South!

So we flew to Charlotte last Thursday, a little over a week ago.  The whole flight down, interview, and flight back seem to have been for the purposes of checking us out visually, seeing if we could make it to an appointment on time, and, perhaps, scaring us off.  She spent most of our time there telling us how hard the job is, but it doesn’t sound like anything we won’t handle easily.

She also looked into our first choices – the Canadian locations – but the Canadian district manager confirmed during the interview that there were no openings in coastal Canada…period.  So we talked about openings in the eastern district, hoping for something north.  She checked her files and told us that the two openings in the northeast were Troy, NY, and Groton, CT.

Troy’s not on the water.

We said we’d like Groton.

Of course, the word itself is horrible.  Grotty old thing.  We’ve decided to take the boat to New London and call that home port for now.  So much better.  We can’t live in a place called Groton.  Remember – that’s the forgotten place!

We flew back to Portland, bemused by the experience but still willing.  She – the recruiter – said that the next step was a Skype interview with the regional manager.  She called the next morning and asked if we could do the interview later that day (Friday).  Though we were sailing back to the Eastern Promenade anchorage from South Portland’s Knightville Landing, we agreed and set the interview for 5pm.  We were settled and fed by that time, and naked from the waist down in anticipation of our Skype interview.

The regional manager had a bunch of technical issues with his computers and couldn’t make the Skype thing happen.  There we were, on our boat in the middle of the Casco Bay, using wind and solar 12v power, totally ready for that shit.  Oh well, we did the interview by cell phone.  It was long and arduous, but of course we kicked its ass.  We didn’t feel as much like best friends at the end of this one as we did with the first recruiter, but we felt good.

At the end of the call, he – Mark – told us that we’d hear toward the beginning of the week if they were going to offer us a position.  We entered our weekend, feeling fine and living the dream.

Monday morning, at 8:30 am, my (James’) phone went off.  It was a very happy recruiter on the other end, offering us the positions of Co-Management team of the Windham Falls Estates community.  Cool, huh?

We pulled that shit off!  But it’s true, everything we told them is true.  This is a job that we’ll be able to handle and people will respond in a way that’s mutually beneficial.  We get to make some old folks feel good.  In turn, maybe I can wrangle some crafty old sailors into building a junk rig on our intrepid S/V S.N. Nomad.

It could happen!

Since the community is half again larger than the cookie-cutter Holiday community, there are three teams of couples working the place.  One team has experience with this sort of work and will focus on the operational aspects.  The other team will split up like us, with James and one of them taking sales – tours, visits, community outreach, and closing – and me (Dena) and the other of them working on “closing the back door” – loving up the old folks so that they don’t leave except in a hearse.  Killin’em with kindness.

What did this mean to us?

Sailing south.

Monday, 8:35am, we started downloading GRIB files and checking weather windows for an immediate departure.  The job would start with a 2 week training at one of their 4 training centers.  We would fly out of New London (or thereabouts) on October 7th.  The apartment would be available to move into starting the 3rd or 4th.  That meant we had a week and a half to get there.

No problem, right?  Except that October weather is notoriously…well, the way it turned out.

I (Dena) worked that night, before we had a chance to really plan the trip out.  Tuesday morning, we sat down and worked out the routes and timing.  In order to get the ocean voyaging out of the way while the weather permitted, we’d have to leave on Thursday.  That’s perfect, really, getting us there a day early.  Of course, that also meant leaving with only two days’ preparation.

What preparation?  We’ve been underway since the beginning of June!  Barring some minor grocery shopping, we were ready to go!

I worked Tuesday night, notifying the bosses that it would be my last shift.  I was on doors, meaning I walked about 15 miles that night.  James, meanwhile, covered slightly less distance with much more weight – he carried a propane tank to the U-Haul, where they filled it while he rode on to get oil for our Yanmar diesel engine.  He returned with a gallon of oil and added the 6 pound (awkwardly shaped) propane tank to his load, and rode back to the dinghy dock.  Once he got back to the boat, he listed my bike for sale and arranged to show it the next day when the response was swift and strong.

The next morning, I was unemployed and we sold my bike by 9:30am.  Still, we needed to go to the YMCA.  We had to say goodbye to all those good people, get one last shower in before a dry spell (so to speak), and pick up my shower kit and towel.  On the way, we got better gloves, a great vegan buffet lunch (all we could eat for less than $10 total!), and stocked up on coffee.  Back on the boat, we hauled the anchor and moved to South Portland for our last night in Maine.  Grocery shopping, water tank filling, cleaning, etc.

We had a leisurely breakfast at Uncle Andy’s, filled the diesel tank, and left!

Knowing that it would be about 27 hours, we left at 10am.  That way we would arrive in Provincetown during daylight, whether we were earlier or later than expected.

We said goodbye to Portland as we headed southeast around Portland Head.  The sailing was perfect for the first 6 hours.  That got us around Cape Elizabeth and put us on a broad reach heading due south, well into the afternoon.

As the wind died, we made the call to start the engine and motorsail.  The layers started piling on and the sun dipped lower.  The sun and moon rode a see-saw, with the sun dipping into the sea to the west while the moon rose on the eastern ocean horizon.

My (Dena’s) next shift started at 6pm.  It was mostly calm, with the inescapable rumble of the engine providing a background tone for me to hum with.  The near-full moon left glitter on the water, strewn from me to the horizon as though I’d exploded a disco ball in its direction.  I wore cotton socks under wool socks, high-tech long underwear under sweatpants, and a turtleneck under my Irish wool sweater.  Over this base, my bib overalls, waterproof coat, wool hat, and gloves finished the job of making me comfortable.  It was not a long 3 hours.

Shift kiss and update.  “I think that’s a planet,” said Dena to James.  It was Jupiter.

As Castor and Pollux broke the horizon, they appeared as a ship steaming for us from our aft starboard quarter.  It looked close enough that I (James) should be able to get some kind of reading on the radar, but nothing showed up.  I mean, absolutely nothing.  It was completely blank.  After an hour at the helm, the twins revealed themselves as heavenly bodies that stretched on the oil-slick ocean from their position in the sky all the way to our wake in an unbroken thread.

The moon had tucked itself behind the mainsail and lit the foredeck with a soft blue glow as clean as the ocean air.  A cloud system rolled in shortly thereafter, creating a gentle rain that seemed to quench the topsides of the boat.  In direct opposition to my last night shift, coming up to Maine, where my vision blurred and consciousness faded in and out, every single moment was as crisp as my immediate observable environment.

Shift kiss and update.  “A ship just passed us going so fast that they’re already out of radar range,” said James to Dena.  They didn’t appear on radar until they were broad to us, so it could have been some high-tech navy thing.

Midnight, with very little sleep.  I (Dena) plugged myself into my ipod for musical stimulation.  Singing and dancing, tapping my toes and heels, spinning slowly in order to scope the waters behind, to port, ahead, to starboard, behind, to port, ahead, to starboard…these hours were full of shifting.  My body, the boat, the clouds and moon and stars.  We all circled and swung and bobbed, but at the same time, the boat I helmed was plunging through the waters toward our interim destination.  So much purpose and achievement in every nautical mile covered; so much enjoyment of every moment.  I was high on sailing, and again, the hours passed easily.

The slight wind moved exactly onto our bow so I dropped the sail.  Not long afterward, I raised it again.  This shift was dressed like before except with my one-piece exposure suit instead of my bibs and coat.  I was supremely comfortable.

Shift kiss and update.  “At the end of your shift, we’ll be able to see land,” said Dena to James.

The winds came up enough from the northeast to pick up our speed from 5.6 knots to 6.2 knots.  We were clipping along a little too hard into the waves.  There was a lot of motion and the ride was wet, but it was definitely not uncomfortable in any way.  Because the moon had disappeared, the phosphorescents stepped into their role as my primary source of entertainment.  They would erupt off of the slight bow wave, swirling downward, stimulating a cascade of thousands of tiny green spectacles in the water.  Every single wave was lit up by microelectrochemical illumination.

At this point, 6am, we moved back into day mode.  Splitting the helm two hours at a time, we watched Cape Cod approach and fell alongside to make our way around the hook.  Barely into James’ next short watch, the engine spit.  Sputtered.  Then died.

I (Dena) was up and off the settee as James hollered, “Dena, there’s something wrong.”

Fuel.  That’s our first instinct.  It fucked us before, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca with a pounding sea – much the same conditions we had just experienced.  Checked the fuel-water separator – not out of fuel and no water in there.  So it was time to open the engine compartment.  That means taking three large pieces of the boat apart.  Once I had access, I wrapped the fuel filter housing in oil-absorbing pads and removed the lid.  Sure enough, there was muck floating on top of the filter.  The element didn’t look sooooo bad, but I replaced it anyway, pumping fuel in to fill the space and closing it up again within five minutes of opening it.  Then we tried to start the engine.

Click.

Nothing.

Plenty of power in the batteries.  Starter had worked prior.  No water in the engine compartment.  Moved the decompression levers back and forth to make sure there was compression.  No love.

So I’ll hotwire it, says James.  I stuck a flathead screwdriver with a plastic handle into the starter solenoid and she sparked right up.  Looking at the wiring, a shoddy job was done on the battery cable.  And then painted over to make it look like a pro job.  Goddamn previous owners!

Issue solved and we’re back underway.

While this whole thing was going on, of course, we had to maintain our sailing, which was now in 15-20 knots of wind and heavy chop coming directly on the bow.  But the sailing was great and the boat handled well enough that doing this job was a breeze.  There was no pressure to get it done immediately in order to save our bacon.  We were doing fine under sail.  We just didn’t want to sail into the small area behind the Provincetown breakwater – a place we’d never even seen before.  And we didn’t have to.

We motored up to the fuel dock and tied up very neatly in challenging conditions.  The fuel dock operator stuck his head out and said, “What a day for a sail!”  We both just smiled and gave him the thumbs up.

Seven gallons later, I (Dena) asked him about picking up a mooring ball.   He said that all the balls behind the breakwater were privately owned and the rental balls were the ones exposed to the south winds and chop.  I must have look sad in a cute way, because he promptly offered to let us spend the night on his very own mooring, tucked right behind the breakwater.

Again, we picked up the mooring very tidily – interrupted only by the harbormaster, who was on us in no time when he saw us headed toward the private area, but left us alone when we gave him the magic words “Dave said we could stay here”.  Green eggs and soygauge, napping, soysauge casserole, and more sleep.  Sounds like we needed some protein.

We woke to the alarm in a driving rain.  In order to hit the Cape Cod Canal during a favorable current, we needed to leave Provincetown around 6am.  We did so, rain and fog notwithstanding.  Our radar and chartplotter proved their worth this morning.  Winds were light but constant from the northeast, making for perfect sailing between Provincetown and the Cape Cod Canal.  The stretch that was supposed to take 6 hours ended up only taking about 4 1/2 hours because of steadily increasing winds and giant, stereotypically choppy Northern Atlantic seas.

Again, we were geared up so the weather wasn’t really penetrating us.  It was a part of the entertainment.

And it was a bit intense.

While all that howled above decks, the atmosphere below was much quieter.

Love my Grundens!

We sailed right into the mouth of the canal, dowsed sail just behind the breakwater, and motored through to Onset.  We’re anchored less than 50 feet from where we anchored July 7th, 2012.

Now to plan the next stage of this adventure.

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6 comments

  1. I like ALL these costumes! What an adventure!
    Congratulations on the New NotGrot Community. What a cool set up! This looks like an excellent find in how close you are to the water and the pictures are swank. It says a lot that there’s a position where your job is “love up the old people”. Built for your skills.
    My favorite image of your journey is the sun going down/^\moon coming up and it’s ocean horizon all around. The little glow creatures churning up from underneath the bow just blow my mind. I know you are savoring your time in this wonderworld and I am too. Thanks for the story.
    Breathe extra deep before you dive, Captains. Enjoy the passage.

  2. First photo, yeah, Mr. and Mrs. James Bond-y’all clean up purty good.

    I enjoyed your trip–even thought I wasn’t there. I read lots, mostly fiction, but it does my heart good to read real life adventures.

    Funny, yesterday my Tartan 27 went “click”, but I was in the dock, not on an adventure with lots happening, but nonetheless I can relate to the previous owner comment. Mine just needed a battery terminal cleaning and tightening.

    So, I will keep checking your blog every couple days to see what new adventure you two cook up.

  3. Boat question: In the Captain James photo where you are straddling the…um…steering stick, what’s that horizontal silver piece in front of your knee? Is that the autohelm?

  4. Kate: Yes that’s the auto-helm, or rather, the “Tiller-Pilot”, it attaches to the tiller via a small angled piece of metal. It’s not a very elegant piece of equipment and it just barley does its job well enough to get by but it is better than steering the whole time… I know we said it was a bit intense, and it was, although in that picture I didn’t even have the “First Rule” going for me… “One hand for you and one for the boat!” Oh well, we lived, again.

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