Friday, September 3, 2021

Massachusetts bound

We are underway southbound in the Atlantic Ocean. As I begin typing, Gosport Harbor, the Isles of Shoals, and the Star Island lodge are off to port, and the Hampton River is off to starboard. We have finally left the thickest areas of lobster floats behind us and I can divert some attention to typing.

Not long after I last posted on Friday, we arrived at the Piscataqua River and headed directly to our familiar spot in Pepperrell Cove, off Kittery Point, Maine (map). It was very comfortable when we arrived, and we looked forward to perhaps spending a few days in that spot, running upriver a couple of miles in the tender to enjoy downtown Portsmouth. We had a quiet dinner on board.

Unfortunately, at the evening turn of the tide, we ended up broadside to a gentle swell that was right at Vector's resonant frequency, and Louise had a miserable night. Things were again tolerable when we awoke, but at the midday tide change the rolling started again, and we decided we needed a different venue.

Normally we would just go upriver to the city docks at Prescott Park, but there is a three-night limit there, and we were still sorting out when we might see my cousins, who were away for the weekend, and my aunt and uncle, who might drive out from Saratoga to see us. We wanted to save our three nights for the visit, if possible.

Instead we weighed anchor and cruised up the Piscataqua in search of an anchorage. The tidal current in the river is wicked, to use the local parlance, and thus most of the riverbed is scoured down to rock. Even the places where sediment and gravel collects are deep, from 30-60' at low tide, making for large swing circles that will inevitably encompass lobster floats or mooring balls.

Upbound on the Piscataqua, approaching the very modern Sarah Mildred Long lift bridge, with the I-95 arch bridge behind it.

Hoping to still be within dinghy distance of the city dock, perhaps three miles or so, I scoped out a couple of possibilities along the industrial waterfront north of town. We requested an opening of the Memorial Bridge just upriver of Prescott Park, passed under the swoopy Sarah Mildred Long lift bridge without needing an opening, and then under the fixed I-95 bridge before reaching the area.

One of the two spots I had scoped out had enough holding and just enough room for us to swing among the pots. But as we were getting ready to snub, an irritable lobsterman came by and started harassing us about being too close to their gear. We never tangle with fishing gear at anchor -- every time we've caught a piece of gear we've been under way -- but this was not an argument I wanted to have in the middle of the river, and especially knowing we would be leaving the boat unattended periodically. We decided to just move along.

That meant going all the way around the corner, past Dover Point, and into the start of The Great Bay. The narrows under the Little Bay bridge at Dover Point has some of the highest current on the river, three knots at max flood or ebb, and we whizzed through with a following current, hand steering. We dropped the hook in a wide spot in the bay with some sand on the bottom (map), in an area marked on Google Maps as "Boston Harbor" (really).

From here it is five miles to Portsmouth, which is a 20-minute ride going flat out. Not something we wanted to do with temperatures in the 60s, so instead we headed a short distance across the bay to Lexie's, a burger joint at the Great Bay Marina. Dinner was fine, and it was nice to get off the boat. It also gave us a chance to check out the marina.

We spent two nights in the anchorage, and it was dark, quiet, calm, and peaceful. Sunday was cold and rainy, a perfect day to work in the engine room, where I replaced the zincs on the main engine heat exchanger. That's a particularly fiddly process on our engine, best done when there is no deadline for moving, in case anything goes awry. We had a quiet dinner aboard.

Monday my cousins returned from their trip, and arranged to pick us up in the afternoon. Our preferred digs at Prescott Park were unavailable for those three nights, and so instead we simply moved the boat over to Great Bay Marina and tied up to the face dock (map). As usual, we filled the water tank and Louise started a round of laundry before we left for the evening.

Last night I had to replace this anchor roller, which the chain nearly wore in two. Note the hole in the middle.

We had a great three evenings visiting with my cousins and my aunt and uncle, who arrived Tuesday. In between visits we kept one of their cars, which we used to make runs to the grocery store, Walmart, and Costco for provisions, Lowes for maintenance supplies, and Goodwill to deposit the last couple of months' worth of superfluous items. I thought I'd be trundling seven gallons of used motor oil, too, but the marina had a collection tank and just took it.

My cousin and uncle dropped us back off at the marina Wednesday night just as the remains of Hurricane Ida landed on us. We had torrential rain all night, swelling the river, and saw winds up to around 30. Not enough for us to notch Ida into our tropical cyclone tally, but clearly it wreaked death and destruction on NY and NJ, where we will be headed shortly.

Yesterday we dropped lines after the worst of the storm had passed and the current was favorable. The freshet was so large that I had to idle most of the way due to the extra current, to avoid station-keeping at the bridge. We arrived at Memorial Bridge at low tide, and I had lowered our tall antennas in the hope of just squeezing under, but again the extra water reduced the clearance to where we had only millimeters to spare, and we asked for an opening.

We continued all the way to Pepperrell Cove in anticipation of today's passage. But once we had the hook set, it became clear we would again have an uncomfortable swell all night, and instead we moved over to a mooring ball at our old friends the Portsmouth Yacht Club, across the river (map). We were comfortable here all night, although there were some wakes in the evening and this morning. Launch service is included in the $40 mooring fee, but we opted to just remain aboard.

As I finish typing, the plotter is projecting an arrival in Gloucester Harbor around 16:30, and if it's warm enough, we might tender ashore for dinner. Tomorrow's passage weather is also good, and so we will make way across Massachusetts Bay in the morning.

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