooring ball in it. There was room at the edge for perhaps five or six boats, and it was already overfull. Plus a long dinghy ride to town.

Provincetown Carnival. That's the historic Universalist Meeting House in the background; we went in and admired the trompe l'oeil sanctuary.

We have 400' of chain, and after poking around the edge of the harbor we finally just decided to drop anchor in the 50' contour, a good deal closer to town. We put out 200' of chain for a bit more than 3:1 scope at a high tide of 60', with the nearest boats some 300' away, and called it good. We did have to chase away one sailboat that tried to drop in our swing circle the next day.

Even though this was a busy week (more on that in a moment), there were quite a few empty moorings. Frankly, I think the mooring outfits have put balls all the way out to the 30' contour just to force boats who would otherwise anchor to pay for balls. A mooring ball for Vector would have cost $91 per night. That would include launch service, but only to 6pm, and tipping the launch guys is also expected. We're very thankful for our heavy and long ground tackle.

P-Town from our anchorage. Pilgrim Monument at center; town dock and breakwater far right. Hundreds of boats.

We splashed the tender and headed ashore for dinner, landing at the free town dock dinghy landing on MacMillan Pier. As we strolled down the main drag, Commercial Street, in the general direction of restaurants, we were suddenly transported back to New Orleans in Mardi Gras season: the town was decorated in yellow, green, purple, and gold, and masks, beads, and other Mardi Gras icons were everywhere. Hmm.

Fabulous head-dresses before the parade.

After a couple of blocks we finally realized we had stumbled into Provincetown Carnival Week, the largest LGBTQ event in this uber-friendly town. The local population of 3,000 swells to some 90,000 during the Carnival Parade, and lodging is sold out along the whole Cape. This explained why we found the anchorage so busy mid-week, when weekends are typically the busy time here. This year's Carnival theme was Mardi Gras Under the Sea.

Happy to have ring-side seats for free, we continued wandering until we found a restaurant with an open table street-side. We had a great view from the patio at Local 186 of the happy festival-goers on the street. Out of curiosity I asked the waiter what our particularly well-situated four-top was going for during the parade and he said it was $400 and, like the rest of their tables, sold out.

The view from our table at Local 186. Bubala's across the street has drag shows all season.

The parade was Thursday at 3:00, and, veterans of myriad Mardi Gras parades, we arrived ashore a bit after that to take up a position about half way through the route. We found a shady place to sit while waiting and taking in the happy festival atmosphere. The parade actually reached us around 4:30 and continued past us until after the scheduled end time of 5pm.

Happy crowd even before the parade arrived.

We made our way upstream through the crowd and scored a patio table near the street at Patio American Grill, which was festively decorated in feather boas for the occasion. Good food and even more great people-watching, both on the street and in the restaurant. We got back to Vector after dark and could hear the parties going on well into the night.

We've been turning on the underwater light in the evenings, and were surprised to find thousands of squid. A squadron of small boats with powerful lights appears each evening, we assume to harvest them commercially. One morning I found a dead squid in the tender; we guessed he jetted out of the water into the boat. We also had a seal swimming around the boat periodically.

Many corporate sponsors, including this expensive float from Tito's Vodka.

Yesterday we went ashore in the morning to check out the combination chandlery and hardware store right on Commercial Street, after a nice brunch at local favorite Yolqueria. We were hoping to maybe find a new ensign staff (no luck), and I needed a piece of tubing to repair the turn signal on Louise's scooter. I also dropped three bucks on a sturdy cardboard box to ship a chartplotter I sold on eBay.

Boston Harbor Cruises' float was modeled after their fast ferry Salacia that makes several runs here a day.

We returned ashore in the evening for a final dinner at the Crown and Anchor, again scoring a street-side table on the patio. In addition to a restaurant, the Crown and Anchor hosts two of the more popular gay nightclubs in town, and we enjoyed meeting the producer of one of the shows while he was on the street drumming up business. We considered seeing the show but decided we did not want to be tendering back that late.

In all we had a great time in P-Town, in a way that was unexpected. Our friends Cherie and Chris over at Techmomadia call this "nomadic serendipity." We could easily have stayed another day or two, for the more usual weekend festivities, but incoming weather meant making this crossing today.

Passing the real Salacia, and the Provincetown III fast ferries. Salacia passed us three times today.

In a short while we will round Minots Ledge Light on our way into Massachusetts Bay. We'll be turning south through Hull Gut and up the Weymouth Fore River to anchor. With any luck we will be able to look at a new tender at a Weymouth dealership on Monday. We're due in Portsmouth, NH Wednesday evening, so Tuesday we'll be heading north again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


We are under way across Cape Cod Bay, en route to Provincetown. This morning found us anchored in Penzance Bay, just off the village of Woods Hole, Falmouth, Massachusetts (map), with not a single Gilbert & Sullivan pirate in sight.

Woods Hole village from Penzance Bay. If you zoom in you can see beach-goers to the left and boats in Great Harbor across the peninsula at right.

We had a good cruise yesterday from Nantucket. The current ran against us, at times more than a knot, for the first half of the trip, and we ran at 1400 rpm to conserve fuel. But by the time we were passing Marthas Vineyard the tide had turned, and as we approached Woods Hole around 1630 or so, the current was running five knots in the hole.

Going through a narrow, rock-lined pass in a slow single-screw boat with five knots behind a flat transom is not for the faint of heart, and we were noodling on whether to wait for slacker tide when circumstances made the decision for us. A tug and barge were southbound in the hole from Buzzards Bay, and they were stopped dead by the current. They literally sat there for nearly an hour, powering against the current and making zero headway.

With the narrowest part of the pass just 120' wide, we did not want to be passing a barge with that much current behind us. We instead headed in to Great Harbor, where we had spent two nights our last time through, and dropped the hook to wait it out. Anchoring here is a challenge with a mostly rocky bottom, but it was just a lunch hook and we had no real trouble.

The same can not be said for weighing anchor an hour later, after Sirius, the tug, had cleared out of the hole and the current had dropped to just under three knots. The chain ended up with a 180° twist in it and it refused to untwist while we sat there in the harbor. At one point, while trying to hold it straight with a boat pole while winching it in, Louise's wireless remote briefly jammed in the "up" position and the anchor whizzed aboard upside-down, slamming into the hull and taking a 3" long divot out of our nice new paint job.

Gouge in the hull from our anchor fluke.

It looks like it went all the way through the fairing compound and exposed the steel in a couple of small spots, so we'll have to get some primer on it in the next day or two before the rust starts. I'd be more upset about this, except the paint job we spent a fortune on in New Orleans 16 months ago is so crappy that we'll need to repaint the whole boat in another year or so anyway.

Looks like it went all the way to steel. But it stopped there; you can't feel a bump on the other side.

Even with the hour delay, we shot through the hole at nine knots and had the hook down in Penzance Bay before dinner time. Only cocktail hour had to be delayed. At quarter past six, Stony Beach on the shore of the bay was full of sunbathers and swimmers; Woods Hole takes its limited summer season seriously.

This morning we weighed anchor right after coffee to take full advantage of the tide. We reported in to Canal Control as we passed Cleveland Ledge Light, and hit the canal right at max current. At one point we were doing over 11 knots even though I was making revs for just over six.

Bourne Bridge ahead, doing 11 knots.

I did the full photo tour thing the first time we came through here, so this time I took but one photo, of the Bourne Bridge. We encountered no large ships, but at one point after passing a lightboat tug pushing hard against the current, we found ourselves in three foot seas as the wakes reverberated between the hard canal walls.

It's a straight shot to P-Town after leaving the canal, giving me a chance to update the blog while Otto drives. At one point I looked up to see an old-timey ship in the distance; when plying the waters between Plymouth and Provincetown I figured to encounter the Mayflower. But as she neared I could see it was much larger, a different shape, and had one mast too many. It turned out to be the sailing school ship Oliver Hazard Perry.

Oliver Hazard Perry on Cape Cod Bay.

The bay is incredibly calm today. The water is so flat that Angel the cat has been up and about a good bit since leaving the canal. Louise caught her while she was taking a drink from her new cat fountain, one of the things we had delivered in Greenport. Angel has always had to splash her water with her paw before taking a drink, and this has put a stop to that as well as increased her water intake, perhaps stemming the need for more subcutaneous fluids.

Angel drinking from her cat fountain. The silicone cake pan contains spillage under way.

In a short while we will be in the hook of Cape Cod, hunting for an anchor spot among the hundreds of mooring balls. We expect to spend at least two nights here, and maybe a third before heavy weather moves in that will stir the bay up into five-foot seas; we'll clear out and make Massachusetts Bay or points north before the seas pick up. I'll likely post again once we're under way out of P-Town.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

There once was a boat in Nantucket ...

We are under way in Nantucket Sound, westbound for Woods Hole (the hole, not the town). We weighed anchor this morning after a lovely three night stay in Nantucket Harbor, where a busy Saturday afternoon arrival had us dropping the hook on the very edge of the harbor with the big girls (map).

One of the overbooked dinghy docks in Nantucket Harbor. We had to squeeze in here daily.

We had a pleasant seven hour cruise from Menemsha on Saturday. Even in overcast and rain, the pleasure boat traffic was a bit chaotic both as we passed Vineyard Haven on Marthas Vineyard, and as we made our entrance to Nantucket. We were a bit apprehensive about finding a spot in Nantucket in the middle of a summer weekend.

As we steamed into the harbor, Louise noticed our ensign was missing. Neither of us could remember stowing it, and it was not in the place we use for that. We ended up going back through our on-board camera video after we anchored, and found it had wobbled out of its mount and lept off the boat at 11:29 in the morning, somewhere off Marthas Vineyard. The ensign itself was due for retirement, so we can now say its burial was at sea. Sadly, we'll need a new ensign staff now.

Our ensign leaves us (about a half minute in). Time is in EST so it's actually an hour later in EDT.

Just as we imagined, the harbor was packed. We were hoping to come around behind the designated mooring field and drop just south of it, but it turns out the moorings now extend across the harbor in all directions. After dancing around the traffic headed to and from the moorings and the docks, we headed back to the north end and turned east toward First Point.

We got pretty much the last decent spot that would fit us, with several boats even further east. As we were dropping the anchor, the harbormaster's boat passed us; he stopped at each of the vessels anchored to our east, and shortly thereafter each weighed anchor and headed elsewhere. I'm not sure where the magic imaginary "no anchoring" line is, but I am very glad we ended up inside of it.

A less-busy harbor this morning. The empty space between us and the other boats is a shoal, barely 3' at low.

Not long afterward, as we were getting ready to head ashore for dinner, a 92' Feadship dropped anchor right next to us, in a way that put our swing circles overlapping uncomfortably. I called them on the radio but got the owner, who said the captain was ashore and would get back to me. We put them on notice and left for dinner. They would later re-anchor two more times before finally settling on a spot just barely far enough away from us.

When I called to make reservations at Slip 14, the closest casual restaurant to the town dinghy dock, I learned that the Boston Pops were in town for their annual concert at Jetty Park. 20 minutes to curtain we were able to walk right in and get a table at the bar. I think they played despite the rain -- the stage was under a tent -- but having been to outdoor Pops concerts in my youth, I could not imagine it was pleasant or comfortable for the audience. The concert closed with fireworks that we could hear on deck but barely see because the rain/mist/fog was so thick, even though we were just a mile away.

The weather improved Sunday and we had a nice afternoon and evening exploring the old town and going to dinner at Brotherhood of Thieves. We opted to wait until late in the day to let the throngs of tourists clear out, and by late afternoon things were fairly pleasant in the village. I spent the earlier part of the day working on routes, schedules, and dealing with trying to replace the tender and the house batteries.

American Star at anchor. Vector is obscured behind her.

Yesterday morning we enjoyed watching the enormous American Star cruise ship come into the harbor and drop their hook just a couple hundred yards behind us. We've crossed paths with them and their sister ships many times on the ICW, even sharing a dock in Savannah and Charleston. There would not have been room for them Saturday when we arrived, but on a Monday they found a spot. It puts our anchoring tribulations in perspective. They lowered their enormous tender and shuttled their guests ashore.

Words can not adequately describe just how full this harbor is in the height of the season, and the picture I was able to take from the flybridge, above,  is not much better. I can't even imagine what it must be like here on a holiday; we barely found a spot on a normal Saturday. The dinghy docks, of which there are two, are always so full that it is necessary to nose up and "part the sea" of dinghies to try to get close enough to the dock to disembark.

The other dinghy dock; Scalar is lost behind the workboat in this photo.

We spent the day ashore, riding around the island on the local transit system. An unlimited day pass is $8, and that let us ride the line all the way out to Millie's Restaurant in Madaket (we did not go in), then the loop around the south part of town, and finally take the line out to Siasconset (locally called just Sconset), where we strolled around town and had a snack before returning via Polpis. By the time we got off the bus we felt we had pretty much seen the entire island.

We had a final meal ashore last night at The Boarding House, popping into the Stop & Shop for a few groceries before returning to the tender. We made our way back across the harbor in thick fog and total darkness, making us glad we left extra outside lights on when we left Vector. Many boats in the mooring field were completely unlit, and even some under way tenders were dark. Both are illegal and dangerous; we had to keep a sharp lookout to avoid smacking into any of them.

Sconset (Siasconset). The town center is this traffic circle with a post office and four businesses.

It's pretty dark in the harbor and I had hoped to catch the peak of the Perseids last night, but of course it was still completely overcast when I went out on deck at 2am. Oh well. It's less cloudy today, and maybe I will catch some tonight out near Woods Hole.

This morning we decked the tender and got under way just after slack. We've been putting along at 1400 rpm against a wicked current; the late departure and slow speed are to let the tide catch up with us and reverse before the end of our trip. It's finally letting up now and should be in our favor in the next hour.

The relatively short day to Woods Hole is also on account of tidal current; once we make the turn into Buzzards Bay it will again be against us for the rest of the day. So we will stop instead and get an early start tomorrow for a favorable current up the bay and through the Cap Cod Canal. Tomorrow evening we should be in Provincetown.

The "Sconset Pump" over a well from 1776. Lots of 200-year-old houses here, too.

We're skipping Marthas Vineyard, Woods Hole (the town), Onset, and other intermediate stops because we are now on a schedule, and we've been to each of those on our last pass through here. The schedule involves getting to New Hampshire to visit with my cousins next Thursday and Friday, which are the last open days on their calendar. At this writing it is unclear just where in NH (or maybe MA) we will stay for this visit; anchorages with dinghy landings are few and docks are outrageous here.

From where we started today to coastal New Hampshire is five days of travel, and we want to be in port by Wednesday afternoon. That gives us four days of leeway, and we'll use a couple of those to visit Provincetown, another stop we had to skip last time through. We visisted P-Town when we were still in the bus, but the closest place to park was a state park mid-cape, and we just made a whirlwind tour of P-Town on a very long scooter ride. We're looking forward to being a bit closer and having a more relaxed visit.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Back in New England

We are under way in Gardiners Bay, just south of Plum Island, bound for Block Island Sound, en route to Martha's Vineyard (I ran out of time to finish this post yesterday). We're now so busy during port calls that I need a day under way to catch up on the blog. We've made three of those since my last post, on our way into New Haven.

Vector anchored in Rye, NY, as seen from the Tiki Bar. This photo missed the last post.

We had a nice stop in New Haven, where we dropped the hook in the harbor just north of the town dock, home to the replica Amistad schooner, and across the channel from the busy commercial port (map). The city has three mooring balls here for pleasure craft, but they are in water too shallow for us and are also very expensive.

Vector, as seen beyond the harbor patrol and the Amistad, at right.

Shortly after getting settled in we dropped the tender and headed ashore to meet our friend Eric. There is a floating dinghy dock at the town dock and a small parking lot for the Long Wharf Park where he picked us up. We had a nice time catching up over pizza and beer at Modern Apizza. Afterwards we drove a bit through downtown and the Yale campus before returning to the park and our dinghy.

Vector against a backdrop of the commercial port. That's one of the spendy mooring balls that nobody uses.

Wednesday we weighed anchor in light fog and steamed back out of the harbor into Long Island Sound. The weather forecast was calling for winds building out of the south throughout the day, with things on the north side of the sound becoming untenable by nightfall and throughout the next couple of days. We needed to get across the sound before dropping the hook again.

New Haven receding astern in a lifting fog. 5 Mile Point Lighthouse is at right.

We had the tide against us the whole day as we headed toward the north fork of Long Island, and for a while it looked like we'd have to drop the hook near Orient Point rather than make our intended destination of Sag Harbor. But things improved toward the end of our easting, and then we shot through Plum Gut at lightning speed with three knots behind us.

Seas had gotten calmer and calmer as we got closer to the north shore of the island, but as soon as we turned into Gardiners Bay we again faced several miles of fetch, and the seas in the bay were three feet and confused. We realized a stop at Orient would put us in even worse seas in the morning, and so we opted to press on to Sag Harbor for a late arrival.

With the current now behind us we made up time, and by 5:30 we had the hook down in the Sag Harbor anchorage (map). The wind was so bad by this time that we came in as close to the breakwater as depth would allow, ahead of all the mooring balls, and squeezed in on a fairly short scope. We splashed the tender and headed ashore for dinner at the Corner Bar. We also had a nice stroll around town.

Sunset over Long Island Sound as seen from our friends' house in Southold.

Sag Harbor is a tourist trap, but a tony one, and the harbor and marinas are chock full of expensive luxury yachts. We recognized more than one megayacht from our travels in the Bahamas and Fort Lauderdale. Dockage here is outrageous and mooring balls are also expensive, but the dinghy dock is free.

Thursday we met up with our friends Cora and Dave, who split their time between here and San Francisco. We had a very nice dinner with them at the Dockside Bar and Grill (not to be confused with the Dockhouse, which is a take-out place near the pier). This restaurant is housed in the American Legion building, which retains for itself one small room.

As we were crossing Long Island Sound on our way to Sag Harbor, I spent a considerable amount of time on the Internet researching replacement tenders. The expensive goop we put in the leaking tube in Manhattan did nothing to stem the leak, which, if anything, has gotten worse. After struggling with it in New Haven, we concluded that it's probably time to just get a new dinghy.

Vector docked at Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport.

Having destroyed one propeller and propeller shaft on unseen underwater debris, and a second propeller on a loose trim tab, and being generally tired of worrying about prop strikes and beaching issues in general, I've been eyeing jet tenders for a replacement. And while I did not know this before Wednesday, it turns out that Williams Jet Tenders has a showroom in Sag Harbor, which says something about the number of expensive yachts here. (Their only other showroom is in Fort Lauderdale.)

So Friday we made an appointment with the Williams salesman to look at the model of interest. He had one new one in the showroom and a slightly used one at a marina. It was walking distance from the dinghy dock and we spent about 45 minutes in the showroom, sitting in the new one and looking at it from every angle.

We talked it over at dinner and came to the conclusion that this is not the right boat for us. The engine and jet drive just take up too much room, leaving barely enough for passengers or cargo, and none at all for life jackets, boarding ladders, and safety gear. The next size up would be fine, but it's too heavy for our crane and would make things very cramped on the boat deck with the scooters. Also, I can buy a lot of propellers for the premium the jet commands, and outboards are easier to service almost anyplace.

Sunset over the sound from last night's anchorage at Fishers Island.

Saturday was a dreary day. The winds had pretty much abated, but a rain system had moved in, and we figured to just spend the day aboard getting some things done. The rain did not, however, stop the enormous paddleboard race through the harbor, which turned out to be a high-dollar charity event. We enjoyed watching from the dry comfort of our saloon, and we got to listen to the music at the $50,000-a-table party, under a tent on the beach, that started at 7pm. We had a nice dinner ashore at the American Hotel.

Sunday we weighed anchor for the two hour cruise to Greenport, where we had reservations at the Mitchell Park Marina (map). We arrived right at check-in time of 11am, but the previous tenant in our slip was late getting out and we had to hover outside. We were tied up by 11:30 and immediately started loading fresh water and doing laundry. Other than three touch-and-go stops (fuel in Palm Beach, dinner in Atlantic City, and pumping out at 79th Street), this is the first dock we've seen since leaving Nassau in June.

We were expecting to meet our friends in the evening, which is why we chose to arrive Sunday, but they got a late start out of Rockville Center and would not arrive until close to midnight. Instead we enjoyed a nice dinner in town at the Agave Grill just across the street from the carousel. We've been to Greenport many times but this was our first in the evening.

The view from Vector at Mitchell Park. Megayachts MitSeaAh, Adix, and Kefi ahead.

The north fork is doing what it can to emulate its counterpart to the south, and Mitchell Park hosts some very large yachts. At least four were tied up when we arrived, including the 213', three-masted schooner Adix. Sunday morning the marina was very busy, with day visitors arriving in droves. Greenport is a popular day stop, and the village charges a buck a foot from 11am to 10pm.

Starting Monday morning and right up through Wednesday afternoon we were completely occupied with our now-adult nieces, one of whom was celebrating her birthday, our good friends their parents, and the birthday girl's boyfriend, along with a varying entourage of their Long Island relatives throughout the visit. We enjoyed sunsets over the Sound, wine tasting at the ever-growing collection of local wineries, and way too much food.

Wine tasting on the north fork. Yes, I'm squatting.

We dropped the scooters first thing Monday morning, for the first time since leaving the Turks & Caicos. It took me an extra half hour to air up tires, top up oil, charge batteries, and get them started, but for the most part they were ready to go. Sadly, the mirror stalks on my brand new scoot are now pock-marked with rust.

We finally had a quiet dinner alone again Wednesday night at Andy's. Wednesday is prime rib night, but after too much good food over three days, including homemade birthday carrot cake, we could not do it justice and all I had was a salad. Yesterday morning we spent the time leading up to checkout decking the scooters, topping up the water tank, fueling the tender, and offloading trash.

This final item proved to be something of a disaster. The dumpster was nearly empty and I asked the marina if I could put the old water heater, still taking up space in the engine room, in it. They agreed, and while in a perfect world I'd rather see the metal recycled (it's mostly valuable aluminum), keeping it aboard until we find a place to do that is problematic. With a little time left before checkout, I decided to extract it through the hatch and take it to the dumpster on our folding hand truck.

This chintzy lighthouse was for sale in a Southport gift shop. The coordinates are in Key West.

Flipping it upside down and heaving it up onto some boxes in the engine room so I could reach down to grab it from the aft deck, I managed to pull a muscle in my back rather seriously. There was no way I could finish the job, nor could I get it back down to floor level, so Louise tied it to the ladder to be dealt with another day. I used our last half hour in port to rest in my chair with an ice pack after taking 800mg of ibuprofen.

There was a brief moment where I was concerned I would not even be able to drive the boat, and I'd have to beg the marina to let us stay another night without moving (the slip was already booked to another boat). But by 11am the spasms had subsided enough to drop lines. Fortunately we had already loaded the scooters and competed the departure checklist before I injured myself.

Things were a bit chaotic in Gardiners Bay; even on a Thursday the weekend warriors were out in full force, and the channel between Greenport and Shelter Island gets very busy indeed. But after crossing past Plum Gut and south of Plum Island things calmed down a bit and I was able to start this post. Plum Island is in Southold, the very same town where we'd been visiting friends, but is owned by the federal government and is home only to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

"Dance Monday" at Mitchell Park. We heard this band quite clearly in our saloon.

Crossing Plum Gut we were tossed around a bit by the current that races through there from Long Island Sound to Gardiners Bay. After passing Plum Island we were tossed around even more, by the much greater current that races between there and the Gull Islands. Great Gull Island appears to be home to a number of kestrel nesting boxes on posts.

Neither of those racing currents can hold a candle to the one actually called "The Race," between Little Gull Island and the western tip of Fishers Island. The bulk of the tide for all Long Island Sound races back and forth in between these two points, with the central area of The Race scoured to a depth of 300', whereas depths on either end of the scour run in the hundred-foot range. The cross current here nearly spun Vector all the way around, and with no way for Otto to keep up, I had to hand steer across the worst sections.

We cruised along past the south shore of the exclusive Fishers Island and crossed one more high-current channel between Fishers and the southwestern tip of Rhode Island, then turned into the bight just south of Watch Hill, in Westerly, Rhode Island, to drop the hook. It would have been a great spot, just south of the beach and in sight of the high-zoot resorts, but there was no place in the bight to escape the swell rolling in off the ocean.

Simmons Castle at the eastern tip of Fishers Island. Built by the mattress-company baron.

With no good stops further east, we backtracked three miles to the eastern tip of Fishers Island, dropping the hook in a small embayment just off the northern shore, in sight of one of the very exclusive golf courses (map). We had a pleasant and quiet evening, having dinner on deck consisting of the copious leftovers we brought from Southold.

I say "from Southold," but in fact, Fishers Island itself is also in the town of Southold, even though we were a full 30 miles from our friends' house in town. This notwithstanding the fact that the only way to get to Fishers Island is from Connecticut, on a ferry that leaves from New London.

Watch Hill Light in the morning sun.

This morning we woke to a bit of a roll, and so we weighed anchor after our first cup of coffee and headed east, passing the very spot we had to forsake last night just a half hour later. We were apparently anchored in heavy sea grass, as the anchor came up wearing a hula skirt. As I am wrapping up typing we are just a half hour from our turn at Gay Head at the western tip of Marthas Vineyard. We have no plans to stop on the island, having visited on our last pass, but rather we will drop the hook for the night in Menemsha Bight.

The Ocean House Resort near Watch Hill. Starting at $1k per night.

In the morning we'll weigh anchor for the last leg to Nantucket Island, our destination for this part of the trip. We missed Nantucket on our last pass through, and promised ourselves we'd make it up this time.

While we were docked in Greenport with a good address, we had a number of packages delivered, and in the few spare moments we had, I knocked out a couple of projects. That included replacing the aging synthetic winch cable on the davit crane, adding a bluetooth transmitter and wireless headphones to the new TV, and repairing the old Furuno chartplotter that's been sitting, inoperative, under the helm console.

Hula skirt on our anchor. We've been told this anchor won't hold in grass.

This last project has simply been waiting on a reasonably-priced keypad circuit board to pop up on eBay. I'd had to rob that board to repair our flybridge plotter back in Vicksburg; now that I have the old plotter working again it's for sale on eBay.

I had to steer around this 600' tanker which was anchored right on our route line.

Update: We are anchored in Menemsha Bight, on Marthas Vineyard, just off the town of Menemsha (map). From here we can see the harbor and the beach, which was packed when we dropped the hook. While we could easily get ashore here for dinner at the lone restaurant in the harbor, I'm still too sore to handle launching and retrieving the tender, and we still have leftovers, so we had a nice dinner on the aft deck.

In case you are wondering, yes, it does often take me all day to get a blog post done, especially with interruptions. In addition to lots of traffic early in the day, today's interruptions included discharging the waste tank outside the three-mile limit, and dealing with a plotter hiccup in which we drove off the edge of the earth.

The town of Menemsha from our flybridge. If you zoom in you can see a packed beach.

This latter issue took two hours to resolve; apparently I did not have the current chart region loaded in the plotter program, and it took most of an hour to download the 1.2 gigabyte file on a slow cellular connection offshore. I had to revert to a backup chart program, and it, too, needed some updates under way to be correct.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Catch-up in the Rye

We are under way in Long Island Sound, proceeding along the north shore. This morning found us anchored just outside the breakwater in Rye, New York, off the pier near the famous Rye Playland (map), after a wonderful three and a half weeks in Manhattan. We finally weighed anchor at 7:45 yesterday morning from our anchorage off 97th Street in the Hudson River, to have a favorable tide for most of the trip.

It's been two and a half weeks since last I posted here, and there's lots to update, even though we spent the entire time in the same spot. I apologize for the length, but there's also plenty of photos, so settle in for a bit of a long read.

Moonrise over Riverside park as seen from our deck.

We had a very nice visit with my folks in New Jersey on Bastille Day, which is also my dad's birthday. We got a fairly early start, tendering ashore and hopping on the subway to Penn Station. We had given ourselves plenty of time and ended up eating breakfast at the station, which sports an extensive array of shops and eateries.

We would have been fine coming back home on the train as well, but my folks insisted on sending us in a car service. The trip that had taken nearly three hours down was not even an hour by car, which dropped us off right at the boat basin. Still, we enjoyed the train ride and the scenery on the way down.

I spent the next couple of days getting some projects done, the first of which was to deal with a leak in our water heater. We assume the unit is as old as the boat, 15 years, and so it does not owe us anything, but still I was hoping it was just a fitting. No such luck; after getting the hot water outlet fitting off I discovered the aluminum threaded boss had been eaten away by galvanic corrosion where the brass fitting had been. I ordered a replacement water heater for delivery to the marina.

Loading the new water heater aboard by crane. It's in a "rubble bag" that we normally use for bicycles.

I also installed the new wireless remote hardware for the windlass control that had arrived earlier in the week. This was to replace the one from Harbor Freight that I installed barely a year ago and which never worked 100% reliably. The new one eliminates an extra set of relays that I needed to adapt a 12v winch control to a 24v windlass, has better rf performance, and a smaller remote. It seems to be an improvement.

Monday evening we came home from dinner to find a sailing catamaran anchored just a couple of boat lengths away. I'm guessing they were further away when they first set the hook, on the ebb, but ended up closer than they planned when we both swung around on the flood. I think Vector was literally above their anchor on the flood. I thought about saying something to them, but we decided to wait to see if the situation just resolved itself.

Vector anchored off 96th, Edgewater, NJ in the background, as seen on my bike ride north.

That resolution came late at night, when Louise was about to retire, as the leading edge of an enormous storm system hit us. Seldom does the Coast Guard ever broadcast weather information, but today they were, with forecast winds to 50kt and 11' seas just outside the harbor. We had already battened everything down and were comfortable and ready, but at some point I looked out the window to see the cat looming large just yards away.

As the tide slackened a bit, the wind had swung the two boats differently and brought them very, very close. They were below decks and perhaps even in their berths, and I was about ready to blast them with the portable air horn when the skipper showed up on deck shirtless, perhaps aroused by my handheld spotlight shining through his portlights.

This was our view downriver most nights.

Louise started deploying fenders and preparing to fend off; by this time seas on the river were three feet, and even with his engines he was having trouble keeping his distance. Fortunately the wind briefly swung us far enough away from where his anchor was set for him to weigh it and beat a hasty retreat upriver, where he re-anchored a good 150 yards from us.

The wind also swung us closer to shore than we had ever been, just a hundred feet from the seawall, and I was very glad we had chosen to come far enough upriver to a point where there was sufficient depth for us the whole way across. Satisfied we would neither be hit by a sailboat nor find ourselves aground on the riverbank, we had a comfortable remainder of the night.

Torrential downpour turned the Hudson River Greenway into a waterfall.

Tuesday the 17th the bulk of the storm continued to pound the river. We hunkered down, with plenty to keep us busy aboard. The torrential rain caused water to cascade over the riverwalk like a waterfall, and gave Vector and Scalar a good rinsing. We had decked the tender Monday evening in anticipation.

Excitement came in multiple forms, including a number of nearby lightning strikes, the closest perhaps just a few thousand feet from us in New Jersey. We watched a pole-mounted transformer in North Bergen explode, popping a dozen times in showers of sparks while the Hudson County fire department watched from a safe distance. There was the aforementioned catamaran drama. And the usual passel of radio calls to the Coast Guard from boaters who did not heed the advice to seek safe harbor. We ate aboard Tuesday evening.

Puff of smoke and an orange glow from a transformer ablaze.

Wednesday the weather cleared and we splashed the tender. UPS delivered the new water heater, and so after dinner we heaved it into the tender in our "rubble bag," which we normally use to offload the folding bicycles. That let us pluck it out with the crane when we returned to the boat, and the next morning I was able to lower it into the engine room after unboxing it on deck.

Shiny new water heater, still in protective overwrap and styrofoam.

After verifying that it would fit (after rearranging some wiring to accommodate its slightly increased height and enlarging the mounting holes a bit), and that all looked OK, I tore into the replacement project. Not wanting to waste nearly twenty gallons of perfectly good (and mostly hot) water, we emptied it two gallons at a time into a jug and used it to fill the washing machine.

Once I had all the plumbing disconnected, including the connections to the engine cooling loop, and all but perhaps a half gallon or so of water emptied out, I was able to wiggle the old unit out through the rather cramped space between the mounting tray and the main engine exhaust pipe. Then I sanded, cleaned, and applied Ospho to the rust on the mounting tray in preparation for paint. That was as far as I got before we had to leave for an afternoon appointment, and so we had to live without hot water for the night.

The old unit before I started disconnecting plumbing. It's a tight fit.

That appointment was an afternoon coffee meetup with a half dozen of Louise's college chums from the fraternity where she hung out. I enjoyed meeting them and they all had a great time catching up, and when it was over we were in Chelsea at mid-afternoon. We opted to continue downtown to the new World Trade Center complex.

I ordered 5:30 observatory tickets on my phone on the way down, and we headed up to the tri-level One World Observatory on the 102nd floor of the new tower. Like every tourist I snapped a few photos, although reflections in the glass at that hour made for a challenge.

Looking south. From here it's easy to see the myriad wakes of the ferries and other vessels that make such large and confused seas in the harbor.

The views for me were at once familiar and foreign; the lay of the land is just the same, but the array of new skyscrapers is dizzying, and new parkland across the river has changed the landscape. The unobstructed view to the north also had me looking in that direction for quite a while. We spent perhaps an hour, including having an overpriced beer in the bar.

The previously unavailable view due north. Vector is a tiny spec at the end of the red arrow.

After leaving 1 WTC we walked west on Vesey Street to Battery Park City, where we wandered around looking for dinner. We ended up at Del Frisco's, an unremarkable chain, but they had immediate tables and we wanted to sit. Dinner was fine and we enjoyed the people-watching on a lovely summer evening before getting back on the 1 train uptown.

Looking down at the Oculus, left, and the memorial fountains, right.

Friday was another lovely day, but I really needed to get the new water heater installed or we'd be taking cold showers later in the day, so I shot some zinc paint on the mounting tray before breakfast. I ended up test-fitting it three times to get the mounting holes right, and I had to relocate a 4/0 ground jumper on our main DC bus that projected out into the vertical clearance.

New water heater installed and plumbed. Big job, and glad it's behind me.

All of this due to having ordered a Kuuma product (made by Camco) rather than another Seaward (made by Whale)  like the one that failed. They are nearly identical on the outside, with identical performance specs (1500 watts, front heat exchanger, 1/2" plumbing, aluminum tank and stainless skins), but the holes on the Kuuma mounting flanges are 1/4" closer together (measured across from flange to flange) and the unit is two inches taller.

The Kuuma unit was $200 cheaper, but, more importantly, no one had the Seaward in stock, so I had to make do. With the holes in the mounting tray being drilled through 1/4" steel, versus the mounting flanges being 3/16 aluminum, it was a no-brainer which ones to modify. I used a drill bit, a Dremel tool, and a hand file to enlarge the flange holes 1/8" in the outboard direction and added some washers to the 5/16 mounting bolts to make up for it.

If you look closely you can see the huge divot in the threaded area where the metal is eaten away. It went all the way through to make a pinhole leak.

The Seaward might have gone along for another few years, albeit with some build-up of scale, had it not been for the fact that I used brass fittings to connect the PEX water lines. The fittings that had been on it previously, when we got the boat, were galvanized steel just like the rest of the boat's fresh water system, and I have been on a mission to replace it all with PEX instead, since the steel has been rusting. There are no galvanized PEX fittings, and the plastic ones are not rated for the temperatures this water heater can reach.

Not wanting a repeat performance, I spent considerable time trying to find suitable dielectric fittings for the new tank. No conventional plastic plumbing parts (PVC, CPVC, ABS, nylon, or polyethylene) are rated for the 210°F rating of the water heater, and most are rated at just 140°F, far below the 180°F that the heater routinely achieves when the main engine is running. After an extensive search I finally found some high-tech Tefen fittings made for industrial applications and ordered some 1/2" nipples.

That should help, but, of course, the TPV (temperature and pressure relief valve) installed at the factory is brass. When I removed the TPV from the old unit, I could see evidence of galvanic corrosion on that boss as well, although it had not perforated all the way through as it had on the hot water outlet. In any event, we ran the generator an extra hour and had hot water for showers by Friday afternoon.

The crew of Saphira Blue works to free themselves from this metal piece.

Also Friday we watched in some horror as a sailboat anchored just downriver of us hauled up a 15' long piece of steel caught in their anchor chain. From where we were watching it looked like wood, so I grabbed the sawzall and we jumped in the dinghy to help. When we arrived we could see it was going to take more creativity, because there was no way we'd get through it with the saw. It took fifteen minutes of wrangling between us and the crew on deck but eventually the piece came free and fell away, at the expense of a piece of line and a nice snap hook that was entangled and had to be cut away.

Jeffrey's Hook Light under the George Washington Bridge, as seen from Fort Washington Park.

With the critical water heater project behind me I was able to turn my attention to more recreational pursuits. The riverfront bike path has been calling me, and I spent perhaps an hour with a can of WD40 getting my folding bicycle into riding condition. The cheap cover we bought for them disintegrated long ago, and the two bikes have been rusting away on the boat deck ever since; my chain was so rusted it had solidified, and I had to break apart each link.

The plaque describing the light and its starring role in a childrens' book.

Saturday I got out there and braved the weekend throng on the Hudson River Greenway. I rode all the way from the Boat Basin on 79th Street to the George Washington Bridge at 179th Street. I turned around under the bridge just past the east support tower, after first stopping at the Jeffreys Hook Light. Just south of the lighthouse is a spontaneous free-standing art installation called the Sisyphus Stones; you can read about them here and here.

Sisyphus rocks, mirroring the skyline above them.

The Greenway runs the length of the island, spanning multiple parks. At the Boat Basin it's in Riverside Park, which extends up to 158th Street. Along the way it passes the West Harlem Piers, before jogging briefly away from the river on a surface path to re-emerge just north of the city waste treatment plant. From 158th to north of the bridge is Fort Washington Park, and I did not quite make it to Fort Tryon or Innwood Hill parks at the northern end of the island.

Another view that highlights their human form.

I continue to be impressed with just how good the NYC park system is today. On a pleasant weekend I passed thousands of New Yorkers out enjoying the myriad facilities along the way, from tennis courts to playgrounds to fountains to picnic areas. Sports of just about every description were in full swing; of all the facilities, only the handball courts (really) seemed mostly unused.

On my return trip I stopped for lunch from a pushcart near a picnic area, before ascending by elevator to the roof of the sewage treatment plant. Here is located one of only three State Parks in Manhattan, and the largest "green roof" in New York, Riverbank State Park. The park is enormous and well-appointed, with a sit-down restaurant, swimming pool, carousel, roller/ice rink, amphitheater, meeting space, and numerous athletic fields and courts. I remember as a youth the piles and piers being constructed for the plant; the rooftop park opened long after I left the area.

The Hudson as seen from Riverbank State Park, above the treatment plant over the river. Vector is a speck center-frame. 1WTC at left, Jersey City at right.

From the south end of the park I rode across the bridge to Riverside Drive and then south to Grant's Tomb. Yes, the very subject of that ancient joke "who's buried in Grant's Tomb," the answer to which is self-evident. It is indeed Grant's mausoleum, but I happened by it in between the sporadic visitor hours, so I did not go inside. I admired the exterior along with the mosaic tile benches created as artwork in the late 70s to help stem the tide of crime and vandalism, then walked to the visitor center which is the interior space of what was originally built as an immense public restroom facility.

Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?

I found myself marveling at the fact that I must have passed this place 200 times as a youth but never stopped to see it or the impressive and cathedral-like Riverside Church across the street. Then I had to remember that New York was a very different place in the 70s, and I'm sure this did not seem like a safe spot back then.

This WPA-era rest room structure now houses the visitor center (and a smaller pair of rest rooms). River viewing pavilion above is now mostly obstructed by fully grown trees.

The new TV had arrived on Friday and so I spent a good part of Sunday on installing it. Long-time readers may remember the trials and tribulations of finding a TV to fit this space five years ago, which we happened across in Walmart after many on-line trials and errors. This time around the search was a bit easier, and I ended up with a TCL model on a hot Prime Day deal, that happens to be a Roku set.

The last time around I had to through-bolt the TV to the wall to make it fit. Of course I did not expect the holes to line up, but the new set is enough lighter that it accepts a smaller mount, and after taking the old set down and fiddling around a bit, I settled on ordering a mount for it. I also had to order right-angle adapters for the old-school video connections required for our ancient DirecTV receiver.

Old TV removed. You can see the four holes used to mount it.

Waiting for those parts meant I did not finish until Tuesday, but the new set fits and looks great, and as a bonus I am enjoying the Roku features. I will have to devise a new listening system, because the headphone jack on this model cuts out not just the speakers, but all other audio-out jacks as well.

Wednesday it rained on and off all day, so it was a perfect day to weigh anchor for a round trip to the dock to pump out and take on water. The docks, including the face dock, are in terrible shape, and we had to fender against and dance around a 10" long spike protruding from the dock. But we managed OK and took care of business, and Louise even managed to get two loads of laundry through the washer while we waited for the water tank to fill.

Watch that bolt.

On Thursday I again took the bike for a spin, this time around Central Park. Louise wanted to join me, but she's never been comfortable on the unwieldy folding bikes we carry with us, and so decided to try one of the ubiquitous Citi Bike rental bikes stationed throughout the city. Those proved to be not much better, and worse in some respects, and she had to quit after reaching the park and making one short leg between the History Museum and the Tavern on the Green. She returned the bike and headed over to the library to wait in relative comfort while I finished the entire park loop.

The reservoir, now named for Jackie O, looking west. Vector is behind the twin towers.

This again is something that, despite hundreds of visits to the Central Park neighborhood, I had never done in my youth. And again the reason is simple: Central Park was very different then. This article explains it to some degree. These before and after pictures tell more of the story, and right now there is even an exhibition of photos of NYC parks in the 70s going on at park headquarters.

Lasker pool. Free. It's an ice skating rink in winter.

Here in 2018, however, the park is an absolute joy, and more so since last month, as all motor vehicle traffic is now banned from park roads permanently. Pictures can not capture it so I only have a couple, but I very much enjoyed my ride, and an excursion into the northernmost end of the park, to which I had never been.

Onassis reservoir looking southwest.

Louise also enjoyed her time at the library, where she ended up reading a childrens' book by Roz Chast about the city itself, which sounded quite fun. But one upshot of the park experience is that she is done for good with pedal bicycles. We've been thinking about electric ones lately anyway, in particular the Jupiter, not to relieve the pedaling, but because they fold up smaller for transport by dinghy. All electric bicycles, with pedals or without, are illegal in New York City, as are electric kick scooters, hoverboards, and unicycles, but we've seen them everywhere, from the parks to the streets, and I even passed an electric bike shop. The unicycles are wild (and plentiful), and whenever we see one, we say "there goes Thor."

Selling contraband.

We ended the day in midtown where we met up for dinner with fellow Red Crosser Jose. Jose and I worked together in the Virgin Islands, and we caught up again in Dallas, but Louise was meeting him for the first time. He is on staff at the New York chapter, and we very much enjoyed dinner and conversation with him.

By Friday it was time to contemplate weighing anchor and heading east, however the intricacies of the hydraulic tides around Manhattan meant a Friday departure would mean either a night departure, a night arrival, or splitting the trip into to days if we did not want to be fighting four knots of current in the East River and through Hell Gate. With no particular rush, we opted instead to delay departure to Monday, when a leisurely 7:30 departure would get us mostly favorable tide nearly the whole way, in the daylight.

Thus with another three days in the city, we headed to our favorite bagel shop on Amsterdam in the morning, on our way downtown to catch the Big Bus double-decker tour, a quintessentially cheesy-tourist thing to do in NYC. This being NY, while we were eating our bagels on a cafe table, a film crew was on the sidewalk filming some kind of show at the ice cream shop next door. We'd previously come across another crew filming a different show on Broadway and 79th.

Filming for some kind of children's programming. These are all crew.

The bus tour was just as cheesy as you might imagine, but we enjoyed it and I even learned a thing or two. Although this was a "hop on, hop off" tour, the only times we hopped off were to take a break from the relentless sun, in SoHo, and to change buses from the Red downtown tour to the Blue uptown tour. We finished this latter tour in light rain, wearing the free handout ponchos that are little more than garbage bags with arm-holes, and we disembarked at Columbus Circle for a casual dinner and a quick subway ride home.

Open-top Big Bus tour, with our guide narrating.

For the second Saturday in a row I again took my bike out, this time riding south on the Greenway all the way to the Battery and around the corner to the heliport, past the old Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Again I very much enjoyed seeing all the people making great use of the parks. Most of the piers along the lower west side, abandoned and rotting in my youth, have been redeveloped into parkland of one sort or another. I rode down the west side of Battery Park City, and came up the east side, where I paused at the World Trade Center.

Looking downriver from one of the numerous piers that is now parkland. Battery Park City is dead ahead, World Trade Center on the left and Jersey City on the right.

Even today, nearly 17 years later, I still cried at the memorial fountains where the towers once stood. These towers were an integral part of my youth and young adulthood, and I had friends whose names are inscribed here. And I descended into the mega-mall complex that houses the PATH transportation hub, known as The Oculus for the swoopy architectural statement that covers it.

Looking up through The Oculus at 1 World Trade Center, seen through the skylight.

A slow leak in the forward chamber of the dingy has been getting worse, necessitating pumping it up for every trip. A week or so ago I patched up all the seams and the failing rub rail with high-strength marine adhesive, to no avail, and so Sunday I headed downtown on the subway to the lone West Marine store in the city to pick up a quart of sealant that you put inside the tube and slosh around. It costs a fortune ($60 for the quart), so I hope it helps, though I am not counting on anything. We gooped the tube up while decking the tender Sunday night after dinner. Sloshing the goop around in a ~600-lb dinghy is a challenge.

Inside it's really just a Westfield Shoppingtown, with a fancy roof and a train platform.

As long as I was midtown for West Marine, I walked around a bit, having lunch in Bryant Park and wandering through Grand Central Terminal. "Vanderbilt Hall," which used to be the main waiting room back when you were actually allowed to sit down in the terminal, has been cleaned out and redeveloped into another food service area. In the empty half of the room I could see the spot where I distinctly remember waiting for my first long-distance train, circa 1975.

The "Great Northern" food court. Ironically, this room is on the south side of the terminal.

In the three-plus weeks we spent in Manhattan we ate dinner aboard just a handful of nights. Restaurant apps kept reminding me there were 31,000 other restaurants in Manhattan alone from which to choose, a stark contrast to even such foodie cities as San Francisco. It would take a year to even exhaust the offerings within walking distance of the Boat Basin.

The other half of the hall. One of the original benches is in the corner. I remember waiting right here in the foreground for The Adirondack.

Yesterday's trip to Rye was pleasant, and it felt good to be under way after three weeks in one spot. We did have a full four knots of current behind us approaching Hell Gate, but the river is wide and we have lots more experience now than our first time through. I opted to just enjoy the scenery this time, while I had to hand-steer the boat, rather than take any pictures. But there are plenty in the posts that cover our previous trips; this post covers from Hell Gate out to Long Island Sound (and the Harlem River, which we skipped this time), and this post covers the East River from Hell Gate down to the Battery.

Playland is closed on Mondays so we had a quiet evening and night. We did go ashore for dinner at the Pier Restaurant and Tiki Bar, which provides free mooring balls for customers and where dockmaster Charlie would have come for us in the launch. Instead he merely had to let us on and off the locked dinghy dock. After dinner we walked along the boardwalk, which Louise instantly recognized from its appearance in the movie Big. A swim meet was in progress at the Spanish-revival community pool.

One of many sunsets over New Jersey from our anchorage.

It was blissfully quiet last night. After three weeks on the Hudson, with endless noise from the current and the Parkway and activity in general, we had almost forgotten what quiet is like. A handful of gong buoys hundreds of yards away chimed softly through the night; very relaxing.

Today's cruise has also been pleasant, with the Sound flat calm the whole way. In a short while we will make our turn to New Haven Harbor, where we will drop the hook and tender ashore for dinner with our friend Eric, another of Louise's college chums who had to miss the NYC gathering. Tomorrow morning we will weigh anchor for Sag Harbor, near the Hamptons.

Vector at the face dock for water and a pumpout. The sloop Clearwater is at the other dock; we cross paths with her often.