Widget Reticulation

Here we are, Mount Desert Island. I (Dena) am mildly irritated by the name, because Desert is pronounced in a French style (dessert) but then why wouldn’t it be Mont? I feel tricked.


Really, it’s just that I’ve been saying it wrong and I have an aversion to exhibiting my ignorance.

So we snapped! popped! the toerail and tossed off the jib sheet and pulled the jib in and tacked under main and finally anchored in Somes Harbor. Quite a lovely place, and plenty of people know about it. We knew a blow was coming through and we dropped the anchor in 20′ at low water and the tide is almost 12′ so 7-to-1 at 32′ is 224′ and we rounded up to 230′ of chain and rope rode.

No one else used that math.

We ended up surrounded by boats, an ever-changing group, mostly anchored with about 100′ of chain. This means that any good blow pulls that chain off the bottom, creating a broader and broader angle all the way to the anchor, which is designed to break out of the bottom when the angle gets too broad.

The first night we were in Somes Harbor, a boat dragged its anchor. The guy pulled it up and put it back down, way too close to us for comfort, but dragged it again until the boat behind us pulled out their air horn and blew it at him over and over.

By the way – full dark. Yep. No fun.

As he pulled up next to us again, he was screaming his frustration in blue language. While that sort of thing doesn’t offend me like it does some, it also fails to instill confidence in the coping mechanisms of the screamer.

While I (James) was laughing my fucking ass off.  The dude was in a Huntajeaunabenelina with a brand new Rocna anchor (supposedly “Next-Gen” and fool-proof) that was so obviously too small for the size of boat that he had. And really, the only problem was that he didn’t have enough chain out.

When he settled back again, still dumping his chain in one go and then dragging it across the bottom, the entire anchorage decided we’d all just go to bed and hope it all worked out.

The other thing that happens when we have 230′ out and the boats around us have 100′ is that they underestimate how far we will travel when the wind changes. We move (potentially) in a circle with a radius of 230′. For the most part, similar types of boats will move the same direction at the same time because they’re under the same forces, so we don’t necessarily need the entire circle to be clear.

A boat showed up and anchored pretty near us, so we rowed over and told them in a friendly way that we had more than twice the scope they did (twice as much chain and rope out). They were just relieved we weren’t saying get the hell out of there (the first boat there has the right of stay) and promised to keep an eye out. The next morning, with no wind to push us all the same direction, we drifted very near their bow, but they were leaving anyway so we all decided to say fuck it.

The next evening, though, another boat showed up and anchored very near us. I mean they put their anchor within 50′ of ours. Pushing it, for serious.

Sure enough, when I (Dena) needed to pee in the night, I was sleepily puzzled by the streetlight that shone in our forepeak porthole. After flushing (pretty phosphorescence), I was awake enough to realize that we were in the middle of a very dark harbor with no streetlights and that there was a problem.

I looked out the side portlight and didn’t see the boat that worried me. Then I went back to the forepeak and, lo and behold, there was a bright bright light right over our bow.

“Shit. They’re right on top of us.”

James jumped up and we struggled into clothing and James beat me and I jumped into the cockpit as James rushed to the bow. Their dinghy was millimeters from our boat and James didn’t even have to lean over to push their davits to separate the boats while as gently as possible trying to wake them up…

“Hello, good morning your boat is about to fucking hit another boat!”

The windless night promised to bring us back together, so I (James) jumped into Tinker and rowed us out of harms way, meaning we tied the dink to the big boat and I rowed us away. I mean it’s great to be half awake rowing in a little boat with our 15 ton home bearing down on top of me in the middle of the fucking night. No really, it was great, kind of like riding a bike in the rain blowing by a thick angry traffic jam. When we anchor, we not only “over scope” we put the hook on the bottom, we pay out 2-to-1 and then backdown on it until it sets and then we back away while putting out more chain until we have our “comfort-scope” payed out, 5-to-1 at least but a good night’s sleep is usually achieved at a minimum of 7-to-1 (that means 7 feet of chain to every one foot of depth AT HIGH TIDE people not at low tide with another 12 feet of depth coming within the next 6 hours, come on, people!). And check this out – we’ve never seen anyone else do this in 16 years! We’ve only slipped once, and that was in 40 knot winds…sustained, with gusts even higher.

So I rowed us away from the sleepy but by then awake-and-in-their-cockpit other boat.

It wasn’t that big of a deal really, just another one of those moments of sheer terror that we have been writing about so much of lately.

Of course, we got no pictures of it. Imagine this, but in the dark and with the boats tied together.




  1. Holy SHIT you have been through some madcap misadventures while I was gone. What the fuck?!?!
    I admire your delicacy, that you managed to refrain from adding “JACKASS!” to the end of every line in this one. It seems that your kind of sailor — knowledgeable, sensible, ethical, patient, friendly — is a rare siting these days. Is it just the season? Seems like August in Maine might attract a fair number of thrice-a-year shipwrights.
    The story is thrilling, though. And badass. You towed the equivalent of an 18 wheeler with a smart car? With your body? You are so hardcore!
    The how-not-to-be-a-jackass education bits are fun to read, even though I’ll never use them. If you ever start a boating school, I will give you great reviews on Yelp.
    Hmmm, new hustle?

    PS that Mount Dessert thing is bullshit.

  2. Hey Kate,
    Funny thing, they didn’t add to this for a while but when they started again I found I missed seeing your comments almost as much as their stories. I don’t know where you’ve been but welcome back. It’s nice to see the contacts they’ve made with nice people.

  3. Hey Dean!
    I don’t know where I’ve been either. I mean, yes I do — I moved to a new apartment about a month ago (so the month before and after are pretty much a loss — distracted and exhausted, connectivity unreliable, where the fuck is my toothbrush/cheese grater/remote control/lube) and did several rounds of traveling. I have quietly been following along here and there, just stuttering to engage and bereft of clever response.
    This past few months have been some of the most compelling stories the Captains have encountered over the past year, though, am I right? Bummer I missed responding to some of that pure gold content. I remember some comments I sent to Dena direct in a letter…maybe I’ll go back and add those thoughts to the public good one of these days.
    Glad to see you too. Thanks for missing me!

    1. We all missed you. Your eloquence an important part of these conversations, insofar as they can be called that. And that they can be called that at all is largely your doing.

  4. James, yes, you leave it open for comments and we just might comment past you to other commenters——-wait, did that make sense?

    Kate, Yes, their sailing is what I call “out of the harbor”, as compared to some who go out for a few hours on the weekend and then feel all ‘salty’. Dena and James are salty—not that they need a shower—well maybe they have a little salt that needs rinsing off but most of it is a good thing.
    Good luck in your new place. Remember, if you carry home, are comfortable, within yourself anywhere you are is home.

  5. James, dear saltiest of sea captains, art makers and bon vivants, that’s exactly the point. Your adventure chronicles have built a virtual community within which we strangers have formed relationships independent of you. I missed Tom too, the Aloha Sage. We have a least one common interest, you and/or Dena (though I don’t know who could pull your symbiosis apart, in these pages), but enjoy one another’s voices and perspectives as a companion piece that enriches the experience of watching you do your thing.
    How fantastic! What a miracle of technology and heart! How utterly human and divine.
    Thanks for hosting this party. Where’s the rum and smokes?

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