Monday, August 27, 2007

August 24. We were invited to visit some people that we’ve met on an internet sailing board. I think I might be turning into Jim. Nanette and her boyfriend Brian had arranged a transient dock for us, for the night, at the yacht club they belong to.

We left Port Jefferson for the 20 mile trip across the Sound to Fairfield Connecticut. We also knew that our friends on the Donna-Lynn and Tia Rain would be transiting the Sound today. I knew where they were leaving from and where they were headed so we timed it to run into them. It worked perfectly, we saw them and altered course only a few degrees and were on top off them before they even realized that it was us. We pulled along side for a few hundred yards, had some small talk and were off on our respective courses again in 5 minutes.

The dock was actually an 8 foot by 100 foot floating dock that was held in place out in the middle of the river by several large mooring anchors. It was unlike anything we’ve seen as of yet. The whole thing only took up the space that would have held 2 moorings but instead, as a dock, it had space for 6 good sized boats.

Nanette and Brian came out to the boat and visited for a while before we all headed into town to eat at a really good Italian place. Afterwards we stopped in for a nightcap at their yacht club. It was a really good time and we planned to meet tomorrow over in Oyster Bay. Since the weekend was upon us they would be able to sail their Pearson 38 foot yawl, Scout, over and spend the night.

It was late by the time we turned in and we slept like the dead.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

August 23. It was a crappy night for sleeping. We were lying to the tidal flow with a moderate breeze coming straight at the stern. That drives little wavelets up under the overhang and makes for a noisy, restless night.

This morning we did discover that the anchor windlass is somehow connected to the wind switch. Because as soon as we pulled the anchor this morning the breeze that had been tormenting me all night just magically stopped. It just can’t be coincidence.

So we headed off diagonally across Long Island Sound bound for Port Jefferson. After about 2 hours of motoring the wind had built to about 6 knots. I’ve been spoiled by the last 2 days of great sailing so I was going to will it to happen again. I pulled out the entire genoa and shut off the engine. The wind stayed between 4 and 8 knots but luckily we were also riding the flood tide for about a knot. Christy looked at me, rolled her eyes and went back to her book as we ghosted across the Sound at close to 4 knots.

While we were motoring our ETA for Port Jefferson was about 1330 hours. As the day went by I watched that balloon to 1730 hours. After 4 hours of drifting, err, sailing along I restarted the engine and ended up dropping the hook in Port Jeff at 1500 hours. It was slow as hell but it wasn’t really that bad a day and we thought we might have seen the sun. We were not really sure, it coulda been, from what we remember of it.

We read about a place in town that serves great seafood, cheap. So we hopped in the dinghy and went in search of the “Seafood Grail” First we had to land and tie up the dinghy. The guidebook says the Danford Marina will let you tie up at their dock while you go into town. We find it, tie up and a guy at the counter says “that’ll be 7 bucks”. I pay the 7 and secretly plan to have one less beer with dinner and skimp on the tip.

Well, the jokes on me. There is no waitress as its self serve. Think about a Burger King that only serves seafood, with no English spoken behind the counter, more flying insects than you could kill and toss in some filth. Bon Appetite. Actually, we both had Grouper sandwiches and they were really good it’s just that the place had the atmosphere of the cafeteria at Riker’s Island. It’s really hard to screw up outside, waterfront dining but they managed to do so.

Then Christy and I went for a little walk around town and ended up at the dock master’s office. We went inside to ask if there was a town dock where we could tie up our dinghy for free. The girl behind the counter could not comprehend what a dinghy was. I’m explaining “ya know, the little boat you take from the big boat to the dock”. I mean for Christ’s sake, she works on the waterfront, at the dockmasters office and she is unfamiliar with the term “dinghy”. I asked her a few times all the while getting the “deer in the headlights” look. Finally she blurts out “I don’t know what that word means”. No wonder the Son of Sam killed New Yorkers. I started getting a little twitchy……

August 22. We had to wait for a rising tide in order to get back out the channel at the Watch Hill anchorage. Low tide was scheduled for 0930 so we waited until 1130 to hoist anchor and get underway. The trip out the channel went well with no surprises.

The sky was overcast but not raining and there was a decent bit of breeze from the east. Today was another day completely under sail alone. It was a much nicer day than yesterday. The sea state was less rolly as we were behind Fischer’s Island for the first few hours and the breeze was a more comfortable 10 to 15 knots.

We had the main up with just a slice of jib out as well. I can’t roll out the entire jib at this point of sail as the main blankets it and the jib collapses for lack of airflow. The wind was directly over the stern so it was easier to just lay the main out and tie a preventer. We were still moving along nicely at about 6 knots.

Our anchorage for the night is Duck Island; even with the late start it’s been a pleasant 35 mile day. This is the place we broke down on our way east. We could use some water so we pull into the fuel dock and get 20 gallons of diesel and over a hundred gallons of water. Then it’s back out into the anchorage to drop the hook for the night.

As Christy was preparing dinner, some sailboats come out of the river and started to mill about. There’s a huge racing program here in Westbrook Ct. with a different class every night of the week. We’ve been here before and watched the 15 and 16 foot boats racing. It’s a lot of fun to watch and better yet, tonight is PHRF racing. That means there are larger boats of many different styles racing against each other. There were 26 boats tonight so it should be great. Wait, it gets better……..

The committee boat comes and puts the windward mark just 150 feet off our stern. So we were right on top of the action as boats fought each other for position, rounded the mark and let their spinnakers fly. You couldn’t get better dinner time entertainment. We took about 90 pictures of people we didn’t know, lol. They sailed right up until dark, it was great.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

August 21. We were up and underway at 1000 hours. Cuttyhunk is only 4 or 5 hours away so there was no hurry to get going.

After hoisting the anchor we left the anchorage via the north side of Dutch Island. After rounding Dutch Island we turned south and headed back down Narragansett Bay. There was 15 to 20 knots of wind coming from the east so it made for a very spirited sail down the bay.

At the south end of the bay we had to turn east and as we did so we were faced with the prospect of 20 knots of wind dead on the nose. We sailed, south southeast, which was as close to the wind as we could get. The wind was pushing big slow rolling waves at us. Veranda handled the big seas just fine and after heading offshore a couple of miles we tacked back to the north east. Our first tack was going to put us just past Newport which meant a long uncomfortable day of tacking across big seas over and over again to get east to Cuttyhunk.

Christy and I had a quick conference and reminded ourselves that we’re supposed to be having fun. If we kept going east it meant taking an ass kicking all day, its been cold as hell here and it’s only going to get worse as we proceed and oh yeah it was raining. So we decided that Connecticut was nice, Rhode Island was beautiful and to hell with Massachusetts, we turned around.

The wind is supposed to blow hard from the east for the next couple of days so why shouldn’t we turn around and ride it for all its worth. There’s plenty to stop and see in Long Island Sound and if we get back to Jersey a few days early, so what.

As soon as we turned around we were faced with picking a spot to stop for the night. We passed on the Harbor of Refuge at Point Judith as it’s fairly close and we were flying along. We finally decided on the anchorage at Watch Hill where we stopped once before. It’s protected, we’re familiar with it and it’s got some limited Wifi and dog walking is easy enough.

So we end up doing a 40 mile day all under sail. We had a big following sea and were between 7.5 and 9 knots all day. We even saw 10 knots several times and even an 11 as we surfed down the waves. It was the best day of pure sailing we’ve seen in a year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

August 20. We’re here in Dutch Harbor, RI. It’s a little nook on the west side of Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay. There’s a small marina with a mooring field and we’re anchored just to the north of the field.

The trip over from Block Island was a short trip of a couple of hours of motor sailing in very light wind. We were supposed to get here a day earlier but we needed an extra night to rest after our “big” night in Block.

The shoreline here is different from what we’ve seen so far on our trip. The shore is strewn with rocks and boulders. Its kinda creepy thinking that there might be more lurking just below the surface waiting to ruin your day. It does make for beautiful scenery though. On our way up the bay there was a rock marked on the charts that we were keeping a sharp lookout for. When we finally saw Whale Rock it turned out to be bigger than the boat, so it’s unlikely that we would have missed that one.

A twenty minute walk up and over the island takes you to the east side of the island with a view of Newport on the far shore. As you reach the peak of the island you come to both the grocery store and the liquor store. At least carrying all the provisions back to the boat is a downhill affair.

We spent the evening on an internet friend’s boat. We had never met Scott & Julie but had followed their adventures as they refurbished their classic 40 foot sailboat. I wrote them to ask advice on anchorages since these are their home waters. When we got here we were invited over to their boat to join a gathering of their family and friends. We hit it off very well and enjoyed the evening immensely. After a few hours we went back to the Veranda armed with advice and local knowledge about the surrounding waters.

A quick word about the weather, COLD. We can’t get over the low temperatures we’ve been encountering as of late. People here say this is very cool for this time of year. Yeah, that’s nice but it doesn’t change anything, its fricken cold. We thought we’d head north until the end of August but if this keeps up we’ll be turning this baby around in 2 or 3 more days.

Tomorrow we’re off to Cuttyhunk or Hadley Harbor near Woods Hole, Mass. Depending on how well the day goes. After we see both of those places we’d like to get to Martha’s Vineyard. If the weather warms up we’ll probably make Nantucket as well and if not, than nope we won’t.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

August 18. Last evening was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Just before sundown a guy came in, threw his anchor and about 60 feet of rode over the side. The water is over 25 feet deep here so he’s barely sitting at a scope of 2 to 1, totally unacceptable. At that moment there’s virtually no breeze so the boat’s just floating there with the anchor just sitting on the bottom. There are rain clouds on the horizon, which means probable wind, he didn’t set the hook and he and his party get right in the dinghy and head into shore.

Christy is somewhat of a body English expert and she’s sure that the woman and this guy are on her first “boat” date. Also on board is the woman’s 12 year old daughter. The girl, who is wearing a huge PFD starts to cry uncontrollably when its time to get into the dinghy. She was blubbering like an infant with a wet diaper. The guys been running around trying to save the “date” and off they go into town for hopefully better times. Just after they leave a light rain starts to fall, we look over and see that the companion way is open, as are all the ports and hatches. I figured they’ll be more tears later.

The rain only lasted for a few hours and we turned in at 2300 hours. There was not a hint of breeze or a ripple on the surface of the water. Thirty minutes later we’re both awakened by the most blood curdling screams anyone’s ever heard. Think of the most powerful screaming you’ve ever heard in a horror movie. This woman screamed non-stop for more than ten minutes, Lance Armstrong would have envied this woman’s lung capacity; it was horrible to listen too. We couldn’t tell how far away it was nor could we really determine the direction.

Christy called the harbor master and then we listened to the VHF, nobody seemed to know anything. It sounded like it could be coming all the way from Champlin’s Marina close to a half mile away, we just couldn’t be sure. We tried to rationalize what the problem possibly could have been. I figured if her child had drowned she’d be screaming for help or something like why, why? If her husband had had a heart attack she’d be screaming for help. If she was being attacked she would have screamed for help or her attacker would have shut her up. I envisioned a nasty fall with a horribly broken leg or something. It was a very helpless feeling and she never said a word, just wailed and it finally faded into sobs and then quiet.

The evening was not over yet, not even close. We get back to sleep and at 0100 hours the wind generator comes to life and starts to spin like crazy. I jumped up and threw on shorts and hoody and was on deck in less than 60 seconds.

I was a little disoriented as I was sound asleep only a moment ago and its pitch black. The wind has come in shrieking from the north. The “boat daters” and their boat are already gone, blown off into the crowded anchorage. There were a half dozen boats up ahead of us in the dark. I got complacent about my own rule of being the most northern boat in any anchorage. This place is a small pond in the center of an island, I figured how bad could it get, I got careless and now it might cost us.

Less than a minute after getting on deck one of the small sailboats ahead of us fly’s down our starboard side dragging their anchor as the couple on board fight to gain control of the situation. They’re close enough that I can see their faces yet they’re to busy to see me and then they’re gone, blown off into the dark void behind us.

I call for Christy to dress and get on deck, its time for teamwork. Christy said she knew it had to be something serious because I usually tell her to go back to sleep, that I’ll take care of it. Christy started the engine so we could dodge dragging boats and take some pressure off the ground tackle if we need to. There was also the very real danger of somebody dragging down and snagging our anchor and ripping it from the bottom taking us along with them. All hell was breaking loose all around us, air horns everywhere, deck lights coming on and people begging for help on the VHF.

We couldn’t see anything ahead of us, as its so damned dark, so I have Christy turn on our deck lights. It will destroy our night vision but we’re practically blind anyway. I was hoping that anyone who had broken free from the bottom might be able to avoid us if they could see us.

Getting to the bow was an effort as the wind was ferocious and the boat was bucking wildly at her anchor chain. Then it got worse…….

A deck light came on in front of us and revealed a huge ketch sideways to the wind and seas just ahead of us. She’s as big or bigger than we are, this could be ugly. She had started the evening about a hundred yards ahead of us and now she was about 60 yards away and steadily dragging. With the glow of her light ahead of us I can also see the size of the waves that are ripping through the anchorage and the boats breaking free off to both sides of us. Then it got a little bizarre for me. I was crouched at the bow and the scene in front of me became almost surreal. The winds noise and ferocity faded away, the danger was put aside and I started to watch the guy on the foredeck of the big boat in front of me. It was like watching the climax of an action film; I could see his boat rise up on the crest of each wave and fall out from under him all the while with him fighting valiantly to gain control before they dragged down on us. All of this was illuminated by his deck light and it looked as if his struggle was under the spotlight on a sound stage. It was a battle between man and nature, good and evil, it was epic, it was amazing to experience.

When I looked down I realized that while I was watching him, my hands were on their own and dumping chain in the water to increase our “scope” and thus our holding power. The guy in front of us was also dumping chain and he even dropped a second anchor to help stem his boats movement towards us. His boat finally recaught the bottom and danced wildly just off our bow. It also felt as if the wind was finally dying so I made my way back to the cockpit to see how Christy was holding up. The wind speed indicator at the helm said that there was still over 30 knots of wind but it felt so much calmer now that the worst was over. The radio was full of calls for help, people were frantic, they were overwhelmed, and you could hear the desperation in their voices.

One woman was pleading for help. Her husband was trying to maneuver their boat through the crowd after having wrapped their propeller in their own anchor rode as they were dragging. Now the engine won’t turn because the rope was tangled around the prop and the anchor was just skipping across the bottom as they bounce off one boat after another. They’re just being blown through the crowd with no means of control. Christy picks up the mic and in a calm voice tells the woman to deploy their second anchor. The woman says “oh my god, we forgot about it”. It was an experience to remember, Christy was calm, the guy in front of us was heroic and yet others fell to pieces.

There is one Boat US tow boat stationed in Block Island and one small Coast Guard boat. The tow boat guy was overwhelmed with calls as more than fifty boats dragged themselves into dire circumstances. Combine the pitch dark, the flashing rescue lights and the odd deck and anchor lights and it was an extraordinarily eerie scene. There were 5 boats tangled together all hanging from one anchor still firmly buried in the bottom right behind us. All the people on board were trying to fend each other away all night to try and limit the amount of damage. Anchored boats were breaking free and dragging through the mooring field, nobody was safe.

I sat up all night to keep an eye on things as the wind finally faded to 25 knots. Christy went below to try and get some rest but was able to get very little. As the light of dawn broke it was a scene of confusion that Christy and I surveyed. Every boat had a head or 2 in the cockpit, nobody got any sleep. In our immediate surroundings it was an amazing sight. We had gone to bed with boats all around us and now there were only 5 of us. Several boats ahead of us and every boat for a hundred yards behind us had dragged away.

As the sun came up so did the wind. Its back up to a steady 30 knots and boat are still moving about. Christy sat and kept watch while I got and hour of sleep in the cockpit. Once I was up, she napped and we kept a good watch until early afternoon when the winds finally slowed to 15 knots or so. One of the boats in the anchorage broadcasts that his wind speed indicator recorded a high speed of 47 knots. There were 40 foot boats up on the shore behind us. The big ketch in front of us was only twenty yards away and there were reports of several of the mooring balls dragging as well. I have no idea how people survive a hurricane.

During our morning “watch” Christy and I listened as a sailor called the Coast Guard and asked to be evacuated because they were taking on water. He gave a GPS coordinate, then said that they were 8 miles south of Cuttyhunk and then gave yet another coordinate. The Coast Guard started with their list of inane questions and after a few answers the guy yelled into the mic that “no, the pumps are not keeping up, we’re taking on hundred’s of gallons a minute” and then not another word. Nothing.

A commercial fisherman called in and said that he was 11 miles south of Cuttyhunk and the wind was blowing 40 knots with 16 foot seas. He was heading for the spot 3 miles away in an effort to help. The Coast Guard then realized that neither coordinate that had been given was anywhere near the spot near Cuttyhunk. Another fisherman was near the second set of coordinates and reported seeing a sailboat about 5 miles away in that direction. Long story short, the Coast Guard found the boat with the help of the second fisherman and airlifted 2 people away as it sank out from under them. The guy’s mistake in reporting their position almost cost them their lives.

What a day, I think tomorrow will be better.

Friday, August 17, 2007

August 15. We left the harbor at Watch Hill at 0900 just moments before high tide. We made it back out through the channel and turned for Block Island. For the first few miles we had 10 knots of wind over the stern so we had the genoa up with the tide behind us for a speed of about 6 knots.

Shortly after transiting the Watch Hill Passage the wind clocked around and now we were motor sailing with the mainsail alone. It was a pleasant ride in spite of the overcast conditions. We made good time and were anchored in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island by 1310.

As it turns out our friends Pat & Donna with their 2 daughters are there with some friends. We anchored nearby and planned to visit with them later in the evening.

It’s funny how the weather can change plans. There was a fairly vicious squall line moving south through the area late in the afternoon. The wind was from the south but true to form when the big winds came it was from the north. Of course our nearest neighbor dragged down on us as the winds built and clocked around. He pulled in 10 feet of anchor rode as we let out 20 more to allow him to swing past our bow. Sometimes I just feel like an asshole magnet. After the squall came through we were rewarded with a sunset that cast a bright red glow across the entire anchorage.

We don’t have the market cornered on adventures though. During the squall another boat dragged but managed to collect himself and reanchor. Unfortunately after all was said and done he ended up very close to another boat. This second captain demanded that the first guy pull his anchor and try it again. This led to a very heated argument between the 2 boats with the first guy finally pulling his anchor to try again in the fading light of day. As fate would have it though he ended up backing up over the second guys anchor line and wrapping it around his prop. So now they’re both banging against each other side by side, one facing north, and the other south. It was kind of like a pirate movie where they come along side each other for the final assault. So they’re both hanging from one anchor that’s wrapped around the guys prop in the crowded anchorage, screaming. Finally the Harbormaster and Towboat US came and got the remaining anchor up and towed them out into the darkness to separate them. Sailing is so relaxing.

The next morning the anchorage emptied out so we upped anchor and moved another 200 feet from the anchor dragging guy. Christy and I went for a dinghy tour of the anchorage and then went into town for a few hours. Upon our return we were informed that the anchor dragging guy dragged once again with virtually no breeze. Guess whose boat he came within 6 feet of hitting. Luckily our friend Pat was onboard his boat and noticed what was transpiring. He and his buddy, Rob boarded the unoccupied dragging boat and used their dinghy as a small tugboat to push Mr. Noanchoringskillwhatsoever away and then reset his anchor properly for him. I knew those Karma points I’ve been building would pay dividends one day.

We spent some time with Pat & Donna’s girls in the afternoon. They came over to spend some time with the dogs as they were missing their own dog who was left at home while they’re away on their trip. They were a little quiet and shy for about 7 seconds and then BANG, nonstop chatter about every topic under the sun. Holy crap, it was all I could do to keep up. I learned so much. I was feeding them grapes as fast as I could just so I could get a word in edgewise. Christy was in her element and I had no chance with 3 “women” in a chatting frenzy. I can’t wait to do it again. Seriously, I love a challenge.

The anchorage here at Block Island has a huge turnover everyday. Boats leave all morning and then a new supply of anchoring entertainment comes into the harbor every afternoon. It’s always the same mistakes but some people just have to add their own personal touch so it just never gets old.

The town here is about a mile away from the marina. It’s full of little tourist shops and eateries of every shape and size. It’s a charming little island but I have a hard time imagining enduring a New England winter on this tiny windswept rock.

We went to the only supermarket here on the island. It kind of reminded me of an A&P from the sixties. It was smaller than I expected with a fairly limited selection. The price of stuff was astonishing. A twelve pack of Diet Coke was ten dollars, seriously. We just went in for a few cold cuts, some bread and picked up the 12 pack of soda as an afterthought, 40 bucks for practically nothing. I can’t figure out how the locals here can feed a family.

There are 3 different marinas here in the Great Salt Pond. The biggest and most popular is Champlain’s Marina. Since we’ve been traveling we’ve probably stopped at fifty different marinas, either for fuel, water, dockage or repairs. This place ranks down there in one of the 2 worst we’ve been to. The dockhands are lazy, inattentive and some are inept. It’s a very busy place with boats rafted to docks sometimes 4 boats wide. The other 2 marinas are both smaller so this place has a take it or leave it attitude like they’re the only place in town.

The protocol is that when arriving a boat has to hail the dockmaster and announce their arrival. The dockmaster then looks for an appropriate spot and directs the boat owner on how to rig fenders and where to go. Sometimes there will be several boats milling about while these decisions are made. To make it easier some boaters will be told to switch from channel 12 to channel 11 because there are so many on the same channel at once.

We heard one boater told to go to eleven and after a while he went back to 12 and politely reminded the dockmaster that he was still waiting. The dockmasters reply was “I thought I told you to go to eleven, what are you doing on 12 *click*” There was no “sorry for the delay’ no “we’ll be right with you” instead the guy got bitch slapped on the VHF. I have to admit that I would be frustrated by some of the clueless boat owners they have to deal with here but the rudeness of the staff in general is appalling.

We’re anchored out in the harbor so it doesn’t really impact us but it is sad to see and hear. Otherwise Block Island is quite the charming place.

Monday, August 13, 2007

August 11. Holy crap what a difference a day makes. We rose to a beautiful cloudless sky with 10 knots of breeze that we could work with.

We weighed anchor and motored out of the cove and set our sails and turned east. We were moving along at about 5 knots through Fischer Island Sound. At the eastern end of the sound we were going to decide if we were going straight to Block Island or if we were going to yesterday’s original destination, the harbor at Watch Hill.

Just as we were getting to the decision point the wind completely died. We could also hear all the boats on their way out to Block complaining about the complete lack of wind. So we turned northeast and motored the couple of miles into Watch Hill. We’ll save the trip out to Block for a day with some breeze.

At the entrance to Watch Hill we were treated to a racing fleet getting ready for the beginning of their next race. The thing that made it so special that all of the 30 or so boats were classic Herrshoff designed sailboats.

The long channel into Watch Hill is a well marked, winding affair. There’s a 3 foot tidal range here and we were more than half way into a falling tide. A few times the depth finder showed 5 inches of water under our keel. We’ll have to make sure that we don’t try to leave here at any point close to low tide as we won’t make it out.

The anchorage is absolutely lovely. 9 feet of water at low tide next to a grass covered dune that separates the anchorage from the ocean.

Christy and I were listening to the VHF when a guy gets on the radio and calls the Coast Guard to tell them that his boat is on fire. We couldn’t believe how calm this guy was. It’s agonizing when the Coast Guard starts asking their list of questions. It’s like they ask a question, write down the answer and a few seconds later ask the next question and just seems like very little information is extracted in 10 minutes of back and forth communication.

Is it just smoke or are there flames as well?
Just smoke, we’re afraid to open the engine room door to look inside.
What color smoke?
Black smoke.
How many people on board?
Are they wearing life jackets?
Can you shut the fuel supply off with out opening the engine room door?
Have you shut the engine down?
Do you have fire fighting equipment?
Yes but I can’t get to it, it’s in the engine room. (Sorry, but that made me laugh)
Do you have a raft on board?
Is the boat gas or diesel powered?
Diesel……..but the smoke seems to have dissipated and I’ve looked inside the engine room and there seems to be nothing on fire.
Were still going to send a boat out your way, do you have towing insurance?
No but I’d like someone to be here with us when I restart the engines.

So it seems that this guy had enough black smoke billowing from the engine room to warrant a call to the Coast Guard. Then after the possible fire went out he deemed that it would be fine to restart em’ and get back underway. After the towboat guy was on scene he went and looked in the engine room. It turns out that a steering cable had chafed through an electrical harness, causing a short and the subsequent fire. The towboat guy said the damage was so bad that all of the steering and throttle cables were melted together to the point of immobility. The only electrical thing on the entire boat that still worked was the VHF radio. This guy thought he’d just start it back up and continue on his merry way. Maybe he thought that black smoke from the engine room meant they picked a new pope or something.

After dinner Christy and I were putting the dogs back into the dinghy after their walk when an official in a beach rover pulled up and shut his engine off. I’m thinking good thoughts and am pleased that this guy is stopping to chat with us. It turns out that there’s no dog walking allowed on the beach, not on either the ocean or the bay side. The people here are dog haters. The guy is pretty cool though and warns us to watch out for the guy who patrols here tomorrow because he’s a bit of a prick. Great, now I’ve got to play Iron Curtain and watch from the boat for the beach buggy to go by so I can throw the dogs into the dinghy, race them to shore, squeeze them and get away before he makes his next round. Where’s Ronald Reagan when you need him?

We’ve decided to spend the day here tomorrow and head over to Block Island on Monday and avoid the weekend crowd over there. The town here is supposed to be pretty nice even if it is overrun with dog haters. We’ll see.
We haven’t included any “boat names of the day” in a while and we have seen some good ones. There seems to be a theme of sorts lately as we’ve seen “Kid’s Inheritance”, “Kid’s Tuition” and “My Children’s Inheritance”. Our favorite lately was “Nervous Wreck”, can’t you just hear him calling the fuel dock for assistance because he’s a Nervous Wreck.
August 10. First off, let’s start off with a little bit about the Brewer’s Pilot’s Point Marina in Westbrook Connecticut. Its part of the Brewer’s Marina empire which means its part of a huge marina conglomerate with over a dozen marinas under one umbrella.

They were wonderful to us in this stressful time. They had a mechanic on our boat that worked like a dog. He was a real pleasant guy that didn’t spend any time bullshiting. If he had to go back to the shop for something he was back on the boat in just moments and we never felt as if our time “on the clock” was being wasted. They encouraged me to do as much of the disassembly as I could so we could save a few dollars.

We could have walked out of there and spent less money to get back underway but since we were so far into a major disassembly it only made sense to refurbish as much of the drive train as possible. A big part of this decision was based on how we were treated and the quality of the work that was done. We just felt like we were getting our monies worth.

We were minor celebrities there as one of the gas dock attendants told us that they had never had anyone actually live in the travel lift before. We were only hanging in the slings for 2 days but it seemed like a big deal to them.

So the boat was finished on Thursday morning. We got a ride into town to go food shopping while the bean counters tallied up the bill for our stay. After lunch we went up to the office and paid the bill then we went back to the boat and cried for a couple of hours. Not really…… crying never helps. We spent the rest of the day filling the fresh water tank, washing the boat, putting the interior of the boat back together and giving the dogs baths.

We left the service dock at 1800 hours and stopped at the fuel dock on our way out into the anchorage that we had stopped in 2 weeks ago when we first discovered our mechanical maladies. We were treated to a beautiful sunset over the regular Thursday night racing. It felt wonderful to back on the hook again.

The next morning we woke to a gray dismal day with 10 to 15 knots of wind straight from the direction we wished to travel. We had several other boats in the anchorage with us last night and each one left one by one. We watched as all of them turned west, finally one, Indulgence turned east. The tide would turn in our favor at about 0930 so we were in no hurry to get underway. We even sat and debated waiting until the next day before heading east. Once our neighbor, Indulgence, was underway for about an hour, Christy hailed him on the radio for a report on the conditions they were encountering. He replied that it wasn’t as bad as you’d think and they were making good time. It sounded fairly encouraging and we were on the fence about leaving so we hauled anchor and got underway.

About 45 minutes later Indulgence hailed us and said that things had gone to hell in a handbasket. The wind had piped up to 25 knots right on the nose and with the tide ebbing behind them they were getting their ass kicked. He advised that if we didn’t have anyplace special to get to today that we should stay put behind the seawall at Duck Island. Christy told him that we were underway 5 minutes after speaking to him the first time and things weren’t too bad as we only had about 12 knots of wind against us. His advice was to turn around and wait for better weather tomorrow and he wished us well and signed off.

Turns out, he was right. I should have turned around but we had already covered a few miles and I didn’t want to give those miles back. (Yeah I know stupid, stubborn, whatever I see it as adventurous) We ended up seeing 28 knots as our high and never less than 20 for the next few hours. The wind wasn’t really the problem; it was the fact that it was opposing a knot and a half tidal flow. This results in a very steep, nasty chop, think breaking waves one right after another. Again and again Veranda would explode out the back of a wave and crash down into the trough of the next wave with a thunderous explosion of spray. Several times we’d run into the odd huge wave that would bury our bow with enough green water to obscure everything on the foredeck.

A quick word about the crew. Christy handled the ride just fine, she said she knew that when Indulgence suggested that we turn back “that wasn’t going to happen.” It really was a crappy day with this being the worst conditions we’ve set out into and I should have turned back, screw adventure. I never heard “I told you so”. (It might have been uttered, I just never heard it) Rover steered the whole time and was spectacular. Molly is usually on high alert whenever we’re underway but today she just curled up and went to sleep seemingly unfazed. Tucker usually sleeps from anchor up to anchor down. Not today, he was freakin’ out. He was trying to stand so he’s falling this way and that like a furry bowling pin. It got so bad for him that we had to put him below where he finally laid down.

At one point on our trip the bottom rises sharply towards the surface. The depth goes from 70 feet to 20 in practically no time. This means that the immense volume of water now has to flow up and over this submerged plateau. This creates an actual lump on the water and with the wind cranking against it it made the area look like we should be white water rafting. It was crazy to see and I checked the depths on 2 different charts and the chartplotter just make sure that the water was really deep enough to pass through.

We decided to cut the day as short as possible (without turning around). We picked a small cove near Great Neck, Ct. as the place most likely to be comfortable for the night. The chart showed a boat ramp there so I knew that meant dog walking would be available.

For the last 2 miles as we motored into the cove the seas and wind started to abate as we drew closer to land. We anchored in a rock lined cove right in front of the boat ramp with only 10 knots of breeze in the lee of the land. It was good to drop the hook and be able to just sit back without having to hold on. All in all it was only a 16 mile day with 9 of those miles being truly horrendous.

We sat and listened to boaters all around the area changing plans and seeking shelter. The Coast Guard was looking for one small sailboat that had disappeared during the day. We heard about dinghies blown away, genoas torn to shreds and even one guy who swore he was encountering 45 knot gusts. Now that’s adventure………

Sunday, August 5, 2007

August 4. Today’s been a day of firsts. First a little about Connecticut. I always pictured Connecticut as being in the same boat as Rhode Island and Massachusetts. You know the Kennedy’s, Martha’s Vineyard, Yachts, Kennebunkport, uptight conservative political snobbery. In reality the motorcyclists here wear no helmets and you can buy fireworks on the side of the road. They’re kind of like the hillbillies of the north…….who knew.

Christy got out the sewing machine and replaced the bug screen in our companion way hatch. I’m definitely beginning to domesticate her. First she’s up at any hour, no matter how ridiculously early it is and now she’s sewing bug screens. Who knows what tomorrow holds…….

We went up to Bill’s Seafood again for dinner. The place is way diveier than the Captains Inn but the food is great. Christy asks the waitress what she recommends and she instantly replies “a place with air conditioning”. It sits just past a “singing bridge” with a seven foot clearance. This means that the only boat traffic to watch is the occasional bow rider or tiny center console going past.

There are about a dozen “premium” tables with this glorious water side view with at least 50 second and third row tables available. As we were eating we were watching some guy and his date as they stood and waited for one of these evidently very desirerable front row tables to open up. It was kind of sad actually to think that one of the highlights of their evening was going to be their seat assignment at this fine eatery.

The mood did pick up for me when Christy leaned close to me at the table and said “promise me that you’ll never use ketchup in a restaurant again”. I look over at the next table and there’s this kid about 5 or 6 years old. He’s got the flip top ketchup in his mouth and he’s squeezing the bottle so he can suck the ketchup straight out of the container. Then he see’s that crusty, dry, old ketchup that’s stuck up inside the lid. Well evidently it some kind of delicacy wherever this kid is from. For as he’s putting the bottle down he see’s the inside of the lid has more tasty delights and he goes to work on the inside of the lid with his tongue. I should have gotten his autograph because with tongue work like that the kid definitely has a future in porn. Christy was all grossed out and I’m laughing like an idiot and all the while the kid’s parents don’t have a clue. Children are so precious.

So now I’m thinking I’ve seen everything and I’m still laughing as we get into the dinghy and head back to the boat. As we round a bend a small center console comes into view coming the other way. Now I’ve seen everything. The driver of the boat is wearing one of those full halo devices complete with the 2 screws into his forehead and 2 more into the back of his head. He’s standing there practically immobilized with this framework supporting his head and limiting his ability to move. Think Frankenboater. He and his girl both wave as we go by so Christy and I gave the reciprocal wave……….I was just going to nod but I didn’t want to show off. Holy crap, I can’t believe I just saw this guy in his little power boat with a broken neck. His doctor would have a stroke. I feel like a bobblehead after 10 minutes in a boat like that, I can’t imagine what he was thinking. I hope that was a small step in a miraculous recovery because that was bizarre to see.

As far as our boat goes…….we’re back in the water. The new shaft and shaft log are in and the stuffing box was cleaned up and repacked. As it stands now everything should be ready on Monday afternoon for reassembly. I hope we’ll be back underway by Thursday, we’ll see. We are using the time to do some boat chores and at the same time we are taking advantage of the pool here at the marina because its been hot as hell here.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

August 1. Things aren’t going quite as well as we had envisioned. Once the bronze propeller shaft had been removed it became obvious that the shaft was scrap. There were deep grooves worn into the shaft where the packing had ridden on it in the past. Somebody had changed the shaft log and to hide the grooves they had cut the log an extra inch long. This means that the damaged part of the shaft was hidden inside the shaft log where no one could see it. It would probably be fine but as long as we’re this far into it we might as well fix everything we find that’s not right.

This means that there’s a new propeller shaft in our immediate future. On Wednesday morning the old shaft was sent to the local machine shop to be copied. We should have our new stainless version back on Friday. If that happens then we should be back in the water on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately they don’t work here on Saturdays so the rest of the reassembly won’t begin until Monday.

On the bright side tho is the fact that this yard is part of a network of yards so our transmission and V-drive have been sent over to another yard that has a full time guy that just deals with transmissions. So we're still hanging in the travel lift slings until we get the new shaft.

Well that was last night. First thing this morning Dave comes walking over with our brand new prop shaft. The old shaft was dropped off at the machine shop Wednesday morning before lunch and we had the new shaft installed in the boat by 1000 on Thursday. Great service, super quick turnaround.

The prop is back on and we are put back in the water and towed over to our previous berth. The transmission should be back in the morning and the generator is already to go. So there is an outside chance that we could be ready to go by the end of the day tomorrow. We have to remember that even tho the glass is half full it’s not a magical chalice. It all depends on what time the transmission gets here, there’s still a lot of work to do. The transmission and V-drive have to be reinstalled before the generator can be put back into place.

At night after the workmen have left for the day we’ve been using the opportunity to do some work on the boat. First thing we did after the generator and drive train were removed was to clean the bilge. Our bilge is 3 feet deep and was truly a dark scary place. You couldn’t even see the bottom let alone touch it. It’s spotless now…..alright, alright, it is pretty clean though. No, really.

Tonight I moved the generators small fuel filter and electric fuel pump. In its original position you couldn’t change the filter without unbolting the generator from the deck and sliding it aside to provide only marginal access. I had never even seen the tiny electric fuel pump before all this disassembly so I moved that as well since I had the opportunity.

Tomorrow should be interesting……..