Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rockport MA, Gale Gone

The cold front passed through late last night and this morning. Winds were around 15 to 20 knots, gusting frequently to around 25, maybe a few 30 knotters in there. There were some short periods of heavy rain. Intermezzo's anchor held firm and seas in the anchorage were mild, just some gentle rocking.

Sandy Bay was a good choice as a place to sit out a southerly blow like this one. I'll credit my decision to stay here down to equal parts skill and luck.

I didn't sleep well last night. Not only was I was up every hour or two to check on the boat and anchor, I also lost some sleep to fear, a feeling I don't usually experience when sailing. Even in really tough sailing situations, if I feel any fear at all, it is the sort of fear that makes one attentive, alert, determined, not the nervous anxious fear I was feeling last night. Last night's fear wasn't strong, but it was persistent.

I reflected on what was a the root of my feeling afraid. I've zeroed in on three factors.

First, I had too much information. Text weather forecasts, weather apps, weather maps, wind models, VHF weather channels...lots of words, colors and sounds all warning me of a gale. I usually don't look at so many sources of information, either because they aren't available where I'm sailing or I'm satisfied the first couple of sources. Good internet connections can be a curse when it comes to information. Looking back, if all I knew was that the winds could blow as hard as 40 knots from a southerly direction for 24 hours, that would be enough.

Next, the anchor dragged the first time we tried to set it closer to shore. That hardly ever happens. Even though I carefully set and tested the anchor the second time, I was spooked by the experience of hearing and feeling the anchor bounce on the rocky bottom on the first attempt. To make matters worse, as a gust would blow, the initial sound of the wind in the rigging sounded similar to the anchor bouncing. It was a bit spooky until I figured that out.

Finally, I haven't sailed in these waters before, nor this time of year in this part of the country. I have visions the icy winter gales, the storms the Mayflower suffered, the sinking of the Titanic, Gloucester fisherman braving the wind and waves to catch cod. I've sailed too long in the tropics and on, the aptly named, Pacific Ocean too much. Weather conditions here are much more volatile, the tides stronger. And cold wind feels stronger to me than warm wind.

It was good to face my fear and understand that 90 percent of it was just my imagination. That is the worse type of fear in my mind. No basis in reality, serves no purpose. But part of being human.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rockland MA, Waiting for the Gale

We are anchored in Sandy Bay in Rockport MA, waiting for a cold front to pass through tonight and tomorrow morning. There is a gale warning, the forecast is calling for 20-25 knot winds with gusts up to 40 knots with periods of rain. The 40 knot gusts are of concern. I picked this spot because it is well-sheltered for southerly winds. The anchor is set hard, we have plenty of chain out and double bridles rigged. I've set an anchor alarm on chartplotter and have a bailout plan with plenty of sea room behind me.  Nothing else to do but wait and see what happens.

We left Kittery ME at 08:30 this morning. Heavy fog was forecast and I expected to have to wait until later in the morning to leave, but when I woke up the sun was peeking through cloudy skies and conditions were calm. Since winds and waves were forecast to build in the afternoon, I was glad to get an early start.

We motored with wind on the nose the whole way here. The trip began with low, thick clouds and a grey sea with a gentle southeast swell, the water sparkling from cloud diffused sunlight off in the distance. By mid-morning, the sun was out with a line of thin cumulus clouds across the horizon, wispy high cumulus clouds overhead, the sea steel blue. Pleasant but unsettled weather.

We arrived around 12:45. It took us a couple of tries to get the anchor set. On our first attempt, close to the shore, the anchor rattled along a rocky bottom, never really grabbing. We tried again further offshore in about 25 feet of water and the anchor set right away in a sandy bottom. We b

acked down hard with both engines for ten minutes to set and proof tested with 125 feet of chain out and the anchor held fast. Then we let out another 75 feet of chain to achieve a 7:1 scope, more than the 5:1 (length to depth) ratio at which we normally lie.

With Intermezzo settled in and the weather calm and pleasant, we headed into shore to explore the town. I'll write more about that later. While ashore, it was sunny, it rained, it was windy, it was calm, it was warm, it was cool. Clearly a lot going on in the atmosphere today.

Intermezzo (red arrow), well-sheltered from southerly winds

Intermezzo lying at anchor off the beach in Sandy Bay, Rockland MA


Monday, September 28, 2020

Caught Up: Portsmouth/Kittery

We're at anchor in Pepperrill Cove, lying just off the granite ramparts of Fort McClary in Kittery ME having spent the past two days at Prescott Park Marina in Portsmouth NH.

It was a foggy trip from Stage Island to Portsmouth Harbor on Saturday, damp and chilly at the helm. I had the foghorn blowing for the first half as visibility was less than half a mile at times. Later the fog thinned a bit and visibility improved to a mile or two. I felt a bit bummed due to the still vibrating starboard prop and a little anxious about the weather forecast.

A cold front is on its way, with a strong southerly flow preceding it, waves building to five to seven feet and fog. I don't want to motor into strong winds and big seas and there are only a couple of protected anchorages within the distance we can make in a day's sailing. By staying in Portsmouth Harbor for a few days we avoided some gusty winds and dense fog until a short window of better conditions opens and we can do our next hop southward and sit out the cold front.

We arrived in Portsmouth on Saturday in the early afternoon, The Prescott Park Marina is owned by the city and is has friendly staff, is well maintained and is located right in downtown, just downstream of the big Memorial Bridge across the Piscataqua River. The currents in this river are some of the swiftest in the US. When we docked the ebb was flowing at over three knots and swirling around the marina docks. It took me a couple of tries to get lined up right to back into the slip, the current pushing Intermezzo forward and then sideways out into the river as I got closer to the slip.

The swift currents, boat traffic and a hard seawall combine to make the marina a very bouncy place at times. Intermezzo yanked hard on the docklines, but wasn't too uncomfortable when a surge arrived. The power cruising boats across from us looked like they were rolling 45 degrees or more in each direction which would be a wild ride inside.

We walked around Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon, the fog having burned off and now sunny and warm. I found $1.25 happy hour oysters and had a mixed fresh tasty dozen. We walked across the Memorial Bridge which had to lift to let some sailboats pass under while we just past the lifting span. It is quite a massive moving structure which lifts the bridge 100 feet into the air with cables and counterweights.

Across the river from the marina is the Portsmouth Navy base, one of the oldest naval facilities in the country. We saw only a lone Los Angeles class attack submarine docked. This is also the home of the Portsmouth Naval Prison, now closed but a massive, ominous, medieval looking place.

On Sunday, Lisa toured the town on the bike while I tried to track down a mysterious coolant leak in the starboard engine. After an extensive search, I concluded that the coolant was leaking from shaft of the fresh water pump, so I replaced it which requires quite a bit of work. This is now the third pump for this engine, so I have some experience replacing it, but something is definitely wrong. Yanmar mechanics tell me that they hardly ever have to replace these pumps and the one on the port engine is still the original and has had no trouble at all.

This morning the fog was so thick we could hardly see the huge bridge tower just 200 yards away. In just over an hour the fog burned off and it was a bright, warm sunny day. We motored the short distance to Kittery and as we drew close we entered a fog bank. I had to proceed really slowly and nose my way around with less than 100 yards visibility to find a place to anchor. The fog lifted a short while later but it was cloudy most of the day.

This is a really pretty place. We walked around a bit, visited Fort McClary and I enjoyed a local brew. We're now bobbing gently at anchor instead of bouncing around on a dock.

Tomorrow is forecast to be our weather window for heading south with moderate head winds and seas. It is likely to be foggy in the morning, but visibility is predicted to be over a mile, which is fine. The plan is to head to Rockport MA and anchor in the protected harbor to sit out the cold front which will be windy and rainy.

Intermezzo docked along the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth NH

Memorial Bridge lifting span

The lifting span lifting up

Fresh water pump #2 kaput

Portsmouth Navy Base

Portsmouth Naval Prison

Tuna fins on Kittery Town Wharf

Intermezzo anchored off Fort McClary near Kittery Point

Catching Up, Part 3: Stage Island

We set sail for Stage Island immediately after launching from Portland Yacht Services on the morning of September 25. As I pulled away from the Travelift slip, I tested the sail drives, driving forward, reverse and turning in circles. All seemed to be working well and, as we headed down the Fore River to cross under the Casco Bay Bridge, the annoying "wobble" from the starboard prop seemed to have been remedied.

Heading out through Portland Harbor, trees turning into their fall colors dotted the shoreline. It's definitely not summer here any more. You can sense the colder weather coming, feel it happen, day by day.

It felt good to be on the water again. Once out at sea, we raised sail and there was enough wind most of the time from the right direction to sail along at a decent clip.  It was chilly out on the water, though. The few times I had to turn on an engine when the wind calmed it ran smoothly at cruising speed.

Stage Island and surrounding rocks, islets and land form a protected cove to the northeast of Cape Porpoise, 2.5 nm from Kennebunkport, of President G. H. Bush family fame. It's about a 25 nm sail southwest from Portland, a comfortable distance to sail in a day. 

I dropped sails just outside the narrow entrance to the cove and turned on the engines to motor through it. To my dismay, at low rpms, the starboard prop was vibrating again. Such a bummer. It must be a harmonic oscillation which tells me that the prop is bent or unbalanced. Oh well, I'm not going to haul out again for a while and I'm not diving to take the prop off in 58 degree F water, so I'll have to live with it. I aspire for Intermezzo to be in perfect condition, but reality does not cooperate and I work on letting go and accepting, "good enough". I can deal with a vibrating prop; life could be much worse!

After we anchored, we took the dinghy to shore and walked along the rocky shoreline of Stage Island. Despite several homes and a small town close by, the place felt very natural and isolated. The tide was flooding when we beached the dinghy and in just the 30 minutes or so that we walked, it was afloat, the nine foot tides here come in fast!

I decided to row the dinghy with the incoming tide to get some exercise and explore the inland part of the cove that is land at low tide and a lagoon at high. Very pretty, very peaceful, with red and orange trees dotting the tree-lined shore. 

We had the cove to ourselves that night and endured the chilly night with no heat, fueled by a spicy Thai curry and stoic resolve.  Every time I feel cold on the boat, I think about Shackelton and his ship, the Endurance, stuck in Antarctic ice. It makes me feel like a wuss and stop complaining about the cold.

Intermezzo at anchor off Stage Island

Fall colors beginning in the inland portion of Stage Island Cove

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Catching Up, Part 2: Portland Yacht Services

I arranged to have Intermezzo hauled out so that repairs could be made to both sail drives (the part of the boat that connects the engine to the propeller). The starboard sail drive had a "wobble", a pretty significant vibration of the propeller. The port sail drive was leaking oil into the engine compartment.

We arrived at Portland Yacht Services on the morning of September 16. It was a windy day and a fairly strong current was flowing on the Fore River fronting the yard, making for a tricky entry into the Travelift slip.  My boat handling and Lisa's line throwing skills made it look easy, though.

Intermezzo was lifted out by a giant 300 ton Travelift, a machine capable of lifting large fishing boats and ferries. Intermezzo looked kind of puny hanging from the slings, nothing like the tight squeeze hauling out in Puerto Escondido where we had just two inches of clearance between the hull and Travelift!

The boat was set down in the gravel yard next to a Leopard 48, Cameo, which was getting new rudders. There we sat for the next eight days. It should have taken only four days to do the work, but there was a mix up with getting parts, the mechanic wasn't available and there was a weekend in the middle. Somewhat frustrating, but the yard only charged for five days lay days and I got quite a bit of work done while waiting.

The sail drives were repaired by a very capable and personable young guy, Rand. He really knows his stuff, and knows when he doesn't. I enjoyed diagnosing the problems and working with him a lot.

The repair to the port sail drive involved separating the engine from the sail drive and replacing an oil seal, a job that was daunting to me but that Rand did quickly and easily. I also decided to change the oil seals at the propeller end as preventative maintenance. That turned out to be a good decision, as a fishing line had been sucked into the space between the two seals and destroyed the outer one.

The main cause of the "wobble" at the starboard sail drive was improper installation of the propeller. The guy who installed the propeller left out a bushing. I cut him some slack as he did the installation in the fading light of a summer evening, hot and humid, dripping sweat and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The poor suffering idiot was me.

However, the propeller shaft also had quite a bit of play in it. Rand dismantled the assembly and measured the play in the main bearing. It was about 2.5 times greater than the maximum play of 0.1mm. We decided to replace the bearing, which eliminated the play in the shaft. With the propeller properly installed, all look good.

While I waited for parts to be sorted out and Rand to be available to work on the boat, I re-sealed the aft port window which was leaking, replaced the freezer drawer gasket,  repaired a factory default in the gelcoat, exercised the bottle screws for the shrouds, and polished and waxed the lower portions of the hulls. Lisa touched up the bottom paint where the new paint didn't adhere to the hold. I don't like how the Petit Hydrocoat anti-fouling is holding up. I like water-based paints from an environmental perspective, but I just don't think they stick as well as solvent-based paints, like previous mystery anti-fouling I had applied in Mexico, which performed wonderfully.

I would have been quite happy with getting all this work done, but my sense of accomplishment was dampened by a crack that appeared in one of the salon windows.  On a couple of nights, I was puzzled by occasional cracking noises, but figured it was just the boat contracting as the temperature dropped. It turns out that the black tinted salon window was exposed directly to the sun, was getting hot during the day and then contracting faster than the hull at night, causing it to crack near a lower corner. This is something that other Leopard 39 owners have experienced, so I was unhappy but not completely surprised.

I drilled a hole at the leading edge of the crack to prevent it from propagating any further and sealed it with a piece of clear tape. It doesn't look too bad and I don't think it will leak, but the window will need to be replaced, which is not an easy job. More boat buck$ to spend. Ugh.

Finally, on September 25 I paid the substantial yard bill and the Travelift picked Intermezzo up again and lowered the boat into the water. The weather was chilly but pleasant, an easy departure from the slip to resume our journey southward.

Twelve ton Intermezzo looking diminutive hanging from a 300 ton Travelift
This boat weighed 285 tons and squashed the Travelift's tires!

Intermezzo on the hard, Lisa done touching up the bottom paint

Rand's work on the starboard sail drive in progress

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Catching Up, Part 1: California

 It has been a busy few weeks.

Intermezzo, Lisa and I are now in Portsmouth, New Hampshire making our way south. I want to catch up on my blogging, but rather than write one long post, I figured I would break it down into shorter parts. Less daunting to write on my part, shorter reading for you.

I left off writing on September 5 from beautiful Seal Cove just before setting off for Portland from where I would fly back to California for a business meeting and a family visit. We left Seal Cove early in the morning and motored south on a calm chilly sea to arrive at Spring Point Marina in South Portland in early afternoon. 

Spring Point is a nice marina, but there is often a strong surge from passing ships and vessels that gets the boats and docks a rocking. We were offered a space along the face dock, subject to direct hits from the surge broadside or to tuck into an inside slip alongside the main marina walkway which was offered a bit more protection. We chose the latter. Intermezzo rose and fell and tugged on the dock lines with the surge but it was manageable. Boats in less protected slips bounced violently up and down and rocked dramatically from side to side, with water shooting up into the air from the space between their sterns and the dock. Quite exciting to watch happen to someone else's boat.

We took a walk around the pleasant neighborhood near the marina, stopping in a really nice neighborhood market that had fresh baked bread, really nice cheese and fresh produce. Then it was back to the boat to get things organized so I could leave the boat in Lisa's care and get packed for my flight to California early the next morning.

 Spring Point has the nicest marina courtesy vehicle I've ever experienced, a nearly new small GM SUV. The dock hand gave us the keys to the car so that Lisa could drive me to the airport at 4:30 am. No taxi or Uber necessary! Lisa would enjoy the use of the car while I was away and, when another boater was using it, the marina staff would let her use their work truck. Really great service, really generous.

I flew back to a very smokey California from all the wildfires burning. I changed planes in Chicago and from about an hour out and all the way to San Francisco, I saw a layer of smoke below for as far as I could see. It looked like the whole western U.S. was smoldering. Back at home in Sonoma County it was like a eerie, gloomy, depressing pall over everything.

My business meetings were held near Lake Tahoe, where the air quality was quite a bit better. I haven't participated in an in-person since COVID arrived and enjoyed myself, even with all the protective social-distancing measures that we took, masks, meeting and eating outdoors with lots of space between people, contactless-greetings.

Most of all, I enjoyed visiting with my family. I miss them when I'm sailing and I've been sailing for a while now, with many days ahead "away at sea".

Meanwhile, while I was in California with my family, Lisa was enjoying a visit from hers, her mom and sister flying in to stay on Intermezzo for a few days. It sounds like they had a great time. They ate lobster twice a day, cooking them on the dock where some boaters had set up a proper lobster-cooking outdoor kitchen. They bicycled, went on some dinghy-adventures despite the chilly and somewhat rough harbor waters. When Lisa asked about visiting an island across from the marina, the dock master offered use one of the marina's speed boats to take them over and back rather than a cold and wet dinghy ride. Very nice. 

I flew back to Portland from California on September 15. Intermezzo was none the worse for wear and looking nice from Lisa's cleaning efforts.  Lisa's mom and sister had left a high-end box of wine, two personal-sized fruit pies and much-needed lobster crackers as thank you gifts, though her sister had tapped into the wine before leaving. I can relate to that.

The next morning, we said thank you and good-bye to great staff at Spring Point and headed to Portland Yacht Services to get hauled out for repairs to the sail drives.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Maine, Continued

I haven't posted for over a week. Not sure why, a combination of factors I suppose including limited connectivity, sailing solo and distractions.  I'm going to catch up with a travelogue summary of the days since my last post on August 25, the narrative interspersed with relevant photos.

August 26, Castine

I got in contact with my Instagram friend, Rebecca. She's a student at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), an artist and a pretty bad-ass young woman who has been restoring a vintage steel yawl, Cu-Mara. I have been following the work she has been doing on the boat, single handed, all summer. It's been an impressive display of energy, perseverance and making a dream come true on a shoestring budget. The boat has beautiful lines and Rebecca applied her artistic talent to the selection of colors and artwork on the bows, a cu mara, a sea wolf, being ridden by a woman on each side.

I wanted to Rebecca in person and lend a hand if I could. I took the dinghy over to Cu-Mara's mooring in windy, rough and chilly conditions. I arrived to a hearty greeting and capable hands took hold of the painter and made us fast to the boat. In addition to having sailed her previous boat, Dolphin, some considerable distance, including some single-handed passages, Rebecca is the chief mate on Bowdoin, the official vessel of the State of Maine and MMA's flagship. Bowdoin was built in 1921 with  a double wood hull for arctic exploration and has made three trips above the Artic Circle.

It turned out there was some work I could assist with, the installation of a new engine throttle and shift control. We worked out how to install it, dry-fitted it and tested it before quitting to get out of the strong breeze.

August 27, Castine

We finished the installation of the engine controls in the morning, during which I got a quick tour of the MMA waterfront and shop buildings when we went ashore to get some hardware needed.

I wanted to head further north, knowing there was something beautiful to see there but feeling a bit down and uncertain, so I stayed in Castine and worked on Intermezzo. The weather had calmed down and it was peaceful and comfortable at anchor. I would later regret my decision to not push onward, but no use crying over spilt milk.

Rebecca, master of s/v Cu-Mara
















Sea-wolf starboard bow






Sea-wolf port bow















The arctic schooner Bowdoin, official vessel of the State of Maine



Maine Maritime Academy's fleet of training vessels


Another lovely Castine sunset










 August 28, Bucks Harbor

I headed just a little north to Bucks Harbor, a pretty little spot that my friend John had recommended for its outdoor showers overlooking the water, which I enjoyed. I took a mooring ball and spent a warm sunny afternoon lounging about. It was nice, but I really wished I had figured things out better and spent time further north, for the next day I had to return to Rockland to pick up Lisa who was returning from shore leave and the opportunity was gone for at least this time round.

August 29, Rockland

My single-handed sail back to Rockland was a challenge with winds around 20 knots, heavy rain, reduced visibility and very cool temperatures. I wore my heavy foul weather jacket for the first time. Despite the conditions I enjoyed myself immensely, really having to focus, plan ahead and move quickly and carefully on the boat, like a marine ballet with no audience.

By the time I dropped anchor in Rockland in the early afternoon, I was pretty damp and cold, bordering on shivering. I dried off, had a warm drink fortified with rum and relaxed in the salon watching the rain come down. Fortunately, when Lisa's bus arrived, the rain had eased off to a light mist and the temperature was warmer so the dinghy ride to collect her was much more pleasant than it could have been.

August 30, Rockport

We motored in gusty winds the five miles north to the small harbor of Rockport. There was no room to anchor, so we looked for a transient mooring ball. They really pack the boats into this harbor and it took us a little while to figure out which balls were available and then which ones were suitable for Intermezzo's length. We had a couple of "go arounds" before we found a suitable mooring ball and it was really tricky getting attached in the 20 knot wind with 30 knot gusts! We almost got it the first time, but the pennant slipped off the bow cleat at the last second and we had to pick it up again.  All told, it took us almost two hours to reconnaissance the harbor, search for the right mooring and get hooked up.  I so much prefer anchoring.

I strolled around Rockport and had late lunch with a nice glass of Chardonnay, while Lisa went on a bike ride to tour nearby Camden. By the time she returned and the sun had gone down, it was quite cold out.

Rockport harbor on a blustery day




August 31, Port Clyde

We spent most of the day sailing from Rockport to Port Clyde, about 28 nm down the coast. It was an upwind sail, close hauled. I tried trimming the sails differently, moving the jib cars further aft and using the traveler to trim the main rather than the sheet, which I kept pretty tight. It worked great, the best upwind sail ever on Intermezzo. Lesson learned!

We walked around the nice waterfront town, visited the Marshall Lighthouse (the land's end where Forrest Gump finishes his run across the country) and bought a couple lobsters off a boat for dinner.

Port Clyde












Marshall Lighthouse

Port Clyde sunset







September 1, Monhegan Island
We left Intermezzo at anchor in Port Clyde and took the ferry to Monhegan Island, about an hour's ride offshore. There is a small village on the island where the ferry docks, only a few cars and the rest of the island is just open space, criss-crossed with hiking trails. We hiked the perimiter of the island along some high cliffs. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. The hike took us a few hours and I finished it up with a nice local brew.

Wreck on the shore of Monhegan Island

View from the cliffs of Monhegan Island






September 2, Port Clyde

Lisa did a 20 mile bike ride while I attended to my end of month finances and administrative tasks. I've really fallen behind on my "To Do" list and need to get back on track.

September 3, Boothbay

We motored from Port Clyde to Boothbay, another 22 nm southward along the coast. We anchored just outside the mooring field and took the dinghy into town. We enjoyed a nice walk along an "outdoor museum" trail which featured two dozen placards with historic photographs at points of interest along walk. I picked up some nice oysters and pastries along the way.

Boothbay is a nice town and the historic walk was interesting, but it is too touristy for me.  We decided we would move on the next day.

 September 4, Seal Cove

We originally headed to Christmas Cove from Boothbay on John's advice, but as we approached the cove decided it was too crowded and looked for somewhere else to go. What a great decision!

We headed about four miles up the Damariscotta River and turned into long narrow Seal Cove. What a pretty place, a rock- and tree-lined shore with a few houses, rocky islets covered at high tide, a dozen small grey seals swimming around and very few people.  We explored in the kayaks, enjoying the sheltered sunny warmth and peacefulness of the cove.

Later in the afternoon, I had a couple of business calls which made me feel productive and as if I was living in the real world.

September 5, Seal Cove

We tried our luck at clamming this moring at low tide but didn't have the "digger" required to get to the clams buried deep in the mud.  I did manage to harvest a dozen-and-a-half fat mussels though. We spent the rest of the morning drifting back to Intermezzo in the dinghy, lounging in the sun and enjoying the scenery. I tried to line up the dinghy with wind and current so that we would drift directly to the boat with no rowing and actually pulled it off! We bumped right into one of the bows.

Later, Lisa saw a lobster boat pulling up traps and jumped in the dinghy to see if she could get some lobsters. She came back with two small ones which, together with the mussels, made for a nice dinner.

Early tomorrow morning,we set off for Portland where we'll put Intermezzo into slip in a marina for 10 days while I fly back to California for a business meeting and to visit family. It will be the first time lying at a dock since we left Strong's Yacht Center on July 14th. I'll have slept a consecutive 71 days on the water.

Seal Cove