Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Arrivederci New England

We are under way westbound between Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound, with the great State of Rhode Island receding behind us. We are bound for Long Island Sound and will be anchored at day's end in New York waters, bringing to a close our two month cruise of New England. It is an eight hour passage, affording me ample time to catch up on the blog.

Headed out of Narragansett Bay. Jamestown at left; you can just see the top of Pell Bridge behind.

We had such a good push on our transit of the Cape Cod Canal last weekend that we ran straight past Onset and all the way to Mattapoisett harbor, where we dropped the hook in our usual spot (map) after checking in with the harbormaster by radio. We knew we'd be pinned down for two nights wherever we went, and, while Onset would have offered more services, we wanted to make the extra miles while we still could.

We splashed the tender, tied up at the town dock, and walked the three long blocks to Nick's Homemade Pizza House. The pizza was excellent and the draft beer was inexpensive, so we were glad we made the trek. We were the only patrons dining on the covered outside patio for most of our meal.

Century-old Clingstone Mansion, on a rock off Conanicut Island.

As predicted, outside conditions had us in the harbor all day Monday, and I got a few things done around the boat. It was drizzly all day, foiling my plans to go ashore and walk around some. We had a gap at dinner time, but absolutely everything in town is dark on Mondays, so we had a nice dinner aboard instead.

Sunset over Battleship Cove, USS Massachusetts, and the Braga Bridge

Tuesday we had another brief window for westing, and while it was a bit of a rough ride as Buzzards Bay yielded to Rhode Island Sound, we gritted our teeth until we made the starboard turn into the relative calm of the Sakonnet River. Winds and seas out of the south meant running upriver until we could tuck in behind Fogland Point, where we dropped the hook in calm water (map). The winds rushed right over the point, and the harbor filled with windsurfers in the morning.

Wednesday we weighed anchor with the tide and rode the flood all the way to Fall River, Massachusetts, on the Taunton River, where we had previously planned to ride out the long-distance remnants of Hurricane Larry. Knowing that Borden Flats would be too rough, I was hoping we could squeeze in to anchor in Battleship Cove, or, if not, pick up a town mooring there.

The old armory, Fall River.

We found there to be insufficient room in the cove between the last moorings and the nearby dock for the scope we needed in the 20-knot winds. Due to some political drama in the harbormaster department, it was impossible to reach anyone for a mooring, and so we left the cove and continued upriver through two more bridges to drop the hook in Breeds Cove (map), on the other side of the river in Somerset, Massachusetts.

Sunset over the Braga Bridge from The Cove restaurant.

While that made for a mile-and-a-half tender ride back to town, it was otherwise a perfect anchorage, very calm even in the high winds, with good holding well off-channel. It was quiet, even being so close to a major bridge. From the boat we could see a nice patio eatery in Somerset, but with no way to land the tender on that side, we bashed our way back to the Cove restaurant in Fall River, which has a courtesy dock. Dinner on the deck was a wind-swept affair, but at least it was warm, and we really wanted to get off the boat.

Thursday, as anticipated, the remnants of Larry had us pinned on the boat all day. We succumbed to pandemic acedia and mostly did nothing all day, but we had a nice dinner aboard and looked forward to a more pleasant Friday. And pleasant it was; I tendered ashore to the dinghy landing at Battleship Cove just after lunch and walked all over town, since we never left the marina on our previous visit here.

The old Congregational Church, which the infamous Lizzie Borden attended. The cloister was briefly a restaurant and is now an event venue.

Fall River is a town frozen in time, sometime early in the 20th century. Its industry now mostly silent, most of the buildings nevertheless still stand. The downtown sports a handful of restaurants and a few shops. I dropped a couple of packages at the post office, also frozen in time, and then hoofed it across town to the grocery store to top up our provisions.

Fall River public library, inscribed "The People's University."

In the afternoon we tendered a little over two miles down to Borden Light Marina, where we had stayed in 2015, to meet up with our Bostonian friends Erin and Chris aboard their lovely Selene, Barefeet. It was wonderful to see them and catch up; they had literally been the last people we hugged before the pandemic put a damper on things, as we crossed paths in the Bahamas. They drove us over to the Tipsy Toboggan for dinner on the patio (not to be confused with the Tipsy Seagull, right in the marina, where we ate last time). A final cocktail aboard Barefeet finished off a very pleasant evening.

Saturday we weighed anchor with the tide and headed to Naragansett Bay. We had one good day of weather on the bay before we'd be pinned down again for two nights, and we wanted to make some progress and maybe see another town. It was just a two hour cruise, but it was absolutely miserable, with more sailboats than I've had to dodge in a long while. For the uninitiated, in open water and with few exceptions, power vessels must give way to vessels under sail. Sailboaters are notorious for not answering the radio, leaving me to try to guess their speed, course, and intentions in order to avoid them.

Warwick Light, on our way from Bristol to East Greenwich.

This is one of the key reasons why we try not to move the boat at all on weekends, and especially nice weekends in places with a short boating season. Weather trumps all, and it was Saturday or nothing. We swung up toward Bristol, one possible stop, but with the harbor open to the south, the anchorage was untenable, and instead we proceeded on to East Greenwich, were we dropped the hook in a lovely anchorage right off the beach at the Goddard Memorial State Park (map).

The quaint downtown of East Greenwich, RI.

This was a great anchorage to ride out high winds from the south, and it was calm our entire stay. The anchorage is popular with cruising sailboats, because you can dinghy to the beach where the state park has restrooms and showers available. We splashed the tender for the ten minute ride to the town dinghy dock instead, where it was a short walk through the pedestrian tunnel under the high speed train tracks and up the hill to town. We had a nice dinner on the porch at Besos, the first place we came to. By contrast, the waterfront joints were all packed to the gills when we passed them.

Sunday I returned ashore stag to explore, this time landing at the yacht club dinghy dock, a much shorter ride. There are perhaps ten restaurants along the main street, many with at least a few outside tables, and some shops including a CVS and a c-store. Overall a very nice stop and an excellent place to wait out the weather. We returned ashore in the evening for pizza at Twisted Pizza, which had a very nice patio.

King Street, one of the few ways to get from the waterfront to town past the tracks. This old New Haven Railroad bridge now carries the electrified Northeast Corridor tracks from NY to Boston. Not Odyssey-friendly.

Yesterday the weather on Narragansett Bay was once again suitable for travel, but we would again need southerly protection overnight. We considered running down the west side of Conanicut Island to Dutch Harbor, but it looked like we could not tuck in far enough with the harbor full of moorings. Instead we headed down the east side and dropped the hook in Potter Cove (map), just north of the Claiborne Pell bridge and across the channel from Newport, where boats are arriving in great numbers for the big Newport International Boat Show this weekend.

At one of the marinas, the docks seem held in place by twigs. Not Vector-friendly.

We splashed the tender and headed to the town dock at Jamestown, around the corner and under the bridge, about a mile and a half. Most of the town is dark Monday, and neither of the two open restaurants had outside seating. But the Narragansett Cafe was mostly empty, save for the bar itself, and had high ceilings, so we picked a table away from everyone and enjoyed our first indoor meal in quite a while, with pub food and draft beer. We enjoyed strolling around the quiet town before returning to Vector and decking the tender. We had the anchorage to ourselves overnight, with a spectacular view of the bridge and Newport in the distance. It was quiet, notwithstanding being right next to the toll plaza.

Block Island Sound, which we've been crossing most of the day, is exposed to the North Atlantic. Today's weather was perfect for a crossing, but as so often happens, it's a one-day window before things starting picking up out of the south again. That meant setting our sights on the north shore of Long Island, rather than an earlier stop along the Connecticut coast. We should have the anchor down by cocktail hour off Truman Beach in Southold. As I finish typing, Montauk is some ten miles off our port, and we are approaching The Race, where I will steer by hand with nearly four knots behind our port quarter.

The overnight view from our anchorage. Claiborne Pell bridge with Newport behind.

Update: We are anchored in our usual spot off Truman Beach (map). Louise made a big batch of pasta e fagioli today and we've been smelling it cooking all afternoon; I'm looking forward to dinner. Tomorrow we will continue along the north shore for points west.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Evading Larry

We are underway across Cape Cod Bay, headed for the canal. We are once again running before a storm, and it is dictating our choices. In this case the storm is Hurricane Larry, and while we will not see storm force winds or even much rain from this system, it is generating enormous waves in the North Atlantic that will make conditions along the coast untenable, extending well into the bays.

Friday afternoon we dropped the hook off Stage Head in the western part of Gloucester Harbor (map), exactly where we had been when we left a month ago. On a Friday of a holiday weekend, we knew that our preferred spot in the inner harbor would be unavailable.

Sunset over P-town on our tender ride home.

We also knew that finding outside dining would be challenging, so when OpenTable told me there was availability up the Blynman Canal at the Mile Marker 1 restaurant in the Cape Ann Marina Resort, I grabbed it. That was actually a shorter tender ride than downtown, and dinner was pleasant. We were amused that the indoor pool at the resort has been turned into a water feature and koi pond, complete with wooden skiff anchored in the middle, for the pandemic; I'm sorry I did not snap a photo.

The Gloucester outer harbor is no place to be with big waves on the ocean, and Larry's arrival meant choosing an area with more protection. We considered heading to Boston, always a nice stop and where we have friends, but conditions would have us pinned down there for more than a week. In normal times a week in Boston is barely enough, but with it feeling unsafe to ride transit or partake of any indoor activities, it felt rather limiting. Beyond that, on a holiday weekend we'd have no choice but to anchor in the harbor in miserable conditions.

We saw at least four different whales through our binoculars en route to the cape. This was the best shot I could get from 1,500' away. The way you find whales is to look for the whale-watch boats.

We opted instead to use our one perfect day of outside weather to cross over into the relative protection of the cape. We dropped the hook yesterday afternoon in Provincetown, in a new-to-us spot northeast of the breakwater (map). I once again turned to OpenTable, fearing all the outside joints would be packed on a pleasant holiday weekend, and we ended up in the courtyard of the Pilgrim House Hotel for a very nice dinner. The courtyard is set well back from the street, so it was not a good spot for the people-watching that we normally enjoy in P-town.

We left the tender in the water overnight, on the chance that the forecast might afford us one more night in town. But this morning's check of the weather revealed we'd need to keep moving to get off Buzzards Bay before it got too rough, and so we weighed anchor early enough to catch a fair tide through the canal. That's twice in a row now we've made a one-night stop here; our last visit was cut short by a virus surge.

Courtyard at the Pigrim House. Louise studies the menu.

Once we are in the canal, we should have a fair tide all the way to Onset, where we have a familiar anchorage. If we're early enough, we may continue on into Buzzards Bay and find anchorage in one of the bays along the north shore. Tomorrow we'll continue to the Sakonnet River, which will get us far enough inland to be comfortable as Larry passes by. Our Boston friends Erin and Chris have their boat in Fall River right now, and we're hoping to connect there for a visit.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Massachusetts bound

We are underway southbound in the Atlantic Ocean. As I begin typing, Gosport Harbor, the Isles of Shoals, and the Star Island lodge are off to port, and the Hampton River is off to starboard. We have finally left the thickest areas of lobster floats behind us and I can divert some attention to typing.

Not long after I last posted on Friday, we arrived at the Piscataqua River and headed directly to our familiar spot in Pepperrell Cove, off Kittery Point, Maine (map). It was very comfortable when we arrived, and we looked forward to perhaps spending a few days in that spot, running upriver a couple of miles in the tender to enjoy downtown Portsmouth. We had a quiet dinner on board.

Unfortunately, at the evening turn of the tide, we ended up broadside to a gentle swell that was right at Vector's resonant frequency, and Louise had a miserable night. Things were again tolerable when we awoke, but at the midday tide change the rolling started again, and we decided we needed a different venue.

Normally we would just go upriver to the city docks at Prescott Park, but there is a three-night limit there, and we were still sorting out when we might see my cousins, who were away for the weekend, and my aunt and uncle, who might drive out from Saratoga to see us. We wanted to save our three nights for the visit, if possible.

Instead we weighed anchor and cruised up the Piscataqua in search of an anchorage. The tidal current in the river is wicked, to use the local parlance, and thus most of the riverbed is scoured down to rock. Even the places where sediment and gravel collects are deep, from 30-60' at low tide, making for large swing circles that will inevitably encompass lobster floats or mooring balls.

Upbound on the Piscataqua, approaching the very modern Sarah Mildred Long lift bridge, with the I-95 arch bridge behind it.

Hoping to still be within dinghy distance of the city dock, perhaps three miles or so, I scoped out a couple of possibilities along the industrial waterfront north of town. We requested an opening of the Memorial Bridge just upriver of Prescott Park, passed under the swoopy Sarah Mildred Long lift bridge without needing an opening, and then under the fixed I-95 bridge before reaching the area.

One of the two spots I had scoped out had enough holding and just enough room for us to swing among the pots. But as we were getting ready to snub, an irritable lobsterman came by and started harassing us about being too close to their gear. We never tangle with fishing gear at anchor -- every time we've caught a piece of gear we've been under way -- but this was not an argument I wanted to have in the middle of the river, and especially knowing we would be leaving the boat unattended periodically. We decided to just move along.

That meant going all the way around the corner, past Dover Point, and into the start of The Great Bay. The narrows under the Little Bay bridge at Dover Point has some of the highest current on the river, three knots at max flood or ebb, and we whizzed through with a following current, hand steering. We dropped the hook in a wide spot in the bay with some sand on the bottom (map), in an area marked on Google Maps as "Boston Harbor" (really).

From here it is five miles to Portsmouth, which is a 20-minute ride going flat out. Not something we wanted to do with temperatures in the 60s, so instead we headed a short distance across the bay to Lexie's, a burger joint at the Great Bay Marina. Dinner was fine, and it was nice to get off the boat. It also gave us a chance to check out the marina.

We spent two nights in the anchorage, and it was dark, quiet, calm, and peaceful. Sunday was cold and rainy, a perfect day to work in the engine room, where I replaced the zincs on the main engine heat exchanger. That's a particularly fiddly process on our engine, best done when there is no deadline for moving, in case anything goes awry. We had a quiet dinner aboard.

Monday my cousins returned from their trip, and arranged to pick us up in the afternoon. Our preferred digs at Prescott Park were unavailable for those three nights, and so instead we simply moved the boat over to Great Bay Marina and tied up to the face dock (map). As usual, we filled the water tank and Louise started a round of laundry before we left for the evening.

Last night I had to replace this anchor roller, which the chain nearly wore in two. Note the hole in the middle.

We had a great three evenings visiting with my cousins and my aunt and uncle, who arrived Tuesday. In between visits we kept one of their cars, which we used to make runs to the grocery store, Walmart, and Costco for provisions, Lowes for maintenance supplies, and Goodwill to deposit the last couple of months' worth of superfluous items. I thought I'd be trundling seven gallons of used motor oil, too, but the marina had a collection tank and just took it.

My cousin and uncle dropped us back off at the marina Wednesday night just as the remains of Hurricane Ida landed on us. We had torrential rain all night, swelling the river, and saw winds up to around 30. Not enough for us to notch Ida into our tropical cyclone tally, but clearly it wreaked death and destruction on NY and NJ, where we will be headed shortly.

Yesterday we dropped lines after the worst of the storm had passed and the current was favorable. The freshet was so large that I had to idle most of the way due to the extra current, to avoid station-keeping at the bridge. We arrived at Memorial Bridge at low tide, and I had lowered our tall antennas in the hope of just squeezing under, but again the extra water reduced the clearance to where we had only millimeters to spare, and we asked for an opening.

We continued all the way to Pepperrell Cove in anticipation of today's passage. But once we had the hook set, it became clear we would again have an uncomfortable swell all night, and instead we moved over to a mooring ball at our old friends the Portsmouth Yacht Club, across the river (map). We were comfortable here all night, although there were some wakes in the evening and this morning. Launch service is included in the $40 mooring fee, but we opted to just remain aboard.

As I finish typing, the plotter is projecting an arrival in Gloucester Harbor around 16:30, and if it's warm enough, we might tender ashore for dinner. Tomorrow's passage weather is also good, and so we will make way across Massachusetts Bay in the morning.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Last hurrah in Maine

We are under way in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of southeastern Maine, headed southwest toward the Piscataqua River. It is a gorgeous day out here, with calm seas over about a one-foot swell. It's our last good day to make tracks before some nasty weather moves in and we are pinned down until next week.

Shortly after my last post we arrived to our usual spot in General Anchorage A in Portland Harbor. After dropping the hook and getting settled in, we splashed the tender and headed up the Fore River to the town dock in South Portland, where our friends Stacey and Dave had taken shelter from Henri. It was a good spot for that, in protected water and further protected by the large east pier of the Casco Bay Bridge. We made a note of the dock for the future.

Draft beer selection at Ruski's Tavern

The dock is a short walk from downtown South Portland (a different city from its namesake across the river), and we enjoyed a nice stroll, but even on a Tuesday most of the local restaurants were dark, leaving the well-rated taco joint packed. We all piled into Stacey's car and they drove us across the bridge to another of their favorite dive bars, Ruski's Tavern, where we enjoyed a nice dinner on a sidewalk picnic table. It was great catching up with them for a final visit before leaving.

I had need of a watch repair, and I spent some time Wednesday hoofing around downtown Portland to a handful of stores. I ended up at a place called Swiss Time, which does nothing but watches, and they were so good that I returned the next day with a different timepiece. A real find in a surprising place. I also made a trek to Whole Foods, really the only grocery store in (long) walking distance of the dock to top up the provisions, swinging by Mr. Bagel on the way for a few decent bagels.

Town landing at South Portland. Good to know.

I had picked the warmest day of the season to walk a couple of miles, but that made for very pleasant conditions when we walked to dinner al fresco at the Garden Cafe outside the Regency Hotel. The food was excellent, albeit at hotel prices, and it is one of the most pleasant outdoor spaces in town. The hotel itself occupies the old armory, and has retained the historic facade.

Yesterday would have been a good day out here for a passage, but it was clear that we'd be pinned down in the next stop for a few days starting tomorrow, so it did not make a lot of sense to rush out. "Hurry up and wait," as they say. We had another pleasant day in Portland instead, almost as warm as Wednesday, and headed ashore for a final dinner at Ri Ra, just off the dock.  We decked the tender when we got home.

This morning we weighed anchor on the very last of the ebb, for a favorable tide at our next stop on the Saco River. I had scoped out an anchorage there, and we could get ashore at a couple of docks with access to restaurants and other shops, a good place to hunker down. But another check of the weather as we were leaving the harbor persuaded us to press on a bit farther.

I have to walk down the ferry dock at the Maine State Pier to get to the dinghy; here I ended up behind some kind of group all dressed in white. An event at one of the islands, I imagine.

There are not many inlets along this stretch of coast. I called the harbormaster in York, Maine, which would be an excellent stop, but their moorings are limited to 50' in length. The lone anchorage in the outer harbor is exposed to the east, thus untenable for this stop. That leaves us with continuing to the Piscataqua and a familiar anchorage off Kittery Point, Maine.

I was really hoping for another stop or two along this coast, but we are in a part of the seaboard where weather dictates our movements more often than not. We've enjoyed our month in Maine and are allowing ourselves to be ready to move along as weather permits.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

So long, Henri

Just a quick update today: We are underway westbound in the Atlantic Ocean, between Cape Small and Harpswell Neck. The remnants of Henri have seas at 3'-4', but on a long period that makes for a gentle roll. Watching them crash ashore, however, is impressive. According to the NHC, Henri is officially dissipated, and was a complete non-event for us.

The storm came ashore with a vengeance in Rhode Island, pummeling Block Island before arriving in Narragansett Bay. Cold water had already weakened it, and then it drove well inland through Massachusetts, losing much of its strength before turning east. Even though it went back out to sea, conditions here do not support intensification.

Fog creeps in to our very calm anchorage after sunset.

The occasional gust of 30 over a steady 20 that I wrote about Sunday was the most we ever saw, less than half Vector's personal best of over 70mph. We need not have even put out any additional scope in our well-protected, good-holding anchorage. I made a nice steak on the grill Sunday evening, in light drizzle and wind courtesy of Henri.

Yesterday it was as if nothing had happened at all, and we had a quiet day aboard, knowing seas outside were still over eight feet. But it was calm in our anchorage and even in Boothbay Harbor, and we again made the long tender ride into town for dinner, landing at Taka on the waterfront. It was nice to get off the boat and stretch our legs; after dinner we walked out to the middle of the historic footbridge and back.

What the swell we are in looks like against the rocky shore. My camera could not really capture it.

We had been fully prepared to remain hunkered down another day. With the last forecast models showing Henri as a Tropical Depression with a defined center until sometime this evening, the NHC issued its final advisory at 5am this morning. A check of our various passage weather resources showed great conditions tomorrow, but acceptable ones today, and we decided to move along. That's a great anchorage, but we were ready to be done.

This afternoon we will be in Casco Bay, possibly all the way to Portland. We have some errands there and friends to visit before we continue west and south. We're in no hurry to leave Maine, which still has a better case rate than anywhere else on the seaboard, but we also want to avoid the frigid temperatures we had last year by dragging our heels too long.

Passing the historic navigational monument on Little Mark Island. Seas have calmed considerably.

The plotter says we will be in Portland by 3:30. My next post will be under way out of Portland for a final stop or two along the SW Maine coast.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Henri ennui

We are anchored in Moffat Cove on Townsend Gut (map), nestled between Southport Island and Boothbay. We had stopped here on our northbound run and found it to be very protected; here we will make our stand against Hurricane Henri (official pronunciation "ahn-REE"). By the time the eye reaches us, the storm should be downgraded all the way to Tropical Depression.

Thursday morning Louise checked the passage weather on her myriad resources, which seldom agree among themselves. After a brief discussion we deemed it acceptable for the outside run to Boothbay. The cruise ship Independence left the dock at 0630, and so we weighed anchor after our first cup of coffee, and headed to the dock to take on water. The Rockland Harbormaster charges a very reasonable $3 for this privilege, and for that we got to stay at the dock for over an hour while we filled the tank.

As is customary when we are filling the water tank, Louise headed to the ER to get some laundry started (our machine uses so much water that it is best to do it when we have an endless supply), and I headed to the harbormaster's office to pay our three bucks. On my way I noticed what appeared to be a farmer's market in the parking area, apparently a weekly occurrence on Thursday mornings.

Sunset over the Sheepscot River as seen from our anchorage in Moffat Cove.

I wandered over to the market, where I found a local mobile brick-oven outfit, The Uproot Pie Co., serving freshly baked bialys, and I picked up two bialy breakfast sandwiches. An unexpected morning treat, and I even had my second cup of coffee to enjoy with it. The bialys were made with the traditional Polish dough and were quite tasty.

After filling the water tanks and offloading our trash, we dropped lines and headed out of the harbor. Once outside in light haze we found smooth surface seas over an underlying swell that was annoying but not uncomfortable. South of Port Clyde we drove into light fog, which got progressively heavier until I had to turn the fog horn on. We ran the horn for the better part of an hour.

Unsurprisingly, the topic of discussion under way was ornery Henri and what we would do about him, even though the much more immediate issue was the remnants of Fred, which would be sending us to this protected anchorage immediately upon our arrival. On Thursday the model guidance was still uncertain enough to have a significant chance of a direct strike here, possibly as a Category 2 storm. In between dodging lobster floats, I used what time I had to develop contingency plans beyond Boothbay.

Uproot Pie Co's mobile brick ovens cranking out bialys and flatbreads at the Rockland farmers' market.

As luck would have it, we arrived in Boothbay Harbor just in time to miss the 16:30 opening of the Southport Island swing bridge, and we putted along at idle speed trying to kill a half hour. I still ended up station-keeping near the bridge for ten minutes. We made the 5pm opening and had the hook down here just ten minutes later in light rain, courtesy of Fred. We had a nice dinner and quiet evening on board.

Friday was a nice day here, although we knew seas were unsuitable for an outside passage, again thanks to Fred. Inside travel would have been fine, and we considered continuing on to Wiscasset, one of our storm options, or even further to Bath, giving us the option to run all the way upriver to Augusta. But by this time the Henri track was more firmly forecast west of here, and we had the potential even to make Casco Bay in a window of calm outside weather on Saturday, so we just stayed put.

That gave me a chance to change the oil on the main engine, overdue by a couple dozen hours, and get things squared away in the engine room. I also ascended the mast and put the control board back into the sat dome, mostly to secure it from further damage but also in preparation for selling the dome as a unit.

We see lots of harbor seals here in Moffat Cove and in Boothbay Harbor.

By the evening we had gorgeous weather, the proverbial calm before the storm, and we decided to make the 20-minute dinghy ride all the way to Boothbay Harbor in search of dinner. On a busy Friday evening it was challenging to find an available outdoor table, but after a short wait we were able to be seated on the upstairs deck at Mine Oyster, overlooking the inner harbor. The food was fine, and it was great to get off the boat and walk around town a bit.

Also on Friday the decision was announced to extend the US border closure another month, to September 21. This really reinforced the notion that we had made the right decision waving off Canada in Bar Harbor. We've already heard reports of US-flagged pleasure craft with US skippers being refused entry from Canada on the grounds that pleasure travel is not allowed. Immigration must allow US citizens back in, but Customs is not required to allow the vessel itself back in, leaving the crew with a sort of Cornelian dilemma -- store the boat someplace in Canada, possibly for delivery later by professional crew, and cross by land, or wait north of the border until the situation changes. No sooner than 9/21, a very late date to be starting south.

Yesterday morning, after confirming the outside weather was still good for passage, we again revisited the possibility of continuing west. By this time, confidence was high that Henri would work well inland over Rhode Island and Massachusetts before turning east as, at most, a tropical storm. We had a recommendation for a good anchorage that would allow us to continue on to Portland pretty much as soon as the storm had passed. The temptation was strong to do exactly that.

View of Boothbay Harbor receding astern of the tender on my provisioning run.

The reality, however, is that there are a lot of boats in Casco Bay, and that anchorage (known as "The Basin") is a well-known and popular hurricane hole. On a nice weekend day, we could expect lots and lots of company there. Possibly to the point that there would not be room for us to anchor on adequate scope by the time we arrived. With few pleasant backup options in that area, we decided it was too risky.

Similarly, we decided that moving to Wiscasset or Bath would mean giving up our primo spot here in search of a putatively better spot in anchorages that may already be filling up. All to be just a few miles further inland for a storm that will be a relatively minor wind event here. Even though we would have better access to shore facilities in those locations, we again opted to remain right here for the duration, and paid out another 50' for chain for storm scope.

Having decided to stay put, we needed to top up provisions, including fresh milk, and I again rode 20 minutes into Boothbay Harbor. The outer harbor was a bit choppy but not horrible, and I had a nice 20-minute walk to the Hannaford grocery store, by way of Grovers Hardware to pick up a stainless bolt I needed. The touristy harbor area was very busy on a pleasant Saturday afternoon; you could not tell a storm was coming.

Control board back in place on the sat dish, before the RF shield went back on. Calm anchorage on a warm day was a great place to do this work.

Knowing we'd be pinned down on the boat now until the storm passes, we braved a bit of a chill in light fog to go out for dinner last night. We opted to avoid the long ride and choppy harbor by going only as far as Robinson's Wharf, just beyond the swing bridge. On a busy Saturday we had a short wait for an outside table, and even though it is mid-August, we kept our coats on and they had the patio heaters running. We decked the tender as soon as we returned home, since the forecast said the winds could arrive as early as 8am.

It's about 3pm as I finish typing, and so far winds have only been 20, with an occasional gust to 30. The water in this protected cove is nearly flat calm. We have everything battened down for gale force winds, really the most I expect to see. Engines and systems are ready for start-up should the unlikely need arise; I don't do maintenance on those systems in these conditions.

I pretty much expect to be sitting just like this until the eye passes some two days hence. Our hearts and thoughts are with those much closer to the more destructive forces of this storm. We know many boats and crews that are being or will be pummeled by tropical storm force winds, 3-4' storm surge, and torrential rains over the next few hours.

Moonrise over Moffat Cove. Taken shortly after the sunset picture above.

For anyone keeping score, Vector already has ten tropical cyclones under her belt. Clicking the link on any of these will take you to the most relevant post, with preparation, planning, or aftermath possibly in surrounding posts:
Weather will not be conducive to make the outside run to Portland until sometime after the eye has passed. It's unclear whether we will spend that time here, or in Boothbay Harbor, or make the inside run to Bath. In any event, I don't expect to post here again until we are under way to Portland.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

History repeats itself

We are under way westbound across Isle Au Haut Bay as I begin typing, headed for the Fox Islands Thorofare and thence across Penobscot Bay to Rockland, Maine. I had hoped to do a bit more gunkholing and visits to smaller towns on this leg of the cruise, but in an eerie replay of our return cruise last season, we are dodging two tropical storms, and need a place to get motor oil and some other items.

Sunset over Southwet Harbor.

We had a lovely final weekend in Bar Harbor, strolling to an early (to beat the rush) dinner on two perfect evenings. I am very fond of the local ale and porter from the Atlantic Brewery, available on draft all over town, so I picked up two six-packs on our final night. It only comes in bottles, even though we prefer not to have glass aboard.

Monday morning we weighed anchor for the southern end of the island. We poked into Northeast Harbor hoping to find a spot to anchor, but it's a tight harbor, and the only place without moorings had too many pot floats to allow us swing room. We continued on, looping through Great Harbor before finally anchoring very close to our previous spot adjacent to the Mill Dam, in Southwest Harbor (map).

Southwest Harbor is the quintessential picturesque Maine.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and so we made the fairly long tender ride to the upper town dock and walked a half mile to town for dinner. We had a nice table on the outside deck at the Drydock Inn. Overall the harbor had a much busier feel than this time last year; we felt fortunate to find an outside table on a Monday evening.

Having need of nothing else in Southwest Harbor, we opted to move along yesterday morning. But I still wanted to see Northeast Harbor, or, more specifically, the town of Mount Desert which the harbor serves, and so we rode the tender over in the calm of the morning. It took about 15 minutes to run the two and a half miles. We enjoyed strolling the quaint town, but were glad we did not pull out all the stops to anchor here; it was mostly shops full of overpriced items nobody needs. The lone restaurant had no outside tables.

After we anchored we were surprised to see Seaway Supplier pick up a mooring ball right next to us. I wrote about this storied vessel when we first encountered her, in the Thousand Islands as befits her name.

We returned to Vector, decked the tender, and weighed anchor for parts west. I had hoped to go to Belfast, which regular readers may remember that we bypassed last year on account of the weather, after first unsuccessfully trying to use their pumpout. Unfortunately, Belfast is the biggest Covid hotspot in the state at the moment, so we are waving off again. The route to Belfast would have taken us once more through the Eggemoggin Reach, with a good chance of running into our friends Dori, Bob, Steph, and Martin on Liberdade and Blossom, who were anchored in Bucks Harbor.

With Belfast off the table, we instead set a course for the Deer Island Thorofare, where a possible overnight stop would be the small community of Stonington. We stopped short, however, preferring instead a quiet and scenic anchorage nestled among Camp, Devil, and Bold Islands, just off the Thorofare (map). We shared the enormous anchorage with perhaps a dozen boats.

This Black Guillemot and several others hung out near Vector throughout our stay in Southwest Harbor. I guess the fishing was good.

I had still been entertaining the idea that we might stop in Stonington, or find a spot to anchor in Vinalhaven, or if that was untenable then perhaps North Haven on the Thorofare before proceeding west across Penobscot. But the weather news this morning put a stop to that in short order. Not one, but two tropical systems are making their way up the east coast and will have an impact here. The first is what is left of Tropical Storm Fred, and the second is Tropical Storm Henri.

Our serene anchorage east of Stonington. This is Devil Island; Camp Island at right.

This is almost a blow-by-blow replay of our last visit to Rockland, where we were pinned down by gales for two days and then made a beeline for the protection of the Damariscotta before Tropical Storm Teddy hit us. After a cup of coffee and much discussion, we decided the best course of action was to proceed directly to Rockland, get our needed provisions, hunker down for the remnants of Fred, and then make a beeline for Boothbay Harbor before Henri arrives.

We weighed anchor as soon as we had nailed down the plan, proceeding west through the rest of the Deer Island Thorofare and past the town of Stonington, and, across the channel, Crotch Island, where we could see dozens of white granite blocks that had been recently quarried lined up along the shore. Stonington's history is granite, and after a hiatus, the industry continues here. I'm sorry I was too busy at the helm to snap a photo.

This pink granite adjacent the Bass Harbor Head light is stunning; the photo does not do it justice. Buoy in foreground marks the "safe water" passage over the Bass Harbor Bar.

Update: we are anchored in our usual spot in General Anchorage A, Rockland Harbor (map). As usual here in Maine, the endless sea of lobster floats kept me from finishing this post under way, and we got very busy when we arrived at the harbor. We headed directly to the town docks in hopes of filling our water tank and maybe putting the e-bike on the ground directly, but the cruise ship Independence was taking up the face dock, and the other day-use docks had no room for us. Long-time readers may remember we shared a dock with Independence in Savannah several years ago.

We proceeded instead to the anchorage, wherein my very first task was to head ashore with the e-bike for a Walmart run. As with our last stop here, I returned with four gallons of motor oil, along with other provisions, and arrived back at Vector just in time to turn around and head back to town for dinner. Sadly, some of the outside dining we used on our last stay has already been dismantled, but we found a nice patio table at the Grey Owl in the Tradewinds hotel.

Our old friend Independence, hogging the dock.

Not knowing just what the weather holds in store for us, we decked the tender and stowed the e-bike as soon as we returned home. If we get an acceptable window tomorrow morning, we'll make a run for Boothbay, where we have a choice of protected anchorages, and which will afford us the opportunity to make further westward progress inland while we wait for the aftermath of Henri to clear out. That said, we are prepared to hunker down here in Rockland for the duration if we do not get a window to escape.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Bah Hahbah is fah enough

We are anchored in a familiar spot, west of the bar and island that give Bar Harbor its name (map). It's been a week since my last post, and I am afraid I left our readers hanging, so I am taking some time out to update the blog.

We had a comfortable evening in Tenants Harbor, and we even tendered ashore to the diminutive town and wandered to dinner at local joint The Happy Clam, which specializes in German cuisine. Dinner was quite good, and we were distant enough from the live music at the bar and music venue out back to have an enjoyable evening. On the way back to the dock we stopped at the local general store.

Postcard from Bar Harbor.

Unfortunately, later in the evening a swell had moved in, attacking us from the gap near Southern Island, and we had a very rolly night. I did deploy our makeshift "flopper stopper," consisting of a "drift sock" (the item I picked up at Cabela's in Portland, with the help of good friend Dave) with a weight on the end, suspended from our davit crane. That helped a little bit, but not enough, and Louise once again had a rough night. If we end up having to stay at Tenants again, we'll try the other anchorage a little bit to the north, which is protected to the south by a ridge of rock.

We weighed anchor Sunday morning for a very pleasant run to Isle Au Haut, with a quick excursion outside the 3nm limit to take care of business. Having no need, on this visit, to steam through the tight harbor, especially at a low tide level, we instead proceeded around the north side of Kimball Island, headed for our familiar anchorage in Laundry Cove (map). It was a bit more crowded on this visit, but we had no trouble finding a spot and had a blissfully calm and swell-free night. Needing nothing ashore, we had a nice dinner aboard and left the tender on deck.

We passed this low-power house on our way back from dinner in Tenants Harbor.

We again weighed anchor Monday morning with our sights set on Winter Harbor. We knew the weather would be better on Tuesday, but we had a short weather window wherein we thought we could make it to Passamaquoddy Bay, in the hopes of perhaps cruising New Brunswick for a few weeks when Canada opened their border to US boats, nominally on August 9th.

I'd been working on the logistics of a border crossing for a few days, and the route we had planned had us stopping in Winter Harbor and Jonesport on the way to Lubec. Regular readers may remember our cruise to Lubec and beyond last season, so this was all familiar ground, other than Winter Harbor itself, which we bypassed last time.

We bashed through a good deal of chop, with three foot seas on maybe five seconds. A bit bumpy but not intolerable, and we could have made Winter Harbor as planned. As we approached Frenchman Bay, however, we opted to divert inside the Cranberry Islands for a bit more protection, and to give us an earlier stopping option. After a lot of bashing and dodging lobster floats, with perhaps two more hours ahead of us, and disappointing findings on the Canada front, we took the bailout and dropped the hook in Cranberry Harbor (map), stopping around 2pm. The lone restaurant in the harbor is dark Mondays, so we had another nice meal aboard.

Vector, left, anchored at Bar Island, as seen from College of the Atlantic.

The disappointing findings were these: While Canada did, indeed, open the border on Monday, and there is a relatively convenient Port of Entry at Campobello Island, they wanted us to have a negative PCR test (in addition to our proof of being fully vaccinated) within 72 hours of arrival. And while that sounds simple enough, most testing sites in Maine are using the state lab, which has a stated turn-around of 3-5 days for results. Privately, some test sites would admit that the results were often back in 48-72 hours, but there were no guarantees.

Making things even more complicated, the only two test sites within a two-day cruise of the border are in Machias and Calais. Neither is accessible directly by Vector, although regular readers may remember that we got close enough to Calais last year to tender in, and we could likely get close enough to Machias to tender there, as well. But wait... you can not get tested by walking in. These are both strictly drive-through sites; you must arrive in a car, and you remain in the vehicle while you are swabbed.

After a lot of head-scratching, plenty of on-line research, and a dozen phone calls, the only workable plan we could concoct went like this: Cruise Vector to Eastport, Maine, and anchor. Tender ashore first thing in the morning and rent a U-Haul pickup truck or van -- there is no car rental in Eastport. Drive to Calais, arriving at Walgreens before 10am, as the pharmacist informed us the FedEx pickup of test samples happened at 11 and if we missed the pickup, there was no way we'd have results in 72 hours.

Sunset over Mount Desert Island, as we came around Bar Island headed home.

We'd then drive back to Eastport and wait, crossing our fingers for results in 72 hours. We would make an appointment with Canadian Border Services for inward clearance (mandatory) right at the 72 hour mark and hope for the best. If the results were later than that, we'd have to turn back at the border and repeat the process. The rental truck, at $20/day and $0.70/mile, plus gas, would cost us $80 each attempt. (On the plus side, we could make a Walmart and grocery store run while we were in Calais.)

By the time we went to bed Monday night, we had more or less concluded this was a fool's errand. Roughly 160 nautical miles, round trip, to Eastport, in order to spend money gambling on a less-than-even chance of having test results to cross the border. All so we could spend perhaps three weeks cruising the Bay of Fundy, before we have to turn around and begin heading south anyway. We had a go/no-go decision deadline of Tuesday morning; if we did not take this window, we'd reduce that three weeks down to something less than two or maybe even one.

We awoke Tuesday morning to dense fog, and that was the final nail in the coffin. The mad scramble to make Eastport in the two days of decent seas would now be two days of intense concentration and hand-steering to avoid lobster traps that, in clear weather, I can see at least a minute or more ahead of time, but in fog will have mere seconds to dodge. As Lando said, this deal is getting worse all the time.

A less foggy view of Bar Harbor from our anchorage. Bar Island at left, Bald Porcupine Island in the distance, and Bar Harbor at right. The land bridge is just beginning to surface and you can see people ready to cross.

And so it is that, after a relaxing cup of coffee in Cranberry Harbor, we gave ourselves permission to call Frenchman Bay our turn-around point for the season, and spend a couple of weeks cruising Maine on a very relaxed schedule, rather than continue to New Brunswick this year. I plotted a course for Bar Harbor, where we knew there was a comfortable anchorage with plenty of services, but less than two hours of plowing through the fog.

I did have to run the foghorn for perhaps half the cruise (my threshold is about a half mile visibility), and we had the occasional sailboat that was inexplicably sailing in fog without monitoring the radio or sounding signals. Approaching the pass between Bar Island and Sheep Porcupine Island a flotilla of kayaks appeared out of the fog ahead of us and I had to go full astern, but we otherwise made it without incident, and dropped the hook where we are now.

This is an incredibly calm anchorage; I would even call it serene. We're just a half mile from downtown Bar Harbor, and if the tide is high it's a 0.6nm tender ride to the dinghy dock at the harbormaster office. At half tide or lower the bar becomes impassable; 90 minutes before low tide it becomes dry land and the tourists begin flocking to Bar Island over the "land bridge." Our dinghy ride then stretches to 1.4nm, going the long way around Bar Island.

The Village Green preparing for the 20th annual Carol Dyer Luminaria lighting tonight, in honor of a beloved children's librarian lost to brain cancer two decades ago.

Since arriving, we've been ashore nightly for dinner, and I've made more than one excursion to the grocery store. The harbormaster gave us a number for a diver and we had the hull cleaned one afternoon -- it's gotten so bad in the last two months that the diver ran out of air before he could finish the whole job. I've enjoyed strolling around town, and I have also knocked some boat projects off the list.

Maine has been doing pretty well, relatively speaking, with case numbers. But no one walking around town is from Maine; a quick scan of license plates reveals tourists from every state along the eastern seaboard and quite a few inland as well. And the town is packed; today is Saturday and every hotel has its No Vacancy sign out. Accordingly, we are back to our mid-pandemic tactics -- masks indoors everywhere, keeping plenty of distance, and only outside dining. Fortunately, more outside dining has popped up since our stay here a year ago.

We'll stay here through the weekend -- no sense in battling with the weekend sailors and other traffic -- and then we will move along. I had hoped to maybe cruise up to Ellsworth, but the harbormaster informs me there is not enough depth at the dock, so we'll do something else in that part of the bay. Our next stop from here is likely Southwest Harbor, another very short cruise.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Back Down East

We are underway in the North Atlantic, eastbound across the mouth of Muscongus Bay. Seas are three feet, but they are fairly widely spaced rollers with only a light chop on top. Yesterday was apparently five footers on a short period, but we wouldn't know it in our cozy anchorage.

Honestly, this was one of the calmest anchorages we've ever been in, and especially so for Maine. It's inaccessible to the swell that pushes well up the bays and rivers here, and it's even in a tidal null -- tide comes in from both sides and goes out on both sides; Vector hardly moved. It's also in a no-wake zone which is generally respected.

Sunset over Moffat Cove and Vector.

With Boothbay Harbor now receding behind us, we're "Down East" by most definitions of the term. When cruising here, I have to make several mental adjustments and it takes a couple of days for those to take hold. The first is that, no matter how far inland we get, we're still on International Rules, also known to mariners as the "COLREGS." International and Inland rules are identical in many respects, but there are subtle differences that we encounter daily, including signalling maneuvering intentions to other vessels, and some of the lights we expect to see on other vessels at night or in fog.

A second adjustment, which I wrote about here on our first cruise to Maine, is to plan shorter days, on account of lobster floats. They are constant and unending, requiring much more attention to the helm and a lot of hand steering. After four or five hours, I'm usually pretty beat, as opposed to elsewhere, where I can generally let Otto steer and be much more relaxed. This particular adjustment kicks in at the New Hampshire line, well before we are Down East.

The sun actually set behind an invisible cloud. Cool effect that did not photograph well.

The bottom contour here is also a mental shift. Along most of the eastern seaboard, when cruising inland, we can expect to be in 8'-12' of water much of the time. The bottom rises gradually -- if I set my depth alarm at 8', I can expect plenty of warning before we touch bottom, which will usually be onto mud, sand, or gravel. Here you can be cruising along in 60' and come upon a rock just a couple of feet below the surface in a heartbeat. The bow can be aground while the depth transducer is still in 30'. And if you touch bottom, it's almost always going to be rock. I'll transit Georgia with a foot under the keel; here I want at least four.

We enjoyed a nice dinner on board Thursday evening, after settling in to what could easily be considered the canonical Downeast anchorage. It was chilly and damp, and we were content to sit in the saloon and enjoy the warmth emanating from the engine room. A light fog enveloped the anchorage by nightfall; surrounded by moorings and well off-channel, I opted to forego running the bell and annoying the waterfront residents.

Our calm anchorage -- quintessential Maine.

Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day with almost no wind, at least in the anchorage. It was so flat calm in the anchorage that it was tempting to head out and see how it was outside. But every model, forecast, and buoy we had said it was miserable offshore. We opted to stay put, not wanting to even chance a night of swells in nearby Boothbay Harbor. I got some projects done aboard, and at dinner time we splashed the tender and rode the 3/4 mile through the swing bridge to the popular Robinson's Wharf waterfront restaurant on Southport Island. We waited a half hour for a patio table, but it was nice to get off the boat and enjoy the sunshine, and the food and drafts were decent.

Today's offshore forecast was questionable, but we decided to poke our noses out and give it a go, with the fallback option of returning to Boothbay if things were too rough. We weighed anchor for the 9:30 opening of the Southport Island Swing Bridge and pushed through the canal into Boothbay Harbor. As soon as we exited the canal we encountered swell that extended all the way into the anchorage; we had made the right call to remain in Moffat Cove. The superyacht Huntress and the cruise ship American Constitution, both of which we had seen docked in Portland, were anchored in the harbor; both vessels had to tender their guests ashore.

Distant view of American Constitution anchored in Boothbay Harbor.

We're glad we came out, because it is more comfortable out here than forecast, and we can make some progress eastward. The pot floats are less frequent here in the open water, and a short while ago we passed Eastern Egg Rock, known for its seasonal puffins. Last year we were just a bit late to see the puffins; this pass we were able to see a dozen or so, but we passed too far away to photograph them. This afternoon we should be anchored somewhere in the western half of Penobscot Bay.

Update: We are anchored in a familiar spot in Tenants Harbor, Maine (map). With perhaps two hours of only an occasional pot float, I felt like we could press on a bit further, but the next protected anchorage is at Vinalhaven, and as much as I'd like to stop there and see the town, arriving on a Saturday would mean hunting for a tight spot, and we might well end up far enough away to be back in the swell. I had all the blog text done before arrival, but the thickening pot floats kept me from processing the photos.