Thursday, August 6, 2020

Adios, Isaias

We are under way in the Gulf of Maine, after a lovely stay in Portsmouth, NH, only slightly interrupted by a tropical storm. We had a nice visit with my cousins, who were kind enough to receive our new batteries and other items for us, and I mostly finished the installation and cut-over of our new lithium battery system. I will have an entire post dedicated to this latter subject out soon.

Saturday we arrived at the mouth of the Piscataqua at an inopportune time in the tide cycle, and we had to battle our way upriver against a knot or two of current. It is particularly fierce around Fort Point, where the river makes a sharp turn. The ebb current, though, did make it possible to tie port-side-to at the face dock at the Portsmouth Yacht Club to offload a scooter. We also filled the water tank so we could get a couple weeks' worth of laundry done.

It was a slow spigot, and we were at the dock for over an hour and a half. As soon as the tank was full, we shoved off and headed for our assigned mooring in the river (map). That had us picking up the ball at exactly max current, not the easiest of tasks. Complicating matters, the pennant (or pendant -- I've never gotten a definitive answer on which is the preferred term) was very short, barely enough to reach Vector's forward hawse-holes.

Portsmouth's "on street" dining areas are protected by these water-filled temporary barriers. If you draw eyebrows on them and a vertical line for a nose, they look like faces; someone made a mask for this one, inspiring Louise to pose in hers.

Picking up a mooring on Vector involves coming alongside the ball and bringing the pennant up to above deck level at one of the large freeing areas forward of the Portuguese. The bulwarks at the bow are just too high -- some ten feet or so above the waterline -- to reach a pennant eye. So we normally loop our line through the pennant eye at the freeing area, then walk it forward to the bow as the boat drifts back.

In the strong, turbulent current, I just could not keep the boat directly alongside the ball long enough for Louise to get the eye to where she could loop it. In the process of trying, we lost one of our expensive collapsible boat poles overboard (once the hook is in the eye, it's almost impossible to release, and you can't hold the force of the whole boat hanging onto a pole). They float, but the current was so swift the pole was too far downriver to retrieve before anyone could get it.

Ultimately we conceded defeat, and had the yacht club dockhands come out in the launch, take our line, loop it through the pennant, and throw it back to us. We settled in, enjoyed our cocktail hour on deck, and decided to eat aboard rather than try to find patio dining in a tourist town on a Saturday night.

Vector at Prescott Park, in the calm before the storm. Someone erased the river, and Maine.

With my various parts at the local Amazon counter, and the batteries already sitting at my cousins' house, Sunday I tore into the battery project, doing the carpentry work to fit the new batteries under the saloon settee. It was dirty work in a cramped compartment, and took me a good part of the day, in part owing to some unanticipated structure right where the batteries needed to go. The oscillating tool got a good workout right along with me.

We had planned to take the launch ashore for dinner and to pick up my parts, but by dinner time I was feeling crummy and the weather was uncooperative, so we ended up never leaving the boat. Instead I headed ashore stag first thing Monday morning to ride to the Amazon counter, in a local Rite-Aid store. I also walked to the Hannaford grocery right next door and picked up a backpack full of fresh provisions.

Parts in hand, I spent the rest of Monday running and terminating battery cables, installing other parts, and generally getting as close to ready as I could for the actual arrival of the batteries. Even on a Monday evening, the restaurants downtown were so booked up for outside dining that the best we could do was a 7pm reservation at the Old Ferry Landing. That meant splashing the tender, as we'd arrive back at the club after the launch service ended at 8pm.

The tide here runs ten feet, with current to match. Several buildings around town have these "tide clocks" on them. This one was more or less correct when I passed, but I've no idea if it even moves.

This is a fried-seafood-and-sandwich joint that would never be our first choice in Portsmouth, but our dining now revolves around the availability of outside tables, and they had one. The food was fine, and we enjoyed people-watching and strolling around the downtown waterfront area. I was surprised at just how many tourists were in town on a Monday. We made note of which restaurants now have previously-unavailable outside dining, due to takeover of on-street parking spaces.

We decked the tender as soon as we returned to Vector, in anticipation of the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaias, which was being forecast as a direct hit throughout much of the day. That forecast gave us second thoughts about our initial plan to spend the storm on the beefy PYC mooring. Not because we thought it would be unsafe, but, rather, because we experienced some uncomfortable motion when wind was opposed to current overnight, and we figured to be absolutely miserable aboard when the winds ratcheted up to TS force.

Rather than secure everything against that kind of motion and resign ourselves to perhaps eight hours of misery, I booked the T-head at the downtown Prescott Park dock (map), where we had stayed on our last visit. I was a bit surprised it was still available. Tuesday we dropped our mooring just as the flood began and headed upriver a couple of miles to the dock. We left the scooter at PYC.

Another one for our many UU friends: South Church.

Most of the morning was given over to running through our windstorm checklist. The storm was going to ace us out of walking someplace nice for dinner, one of the main attractions of this dock, and so we instead walked over to the Gas Light Company for a late lunch of wood-fired pizza di parking-space. While we were eating, my cousin Lori called to say she wanted to drive up from Chester with our packages, rather than wait on plans for the whole family to gather for dinner Wednesday. I was happy to have the batteries in hand while we could easily load them at the dock, and continue the project with shore power available.

This is a Honda Ruckus; as 49cc scooters go, they are rather uncommon ...

Isaias ended up being a non-event. Our anemometer just barely registered tropical-storm force winds for one brief moment. We got some rain, and hours of wind in the mostly 20-30 range. We've had worse thunderstorms come out of nowhere. Still, we were glad to be at the dock rather than bouncing around on a mooring ball. I spent most of the storm making bus bars and installing batteries, and now we have another notch on our named tropical storm belt (six, and counting).

... owing to their rugged industrial look that is anything but "Vespa."

Yesterday morning I finished up the battery installation and cutover, glad to have been able to do this final item while still on shore power. In the afternoon I had a nice stroll around town, replenished the beer supply, and walked in to a nice Italian joint downtown to make a dinner reservation for five of us later in the evening.

With such a tiny share of the scooter market we seldom see these ...

We dropped lines at high slack and headed right back to the same mooring ball at PYC. They were happy to have the ball free while we were at the dock, as they got a last-minute request from another boater seeking a secure mooring for the storm. Arriving at slack, we had little trouble picking up the ball this time, although Louise did grab it at the boarding gate, even further aft than usual, owing to its very short length.

... except in Portsmouth, where by law, there is one on literally every street corner.

We splashed the tender, headed ashore, and rode the scooter right back downtown in the evening, meeting my cousins at Massimo's Ristorante, where once again we dined in a parking space. We enjoyed catching up, and celebrating an important birthday milestone: my cousin Joe turned 16 yesterday, and soon will be driving. It was great seeing everyone, and we'll try to swing back by on our way south later in the season.

I got chastised for parking like this one, and was told instead to park on the sidewalk (really).

With nothing else calling us to stay in Portsmouth, and especially with nothing in walking distance of the yacht club, we decided to continue north this morning. We dropped the mooring at the tail end of the ebb, so we could again come port-side-to at the face dock to load the scooter back aboard. By 9:30 we were back underway, leaving the Piscataqua on the last of the ebb.

Did I mention there are a lot of Rucki in Portsmouth? Here we see a family of three.

We passed Kennebunkport a short while ago (probably a nice stop, but at $7 per foot, we're not dying to find out) and we have our sights set on an anchorage behind Fletcher Neck. We're in Maine now, and as a welcoming gift, I have been dodging lobster floats all day. Our reward, soon enough, will be inexpensive lobster rolls.

As near as we can tell, there is a Honda dealer in town pushing these things. I took all these pics in the span of just a few city blocks. We saw dozens more walking around town.

Update: We are anchored in Woods Island Harbor, near the community of Saco, Maine (map). I had to knock off writing a good half hour out because the lobster floats got thick and I had to thread the needle between rocky islands to get here. We should have a comfortable night, and in the morning we will continue north.

As I was on the bridge getting ready to pull away from the dock I notice even the dockhand has one. I missed my chance to ask him why they are so popular here.

A note about the blog: Blogger has changed its editing interface. I have resisted moving to the new system because there are many, many complaints about the inability to control formatting as in the past. But starting this month, I have no choice. This is my first post with the new system, and I hope it will display as intended for most of you. I may have to make some adjustments as we move forward. Please let us know in the comments if the formatting is weird or the links do not work.


  1. Looks beautiful, formatting-wise. You made me realize that I use the terms pennant and pendant both, and hadn't noticed! Part of the great salon saloon debate?

    1. Salon/saloon is more definitive, with adherents lining up on both sides and sharpening their spears. Pennant/pendant does not seem to generate the same level of passion. I'm a "saloon" guy, BTW, although I admit to using "salon" in certain company and forums because, well, it's just not worth going there. Also, it's where I drink ;)

  2. You are anchored off my childhood home, Biddeford Pool. I am a descendent of one of the lighthouse keepers. Wood Island light is being restored and there are tours in the summer, but not this year. A lovely spot on the Maine coast.

    1. It was very picturesque. We had a slight roll through the night, and the SA bell buoy rang rhythmically all night. You must have had an enviable childhood there.

  3. Other than the changed/larger font under the photo, I saw nothing untoward with the formatting.

    1. Thanks, Howard. Feedback so far has been generally positive.

  4. Hey Sean -- I believe you can continue to use the old format. I just clicked on "Design" and went to the bottom of the left side menu and chose to revert. I couldn't make pictures get in the right place with the new.

    1. Yes, I can force it back to the old editor, but only for another week or two. Then it goes away forever. I am trying to climb the learning curve now, while I can still revert to the old system in a pinch.


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