A Maine Coast Cruise

 

August 5th – It felt a bit funny when we climbed out of our bunks, knowing that the cruise to Nova Scotia was off. We made two successful voyages to the Exumas in the Bahamas with perseverance and planning.   A trip to Nova Scotia is closer to home, but I must admit I would not have felt great crossing the Gulf Stream with nagging engine issues.   So it was time to put the 2nd thoughts to bed and enjoy our cruise of the Maine Coast, with the

Blueberries on the Trail!

emphasis on the Mount Desert – Penobscot Bay region. This has always been a favorite but we have missed out on a number of familiar places in recent years. This has probably been due to the fact our summer cruising was not very extensive when returning from all winter long southern voyages. Northeast Harbor mechanic Jeremy returned one more time with a modification that made the oil pressure alarm sensor installation a success.   The used tachometer replacement he brought with him failed in its test, so we will operate without for now. There were clouds about for

Pathfinder in foreground from Thuya Path

the day, but the Admiral and Captain got ashore and made a hike up Eliot Mountain, finding a number of wild blueberries along the way. The return was via Thuya Gardens so the Captain could check it off the yearly bucket list.

 

August 6th – The clouds broke at 0800 and after a quick stop at Clifton dock for ice and water we were on our way (with three extra jugs of diesel fuel strapped to the deck there would be no need to fuel up again on this cruise!). There was no doubt in the destination. Frenchboro, Long Island, located just to the southeast of much larger Swans Island, has been a family favorite for many years. It has a small year round population and the inhabitants are friendly to yachtsmen. In addition it has miles of beautiful trails that belong to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The Captain thinks many trails rival nearby Acadia, except there are no other people in sight!   With a blustery west wind blowing, we found the jib was all we needed to fly down the Western Way. Maybe it was our excessive speed that singled us out, but a higher speed Coast Guard vessel came up alongside and queried when we had last been boarded and inspected by the Coast Guard? Knowing that “never” was not the response being looked for the Captain vaguely said it had been four or five years, but that didn’t work either. A uniformed lieutenant and assistant quickly came aboard and directed the Captain to keep sailing toward his destination, which meant the Admiral was now in charge of the safety

Frenchboro Harbor

inspection! This was not an issue as the Admiral and Lieutenant quickly developed a good working relationship. The fact that there was a life raft and composting head on board scored favorable points and the safety inspection was over quickly with Pathfinder passing with flying colors!   We continued on to Frenchboro and found the harbor to be very quiet for mid-day on Sunday. One reason quickly came apparent when we saw that “Lunt’s Deli”, our favorite lobster shack on the Maine Coast, was closed for the day. Another reason is the change in the mooring situation. Frenchboro has an inner harbor that was dredged many years ago with Federal money. For many years the Lunt family rented out moorings for the night to visiting yachts, but his was in fact illegal. So now there were a number of lobster boats on the moorings, as well as some old Lunt moorings that were not being maintained. There are new rental moorings but they are located outside of the dredged inner harbor and due to the wind and surge they were not very desirable.   The Captain directed Pathfinder to an empty mooring in the inner harbor, however after a quick trip ashore and a conversation with a member of the Lunt family we were advised to take one of the outer harbor rentals. Reluctantly we moved Pathfinder to a bouncy mooring beyond the ferry dock, and returned ashore. Fortunately the island museum and gift store were open, which allowed stocking up on the desirable

Frenchboro Ledges – South End

and highly envied Frenchboro logo items.   After the shopping trip was over we hiked to the south shore with open ledges that looked out to Isle au Haut, Jericho Bay, Swans Island, and about a zillion lobster buoys. From there we wound our way along the shore and through the woods until we crossed over from the Western Point back to the harbor. When got back to Pathfinder via the dinghy we found conditions much the same as we left. A very large and expensive wooden boat was very happy to have a mooring and we motored north to find better shelter on the north side of Swans

View toward Mt. Desert

Island.  Unfortunately the west wind now decided that northwest was a better direction to blow from which of course meant we were headed directly upwind and against an ebb tide.   It was a long slog but eventually we were able to tuck up into a small cove off of the larger Mackerel Cove and anchored in a protective spot for the night.

 

August 7th – A perfect day dawned with the sun shining on the mountains of Acadia National Park over on Mount Desert. A perfect day for sail, and so we did, crossing Jericho Bay and up Eggemoggin Reach which is formed by the mainland on one side and Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle on the other. The Reach lived up to its name, and we reached the entire length then turned to the west and into East Penobscot Bay and down to a small

Barred Islands

archipelago named the “Barred Islands.”   Four islands surround the anchorage along with several ledges and they are all connected to at least one other island by a bar at half tide and lower. The entrance is tricky and the GPS not very accurate, but it is one of the prettier anchorages on the Maine Coast. We also found that the holding ground can be elusive as we dragged our Rocna Anchor about an hour after we thought we were set. This happened to at least two other vessels that were there. We found a better spot but in deep water. We were also joined by five other vessels from the Northport Yacht Club and had a gathering with familiar and some new

Gail on a Bartender Cliff

friends. Pathfinder was joining the group for their five day summer cruise which was a consolation for our aborted destination.   The Captain and Admiral did get some brief shore time and hiked around “Bartender” which is connected by bars to “Butter” and “Escargot.” Anyone hungry?   The wind became blustery from the south and our anchorage was a bit marginal but we hung on and eventually the winds died out in the middle of the night.

Bartender Beach – All old Shells

August 8th – The day dawned gray with rain showers. The wind shifted to the north, which was a poor direction for our anchorage so we were underway mid-morning adorned with full foul weather gear. It was a cold, wet motor to the south but we knew our destination was one of the best: Perry Creek on Vinalhaven. Two large islands dominate the south-central area of Penobscot Bay, Vinalhaven to the south and North Haven to the north.   Between them runs a narrow channel of deep water named the “Fox Island Thorofare.”   Makes sense, right? No place on the chart will you find an island named “Fox.”   Actually it is in homage to the early explorers. Champlain or Weymouth, or another early European explorer noted that the islands had many foxes and named them North and South Fox Islands. Apparently somebody named Vinal had other ideas, but the Thorofare keeps the old name and it allows the locals to keep the tourists confused. In the middle of the Thorofare, on the Vinalhaven shore is the A #1 Hurricane Hole named Perry Creek. It starts narrow, opens into a beautiful anchorage and then narrows as it actually becomes a creek. It is also filled with mostly private moorings that

Briar Patch and Gold Dust in Perry Creek

folks from Rockland and other places have placed to hold their spot on a Saturday evening. If it isn’t Saturday, most us feel free to pick them up, and we found one that hadn’t been used in awhile based on the weed on the mooring pennant.   Perry was very popular on this blustery, dreary day and most of the boats we were amongst were well worth looking at. The Admiral made friends with a couple from New Hampshire who owned a very beautiful and hefty wooden cutter named “Briar Patch.”   The boat was designed by Bud MacIntosh, a New Hampshire boat builder of renown but this boat was built by its owner, Dean Mendenhall, who has been sailing it with his wife since its launching in 1988.   They had made two Bahama trips, before Pathfinder’s voyages, but we had lots to talk about and a number of mutual acquaintances. The Admiral wasn’t done making friends however.   Aboard a trawler style power boat she met John McCloud, the keeper of the Vinalhaven Land Trust Moorings.   Actually the Trust doesn’t own the moorings. John owns them but for everyone who picks one up, John passes out a brochure and asks the boat owner to make a donation to the Land Trust. John is originally from Scotland and his accent is still strong and proud, but his love is for Vinalhaven, his home in Vermont, and for the many Labrador Retrievers he has owned. In fact three of the moorings he owns are named after Labs who have come and gone. The fourth is named after his wife!   The rest of the Northport YC boats came in and we now totaled seven.  An evening gathering was held on Jeff Jacobs beautiful Hinkley Bermuda 40. With Jeff’s boat “Gold Rush” moored next to “Briar Patch” the scenery was easy on the eyes for classic boat lovers. John Linn’s drone captured some stunning shots from above as the skies cleared and we slept without a breath stirring in the rigging.

 

August 9th – Occasionally you have a day and a sail that make all the work and worry of owning a boat worthwhile no matter what the rest of the season is like. Today was the day! A blue sky and calm sea greeted the Northport Fleet as we motored out the east end of the Fox Island Thorofare in mid-morning. There was just enough breeze to set the sails and silence the engine, which was a blessing since the lobster buoys run thick in the stretch of Eastern Penobscot Bay between Vinalhaven and Deer Isle.   A propeller that isn’t spinning is much less likely to catch a lobster pot line. We were entering a stretch of the coast that some people think is the most beautiful of the entire state’s coastline, but then everybody has an opinion!   The waters between the larger islands of Deer Isle to the north and Isle au Haut to the south, are covered with small, roundish islands. They have bases of pink granite and are topped with dark green spruce, balsam fir and hemlock trees. In addition to the islands there are numerous ledges that may break the surface as the tide retreats or may forever lie beneath the sea waiting for the errant navigator to leave his or her mark with bottom paint. Some of these ledges are marked with navigation buoys, but the majority are not. A prudent skipper keeps an eye on the chart, depth sounder, and these days the GPS chart plotter. In addition, the ever present lobster buoys add an interest, and there is always a possibility of fog! All that being said, with the hills of Isle au Haut to the south and the shores of islands in all directions this is a wonderful place to be on a

Burnt Coat Harbor, Swans Island

summer’s day. There are two main routes through all the islands. One is the Deer Isle Thorofare that passes by Deer Isle’s largest village of Stonington, which is also has one of the largest lobster fleets on the coast. The second route is a little further south and is named Merchant’s Row.   It is closer to Isle au Haut, and this is the course Pathfinder took with the wind on the starboard beam with steady southerly wind of just under 10 knots. It was the perfect sail with the perfect scenery. To make it interesting one of the other NYC boats that is about the same size as Pathfinder was hot on our heals. A little competition keeps the sail trim sharp and prevents the crew from getting lazy!   Eventually we emerged past the final ledges and islands of Merchant Row and out into Jericho Bay. The lobster buoys were thick, the tide ran hard, but in the right direction and we played the light winds until we altered course for the final destination of Burnt Coat Harbor on the southern side

Northport Yacht Club Gang in Burnt Coat

of Swans Island. The boats that sailed the Deer Isle Thorofare ended up converging with those taking the Merchant’s Row route at almost the same time, and Pathfinder was still in the lead. Of course we never take racing seriously, but we made sure we were the first boat to enter the harbor! Burnt Coast is another place where lobstering is number one, and provides the living for most of the year round residents. They may be among the most polite lobstermen on the coast as the boats ran slow both entering and leaving the mooring field. It doesn’t always work this way!   We had a great excursion ashore and a walk to the lighthouse on the point. A newly cut trail was found and there were enough raspberries for all to have a snack. A social gathering was held and soon after sunset the cabin lights were winking out.

 

August 10th – It was another sunny day on the Maine Coast. Winds stayed light for the

Bucks Harbor Marine

most part.   We motored until entering the same Eggemoggin Reach that we sailed in on the 7th, so we had completed a circle with the Northport Yacht Club fleet. The wind wasn’t quite so steady this time, but the Captain and Admiral had patience and persevered and eventually sailed up to the entrance of Buck’s Harbor at the northwest end of the Reach. For those who have read Robert McCloskey’s children’s book “One Morning in Maine,” Buck’s is the place where Sal and Jane bought their ice cream cones and where the outboard motor was repaired. In fact Condon’s garage is still there and looks very much

Square Dancing at the Bucks Harbor YC!

like it did in the book. The yacht club (tether ball is still there) and marina business still look almost the same as they did when I was a wee lad. The big difference is the number of boats moored in the harbor. It is packed to the brim. Although we did not get ice cream cones, we did go to dinner at Buck’s Restaurant behind the general store.   It was one of the best meals I have had all year and rivals the best in Portland. If you are in the area, don’t miss it!

 

August 11th – It was time for Pathfinder to head back to the “westward” so we said farewell to the NYC fleet and motored down Penobscot Bay, through Mussel Ridge Channel and

Beach Roses and Pathfinder at Anchor

across Muscongus Bay. There was a very short sail when the wind briefly strengthened but it was mostly a motor trip. The destination was new for us: Harbor Island, a place we had

Western Cliffs of Harbor Island

heard much about, but never managed to get to.   Usually Muscongus Bay is a place we go by on our way to Penobscot Bay or back home toward Casco Bay.   Harbor Island’s harbor is actually made up by Harbor Island to the west and Hall Island to the east.   It is deep except where it is very shallow and there are a number of ledges that need to be avoided. Fortunately the prime anchoring spot was available and soon we were ashore to find out why Harbor Island has received so many accolades over the years.   First off, it is a privately owned island, but the owners have generously allowed public access for years.   One of the owners is the daughter of our friend Carrie Thomas in Cumberland.   Harbor Island is on the Maine Island Trail, although there is no camping allowed.   There is a nice sized beach at the head of the

Admiral on High

harbor and was popular with a number of day trippers while we were there. The highlight of the island however, is the trail that leads to the west side, where beautiful granite cliffs are made to scramble over and provided a wonderful view of the western side of

Admiral in the Ferns

Muscongus Bay. The cliffs have numerous crevices that need to be avoided and the sea surges under some of the cliffs and undoubtedly provides some “thunder” on a stormy day. Beyond the cliffs are several true caves that beg for a flashlight and have probably been explored for pirates treasure by numerous search parties over the decades.   This is all topped off with low cliffs and a beach to the southwest.   The trail back to the harbor passed through an “enchanted forest” where numerous fairy houses have popped up.   Back at the harbor’s beach we met a large party of folks (15 or 16) that had arrived on a powerboat

Harbor Island Cave

from Christmas Cove near Boothbay. They spend the evening swimming and having a ball

Magic Path

before making a night run back to the west.   Pathfinder enjoyed a peaceful night and the Admiral and Captain agreed that they would need to return someday to Harbor Island.

 

August 12th – There was rain in the morning but it stopped and started to clear by the time we were underway in the mid-morning.   We had an easy motor around Pemaquid and past Boothbay. At the Cuckolds Lighthouse we shut off the engine and sailed close hauled on one tack to Small Point and made our entry back into Casco Bay.   The wind died out and we motored to an old favorite anchorage in Quahog Bay, which is bordered on the west by the town of Harpswell. Most folks in this era refer to the area as “Snow Island” but since it was only known as Quahog when I came with my folks for the first time at 6 years old, it will remain Quahog for me! We had a

Favorite Spot in Quahog Bay

beautiful evening and anchored in one of our old favorite spots, along a wild shore that has a number of cedars growing at the water’s edge. The last night of the cruise was very quiet.

 

August 13th – The Admiral made bacon and eggs to celebrate 40 years that she and the Captain had been making voyages together. We were aboard a Sabre 28 named Pathfinder for our honeymoon so it seemed fitting that we were afloat 40 years later! The last day provided a sail, tacking out past Orrs and Bailey Islands.   We entered Broad Sound via the channel by Mark Island, and suddenly it was a Sunday afternoon in August and every powerboater in the Portland area was out and running hell bent for leather (According to Google: The use of hellbent in the sense of “recklessly determined” dates from the first half of the 1800s. Leather alludes to a horse’s saddle and to riding on horseback; this colloquial expression may be an American version of the earlier British

Sunday Afternoon in August

army jargon hell for leather, first recorded in 1889.)   So there.   The Captain felt that he might be back on the Florida ICW but the scenery was a bit nicer. A dry front passed through and suddenly the wind was from the northwest and right on the nose.   We powered on, taking spray over the boat and finally picked up our (slimy) mooring pennant off the Portland Yacht Club in Falmouth. Our Maine Coast Cruise was over for the year.   The charts for Nova Scotia will have to wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Changes in Attitudes, but Latitudes and Longitudes stay the Same

 

August 4th & 5th

Maine Seacoast Mission vessel “Sunbeam.”

August 3rd – After posting our last blog entry, the Admiral’s brother Keith and significant other Donna Martel drove over from their rental on Deer Isle for a visit. We had a great time exploring the packed Jordon Pond House parking lot. This was Keith’s kind of place and he reluctantly drove away when we suggested a less crowded venue.   After explaining that he did like people he just didn’t like any these particular folks we knew we had made the right decision.   The Admiral and Captain had never been to the Asticou Inn, which sits as a regal lady looking over all of Northeast

View from the Asticou Inn

Harbor. Since Keith and Donna had not been either, we were all happy to find an empty parking space and an outdoor table looking out over the Harbor and out the Western Way. The Inn has existed since the 1880’s, with this particular building dating to 1905.   It was a beautiful place and we were all thrilled to find the popovers on the menu to be every bit as good as those at Jordon Pond. After an entertaining and very informative visit (for the Admiral learning the truth of activities from the distant past) we said good-by to Keith and

Keith & Donna at the Asticou Inn

Donna knowing they were dying to get back to shopping in Ellsworth.   In the late afternoon an Eastbay 43 power boat with skipper Andy Pease and son David arrived. Andy is our son-in-law, and he had just made the trip to Northeast from Casco Bay in a little over 5 hours. The voyage would last 3 days aboard Pathfinder!   Our daughter Joanna was away on a business trip, but Andy and David were planning on meeting her the next day in Belfast.   We had another great visit, and Andy & David

Andy and David on Pathfinder

helped us consume one of the meals that had been made ahead of time for the Fundy

Asticou Inn from Pathfinder

Nautical Wheeler

crossing.

August 4th

– A foggy morning in Northeast Harbor and the Admiral and Captain snoozed a bit longer than normal, so they were just clearing the breakfast dishes when Jeremy, the mechanic from Hinkley pulled alongside in a 20 foot RIB with twin 150’s on the stern.   Jeremy was a very polite young man with a hard working attitude and we all hoped he would have the answers to Pathfinder’s lingering engine issues. He had a brand new raw water pump and thought that the installation would go quickly. He also had two new sensors for the oil pressure and engine temperature alarms.   He had not been informed about the engine tachometer, which had not been working since the engine had started up again in Southwest Harbor. As he worked on removing the old water pump a problem quickly arose, as it seems Westerbeke designed the removal (and installation) with a contortionist in mind.   One of the nuts could only be accessed with an open wrench and moved about 1/8 of an inch with each swing. Needless to say the removal process was very slow. As soon as it was out Jeremy had concerns about the amount of oil

Andy and David in Thuya Gardens

on the bearing side of the pump and particularly the metal shavings that were present. He consulted another mechanic ashore who came out and made the assessment that there was nothing wrong with the pump, but it was never seated correctly when installed three years ago before our last Bahama trip. This explained the water leakage and possibly some of the oil that had been found in the drip pan. Remarkably the pump had operated this way for three seasons.   With a file, Jeremy was able to smooth up the housing and reinstalled the pump with a new gasket. The same slow process was repeated when putting on the troublesome nut and bolt. The next problem arose when the engine was started. The raw water pump seemed to be operating properly but suction from the sea was elusive. The Captain assisted in priming the pump and all the hoses. Nothing seemed to work and since by now it was well past lunch hour it was decided we should all take a break.   Jeremy was getting a bit weary since he admitted that he had been up since 3 AM and had gone out to tend some of his 150 lobster traps that he works as a sideline.

 

After lunch the Captain reprimed all the hoses and pump one more time, tightened the hose clamps, and after a little coaxing with the throttle the pump picked up suction just after Jeremy boarded.   The next items were the temperature alarm sensor and the oil pressure sensor. The temperature sensor was easy as can be, but the pressure sensor was a different shape from the original and would not fit past the gear shift cables on the side of the engine. More consultation was done with the bosses but they did not have any answers, and besides they wanted Jeremy on a job up in Somes Sound now!   Jeremy patiently explained his situation plus the fact that the non-functioning tachometer was a job he had not been told about. In Jeremy’s opinion the electrician from Southwest Harbor should have been put on the job for the tach since he had been the one working on all the wiring, but he gamely tried to solve the problem. He and the Captain went over the wiring diagrams and after a continuity test it was decided the tachometer was no longer functioning. By this time it was the middle of the afternoon. Jeremy was bushed and a fit frustrated so it was decided that he would return the next day to see what could be done. All the Hinkley electricians were out straight with other work, so we would not see anyone else. Jeremy’s manager called several times and pictures of the oil alarm sensor location and the tachometer were sent over the phone.

 

The Admiral was able to get away from all of this for time as she, Andy and David took the dinghy over to Asticou Terraces (accessed from a dock on the opposite side from the town).   She reported the Thuya Gardens as beautiful as ever and a few blueberries were picked on the hike up.   Without a final resolution to the problems, however, the look on the Admiral’s face was of deep concern. The Captain probably had the same worried expression. Mate Rob was to rejoin early the next morning and we still weren’t sure if the electrical problems were to be resolved.   In addition we wanted to check out the water pump and not necessarily do it crossing the Bay of Fundy.   We did not have an answer to what caused the 20 amp breaker on the engine to trip, and whether the tachometer failure was part of the problem or caused by it. We were due to start our crossing to Nova Scotia in 36 hours but we both agreed that we did not feel comfortable doing this with the engine electrical concerns. The weather window did not look good for the coming week, which would mean our Nova Scotia time would only be 2-3 weeks in length depending on when we crossed.   Did we want to make an overnight trip across Fundy to cruise just the southwest coast of Nova Scotia and return to Maine in late August, or cruise up to Cape

Peter Wolfe’s carbon fiber toy (built by Hodgkin Bros.)

Breton with either long pushes up the coast and skipping most of Nova Scotia, or arriving with very little time in Cape Breton?   From all we had read, making the crossing to Yarmouth, on the west coast, did not have strong appeal due to the strong tides in the area, and limited cruising options. All this was being weighed knowing we were in pretty good cruising territory where we lay, and the boat would not be available to use in September if it wintered up in Cape Breton. So it was a very tough decision after buying the charts, guidebooks, and doing the planning through the winter and spring, we both decided that we want to do the trip as we originally planned: cross over as close to the 1st of August and take two weeks to cruise the coast to Cape Breton and then have the remaining time in the Bras d’Or Lakes. This will be done but not this year.

 

So my apologies to all you blog readers. No Nova Scotia adventure this time around. I will continue the blog for the rest of the cruise since I know some have not done any cruising on the Maine Coast. For the rest of you, stay tuned we’ll have another adventure to post some day!

 

 

 

 

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There is Always a Plan B, or It’s A Boat, What did You Expect!

 

July 31

Late afternoon on the 31st, the Admiral, the Captain, and Bucko Mate Rob Johnson boarded Pathfinder at it’s mooring in Northport, Maine. There were grand visions of voyages afar and crossing the notorious Bay of Fundy and rounding Cape Sable at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. Casting off at 1700 the trio bucked the current and wind and made for the safe haven of Warren Island, next to Islesboro’s Dark Harbor. With a rainbow to the east the Captain and Mate hoisted a pair of Peak Organics finest and studied a few charts. An early bedtime was had by all with an 0430 alarm set and a long day ahead in store.

August 1st

Some days are meant to be savored, some endured, and some have moments that cross a broad spectrum of feelings.   As the Captain peered into the engine compartment at 4:30 AM and saw oil floating on top of the water in the drip pan he knew that yesterday’s plans were going to change.   The week before he thought he solved a minor oil leak by tightening the oil filter a quarter turn but now he wasn’t so sure. Making a 36 hour run to Shelburne, Nova Scotia did not seem like such a good idea with engine concerns. So instead of charging down Penobscot Bay and heading for the open ocean, the crew enjoyed an early breakfast and watched the sunrise over Islesboro and the early light on the Camden Hills. Just past 7:00, phone calls were made to neighboring boat yards and sure enough a mechanic was available to look over the engine at the Dark Harbor yard around the corner. By 9:00 a young fella showed his flexibility and agility by diving into Pathfinder’s port locker and poked about the engine compartment with his large light. Eventually he had the Captain crank up the engine to 1500 RPM while he studied all parts intently while lying on his stomach over the shaft. He emerged from the locker, looked over the forward side of the engine and finally had it shut down and pronounced there were no more oil leaks, however the raw water pump bearings were wearing out and the water leaking from the pump was causing the remaining oil residue to look much worse that it actually was. When told of the vessel’s destination he strongly recommended the water pump be replaced.   Since none of the local yards had the part in stock the decision was made to get underway and proceed toward a boatyard on Mt. Desert which would actually be 30 miles closer to Nova Scotia than the middle of Islesboro. It was a beautiful day on Penobscot Bay but with very little wind. As we approached the Deer Isle Thorofare we received confirmation that the Hinkley Yard on Mt. Desert could obtain the new water pump and schedule the installation on Friday, August 4th. Mate Johnson made a wise decision that hanging about with the Captain and Admiral while waiting for a repair was not an efficient use of his time and opted to be dropped off in North Haven to catch the ferry to Rockland and a ride home.   It is never a hardship to motor through the Fox Island Thorofare on a beautiful day and Rob was dropped off with at least 10 minutes to spare to catch the ferry. The Admiral and Captain returned to an easterly heading and halfway across East Penobscot Bay the wind filled in, the sails were set and the engine was given a rest, making passage through the lobster pot buoy minefield a little less stressful. It was a gorgeous run through the Deer Isle Thorofare with Isle au Haut presiding to the south.   In the late afternoon we made our approach to Buckle Harbor, an old favorite, on the northwest side of Swans Island.   The jib was furled, the engine was st ……, wait what’s wrong with that damn engine!!!   The starter panel appeared dead as a doornail, but the boat’s batteries seemed to be in good shape. With mainsail alone we ghosted into Buckle Harbor and dropped the anchor. The good Maine Mud on the bottom held the anchor fast. We were safe, but a very tired Captain and Admiral knew the end of the day was to bring no rest. Lockers were emptied and the Captain dove in with a meter and a 12 volt test light, feeling that this was a simple problem that he could surely solve quickly.   Two hours and three locker crawls later he hung his head and admitted he was whipped.   Nothing seemed to be amiss, but the engine starter panel was dead. Fortunately the yearly towing insurance with Boat US had been kept up and after a quick call a tow to Southwest Harbor was arranged. Lights were out before 9 PM.

August 2nd

The Admiral was up at 5 AM, bustling and trying to make the Captain feel guilty about staying in bed until 6:30. It almost worked. After breakfast the Captain made another attempt at finding the engine problem. Trusted Chief Engineer Art Hall was consulted vial text messages. Unfortunately while trying to check a fuse in a wire attached to the starter solenoid the Captain pulled out the wire out from its connecting point.   So instead of making progress he was going backwards.   Fortunately Captain Bill of Towboat US showed up at this point. He was very friendly and professional and assisted by his mate Brenda, Pathfinder was underway on the end of a tow line.  Patchy fog was visible off the outer islands but we had a clear trip across Blue Hill Bay, by Bass Harbor Light and up the Western Way to Southwest Harbor. Bill dropped us off at a Hinkley mooring by 11:30. Southwest Harbor is full of beautiful Hinkley and Morris yachts of all sizes and shapes but it is no place to relax. A constant stream of lobster boats, and landing barges (servicing the villages on the Cranberry Islands) kept the waters churning and Pathfinder rolled about while the Captain and Admiral emptied out two lockers in preparation for an electrician who arrived at 12:30.   Dave the electrician knew his job well and within an hour had repaired the wire the Captain had pulled out of its place (no easy job since it was attached to the starter solenoid in a spot completely out of sight and had to be done by feel), reset a 20 Amp breaker on the engine, and reattached numerous other wires to sensors that had somehow been knocked loose. Yes, the engine was back in service too. Pathfinder was underway shortly for the busy, but much quieter waters of Northeast Harbor.   A spot was found by the mooring agent at one of the floating docks (not attached to shore) in the inner harbor. For those not familiar with Northeast, it probably is the most attractive harbor on the island of Mt. Desert, but its popularity makes it a place to avoid for some. There are beautiful boats of all sorts and sizes, mega yachts, and a number of lobster fishermen who are not going to be run out of this gorgeous harbor with a shoreline that encompasses some of the trails of Acadia National Park. A trip into town was made to help stretch the legs and to correct a visa application that the Captain had made a mistake on.   With a hopeful repair scheduled to be completed on Friday the weather is being watched for another window to make the crossing to Nova Scotia. In the long range forecast Sunday is looking promising. Stay tuned.

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Setting Sail Again!

 

The Captain and the Admiral will be setting sail once again!  The direction will be a bit different this time though.  On or about August 1st we intend to take Pathfinder from Bayside (Northport, ME) to Mt. Desert and after a good night’s rest make a departure for the coast of Nova Scotia.   The planned first destination will be Shelburne (on the map below), a port to the east of Cape Sable and beyond the tides and currents of the Bay of Fundy.  The final destination is Cape Breton but we will remain flexible and try not to be forced along by a fixed schedule.

As with our voyages to the Bahamas, there is a large stretch of water to cross before we reach our cruising grounds.   Instead of the warm Gulf Stream, we will be crossing the chilly waters of the Bay of Fundy.  The distance from Northeast Harbor to Shelburne is 178 miles so we are hoping to make the crossing in 32 hours, arriving mid-day the day after our departure.  The weather “window” will be important so we will be watching it closely.  Good friend Rob Johnson will be joining the Captain and Admiral for the crossing.   An extra set of eyes will be welcome, particularly as the Cape Sable area has the well deserved reputation as a fog factory.

Unlike our Bahama trips, this one will be over in a month.  We plan to home about September 1st.  I hope everyone who reads along enjoys the voyage!

novascotiamap.gif

 

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Great Kills, NY to Falmouth, ME

Great Kills, NY to Falmouth, ME

 

May 16th – Pathfinder’s crew had an “easy” morning, as the tidal current for passing through New York Harbor and the East River did not flow in our favor until mid-afternoon.   We took the yacht club launch ashore and noted that the Richmond County Yacht Club was finally starting to rebuild, two and a half years after hurricane “Sandy” destroyed their clubhouse.   There were other signs that the town’s rebuilding effort was not complete, but for the most part things were finally back to where they had been before October of 2012.   We did some shopping in the “Russian” Italian Grocery that the Admiral had discovered back in 2012.   In the fall of 2014 she had given the Captain directions via the phone (while the Captain was alone in Great Kills waiting for a joining crew member) on where to look for an outstanding Russian grocery.   The Captain never found it, but an RCYC member generously gave us a ride up town this day and informed the Admiral that the market was Italian not Russian. The Captain decided that this is why all his inquiries in Russian had been rebuffed last fall.   So we entered the market and found many Italian products. but here and there on the shelves were products labeled in Russian, so the Admiral felt vindicated.   We headed back to Pathfinder despite an invitation to attend the spring opening ceremonies of the RCYC, the same day, we noted, as Portland Yacht Club’s kick off back in the “frozen tundra” of Maine. As we found on our trip back home in 2013, the boating seasons of New York and southern New England are not all that much advanced over Maine’s. We were back aboard and underway at 1330, bound for New York, New York. This was a Saturday and the striped bass fishermen were out in full force. We

Admiral and the Verrazano Bridge

Admiral and the Verrazano Bridge

had to carefully pass by the points of land while fishermen cast far and wide, and the center console outboards crossing our path were all trailing lines.   There was a thick haze on the Brooklyn shore but we were able to see the tops of all the buildings in Manhattan.   We picked up a fair current after passing under the Verrazano Bridge (the largest bridge we passed under the entire trip). It was noted that Ms. Liberty now sports a real flame from her torch with the extensive upgrades of the last few years complete.   As always, New York Harbor was full of commercial traffic, but it was not as heavy as we

Lady Liberty and the Norwegian Gem

Lady Liberty and the Norwegian Gem

had experienced in the past. We stayed south of Governor’s Island to avoid the comings and goings of the Staten Island ferries and found our run up the East River seemed to be routine.   The buildings and people of Manhattan always provide an eyeful but it is also vital to keep an eye on navigation and traffic management since you never know what type of craft will be coming around the next bend. A strange looking excursion craft of some sort was noted coming up

World Trade Center

World Trade Center

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

from astern but it was not making much more speed than Pathfinder.   The trickiest spot in the East River is “Hell Gate,” where the Harlem River joins the East and where tidal currents can run up as high as four to five knots.   There is an “S” turn in the channel for vessels as they clear the northern tip of Roosevelt Island and continue up the East River toward Long Island Sound.   It was just at this point that the watch officer in the wheelhouse of the excursion craft decided that he should be passing Pathfinder.

Brooklin Boat in the East River

Brooklin Boat in the East River

Instead of calling on the radio, or initializing an overtaking request with the proper horn signals, he blew the danger whistle of five short blasts, which basically meant that Pathfinder should get the hell out of his way.   Now as someone who has taken a few Coast Guard “Rules of the Nautical Road” exams in his lifetime, the Captain picked up his VHF radio and hailed the craft named “Hybrid Hornblower” and asked (maybe a bit testily) if the operator was requesting to overtake Pathfinder.   The

Reflections

Reflections

operator was probably a bit taken aback by a radio call on channel 13, the official bridge-to-bridge communication channel, as most yachts do not monitor it.   He did admit that, yes, he would like to overtake Pathfinder on the starboard side.   The Captain then agreed and said that he would slow down to make the passage easier.   All would have been well and good except after the Hybrid Hornblower went by, it slowed down and now Pathfinder had to slow down to avoid overtaking it.   This was all in the vicinity of New York’s infamous Rikers Island (home to the prison) and the screaming jets overhead landing at La Guardia airport. At this point the Admiral made her feelings known about the competence of the Hybrid Hornblower’s operations.   The Captain called the vessel and spoke to a new voice that seemed a bit more in charge, and was told to go ahead and overtake them as they were turning soon into a marina.   It would not be a run through New York Harbor without a few interactions with the numerous numbers of vessels that ply its waterways. In the early evening we entered Long Island Sound and turned into Port Washington’s excellent harbor just east of the Throgs Neck Bridge.   The town maintains a number of free moorings for transient boats and we had a quiet evening and a good night’s sleep, knowing there were plenty of folks in the Big Apple who weren’t getting theirs.

 

May 17th – We woke to a Long Island Sound fog that moved in and out of the harbor and seemed to be on the verge of burning off.   After taking on fuel we motored out of the harbor and found ourselves with visibility of a few feet.   The radar was working well and kept us clear of the numerous sports fishermen who were not going to be denied, no matter what the weather.   We wound our way out the Port Washington channel, past the

Connecticut Lighthouse

Connecticut Lighthouse

lighthouse on Execution Rocks and then plotted our course east-northeast for the long run down the Sound.   Every so often a radar target would be maneuvered around and we kept up steady progress without any close calls.   About noon a fast powerboat came up astern. Fortunately their Automated Identification System (AIS) was operating and the Captain called them on the VHF and let them know that they were on track to run down Pathfinder.   Twenty-three knots in the fog seemed a bit excessive, but there are plenty of fast boaters that feel that with all the chart plotters and radars, they can do as they please.   Just as the speedboat blew by, the fog started to clear, as if the passerby was sucking it out of the Sound.   Within thirty minutes we had good visibility in all directions and the radar was given the rest of the day off.   After a fifty-mile plus run we

arrived at a unique archipelago for the Connecticut coast. A small group of granite islands, islets, rocks and reefs are strewn just to the east of Bridgeport, and are called the Thimble Islands. Suddenly you feel that you might be approaching the Maine Coast and if there had been spruce and fir trees on the islands the feeling would have been complete.   Being in a heavily populated area of southern New England, what were on the islands besides native

Thimble Islands

Thimble Islands

Thimble Island Home

Thimble Island Home

Thimble Island Cottages

Thimble Island Cottages

deciduous trees, were lots of homes of all shapes and sizes.   The winds were calm and we picked up an empty mooring and were glad we were here on a calm night in the “off” season. Local history buffs say that Captain Kidd once hid his ship amongst the islands to escape notice of the authorities.   Since anything to do with pirates in this day and age means a commercial opportunity, one of the local tour boats sported a huge skull and crossbones flying from its transom. The evening turned very warm with no wind and since it had been a few days since she had a proper bathing, the Admiral decided that it was time for the sun shower to be rigged.   Most of you may know that a “sun shower” is just a manufactured plastic bag that is clear on one side and black on the other, with a shower attachment.   The sun heats up the water, so all that has to be done is to hang the bag in a proper place and sit under the nozzle.   The Admiral had the Captain rig the sun shower from the end of the boom so she could sit in the cockpit and become clean.   Fortunately she was wearing a bathing suit, for just as she had lathered up, here came one of the tour boats with a full complement of guests on the upper deck.   Since the channel running through the Thimble Islands is fairly narrow the boat passed close to Pathfinder and everyone on deck had a great view of the suds upped Admiral.   Without missing a beat she kept on washing and by the reaction of some of the ladies on the tour boat, this was a type of public cleaning they had never contemplated.   No doubt some will remember this long after Captain Kidd is forgotten.   The Captain managed to take his shower discretely.

 

May 18th – The warm temperatures of the previous evening were just a memory as we rose to an east wind blowing across the chilly waters of Long Island Sound.   The forecast was only for 10 knots, so we felt that we could make the 40 miles to Stonington, CT.   We also knew that the currents would not be in our favor all morning.   The ebb and flow of the tides in Long Island Sound set up strong currents, especially the further east you go.   After clearing the Thimbles we found our speed dropping down to 4 knots and occasionally less. The 10 knots of wind forecast turned into something more and by late in the morning we were having a rough ride with the wind blowing 15-20 knots.   Although the current was starting to ease, the crew felt they had had enough and turned into the Connecticut River.   After entering the River the town of Old Saybrook lies on the west bank.   There is a large marina but it was exposed to the east winds so we continued a bit further and ran into a narrow channel that leads to “North Cove.”   Mooring balls were lined up like soldiers in several rows, but this still being early in the season, there were only a few boats.   Calls to the local yacht club went unanswered so we picked up a mooring and retreated to the cabin for hot soup and a quiet afternoon.

North Cove Visitor

North Cove Visitor

 

May 19th – The east winds had dropped off, so Pathfinder was underway at 0530 to take advantage of the last two hours of the ebb current out in the Sound.   Although the winds were light, the rain and fog were present and we were wondering about our New England welcome?!   Steady rain started about 0800. The connector window was kept in between the dodger and bimini and it provided some relief from the cold rain, but the visibility through the plastic was pretty marginal in these conditions.   About an hour from Stonington the Captain requested that the Admiral remove the connector, which did help the visibility but it was a cold wet run until we finally cleared the breakwaters and entered the harbor.   We proceeded to Dodson’s Boat Yard where they managed to squeeze out an opening for Pathfinder to tie up.   The yard was extremely busy, getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend and launching boats as quickly as possible.   Judging by the vessels being launched the yard’s cliental have very good taste

Concordia Yawl in Stonington

Concordia Yawl in Stonington

(in my humble opinion) and probably a good income.   Concordias, Hinkleys, Morrises, and, of course, Sabres were amongst the many makes of boats at the docks.   A 40 foot or so ketch was preparing for an imminent departure for the Azores. Due to the rain the skipper decided to postpone for a day. This is the home of the “Dog Watch Café,” which allowed the Captain and Admiral their chance to warm up with a top notch cheeseburger, after they had a good hot shower.   Thanks to the dock electrical connection our heater kept the cabin toasty and helped to dry out the hanging foul weather gear and wet gloves.

 

May 20th – Thunder and lightning in the wee hours of the morning heralded the next cold front pushing through.   The Admiral reported it to be quite a show, but the Captain only caught a few minutes of it all.   The winds behind the front enabled all the unsecured halyards on the recently launched boats to play a tattoo on the masts, and once again it was the Admiral who caught most of the performance.   Needless to say she was up well before the crack of dawn and ready and rarin’ to get underway.   We did try to push off at 0530 but quickly found that west winds had Pathfinder pinned to the dock while tightly berthed between a Grand Banks trawler astern and a Swan 50 plus sloop ahead.   Several attempts were made but the Captain only gave the Admiral heartburn wondering how we would pay off the bill of Pathfinder’s bow implanted in the stern of the Swan. We were about to give up and wait reluctantly for the yard crew to show up in an hour, when the crewmember bound for the Azores and his wife came walking down the dock.   Thanks to their assistance, a well-timed push on the bow and a strong pull on Pathfinder’s stern line allowed us to swing the bow through the eye of the wind and escape. It was a beautiful morning motoring out of Stonington with Fisher Island reflecting the rising sun.   We motored past Watch Hill Light and down the long stretch to Point Judith, RI.   Block

Watch Hill Light

Watch Hill Light

Island stood out clearly on the horizon and the ferry made its morning run from Block into Point Judith harbor.   We were now crossing the wide expanse of Rhode Island Sound and as predicted a west-northwest wind started to blow in earnest.   The sails were set and the engine silenced as we made our way past the mouth of Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River.   From there we entered Buzzards Bay, passing Westport where the Captain and Steve Morrow put in for emergency repairs late last September, at the very start of the voyage. Continuing up the Bay in the gusty west winds we reached the approach channel entrance to the Cape Cod Canal.   The sails were secured and a short motor later we were in Onset Harbor as the wind howled and we picked up a welcome mooring for the night. Another 70-mile day in the books.

Onset Sunset

Onset Sunset

 

May 21st – There were frost warnings up for some parts of interior Maine and

Onset Guardians

Onset Guardians

Massachusetts but it was a balmy 47 in Pathfinder’s cockpit at 0500.   We actually had a little time up our sleeves waiting for the current change in the Canal but the “horses were smelling the barn” and were a restless lot. At 0615 we wound our way out of Onset and into the Canal.   As with every other trip the Captain has made, fishermen lined the edges of the Canal and cast their heavy lures with distance looking for the striped bass to rise.   Despite Pathfinder sticking as close to the center of the channel as possible, some of the casts landed the lures within 10 feet.   They couldn’t possibly be trying to hit us, could they?   By 0730 we cleared the Canal and entered Cape Cod Bay and set a course for Cape Ann, about 50 miles across Massachusetts Bay.   A sailboat that had just departed the Sandwich marina overtook us and hailed us on the radio.   It was Cool Waters“Shearwater,” a Moody 42 sloop, with a couple from Salem, Mass whom we had first met in Titusville, FL.   Our paths seemed to cross now and again and we had last talked in the Chesapeake.   Today they would be home and Pathfinder would be a day closer. At 1600 we passed by the impressive twin light towers of Thatcher Island, just off Cape Ann.   They must have been a welcome sight for the Grand Banks fishermen sailing back to Gloucester with their holds filled with cod.   Rockport Harbor is located on the east side of Cape Ann and at the height of the summer is crammed full of boats.   It is a very small harbor with protection from a breakwater.   An iconic red fisherman’s shed sits on a granite wharf and has been the subject of artists and

Thatcher Island Lights

Thatcher Island Lights

Rockport, Mass

Rockport, Mass

photographers for generations.   As directed by the harbormaster we tied up to a “floating dock” (not connected to the shore) opposite another sailboat.   The Admiral did a cleaning job and swept off the bones and shells left by the resident gulls.   The harbormaster informed the Captain that Pathfinder was receiving the pre-Memorial Day rate of $0 per foot. The Captain thanked her for her generosity. There were only seven or eight yachts on moorings (with a number of lobster boats in the very inner harbor) so we were most definitely on the leading edge of the northern New England boating season. We enjoyed the sight of the scenic New England village and noted a few bundled up tourists snapping pictures.   A small outboard entered the harbor with a family on board.   A young girl was perched on the stern dragging her bare feet in the 50-degree water. Another hearty New Englander!   By 2030 Pathfinder’s lights were out.

 

May 22nd – The alarm went off at 0400 as the Admiral and Captain wanted an early start for their last long push.   They were a bit too optimistic as cloud cover kept the pre-dawn light quite muted and with a number of lobster pot buoys at the harbor entrance they needed a bit more visibility.   At 0500 Pathfinder headed out of the harbor and pointed her bow to the northeast.   The winds were light and from the south, but the mainsail was set

Cape Elizabeth

Cape Elizabeth

to provide a little stability in the increasing southerly swells. We were grateful for the light winds since it didn’t take much of it blowing over the 48-degree seawater to make our air temperatures pretty chilly.   (Our layers for warmth consisted of long underwear, fleeces, down jackets and our sea-going foul weather gear). Our course took us well outside the Isle of Shoals and Boon Island.   There were a few offshore pot buoys, and lobster boats from New Hampshire and then Maine were seen passing. Mount Agamenticus and some of the foothills to the White Mountains were seen in the distance.   The mood of the crew was bright and cheerful and music by Schooner Fare filled the cockpit.  The swells prevented the autopilot from doing its job so the

The Light on Portland Head

The Light on Portland Head

Captain and Admiral took one-hour watches doing the steering by hand.   The swells built a bit in height and kept us rolling pretty consistently all day.   At 1430 we approached Cape Elizabeth and the islands of Casco Bay were a sight for sore eyes.   Since departing the Bahamas we had not seen a stretch of water filled with islands, and Casco Bay’s looked so beautiful with the sun shining on the ledges, cliffs and trees.   To our starboard ran the long thin line of Cape Small in the distance, with Halfway Rock, Jewell, Cliff,

Homecoming Selfie

Homecoming Selfie

Hope, Long, and Chebeague Islands.   On our port hand were Portland Head Light, Ram Island Light, and Cushing, and Peaks Islands.   Catching the last of the flood tide we motored up Hussey Sound, past Cow and Great Diamond Islands, around Clapboard Island and into the mooring field at Falmouth Foreside.   The voyage was over.

 

 

 

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Solomons, MD to Great Kills, NY

Solomons, MD to Great Kills, NY

 

May 8th – There was fog in the air and in the forecast this morning in Solomons, MD.   The Captain was happy that he was not single-handing again out on Chesapeake Bay, and was content to have Pathfinder swinging on the Zahniser Marina mooring ball.   The skipper’s cousin, Captain Will Gates, called after breakfast and stated that a car was to be “spotted” in Annapolis if the plan to have him crew the next day was to come to fruition. So Pathfinder’s Captain took over the helm of Will’s vintage Prius (formerly belonging to his mother Marion).   Keeping a close eye on the stern of Will’s pick-up truck, the voyage by road was made to Annapolis in 90 minutes. The Captain was happy that his road driving skills seemed to be well intact.   A suitable spot was found for lunch on the Eastport side of Spa Creek and the skippers headed back to the Solomons area.   The last time Capt. Will and Capt. Dave had seen each other was at Will’s brother Alan Gates’ consecration as the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts this past September.   Needless to say the visit in the front seat of Will’s pick-up was not quite as big a deal, but fun none-the-less. Will loaned his truck to the Captain so grocery shopping and propane refill could be completed.   That evening we gathered at the senior living center in Solomons for dinner and a visit with Will’s mom Marion, and his dad Ed.   Will’s wife Tara also joined us and it was wonderful to see everyone and catch up on family activities.

 

May 9th – Will arrived at the Zahniser dock at 0800 and he and the Captain soon motored out of Solomons Harbor and turned north to run up Chesapeake Bay.   As with the last four days there was very little wind to speak of but the Westerbeast kept Pathfinder’s progress to the north at a steady clip.   The Bay seemed to be covered with sports

Capt. Will Gates

Capt. Will Gates

fishermen, and the majority were towing an apparatus that was new to both Captains.   Streaming out from the port and starboard quarters of each boat was a device that Captain Dave calls a “paravane.”   This is probably not the fishermen’s term, but it was similar to what is towed behind minesweepers and seismic survey vessels.   The forward motion of the boat causes the paravane to veer outboard and away from the stern of the towing vessel.   Each paravane appeared to be towing at least 3 fishing lines each, which meant that streaming astern at a wide angle from each fishing boat were at least six fishing lines.   With numerous fishing vessels crossing our bow, Pathfinder had to live up to its name and find an opening while giving each sports

Spreading the lines - paravane fishermen

Spreading the lines – paravane fishermen

fisherman a wide berth.   This allowed Captain Dave and Captain Will to take a break from their steady stream of sea stories and other weighty matters and concentrate on maneuvering and keeping clear of fishing lines.   Will is the skipper of the “Dove,” a sailing vessel designed to represent the vessel that first brought settlers to what became the State of Maryland.   Will is also the Maritime Curator of St. Mary’s Historical Center. Dove has been under Will’s care and guidance for many years, and has been visited by thousands of school children and adults alike.   Will’s seagoing career started at Mystic Seaport, where he trained as a rigger and ended up working on the rigging of a number of “tall ships” such as the “Elissa” in Galveston and the “U.S.S. Constitution” in Boston. He skippered several “windjammers,” including the “Harvey Gamage” and the “Rachael and Ebenezer.”   Even though our careers afloat were on very different vessels, we enjoyed telling tales and comparing notes.   Like all seamen, we find it interesting to talk about anything that floats.   The day passed by quickly and soon we were motoring into crowded Annapolis Harbor, filled with a normal Saturday flotilla.   Due to the light breezes, there were not as many sailboats out, but a few were on the Bay and coaxing what they could out of what wind there was.   We fueled up and went through the Spa Creek drawbridge to find an empty town mooring about 20 feet off a dinghy landing.   Annapolis and Eastport do not turn their back on the boating visitors.   Every street that dead-ends at the water is a public access for boaters at anchor or on moorings.   The Captain was grateful for Will’s assistance and the chance to visit, and rowed him to the Eastport side of the creek where the spotted car awaited him.

 

May 10th – The Captain arose on Mother’s Day with a long list of chores to be completed aboard Pathfinder.   Once again the brown ‘waterway’ stain was removed from the bow and stern.   The engine oil and filter were changed as well as the fuel filters.   No matter how many times these jobs are done, they always remain “interesting” and it was just as well that the Captain’s mother was not present to hear his “discussion” with the engine.   Later a phone call was made to Mom to celebrate the day. Spa Creek is a fascinating place to be moored on a warm weekend.   There seemed to be a non-stop parade of paddleboards and kayaks, as well as larger craft coming through the Spa Creek bridge.   This is a strict “no-wake” zone so the mooring field is calm despite the activity.   About a dozen women, mostly in bikinis, stopped their paddleboards in the vicinity of Pathfinder to tie up to a mooring and do yoga on their paddleboards.   The Captain cast a critical eye

Paddleboard Yoda

Paddleboard Yoda

to ensure they were doing the “downward dog” properly although he kept his thoughts to himself. In the late afternoon he headed ashore wearing his Maine Maritime Academy ball cap(the mention of this will become obvious soon) and walked to the Harbormaster’s Office to pay the mooring bill and take a shower.   He boarded the Baltimore Clipper replica “Lynx” and had a tour as well as chatted with the skipper and crew.   After a walk about town, dodging the throngs of tourists, he headed back to “Shipwright Lane” where the dinghy dock was located.   Two young lads were sitting on the dock, having a good time talking and passing a warm Sunday afternoon. They looked up at the Captain and spied his hat.   They immediately asked if the Captain had attended Maine Maritime Academy and when he replied that he was a 1976 grad, they both proudly announced that they were

New 3rd Mates, class of '15

New 3rd Mates, class of ’15

members of the class of 2015!   This was a surprise, since Annapolis would not be expected to be a hotbed of MMA grads.   Anthony Swartout of Annapolis and Sam Brown of New York City were both passing the time as they waited for their jobs as third mates to begin in a few weeks.   Sam was heading for a cable laying ship out of Baltimore while Anthony was bound for the grey ships of the Military Sealift Command (civilian vessels in support of the U.S. Navy).   To celebrate the chance encounter, the Captain treated all to pizza at a worthy Annapolis establishment and gave encouragement and advice to the young new ship’s officers.  By the time we departed company the two young men had made the Captain feel like an old salt!

 

May 11th – Our Annapolis “Angels” and friends from Bayside, Bruce and Elaine Smith once again gave a helping hand and transported the Captain to a grocery store for fresh produce. The Admiral was returning and the Captain knew that salt horse and hard tack was not going to cut the mustard, so the larder needed to be replenished.   The Captain returned to Pathfinder before the early afternoon showers, and at 1500 the Admiral was hailing him from the dinghy dock. It was great to have her back aboard, but soon we were ashore for showers and meeting Bruce and Elaine at one of our favorite Annapolis eateries, “Chick and Ruths.”   This restaurant has been described several times in the blog, but if you are looking for great Maryland crab cakes with a local diner atmosphere, and not too much elbowroom, Chick and Ruth’s is your place. We had a good time visiting with Bruce and Elaine and heard about the latest boat that Bruce has his eye on.   We will be seeing them again up at Bayside in a little over a month.

 

May 12th – Pathfinder was underway in time to make the 0630 opening of the Spa Creek bridge.   There were blustery winds in the forecast but they took their time in arriving.   It was a motor up the last bit of Chesapeake Bay and into the C & D (Chesapeake and Delaware) Canal.   This is a sea level canal that runs for about 15 miles connecting the Delaware River and Philadelphia ports to Chesapeake Bay.   There is some commercial traffic but it is not heavy, mostly consisting of tugboats and barges.   We had planned on stopping at the Army Corp Basin at Chesapeake City and anchoring, but the current was in our favor and it would not be early the next morning, so we pushed on another 13 miles to a marina at Delaware City for the night.   The air was hot and humid and we had the warmest night since departing Florida.

 

May 13th – A cold front pushed through during the night and our early morning temperatures reminded us we were headed north.   Back came the fleeces and long pants.   Small craft advisories for northwest winds were posted for the Delaware River and Bay, but with the wind astern we decided to put out on the river to see what we would find.   The initial destination was the Cohansey River on the New Jersey side that had good reviews.   But by 1030 we were abeam the Cohansey and decided to push on with a strong and fair current and the wind at our back.   For several hours we averaged over 8 knots

Traffic on the Delaware

Traffic on the Delaware

with the jib rolled out and the engine ticking along.   The commercial traffic on the Delaware was very heavy this day and there was a parade of freighters, tankers, tugs and barges headed for sea or the ports near Philadelphia. The problem with Delaware Bay, located at the mouth of the river, is that there is a large open fetch of water before you arrive at Cape May and the seas can become very large. A sand bar with eight feet of water needs to be crossed for vessels making for the Cape May Canal entrance, which is the normal entrance for a boat Pathfinder’s size when coming down the Delaware.   The evening before, the marina manager at Delaware City had warned the Captain about crossing this bar in rough seas.   With building waves the Captain reluctantly plotted

Cape May Light

Cape May Light

Pathfinder’s course to go around Cape May and proceed into the harbor via the ocean entrance and not by the Cape May Canal.   It was rough rounding the Cape, and the currents turned against us, making this seven-mile detour a tiring affair.   Later we learned that several vessels crossed the bar to the canal without a problem. We were happy to tie up at Utsch’s Marina.   After dinner at a restaurant close by, we had an early bedtime.

 

May 14th – The previous day’s northwest wind shifted northeast and was still blowing hard at daybreak.   The Jersey coast was no place to be with this sort of breeze so Pathfinder’s crew took their time preparing for the day, with conditions forecast to improve in the afternoon.   At 1000 the Captain was working on programming his autopilot when he noticed that the depth sounder read 3.5 feet!   As stated before, the draft of Pathfinder is 4

Jersey Shore Dredge

Jersey Shore Dredge

feet, but the transducer is about 8-10 inches below the waterline.   The Captain checked the tide tables and saw that the tide had another hour to fall, by which time we would most assuredly be aground!   There was a scramble and Pathfinder was backed out of the marina slip and exited the narrow channel between the slips at Utsch’s.   Proceeding toward the harbor channel Pathfinder suddenly slowed and the Captain realized that he had cut the corner from the marina channel to the deeper water in the harbor.   Fortunately the mud was very soft and with full throttle the boat wiggled free and we kept our forward progress. A number of boats were in the Cape May anchorage and had elected to make this a lay day with the winds blowing outside.   Pathfinder’s crew decided to push on and after clearing

Crowded - Atlantic City Light

Crowded – Atlantic City Light

the Cape May jetties, turned northeast toward Atlantic City.   It was rough but nothing that the crew or boat couldn’t handle. As the day wore on the winds slackened and our speed crept up to 5.5 to 6 knots and the large hotels of Atlantic City started to grow on the horizon.   A few dolphins were seen chasing their next meal and the afternoon turned pleasant.   We entered the large and deep “Absecon Inlet” next to the towering casinos and hotels and then entered a local “lake” that is largely uncharted but has local navigation aids to follow.   Guidebooks had recommended “Brigantine Lake” as a suitable anchorage for those not wanting to spend money on the marinas across the inlet.   Since the Admiral and Captain did not have any interest in checking out the Atlantic City “scene” they opted for the anchorage.   Brigantine Lake was quiet and peaceful, but surrounded by condos with a few beach type summerhouses mixed in.   The Captain wondered how many folks save all year to rent a summer condo in the shadows of Atlantic City?   As darkness descended, one of the highrise hotels with a broad expanse of glass, became a giant electronic bill board.   Messages and pictures splashed across its front all evening long.   Blackout shades would be required for anyone living close by!

 

May 15th – The Admiral and Captain were both up at 0400 before the alarm went off. With

Reflected Dawn

Reflected Dawn

a spotlight and the GPS chart plotter, they carefully wound their way out of Brigantine Lake and into the Absecon Inlet where the current was flooding at a strong clip.   Between the radar and the chart plotter the unlit buoys were avoided and we wondered how many people were still at the tables at the local establishments.   It was with a bit of relief that we turned north and put the City behind us.   The wind was light and mostly at our backs so the diesel had an easy job of pushing us north at 6.5 knots or more.   The mainsail was raised to steady Pathfinder in the swell and the autopilot seemed up to the task of handling the steering.

Real Dawn at Sea

Real Dawn at Sea

The crew took two-hour watches and listened to their iPods via the Bluetooth stereo that Colin had given the Captain for Christmas, and the day went by with the New Jersey coastline.   Barnegat Inlet and lighthouse were abeam at 1030.   About 1400 the wind picked up from the south-southeast, the jib was unfurled, and eventually the engine was shut down.   Pure sailing is such a joy after long days of listening to the engine. To add to our relief, the current was flooding up Sandy Hook Channel and our speed picked up as we passed by the Atlantic Highlands. Turning down the Channel we had a broad reach and watched our speed over the ground increase to eight knots plus!   We flew past the end of the Hook and all of its fishermen and made our way across Raritan Bay to Great Kills Harbor on the south shore of Staten Island.   By 1700 we had the sails doused and were entering the harbor, happily picking up a mooring rented by the Richmond County Yacht Club.   We stayed awake to watch a segment of “Death in Paradise” on the laptop and then it was lights out!

Left from Sandy in Great Kills

Left from Sandy in Great Kills

 

 

 

 

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Wrightsville Beach, NC to Solomons, MD

Wrightsville Beach, NC to Solomons, MD

 

April 28th – It was a chilly start to the day for Pathfinder’s crew with the temperature around 50 degrees. We knew our latitude climb to the north was having an affect.   The Admiral had a bounce in her step, and at 1400 her relief, Mr. Art Hall appeared. Art and the Captain have fond memories of their own reliefs appearing when they served aboard the tankers, so they could well understand the Admiral’s smile. A suitable seafood restaurant was found to celebrate the crew transition, and before we knew it the Admiral had dropped off Art and the Captain at the Wrightsville Beach marina and she was on her way to the airport hotel in preparation for a flight to Denver to visit the new family in Boulder.   For those who do not know Art, he and the Captain first met in the last week of August in 1972.   They were both “Midshipmen Under Guidance,” otherwise known as MUGS in the Maine Maritime Academy class of 1976.   They both survived the indoctrination and found that they shared a fondness for cruising sailboats, thanks to parents who introduced them to adventures along the New England Coast while growing up.   They were roommates for the final 3 years at the Academy and have been crewmates on a number of different sailboats over the years.

 

April 29th – At 0620 Pathfinder was getting underway from the Wrightsville Marina when a call was heard on the VHF radio calling for an opening of the Wrightsville Draw Bridge.   The Captain informed Art that it was important to make the same opening as the boat calling in, as one bridge delay has a way of compounding itself when there are bridges further down the line.   Pathfinder swung out into the ICW just in time to make the Wrightsville opening and sure enough the rest of the day went like clockwork with the remaining draw or swing bridges: Figure Eight Island, Surf City, and the Oswald Bridge for the Marine Corp at Camp LeJuene. They all had scheduled openings but Pathfinder managed to arrive in the nick of time at each one.   This was Art’s first time on the Waterway, so as well as bridge openings he was able to observe the intricacies of powerboat overtaking maneuvers and how to stay in the channel when a faster vessel wants to elbow you aside.   Rain threatened all afternoon, but held off until just after we tied up at the “Sanitary Seafood” restaurant dock in Moorehead City, NC.   The dock is fairly inexpensive and a discount is provided if you eat in the restaurant, however the Captain opted to do the cooking aboard Pathfinder.

 

April 30th – Art had been hoping for sunshine and warm temperatures after surviving a very cold Maine winter, but all that was to be had was heavy clouds and showers for this North Carolina day.   We stopped for fuel and motored out of Moorehead City and through

Left Maine for This?

Left Maine for This?

Adams creek.   The last of the dolphins for this trip surfaced alongside Pathfinder and indicated that this was as far north as their contract required them to go.   Although the wind was only blowing 10-15 knots in the Neuse River, it was a head wind and the chop was enough to make the crew happy that they were not traveling further than Pierce Creek in Oriental.   Pathfinder entered the scenic waterway and wound past modest homes, boats and docks to a berth where Roy and Shelia Harvey were waiting for us.

Harvey's residence off Pierce Creek, Oriental

Harvey’s residence off Pierce Creek, Oriental

Although Art had never met Roy in person, they had communicated regularly over the years on the Allied Seabreeze Association’s internet site.   The Harveys and Halls both own beautiful 35 foot Seabreeze sloops, and Roy and Shelia’s was tied up just ahead of Pathfinder.   The Harveys were very gracious hosts and invited us into their home to take a shower, and later in the evening for dinner. Roy and Shelia told us many stories of sailing and living on their Seabreeze for six years while they cruised

Roy, Sheila, and Art with Dusty

Roy, Sheila, and Art with Dusty

the waters from New England to the Bahamas.   They were also avid skiers, and for many years would take a month or two and travel out west to various mountains in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.   There were a number of racing trophies on their walls, so it was evident that they did more than just cruise their Seabreeze.   According Roy, Shelia was quite accomplished on the helm. We had a great visit, and it was a treat to be invited into a private home after so many days of living on a 34-foot boat!

 

May 1st – The weather forecast predicted heavy rain later in the day, so at 0620, Pathfinder motored out of Pierce Creek as we waved farewell to the Harveys.   The winds were fairly light as we motored up the Neuse River and into Goose Creek.   We passed the docks in Hobucken where the shrimp boat fleet is normally tied up, but on this day there were no boats in sight.   Normally there are at least a half a dozen well-maintained shrimp boats here, so the fishing must have been productive.   We entered the Pungo River and decided to make for Belhaven as the skies darkened.   About an hour from our arrival our luck ran out and the winds started to blow from the north with heavy rain. Fortunately the plastic window connector between the dodger and bimini gave us shelter and we made it to the Belhaven marina without incident.   As the winds howled down the Pungo River we were glad for a snug berth.   Art and the Captain took a walk about the town.   There were some very nice homes about, but it was clear that Belhaven’s glory days were in its past.   The marina was clean and neat, and the men’s head/shower room had provided somebody with ability to decorate it with U.S. Navy memorabilia and nostalgia from World War II.   The Captain tried his hand at pizza in Pathfinder’s oven and it fed a hungry crew.

 

May 2nd – Soon after our departure from Belhaven we entered the long and straight Alligator-Pungo Canal.   It runs for 23 miles with only a slight dog-leg in the middle.   The Canal is also narrow with “dead heads” (sunken logs with their tops just above the water, and none of them are Grateful Dead fans) lurking for the helmsman who strays off the centerline.   A chilly north winds was blowing but the plastic window connector to the bimini was cleaned off and provided a break while not hampering the visibility too badly.   A number of cruising sailboats in the waterway now have plastic windows surrounding the entire cockpit.   They are connected to the dodger and bimini and completely encase the crew.   Being completely isolated from the outdoors is not what the Captain or Admiral want for their boating experience but everyone makes their own decisions.   Of course we have come up with our own terminology for the cockpit encasements, such as “the greenhouse,” “the John Deere look,” and Art’s contribution “the oxygen tent.” After clearing the Canal we entered the Alligator River, with its cypress trees lining the distant shores.   The wind blew on the nose at 10-15 knots, but we were able to make headway against the waves.   By the end of the afternoon we passed through the long Alligator River swing bridge, and negotiated our way through the numerous crab pots to an anchorage in scenic “South Lake.”   There are no homes visible from this remote spot and it was a beautiful evening to anchor and enjoy the quiet.

 

May 3rd –We were underway early and a light breeze allowed all sails to be set and the

Sailing on Albermarle Sound

Sailing on Albermarle Sound

engine shut down for a few hours as we crossed Albermarle Sound. This can be a treacherous body of water, and we later heard of several aborted attempts by vessels to make the crossing in the previous two days of strong winds.   There was a warm breeze from the south and Art finally experienced the warm weather he had been hoping to find. In Albermarle Sound we had a choice on our route to Norfolk.   The main route of the ICW runs through a section known as the “Virginia Cut,” but the option we took was to run up the Pasquotank River to the “Dismal Swamp Canal.”   About 10 miles up the

Up the Placid Pasquotank

Up the Placid Pasquotank

Pasquotank is Elizabeth City, home to the nation’s largest Coast Guard air base.   There have been numerous rescues made by helicopters based at this facility, including the crew from the ill fated “Bounty” during hurricane Sandy.   We passed through the Elizabeth City draw-bridge, and entered a very scenic stretch of the Pasquotank that wound like a serpent and became narrower the further upstream we went.   To enter the Dismal Swamp we had a lock that needed to be used, and with a 1530 opening we needed to slow our forward progress a bit.  With the engine idling we had plenty of time to checking out the cypress swamp and the numerous bird life and turtles.   With four other sailboats we entered the lock, were raised eight feet, and entered the narrow straight path

South Mills Lock

South Mills Lock

of the Canal. Trees overhang the edges, so the sailboats lined up head to tail and made their way several miles to the North Carolina “Welcome Center” that is just south of the Virginia border.   A dock is provided with space for four vessels, but additional craft raft up alongside those tied to the dock.   Since two of the vessels were small motorboats, the sailboats all rafter to the two trawlers that were tied up to the center of the dock. Thankfully it was a quiet night, as our raft up was four deep, with one of the vessels being a

Locking Up

Locking Up

catamaran.   One of the motorboats was a “C-Dory,” about 18 feet in length. The woman on board told Art and the Captain that she and her partner were planning on navigating the

Raft Up in the Dismal Swamp

Raft Up in the Dismal Swamp

“Great Loop,” which would take them up the Hudson River to the New York Canal system, into the Great Lakes, and then down rivers from Chicago (including the Mississippi) to the Gulf of Mexico. This was not the first adventure for this couple as they had already sailed a small 20-foot open boat called a “Sea Pearl” across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.   The skipper of the trawler that Pathfinder had rafted to had some interesting stories.   He was from Michigan and was also on the “Great Loop,” and had already completed the river section of the run. He had some hair-raising tales to tell, including one night on the Illinois River when his boat was pinned to an island by a great tree trunk that came floating down the river in the middle of the night.   “Great Loopers” all seem to have some sort of horror story about running the rivers.

 

May 4th – All boats departed the NC Visitors Center at 0730 for the long straight run

One Step Closer

One Step Closer

through the Dismal Swamp.   The trees were in full foliage, so it was not unlike strolling through a shady lane for 18 miles at five miles an hour.   At 1100, eight boats all entered the “Deep Creek” lock with its energetic and talkative lock keeper.   The Captain remembered him from our transit over two years ago when heading south.   In the fall he asks any vessel that is going to the Bahamas to bring him back a conch shell and he has quite a collection sitting in front of the small office building in front of the lock.   He had one conch that had been modified so it can be blown like a trumpet (there seems to be several “sunset conchs” blown every evening in the Bahamas) and he was a virtuoso when he demonstrated his ability.   When it came to lowering the water level eight feet to the height of the Elizabeth River, he was all business, and before we knew we were motoring into the industrial port of Norfolk.   We waited for, then passed through the Gilmerton bridge, the last opening bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway.   We tied

Navy Norfolk Drydock

Navy Norfolk Drydock

Pathfinder up at the Ocean City Yacht Center on the Portsmouth side of the river, the same place she rode out hurricane Sandy in October of 2012.   This time there were several large sailboats outfitting to cross the Atlantic via Bermuda and the Azores, and the crews were bustling about with a sense of excitement.   For Art, this was his last port of call and he treated the Captain at an excellent Italian restaurant in downtown Portsmouth.   We celebrated a successful ICW run and talked of sailing opportunities on the Maine Coast in the coming summer months.

 

May 5th – Art departed for the airport after breakfast and the Captain buckled down to cleaning.   The “Waterway Mustache” is a brownish stain that is seen on the bow of white hulled vessels that run up and down the ICW.   Pathfinder had a full blown “stache” at this point as well as a few stains on the stern and counter.   There are a few products that remove the stain with out too much fuss, but it took time and a dinghy, which Art had helped launch the day before.   As well as the Waterway reminders, the decks and cockpit cushions received the scrubbing they deserved.   The afternoon weather was hot, the warmest it had been since Beaufort, SC.

 

May 6th – The Captain went solo for the first time on the voyage, as the weather forecast called for light following winds and there were still many miles to go before a Maine arrival. Pathfinder was underway at 0600 from the Portsmouth, VA marina and found a fair tide through Norfolk Harbor. Commercial traffic was sparse, and inbound naval vessel

Early Morning Arrival

Early Morning Arrival

made its arrival off the piers in the early morning light.   It was not long before Old Point Comfort lighthouse was abeam and the course was set to north and into Chesapeake Bay. Winds stayed fairly light as predicted, but there were seas from the stern, which caused the auto-pilot to labor a bit. The Captain was critical of its performance but this didn’t seem to help much.   Occasionally he would relieve the auto-pilot of its duties, but being a solo sailor he decided that as long as a relatively steady course could be held that he would have to accept the job that was being done. With luck there was a fair tide that held all day long and by early afternoon Pathfinder was abeam Deltaville, the original destination of the day. The Captain decided to take advantage of the tide and pushed on to Mill Creek, just south of Reedville, VA.   It was a beautiful anchorage and completely protected, although there was hardly any wind.   The engine was shut down at 1630 and it was a very tired skipper that turned out the light at dusk.

 

May 7th – The anchor was aweigh at 0645 and Pathfinder wound its way out of Mill Creek and back into the Chesapeake.   The crab pots were dodged until clear of Smith Point, where a course was resumed to the north.   It was a Chesapeake Morning and the Captain had the Schooner Fare tune running through his head as the sun rose above the morning haze. Occasionally the jib was rolled out to help out the engine, but there just wasn’t enough wind to make it very affective. Seas became almost flat and the auto-pilot found that this was much to its liking.   In the late morning we passed the “Point No Point” lighthouse and the Captain wondered what the point was?   The amazing thing is that somebody in Puget Sound decided that it was a wonderful name and that west coast sailors should have a pointless place on the chart to go by. The fact that is close to “Useless Bay” makes a person wonder if the cartographers were just having a bad day? Since it is pointless to go on with this useless diatribe, let us just say that Pathfinder arrived in Solomons, Maryland at 1400 and picked up a welcome mooring at Zahniser’s Marina, and the Captain enjoyed a hot shower in one of the cleanest sailor’s facilities on the coast.

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