In a Fog

Currents run about an hour and a half behind tides in the Piscataqua River and its side creeks and channels. In order to leave before the current turned against us, we got up at 0400 and had the engine running at 0535. Since leaving entailed dropping the mooring pennant (thanks again, Tom and Amy!), we were quickly underway. There was a good fog going on, giving us visibility of about a mile or so, but the forecasters called for 5-10 knots of SE wind, building to 10-15 with 20 knot gusts in the afternoon. Perfect conditions for a broad reach up to Portland. We thought it would blow the fog away before long. Both they and we were wrong. When we rounded Gerrish Island, at the mouth of the river, the fog got denser rather than lighter. At less than a quarter mile visibility, the term socked in was fully realized. In fog this thick, being on watch means constantly scanning the liminal horizon. With our radar pulsing through the visual barrier, we watched red blobs coalesce on the screen and navigated around most of the lobstering fleet without ever catching sight of them. Eyes straining in the diffuse glare, ears pointed to the low growl of engine noise reflecting off the water, an hour watch exhausted our concentration. Shift kiss. Modulating fog density gave us up to a half mile visibility at times before closing in on us again. The freedom to look farther reminded me (Dena) of the sensation when coming out of a dense forest onto an ocean cliff. Extending focus is a liberating act. Hours upon hours stacked up, watch on watch, but the fog didn’t lift and the forecasters were wrong. We motorsailed as soon as a breeze plucked at the water vapor in the[…]

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Time Warp

In the last post, we ended in peaceful distress. The next morning, we met Roger, neighbor to Tom, owner of a Bob Perry designed Passport, who offered us his mooring. If this gets confusing, don’t worry. Forgetting names is part of the nature of the peripatetic life. They both belong to the Portsmouth Yacht Club, though they live in Kittery. The “working man’s yacht club”. If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say they belonged to a working man’s yacht club, I’d have enough money to join the Portsmouth Yacht Club. Don’t get us wrong. These two men were incredible. They offered us every resource they had. But as you know – yacht clubs are not our thing. Roger owned the house one down from Tom. Some “horrible people” lived between them. Roger, who has a 43′ Irwin, is a do-it-yourselfer to the soul. He immediately offered to take us to West Marine for the electrical bits and pieces we’d need. Of course, the liquor store was on the way… Anyway, the picture above shows what a clean break we had. There are two electrical harnesses – one on the engine and one on the instrument panel. They’re connected by an extension harness. Turns out, that’s what got pulled into our prop shaft as we motored merrily along until the hard plastic ends started to knock against the sides of the hull. No real damage, in the end. Except that the extension costs about $175 before tax and shipping, best case scenario, if the internet discount people had it in stock. Much more if we went to a regular Yanmar dealer. So, we’ll build it ourselves. As a matter of fact, now that we look at the ends on the engine and the instrument panel, we[…]

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Gloucester to Kittery

I (Dena) weighed anchor at 0830, grateful for a sandy bottom that left our anchor and rode cleaner than it went in. Nothing like James’ mucky mess from Boston Hah-buh. We raised sail immediately and broad reached out of Gloucester Harbor and around toward Cape Ann into a beat. The boat was driving itself and reacting strongly to the Monitor. The sun was nice and cozy, both warm and shady in the cockpit. We traded off camera angles as well as easy one hour shifts, which adds up to many a shift kiss. You’d kiss him too. Admit it. As we came around the Cape, the wind stilled. We sucked every last bit of wind and when we went to start the engine…nothing. Not even the irritating click we’d get instead of a roar on occasion. Just nothing. So, I (James) went dumpster diving. On a boat, dumpster diving is when you have to tear into a well-packed lazarette to trace and test cables to find out why that god-dman engine won’t start. Is this a good place for a diatribe about the evils of the internal combustion engine? Sure! Before inventing most of the things that modern sailors consider ancient technology, Nathaniel Herreschoff built diesel engines. That makes our diesel engine the oldest piece of tech on our boat. Even at its best, it’s a jankie piece of shit that’s smelly, greasy, oily, and downright disgusting. There. Anyway. We broke out the screwdriver and started the engine. We really did have to motor for 4 long, loud hours. The entire time, I was thinking this engine sounds like it’s working too hard. I couldn’t explain it and it didn’t sound bad enough to break open the engine compartment and look inside. I (Dena) decided there was enough wind to[…]

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Boston to Gloucester

The two days we spent in East Boston, working on a 50′ 1974 Grand Banks – a wooden pleasure-trawler, not a sailboat, not even close – were a great investment. A customer from West Marine hired me (James) to survey the boat for most immediate projects. The list I came up with was overwhelming for him, to say the least. He, in turn, hired Dena and I to come to his boat to work before sailing Down East. He dangled large figures, trying to get us to stay and bring the boat up to cruising condition. We gave him two days. Actually, we gave him nothing. He paid us well and we did a great job. Now we have another couple months’ worth of cruising kitty. Thanks, Don! It also gave us the opportunity to surgically anchor in Piers Point Park again, just like last year. Fore and aft anchors, lots of rode but not too much, and even so, the dinghy nearly went aground as you can see in the first photo. Yesterday, James weighed the stern anchor with very little hijinks outside of something weird that was hiding in the depths of an ancient harbor. It put some significant chafe on our anchor rode. I (Dena) played with the motor to keep us off the rocks behind while he then switched to the bow anchor. An exhausting, terrible, muddy event. Four hundred years of American industry slime coated every part, and he piled it all on deck to be washed. Landing the boat in a little basin for fuel and water was simpler than it promised to be. One of my captain-teachers said never to approach a dock faster than you want to hit it. I love that rule, but there’s a corollary. Never approach so slowly that[…]

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And then we went sailing

Wessagussett is a lovely place, barring the wake created when hundreds of plastic destroyers caroom from the Fore and Town Rivers.  Fourth of July weekend was topsy-turvy on the good ship Nomad. The wildlife is well-behaved for the most part. Small fish jumping, the birds didn’t shit on us, and the mosquitoes were far enough off-shore to be too exhausted to suck by the time they’d made the crossing. Even the big bugs were more cute than creepy. The underwater life was teeming, as our encrusted bottom can attest. But a good scraping and we were still able to make good time once underway. (Spoilers!) We were almost out of building materials, so I (Dena) rode my bike to the hardware store and came back with some Azek. Anyone who has seen Jaws knows there’s a knot called a sheepshank. How many know what you might use it for? Well, it makes a mighty fine tie-down when you want the pressure to be the same on both sides. Once on the boat… I made dividers for the storage shelf behind the sink and stove – a project two years in the making. The photo above shows me using the tools at hand to create nice even curves. Translated into cut pieces, they look like: The aft rail needed bases for the forward feet, and we cast them of West System 610, using Azek for the bulk. The 610 hardens exactly as you shape it, so there was some smoothing to be done after. The Dremel works so well powered by the inverter (sun power!) that we could take our time and make them right. Then, as we brought up in the last post, we started loading that rail with stuff.  We made bases out of Azek. This is when we[…]

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Back River Shag

Back to our million-dollar view. Our new digs are much preferable to our old ones.  The boat was safe enough through the winter at Boston Yacht Haven, but everything else sucked.  From the ridiculous price – misquoted to us with no consideration given when we showed up – through the grinding, squeaking aluminum gangplanks, unexpected lockouts due to them resetting our keys, all the way to the bathrooms that started out filthy and degraded to freezing when the heaters broke…and then stayed that way for months, with only a small space heater for the one room in the world we absolutely had to be naked in during minus degree weather, well, we’re happy to be gone. Just as the toilet seats went above zero degrees, we left. Our second sail of the year took us out of the inner harbor as a light ebb and easy 8 knot breeze made beating to windward a pleasure for a change.  The only hijinks occurred directly in front of the landing strip for Boston Logan Airport.  The planes were lined up one after another, with a minute or two between.  As we passed the strip, a Boeing 777 flew over us and hit the throttle.  Perhaps they were coming in too low.  It certainly seemed so to us.  As they approached, the wind increased and our heel became startlingly extreme.  As they passed over, the wind backed and sent us over the other way in a crashing pop that freaked us both out but did no damage. So that’s what jet wash feels like on a sailboat! The rest of the trip was absolutely perfect.  The wind gently switched angles as our course changed and we could broaden our point of sail for easiest motion.  As we approached the Back River, the ferry[…]

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Filling the Gaps

It’s fair to say we’ve been hibernating.  Winter hit hard and late, then left reluctantly. There’s not much desire to look back this far, so just one more.  I can’t resist this image. We haven’t stayed home the whole time.  James’ birthday, for example. We went to Maine, trying to book slideshows and storytelling extravaganzas.  Slow going at that, though lots of positive response.  We loved Maine. Here’s the Sheepscot River. And we found a cute little town between MA and Portland that knows what low tide means.  Name that town. Also, my book is in the Harvard Book Store.  Check me out.  This is a two-parter – outside and in. Okay, one last snow pic, just because it was so great to see the snow start melting. What’s that growing out of my head?  Is it a thought-bubble?  No… Bonus pics: I’m always looking for the perfect compass rose for a tattoo.  I’ve found some stellar examples of the art, but the next issue is this: where will my skin stay put well enough that a geometrically precise image won’t stretch and skew?   Next, the last few days of newness.

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