The cold rain kept us tucked in our cozy room most of the morning, but about noon we ventured out. After going by the Verizon store to ask why we kept getting kicked off the Internet by our air card (nice guy, best answer - the network doesn't work as well near water....) we went to the waterfront to see if any part of the festival hadn't been canceled because of the bitterly cold wind and rain.
We found a lively enough group in a warm tent down by the water listening to Them Eastport Oyster Boys. But since food was being served, Madison was forbidden, so we wandered down to look at the tall ships. They were supposed to be sailing and for $25, a person could go along, but the sails were canceled due to gale warnings. We got a kick out of looking at the ships though. The Kalmar Nyckel from Wilmington, Del., was most impressive. It is a re-creation of the first Swedish settlement ship to arrive in America. She's ornately carved with a wonderful cast of characters including a dog sticking its tongue out. She was launched in the fall of 1997. And did I mention that she's huge! She's 148 feet LOA with a 25-foot beam. The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation owns the present Kalmar Nyckel and uses her for educational purposes and as an ambassador for the state of Delaware. In 1638, the original Kalmar Nyckel brought a colony of Swedish, Finnish, German and Dutch settlers to the Delaware Valley where they established a permanent settlement called New Sweden in present-day Wilmington, Del. Kalmar Nyckel crossed the Atlantic round-trip four times, more than any other ship of the era.
A history by a descendant of a Kalmar Nyckel settler
We were freezing and though I would have loved to stand around and admire her for much longer, we moved on. On another dock we watched the "ship's doctor" use a very 20th century plastic pump to clear the bilge of a "jolly boat," the smallest tender a British ship of the Age of Sail would have carried. At 17 feet, she would have been stacked inside three other shore-going boats on the deck of a ship, or so her sailing master "Alastar Smee" by name, told us. We came upon "Alastar" (whose 21st century name is Patrick) as he was tugging on one of the lines holding "Vigilant" to the dock. Their ship's doctor was a midwife pressed into service when the real ship's doctor became indisposed, he said. The jolly boat was the easiest to launch and was used by the captain when he went ashore and for ferrying mail and supplies back and forth to the ship. "Alastar" speculated that the name "jolly" might have been attached to the boat because the crew that rowed her ashore had a chance to become "jolly" before returning. Vigilant was built in 1991 and belongs to Lloyd Robbins. She's a reconstruction of an 18th Century jolly boat from the ship Columbia commanded by a Captain Gray who explored the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792, according to the sign posted next to her.
There was so much to see but it was soooooo COLD. We tramped down every dock, but the wind was so strong it threatened to snatch my day pack out of my hands everytime I took it off my back. We finally retreated to the car and drove down the charming tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks around Chestertown's harbor heading for the outskirts where we could find fast food and coffee. We drove around a bit exploring the town, then camped out in the Verizon parking lot to connect to the Internet for a few minutes. Afterward, Robert brought me back to Rock Hall and he went back for a program at 5 p.m. about the building of Sultana.
We packed the car and left for Chestertown about 9 a.m. The drive took about six hours, but we stopped after we crossed the bay bridge at an outlet center where we found an LL Bean outlet and spent about an hour. We were reluctant to stop before we got across the bridge for fear of having the same experience Olivia did of getting stuck waiting for hours.
We were looking for gloves. The weather prediction is for cold and wind and possibly snow for the weekend. We started this journey in stifling heat. I suppose it's appropriate that we end it in freezing cold.
We found our gloves and a few other odds and ends and went on our way to Rock Hall, which is across the peninsula formed by the bay and the Chester River from Chestertown. It's about a 15 minute drive from Chestertown and was the closest place we could find lodging for the weekend. We're staying at the Mariner Motel in a cozy room that has an absolutely marvelous shower.
We ordered our dinner from the Waterman's Crab House, a short walk from the motel and ate at the little round table in our room. Robert apparently had a lengthy conversation with the bartender while he waited for our order. He told her we weren't eating in the restaurant because we had a dog. She told him she has eight dogs - all small. She showed him a picture of a puppy she was getting soon. Tomorrow night, if we order from there, he said I should go talk to her.
We left for Chestertown about 6:30 p.m. so we could watch the fireworks and I could go to a talk at The Prince Theater by Dava Sobol, who wrote "Longitude." This weekend is my birthday celebration, so Robert insisted I go, though he would have really enjoyed it (one of us had to stay with Madison). He's read the book and we've seen the A&E movie based on the story of John Harrison, a clockmaker who took up the challenge issued by the British government to find a solution to problem of fixing a ship's longitude at sea.
Sobol began her presentation by showing a slide of her mother as a young woman at the helm of a sailboat. She included the photo of her mother, she joked, because there were no women in this story. She explained that when she was a little girl, her mother got interested in celestial navigation about the same time her father got interested in sailing. Her mother took her along to classes, so she had an early introduction to the concepts of latitude and longitude, though she wasn't much interested at the time.
Years later, when she was working as a science writer for various well-known publications, she tried to peddle a story about a symposium on longitude she'd been invited to attend at Harvard. All the editors she approached thought it was "boring, weird and esoteric." But shortly before the conference when it turned out hundreds of people were coming from all over the world, Harvard Magazine called and asked her to cover it.
It was the best science conference she's been to in 30 years of science writing, she said. Soon after the magazine came out, a book publisher read her story and called to ask if she had enough information to turn it into a book.
She went from not being able to get even an assignment for a magazine article to being offered a book contract. And the book she wrote spent months on the New York Times bestseller list.
In the early 1700s, the British government offered a 20,000 pound prize to anyone who could come up with a way for sailors to reliably calculate longitude after four of five ships in Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell's fleet ran aground in 1707 and sank with a loss of about 2,000 sailors. They ran into the rocks off the Scilly Islands in the fog because they thought they were someplace else. (The great irony is that within the previous 24 hours, Shovell had been approached by a common sailor who had been keeping his own reckoning of the fleet's location and disagreed with the fleet's navigators. The sailor knew that such activity was considered subversive and that he risked being hanged, but the danger seemed so great he took the risk. Shovell had him hanged on the spot.) Shovell's fleet was only the most recent in a long line of ships and men lost at sea because they were literally lost. They misjudged where they were because they had no accurate way of determining their longitude. Sailors could determine latitude - their location north or south on the globe - by measuring the distance between the horizon and the sun at noon or the North Star at night. The zero-degree meridian of latitude is the equator. But there was no heavenly help for sailors in determining longitude - that is, where they were east or west, though an astronomical solution was believed to exist, and was being diligently sought.
The other solution to determining longitude was to develop an accurate timepiece that would withstand the rigors of life at sea. As Sobol explains in "Longitude,":
"The measurement of longitude meridians...is tempered by time. To learn one's longitude at sea, one needs to know what time it is aboard ship and also the time at the home port or another place of known longitude - at that very same moment. The two clock times enable the navigator to convert the hour difference into a geographical separation. Since the earth takes twenty-four hours to complete one full revolution of three hundred sixty degrees, one hour marks one twenty-fourth of a spin, or fifteen degrees. And so each hour's time difference between the ship and the starting point marks a progress of fifteen degrees of longitude to the east or west."
Sobol's one prop, besides her slides, was a little inflated globe. She got a laugh right off by pointing out that latitude lines are the ones that run around the globe from east to west and grow smaller toward the poles. Longitude lines are the ones that run north and south over the poles.
The equator is a natural for zero-degree latitude, but there is no natural point for zero-degree longitude, so of course deciding prime meridian of longitude became a political matter. In "Longitude," Sobol writes that the French continued to place the prime meridian in Paris until 1911, 27 years after the International Meridian Conference in 1884 made official what had been common practice for more than a century and placed the prime meridian at Greenwich, seven miles outside of London.
"Day begins in Greenwich," Sobol writes. "Time zones the world over run a legislated number of hours ahead of or behind Greenwich mean time (GMT). Greenwich time even extends into outer space: Astronomers use GMT to time predictions and observations, except that they call it Universal Time, or UT, in their celestial calendars."
But that's the end result of John Harrison's story, the honor that came to England because he designed a beautiful, precise time piece that would remain true despite the harshness of life at sea. Harrison's story is the heart of Longitude. It took him 40 years to claim the prize. He was his own worst critic in the beginning, but in the end he was undermined by some members of the Board of Longitude that had been set up to decide the winner. It's a compelling human story, as is the story of naval officer Rupert Gould, the man who discovered Harrison's four prototypes corroding at Greenwich and spent 12 years meticulously cleaning and restoring them without pay. Today, they are on display at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, wound every morning by the Maritime Museum curator who lovingly cares for them.
As she concluded her talk, Sobol reflected on the Global Positioning System that gives its name to the GPSs so precise that anyone checking our blog can tell exactly where our boat is in the Deltaville boatyard. GPSs work by receiving information from orbiting satellites and time signals from atomic clocks. It's the perfect marriage of the two methods - astronomical and temporal - of determining longitude.
"You have to wonder what the Board of Longitude would have thought of that solution," Sobol said.
When I told Robert, he had a ready response. "They would have accused whoever came up with it of witchcraft and burned them at the stake."
Longitude at Amazon
NPR interview about Sobol's new book "A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos
Interview with Sobol
Preparing to leave
We spent the day rolling up the dingy, cleaning out the ice box and doing other chores related to leaving the boat. In the afternoon, Madison and I camped out at the laundry - a VERY busy place this week - and waited our turn to wash clothes and her bedding. Meanwhile, Enterprise picked Robert up and took him to Gloucester where he picked up a rental car we'll use to go to Chestertown for the Downrigging Festival and then to go home in. When he got back we did a mini-tour of Deltaville. We were disappointed that at the infamous Stingray Point, where John Smith got stung by a stingray, there's a sign that says private road, no access. We consoled ourselves by driving back to the maritime museum and going for a walk on the beautiful, peaceful grounds there. A couple of guys were having a cold one in the boatbuilding shed after stringing lights along the sculpture path in the forest in preparation for All Hallows Eve.
On the hard
Arwen came out of the water about 11 a.m. this morning after we waited in line for about 45 minutes to get to the fuel dock for a pumpout. Her bottom was in better shape than we had feared. She had a few blisters that will have to be ground out and filled with epoxy before she gets a water barrier coat and a new coat of bottom paint, but all-in-all, she looked pretty good. We pierced the blisters using a punch tool a great neighbor on a 28-foot Cape Dory loaned us. We're deep in the boatyard, with the bow facing a nice patch of woods, right beside a Moody 376 wrapped in shrink wrap that's for sale.
There are several problems with living on a boat that's on the hard, especially if you have a dog. For starters, you can't use the head and we are a pretty good hike from the bathrooms. But the biggest problem for us is getting Madison on and off the boat. We've done it before in Oriental, so we have a system, but it was a bit harder tonight because we didn't have a step ladder, just an extension ladder. We put her life vest on and Robert tied a line to it. We put the line around a wench. Then Robert carried her up the ladder by the handle on the back of the life vest while I pulled the rope up using the wench. That way, if he lost his grip, Madison wouldn't have fallen. Fortunately, Madison just goes limp and allows herself be manhandled without struggling. She weighs 50 pounds, so if she struggled, it would be nearly impossible to get her up this way. She's so trusting and she does what she can to help. When she gets to the toe rail, she puts her front paws out and tries to grasp it. She's such a good girl. Later, Robert put a block on the boom and swung the end of the boom out over the side of the boat to make it easier to raise and lower her.
A colony expunged
We hauled the dingy from the dingy dock to the boatyard in a cart and spent the afternoon removing the bay life that had colonized her bottom. Some of the barnacles were getting to be a respectable size. The job took a fair amount of elbow grease and boat soap. Then we left her to dry and took Madison for a walk.
We spent the morning taking the sails off in a brisk wind. This required a fair amount of cooperation with Robert pulling them down and me trying to keep them from blowing into the water and flake them as they came off the mast in the case of the mainsail and the roller furler in the case of the jib. We managed to keep them from blowing into the water, but I'm none too proud of the flaking and folding.
We had a splendid morning eating breakfast in the cockpit and watching a lone loon carefully groom itself in Jackson Creek. After its morning ablution, it began diving. It stayed under an average of about 50 seconds.
Robert spent most of the day running errands to get ready to haul out. I spent most of it sitting outside the laundry room with Madison working on the computer. The washing machine and dryer were busy and I had an opportunity to meet new cruisers, mostly heading south for the winter. The woman ahead of me and her husband, who stopped in to have a relatively minor repair done, are from Maine. Their boat is named, appropriately enough, Katahdin. The person doing laundry ahead of her had left their clothes in the only working dryer. Cathy, being a thoughtful person, was reluctant to take those things out and pile them on the table. I was in no hurry, so I told her it was fine to leave her clothes in the washer and wait for the other person to come back. Cathy went away and came back in 15 minutes. The clothes were still in the dryer, so we decided to wait a while longer. An hour later we made an executive decision to take the clothes in the dryer out and fold them. When we removed them, it turned out they were mostly rags and such used for boat cleaning. We laughed and Cathy proceeded to move her laundry to the dryer and I put mine in to wash. Cathy neatly folded the rags and left them on the folding table. Sometime later, the woman who owned the rags returned and laughed to find her pile neatly folded. She came out and thanked me for being so nice. I explained that it was Cathy who had folded them. Laundry room etiquette is very important.
A fondness for bus routes???
It was a beautiful sunny day, but by late afternoon there was a chill in the air. Boats are coming into the anchorage for the night and leaving early in the morning, presumably bound for warmer climes. Robert wants to go with them. Last night he was reminiscing fondly of getting around on bicycles and figuring out bus schedules.
"I don't want to go back to cars," he said. He sounded a bit petulant.