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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Boat Show and The Harlem's "Winter Cruise" to the Met Museum of Art

Here is the snappy new professional looking display for our booth at the show. Nice, with lots of literature on the table explaining our programs. But the big advantage of the new display is that it rolls up into a small cylinder that, when empty, serves as a base for a table, and which, when full, we can bring through the front door instead of having to deal with ornery and expensive employees of the Javits Center who we had to use to bring the old display in from the loading dock.

Also a nice larger display screen, lower left. on which lots of photos form a slide show.
The best part of this year's show, for me, was that Lene came along, staffing the booth with me and others on Thursday from 4:30 to 9 pm. Fact is that everything is more fun with Lene, and whenever I drag her out to do things with me, she ends up having a good time too. I had signed up to do a double shift that day -- noon to 9, and it is a sign of the strength of our Club that I wasn't needed that much.
It being a weekday, traffic was light and so I wandered among the other exhibits. Regrettably, except for a sailing kayak by Hobie Cats, this was exclusively a power boat show, so there was nothing of interest among the many boats.  I did contract with PlasTeak, a purveyor of faux teak decking material, for  a piece of their plastic to cover ILENE's swim platform, the only ratty looking part of the boat. They will supply material for me to make a pattern, the piece itself, the glue to affix it and technical advice. Last year I dealt with their competitor, but they never returned my calls or did the job. I think poorly of that competitor. all told, the show was rather boring, but it serves our Club's recruitment efforts. More members spreads our fixed costs among more folks, lowering dues.

Much more fun was our visit to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, to see a group of art works related to boats. The maximum number of folk they allow in a tour is 25 and we had that number signed up but late defections reduced our group to 18.
Planning this year's expedition was the most difficult yet, and I hope not to exceed the record. Four prior plans as to where to go had to be scrapped, as did two prior plans for lunch.
A, viewing of maritime Act auction as Bonhams; B, The Russell Jinishian Gallery of Contemporary Marine Art;
C, India House, a lunch club near the Battery which has maritime art; and D, The former Customs House and the Cunard ticket office, which have murals.
As for lunch, we started at the Petrie Cafe in the Museum, and reserved at one outside restaurant before we found our home in another.
We started our tour in Egypt, almost 4000 years ago, with these models of papyrus funeral sailing barges for the Nile, found in a Pharaoh's tomb during the 19th century. This one is being rowed on its way home, against the prevailing wind. The large white vertical appears to be a boom and mast gallows. another model showed the mast and boom set up for a square rigged sail. Some of our better sailors figured our how they steered this barge, which had eluded me.

The Met has a terrific collection of late 19th century oil paintings in a semi storage area of the North American wing, which was focused on New York harbor."The Emporer" was painted for the captain of a Tugboat, extolling the power of his boat. That's me reading its title, printed all the way across the bottom. Incidentally, most of the photos in this posting (all the good ones) are by Chris Wentz of ZSails, who is not a Harlemite but has attended our last two excursions.

"The Cloud", evokes the mood of an impending storm on a dark night, being interpreted by my friend, Greg. He is an artist and professor and really knows about art, though he modestly chides me for telling people this. He agreed to come along to plan our trip and pointed out a lot of the things we otherwise would have missed and enhanced our visit.

We saw old Dutch Masters who painted at the other Haarlem, the one in Holland, painted during the period that New York was New Amsterdam.

France was represented by Courbet. After a lively discussion, we agreed this was after a shipwreck.
And England was represented by by Turner"s "Whalers", painted for a wealthy whaleship owning patron who refused the painting after it was done -- too violent! The black blob, the whale's head has just stove some boats, lower right.
And we went to Papua-New Guinea to check out this fifty foot dugout canoe, built in 1960 by named native craftsmen, used as a riverine cargo barge, and purchased by a Rockefeller for the Museum. It looks primitive but is the newest of the works we viewed.

 And most of us stayed to enjoy lunch together at nearby Via Quadronno.
Next I'm offering a potential follow up visit for those who expressed an interest but were unavailable on Feb. 4. Maybe there will be a response.
If not, there are summer and winter cruises to help plan and if my sprained wrist ever heals there is plenty of work to do on ILENE.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jan 1 - 21 -- Winter Calm

Eight work days but only 30 hours. I've been slowed, a lot, by a sprained left wrist that I'm supposed to rest. Most of the time was spent on the cabin sole refinish job. Doyle Sails gave me the  "Common Sense" brand hardware for the new attachment of cockpit cushions (and lent me the tool for attaching the grommets) and I removed the old button type fasteners with my dykes. Also, I finished the cleaning out of the aluminum fresh water tanks. Unfortunately, I see that corrosion has caused pitting of the inside surface of the tanks and they will need to be replaced in a few years, hopefully before the pits become holes all the way through.
Add caption
How do you like the new removable orange rubber gaskets, peeking out from under the edge of one of the four viewing (and cleaning) port covers, cut from a sheet of rubber from Canal Rubber?

I've also had three pleasurable "Other" days so far this young year. First a dinner with other Corinthians at a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Lots of good sailing talk with my stuffed artichoke and only a ten minute walk.

Next, a second day at the Met, with Greg, of my book group, who knows a lot about art. We refined our tour of selected boating art, and decided we had to omit several lovely pieces including those of the impressionists. So much great art and so little time! Our tour will cover almost 4000 years of history and every continent except Africa and Australia.

Finally a "Two Act"  evening at the Harlem. First a membership meeting, at which I agreed to serve as our Fleet Captain until a replacement can be found, with a charge to try to organize a meeting to get the summer cruise planned (even though if plans for Nova Scotia reach fruition ILENE will not be able to participate). I was also charged to try to organize a winter cruise with a charter boat in a warm place next winter. Speaking of warm places in the winter, Pandora has reached the BVIs after a rough passage. Google Sail Pandora for Bob's blog.  I reported to the members that 20 of our 25 slots for the "land cruise" to the museum are filled so far.

Act Two was International Night which costs $15.00 (as a fund raiser) with a cash bar. You also bring a dish. As usual, each couple brought enough food in their dish to serve 20 but only two mouths to eat it; gluttony ensued. I made my first carrot cake, with cream cheese icing, and it was good. It is one of my favorita annual events at the club.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 In Review

The media do this at year end so why not me. Everything in here has been in the 53 posts of  2016, but compiled in an interesting -- I hope -- way. The 53 posts, the lowest number of them since this blog began, is partly because there was no multi-month cruising and perhaps partly because I grouped more activities into a single post.

First my arbitrary definitions: A "sail day" is any day during all or any part of which I either sleep aboard ILENE, or sail on her (or any other sailboat) or both. Though I may also perform work on the boat during a sail day, a "work day" is any day I work on the boat (whether physically on the boat or at home or shopping for the boat) on which I neither sleep aboard or sail. And an "other day" is one that is neither of the above but during which I engage in some sort of boating related, activity.

Let's get rid of the work days first, 66 of them, compared to 100 sailing days. Work days can be divided into time periods: 40 before launch on May 17, 11 during the time the boat was in the water and 15 after hauling on October 14.

The launch to haul interval, 120 days, made for a relatively short sailing season, though if you add the eight days on Bennett's boat, "On Eagles Wings", in the Virgin Islands before ILENE's launch, there were 128 days of access to a boat in the water, of which I count 100 as "sail days". Pretty efficient ratio of use: 100 of 128.

But how are these 100 distributed, one might ask.  Well eighty of the hundred were in the period June 12 to September 1, during which we lived aboard every night.  On 26 of the 80 we merely slept aboard on our mooring in our hailing port, using ILENE as a floating mobile summer home -- a use for which she is comfortably suited, though such is not the use for which she was made. A different 39 days during the live aboard months was our cruise around Cape Cod, discussed below.

All told we spent 48 of our 100 days living aboard on moorings, our anchor or at docks (26 at home, five in the Caribbean and 16 "lay days" during cruises from home). Subtracting those 48 leaves 52 underway days, six on other boats (three on Bennett's "On Eagles Wings", and one each on Mark's "Deuce of Hearts", Dave's "Lady Cat" and Rhoda's "Jazz Sail" and 48 aboard ILENE.

In 2016 we put in to 25 different ports, 22 during our cruise plus Jersey City for calibration, and Cold Spring Harbor and Sheepshead Bay for recreation.

The 52 underway days were distributed through the season thus: 20 before the cruise started on July 23, 23 during the cruise and 9 after we returned on August 30. Excluding the 23 of the Massachusetts cruise, leaves 27 days of underway sailing to and from our hailing port. Of these 27, nine were with the Old Salts group, all but one aboard ILENE, and 19 with various groups of friends.

Who came with me. On the cruise it was me, Lene and the kitties, with only one day sail with friends from home, Lee and his son out of Hyannis Mass. By contrast, among the 27 voyages from home, only the trips to Cold Spring Harbor and Jersey City -- three sailing days -- were alone with my beloved. All the other 24 included others and many of them were without Lene.

Nine of the 24 day sails were with members of the Old Salts group, (eight of them on ILENE), and the other 15 of these day sails were with other friends. On the eight Old Salt sails aboard ILENE, 21 different individuals sailed with me, some only once and others as many as four times, averaging 5.5 people, in addition to me, per trip. Ilene, alas, skipped all of these lovely Wednesday afternoons. Four of the 21 individuals were the folks who own the four boats other than ILENE on which I sailed.

Lene came with me on six of the seventeen non-Salts day sails on ILENE and so did 37 other individuals, in groups of one to five, three of them who are Salts and the other 34 who are not, but from all the other walks of our lives. None of those 34 folks made more than one sail with us in 2016, but eleven of them have sailed with us in prior years. So in total, 57 different people, other than lene and I had the pleasure of at least one sail aboard ILENE, If I collected fares on a per trip per person basis, there would have been 84 of them in 2016.

I think our boat gets put to good use; as well she ought. So a short season, but a full one.

The 39 day circumnavigation of Cape Cod was of course the highlight of the season. We covered 766 miles on a very pleasant, somewhat meandering track with 22 ports (eight new ones) that only got as far as Provincetown Mass..

Lay Days
BEFORE  MASS – four days, four ports
Indian Harbor YC, Greenwich CT
Met and hung with Mark and Marsha on "Leeds The Way"
Housatonic Boat Club, Stratford, CT
NEW STOP A very friendly club, outdoor showers
Hamberg Cove, CT River
An old favorite; Lene's first time
Block Island, RI
Dined al fresco at Kimber-ly’s, by the food store
IN MASS --   29 days, 13 ports
Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard
Gay Head, sunsets, installed lamp given to me by Gene Black during a rainy day
Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vin.
A haven for schooners; buses all over the island
Edgartown, M. V.
Bike ride to Oak bluffs
Hyannis, Cape Cod
Friends from NY taught me how to shuck oysters, swim from beach, nasty day sail.
Provincetown, Cape Cod
Gentrification of the marina, NY friends with car for hike in the woods, dinner at good fish place and grocery shop
Sandwich, Cape Cod
NEW STOP Gentrification, a rainy day
Pocasset, Cape Cod
NEW STOP can dink to “town,” if that’s what you call it. Free moorings but we didn’t learn that until we were hauling our anchor, which held well in 35 knot gusts
Marion, Buzzards Bay
NEW STOP Small town, small club, LOTS of boats
Mattapoisett, Buzzards Bay
Kinsale Inn is now the Inn at Mattapoisett. By the mooring field, we had the only anchor light, making the long dink ride back at night easy
Pope Island Marina, New Bedford, Buzzards Bay
NEW STOP Very friendly with easy dink ride to town dock in heart of town.
Lake Tashmoo, Martha’s Vineyard
NEW STOP Easy in and out, easy walk to Vin. Haven for dinner and movies
Cuttyhunk, Elizabeth Islands
Alas, fresh fish no longer   available
Westport, Buzzards Bay
Rendezvoused with Lene’s HS girlfriends 
AFTER MASS  --  six days, five ports
Newport RI
Art Museum, Cliff Walk and Doris Duke’s Rough Point mansion
Niantic YC, Niantic CT
NEW STOP Long dinghy ride ok in calm water, under bridge with swift current, to marina for movies in town
New Haven YC, CT
NEW STOP in Morris Cove, free mooring but too small for us. Not a calm night
Northport, LI, NY
Our only stop on Long Island on this cruise.
HYC, City Island, NY

One highlight of the cruise was the 68 mile passage, our longest, from Hyannis, south of Monomoy Island, through Pollock’s Rip Channel and past the entire Atlantic coast of Cape Cod to Provincetown. It included sighting a pod of whales. I had never done this outside passage before and we needed good weather because there are no ports along the route. Timing the tide so we could leave early with the tide for this 11.5 hour passage and arrive in daylight came at the cost of having to cut out Nantucket, which we last visited fifteen years ago. Except for the 68 mile day, our average mileage per passage in Massachusetts was low, permitting leisurely sails in light winds, as compared to the longer runs to and from the target area where three knots just won't cut it.
Another highlight turned out to be New Bedford, which is a commercial fishing town but has a whole lot more: museums, restaurants and history.
On the way from Niantic to New Haven, we took a bit of a detour for a slow motor tour through the Thimble Islands -- a bit of the rocky Maine coast in Connecticut. Never did that before; an interesting place to visit but I would not want to anchor there.
I calculated our food bills: 71% in groceries vs. 29% in restaurants. Lots of good boat cooked food.
I enjoyed 31  "other" days as well, which ranged from Club meetings and parties to dinners and luncheons with sailors (e.g., five of the eight of us at our Thanksgiving table were sailors), boat shows, planning of land and sea cruises, for the Club, museums, power boat rides in the Gulf of Mexico and British Columbia, and gallery trips.

So add em up: 100 sailing, 66 work days and  31 other days means that 197 of the 366 days of 2016 were related to my passion.

2017: The Bras D’or Lakes on the northern Atlantic side of Nova Scotia.

Monday, January 2, 2017

November 27 -- December 31 -- A Long Time With No Posts

With the advent of cold weather the circulation of the blood seems to slow down as it gets thicker (I should ask Rhoda whether what I've just written is true; she knows this stuff.) and so does the pace of life in general. But there has been boating activity, just not so much and of course, alas, no sailing this winter.

Six work days -- averaging a few minutes short of three hours each, a bit longer when I visited the boat -- two of the times -- and shorter for the work-at-home days. At the boat, it was scraping and cleaning of the inner surfaces of the freshwater tanks, which is done now except for the final wipe out with cheap vodka on a rag, buying and cutting the rubber gasketing material on Canal St., and closing up the tanks. I also spent some time trying to replace the button snaps that hold the cockpit cushions on their benches so they do not slide off onto the cockpit sole when we heel. The current fixtures are press on button snaps. I installed them but they do not hold well. The targeted replacements (eight of them but I got ten because I'm likely to screw up) have oval shaped prongs attached to the boat with heads that fit through oval shaped grommets that I have to fasten to straps at the backs of the cushions. Then, by rotating the tops of the prongs there will be a positive connection that won't pull off. I placed an order but it didn't go through; the product was not shipped and I was not billed. Order number two worked like a charm but the ones delivered are too big so at year's end I'm trying to reach the west coast vendor and arrange to swap them for smaller sized fasteners.

 But the greatest amount of boat work was devoted to refinishing the cabin sole which consists of seventeen pieces of one inch thick plywood with a rather thick decorative veneer layer on top. All but four of them are now home in various states of refurbishment. Ilene is not very pleased with our apartment becoming a workshop, but I've put things away after each day's work and she is tolerant. The bathtub, which is partially enclosed, with a pair of two by fours across it, has become my work bench. It catches the sawdust which can then be vacuumed up without great difficulty.  And for application of the polyurethane (one coat on the bottom and sides to seal them against moisture and two or more on the top) Ilene's closet, a large one, is the place to be: rigged with task lighting, it is large enough to do several pieces at a time and it has the primary benefit of preventing cats paws from messing up the work. I have a lot more to do before spring on this project.

And another job has arrived on my honeydo list. When we renovated our apartment in 2007 we installed environmentally friendly kitchen counter tops, instead of granite. They are made of paper pulp and resin. It was a mistake. But with application of sandpaper, of several degrees of increasing fineness, and then application of mineral oil, they are being restored to look like new -- "before we go sailing!" Ilene is not very demanding or unreasonable; it will get done.

Part of the lack of more work getting done relates to the inhabitants of our sick bay. Witty has a serious and hopefully controllable though chronic bowel problem with many visits to the vet. We are hoping that his weight loss has been stopped with a treatment of steroids, though he can't be in the Olympics any more. But he does not appear to be in any pain, though he is listless compared to his former energetic self. I think he is on the mend.
Lene's glaucoma got worse. Therefore she had an operation involving cutting a hole through the wall of the eyeball and creating a blister shaped "reservoir" outside the eyeball that is hidden under her eyelid.  This was outpatient surgery but resulted in blurry vision that may last as long as a month. Like Whitty, she has no pain and the doctor is thrilled by the reduction of her intra-occular pressure, the cause of the killing off of her peripheral vision. And me; just a sprained wrist from a fall -- luckily not a broken wrist. But these things slow a guy down.

But it is not all work and illness. I have spent four days, about fourteen hours, having fun planning the Harlem's "Winter Cruise," the annual land cruise. This year the theme, from beginning to end, has been maritime art. There were four false starts before the program came together. The first plan was to visit the annual winter auction of such art at Bonham's Gallery, in midtown Manhattan. But the date of the auction conflicted with Club business so that did not get off. Next, I discovered a great collection of contemporary maritime art at the Jinishian Gallery in Fairfield CT. I visited the gallery and the nearby restaurant, and was impressed that we would have had a good time and eaten well. But family setbacks persuaded Mr. Jinishian that he could not host us this year. He called back to suggest we visit the India House, which was a marine trading firm and is now a posh businessmen's luncheon club down by the Battery with an art collection. I made an appointment and visited the place, but this would not work for us -- it was weekdays only and came with an expensive lunch and the maritime artworks were not easily viewed. While down at the Battery I though of plan four. The main hall of the former Customs House, now the Museum of the American Indian at Bpwling Green, has a set of large murals showing the arrival of an ocean liner in New York Harbor. And two blocks away, mammoth maps in what was the great hall of the Cunard ticketing office at 25 Broadway. I looked at it but the latter is now a Cipriani's restaurant and they said "No!" Plan five, the plan to be effectuated, required a bit more work, which I guess is why I saved it for last,. I was given the idea for it from a man I sailed with about five years ago, whose daughter is an art historian. he told me that she led groups through the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue with an emphasis on sailing related works. So I visited the museum after consulting the Met's website and came up with probably more pieces than we can see in 90 minutes. I registered our group with the Museum which gives us group rate discounts and then organized the art through a logical pathway through the museum (and 4000 years of history). I located and priced out the Petrie Court Cafe for our lunch and nearby parking for those who do not want to use public transportation and then came the best stroke of luck: I have described in this blog museum crawls with my fellow book group member, Greg, an artist (we have one of his pieces in our living room) and recently retired as professor of art at Pratt in Brooklyn. He and his wife have sailed aboard ILENE. And he has agreed to come with us, thereby relieving me of the more difficult part of my docent duties. I'm excited about our upcoming adventure, early in February. I'm sorry if I sound too pleased with myself; but I am!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November 3 - 26 -- Working and Playing

Let's discuss the work first. Six days but only 17 hours, so less than three hours per day, but very productive targeted projects accomplished or started.

The aft head "spit up" when the bowl was near empty and being flushed dry. A very unpleasant experience with sewage, though now with antifreeze. We essentially had not used this head all summer, using the forward one only. But I called John of Groco, the maker of the head (Groco also made the salt water strainer for the engine). John is a font of knowledge and worth his weight in gold as far as I'm concerned, and the best reason to use Groco products. When I said "spitting up," he said "Oh yes; just replace parts 6-11 of the expanded diagram". I had the diagram but could have viewed on line if I had needed to. He said he could sell this little assembly to me but I had one in the head repair kit (though I should buy another set to replace the parts that are now in use). I made several calls to John before the job was done. There is a rubber piece backed up by hard plastic piece at the bottom of the bowl which is depressed downward by the suction of the flushing action and then springs back up into place again because of a spring that pushes it back up. That spring was not pushing up anymore so water that was flushed down came back spitting up. To replace the pieces the big ceramic toilet bowl which is held in place atop the pumping mechanism by four bolts, and the rubber gasket preventing leaks between the ceramic bowl and the metal pump had to be removed. Then the flapper is screwed to the bottom of a flat brass "washer-like" piece of 3/8 inch cast brass, almost three inches in diameter that sits atop the pump. I could not pull it up and out with my rubber glove cased fingers as John suggested. What to do? I got out a bolt from the parts box that was longer than the inside diameter of the "washer" but shorter that the inside diameter of the cylinder it sat atop. I tied a line around the middle of the bolt, securely, because I did not want the bolt to fall off into the cylinder, and tied the other end of the line around a piece of metal pipe. Then I crouched with my hands on the pipe near my knees and used the strong muscles of my thighs to yank it up. It worked!  Next "problem" was a nut in the repair kit that held the pieces 6-11 together in their correct order. (A) I could not see where it went on the exploded diagram. (B) The bolt was not long enough for it. (C) It was not on the old parts I had pulled out. What am I missing here?, I asked John. Not to worry, he replied, it is just in the spares kit to hold the pieces together in the correct position relative to each other and can be discarded. Come spring, when the boat is back in the water and the seacocks opened, we will see if I have been successful. Now you know more about the Groco head than you ever wanted to know.

I called our rigger, Jeff Lazar, to check out the starboard coach roof winch which is used primarily to trim the small jib. I had taken it apart and serviced it last winter and the self tailing feature was not working consistently. I thought I had put it back together again incorrectly, and after three seconds, Jeff saw that this was so, but not involving the interior mechanism as I had feared. No, the self tailing feature is created by two rubber jaws at the top and they have ridges on their surfaces that face each other and grab and hold the line. One had been inserted upside down -- no ridges on the inside. Jeff also suggested using a soft shackle to hold the turning block for the genoa furling line to a more solid part of the aft cockpit rail. I asked him to return in the spring, when the cover is off to conduct a full inspection of the rigging, the first such professional job since the fall of 2010.

I reinstalled one of the two new Perko latches which hold down sections of the cabin sole.

I removed the second handle from the door between the forward head and the sleeping compartment. The mechanism was corroded and "stuck" which prevented the door from closing. Once removed, the door fits well into the frame and now it is up to me to clean, shine, lubricate and reinstall the brass hardware and this door should work again.

I took off and measured the "D" shackle that attaches the main sheet block to the traveler and with accurate dimensions was able to order a new Wichard "High Resistance" one, about 50 percent greater breaking strength so that hopefully it will not break again as it did in Hyannis last summer. Including shipping this was $50.00 for a very small, but essential part!  And I'm chasing down the Permateak installer to get a more attractive surface for the swim platform.

The three new pencil zincs used in the refrigerator condenser arrived and I put one of them in and stored the other two.

I unscrewed and removed the wooden shelves on which the salon bench cushions sit to expose the two fresh water tanks. Each tank has two "viewing ports" namely six inch diameter 3/16th inch aluminum disks, each held in place over a blue rubber gasket with six metal screws to cover a hole in the tops of the tanks.
Then the manual dinghy pumpout pump could be inserted into the tanks and about eight gallons of water pumped out, and the last half inch sponged out, leaving only dampness. Once the two tanks dry, their interiors with lots of oxidation, can be scraped, vacuumed out and washed (last rinse an alcohol wash with cheap vodka), before the whole thing can be put back together. The only other time I did this was in 2010, so I suppose the tanks will be due for another such clean out in 2022. And John, see next paragraph, suggested I use real rubber gaskets and save a lot of labor in scraping the blue liquid gasket material from the bottom of the plates and the top of the tanks.

I can't say enough about John, who came up from Maryland's eastern shore for a few days and brought along his very expensive German "Fostner" drill bits for my work on the cabin sole.
He created a jig or tool to make for a smooth cut, consisting of a piece of plywood with holes cut through it for the size of the various bits. We drilled out four "dings"
and we even inserted glue and a bung into one of them. The next step was chiseling off the top of the bung and sanding it flush. My chisel was very dull so John sharpened it with my Dremel tool, metal file and 400 grit sandpaper. I took two of the many panels of one inch thick plywood that comprise the cabin sole home and next day sanded one down and acquired the polyurethane and brush to apply it. Lots of progress on all fronts. When I get the rest of the dings drilled or sanded out I will carefully wrap and box the bits and send them back to John.

And it was not all work: Three boating related play days:
Dinner at an Indian restaurant followed by dramatic readings of plays by a young award winning playwright at the New York Arts Club with Rhoda and Lloyd, of "Jazzsail."
I attended a very pleasant and efficient business meeting at the Harlem YC. With the depression ending, things are looking up for our Club with cost reductions, increased membership and plans to attract younger members with new programs for smaller boats and running in the black for the last two years.  After the meeting came Brazil Night, an all-Brazilian special menu (Hearts of palm salad, Feijoada and Flan with two glasses of wine and coffee for only $40, tax and tip and a performance by a troupe of that unique Brazilian martial art/acrobatic/dancing art, all for only $40.)
And we celebrated Thanksgiving at our home with a five course dinner for nine that I cooked -- six family and three friends, and all except two of them having sailed with us, including John, who had come up from Maryland.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Honeymoon Passage 2002 -- a "Near Death Experience"?

This sea story is 14 years old. It occurred during our honeymoon in August 2002. My beloved calls it our "near death experience," one dark and stormy night, but she exaggerates. I think you will find it exciting despite my customary low key unemotional account of it, the only key I know

We sailed our Tartan 34, also called ILENE. (We could have called ILENE, "ILENE II" but I feared it would have sounded too much like a rustic woodland shelter--"leanto" -- on the radio.) She was very fast for its length. We had spent a couple of days going from New York City to Block Island, where we met up with other, longer and faster Tartans for a two week group trip to Maine with TONE (Tartan Owners of New England).

One fact that caused our problem was my lack of knowledge as to the amount of diesel fuel we had aboard. Our first boat, Just Cause, a Pearson 28, had a very simple gauge to measure how much fuel was left -- in that case gasoline.  A thin teak stick was inserted from the fill hole, located in the cockpit sole, directly down about two feet until it touched the bottom of the fuel tank. It had lines scribed in it for half and quarter full. When you pulled it out, the wet part told you how full the tank was. (Like a dip stick measures your oil.) The more modern boats do not have a straight path from the fill to the tank bottom, and so gauges have replaced the unbreakable stick, but the gauges never work.

We had filled our tank in Old Saybrook CT and with light summer winds had motored to Block Island. Our next passage was also a light wind day, and being shorter and hence rated slower, we left Block Island before the other boats in the group, and motored for Onset, Mass., at the juncture of Buzzards Bay and the Cape Cod Canal. But the others soon caught up and asked me if I could crank on a few more rpms. "Sure!"   Oh, I forgot to mention how blisteringly hot it was that day. After a while the overheating alarm piped up and we shut down the engine. I called on the VHF and told the others to proceed -- we would catch up. I checked out the engine for possible causes of the overheating and this took me longer than it would a trained mechanic, maybe half an hour. During that time the ladder that closes the engine compartment was off, exposing the engine to relatively cooler air while we drifted safely but slowly on the near glassy surface of eastern Block Island Sound. Finding nothing wrong, we turned the engine back on, the heat alarm did not sound, and we proceeded, under motor, but without those extra rpms.

We got to Onset in time for the party but after the fuel dock had closed for the night; no problem, we can fill up in the morning, before we leave. Except that the six hour period when the tide was fair in the Cape Cod Canal ended rather early in the morning. We had to leave Marion at daybreak, before the fuel dock opened, or wait until the afternoon. The group's plan was to transit the Canal, cross Cape Cod Bay passing Provincetown to starboard, continue across the Stellwagen Banks, the Bay of Maine, known as Bigelow Bight, pass Monhegan Island to port, enter Penobscot Bay and head up its west coast to reach our destination, Tenant's Harbor, Maine, the next morning after a passage of about 160 miles, which would take close to 27 hours at a 6 knot pace.

After motoring through the canal on the tail end of that fair tide we should have pulled in to the marina at its far end, to starboard, in Sandwich Mass and fueled up there. But I didn't. And the day's wind was again light, with the wind from behind us. So crossing Cape Cod Bay we were motor sailing and hence using more of our fuel. We also declined to detour into Provincetown for fuel. My mistakes. Bravado and the desire not to fall behind. After all, we are a sailboat, right?

In those days I had not yet figured out how to measure fuel consumption by keeping track of engine hours, so as to compute, from tank capacity and burn rate, how many hours I could run the engine before we would run out.

One bad experience near mid day was an accidental jibe as we were crossing the Stellwagen Banks on a near dead starboard run. Lene was hanging towels to dry on the port lifelines. She got whacked on the side of her head by the boom. Fortunately, she was hit when the boom had reached the very end of its swing, rather than potentially being thrown out of the boat if she had been hit mid arc. We were also fortunate, regarding that jibe, that the wind was light. The boom's swing was not very fast. A proper preventer line, which we have now, would have prevented the jibe. Lene sat, with ice in a towel held against her head and cried. All I could do was tell her how sorry I was while I continued to steer the boat. Thankfully, after an hour or so her mood brightened. The bump took longer to go down. But this close encounter with the potentially deadly boom is not what she refers to as our "near death experience". We continued, crossing the Stellwagen Banks, but without sighting any of the whales that cavort there.

The wind gently pushed us along all day and a storm was predicted for the night. We were flying the big Genoa and the full main, to get as much speed as we could without the engine. There was more wind pushing us along as the day wore on but the boat was not setting any speed records. We were not making any six knots.

After dinner and before dark we reefed the main and furled the genoa in precaution because a storm was predicted. This slowed us, but better safe than sorry. When the storm came up, it was a big nothing for us. A few gusts of wind but only twenty drops of rain and a vast quantity of lightning. But the lightning was from under the horizon, off stage. We neither heard thunder nor saw the bolts, but the skies all around us were bright as day when the fireworks exploded radiating light from under the horizon to the heavens.

And then it was over. No storm, no rain, no more lightning -- and almost no wind. But let's be patient; so we waited another hour to make sure the storm was really gone. Finally, maybe ten or eleven p.m., we shook the reef out of the big main, unfurled the big 153 racing genny and picked up speed.

And shortly, the wind came back, except now it was in front of us, from the northeast, and we were close hauled. The Tartan had a 6' 3" keel and pointed very well -- we were moving again and fast. But the wind kept building. Yep, a Nor'easter!  And the bearing to the mouth of Penobscot Bay was northeast. Too much sail up. We had to reduce sail to gain control and reduce heeling. We tried to furl the Genoa, but Lene was a lot newer to sailing, especially at night in a storm. I handled the lines, and a flailing jib sheet slapped against the main sail, tearing a seam. Unfortunately the tear was above the main's reefing cringle. If the tear had been below the cringle, we could have simply gathered the lower part of the main into the bunt of the reef and proceeded under the reefed main, which was our planned next step anyway. But the tear forced us to drop the main entirely, wrap it up, and proceed under Genoa alone. I'm pretty handy with needle and thread, but sewing that seam was a long daylight job in calm conditions, not standing on the coach roof in the dark in a howling wind.  Well one good thing: not much rain that night.

(We also found that the compass light was not working but were able to rig a flashlight above it and keep replacing its batteries)

I never thought to go back -- put the wind behind us. This would have reduced apparent wind speed by ten knots and permitted the waves to help us rather than slam down our boat speed, time and again. But what port would we put into? It would have to be one that we had never been to before. And at night in the storm? At least if we continued it would be light before we arrived.

The engine would not have propelled us much in the big seas that the winds were whipping up -- whether working with the Genoa or without. We tried. The boat was pitching too much, with the prop rising out of the water when the bow slanted down, thus exposing the prop to cavitation. This would not do the engine or prop any good nor move the boat forward very much.

Oh yes, we were tacking and my thought was that we were safer further from the rocky Maine shore than nearer. We had never yet visited the beautiful Isles of Shoals, but on the chart they looked big, rocky and ugly. Even their name evokes fear. They were nearer the coast.  The coast of lower Maine is a big bay -- Bigelow Bight. If we tacked north, in toward shore, and then east, back out again to the rhumb line, we would have averaged closer to shore. I elected instead to go east, away from shore and then north, back to the rhumb line, to stay in deeper waters. We ended up at one point about 40 miles off the coast, which Lene considers an error in my judgement to this day. I guess she is right. The rhumb line was far from the Isles of Shoals, which are only seven miles off the coast. But hypothermia would have finished us off in minutes whether we were one mile or 40 miles off shore. With what I know now, we were foolhardy in going off shore without a proper life raft and EPIRB. Our dinghy was no substitute for the former. It would have been swamped by the big waves in seconds and the water's of Maine will kill a person by hypothermia in a matter of minutes. We were lucky.

Lene asked me to call the Coast Guard.  I told her that they would ask: Are your lives are in danger? Do you wish to abandon ship?" If not, their job is to help us contact a commercial towing company to tow us if we need to be towed. This was before Alfie Girl and Witty were born and Lene wanted to say "Yes!" But I was not considering abandoning ship. I went below for a few minutes to consult the cruising guides and charts. We seemed to be about equidistant from Tenant's Harbor and Portland. I elected Portland, though it was far from the destination of the others in the group, because more repair facilities were located there. We radioed to let the others know not to expect us for the next few days. Another boat, relayed that message to them for us because we were more than 20 miles from them, out of VHF radio range.

It started to get light before daybreak and by late morning we saw the red and white buoy "P", standing outside Casco Bay, in which Portland Harbor is located. N 43 degrees, 31.6; W 70 degrees 05.5 minutes. Lene was exultant. But Portland was north of us in Casco Bay about 11 miles away, and that bay has many islands and shoals. And the wind had not diminished. We tacked our way up the Bay and tuned into Portland Harbor. When we pulled into the inner harbor we furled the sail and headed, under motor, straight for DeMillo's fuel dock where ILENE took a big drink, though her tank was by no means empty. But I would not want to have guessed wrong on that issue and tried to pull onto an unknown dock under genoa in big winds.

Then to Portland Yacht Services, which offers dockage and a mooring field and provides a home to many marine service contractors. They directed us to their mooring field but Lene got on the radio and told them that they WOULD give us dockage! They agreed when I added that we needed repairs. We were on the dock at about 5:30 p.m., about 36 hours after we has set out at daybreak the day before. Lene had gone below for a few hours of rest during the passage, I did not.

The yard told us they would scope out our work requests the next morning, the primary one being the repair of the mainsail. Much of our clothing and bed clothes had gotten wet, or at least damp. The dorades, which are supposed  let in ventilating air but filter out sea water, were great, but after being heeled over so far for so long they had let some of the seawater that was being sprayed up over the bow into the cockpit. So hot showers in the yard, fresh dry linens on the bed and Lene made a delicious pasta dinner before a very long good night's sleep. She recalls that I fell asleep while standing up making up the V berth, and that my head lay on the table while eating her dinner.

I had another fear, one that I did not tell Lene about until after we were safely tied to the dock. What if the Genoa had been ripped apart by the force of the wind? Then we would have had no good means of propulsion out in the wind storm. But that did not happen.

In the morning the local sailmaker came, took off our main, promised to bring it back fixed the next day -- and he kept his promise. It is amazing how cooperative the recreational maritime industry is, when possible, in fixing things promptly so cruising sailors can get on with their cruises.

(It was a racing sail, made of many panels of high tech fabric stitched together. Racing sails hold their optimal curved shape until the end of their life, when they fall apart. One panel had flown apart and the sailmaker warned us that this would now continue to happen, and it did, three weeks later, when we were near home. Racing sails increase speed but cost a lot more and do not last near as long. Ah the learning curve never ends. We got home at Labor Day and bought a new sail during the winter.)

In Portland, when everything was fixed I heard the best words possible from my new bride, my mate. What I feared hearing was: "I'm flying home and I'll see you back in New York!" But instead Lene asked:  "Where do we go next?" My reply:  "I married the right girl!" The remainder of our three weeks together in Maine and coming home, were great fun, but not the subject of this post.

I hope you enjoyed this sea story.