A way back…way back.

We stayed on Block Island for an (I [James]don’t give a fuck) amount of time and ultimately set our sights for that down-eastern reach we were just fantasizing about. We set the main after re-calibrating our heading sensor (just another of the not-dialed-in systems that turned us back), jibed once and broad-reached all the way to Cuttyhunk of the Elizabeth Islands chain in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the mostly disunited states of America. Along the way, Earther Author Dena Hankins set up the Lovebot and taught S/V S.N. Cetacea how to drive herself all the way to an anchorage at an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It was the (no really!) quintessential sailing experience…it was what we have been working towards since we left the City of Sin at the end of May. It was incredible! …But it was broad reaching in 10-to-14kts with gusts to (maybe) 18. In other words, our modus operandi (add laughing emoji here if you must)! It was that perfect downeast sail from island to island that brings so many cruising sailors to this part of the North American continent every freak’n summer! Of course the (not really an) anchorage inside Cuttyhunk Harbor was full of AIS signatures and the little grass-hole just outside of the channel was full of short-scopers so we anchored a little northwest of Pease Ledge in slightly deeper water. It (most definitely) was a perfect night at anchor and we woke with a smile. The tide wasn’t due to turn around at the mouth of Buzzards Bay until 1500 so we came alive with the Earth at the Earth’s pace. Science tells us our planet hurtles in circles at 460 meters per hour which seems pretty fast from a leisurely breakfast offshore-ish. And then this[…]

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Learning Curve

Sailing away from the City of Sin in the final week of May gave us our first clue as to the complex shape of our learning curve. We were later than we liked getting off the dock for every reason we’ve already written about and they were all good reasons. It was cold and the boatyards of the North Shore rebuffed our attempts to give them money for mast and bottom work. So, the projects we focused on were improvement-oriented. We spent our last few cold weeks in Massachusetts installing a brand new 12 volt electrical charging system, upgrading to a better manual windlass, completely rebuilding the portsides lazarette hatch (the only real remediation project and one that was deeply needed), and rehabbing the dinghy bottom. We trusted that the boat we sailed into Lynn in November of 2021 was the same boat we sailed away from there. We were wrong about that. Cetacea needed more than new gear. We have spent (almost) the entirety of the last two months repairing the unseen damage of a truly terrible winter while also dialing in utterly brand-new systems. With hindsight being, well, you know, we should have been inspecting the whole boat, especially the parts we’ve never had to give much thought to, with a fine tooth comb while we were rebuilding the dink and installing our new electrical system. Even so, there’s no stationary test for boat balance under sail and no foreseeing how much work would be necessary in order to account for everything we’d changed. We expected a learning curve. We’d added weight to both ends and windage aft. We’d loaded Cetacea with massive amounts of food. We knew that there would be some effect and expected to tune both the rig (once we could find someone to unstep[…]

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Pointing us!

Sailing, that’s what we’re doing! Without touching the wheel! She was driving herself, but she was sluggish. We both knew this boat could perform better but it just wasn’t happening. Then, there was this moment when we were opened up at the lazarette AND the engine compartment and each of us had a different and somewhat horrifying view of the packing gland. We decided there was too much water coming in via the stern tube (where the prop shaft goes from inside to outside the boat). Way too much. This was reminiscent of our near-death along the inhospitable Oregon coast. No, no no no. That’s not going to happen again. We are learning creatures and, guess what, we learned this one. The stern tube slash prop shaft ecosystem has a stuffing box or packing gland, choose your language, that puts flax or its modern equivalent (teflon-inpregnated graphite fiber) into the gap. The packing material is supposed to ride against the prop shaft well lubed so that there are only one or two drips of cooling water per minute that the prop shaft is turning. Ours was dripping even when still and rather more like flowing when underway. James put a wrench to it and it got worse. September 11, 2001, was the date when our packing gland blew out on an offshore trip south of Newport, Oregon. Our bilge pump burned out. Our manual bilge pump tore both diaphrams. We barely kept ahead of the flood by hand-pumping with a tool designed for emptying your dinghy after a rain. There was no calling for help because our radio was abuzz with the chatter of the Coast Guard and the entire commercial fleet from every nearby port as they tried to track and save the boat of 7 people left to[…]

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