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.

1 comment:

  1. From mystic CT the storm was a non event, heavy rain, waves were no more than 3 feet and no surge


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