Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scary, but Motivating

We’re on the way to Onset, Massachusetts at the south end of the Cape Cod Canal. Some scary broadcasts on the radio this morning. We heard one guy call a May Day in a very panicked voice – he had an engine fire. It turns out that the halon system put it out, everyone is OK, and the boat is being towed in. Then later the Coast Guard broadcasted a possible boat explosion off Rhode Island – didn’t hear the outcome of that one.

I’m now motivated to start some drills for us. I understand that the thing to do is to create checklists for various situations and assign duties to the crew members. I have some checklists that were created by a sailboat, so modifying those for use will be great preparation. Then we'll start the drills! Look out Norm...when you least expect it.....

Is it always windy up here in New England? It seems it's always 15 mph out of the southwest. This makes grabbing mooring balls and anchoring, adventure. Today, Vicki got the painter line on the first try in spite of windy conditions. Of course Norm negotiated the bow of the boat for a perfect grab. The Painter Line is the line attached to the mooring ball that we connect to our boat in some fashion. The fashion changes from time to time depending on.....if anyone is watching, or how much the wind is blowing, or how long or short we need the connection to be, or if we can see how the mother ship did it for the prevailing conditions!!
After "readying up" the boat and taking care of some minor chores on board, we all dinghyed over to shore to pay the $20 mooring charge and get some much needed exercise. The Adventures' Launch Service was exceptional. The town has a very nice beach; and, people were actually swimming. A bit too cold for us. Here's a shot of "Salt (Tide Hiker) and Pepper (Adventures)" moored in Onset Harbor. We ended the great day with grilled center cut pork chops and salad dinner accompanied by marvelous "reds".

Friday, June 20, 2008

Root for Rambler

Yesterday’s adventure was provisioning (aka ‘shopping’ for all you land lubbers). Vicki took the new pull-cart for its debut 6 blocks to the grocery store and loaded it up, plus bungeed two canvas bags on top. It’s a good thing the 6-block trek back was downhill. We’re not sure what the maximum payload of the cart is, but it’s a good bet that it was exceeded. This picture shows the “before” photo – we never got around to taking a photo of the thing fully loaded because we stopped (and stayed) at the Black Pearl dock bar to meet friend Lynnie’s cousin who is the bar manager. Nice guy, in spite of the fact that no free drinks were offered. While quaffing the not-free drinks, we chatted with some guys who were racing in today’s Newport to Bermuda 5-day race which we’ve come to understand is a big deal in the sailing world. Then, while quaffing more not-free drinks, Robin and Jim (ala Mother Ship) arrived after a 13-hour cruise, so of course they were ready for a not-free drink and we had to join them. Anyway, in all of the festivities we lost track of our intention to take a picture of the fully-loaded pull cart. Maybe next time.

In case you’re wondering, Norm also went provisioning – to the hardware store and marine supply store – but declined the opportunity to take the other pull cart… it didn’t really fit with the do-rag salty dog image.

Today was the start of the Newport to Bermuda race. We watched the start from the lawn of an inn overlooking the harbor entrance. It was thrilling! The start lasted 2-hours as the classes start 10 minutes apart. See the cooool pics. Robin used to race sailboats, so we were lucky to have a tutor since we know next to nothing about sailboating. We’ve selected boats and have a small wager on whose boat will place highest in its class. Robin picked Donnybrook, Norm selected Speedboat, and Vicki chose Rambler. Jim is still considering. There’s a website for tracking the boats as they progress – fun!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Beware the Ooze!

Smooth cruise yesterday from Block Island to Newport where our plans were to anchor. Alas, our anchor wouldn’t hold even though the bottom was supposed to be ‘sticky’. Maybe the chart meant ‘post-it- note’ sticky when a 60,000 lb. boat needs ‘super-glue’ sticky. The navigation charts have 76 different terms for the bottom composition. Some you’d want to stay away from: smell, rotten, decayed. Some are definitely alive and you could make a meal if the ship’s stores were empty: oysters, mussels, seaweed. Others sound like they might be alive and attach to you if you went swimming: spicules, radiolarian, pteropods, polyzoa, cirripedia- all sound really creepy. Ooze is pretty scary, too – sounds like a B-movie horror flick. We’d be afraid to anchor over tenacious ground– it might hold the anchor and never give it back. Anyway, sticky wasn’t sticky, so we’re on a mooring ball. (Vicki caught this one on the first try.)

Lovely afternoon walking around the yachting town of Newport. This was the playground of the rich and famous (Vanderbilts, etc) at the turn of the century. They built mansions which they called cottages – we did the mansion walk and gawked at the opulence.

Our other stop, other than the ice cream shop, was Trinity Church built in 1726. Everyone from George Washington to the Vanderbilts to Queen Elizabeth has worshipped there. It has a rare three-tiered pulpit with what looks like a cupcake top hanging over it to disperse the sound. (And if you have been reading this blog you know that Vicki knows cupcake tops, right?) The wealthy used to buy plaques for the dearly departed which were mounted on the church walls as a memorial – one person was characterized as ‘the perfect woman – strong, etc’. Norm and I mused about whether strong meant strong-willed, physically strong for doing chores, or durable (lasting a long time).

We’re going into town this afternoon for some provisions. (That’s marine speak for ‘going shopping’.) Then we’re going to say hi to friend Lynnie’s cousin who is the bar manager at the Black Pearl (perhaps a complimentary cocktail??) which just happens to be 50 ft. from the launch dock. How convenient!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Speed At Anchor and Other Things

OK, around 9:00 PM last night we recorded our boat's speed at .3 knots per hour----while at anchor! The storm dealt us 43 knots of wind and rain from the south. Do ya think I had too much anchor chain out? (I am a bit paranoid now.) We could see the boat move on the chart plotter and the GPS anchor alarm. It looked like the roller derby babes were whipping us around. If you saw the boat's track on the chart plotter, you would have thought we were playing etch-a-sketch. We were dragging a bit but the anchor dug in and kept us safe for the rest of the night. We both hit the sack at 10:30 and had a great night's sleep.

OH, and Cal, just so you know, we didn't have the life jackets on this time! We're getting a bit more confident of our ability to ride out a storm without catastrophe.

Today was a 5-star day. Blue sky, bike ride to the northern tip of Block Island, and ice cream. We've sufficiently rested in this lovely place and will trek on to Newport RI tomorrow morning. Hoping for smoother seas than we had coming over.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We see lightning on the horizon

Here we are. When you click on the photo, you'll get an exploded view. So, if you are having trouble seeing the notation, just click on the photo.

We are anchored in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island, RI. See the big "hole" in the island. That us!!

Today, we hiked parts of the island and stopped at Ballards, a famous restaurant recommended to us by our friends Ken and Judy. Very good!! The hike was perfect. It was a bit chilly this morning so we layered up and by noon were down to T-shirts. There were some lovely vistas on top of the hills here that looked over the island and Block Island Sound. Here's a shot of the most beautiful farm I have ever seen. We were surprised by the rural makeup of the land here. Lots of farms. Also, Vicki had to smell the flowers in this shot, but soon her head was surrounded by bees--hence the expression.

Tonight we are expecting more storms. We can see the lightning in the distance. We just spoke to our friends on the Mother Ship (still located at City Island, NY) and this storm passed them about 30 minutes ago and had 15-30 minutes of sustained winds of 43 knots.
Jim and Robin are making unexpected repairs on their generator and will depart City Island on Wednesday. We should join up again in Newport, RI.

True Confessions

Vicki writes….
Reading this entry will be very therapeutic for those of you who are insanely jealous of our cruising lifestyle …there are plenty of times when it’s WORK with a healthy dose of STRESS. Yesterday is a good example.

Crossing from Connecticut to Block Island can be a bit like the open ocean and yesterday’s seas were 3-5 ft. – uncomfortable, not scary – nothing breaking over the bow. It seems that I’m getting my sea legs as I fought off sea sickness (with the help of wrist pressure bands, Quease-Ease aromatherapy inhaler, and a Rolaid). Forgot to try the gingersnaps -- opening the refrigerator probably wasn’t a good idea, anyway. Should have taken a magic pill, but didn’t think about it until too late. Nerves were further wracked by objects flying off surfaces and crashing to the floor – yes, we still have too much stuff not in drawers or secured – that will change.

We entered the Great Salt Pond which forms the center of Block Island and thought we’d catch a mooring ball since anchors have a reputation for dragging here. I wasn’t successful in maneuvering the boat close enough to the ball for Norm to get it, so I got a chance to snag my first mooring ball which I did on the third try – WooHoo! The celebration was short-lived when it became evident that the boat was too long for the mooring and would swing over other mooring balls potentially wrapping around our struts, props and whatever else is under there. We tried two other balls with the same result. In the process of grabbing the third ball, I LOST THE BOAT HOOK into the water – it was caught on the line of the mooring ball and as the boat traveled backwards and the ball stayed stationary, I was dragged up the railing of the forward deck unable to free the hook from the line -letting go of the hook before my arm was wrenched out of its socket. Fun. Trusty Norm came to the rescue using the spare boat hook to recover the one drifting. That was a 20-minute ordeal of Norm running back and forth around the boat, yelling maneuvering instructions to me since I couldn’t see the thing in the water. It sounds funny now and I’m actually getting a chuckle, but at the time it was not fun. It would have been very entertaining to watch, no doubt. Norm then snagged the third mooring ball and we realized, again, that we were too close to the other moorings. (On the bright side, we did get a lot of valuable practice getting mooring balls.)

Over to plan B - Let’s anchor. The anchorage was clearly marked and there were a number of boats there, but it wasn’t crowded. We cruised around that place twice looking for the right spot – found a couple possibilities and then decided to move on. We wanted to be close to shore where, reportedly, our type of anchor works best. It wasn’t clear how much water there was close to shore – that is, we could tell the depth under us, but weren’t sure of the depth closer in and whether we would hit bottom when the boat swung – and didn’t want to test it. Also, we were a bit leary because all other boats were anchored in the middle, not near shore. After what seemed like 45-minutes of debate about what to do, out we went to the middle and anchored successfully.

[Warning: The following contains self-confessional material that may be too emotionally gripping for some readers, but is included to portray our authentic cruising experience. Those of you who are in touch with your inner-Oprah will really dig it!]

All of this precipitated meltdown #2. It was of the “this is too hard” variety. (Not to worry - meltdowns are just a normal part of my process for coping with change –they last a few minutes and help me ‘get it out’ so I can ‘move on’ –ooh, I’m channeling Dr. Phil). Meltdown #1 (I might as well confess all) was of the “nothing’s going right” variety and happened after the crap-o-matic pooped out, the intercom broke (since fixed), trip-planning was harder than anticipated, and the cupcakes stuck in the pan yielding only cupcake tops (that was the tipping point). Yes, I’m getting another chuckle here, but I’m telling ya, at the time those cupcakes put me over the edge! Unfortunately, the meltdowns occurred on Norm’s birthday and Father’s Day. Poor Norm! If the holiday trend holds, the next meltdown will occur on our Anniversary, July 1. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

That's a Lot of Blubber!

Before leaving Essex yesterday morning, we went for a run. Saw lots of cool homes – New England cottages, colonials, mansions all mingled together. Came upon a historical site – the Hill Academy which was the first school in town, started in 1833. What is unusual is that it was coed and included both settlers and native people. The benefactor left an endowment to pay for the schooling of any native child who couldn’t afford it.

Here's were we are. Look at the notation in the upper right of the chart. We are at the end of Long Island Sound, almost. Norm has often said that the Chesapeake Bay is an awesome body of water for cruising. He now thinks that Long Island Sound is equally good--and deeper.

A short trek to Mystic CT yesterday and a taxi to the Mystic Seaport which is an outdoor maritime museum on 17 acres. It has over 100 buildings displaying everything about shipbuilding and the community in the 1700-1800s. There were also several old tall ships and the last remaining whaling ship of a fleet that once numbered 600. The whaling ship was fascinating. They’d go out for 3-5 years hunting whales and process the whale blubber into oil for burning in lamps which was stored in casks on the ship. Attn: “squeamish alert” for the following description… The 80-100 ft whale was brought along side the ship and they peeled the skin off with the underside of blubber attached. It was peeled in a single very long corkscrew piece (like peeling an apple in a corkscrew motion) with the whale carcass slowly rolling over in the water as it was peeled. The blubber was hauled over the deck of the ship and onto the deck below known as the blubber deck. (See Vicki pictured on the blubber deck – hey, watch it, I can hear you making remarks.) There it was cut into chunks and heated in this giant brick cauldron on the top deck to render the oil.

Saw a man-over-board drill on one of the tall sailing ships. If it took the real crew as long to launch the rescue ship as it did the museum staff, the poor victim was a gonner!

The anchor towering above mariner Norm was discovered off Nantucket. It’s from a 72-gun British warship from the Revolutionary War. In anchors, size matters!

Today, we’re headed to Block Island RI.