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