Saturday, September 15, 2018

Beantown wrap-up

We are underway across Cape Cod Bay, bound for the canal. The bay is flat calm, belying the rage that is the western North Atlantic right now. Once again it seems I can not update the blog except when under way, and I have some catching up to do.

Labor Day fireworks over Boston, as seen from our deck. Photo: Erin Miller

Not long after my last post, we steamed into Boston Harbor, headed for our old spot from three years ago. Unfortunately, there was an enormous ATB in our spot, some 400'+ long, the Dylan Cooper. I called on the radio to ask how much rode he had out and he answered "three shots." That's 270', making his swing circle the better part of 700', taking up that entire end of the anchorage.

We might have squeezed into the very NW corner, but we opted to play it safe, dropping as far east of him as we could get without running into a cable area (map). That put us much closer to the airport Hyatt, which is technically the start of the No Wake zone. Unsurprisingly, the wakes were much worse down there and we had a miserable three days until he left.

Our view every night. Makes up a little for the sometimes choppy harbor.

Officially authorized dinghy landings are few and far between in Boston. We know from experience there are a number of other unofficial landings, but we wanted easy for our first night out and our first landing here with the new dink, so we headed to Atlantic Wharf, where a slip is designated for dinghies to stay for up to four hours. A second dock is available for only 30 minutes, but is not explicitly for dinghies.

Notwithstanding the markings, we often find a full-size boat in the dinghy landing, and one in the 30-minute zone as well. Fortunately the new dink is small enough to squeeze in behind the miscreants and side-tie to the dock. Quite a number of restaurants are here, as well as access to the "T" and a large CVS for essentials like milk. A longer walk brings you to the trendy Seaport district.

Our dink squeezed in behind other boats. Dock at left is the four-hour dinghy dock.

After we got settled in and re-calibrated, we met up with our cruising friends Erin and Chris, who have a condo right on the water. They once again graciously accepted a number of packages we needed delivered, including our regular mail drop.

Getting to their place involves tying up at one of the aforementioned unofficial landings. The landings are rough, with no cleats, fenders, or rub strips, and we have to tie to the side with the protruding steel frames that ride up and down on the pilings. Three years ago, in our war-torn old dink, we just tied up, maybe put a little chafe protection out, and did not worry about it.

With our shiny new dink, costing four times as much, there was no way we were going to just let it bang up against the dock, possibly damaging the tubes on its very first real outing. We were late for our first meetup while we stood off the dock noodling on how to tie up. Eventually we decided to deploy our new bungee anchor. Louise stood on the dock holding the painter, I backed away as far as I could and dropped the anchor, then she pulled me back in to the dock to disembark. We tied the end of the painter to the dock and the bungee held the boat just far enough away to avoid damage.

We arrived in Boston just ahead of Labor Day weekend, and, just as the last time we were in town, there were fireworks, this time on Thursday evening. Also as last time, we had friends aboard, inviting Chris and Erin over to watch the show, which is on the "wrong" side of their condo building. We had a great time over a bottle of wine, and we got to see how the new tender performed with three and four adults aboard.

Two Nantuckets. Vector is in the distance, just in front of the farther Nantucket. As seen from Seaport.

On Friday the Dylan Cooper finally left, and we immediately weighed anchor and moved to the very NW corner of the anchorage (map). Being further into the No Wake zone, and also close to the fuel dock at Harbor Fuels as well as the Lightship Nantucket, the wakes here were somewhat less than where we had been. We were thankful to move just before the holiday weekend, which was already a zoo on the water. Amusingly, there is now a second Lightship Nantucket in the harbor, across the channel.

Boston Harbor on Friday before Labor Day weekend, from our deck. Fireboat in foreground, regular harbor cruise is to the right, behind him is our neighbor the ATB Dylan Cooper, in the distance is USS Constitution being hip-towed past Rowes Wharf. And lots and lots of pleasure boats.

Part of the chaos on the harbor over the weekend involved the USS Constitution, which was taken out for its annual "turn around" cruise, hip-towed by a large commercial tugboat. They cruised all the way to Fort Independence, where canon salutes were exchanged, and then back to their berth at the Charlestown Navy Yard. We were able to see the entire cruise right from our deck.

Old Ironsides heading toward Fort Independence, with help from tug Vincent D. Tibbetts.

We were very glad to have moved when we did, because two other ATBs arrived in our anchorage; across the span of two weeks we saw each of the three twice. Three years ago we had the anchorage to ourselves the entire time. I'm not sure what's changed, but clearly the ATBs have discovered this anchorage, more protected than the more distant President Roads anchorage.

All told we spent two full weeks in Boston. We dined at perhaps a dozen different restaurants as well as the Boston College Club, and in addition to Chris and Erin, we also met up with local friend Liz who had joined us for the fireworks last year, and Louise's goddaughter Tatiana, who was in town from California to visit a college chum who is now at MIT for grad school. This latter visit had us going to Cambridge on the T.

A literal brick-and-mortar Amazon store, in Cambridge. There is a disturbance in the force.

New this visit, we also landed a couple of time in East Boston, where we found a nice, inexpensive casual Italian joint (di Parma), a good pub (Mavericks), a gas station we could walk to (there are none in Boston proper), and a large Colombian community. The waterfront is being redeveloped and the area is gentrifying, with thousands of high-end housing units that enjoy the same spectacular view of the Boston skyline that we had from Vector.

Our first visit to East Boston was on Saturday the 8th, and we were surprised to find more fireworks after our return home; some in the general direction of the North End and Charlestown, and some in the direction of the Old Bay. We never learned the reason, and our attention was soon diverted by a mayday call from a party boat in the area of the Harbor Islands.

These are still the Labor Day fireworks. I took a lot of pictures.

There are harbor cruises every day in Boston Harbor, of all stripes, from one hour sightseeing jaunts to full-on dinner cruises. Party cruises are nightly, but on Friday and Saturday nights they kick into high gear, and we often hear live music or wild DJs from halfway across the harbor. The Mayday came from one of the largest, the 1,000-passenger Provincetown II.

Just about halfway through their two-hour itinerary, which leaves the inner harbor and loops through the harbor islands before returning, on an alcohol-fueled party charter themed "Get Lei'd at Sea" and featuring seven DJs, a 21 year old man decided to climb on on the aft rail, and fell overboard. By the time the alarm made its way through the crowd, the ship had traveled several hundred feet further, and a security guard jumped in after him.

The flyer for the cruise. Folks got only half the entertainment for their $20-$80 ticket.

We heard the man overboard call as well as the play-by-play of liferings deployed and the man briefly being seen in spotlights. We also saw rescue assets from Boston PD and Massport Fire leave the harbor at high speed. I kept the search channel on until I went to bed; his body was found by sidescan sonar in 45' of water some six hours after he went over. My few social media posts during the event earned me a call from the Boston Globe Saturday, but I had nothing substantive to contribute.

Provincetown II at her berth at the World Trade center after the incident. The high-speed Provincetown IV, at left, relieved the II on scene so they could return their passengers to port.

I did take two nice long walks around town by myself. My first jaunt started at Atlantic Wharf and progressed past Post Office Square, the Old South Meeting House, the Irish Famine Memorial, Old City Hall (now a Ruths Chris restaurant), the Granary Burying Ground, and into Boston Common. A spent a short time on the Common before crossing to the Public Garden, where I missed the Swan Boats by just a day or two.

Irish Famine Memorial.

It was a beautiful, warm day for my first walk, but on my second walk a few days later the weather had suddenly turned chilly and damp. I started at Columbus Park, where an arts festival was in progress; fewer than a dozen people took seats on the lawn to take in the live music in the cold. From there I strolled the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the long skinny park that covers The Big Dig.

One of the numerous art installations on the Greenway. Old neon signs.

The greenway is chock full of interesting public spaces, including art, splash fountains, playgrounds, picnic areas, and lush lawns. I looped through Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, and had a somber walk through the Holocaust Memorial, pausing to place a stone on the granite monolith. I passed through the Public Market and into the North End and past the Old North Church.

The Frog Pond on Boston Common.

It would not be the North End without passing a small religious parade, this one in honor of Santa Rosalia di Palermo, which is a never-ending tradition here. I looped around to the old waterfront just downstream of the dam, and ended up running into a tournament at the campo de Bocce. All a canonical Boston experience, and yet I passed few tourists other than at Quincy Market.

Tourney at the Bocce courts.

A few of the other restaurants we enjoyed were Serafina and the bar at Smith & Wollensky near Atlantic Wharf, and Summa, Prezza, Vinoteca di Monica, and Pushcart Pizza in the North End.

One if by land, two if by sea ... The Old North Church.

On the project front, I finally replaced the ensign staff. When we bought the new tender in Weymouth, they had the right sized staff in stock and I bought it, only to find it was way too loose in the mount. Perhaps the mount is a weird Canadian size rather than the US standard of 1.25" diameter. I ended up cutting off the necked-down section at the bottom, fashioning a crude lathe using a cordless drill, and created a new neck of slightly larger diameter. Three coats of teak oil and some pad-eyes and it's all done and in place with a brand new ensign.

New ensign staff.

I also wrapped up a number of projects on the new tender, including mounting and wiring the GPS/Plotter/Depthsounder that I removed from the old dink, adding a 12v power outlet, securing the battery box and fuel tank, and figuring out how to stow the anchor, life jackets, safety equipment, and tools. In the course of all this, I found quite a number of quality control issues with the rigging of the tender. That ended up being a big chunk of a 12-point warranty service list.

50 Post Office Square. My old Bell Labs bones immediately zeroed in on the Bell System logo.

We wanted to get the selling dealer in Weymouth to knock off the warranty issues before we left the area. We bid farewell to Chris and Erin after one final lunch ashore on Monday, and started to make ready to head back to Hingham in the afternoon. Forecast for  the outer harbor, however, was 2-4', with 4-7' waves outside the harbor islands, and I emailed the dealer to postpone our Tuesday morning appointment to Wednesday instead.

This whimsical carousel is on the Greenway.

Our decision to stay put was soon confirmed, as we noticed the tugs supporting the dredging operation in the channel bringing their loaded mud scows over near us and tying them to the nearby abandoned piers. We surmised the conditions were too rough for them to take them out to the disposal area outside the harbor. One skipper was clearly driving around the piers with his load, unsure of where to tie; the dredge tugs come with the dredge from out of town.

Best shot I could get of the Holocaust Memorial, very moving.

Somewhere in the process of all that I heard a horn close aboard; I looked up to see a loaded mud scow headed right for us. I quickly switched the radio from 16 to 13 and hailed the skipper, asking if he was honking at us. He asked if we were under way ("I saw you moving."). I guess my anchor day shape, anchor light (which was on due to the stormy conditions), and AIS status of "anchored" were insufficient for this yahoo... NO WE ARE ANCHORED. "Ok, we'll get a little close, but I'll miss you."  He did, by just 40' off our bow. I was afraid his keel or prop was going to catch our chain.

Old South Meeting Hall.

The decision to postpone gave us an extra morning in Boston, and Tuesday was a beautiful day, so we decided to go ashore for a stroll. As I was in the tender getting it ready, a USCG small boat with a 50-caliber machine gun mounted approached close aboard for a chat, reminiscent of our "suspicious boat" incident. I asked about the 50-cal and they reminded me it was September 11th. The date alone is cause for elevated security in the harbor. They quickly assessed us as not a threat and continued their patrol.

Post Office Square. This privately owned public park provides seating cushions and a lending library.

We wanted to stroll the Seaport district, but the official dinghy dock there wants $20 an hour, so we tied up at Atlantic Wharf and walked. It was an uncharacteristically high tide and water was flooding over the harborwalk on the south side of Fort Point Channel. We had a pleasant walk, stopping for an afternoon beer at Liberty Wharf. That's where the aforementioned dock is; while we sat there two guys in a sportfish tied up, walked right past the iron ranger without a second glance, and went ashore.

Flooding walk. Rowing club's oars are nearly hitting the bridge. Tea Party museum in background.

We weighed anchor in the afternoon, a full two weeks after arriving, and motored the eight miles to our old anchorage in Hingham, where we dropped the hook for the night (map). We had a nice dinner on the aft deck for the first time in quite a while, and a quiet night. In the morning we weighed anchor and moved over to the Hingham Shipyard Marina, where we took a slip (map).

The marina, as well as the adjacent shopping center and several condo buildings, are named after the Bethlehem Steel Hingham Shipyard, which cranked out nearly 300 destroyers during WWII at a prodigious rate. In addition to the mall and the marina, this is also where the ferries to Boston, Logan, and the Harbor Islands depart.

This giant anchor is a remnant of the Bethlehem ship business.

After getting tied up we splashed the tender right in the slip and drove it over to the boat ramp a mile away. The dealer service department met us there with a trailer, and after loading the boat the service manager dropped us back at the marina. I pointed out a few things from the 12-point list that I had sent in advance, and he felt he could have the boat back to us the middle of the following day.

As long as we had to spend $176 for a night in a fancy marina, we took full advantage, topping up the batteries and the water tank as well as doing all the laundry on the boat, five loads' worth. We also took full advantage of the close shopping, even though it was pouring rain. I marched the mile to Lowes and the Dollar Tree, swinging by Marshalls and Stop & Shop on my way back. Louise went to Fresh Market and Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I went through two changes of clothes, but it stopped by dinner time when we walked to the Boathouse Bistro.

Few braved the cooler temperatures for this singer at Columbus Park.

The marina had another boat booked into our slip, but they let us stay till 1:00 so we could get the boat back at noon. The dealer did an acceptable job with most of the items on the list, and we had the boat back on deck just in time to wrap up the last load of laundry before unplugging. We dropped lines at 1 and headed back out of the harbor.

Starting at that late hour there were not a lot of stopping options outside the Harbor Islands. We set our sights on an anchorage in the outer harbor of Cohassett, Massachusetts. When we arrived there, however, we found a half dozen lobster floats in the one and only area with enough depth for Vector at low tide. Besides that, there was enough swell in the outer harbor to make things uncomfortable. Cohassett prohibits boats longer than 45' from entering the inner harbor, so neither a dock nor a mooring was an option.

Scooters were all over Boston, mostly parked on sidewalks like these two.

Instead we continued another hour to Scituate, Massachussetts, where the harbormaster told us there were plenty of available moorings that could accommodate us, and gave us the names of the three outfits renting them. The first two places told me they did not take boats our length. The third, aptly named EZ Rider, said he had a ball that could fit us, and to hail him on our way into the harbor.

This is how close astern the next ball was. I suspect we got even closer to other boats during the very calm night.

We called after passing the jetty and he came out to lead us to the ball, wending our way through the tightly packed harbor. The room around the ball looked sketchy to us, with another empty ball being the closest culprit, but he assured us there was enough room. Besides, at that point we had really no other options. We picked up our pennant (map) and made arrangements to take the launch to shore for dinner.

The launch only runs to 7, and our $45 mooring fee included launch service, so rather than splash the dink we decided to have an early dinner and headed ashore at 5. We walked around the small downtown waterfront which, in addition to several restaurants, also sports a CVS, a gas station, a hardware store, and several other services. A great cruising stop if you fit on a mooring; there is no room to anchor in the harbor. We ate at The Galley, a casual joint with draft beer.

Scituate harbor from on deck. Lighthouse is center frame.

Update: I ran out of time yesterday to finish this post. We had a good push through the canal, making for a somewhat shorter day, and my attention was diverted to more pressing navigational matters. This morning found us anchored in Mattapoisett Harbor, in the town of that name in Massachusetts (map).

We arrived at the canal entrance just at slack; I even slowed down a half hour ahead so we would not have any adverse current. But the current in the canal builds swiftly, and we shot out the western end at nine knots. We had figured on an anchorage just west of the canal on the cape side, but as it was only 3:30 we opted to continue to Mattapoisett, which would give us another few miles with the current behind us as well as keep us closer to our overall route.

This splash fountain on the Greenway featured "steam" and a playful spritzing display.

We pulled into the harbor hoping to anchor just on the outskirts, as it was calm enough there for us. But like many harbors in MA, this one is tightly controlled, and we had to radio the harbormaster for anchoring permission. He asked us to come all the way in past a couple of markers, and by the time we dropped the hook we were just a half mile from town.

We had planned to grill on deck, but it was a beautiful evening and we had plenty of time, so after cocktail hour we splashed the tender and headed ashore. The harbormaster wants your cell number when you are off the boat, so we signed in at the office. After a quick stroll around the diminutive town, we had a nice dinner at the lone waterside place, The Inn at Shipyard Park. It was a pleasant and casual meal on white tablecloths. We decked the tender as soon as we returned home.

Today's cruise has been pleasant in better-than-anticipated conditions. Seas are nearly three feet but they are placid, long-period rollers. Tonight we have a choice of anchorages, either Newport, Rhode Island, or the Harbor of Refuge at Point Judith. We're headed for the latter, as it turns out that the Newport Boat Show is in progress, which will make the anchorage a zoo, the dinghy docks overfilled, and the restaurants packed.

Tea Party at the museum. Note the (reusable) bales of tea in the harbor, tossed over by tourists.

Update: We are anchored in the Harbor of Refuge at Point Judith (map), just south of Jerusalem and Galilee (really). We have finally left Massachusetts and are in Rhode Island for one night. We can hear the surf crashing on the breakwater; it is very calm inside, but the three-footers outside have a dozen people in wetsuits with surfboards catching the break.

Tomorrow we will continue west into Long Island Sound, whose protected waters we relish before the rest of the surge from Florence arrives here. In a few days we will be back in the metro New York area, waiting on a weather window to transit the NJ coast.


  1. Wow! Great Post. Wondering if the Duck boats are still running tours of the harbor and Charles River? Or have they shut them all down now?

    1. I saw the ducks running on my walk, so they are still open for the season. There are now at least two operators in Boston running DUKWs. AFAIK, however, neither one has ever included Boston Harbor on the water route; the water route is limited to the Charles River which is protected behind a dam.

    2. Seeing more of the Amazon stores. Here back in San Jose they opened on in Santana Row, almost exactly on the same spot that use to have the great bookstore in Town And Country Center before the tore down the center to build Santana Row.


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