Friday, September 18, 2020

Running before the storm

We are underway on a southwesterly heading in the Gulf of Maine, having left Penobscot Bay via the Muscle Ridge Channel this morning. As I begin typing we are just offshore Mosquito Island. We are making a run for the Damariscotta River, with Hurricane Teddy barreling toward us. This will be our second named storm this year, having already ridden out Bertha, minor (for us) though it was, and our sixth major named storm on the boat.

We had a comfortable afternoon aboard Monday, and we splashed the tender in the warmest part of the day and I went ashore to explore a bit and drop a package at the post office. I was pleased to find that Rockland has put some barricades in the street and several places had outside tables, although many were dark Monday evening.

We returned ashore at dinner time and dined under a canopy in a parking lot, across from Cafe Miranda. We were a bit shielded from the wind, and the food was quite good and reasonably priced. We strolled the town a bit, then bashed our way back across the harbor to Vector, where we would be pinned down for the next 48 hours.

As expected, winds clocked around to the southwest on Tuesday, and escalated steadily throughout the day. It was way too windy to try to get ashore at all, but we were mostly comfortable on board. Louise sewed and I got a few projects done, and we had a quiet dinner aboard. Winds were in the 20-30 range when we turned in.

Sunset over Rockland through the smoke from, I kid you not, the fires on the west coast.

By Wednesday morning, winds had climbed into the 30-40 range, gale force. Even though we were fairly southwest in the harbor, we still had enough fetch to have a bumpy morning, and with winds only forecast to increase, we weighed anchor before lunch and moved as close to the southwest corner as we dared get, out of Anchorage A in an area called Seal Ledge. We dropped the hook just a hundred yards or so from a rock shoal that uncovers, marked with a daybeacon (map).

Things were a bit more comfortable there, but we stil had gale force winds all day. We were certain we'd be stuck on the boat another evening, but right at dinner time the winds laid down into the 20's, and we seized the opportunity to run ashore at the nearby boat ramp. It would have been way too far in the conditions to go all the way to the town dock.

Landing at the boat ramp sent us to a restaurant we would not otherwise have tried, Primo. This is a high end, farm-to-table affair, which is almost never our thing, but they had outside tables on a lovely patio overlooking the bay, on the lee side of the building. We were surprisingly comfortable, and the food and service were top notch. They grow many of the herbs and veggies right on the property, and even raise their own chickens.

It was good to get off the boat, even if we had a bit of a wet ride back, the wind having picked up again while we were away. Still, we were mostly comfortable, but we noticed a lot of clunking overnight, which we attributed to the snubber. As it turned out, the carabiner we use for a chain hook on the snubber finally corroded through overnight and was gone by morning, In hindsight, we should have recognized the excess noise and gone out to check, so as not to load the windlass and anchor roller.

Apparently the coasties also use Anchorage A to practice with their 47' Motor Life Boat.

While we were pinned down on the boat for two days by gales, a part of the country was, of course, faring much worse. It was painful to watch the coverage roll in from the gulf on the landfall of slow-moving but destructive Hurricane Sally. With lots of time on my hands I wrote up a quick set of suggestions for those on the Western Rivers still working their way down to the gulf. My post to the Great Loop groups on Facebook quickly took off, and was picked up by a magazine editor who asked if he could republish it. It's making the rounds; one version is here.

By yesterday morning, the harbor was nearly flat calm, and it was a beautiful day. It's easy to be deceived by these harbor conditions, but we knew the ocean conditions would still be bad after two straight days of gale force winds. We settled in to to enjoy a final day of calm in Rockland.

I headed ashore after lunch with the e-bike to run some errands. That included filling the dinghy gas tank, which was a perfect fit in my new basket, stopping at Lowes to check out some floor and window covering options (both are in need of replacement in the saloon), and making a provisioning run to Walmart. Between my backpack and the basket I managed to fit four gallons of motor oil along with the rest of the provisions; the main engine is nearly due for a change and I will need to source another four gallons someplace.

It was such a nice day that I rode to Walmart in my shirtsleeves, but on my way home the skies darkened and the temperature dropped. Nevertheless we managed to return ashore at dinner time for a final dinner at North Beacon Oyster right on the main drag. Dinner was good, if a bit close to traffic on the street.

Dinghy fuel tank in the ebike basket. Fits like a glove and makes the bike look gas-powered. I just filled it like this at the gas station.

This morning a re-check of the weather confirmed that today was the right day to get out of Dodge. We bashed our way out of the harbor, with seas just port of on the nose. But after making our turn to starboard around Owls Head and taking this southwesterly course, seas have been behind us and it has been a comfortable ride.

Update: We are anchored in the Damariscotta River, just inside a small peninsula called Farnham Point (map). I had to stop typing well offshore due to increasing pot float density. We took the outside route to get beyond the 3nm limit and, umm, take care of business. During that process we observed that the forward tank has stopped flowing into the aft tank, which is where the macerator and pumpout are connected.

The only working head on the boat right now empties into the forward tank, and so the very first order of business after getting the hook set here was to deal with the flow problem. I will spare you the details; suffice it to say it is an unpleasant task, but we now have enough experience to make it relatively fast. After the "repair" I showered and plopped down in an easy chair with a beer. Soon afterward we moved on to dinner, and I am just now getting back to the keyboard.

A key reason for making a beeline here to the Damariscotta, rather than any intermediate stops in Muscongus Bay, which is probably a lovely cruising ground, is that we can run upriver to the head of navigation and be nearly 20 miles inland for storm protection. But at this writing, it looks like we still have another day of good weather on the outside, and so we can round Ocean Point, head up through Booth Bay into Townsend Gut, and make our way to the Sheepscot, which will give us more options as well as allow us to keep cruising until the storm is closer.

We're still on the fence as to whether we will continue first to Newcastle and Damariscotta, the head of navigation on this river. If we do so, it will be a day cruise, running upriver in the morning on the flood, spending the midday hour in town, and coming right back downriver on the ebb to make Townsend Gut by days end. We'll decide in the morning, after another check of the weather.


  1. Getting quite cool here in RI, and windier. Hope there is a stretch of decent weather for your slog south from Maine.

    1. The windows get shorter and farther between, but there should be a few left.

  2. How kind of you to write the warning report to those wanting to get to the Gulf. Hurricane Sally really took it's toll on the area & the boats. Glad you are safe & it sounds like the rough weather is pretty much behind you now.

    1. Thank you. I know a lot of loopers are fairly new boaters and so may not be aware of the sorts of problems they may encounter. I hope it helps at least a few.


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