"There is nothing more pleasant than cruising on a boat with the whole family."
Letter from Empress Catherine the Great

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Days 6 & 7 June 23-24 -- Lay Days in Nantucket -- Zero NM

Nantucket is not just a stepping stone of the way to Nova Scotia, it is a destination in itself. Having dined out on our first night here, we dined aboard the last two. Lene was a whirling dervish of cleaning and cooking some delicious food including the one pot meal for our next two dinners, underway. We did have coffee and I had pizza and ice cream for lunch on our last day here. I usually eat with a more nutritious viewpoint. Not everything is expensive on Nantucket. Two people told Lene to check out the Hospital Thrift Shop on India Street for a pot she wanted, to replace the thin light compact one which scorched her rice. We found an excellent one there and she bought me a huge padded flannel over shirt, both for $14!
We thought about bike riding, which we have done in the past, but threatening weather plus Lene's lack of confidence in here diminished vision, had us opt for historical sightseeing instead. Having read Nathaniel Philbrick's "Away Off Shore", I knew a lot more about the history of this place than the average tourist, which enhanced the experience.
The Atheneum, named after Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom, is what they call their public library. My own goddess, Ilene, is in front. Like New York City's library, which was created originally by the merger of the private libraries of Tilden, Astor and Lenox, The Atheneum, (the first building rebuilt after the great fire in the mid nineteenth century that burned most of the town of Nantucket) was created by the donations of several Quaker businessmen.

"The Three Bricks" is the nickname of three identical large red brick homes that  successful whaler Joseph Starbuck built for his three sons. Across the street is "Hadwen House", built by a Starbuck relative,  to be even grander, in the Greek Revival style. Lene, sitting on the front steps, shows the scale of the place. Due to the lack of an endowment, this grand home is not furnished in the opulent manner that it's original owners experienced.
A walking tour of historic sites, is operated by the Whaling Museum. It was nterestingly conducted by docent McNab, shown as she admitted us to the Old Quaker Meeting House. Inside is the plainest of rows of wooden benches, pews, with absolutely no ornamentation whatsoever.

The Hadwen House has just a few things to suggest its former glory. I would have expected this painting over the mantle to show a
whaling ship, but I think not: no tryworks (to boil the oil from the blubber) nor whaleboats at the ready. The icebergs to the left suggest Arctic or Antarctic waters, where the whalers went in their search for the commercially valuable sperm whale. But no recognizable national flag is shown and the name on the pennant atop the highest mast made no sense either. It seems a good painting, but just one that the foundation acquired to suggest the type of art that Mr. Hadwen would have had.
Here is our docent in front of the old Quaker Meeting House, Rows of plain totally unadorned benches are inside without the slightest hint of ornamentation.
I met a nice couple of people from Australia on the tour.
The Whaling Museum itself is the third that I have seen in the past two summers after the smaller one in Cold Spring Harbor and the larger one in New Bedford. The museum in Provincetown has much information about whaling but that industry is not its focus. Each museum is excellent in its own way. This one features a video on Nantucket, narrated by Ken Burns to which Philbrick contributed and a presentation of the details of the process of whaling that was Melvillian in its detail. It also detailed the process by which oil was "pressed" out of blubber by huge commercial presses (like olive oil is pressed) and how candles were made.
Nantucket is different from most all of the other New England villages we have visited. They have signage on all the old houses to the effect built by (name of first owner) in (year) and the builder's profession. Not in Nantucket.
The next two days we will be underway, bound for Nova Scotia, putting more miles under our keel than in all of the prior passages of this cruise combined.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Day 5 June 22 -- Menemsha to Nantucket -- 40 NM

Well the prior three passages of this cruise involved mostly strong SW winds from near or aft the beam - fast. Southwesterlies are the "prevailing" winds in this area of the world, but one can't expect such ideal wind all the time. At least today's passage was not a beat, but it was a very light wind day. So the diesel worked throughout the six hour  passage, though I was able to fly the Genoa during three of the six hours of the passage, which gave us a half knot speed boost. What gave us a big boost during the first half of the passage, thanks to our 6 a.m. departure,  was the tide in Vineyard Sound.  It was sunny and warm and a pleasant passage. The crew likes such passages.
Several fast and slow ferries passed us near Nantucket.

Brant Point, marks the entrance to the well protected deep harbor from which Captain Ahab's "Pequod", and hundreds of other whale ships departed; and most returned. We had wanted to visit Nantucket last summer, having last been here during the Club Cruise in 1998. How do I know the year?  There was a heatwave and we escaped the heat by seeing  "There's Something About Mary" with Selwyn and Evie; that movie was released that year. In 1998 we still had my first boat, the 28 foot Pearson, "Just Cause", and it was Lene's first two week cruise.
But last summer the timing of our visits with Lee and Patti in Hyannisport and then Greg and Kathy in Provincetown left no days for Nantucket.  Having read Nathaniel Philbrick's history of this island -- up to the 1890's (when tourism replaced whaling) -- gave me a new appreciation of the place.

There's something about Nantucket though: bring money; it's expensive. Philbrick told me that the Quakers, who ran the whaleships, drove a hard bargain and so do the present day Nantucketers. Our mooring is $70 per night and that does not include launch service which is $5 per person, one way!

We contacted Chris Parker, the weather guru. He told us that a Sunday and Monday passage to Shelburne Nova Scotia, which was our target date, is actually the best weather for this trip in the next ten days, a mixture of good wind pushing us and light wind requiring the engine, but no storms and headwinds. I figure that with these conditions, we can average better than 6.8 knots and hence not require a second night out in the North Atlantic. We will Chris call back on Saturday to confirm; then the forecast will be more accurate. I recall that our passage from Saint Martin to Antigua in 2010 was delayed by about a week awaiting "clearance" from Chris for a safe "weather window".

We stopped at the fuel dock for 8.8 gallons of diesel, to top off for the long passage to Nova Scotia, and called a mechanic, Tim Lewis, to look at our dinghy outboard. He came with his assistant to our mooring on a work boat loaded with every imaginable hand tool and fixed the problem in ten minutes. Yesterday I had figured that the problem was not the Yamaha engine's fault, but in the hose. Well the culprit was not the hose either, but the plastic pickup tube in the plastic fuel tank that Yamaha sold with the engine. The tube picks up fuel from the bottom of the tank and feeds it to the hose. It had fallen off and was lying uselessly in the tank. Without that tube, the hose just sucked air from the top of the tank, and the engine won't burn air. A very high price for two men for their one hour minimum, but Tim had both the expertise to know the problem and the tools to fix it, he and came to our boat on short notice and gave us a discount and he has a good sense of humor. So no $20 round trip launch rides for us!

We each needed to sign documents before a notary, a service which Sharmia, the manager at a local Cape Cod Bank cheerfully provided for free. We did some shopping, took shore showers (free at the Harbor Master's office), had good tuna, freshly caught and imaginatively cooked by the chef at Pier 14 Restaurant, and chatted with some folks from Norfolk on their Island Packet at one of the docks. Then we were picked up by our new friend, Sally, who took us on a tour to Siasconset, the community at the eastern end if the island.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 4, June 21 -- Block Island to Menemsha, (Western End of Martha'sVineyard -- 42NM -

For today's post, I am copying most of Ilene's daily email to about seventy people, and augmenting it a bit with sentences in brackets.

We weren't in a hurry to leave Block this morning but we got underway nonetheless by 9:15 and followed out a bunch of racers.  Did I mention that this week is race week on Block Island?  These guys are serious and I did not want to be anywhere in their way.
[We overtook s/v Loulou and wished good luck to our sailmaker, Paul Beaudin of the Doyle loft on City Island.]

The first couple of hours were glorious. The sky was blue with wispy clouds… The wind was around 10 knots and from our side… And the seas were very calm.  I was in my favorite position lying on the side settee in the cockpit with Roger behind the helm and my Kindle in my lap as well as a feline or two. And then, as promised, the wind picked up… The seas picked up and we were off to the races. We were flying through the water at north of 8 knots. [42 miles in six hours means an average speed of seven knots. We had full main and Genoa flying on a beam and broad starboard reach.] And then at about 1:30 in the afternoon that nasty fog came in again.  Fog is very scary.  Even though we have radar it is still very difficult to be staring into this fog with maybe 200 yards of visibility all around you and see shapes and not know if it's a boat, a log, a buoy, a lobster pot or maybe just a whitecap as we had 10 foot high rollers again!  Or maybe it's just your imagination.  We have a fog horn that Roger blows every so often.  I hold my ears but I can't imagine what the kitties feel!  In this type of weather I keep them below.  [Radar picked up something dead ahead of us coming at us and it turned out to be a big fishing boat that passed us starboard to starboard, about 100 yards away, which is too darn close, in that we didn't see him till be was abreast of us.]
So, this is us on the first day of summer!

 You can see the fog in my picture. 

That's Roger stowing the mainsail in the stackpack when we were getting ready to enter Menemsha Bight and happily the fog had lifted. 

Finally, at about 3:45 we were safely on our mooring with the intention of showering ashore (more water and hotter water!) and then having dinner at the famous Larsons.
 The view is from our boat and although it looks so close...it isn't when you have no way of getting there!😔
I was waiting for a shoe to drop and it did this evening as our dinghy engine conked out when Roger went ashore to pay our mooring fee of $30.  He had to row back and although the distance isn't great, the current makes it very tough and he is tired after a day of powerful winds.
We have food aboard and since we are leaving for Nantucket at the crack of dawn [to catch the favorable tide], we will just eat on the boat and leave early and get the outboard engine fixed in Nantucket. [Actually, the engine seems to work fine when it is given fuel and the fuel tank is far from empty so the culprit seems to lie in the hose that brings the fuel from the tank to the engine.] We do sleep wonderfully well on the boat. The cats still wake me up at about 530 in the morning but tomorrow we'll be underway by that time.

The beach at Menemsha, with its view to the west over open water, is called Sunset Beach. From the boat the dock was in the way, but the absence of clouds - where is that fog when you need it - made the view less than spectacular.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day 3 - June 20 -- Lay Day in Block Island -- Zero NM

With wind like yesterday and fog, the Admiral elected to have a lay day. And it was truly that-- we lay about all day, did not get off the boat and I did not even do any of the many chores that are always available to keep me busy. The fog cleared around midday and the racers set out to have their race, but we stayed put. We ate, read, played games and I guess one could say I did something useful in planning future passages, tomorrow to Menemsha at the western end of Martha's Vineyard and the next day to Nantucket. The latter of these involves a strong tidal flow through Vineyard Sound and we did the tides and figured out that it is best to leave at daybreak.

We discovered that I had left the Nova Scotia cruising guides at home and printed up a prepaid FedEx shipping label and asked AJ to send them to us c/o the Nantucket Harbormaster. Thanks, AJ!

The other passage plan is the very long leg from Nantucket to Shelburne, Nova Scotia. We had planned to leave at daybreak of the first day of this passage and arrive before dark the next day, about 39 hours later.  But based on the distance I plotted out, we will have to make 7 knots, on average, over the entire passage to get there before dark. We can frequently make much higher speeds than that, but what if there is no wind, or it is in our faces?  So a plan B is needed in case things slow down. We can either put into a cove on N.S. that is nearer than Shelburne, or keep going until the next daybreak, for another ten hours, to a port further up the island's Atlantic coast. We are also planning to contact Chris Parker, a professional weather planner to get advice as to which days to make this long passage.

I've been running hard to get the boat ready and the two long days of sailing prior to today made a day of rest  appropriate.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Day 2, June 19 -- Clinton CT to Block Island -- 45 NM

What exactly is a “small craft”? The government warned them not to put out today, and wisely so with predicted (and actual) winds of 20 to 30 knots and seas of five to eight feet. But those winds were from the SW and Block Island lies east, so the wind would be at our side and ILENE is 43 feet long and weighs ten tons. We were the only boat out there, departing Clinton at 8:15 and grabbing a mooring in Block at 1:30. Elapsed time of 5.25 hours made for an average speed of 8 ¾ knots and plenty over ten knots. The elapsed time included slow going while exiting Clinton and in the destination harbor. Well the tide was helping us but still! I put in the reef before we left the dock and used the small jib and we were flying. It was a rough passage; my friend Bob calls them "sporty passages".
One of our kitties lost his or her breakfast.
When approaching the race the radio announced  from an unnamed U.S. submarine: “We will be passing through the Race in ten minutes. Keep at least 500 yards away!” First I looked to port, thinking he maybe was coming home to New London, but the only upright object proved to be the Valiant Rock buoy. But then looking to starboard we saw his conning tower. he was headed southerly and we, easterly. I called back on Channel 16, identified us as the sailboat ILENE, asked if he saw us and told him that we were headed for Block Island, making 11.5 knots but that our speed changed with the wind and the tide. I said I had difficulty measuring the 500 yards in all that glorious wind. He replied not to worry and passed astern of us. Sorry, too busy to mess with the camera.
The only other excitement, and it was a slow moving excitement with all of our speed, was the advent of fog. It was overcast and hazy all day but then visibility was reduced to less than a mile, and in patches, to 200 yards. We knew that there were no rocks, buoys or any other fixed objects between us and Block Island, but other boats?  We took some comfort in our supposing that there would be very few if any boats out there this Monday, and kept a sharp lookout. We heard fog signals being made by a boat. The moans started off our starboard quarter and ended  off our starboard bow, but we never saw the boat that made them while it was overtaking us. And it was cold. fleece pants, the heavy foulie top and gloves were used to avoid hypothermia.
In Block Island the coveted chartreuse town moorings were readily available. After lunch we went to shore. Lene did not want to take the dink because while the ocean waves were not there, much of the wind was. Old Port Launch Company charges $4 per person each way, so it was an expensive trip. We walked to the old town, were given a ride back and dined at The Oar, probably the most popular dining establishment on the island and a favorite of cruising Harlemites. The décor is simple and totally donated. It is still “pre-season” here except that it is “Race Week” bringing avid racers and their boats from far and wide. Paul Beaudin of the Harlem and Doyle Sails is racing his J/105 sloop “LouLou” here, but we did not run into him. Good luck, Paul! Today’s race was wisely scratched for safety reasons – not due to excessive wind, but due to fog.
Similar weather is predicted for tomorrow, and our plans are not yet set, but we will not be going all the way to Nantucket in one shot as originally planned.

June 15 - 18 -- Three Hectic Days; Then "Free At Last" -- City Island to Clinton CT -- 65 NM

First came three hectic days: 1) Completion of the electrical installation of the new windlass by Ed Spallina, assisted by me. The old one had two heavy cables leading to the motor, one black and one red. The new one has two reds and a black, so I bought a 2.5 foot piece of zero gauge heavy duty red cable, to which Bridge Marine affixed 5/8 inch lugs at both ends. many other clever adjustments and eureka! It works!
2)  A day devoted to detailing our apartment in anticipation of the arrival of AJ, a friend who will be watching our apartment for us during our cruise. He has allergies so everything was dusted and all drawers including those in the refrigerator were made cleaner than they have been in the last ten years. We also packed up all the stuff we will need for transportation to the boat. A period of potential marital conflicts, which we avoided or settled amicably.
3) Saturday we broke our bonds to the shore at last and moved aboard. I met AJ’s flight at Kennedy airport at 5:35 a.m. Lene gave him a tour of our apartment to show how things work and we went on a long stroll through our neighborhood, pointing out the facilities he might wish to use. Then it was time to load the car with our stuff and AJ volunteered to come along.
We offloaded from the car into two carts, hauled them to the launch and then to the boat and stowed the stuff while Lene shopped for perishables at a local market. The only problem was that Ed had locked the padlock that stops entry to the boat. No problem, we carry a bolt cutter. But it did not cut. Plan B: the hack saw; but it was not making a dent either. Plan C: I used a file to sharpen the bolt cutter's blades and then with all of the strength of both AJ and me, it cut. Good thing too, because soon thereafter the heavens opened up and we had just enough time to get things below, but very little of the stuff put away. Lene came back with two more cart loads of food and all perishables were stowed while Whitty and Alfie got reacquainted with their home away from home. Then after lunch at the Club I drove back to our apartment to park the car for the summer, said good by to AJ, and took the subway and bus back to the boat, dined aboard and a good night's sleep, though very foggy and humid. But the third stressful day before departure broke the bond with the land, though not with New York City.
On Fathers Day we finally set off, one day later than scheduled, and Lene asked to avoid the overnight sail by making it two day sails instead. When to leave? Roger said earlier, Lene said later. We resolved it: When we are ready, which turned out to be 9:10 a.m., after removal of everything from the aft (storage) cabin and repacking it using the new plastic milk crates we had bought for the purpose. I also checked the battery water which was OK and stowed a lot of cat food with the batteries below the berth.  Where to stay for the night? We thought of the Marina in Mattituck, Long Island but they have raised their rates to $4.50 per foot, per night. Ouch! We considered several other places and ended selecting the Cedar Island Marina in Clinton, CT., less expensive but with good services.

At the beginning of the passage there was no wind so we motored but we put up sails off Manhasset and the winds just built all day. We had full main and genoa and were only overpowered for a little while. We passed south and close to Falkner Island and got this Hopper-like photo of its lighthouse.  

I saw this big boy from about eight miles away and saw that we were on a near collision course. On channel 13 we talked and he agreed to alter course to port to avoid us. Very polite.
It was a starboard reach all the way on a warm day of hazy sun and winds, from 10 to 30 knots, near our beam. Four times, when boat speed dropped below 5 knots, we turned the engine back on for from five to fifteen minutes, thereby disproving the accusation of some of my friends that I am a sailing purist. We arrived at 6:10,  underway for 9 hours and 40 minutes - an average speed of just about seven knots. The sail was a terrific Father’s Day present from God and we have broken free from home at last. Nova Scotia, here we come!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 6 -12 -- A new record for ILENE : Eleven Souls Aboard Underway

There have been more than eleven folks aboard ILENE before, but never while underway.
From left to right: Marcia, Mark, Mark, Richie, friend of Claire, Sarah, Claire, Debra, Sandy and Mike. What made this overloading possible was the almost total lack of wind on Wednesday. We Salts motored out to the Sound and back and sailed across the Sound to Great Neck and back but maxed 2.8 knots with full sails on the way out and 1.4, declining gradually to zero knots on the way back. The advantage of no wind (and no wakes on a Wednesday afternoon) was that we were able to set up the cockpit table and break out the libations while underway. Mark, of "Deuce of Hearts" helped me attempt to remove the broken block at the starboard end of the jib track which has been frozen for years. (We sailed by jury rigging a snatch block to the post of the bad block.) you can see the crack in the lower side piece, the fact that stout line is running where the sheave should be and holding the snap shackle to the right and the semi stripped Allen head bolt which must be removed.
Repeated applications of PB Blaster (rust penetrant) and hammer have so far not produced a favorable outcome. I took measurements and photos to try to find the right Lewmar part number which will be needed before the old piece is taken off. Lewmar is poor at helping find parts for older equipment they have sold.

The other sail was more fun, with   (me, Lene, Joe, Tiffany, Robert and Tony
(three of Ilene's actor friends and the husband of one of them). We had lunch at the mooring and out of a superabundance of caution put a reef in the main and used the small jib. At one point we hit 8.1 knots. We went out of Eastchester Bay, up through Hart Island Sound and to Ex. Rocks before turning, too early it turns out, and beating back to Hart Island, the green off the west headland of Manhassett Bay and Throggs Neck. Tony had to be back by five which caused me to turn back too soon. We tacked back and forth across Eastchester Bay to use up our available time. Each of our guests took the helm, and did well. I took the helm only when we tacked in the channel by Ex. Rocks, and only until I could figure out which way we could sail in that channel. The guests took Uber from the Club to the Pelman Station (only $12 for three of them and only a twelve minute wait on a Sunday evening).

And three work days, total of  14.5 hours, during the period. Once we get underway on our cruise to Nova Scotia the work will not end but there will be no more work days. Getting underway is the challenge now. And the Admiral wants us to leave a day later than the schedule and transit to Block Island on two days rather than run overnight.

I finished waterproofing the bimini and installed it, tested the outboard and secured the dink with its straps and finished lubricating and cleaning the brass handles and locks of the door to the forward head, and reinstalled them. The door now closes without the need of a string to hold it closed if you want privacy. We also brought a lot of stuff aboard and stowed it.

But the biggest project was the installation, mechanically, of the new windlass, with the help of Ed Spallina. The electrical hookup remains to be done but I'm hoping that this will not be difficult. The mounting is stronger than it was before. Then four bolts, backed by fender washers through the 1/2" thick fiberglass deck held the machine in place. This picture shows the grey rubber gasket of the "footprint" of the new windlass laying over the hole in the fiberglass deck for the old windlass. The four small holes are where the bolts go so you can see that there is no fiberglass to hold the windlass to the deck, requiring us to build a surface there.
Now there are two pieces of 1/2" thick white plastic "Starboard", one below the fiberglass and one above, With another ring of starboard as a spacer, inside the two larger discs. all held together with 5200 marine adhesive and three bolts backed by fender washers. And the four studs of the windlass, backed by fender washers, go through this 1 1/2" thick  sandwich of plastic on plastic. The bottom layer of Starboard is wider than the hole in the fiberglass deck, requiring enough force to rip the fiberglass to pull the windlass from its mounting.

Excitement over our now increasingly imminent departure is mounting.