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.

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