Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Witch hunt

We are underway northbound in the North Atlantic, somewhere east of Newburyport, Massachusetts. It's as flat as a pond out here today, perfect passage conditions. We seized this window to make the Piscataqua, even though we have absolutely no plan for where we will spend the night once we arrive.

Wednesday we arrived to Salem harbor a little past 5pm. As we were poking around the head of the harbor looking for a spot to drop the hook, the harbormaster hailed us on the radio -- their office is on Winter Island with a good view of the comings and goings in the harbor. They directed us to an area available for anchoring, and we dropped the hook off-channel a short distance inside the no-wake buoys (map). As we were getting all secured they came by to check on us and give us the rundown on where the dinghy dock and other services were located; very welcoming.

Marker for the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, on historic Derby Wharf.

We splashed the tender and headed over to the Hawthorne marina for a visit with Steph and Martin aboard Blossom. We all ended up walking into town for a nice meal on the outside deck at the Sea Level restaurant. It was a very pleasant evening and we enjoyed catching up; we hope to see them again somewhere further north.

The Customs House. Nathaniel Hawthorne worked in this building as Surveyor, and it was here he found inspiration for "The Scarlet Letter."

Salem is a tourist town, a day trip from more or less anywhere in the metropolitan Boston area. Tourists arrive by car, of course, but many also arrive on the high-speed ferry from Boston, or on the train from Boston or points in between. In addition to the ferry traffic, we were passed day and night by a squadron of tour boats, both power and sail. One night we could hear a one-man live music show from one of the schooners for nearly an hour as it circled the harbor; at one point he sang the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which struck me as a lot like showing air disaster flicks as in-flight entertainment.

I walked through the barrio in search of a tienda, and found many colorful murals.

The town is making hay from a tragic and shameful past. There is a certain amount of irony in catering to modern-day occultists in such a mercenary manner three centuries after literally killing people falsely accused of occultism. Meanwhile, Salem's long history as an important and historic seaport goes largely unnoticed by many.

The tourist-trap Salem Witch Museum. At left is the completely unrelated statue of city founder Roger Conant.

It is this long seafaring history that is the cause for the modern presence of the National Park Service, who has undertaken to preserve and make accessible some of it. The Park Service, in fact, was responsible for the installation of the dinghy dock along one of the centuries-old wharves, although they have turned the management over to the harbormaster. While it was a long 15-minute tender ride from our distant anchor spot, it's right in the thick of things and there is no time limit for day use.

Even Elizabeth Montgomery, star of "Bewitched," gets a public statue in Salem. A number of episodes were filmed here after a fire destroyed the Hollywood set.

During the course of our stay I got ashore several times, mostly for walking around the historic downtown. I also lugged the e-bike ashore to make a provisioning run to the Stop & Shop some two miles distant, and I made two visits to the Amazon locker to pick up various items we had ordered. As long as I had the e-bike in the tender, I also landed at the Marblehead Village Street landing and made a brief loop through that town as well; the landing is too far from town to walk to dinner, and Marblehead Harbor on the other side of the head has no room to anchor.

In the Salem anchorage, the sun sets behind the power plant.

In addition to our first evening when we walked to town with our friends, the weather also cooperated for us to get ashore for dinner two more times. We enjoyed Mexican food at Casa Tequila, and casual fare on the sidewalk at Rockafella's. Our final morning yesterday we also had breakfast at the Jaho coffee bar before strolling over for a very somber visit at the lone memorial to the victims of the witch trials, erected at the three-century mark.

A commotion of gulls outside our windows alerted us that they had dropped a mostly dead fish on our foredeck. Louise ruined their day by pitching it overboard.

After returning to Vector we decked the tender and weighed anchor for the fairly short cruise to Gloucester. We could easily have made it a longer day and gone around Cape Ann to Rockport, another favorite stop, but I had need of the excellent chandlery in town, Three Lanterns, an easy tender ride from the anchorage. Our preferred spot in the inner harbor near the harbormaster docks was full up, so we went back out to the outer harbor and dropped the hook in a cove off Stage Head (map), which I had scoped out on the e-bike on a previous visit.

In case you were wondering why Covid numbers are ratcheting upward again. "Masks optional" signs were all over town; this one makes it explicit that it includes the unvaccinated, counter to CDC guidance. On an indoor cinema, of all places. Next week's feature: "Outbreak," starring Dustin Hoffman.

I headed ashore as soon as we were settled, in the hopes that the chandlery's marlin-spike guy could make us a backup snubber, but he was unavailable. I settled for the other items I needed: 15' of nylon line and a fresh shackle so that we can flip the anchor chain end-for-end at our next dock. One of my Amazon deliveries in Salem was a pair of new anchor rollers; the forward roller wore all the way through in P-Town.

Old Town Hall, part of the historic district.

We went back ashore together for dinner, and managed to score a nice outside table at high-end Italian restaurant Tonno as walk-ins. We've tried to get into this place on every visit with no luck so we were happy to finally succeed; it was quite good. Tonno is Italian for "tuna," one of the species so commonly fished out of Gloucester that they made a reality TV series about it. Louise reports her bluefin crudo was quite tasty.

This morning we weighed anchor at a low tide of -0.6'. I would have preferred to take the Blynman Canal, but we need the tide to be at least above zero and preferably even more than that, and if we waited for more water we'd be shooting through the bridge with three knots behind us. We opted instead to round Eastern Point and pass Cape Ann on the outside, adding five miles to the trip.

The USCG cutter Key Largo is too large for the Gloucester CG station, so it's tied up over at the fish docks. I wonder if the cutter Cape Ann is plying the Keys.

We should be here in the Portsmouth area a few days, where we will catch up with my cousins who live about 45 minutes away. This is as close as we can get in the boat. The city dock, where we prefer to stay, is sold out most nights, so we're scratching our heads about how to work around it. Last time we took a mooring at the Portsmouth Yacht Club, but we found it uncomfortable that close to the channel.

Update: I had to stop working on the blog when the lobster pots started getting thick south of Star Island. I noticed the Gosport ferry running, so we presume the retreat center there has reopened. We found a spot to drop the hook in 35' off Kittery Point, Maine (map), near Pepperell Cove. If the holding proves good here, we will head ashore and check out the town this evening.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great trip! I hope your anchorage is calm. Welcome to Maine!


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