Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Lovin' Maine

I'm loving Maine.

I'm loving the natural beauty, the lightly populated towns and small cities, the historic architecture, the many lighthouses, the seafood, the cool temperatures, the variable weather, excellent sailing conditions and the strong maritime character, both contemporary and in heritage. There is an interesting mix of progressive and libertarian politics which I can be in conflict, yet also compliment each other on some issues. Reported rates of COVID infection are very low and people are taking reasonable precautions to keep it that way. Though the tourism industry has suffered and I'm sympathetic to the people whose livelihoods depend on visitors, I also appreciate that there aren't the normal crowds of tourists in towns and more boats crowding the harbors.

Looking at the charts, one could spend a lifetime exploring the hundreds of bays, coves, rivers and islands here. If you include all of the islands, Maine has over 5,000 miles of coastline! I'm only getting a little taste of the giant cruising feast laid out in front of me.

We enjoyed a nice downwind sail, the main and jib "wing-on-wing", from Quahog Bay to Tenants Harbor on Thursday (August 20). We anchored in Long Cove, a well-protected lagoon about three-quarters of a mile from town and hunkered down for the evening, enjoying the scenery and peacefulness of the place.

In the morning, Lisa hailed a passing lobster boat, "Did you get any?", which caused the lobstermen to turn around and offer us two small lobsters for $10, just plucked from the bottom of the sea. They later made a nice dinner.

After breakfast and a few boat chores, we took the dinghy to town. Tenants Harbor is a pleasant little town, off the beaten tourist path and it didn't take long to explore on foot; a general store, a bakery, a couple of restaurants, two art galleries, a fishermans wharf, a little league field and nice, modest, tidy homes. We ventured beyond town a bit to get some exercise, me jogging, Lisa on the bike. After my run, I enjoyed a nice imported German pilsner at the local beer garden...two, actually.

The next day (August 22), we set off for Rockland, a big harbor with a pretty good-sized town. We anchored in the southwest portion of the harbor, just outside the large mooring field in front of town. We arrived midday, which gave us the afternoon to walk around town, visit the Atlantic Baking Company, where I picked up two delicious raisin rolls, and enjoy a nice IPA at the Liberator Brewing Company and listen to some live music, something I have been sorely missing in these days of COVID.

On Sunday (August 23), Lisa left for a week's break from the boat (and me) to visit a friend in Washington DC, taking the bus to Portland to catch her plane. I took her departure as an opportunity to do a huge load of laundry, which I hauled to the laundromat along the sidewalk in my big roller duffel. The COVID precautions at all the laundromats I've been to recently include prohibiting folding of clothes inside. Fortunately, this laundromat has a big picnic table nearby, which I used for my folding. The saying, "Don't air your dirty laundry in public" came to mind, but my laundry was clean, so it didn't apply.

Monday morning I cleaned the salon, mostly straightening up and polishing the woodwork. It's a lot of work keeping a boat clean and I've fallen behind, inside and out. Afterwards, I managed to lash the propane tank to the bike's luggage carrier and pedal it about a mile to get it topped up. It looked a bit unwieldy and I imagined getting a ticket for illegal transport of flammable gas or falling over and exploding into a giant fireball.

I had learned via Instagram that an old friend from California, John Kuony, was working on his boat at the Lyman-Morse yard in nearby Camden. John apparently learned via social media that I was in Rockland. This led each of us to get in contact with the other and John invited me to take a look at his boat, Perseverance, and join him and his wife, Jeanine, for drinks and dinner.

I rode my bike the eight miles to Camden, mostly on busy Route 1 but with a nice stretch along a bike path through Rockport (home of L.L. Bean), and then through the scenic local streets of Camden. Historic Camden is a really nice looking town and its harbor is really lovely, as is Rockport's.

I met John and the Lyman-Morse yard where Perseverance, a Celestial 48 built in 1983, was blocked up inside a shed. John had been scraping away old paint for the last four days and had just finished the big, tedious job. I clambered up a ladder onto Perseverance's deck. She is a beautiful, tough, bluewater yacht that completed two circumnavigations prior to John's ownership. I toured below decks and was impressed by the layout, fit, finish and equipment. A proper yacht.  I would really enjoy a long-distance cruise on this boat.

John, Jeanine and I enjoyed a nice dinner on the Camden waterfront, eating outside but under cover as it was raining. It was great meeting Jeanine, catching up on life with John, and sharing sailing stories and dreams. John and Jeanine are really wonderful people and they love Maine waters and know them well. It was hard to resist their urging me to stay longer and consider another summer of sailing here.

John and Jeanine gave me a ride back to the dinghy dock as the weather was pretty gloomy. Thank goodness for a folding bike, which fit nicely in the back of their sporty Volvo wagon.

This morning I set sail singlehanded to Castine, about 25 miles north. I always get a little nervous sailing by myself. Not from a lack of confidence or being afraid of anything, more from not having anyone around that might catch my mistakes. Though I do enjoy having to think things out beforehand, move more purposefully around the boat and focusing on sailing and nothing much else.

The trip started off in foggy conditions. The fog was patchy, visibility decreasing to less than a mile and then opening up to several miles showing land shrouded in semi-transparent mist, the sea a steel grey. I was grateful for radar and for the automatic foghorn feature on the VHF/hailer, which I set to sound its one long, two short beeps for making way under sail. I blew the foghorn in the dense patches, turned it off when I emerged. I was the only vessel doing this, but better safe than sorry, in my book.

The fog lifted and we turned downwind for the main leg to north Castine. I rigged up an outboard sheet to fly the jib better "wing-on-wing" with the main which worked great, a big improvement of the normal configuration. It was easy sailing with pine covered islands in the distance on either side dotting the shores of Penobscot Bay, tall, rounded hills rising further away on the mainland shore to the west.

I practiced reefing the mainsail downwind by myself, easing the halyard from the mast a couple of feet at a time, then winching in the reefing line to stop the sail from billowing out by keeping some tension on the leech. Ease a little, tension a little until I could make fast the reefing cringle.  It worked like a dream under the calm conditions and I'm pretty confident this method would work pretty well in higher winds, too.

I entered Castine harbor and dropped the sails just as the thunderstorm predicted for the afternoon was building. I motored around a bit checking out places to anchor and selected a spot in Smith Cove called "Indian Bar", tucked behind a point of land that provides protection from the northwesterlies forecast to blow tonight and tomorrow.  Another beautiful scenic Maine anchorage.

Right after I dropped anchor, the thunderstorm came and dumped heavy rain but, thankfully, was accompanied by very little lightning. After the storm, I watched a seal fishing for its dinner, the school of fish breaking the surface of the water with a whooshing sound as they tried to escape. The sun set among the remnants of the storm's black clouds.

I'm loving Maine.

The mooring ball float I cut away from the propeller in Saco River, just before disposal

House in Tenants Harbor

Another nice house in Tenants Harbor

Scenery form the shores of Tenants Harbor

Low tide in Tenant's Harbor

Lighthouse on the way to Rockland

Foggy sunset in Rockland Harbor
Propane tank refill by bike

Lighthouse at the end of the breakwater in Rockland Harbor.
Sunset after the storm in Castine Harbor

Friday, August 21, 2020

Quahog Bay

After sorting out my debacle with the mooring ball on Tuesday (August 18), we motored partway, sailed partway to Quahog Bay, a narrow inlet about 15 nm northeast of Portland.

This part of Maine's coastline looks to me like the long, streaking drips of wax from a melting candle. Long, narrow, closely spaced spits of land flow 10-15 nm southeast from more solid, continuous coastline, forming long narrow bays lined with rocky shores and dense trees. The spits of land are sliced cross-ways by water every so often to create long, narrow islands. Islets and rocks pepper the sea around the main spits,

The tidal range is over 10 feet, so the bays are wider at high tide, narrower at low. The shoreline is a plinth of rock from which the trees extend above and beyond at high tide. At low tide, golden-brown sea grass lying down on sloped rock creates a border between sea and land.

It all comes together as a place of rugged but serene beauty. We anchored Intermezzo in a pretty little cove formed by Snow Island. The water was flat, the currents and winds gentle and there was no mooring ball to deal with. Very, very peaceful.

Our first order of business upon arrival in the late afternoon was to launch the dinghy and speed over to Webber's Lobster Pound, about 10 minutes away at high speed on the opposite shore. When we landed, there was nobody to be found. We lingered for a while until a lobsterman's wife and kids who were awaiting the arrival of the lobsterman on his boat. We were told that if Linda wasn't around, we couldn't buy lobster and to try next door at the Quahog Inn. We dinghied there to find that no lobster was being sold as the proprietor was caring for her 97 year-old father and didn't want to take the chance with COVID. An investment banker (!) fishing from the dock told us to try buying lobster "at the store up the road". We walked up the road only to find that the "store" was Webber's, where we had just come from. The runaround paid off though, as Linda was now conducting business from her little shack on the dock.

We walked out on the floating dock with Linda where we raised a trap door to reveal a big underwater cage filled with lobsters. We were given our pick, scooping out two 2lb lobsters with a net. We paid Linda $22 for our catch and headed back to the boat to eat them. They were delicious.

We spent the next day kayaking around the bay, investigating little inlets and coves and exploring Little Snow Island, the island accessible to the public, all the others privately owned. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was lovely.

Back on the boat, we watched osprey's hunting and quarreling with each other in the air, a seal and cormorants fishing in the sea, fish jumping and splashing as they evaded being eaten or chased their own food. The sun set pink-orange among clouds and the dark night sky revealed the cloudy streak of the Milky Way, the cool air scented by the surrounding pines.

This was one of the best places we have visited so far on this cruise.

Lighthouse marking a rock on the way to Quahog Bay

Webber's Lobster Pound

Quahog Bay

An islet in Quahog Bay (It's about 40 feet in diamter and 10 feet high, a bonsai island)

Intermezzo at anchor from the shore of Little Snow Island

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Saco River and The Mooring Ball

 (Note: I'm catching up on blog posts as we didn't have sufficient cell service for the past couple of days.)

We arrived at the mouth of the Saco River late afternoon on Sunday (August 16) and picked up one of the City of Saco's free mooring balls. I don't like mooring balls as you seldom know what's holding them (and your boat) to the bottom or the condition of the chain and all the appurtenances that connect you to whatever's down there.

I much prefer the known quantity of my own anchor and ground tackle. But, sometimes you have no choice. Anchoring isn't allowed or there isn't room to swing at anchor or, as in the case in this location, both conditions exist. Furthermore, the currents from the 10 foot tides are strong enough to make anchoring with only one anchor a bit dicey as the direction of pull changes 180 degrees twice a day.

Also, moorings usually cost money, while anchoring is free, and I'd rather spend my money on lobster and beer.

Because I avoid moorings whenever I can, I don't have a lot of experience connecting Intermezzo to them. Tying up a monohull to a mooring is pretty straightforward. Tying up a catamaran is a bit more complicated because you want to keep the pull on the mooring centered between the two hulls as best you can. To do this, I attach Intermezzo to mooring ball pennants with a bridle, a Y-shaped arrangement of lines in which the vertical leg of the Y leads to the pennant and two diagonal legs lead to cleats on each bow.

That's what I did when we arrived at Saco. All looked good, though the combined length of the bridle and pennant looked a bit long to me. Still, the boat seemed to settle nicely on the arrangement, so we launched the dinghy and went to shore to look around and have dinner at an outdoor seafood restaurant.

When we returned after sunset, the flood current from the incoming tide was running strong, I'd guess at close to 2 knots. The wind was blowing in the same direction, so Intermezzo was pulling with some force against the mooring. I went up to the bows to take a look and everything looked great.

At about 0200, I was woken up by a mild banging noise accompanied by a grinding sound against the hull. I lay in my bunk figuring it was just the mooring ball rubbing against the hull as the current reversed itself.  It didn't sound good, but nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary. Then, suddenly, there was a big bang, the whole boat shuddered and then swung violently.

I leaped out of my bunk, pulled on some clothes, grabbed a flashlight and dashed to the bows to see what was going on. The mooring ball was underneath the boat between the two hulls, my bridle and the pennant hopelessly twisted around the mooring ball chain, the lines tight and pulling backwards across the aluminum cross beam that connects the two bows of the boat. Not good at all.

The current had reversed but Intermezzo hadn't swung around the mooring ball to lie in the opposite direction and pull away from it. Instead, the wind, stronger than the current, was pushing the boat forward and over the mooring ball. I hadn't considered this possiblity when I set up the bridle and now we were in a bit of a pickle.

The problem was that I had made the diagonal legs of the Y-bridle too long when I initially set it up. During slack current and diminished wind, the middle leg of the bridle and the mooring ball pennant sunk and, as Intermezzo pivoted around the mooring ball, they wrapped themselves around the chain below the ball leading to whatever was holding us to the bottom. So, now with the lines all twisted together, my only option was to try and shorten the diagonal legs to limit how far under the boat the mooring ball could go and try and keep it between the two hulls and not let it pop out, get on the outside of a hull and then pop back inside, the source of the big bang and violent swinging that woke me up.  Shortening the lines put more stress on the cross beam, which I wasn't thrilled about, but the tension on the lines was within what I could pull with two hands, so seemed okay.

I returned to my bunk and slept fitfully as the mooring ball occasionally banged on the hull. Fortunately, it was a soft plastic ball and stayed between the hulls; no more big bangs. I got up to take a look when the current went slack and everything looked okay. By early morning, the wind and current were in the same direction, Intermezzo was pulling away from the mooring ball and everything was fine except for the tangled mess of lines.

When the current went slack again around 1030, Lisa and I tied a fender to the bridle lines for a float, dropped the bridle into the water and temporarily moved Intermezzo to the mooring ball next door. We launched the dinghy and popped over to the original mooring ball, untangled all the lines and recovered the bridle. Then we brought Intermezzo back and reattached in a different configuration. This time we hauled the mooring ball pennant up through the anchor roller near the center of the cross beam, threaded a line through its eye and led it back to a cleat in the anchor locker at the center of the boat. Now we had only one line that couldn't sink and tangle up with the chain and the mooring ball's movement was limited by the short length of the pennant beyond the bow.

This configuration worked great. Regardless of the direction and strength of current or wind, the mooring ball remained between the two hulls and could barely touch them. No rubbing, banging, popping, violent swinging. Just the occasional gentle rubbing of the mooring ball on a hull as the boat swung and settled itself. This is how I will attach Intermezzo to a mooring from now on.

The mooring ball was not finished with me, though.

After getting the mooring sorted out on Monday morning, we went grocery shopping. This required taking two public buses and, as a result, took most of the afternoon but replenished a seriously depleted larder. We changed buses at Old Orchard Beach, a seaside town that reminded me of something between a New Jersey shore town and the Southend-on-Sea seafront in England, near where my parents' grew up. A beach of modest quality, gift shops, fast food stands, ice cream shops, a small amusement park and mostly working-class visitors from nearby Portland enjoying an affordable mini-vacation.

We got a good night's sleep with no mooring ball drama during the night. I felt satisfied having cleaned up my oriingal mooring mess and having figured out a good way to attach to moorings in the future.

On Tuesday morning we got the boat ready to depart for our next port of call and Lisa went forward to release us from the mooring ball. She untied the line, let me know we were free and I proceeded to motor out of the anchorage. I put the engines into forward, slowly opened the throttles and then, suddenly, the port engine stopped turning. To my horror, I knew exactly why.

Now, like anyone, I don't like making a mistake, especially a boneheaded, stupid, amateur-hour, embarrassing one. And I don't like writing about and publicizing my mistake, either. But I do believe in owning my mistake, learning from it and perhaps helping someone else avoid making a similar one. So here's what I did wrong.

As I mentioned earlier, I prefer anchoring over taking a mooring. When we raise the anchor, the person doing the raising lets the person at the helm know when the anchor is up. It's out of the water and out of the way and we generally proceed forward. When Lisa told me that we were free of the mooring ball, that's exactly what I did out of habit, motored forward.

Only the mooring ball was between the two hulls, not out of the water, nor out of the way. I proceeded to drive over it and as I turned the boat to starboard, caught the pennant with and wound it tightly around the port propeller.

Fucking idiot!

I didn't have time to further curse myself as the current was flowing pretty strong and the boat was being held fast to the mooring ball by the propeller and the not-very-strong aluminum sail drive to which it was attached. I had to relieve the force pulling on these mechanical components as quickly as possible to avoid damaging them.

I told Lisa to get me a line and we attached one end of it to the port stern cleat. Then I leaned out from the stern quarter and reached down into the water to try and thread the other end through the eye at the bottom of the mooring ball. It was quite a way below the surface and my arms were barely long enough to reach, but with some grunting and straining and Lisa's help with the boathook, we were successful and led the line back to the cleat, forming a double-purchase loop that we could tighten and relieve the strain on the prop.

Now I had to unwrap the line.

I went quickly below to get my wet suit, a trip that took long enough for me to thoroughly insult myself for my stupidity. My language was, let us say...creative.

I quickly donned the wet suit, put on my mask and snorkel that Lisa had at the ready and jumped overboard into the swiftly flowing, chilly (66℉) water. I dove below the boat and saw that nearly the entire 6-foot long, 1-inch diameter pennant line was wrapped around the prop, along with its floats on their smaller diameter lines. Quite the mess.

I dove a couple of times to try, but it was impossible to unwrap the end float line, so I cut it away with my knife. Fortunately, the main pennant line then unwrapped without much trouble. However, the line cutter on the prop had come loose and was dangling loosely on the propeller housing like a necklace. It had tried, but 1-inch line is well beyond it's capability to cut through. With Lisa's help handing me tools, it took only another half-dozen dives to remove it.

I inspected the propeller and its connection to the sail drive and was relieved to find no damage. I got out of the water, dried off, started the port engine and then tested the transmission. Everything was working fine. Thank goodness.

Lisa slipped the line through the mooring ball eye and we were free and on our way. I looked at my watch and was surprised that it took only 25 minutes from when the propeller got wrapped to when we were free. Amazing what the combination of problem-solving focus, adrenaline and cold water can achieve.

The lesson to be learned is a simple one I expect sailors with more experience than I with mooring balls do automatically: When leaving a mooring ball under power, always reverse until you have it in sight.

It was a stupid, embarrassing mistake, but I will admit I am pleased with how efficiently we corrected it, grateful for Lisa's teamwork and that there was no damage.

Lesson learned.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Isles of Shoals

We waited out a northeast blow on Saturday at a mooring in Gosport Harbor nestled among the desolate Isle of Shoals. It was windy, overcast and cool (cold, for summer), the temperature never getting above 70 degrees F. We had motorsailed the 38 nm from Gloucester on Friday.

The Isle of Shoals consists of nine small islands that straddle the Maine-New Hampshire state line. The islands are all privately owned, the largest, Star Island, has a big hotel, a church and several other large residential structures. Apparently, religious meetings are held there, but the island was signpost as "Closed for 2020", probably due to COVID. The islands are rocky, low-lying with very little vegetation, windswept and bashed by waves. On a nice sunny day I expect they would be quite spectacular. On a grey day, they just seemed cold, exposed and lonely.

We landed the dinghy on a beach at low tide in a cleft between Malaga and Smuttynose Islands. Malaga is the only island on which you are allowed to walk on. We climbed its summit (about 50 feet above sea level) and hiked its perimeter (about 1000 feet), which took about 30 minutes walking slowly and stopping often to admire the rugged scenery.

The rest of the time, we spent lounging on the boat, reading, writing, napping, watching a movie. It felt like staying home sick from school as a kid, only without being sick. The wind blew, the boat tugged at its mooring. There were several other boats in the harbor, but everyone seemed to be hunkered down and keeping to themselves.

I took a calculated risk this morning and decided to head on to the Sasco River, about 35 nm north-northeast. The wind was forecast to be coming from the northeast at 5 to 10 knots in the morning and then veer come from the east in the afternoon at 10-15 knots, which would let us sail the second half of the passage. But, nope. The wind blew from the northeast at 10-15 knots all day and even backed a bit north sometimes, making it a 6 hour bouncy, chilly motoring bash for six hours. Not pleasant at all.

We entered the Saco River around 1530 and took one of the city's free mooring balls near the town's jetty. Saco seems like nice little place. We took a short walk and had a seafood dinner of chowder, haddock and scallops, eating outside in blustery conditions.  The weather doesn't look good for tomorrow, so we'll stay put and do some much-needed grocery shopping.

Smuttynose Island, Isles of Shoals

Dinghy landing at low tide, Isle of Shoals

Blustery weather

Rugged, exposed Isle of Shoals

View of Star Island from Malaga Island (Intermezzo in distance, slightly right of center)

Walking on nature's artwork
This gull made himself at home on Intermezzo

Friday, August 14, 2020


 I enjoyed our stay in Gloucester (pronounced locally as “glosta”), a famous, slightly down-and-out fishing town with good beer and delicious lobsters.

On Wednesday we sailed from Provincetown to Gloucester, motored actually, as there was very little wind. It was a straightforward passage in calm seas, nothing much to do but stay on course. That and kill flies. We were overrun by many dozens of biting black flies that required manual extermination with the fly swatter. Lisa killed over 50 while on watch, I sent over a dozen to their demise in my cabin and the master head compartment was the site of major carnage, the flies being trapped in a small space and thus victims to a human whirlwind of determined swatting.

Arriving in Gloucester harbor, it took us a while to find a place to anchor where we wouldn’t  run afoul of one of many, many mooring balls dotting all of the protected anchorages. We ultimately found some room in the southeast part of the harbor, not far from the harbor entrance in about 37 feet of water. Taking into consideration the rising tide and the height of Intermezzo’s bow above the water, we had to pay out over 200 feet of chain to achieve a 5:1 scope. Our location was open to the south, but winds were light and shifted north during out stay, so we enjoyed calm waters except for the occasional rogue swells (one set big enough to break a cup and emptied a locker) and boat wakes.

In the morning we took a leisurely dinghy tour of the harbor. Gloucester is famous for its fishing fleet, much diminished now since the collapse of the cod fisheries but still the most prominent feature of the town. A dozen or so big trawlers were tied to the town’s piers, along with many more lobster boats on the surrounding docks. The big Gorton’s fish processing plant hummed away on shore, making fish sticks and other prepared frozen seafood. There are quite a few historic sailing vessels, too. I don’t think I’ve seen as many wooden masts in such a small area before. This is the port of the famous “Gloustermen”, the legendary fisherman who would brave all conditions to land their catch, a story most recently told by the book and movie, “The Perfect Storm”.

As we slowly motored towards the end of the harbor, a lobster skiff passed by us. I decided I’d keep an eye on where it was headed, as I figured it would be selling its catch. Up ahead was an old warehouse, paint peeling, surrounded by lobster traps, its main doors open to its dock. I got a whiff of slightly sweet, salty, fishy air and told Lisa, “It smells like lobsters to me.” Sure enough, the skiff pulled up to the dock and unloaded its catch of lobsters. Manned by what appeared to be father and son, we asked how was their catch and were told, “Okay, enough to pay for the bait and fuel”, which didn’t sound that okay to me. We figured this might be a good place to buy lobsters for dinner, but needed to explore the local lobster market further.

We tied the dinghy up at the harbormaster’s dock and began a wandering tour through town. From the harbor we headed north along a main street dotted with vacant storefronts and struggling businesses, many unusually closed on a weekday. I don’t sense that business was good before the pandemic and now it is decidedly bad. Yet, just like its fishing fleet, it seems that Gloucester is no stranger to tough times. I get the sense that the people here just hang on, get by, deal with it. The houses along the residential streets are modest and faded, but in serviceable condition. The streets are clean, patched up but free of potholes. It’s like the city has figured out over the past 400 years how to keep going, no matter what happens, without much ado or drama. I like and respect this sort of town spirit more than I do the Disneyland-like main streets of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Provincetown given over to tourism, more prosperous but a big departure from their historic roots. I like the grittiness, authenticity, survivor instinct of Gloucester.

Gloucester does have a small tourist area with a few cafes, restaurants, shops and modest hotels. This part of town seems to be doing a bit better economically. We stopped at a restaurant to satisfy my noon beer habit and I discovered a delicious IPA that was on special for 16 ounce pours. It was good enough and priced right for me to have two glasses, much to Lisa’s dismay as unofficial ship’s dietician. Every glass of beer, every rum sundowner, every cake and cookie that I have is closely monitored and regulated. Two pints of beer put me way over the daily allowance and I expect I will be put on short rations over the next few days.

We stopped by several seafood wholesale places and checked prices. We asked locals where was the best place to buy lobsters. All pointed to Captain Joe’s, the old warehouse we had reconnoitered in the morning. We brought the dinghy round to a nearby public landing and walked a short distance to Joe’s. More lobster traps surrounded the building on the land side. We entered the big open doors, into the dark, dank coolness of an interior lined with tubs full of lobsters. We were asked what size lobsters we wanted, two-and-a-half-pounds-plus, and a blue plastic tub was yanked down off a rack from which we could have our pick. We picked two of the bigger ones which together weighed 5.2 pounds, for which we paid $39, less than the price of two small lobster rolls in Provincetown. We carried the lobsters back to the dinghy in a big plastic bag and brought them back to the boat where they were put into a five gallon bucket of salt water to spend their final hours.

Five-plus pounds of lobster is a lot for two people to eat. We boiled them up one at a time and ate them with corn on the cob and salad. The meat was tender, sweet and tasty. We did messy dissections of the heads and bodies to make sure we got every last bit of meat from among the biomatter of various colors and textures that inhabits the front portion of a lobster. It is nice eating lobster on a boat, where you can discard the empty shells overboard and rinse your hands and plates in the sea as you go. We were both quite gorged full as we finished the last morsels. I expect quite a few more lobsters will meet the same fate as we travel northward to Maine.

This morning we upped anchor and motor-sailed against a northeasterly breeze to Isle of Shoals, a group of small islands about six miles offshore that straddle the New Hampshire-Maine border. We arrived this afternoon and hooked up to one of the free mooring balls in a cove between two of the largest islands. It’s not clear if we are allowed to go ashore on the main island, which has a big old hotel and other interesting looking structures on it. We might only be allowed on a much smaller uninhabited one. We’ll figure that out tomorrow.

It looks like we may be here a couple days, as a cold front is supposed to be passing through and with it some high northerly winds.  No point in beating against the weather if we don’t have to.

Old paint factory, Gloucester harbor
Members of the modern Glouster fishing fleet

Classic wooden gaff-rigged boat in Gloucester harbor
Vintage Gloucester diner
Gloucester's modest version of Eureka's Carson Mansion (Ingomar Club)
The real Ingomar Club in Eureka
Captain Joe & Sons, best place for lobster in Gloucester

One of the yummies, pre-disection
Gloucester schooner

Thursday, August 13, 2020


 I don't have much to write about Provincetown. It's a lively town surrounded by nice beaches.

We biked up the hill to the Pilgrim Monument (the pilgrims landed here first, then went to Plymouth) and then to a trail that led through marshland to the beach. It was very hot and humid.

When we returned to Provincetown, I had a beer, a lobster roll, oysters and a painkiller. It was still hot and humid.

Ice cream in Provincetown is $5 for a single scoop. I didn't buy any. Even thought it was hot and humid.

I bought Q-tips at the CVS drugstore. The were not in the ear care aisle. That annoyed me. Probably because it was hot and humid.

I returned to the boat, where it was not hot and humid. Lisa remained on land where it was hot and humid until the evening, when she returned to the boat where it was not hot and humid.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Passage to Provincetown, Cape Cod

Our passage from Nantucket north to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod was one of the most enjoyable sails I’ve experienced.

We raised the anchor in Nantucket Harbor on Sunday night at midnight under clear skies and with a nice southwest breeze (Force 3, for those of you familiar with the Beaufort scale). I had to choose between two routes to get around the shoals at the southeast end of Cape Cod. The shorter inside route would thread us through the narrow Pollock Rip Channel between two shoals, potentially strong currents and tidal rips. The Coast Pilot did not recommend this route during “thick or foggy weather”, but it looked like we could navigate the channel before any morning fog might occur. However, when I looked at the timing of the currents, we would be fighting a 1.7 knot current against us. So, I chose the outside route which doesn't have strong currents, the impressive sounding Great Round Shoal Channel that would have us sailing east before turning north to round the outside of the Monomy Shoals.

We had a nice sail eastward, dodging a few well-lit fishing boats along the way and, once past the shoals around 0330, turned north to head up the outside of the cape.  The wind died and we encountered a one knot southerly current as we made the turn, requiring me to switch on an engine to comply with the “Four Knot Rule” established for this passage, to keep up the minimum speed necessary to reach Provincetown by sundown.

We entered a foggy patch about an hour later and I turned on the fog horn for safety in the eerie damp gloom. Sitting alone surrounded by fog, I felt a great wave of satisfaction arise in me, recognizing that I have achieved a fair degree of mastery as a sailor. I know what I’m doing. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes or that I don’t have more to learn and experience, but it means that I am completely in my element, in my happy place, in “flow” as some might say, when I’m sailing. It is a warm but humble feeling of peaceful confidence and contentment. It feels so good. Even in the fog.

Lisa came on watch at 0600 as the sun was rising. She’s a warm weather sailor and suffers in cold weather. While I was wearing a light jacket and long pants and was barefoot, she stood watch wearing a wool hat, long sleeve shirt, a sweater, a jacket and a down coat topside and leggings, leg warmers, wool socks and a blanket below. She look stoic but pitiful curled up on the helm seat. I felt sorry for her.

I had a nice four hours off-watch and then relieved Lisa just as the wind was starting to build and the current went slack so I shut down the engine and start sailing again. By this time we were about halfway up the cape, the shoreline a long line of tall, golden sand cliffs. Everything was crisp and sparkling, the sky, the sea, the land, and I was taken by the beauty of it all, feeling intensely grateful and happy to be alive in and for this moment.

I couldn’t admire the scenery for very long as the sea was littered with the buoys of lobster traps. Rows and rows of them, a few boat lengths apart all around us. I had to turn off the autopilot and hand steer through them for hours. I turned it into a bit of a game, trying to plot the course that would require the least amount of dodging and, when I did have to turn to avoid a trap, minimizing my diversion, passing as closely to the buoy as I dared. Being alone on watch, I had to time my bathroom, coffee and meal making carefully to occur while we had a clear path ahead for a few minutes. It got to be a bit tiring and I was grateful as we rounded Race Point at the northern tip of the cape just past noon and the number of traps greatly diminished.

We had to motor westward against a head wind for about an hour, but as we started turning south to head down the hook of the cape that forms Provincetown Harbor, we could enjoy sailing again in a decent breeze. As we turned and our point of sail transitioned from a close reach to a beam reach to a broad reach, it was a great opportunity for Lisa to hone her skills for trimming Intermezzo’s sails.

We dropped anchor in Provincetown Harbor at 1500, off the shelf of a lee shore not far off the northwest end of the breakwater for the town anchorage and docks. It was reasonably comfortable despite a long fetch chop coming across the harbor and a strong breeze. We decided to stay on board rather than visit shore and get some rest after our 15 hour passage.

The sailing conditions, the sense of mastery that I felt, and that moment of sparkling beauty made this passage a special one for me.

Lobster boat working along the Cape Cod coast

Doesn't capture my moment, but gives a general sense of the scenery

Monday, August 10, 2020


We're anchored in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, but I thought I would wrap up our time on Nantucket before writing about our passage from there to here.

The old whaling town of Nantucket is very pretty, thoroughly gentrified with cafés, boutiques, art galleries and other businesses serving well-heeled visitors and summer residents. I couldn't help but get a bit depressed by how COVID social distancing puts a pall over places like this that would otherwise be much more friendly and lively. People were very conscientious about wearing masks and staying apart on Nantucket, the bars and restaurants are either closed or have limited well-spaced seating. I appreciate why this is necessary and people certainly enjoy themselves, but in a subdued way. I miss how things would normally be. Just to be able to sit down at a bar for a beer and talk to the person next to me and see their facial expressions. Amazing what I took for granted my whole life up until now.

We had mixed weather, some beautiful sunny days, an overcast one and some foggy nights and mornings. We took a dinghy excursion up to the Head of Harbor and harvested more shellfish- clams, scallops and mussels. We took a bike ride around the east end of the island with a mid-ride beer stop in the little historic village of Siaconset.

I enjoyed Nantucket more than I did Martha's Vineyard, There is more undeveloped and natural land, evidence of wealth is more subtle and there is a thriving sailing community. I sense that the politics are more progressive, too. For example, separation of refuse into recyclables and compostables is mandatory on Nantucket. On Martha's Vineyard, everything goes to the landfill.

I did some planning while on Nantucket. I need to fly back to California in September for a board of directors meeting and leave Intermezzo somewhere safe. I think Portland, Maine is a good spot; now I have to find a slip at a reasonable price; dockage is really expensive in this part of the country. I also need to get some engine and sail drive work done. The port sail drive is leaking lubricant into the bell housing of the engine, the shaft of the starboard sail drive is wobbling and the starboard engine has a mysterious slow coolant leak. Portland seems to be a good place for getting that work done, too. What remains to be figured out is where to go as the weather gets colder in the north but hurricanes are still a threat down south. And what will be the end point of this voyage?

Sunset sail in Nantucket Harbor

Foggy morning, Nantucket Harbor

Dingy excursion, Head of Harbor, Nantucket

Nantucket town

Scenery along Nantucket bike ride

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Not Much of a Storm, Cycling, Then Nantucket

Tropical storm Isaias didn't amount to much as we lay at anchor in Lagoon Pond on Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday. It blew a steady 20-25 knots for most of the afternoon and evening, but the biggest gust we recorded was just under 35 knots. We didn't get much rain, either.

I was a bit disappointed, as I had rigged Intermezzo to ride out hurricane force winds, paying out extra chain, rigging a second anchor bridle and setting up the backup Fortress anchor on deck, ready to deploy if we started to drag. All for naught. Our standard ground tackle and trusty Rocna anchor have ridden out far worse blows than what this one turned our to be.  Oh well, good practice for the next one.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, so we took the Montague bicycle to shore in the dinghy, rented another bike and rode around the eastern third of Martha's Vineyard, visiting East Chop, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Katama Beach, about a 30 mile ride in all.

The weather was clear and sunny, with a breeze just enough for cooling, not enough to impede cycling. We rode through a variety of scenery, beach roads, residential neighborhoods, village centers, farmland and busy thoroughfares that cut through the interior of the island. We stopped for lunch on the beach south of Oak Bluffs and, after touring the elegant side streets of Edgartown, took a power nap on the beach at Katama where the post-storm surf was breaking heavily on the southern shore.  We ended the day harvesting a big bag of mussels from the little bay near the dinghy dock and eating them for dinner.

This morning we stowed all the gear taken out for the storm and headed out through the drawbridge for our passage to Nantucket. The wind was very light from the northeast, so it was a day of motoring, which was good as we needed to run the watermaker to replenish our supply. It was an uneventful trip under mostly cloudy skies on a calm, grey sea.

We're anchored in the eastern side of the harbor, the only place you are allowed to anchor which, unfortunately is also along the route to the popular, undeveloped Head of the Harbor and so we have power boats regularly whizzing by. We put up with it because mooring balls are over $40 a night here and a slip would set us back over $200 while anchoring out is free. The current runs through at about 1.5 knots in both directions, so we and the other boats waltz back and forth as the tide changes and need more swinging room than usual.

Lisa hates to waste food but today ate some old poisonous prosciutto from the refrigerator and is proving the wisdom of my bias, which is to throw out anything remotely suspect of being "old".  I hope she feels better soon. All crew on Intermezzo has to agree with the boat's medical protocol which is, if it doesn't get better on its own or from basic first aid treatment, we go right to euthanasia, nothing in between. I find this policy results in apparently swift recoveries with minimal whining.

Backup anchor rigged up and ready to go for tropical storm Isaias

Lagoon Pond, Martha's Vineyard, where we weathered the storm. Intermezzo at center of photo.

Lighthouse at East Chop, Martha's Vineyard, from the shore side

East Chop Lighthouse from the sea

Nantucket Harbor entrance

Monday, August 3, 2020

Newport, Martha's Vineyard and the Coming Storm

Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard

I'm catching up on the past week's sailing as tropical storm Isaias approaches us while at anchor in Lagoon Pond on Martha's Vineyard.

Lisa's friends, Kellie and John took the ferry to meet us on Block Island last Sunday and they spent a couple days on the boat until we set sail for Newport on Tuesday. They arrived with two soft coolers and a duffel bag stuffed with food. Kellie, a professionally trained chef cooked some delicious meals.

The six hour passage from Block Island started off slow, but the wind built enough for a decent downwind sail into Newport Harbor. We had a bit of trouble furling the jib, first due to a wrap in the line on the furler drum and then when I sucked the spinnaker halyard into the furling sail, something I've never done before and don't recommend doing. John and I got things sorted out, but it required unwinding and rewinding the furling line three times, a tedious job when the jib is flying and you can't turn the furling drum and have to wind the 70 foot long line a dozen times through and around it.

Newport Harbor was really pleasant. We anchored just outside the mooring field in among dozens of other "freeloading" boats, a tight squeeze. Kellie and John departed on Wednesday morning and my sister Alison and nephew Griffin arrived in the afternoon for a brief visit. We took a dinghy tour of the harbor to look at the all the beautiful classic yachts and the ostentatious mega yachts. One of the largest, the 250-foot Bella Vita is available for charter for "only" $650,000 per week. These yachts look particularly immense, viewed from our tiny dinghy as we slowly motored by them right alongside, their gleaming hulls towering above us.

I spent the next couple of doing boat projects while Lisa went on a powerboat junket back to Block Island for a beach soccer party where she socially distanced making mudslingers with a gas-powered blender for the players. Lisa returned yesterday and Kellie and John re-joined Intermezzo to sail with us to Martha's Vineyard.

Yesterday's sailing was amazing, the best sailing day I've had for quite some time.  We beat upwind in 15 knot SSE winds until just off the end of Cuttyhunck Island, the westernmost of the Elizabeth Islands and then I tacked south and bashed through head seas under motor until I got to the layline to our destination, Vineyard Haven a tacked back over. The wind piped up to 20-25 knots we could ease our course northward a bit to get on a nice reach. I enjoyed three romping hours of sailing at boat speeds of 8-9 knots which is close to Intermezzo's hull speed. Towards the end the wind was blowing a solid 25 knots, so I gave John a lesson on how to tuck a second reef in the mainsail.

We arrived at Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard around 20:00, too late for the drawbridge to open to let us into the lagoon so we anchored right off the causeway to the bridge for the night. The bridge opened up for us and I scooted through with great care, the bridge's horizontal clearance only 10 feet wider than Intermezzo's beam and a 20 knot crosswind blowing on us.

We dropped anchor and had a wet dinghy ride to shore to catch a bus for Oak Bluff to see the "gingerbread houses" there.  This community of around 300 small Victorian cottages was originally founded by Methodists in the 1800's who held religious retreats and meetings on the island.  It was nice strolling through the park-like neighborhood of tiny homes.

The tropical storm is forecast to hit here tomorrow afternoon and blow into the night with 25-30 knot winds and gusts up to 45 knots. My plan is to lie at anchor in the lagoon through the storm where we'll get the wind but no big waves. I'm confident in our ground tackle and the bottom holding conditions here, though 45 knots will be the biggest blow Intermezzo has ridden at anchor. I'm not worried about the anchor and rode, but will rig a second bridle as I think that is the weak link in the system. Hopefully we ride out the storm with no problems; it will be a good test of the ground tackle system I designed for exactly these conditions. 

Schooner at sunset in Newport Harbor

Newport street lamp

"Gingerbread Houses" of Oak Bluff, Martha's Vineyard

The park-like neighborhood of the "gingerbread houses"

Tropical storm Isaias on it's way