Sunday, August 14, 2011

Newport, RI - July 2011

On July 6th we departed Three Mile Harbor and headed back to Block Island to spend the night before heading to Newport, RI.  Unlike our trip to Long Island (Shelter Island) where we had 20+kt head winds and chop, the trip back had little wind and calm seas.  What a difference the time before and the time after the 4th of July makes in Block Island:  much more crowded.  There was no possibility of finding a mooring and we were happy to find a good anchoring spot.  Given that we usually anchor in 10-15 ft of water, an anchoring spot with 40+ feet meant that a whole lot of chain that has never seen daylight was splashed for the first time.

In the morning we skipped the very crowded fuel dock and headed out after the fog lifted (or so we thought).  We spent all but 45 minutes of our four hour transit to Newport in medium to dense fog arriving in Newport harbor as a race was ending with the wind coming up to 20+ kts and the fog still with us.  With some skill and a lot of luck we managed to drop anchor and settle perfectly spaced between surrounding boats in a crowded anchorage.

The morning brought more fog which eventually cleared.  This weather pattern of morning fog with clearing would hold for several days.   Although we had been to Newport harbor before, it was a long time ago and there were changes.  Most of the harbor is covered with private moorings and limited anchoring space.  Dockage is even more limited and is consumed by the mega yachts.  While we can't speak to the most of the mooring/dockage areas, the anchorage is a bit rolly because it is closest to the mouth of the harbor and experiences the tides more.  We made a point of going into town each day in an attempt to alleviate the effect of this motion; especially for Pat who's vertigo was exacerbated.

Our trips to shore were both for mostly for pleasure.  Two restaurants are worth mentioning:  H2O and the Red Parrot.  H2O is new, has a small menu, and great potential.  The Red Parrot has been around awhile, large menu, has the feel of a chain (but isn't).  The plus for the Red Parrot were the steamed clams eaten at the 2nd floor bar.  It became our favorite.    Our most interesting evening was the Keb' Mo' benefit concert for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Putting aside questions about why the International Tennis Hall of Fame would need a benefit concert, Keb' Mo' is a 3 time Grammy winner of blues.  Although he played more "lounge-y" music than blues, we enjoyed ourselves.  One highlight was when he called a local policeman up to the stage and the policeman sang while Keb' Mo' played guitar.  Great voice which the crowd appreciated. 

Perhaps the most fun ashore was a visit to Fort Adams.  From Block Island to Newport, Fort Adams is on your right (or "to starboard" if you want to be nautical) as you approach/enter the harbor.  See for a history of the fort.  Our experience was fun because we had a great docent and an interesting historian.  The fort is not part of the national monuments structure because no battle was ever fought and no lives lost at Ft. Adams.  It was built to protect the harbor from a land attack by including a network of tunnels ranging for 6' to 4' throughout and outside the structure.  Coming over berms would have resulted in gun/cannon fire from multiple directions.  Some of the tunnels have been opened to the public so we joined a tour through the maze.  There was a bench outside the entrance for any who felt that they would not be comfortable in enclosed, dark spaces.   Pat has a technical/philosophical questions about the naming:  should it be called "tunnels" or "underground passages".  Why the question?  The "tunnels" were not dug out/shored up, but built first (brick) and earth placed over them to form the berms.  Pat's inclined to call them underground passages.  Regardless of what they are called, we received stickers making us tunnel rats for making it through the maze.   During the day we visited Ft. Adams, there were re-enactors demonstrating the usual clothing, food, weaponry, and tactics of the Civil War area.  The historian told an amusing story of the turn of the century (19th-20th) when the Newport city fathers thought it would be great fun to fire all the cannons at the same time.  All the windows in Newport were broken and to this day there are cracked windows from that adventure. 

Early morning light fog in Newport Harbor
Once the fogs lifts the boats come out to play

Docent leads us through the fort
Cleared but not restored section of the fort

A four foot section of the tunnels

A badge of honor

Noise and smoke from the Northern side
If you are that sailboat, you know you're going to win the race that day

After a week+ in Newport, we decided to return Iolair to the Chesapeake to take care of some personal issues.   However, because we had planned to visit Joe's mother in Maine and because we had shipped things there, we decided to load the kayaks on the car and head to Maine after returning to the Chesapeake. 

Joe's mother lives on a lake in Southern Maine and kayaking was a pleasure.  The pictures below are from a Fall/Winter (before snow), but the location is timeless and with the leaves off the trees, the lake is more visible.

Although our activities at the house in Maine are usually sleeping, reading, kayaking, eating clams at Teds, Pat also scans the local (Portland) newspaper for non-DC stories.  While the Portland paper covers the debt crisis, the deaths in Afghanistan, upcoming debates in Iowa, etc, it is the local that catches the eye; and, local does not mean the latest lobster fest or a 10k to a lighthouse.  Pat appreciates local papers because they give a sense of community and offer potential for amusement over the morning bowl of shredded wheat.  During this time in Maine, the following caught Pat's eye:

"Man lying down in road is hit by pickup truck"   The favorite quotes from the story:  " "..he (the driver) could not avoid what he thought was a dead animal in the narrow two-lane road..."  And, "...Over the years, a number of times, he (the victim) has been located in the roadway..."  

Imagine Pat's surprise when a couple of days later, the following appeared:
"Pair lying in street charged under new graffiti ordinance"  No one knows why they were lying in the street because it had nothing to do with the graffiti charge.  The writers of each "lying in the road" story are different.  Maybe the editor has a sense of humor.

But, the headline and story that most reflected the sense of community was:
"Responders to moose collision hit second moose"  The opening and closing paragraphs say it all:  "Firefighters who were called to the scene of a collision between a van and a moose on Route 161 late Thursday night struck and killed another moose on the way..." "...The tanker had heavy damage to the front and had to be towed from the scene."    No human was hurt.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three Mile Harbor to Block Island (7/2 - 7/5/2011)

Because Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton gave us the opportunity to visit with family and provided a beautiful and safe anchorage, we decided to stay through the 4th of July weekend.  The weather remained comfortable with only light rain on the 4th.  We did have the opportunity to use our new awning which I am calling a "Baker Bonnet" in recognition of Linda's cover for s/v Dea Latis.  Linda's worked so well on the Memorial Day cruise that I knew Iolair needed one. 

Joe's brother, Tom, provided launch services to/from Iolair which allowed family to easily visit and for us to go ashore a couple of times without putting our dinghy in the water.  Leslie's (Tom's wife) family welcomed us to their home and provided the three things cruisers appreciate most....long, hot showers, the ability to do laundry, and a wonderful meal.  We can't thank them enough for their generosity and for making the stop on Long Island fun by being part of our time. 

We left Three Mile Harbor on Tuesday morning about halfway between low and high tides based on how much water we saw in the channel when we arrived on a high tide.  A couple of 8' areas, but mostly at the 12' mark.   However, there is only one fueling point in Three Mile Harbor and that dock does not have enough water for us so we pointed Iolair towards Block Island to refuel and spend the night before heading to Newport.

Wind was up a bit (18-20kts) in the Great Salt Pond when we arrived so we decided to delay fueling until the morning to avoid an awkward docking.  We anchored in 40' of water ( N 41.11.570  W71.34.822) and Joe noted that virgin anchor chain has now seen light.  It is Wednesday morning (7/6) and we are fogged in.  Weather says it will clear.   We wait.

The gang arrives on the first night

Dog & Boats

Iolair's "Baker Bonnet"

I can't resist beautiful skies

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Block Island to Shelter Sound (Smith Cove) to Three Mile Harbor (6/30 - 7/2/2011)

A wonderful guest arrived on Iolair while we were in Block Island.  Joe's sister-in-law Leslie took the Montauk to Block Island ferry to join us for a day at Block and the transit to the Gardiners Bay/Sag Harbor area of Long Island.  Leslie was visiting family in the Three Mile Harbor area (East Hampton).   Although Tom, Joe's brother, wanted us to come to Three Mile Harbor, we had reservations because the charted low water depth is 6 feet and we draw 6'8''.  Even with a 2 foot tide, going in on the high tide was still a concern given the various reports we had about increased shoaling.  We decided to leave Block on 6/30 and head for the Shelter Island area (Gardiner's Bay) to ponder, do more research, and be close enough to Three Mile Harbor for Tom to swing over in his power boat.

The trip from Block to Smith Cover (Shelter Island Sound) sucked, to be blunt, with apparent winds in the mid-to-upper 20's on our nose and short choppy seas.  (Note to the Chesapeake Bay crowd:  Pat had to wear a turtleneck the whole trip and almost broke out the fleece vest so at least it wasn't hot & humid.)  We broke the cardinal rule of sailing:  don't go to your next destination if the weather is against you or "Gentlemen Don't Sail to Weather" (book title).   The wind/pounding didn't really let up until we were well into Gardiner's Bay.  However, the sea and weather gods knew they had made their point and gave us a beautiful, tranquil anchorage in Smith Cove (N41/03.017 - E072/18.764).  A quiet dinner and dead-to-the-world sleep made everything right by the morning.

Joe found a recent blog about entry into Three Mile Harbor and was reassured that it just might be possible because they saw 10' coming through the cut.  We figured if we went in just after high tide we should be ok with at least 8' of water.  The fact that the channel is very narrow would be handled  by Tom coming out in his boat to guide us and nudge us off any soft spots, if necessary.   With detailed waypoints set on the electronic chart, paper chart opened, the GPS keeping track of our speed (didn't want to be pushed too fast by the current in the cut) Joe guided Iolair down the center of the channel and Pat focused on the charts and speed.    Well folks, the gods must have really been feeling guilty about the day before because we came through the channel with 11-15' feet of water the whole way.  The channel was well marked and Tom guided us past the last remaining shoal to turn into the mooring/anchorage area.  We set the anchor in 17' of water (N41/01.007 - E072/11.074), rafted Tom's boat to Iolair and settled in for talk and planning for the holiday weekend.

We hope everyone has a wonderful and safe 4th of July holiday.

Next stop will probably be Newport after the holiday.

 Iolair on a mooring in Block Island

Leslie arrives at Block Island via ferry

Smith Cove Anchorage

Monday, June 27, 2011

Delaware Bay/Atlantic Ocean: North Summit Point Marina to Block Island, R.I. (6/25 - 6/27/2011)

After 48 hours in transit and a 4 hour nap after arriving, Pat is moderately awake and has captured the sense of the voyage off the New Jersey/New York coasts. 

We left North Summit Point marina before 0700 on Saturday (6/25/11) with a slight adverse current in the canal but this allowed us to enter the Delaware as it started to ebb toward the ocean.. We were able to get a really good boost. By the time we reached Ship John Shoal where we were doing over 9 knots.  For those who are not sailboat people, that's fast.  We reached the mouth of the Delaware about two hours earlier than expected.  The boost in travel also gave us a mental boost so we decided to press on and not stop in Cape May.  We rounded Cape May slightly to the inside, but not the inside-inside passage (Sorry, Dave) because we're not quite that brave.  For those who don't know the waters off of Cape May, there is a channel of deep water that is practically on the beach which reduces the time it takes to round Cape May but really increases the pucker factor.  We decided that relaxed "puckers" were more important than time.

There is no way to capture the passage off the coast.  We ranged from ~10 to ~50 miles out as we made our way from Cape May to Block Island.   Pat can only give highlights and low lights, but reminds you that each passage is different and depends on the weather, sea state, boat, and crew.   In our case, the weather was benign, sea state was friendly (2-4 ft seas off the starboard quarter with an occasional 5 ft for entertainment purposes), the boat sturdy, and 3 reasonably competent crew.  "Three crew?"   Joe, Pat, and "Otto".   Our auto helm was invaluable; allowing the watch person (Joe or Pat) to watch while "Otto" steered the boat and kept us on track (with occasional 'reminders' as the seas tended to set us a bit to the West of our planned course.

The low light was the lack of continuous sleep because of the 2 hours on/2 hours off cycle.  Pat is the original "Princess and the Pea" person who needs the just-right mattress (which we have), darkness (not quite dark enough during the day), and slight white noise (diesel engine noise doesn't count) in order to sleep well, plus 4-6 hours continuous sleep to feel rested.  So, shortly after picking up a mooring in Block Island, changing the bed linens, and showering, Pat took a 4 hour nap.

The highlights were being on the ocean in our personal 47 ft world, seeing dolphins, beautiful sunsets/sunrises, listening to music (thank you, Bob), and having time.

The atmospherics are not discrete because the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts.  Because of the wind/wave direction and height, the roll of the boat was gentle, although we expect for some people it is the exact motion that causes them to not be able to be on a boat.  You either like the motion or you don't.   Pat doesn't believe you can learn to like it.  Deep water really is an amazing shade of blue and the wave crest are white; not the yellow-brown of the Chesapeake.  It is the type of water you can stare into for hours noticing the subtle shade differences and movement.  Nights on this passage were very dark because we had clouds during the night and the moon was only a sliver.  There is nothing better than a full moon on a clear night when you're on the ocean, but that was not our fortune on this trip.  Instead, we had a horizon line that merged sea and sky when darkness came and gave way to mentally creating shapes where none existed.  Sometimes amusing:  Pat tends to see Christmas tree twinkle lights or rising mist.  And, sometimes disorienting:  Joe tends create ships shapes out of the dark. 

I am thankful for our radar and AIS (a ship identification system; generally commercial, but some private vessels have it).  Between radar and AIS we were reasonably sure of the boats around us even in the darkness.   Radar is quirky because it sometimes gives false signals that can drive you (read:  Pat) crazy.  But before dark settles in, the sunset light up the sky.  On one occasion the pink/orange clouds created a romantic painting where Pat was expecting to see fat cherubs with tiny wings resting on the clouds (please note Pat's sleep deprivation and twinkle lights tendencies to explain this fantasy).  Perhaps the most wonderful experience is watching dolphins come play with your boat.  You can not help but smile and be in awe of these wonderful animals.  Our first encounter was off of Cape May, but the more significant was just before darkness on Sunday night as we approached the eastern coast of Long Island.  They first appeared to Joe where he was able to get a couple of ;photos.  Unless there are hundreds, dolphins are difficult to photograph from a moving boat because they move quickly from under to on top of the water and because they often come towards shore in the early evening when the light is waning.  Just before dark, the dolphins returned when Pat was on watch.  About 10-15 suddenly arrived and stayed with Iolair for at least 30 minutes swimming alongside and diving under the boat;  a couple of leaps out of the water, a couple of "fin waves" and a couple of tail slaps.  They were an active group giving off squeaks and blows when they broke the water.  It appeared to be a grouping of small and large (young and old??) with some doing their thing solo and one group of four that "flew" in formation all the time.   Around 2200 when Pat was back on watch, she was startled to hear what sounded like a swimmer clearing his nose and then realized that the dolphins were back.  Although it was too dark to see them, the sounds became clearer as they broke the surface of the water, blew air, and squeaked.  It was having company in the darkness. 

Because we were making exceptional time, we slowed the boat significantly after crossing the New York shipping lanes and gently made our way past Long Island.  If we had not slowed down we would have reached Block Island in the middle of the night.  We had no desire or intention of trying to get into Block in the dark.  When morning broke we were off Montauk, but the light that was so visible during the night was now shrouded in a light morning fog.  Water and wind were calm as we watched the early fishing boats head out.  We entered Block Island's Great Salt Pond around 0730 and were tied to a mooring buoy by 0815 (had to circle until a mooring freed up).   We plan to stay in Great Salt Pond through Tuesday and then......

Cape May Light House from the West

Lewes - Cape May Ferry

Joe at helm

Iolair does have sails and knows how to use them

Dolphins (1)

"Cherub Clouds" at sunset

Early Morning off of Block Island

Looking back at entrance to Great Salt Pond, Block Island

Great Salt Pond, Block Island

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chesapeak Bay: Sassafras River to North Summit Marina (6/23/2011)

We departed the Sassafras River early (0700) on Thursday in order to arrive at the North Summit Marina (NSM) by mid-day; i.e., before the predicted thunder storms.  The morning was grey but appeared to be no more than an early morning haze which would burn off during the day.   The bonus for leaving early was seeing a rainbow spanning the mouth of the Sassafras.  As luck would have it my camera's battery died so I took a picture with my phone.  Not quite as good,  but captures the magic of a rainbow.  We had barely exited the Sassafras and turned north towards the Elk River when the rain started.  It was a light rain that came & went throughout the morning.  We did not have a tide boost like the day before, but were not in a hurry to arrive any earlier than mid-day so a slow ride was ok and the gentle rain allowed us to pretend that we were wet from rain and not sweat.  Again, it was a day of little wind from the south.  We encountered no commercial traffic heading to, coming out of, or within the canal.  Very quiet, but a lot of floating and not quite floating logs/debris in the Elk and canal...trees, poles, blocks of wood, shrub.  We guessed that the thunderstorm that gave us only rain in the Sassafras was a little stronger further north.  For those with canal experience, Schaefer's Marina and Restaurant is still under renovation.  There were people working on it, but it doesn't seem as far along as one would expect when we last saw it in 2009.   We had two nights reservations at NSM.  Although we have been to NSM before, the entrance is a bit of a challenge for a deep draft vessel with a clear red marker on the right and no marks for the shoal on the left.  Joe's electronic charts proved invaluable as Pat guided Iolair between the known and unknown.  We took on fuel and then docked on the long dock at the outermost area of the marina (next to the swamp).  Turning on the air conditioner was the first order of business.  A nap quickly followed.  The Aqua Sol Restaurant (3006 Summit Harbor Place, Bear, Delaware 19701) is still part of the marina compound.  When we first visited in 2009 they had been opened a week.  We weren't sure they would make it.  It's a little off the beaten path by car and water access is via the canal.  But, they are here and continue to serve good and interesting Cuban/Miami food.  Mojitos, calamari, conch fritters, half plate of shellfish/salmon in Brazilian lime & coconut sauce over rice, half plate of grilled scallops with braised bok choy, and one key lime tart.  A perfect 3B spot. Thank God the restaurant sits on a hill overlooking the marina and it's a long walk to Iolair's berth. If you ever find yourself near Bear, Del, Aqua Sol is worth the stop.   Truth in advertizing:  the picture of Aqua Sol is from 2009; so, yes that is Phantom (a close friend's boat) at the end of the dock.  It is now Friday morning and today is "get ready" day....wash boat (Joe's already done that), charge the electronics that need to be charged, cook up some rice, eggs, chicken etc to have quick items to grab & eat once off shore, put up the shelf cloths, put up the lee cloths, attach the jacklines, check the safety gear, cross fingers for reasonable tides to get out of the Delaware tomorrow and good weather for both the Delaware and the run to Block Island.  If we turn Cape May tomorrow and are in good shape, we'll continue to Block.  If the Delaware has beaten us up and/or we just feel too tired, we'll stop in Cape May.   Wish us luck. 

Chesapeake Bay: Magothy River to Sassafras River (June 22, 2011)

After a quiet night behind Dobbins Island, we departed around 1000 for a 31+ mile run to the Sassafras River.  It was warm with virtually no wind and what wind we had was on our stern; however, we did have the tide with us which gave an addition 1-1.5 knot boost.  Commercial and pleasure boat traffic was very thin.  The Sassafras is a very wide-mouth river (approx 3 NM across from Howell Point to Grove Point).   Many years ago we would anchor far up the river behind a sharp bend where the river narrows.  This time we decided that we would stay within the outer river because the weather was calm and we wanted to have some breeze over the boat during the night.  As we made our turn in from R48 the dark clouds that had been in the distance appeared much closer and the rumble could no longer be "blamed" on tests at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.  The race was far into the river could we get and set the anchor before the skies opened up.  Joe:  let's go just 15 more minutes; Pat:  I don't think we have 15 minutes; Joe:  let's go about 7 minutes; Pat:  I'm not sure we have 7 minutes.  At about 3 NM into the river from R48 we dropped anchor across from the small opening to Lloyd Creek (not as far in as Joe had wanted but further than Pat thought).   Anchor was down before the first drops hit.  The storm was medium rain with no wind and the thunder stayed in the distance (Western shore).   A quiet warm night with an extraordinary sunset.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

At Last We've Started North

Pat could not bring herself to do another entry of only boat prep.   Boat prep certainly continues, but on Tuesday, June 21st we pushed away from the dock to start our way North.

 Varnishing may not complete but brushes and cans of varnish are traveling with us so we won't get bored. 

The haul-out at Hartge's Yacht Yard uses a tractor lift that goes into the water; the boat owner drives onto the lift and is hauled out at a fairly steep angle.  The return to the water reverses the procedure.  From a business perspective, it is not an efficient method because of the number of people required to guide the boat in and lift her.   But, it is interesting to watch even if a little heart stopping when it's your boat.   As a bonus, we believe we picked up a small fish in the air conditioner intake sometime during the lift out or in.  Joe took care of by blowing out the lines. It's not the first time we've picked up uninvited marine life in one of the intakes.

 Yes, Iolair did have a lot of small, soft barnacles and the zincs were almost gone.

On the morning of June 16th Iolair was moved from Chalk Point Marina (with 143 gallons of diesel and 200 gallons of water on board) to the West River Sailing Club for some final work, provisioning, and finally storing all the stuff.  We were amazed that $900 worth of food easily found storage space.  In fact, we could have almost doubled the amount of food and still stored everything.  The interesting thing is that the most expensive food item was $11 bag of frozen shrimp which means there was a lot of food stuff stored.   Notice that I'm showing you the very neat and organized main cabin.   The fore cabin is neat, but holds two kayaks, a spinnaker, computer bag, camera bag, and needlepoint bags.  The aft cabin (the one Joe and I use) is also in order, but tends to be the deposit place for "might need" items while underway.

Given that we have only done one cruise this season, we know this trip needs to begin slowly because a) we don't have our sea legs (or tummies) yet and b) there has been a lot of work done on Iolair and we want to be sure everything is right.  We will inch our way forward in an attempt to gain 6 weekends worth of sailing in days.  Bottom Line:  if it don't feel right, look right, or smell right we will stop until it does.  We're also approaching the trip down the Delaware with less than happy memories of the 2009 trip through that body of water.  We got our butts kicked at the mouth of the Delaware.   So, today our first stop was the Magothy River just north of Annapolis and the Bay Bridge.  We're anchored between Dobbins Island and Little Island (39/04.8 N - 076/27.7 W).  I'm surprised that we have 7 other boats in the anchorage on a Tuesday night.   We had forgotten how rolly this anchorage can be and the funky currents that have the boats turned in different directions.  What we're considering now are tide timing for the canal and the Delaware plus the predicted weather for the rest of the week.  Thunderstorms while in the canal is not good.  We have a plan with several options.