Sun 1 Jul 2012
Docked at Fort Rachel Marina, Mystic, CT
[photo: looking up at the foremast on a 111 foot training vessel from the days of the square-rigged sailing vessels]
We were glad the air conditioning was on to reduce the humidity, but the morning dawned very bright and beautiful. Needing to pay for our dockage, and with the office not opening until 0900, we had a lazy morning and ate blueberry pancakes for breakfast with the last of the blueberries. There is some comedic value in the phrase, "these are going bad; we better eat them."
By the time we paid at the office and set off with our bikes, it was hot and humid enough that any exertion brought on heavy perspiration (or in Diane's case, a gentle "dew"). Pedaling the bikes generated a little extra breeze, however, so the several miles ride was not too uncomfortable. Diane's sound logic was to tour the Seaport first since it is mostly outside, and then tour the aquarium in the afternoon since much of it was indoors.
While the combo fare for the Seaport and Aquarium was a pricey $51 per adult, you would be hard pressed to find so much history in one place. You could easily spend a few days there if you had a mind to see and study everything there was to see; we did it in 3 hours. Diane bought a nice "crushable" hat. The woman selling them did not laugh at first when I told her that ALL hats are crushable - just not all hats are useable afterwards.
The Wooden Boat Show was in residence this weekend, so there were many dozens of small and not-so-small wooden boats both in the water and on land. The craftsmanship of most was amazing. Our good friend, Pete, would have enjoyed it. Along with such a show comes a huge tent with vendors displaying their wares, many having to do with satisfying those dreaming of, or actually, building or restoring wooden boats.
The restoration of the Henry Morgan whaling ship is very interesting and when you see how men used hand tools to saw, shape, trim, and bore those heavy timbers, you can only imagine how long and how many men it took to build a ship. I found the blacksmithing and cooperage (cask making) demonstrations very interesting. By 1230, we had seen enough and got ready to move on. It was not a far bike ride at all to the Seaport, but I would not have wanted to walk it, and going twice that distance to the aquarium would not have been possible for me without the bikes. We are so glad we have them!
We passed up many nice lunch places in town so we could eat at the Olde Mistick Village. I suppose it likes to be billed as a nice collection of interesting shops and a number of eating establishments. Diane didn't think the shops were worth much and there wasn't a lot to choose from in eateries after all. We wound up at Mango's wood-fired pizza and had a good salad and some mediocre chicken wings, plus some very expensive beers.
Then it was time for the aquarium, and as we entered, the Sea Lion show was starting. We were quickly reminded that these venues are very child oriented, and the show was geared to a child's taste, but it was entertaining nonetheless. As we toured the many indoor exhibits, we were glad the architect had accounted for numerous double strollers negotiating through the labyrinth of passages. He or she couldn't account, however, for large groups of people (sometimes in both number and girth) moving as a clump and blocking anyone else from moving at anything but their pace.
It was interesting (and not a criticism) that so many non-English languages were being spoken by the visitors. Most common was Spanish, but also German, French, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Japanese, and I think some middle-European. It must have frustrated the staff at the various pool exhibits when their just-spoken command to keep hands out of the water was immediately disobeyed. To sum up, it was crowded and very hot outside, so it was not the best time to be enjoying it.
The ride back was fine, but it was good we hydrated as much as we could before we left. Diane had her little water bottle holder on the bike handlebar (thanks Walt and Gretchen!) and that helped. Once we pushed the bikes down the dock at our marina, we noticed a large powerboat that wasn't there before. It turned out to be the Vice Commodore of our Catalina 36 Association (don't ask why he now has a powerboat), Sean and his wife, Susan. We will be staying here an extra day and will dine with them Mon night.
Diane and I have not made time to study and confer on the next few stops, but right now it is looking like Dutch Harbor in Narragansett Bay, RI and then Cuttyhunk. Breaking News - another Catalina 36 owner, Matthew, is currently in Block Island on a mooring. He invited us via email (and comments to this blog) to join with them before they leave on Tue, but as nice as that is, it will not likely work since we can't leave here until Tue and we have to leave near 1000 to not have the current working against us. That puts us in Block after they are gone and that means we won't meet them in person, and we won't have any guarantees of getting a coveted mooring the day before the big holiday. At this point, Diane has moved her sights to the Tall Ships in Newport Harbor starting 5 Jul, so that is our focus as of this moment.
As we dined on a weird combination of leftovers, all tasty dishes on their own but nothing you would ever think to serve as a meal, a brief thunderstorm hit and we got a fair amount of rain. After we left the cockpit for the air conditioned space below, Duane realized that it was not all that cool or dry. Checking the main cooling duct exhaust, it was barely blowing any volume of air, so it must be the fan or something blocking the flow. When I lifted the covering, I saw lots of frost on the refrigerant tubing and surmised the coils, too, were frosted over.
Because this is a reverse-cycle unit, it will provide heating as well as cooling and it was a simple case of making it switch to heat for 10 minutes to get rid of all the frost. When it was reversed back to cooling, the airflow was normal and the temperature was cold. Of course, if this happens when you are not in the boat, or awake, or don't know how to solve the problem, it will remain a problem ad infinitum.
We'll hope for another restful night and see what tomorrow brings.
Sat 30 Jun 2012
docked in Mystic, CT
[photo: for my friend, Larry, a mosaic in Manhasset Bay depicting PanAm's first transatlantic flight]
I don't know why the locals and the cruise boat crew were talking about scorching weather; we had delightful conditions all night. It was pretty calm when we awoke at 0530, but a light breeze started soon after. It is actually just a tad cool in the boat at 0700 and that is a good thing.
Weighing the secondary anchor by hand in the calm wind and slack current was a snap and we were off at 0820. Any earlier and we would have had a current against us (although not too strong). It was a nice and interesting motor-sail in the Sound just off the CT coastline. Along the way we encountered some places where the currents swirled in tight spirals, and a few other places that seemed like a washing machine on the agitation cycle. This must be due to the current interacting with shallow spots and the surface winds.
The wind was helping a little for much of the day, but it was the strong current that boosted our speed from 5.5 knots to as much as 8 knots for a short while. We averaged 6.7 knots, which is quite fast for us, especially considering the start and end parts are done much slower than the long middle part.
When we reached the lower end of the Mystic River, there were many sailboats just sailing around for the fun of it, and we looked sad under motor only with the light wind right on our stern. I hope they understood we had somewhere to be.
The dockhand was very helpful with local info, but we wanted to get some chores done first. Diane set out to the very nice laundry room to take care of that while Duane scrubbed the decks and cockpit. She returned after her shower and then Duane went up for his.
We dressed for dinner and walked a few long blocks to the Daniel Packer Inne where we ate downstairs in the rustic bar and had a very good meal with tasty wine and ale. Diane enjoyed her first lobster roll in a long time and it was good. Following dinner, we walked up the Main Street where there are many nice shops, restaurants, ice cream places, and a very quaint drawbridge over the narrow river with a riverfront park and dockage. We will explore this further tomorrow, along with the aquarium and seaport.
Back at the marina, we gathered the laundry that had finished drying and got back to Diva Di. It is good the air conditioning was on because the laundry room was like a sauna, so we needed to cool down. There were many people sitting in the cockpits of their boats (the vast majority we spoke with kept their boats here permanently) and they were all quite friendly.
We have contacted two Catalina 36 Association friends who live in the general area to see about getting together. Tomorrow will be a busy day, for sure. I called the Harbormaster at Block Island who said that the marinas were full, all the moorings were full (and most paid past July Fourth), and the anchorage area was crowded. We will bypass Block Island for now and hope to visit on the return trip mid-week with no holiday.
We now need to scramble and decide on the planned stops for next week, so tomorrow that is another task to do. As of tomorrow, first of July, it will be exactly three months underway. Once we pass 100 days, we will have been out longer than our previous long cruise to the Bahamas in 2008.
Fri 29 Jun 2012
Anchored in Thimble Islands, CT
[photo: one of the pretty, but very modest homes located on very small granite islands in The Thimbles]
I posted last evening before the band started playing at the shore-side park not very far from us. Sometimes being able to hear music floating across the bay is a great thing, but this time the band (local, we assume) had a penchant for playing the rhythms "off," and the lead singer sang flat on almost every song. It became a game for a while to figure out what song they were trying to play, but we eventually put in the earplugs and tried to sleep.
Once the band stopped, we enjoyed a very comfortable evening and Duane awoke at 0520 to the distant rumble of thunder. My bladder thought it was time to get up anyway, so I turned on the smartphone's Internet connection and checked the radar. Sure enough, a fast moving storm was bearing down on us, but it looked like it would pass in about 20 minutes, and it did. We got another rain to wash the boat, and with Diane's timely suggestion I had taken all the stuff we didn't want wet inside.
We just reflected that we have been cruising in 9 states so far, and today we leave NY for CT. And what a pleasant motor-sail it was. We could have purely sailed today and "only" take 8 hours to get here or motor-sailed and take 5. We chose the latter. I think until you get into the trade winds, you are stuck turning on that engine most days unless you don't care if you go anywhere that day or care how long it takes to get there. That is really not very practical in many cases on this cruise.
We had visibility of only 5 miles for the first several hours, so for a while we could not see land on either side. There was not a lot of traffic out there that we could see, even when the visibility increased to over 10 miles. The apparent wind was out of the W off the port quarter, and the timing of or departure was chosen to take advantage of the current, so we went 30 statute miles in just over 4 hours, but then lost 10 minutes anchoring. The chain had somehow jammed in the chain wheel when it was hoisted the last time and it would not release.
I took 5 minutes trying to unjam it unsuccessfully while Diane circled slowly in 7 feet of water at low tide with rocks in the general vicinity, so I went to plan B and deployed the secondary anchor. It set well in this hard sand bottom and I will leave it in place for the expected mild weather conditions. Five minutes after anchoring, I had the chain wheel unjammed and we are good to go for next time. Imagine if that were your only readily-available anchor and rode and you needed to get it down quickly in an emergency?
Diane had prepared a tasty, healthy lunch 40 minutes before we arrived at the tricky part of the navigation, so we just needed to clean up and get the dinghy down to go to the small town of Stony Creek. We had no expectations other than to dock the dinghy safely and board the Volsunga IV tour boat run by Captain Bob. It was $12 per adult ($10 for seniors) and lasted 45 minutes. It was a very interesting tour and if you are in the area (not likely for most folks), it is something worthwhile to do. Diane's very brief exposure to the town left her not needing to explore further, so we didn't.
We got back aboard Diva Di after 1600 and Duane tried to isolate the fresh water system problem where the pump runs too frequently, as if there is a leak. The goal was to disconnect the water heater and plug the hose so that the entire system was pressurized, except the water heater. That is a likely place for a leak, even though we have not found any specific areas where water is running. As of this morning, though, we noticed more water in the bilge than is explainable by the recent rains (and it is fresh water - yes, you have to actually taste it).
It started out as a typical boat job with uncomfortable contortions required to access the fitting and at least two other hoses in the way of your hands and tools. Where it finally ended was that nothing I tried to use to plug the hose would withstand the pressure. The items used to plug the hose were all smooth, with no typical hose barbs, so the plug was forced out within a minute of turning back on the pump, regardless of how tight I made the hose clamp. I gave up and reconnected the water heater (so that we have a mostly-functional system) and will have to look for appropriate fittings in Mystic, CT - our next stop for the weekend.
Dinner was a delicious pan-seared marinated flank steak with mashed potatoes, sautéed onions in a teriyaki glaze and Brussel spouts. It was all very yummy. We had braced ourselves for the onslaught of high temps that everyone was griping about, but as of 2100, it has been just wonderful with a gentle breeze keeping us cool. The only complaint might be that this is Fri evening of the weekend before July fourth, and there are lots of people running around in small skiffs and runabouts all over this place, most with no regard for wakes or navigation lights.
It is now dark and there are boats zipping past with no lights at all. Maybe they think they are doing their part for energy conservation. As for noise pollution, there are the aforementioned boats, to be sure, but there are also frequent high-speed passenger trains running close along the coast which make a surprisingly loud noise considering how far away they are. Fortunately, they are here and gone in mere moments. We are not regretting this choice for our stop, however, and we are taking into consideration the time of the year, but anyone coming here needs to be aware.
Thu 28 Jun 2012
On mooring ball at Port Jefferson, NY
[photo: replica of HMS Bounty in port for tours]
As mentioned in the previous entry, we slept late enough that we didn't have time to post the blog. We tried while underway a few hours later but the cell signal would not allow it.
The weather was wonderful ("severe clear" as we used to say in aviation) and the seas were less than a foot high as the 10 knot wind was from the W and the current was also flowing from the W. It wasn't great for sailing while the wind was dead astern, since there was not enough apparent wind to keep the sail full, but it was a very pleasant day on the water.
We arrived a little before noon and decided that racing a fast ferry from Bridgeport, CT into the channel was not a good idea, so we hove-to for a few minutes to let him pass, and then motor-sailed into Port Jefferson harbor. The people that manage the mooring balls and launch service helped us find the mooring and gave us some info about their services and the small town.
Diane made BLTs on tortilla shells for lunch (heavy on the LT and light on the B). Ever notice that not too much smells better than bacon cooking? We got our showing/shaving stuff ready to take ashore and then called the launch service to explore the town with our bikes. Even at $45 per night for a mooring ball (very expensive by our standards) at least the launch service is prompt and very helpful. We had trash and recycling with us and the launch captain said to leave it for him to dispose of. They get frequent tips (I know we tip each time), so it pays them to be helpful.
Once again, even with some challenges of narrow sidewalks and moderate pedestrian traffic, we were very glad to use the bikes. This town is one of the most compact for walking, however, so if feet are all you have, they will do just fine. There were many restaurants and shops to view along our path. We scouted the convenience store, a specialty cheese shop, and a local brewery for use at the end of our exploration.
Following a leisurely tour of everything reachable without going up major hills, we stopped at the brewery to find that you cannot consume it there and they have no food. So, we went to Tommy's Place a block away and had two beers and a huge plate of loaded nachos for $9.35 (happy hour - food and drink half price). It was very tasty and very cheap. When Diane came back from the ladies' room, I mentioned that the drink and food were on "sailors' special" and she thought I was serious.
Next, we peddled up the moderate hill where Diane got some minor provisions and Duane got some specialty cheeses. We skipped the bakery feeling guilty about the nachos, I think. Back at the harbor minutes later, we hit the bath/shower facilities, which were quite nice, and then called for the launch to bring us back to Diva Di. It is a gorgeous day, but if you are in the blazing sun and shielded from the mild breeze, you are cooking. On the boat, Diane is topside in partial sun with a little breeze and Duane is below with a fan blowing directly on him.
There is some growing concern by Duane about how warm it will be when we turn around to head home in a few weeks. Not only will air temperatures be higher, but the boat will be floating in much warmer water, which adds to the interior temperature considerably. To enjoy comfortable late summer (by northern standards) conditions all the way home, we would probably be best leaving New England in late August, but that puts us back home too late for Duane to uphold his commitment to his employer.
As much as we enjoyed Port Jeff, we feel we have seen enough and will sail tomorrow for the CT shore and the Thimble Islands. That moves us up a day in our schedule and maybe we will be able to get into Block Island after all.
As the last entry of the day, it is now almost 2000 and the sun is near to setting. The breeze has picked up just a bit and with the sun low in the sky it is again a delightful evening.
Wed 27 Jun 2012
On mooring in Northport, NY
[photo: part of the quaint town along Main Street]
The day dawned bright with only a moderate amount of wind. We got underway at 0700, as planned, and motor-sailed with a close-hauled headsail until we got to the mouth of the Manhasset Bay, where we turned generally E and had the wind "over the shoulder" all the way. The fair (favorable) current and the wind built steadily for a few hours and we turned off the engine for almost 2 hours, making about 4.5 to 5.5 knots.
There were hardly any other pleasure boats out that we could see at that time, but there were some large tugs with towed barges out there. The wind was increasing and so were the following waves, but it never got uncomfortable at all. The sail was blocking the still-rising sun, however, so Diane had to put on some warmer clothing. Before long, we were turning to the SE into the large Huntington Bay, from which we then entered Northport Bay and then Northport Harbor. All along the way were gorgeous homes scattered amongst the hillsides overlooking the water.
When we got a sight of Northport Harbor, we were amazed at the number of moored boats (mostly sailboats). Our fellow Catalina 36 owner friend, Tim Farrell, said there could be over 1,000. We motored slowly down the channel between the moored boats until we suddenly realized that there were over a dozen Optimist sailing dinghies with very young children tacking up the narrow channel ahead of us. There was a young female coach in a small powerboat amongst them, and there was nothing for us to do but stop dead in the water and let them scurry around us. They were not holding any courses and simply tacking (turning) right in front of us at will. It was all sorted out in just a minute or two and then we reached Seymour's Boat Yard where we spun around into the wind and docked to take on fuel and water. We are still averaging about 10 statute miles per gallon of diesel, but lately we have ensured (by timing our passages) that we have a mostly fair current, and sometimes we even have winds to help us along, like today.
We went back up the harbor and found Tim's boat right where he said it would be. Rafting up to it meant putting out (in our case 3) fenders on one side and coming alongside slowly, and then using appropriate lines to secure the boat. We sat there for a bit over an hour and realized the noise from the fenders squeaking as the two boats tried to slam into each other from the wave action was not going to let us be comfortable and possibly not sleep if the wave action continued through the night. We called Seymour's and paid for a guest mooring ball for the night. Tim's offer remains very generous, but it didn't work out this time.
Once on our own mooring, there was no drama between two boats any longer, so things seemed much more settled. Diane suggested we clean up and take the water taxi ashore, which we did. The launch Captain, Adam, was a nice young man who gave us lots of insights for the short excursion ashore. We disembarked and walked up the Main Street past many cute and interesting shops, restaurants, and professional offices. It isn't a "Disney-style" tourist town, but many of the buildings were nicely maintained and attractively painted and decorated to appeal to tourists and locals alike.
Our tour ended just before 1600, so we waited for the happy hour time at Skipper's Pub in the park across the street. When we entered Skipper's we were told that the clock on the bar was 10 minutes fast so happy hour hadn't started yet. I guess with modern Point-of-Sale cash registers, the timing is automatic, so we really had to wait for the real 1600 to get served under reduced prices. We had a beer and wine and ordered the half-priced calamari. The calamari was just OK, but overall we had a nice happy hour experience. As it often happens, we had good conversations with a local man who frequents the place and then later with a new resident, a young woman who apparently also comes there often.
Following happy hour, we strolled up the street above the marina and took the stairs down where we found Adam on the dock. He took us and another passenger aboard and in minutes we were back on Diva Di. While we have generally been eating pretty healthy aboard, there are some nights (like pizza night) that it won't pass muster as a healthy meal. Tonight, we need to use up some onions and peppers that were not going to keep much longer, and the roast beef we bought for sandwiches had been frozen by being too near the freezer. What to do? Well, cheesesteaks on tortillas with fried peppers and onions sounded awfully good, and it was. Oh, yes, there was fresh broccoli, too (Marilyn, we always think of you when we cook it ;-))
The early evening in the cockpit was lovely, with a comfortable breeze and mild wave action. We sometimes forget that the NE USA has been a breeding ground for great sailors and we saw lots of youngsters of all ages in various sized boats weaving in and out of the moored boats, just having a great time. There are also adults leaving the harbor in 30-40 foot sailboats who appear to be enjoying an after-work sail in the gorgeous conditions.
Not much before 2000 (8 pm), Tim called to say he was just getting out of work and would Diane and I like to join him and part of his family for dinner at a place not far from where the launch service docks at Seymour's. We hated to miss the opportunity to meet Tim and his family face to face, so we violated the cruiser curfew and quickly got dressed for the occasion and then went ashore in the launch. Adam, the launch captain, was quite impressed that older cruisers such as we are would be hitting the town after dark.
Tim and his family were delightful people and we thoroughly enjoyed our conversations while they dined and we sipped a drink. Tim insisted on treating us to the drinks and we appreciate his generosity. We won't repeat the conversations, but suffice it to say that they are very smart, have plans, and will strive to make those plans happen. We wish them all the success in doing just that.
It was such a beautiful night when we got back to Diva Di after 2200 that we had to sit on deck with Clyde and enjoy the calm water and gentle breeze. Bedtime for Diane was near 2230, but Duane was up until about 2315. It was a wonderful sleep and Duane had to be awoken by Diane at 0715 for the 0800 departure.
Tue 26 Jun 2012
On (free) mooring ball in Manhasset Bay
[photo: fiery sunset reflecting off the boats in the harbor]
Under the category of "it's always something," last night we endured the pendant (line) from the mooring ball snagging on the anchor numerous times as the boat veered in the gusty winds and making an unsettling racket. In the middle of the night, I tried to adjust the line, but without success. After awaking in the morning, I realized I had to drastically shorten the overly long line so that the angle was steeper from the cleat down to the ball. It appears to have worked, but Diane spent the night in the main cabin to partially escape the noise.
The sun is shining today although it got fairly cloudy later on. Just before 1000, we got cleaned up to go ashore to explore and buy a few provisions. Our dinghy was quite a sight loaded with 2 bicycles, 2 large bags of trash, and our backpack. We got to the Town Docks, deposited the trash, and tried to find someone to register with, but the only official looking building was empty.
We rode the bike along a short boardwalk overlooking the not-so-attractive waterfront (mainly because it was low tide and what was exposed was not pretty). We then hooked up with Shore Blvd. and rode past a nice park, and then found the grocery and liquor stores in a nice little mall a short ways down the road.
Knowing now where they were, we took a road to the NE that wound through a very quiet residential area. It wasn't especially scenic, but it was a pleasant way to get some exercise. We had to backtrack to get to the Main Street in town and there really isn't much there (we had a friend recommend a good book store, which we saw, but not needing anything, we bypassed it). We also rode S along Main Street past Louie's Restaurant and then turned around for lap number two.
Diane had her choice of restaurants either on Main Street or Shore Blvd., but she suggested we see what was in the mall. She chose the Chinese place and we ate there off paper plates with plastic forks. It wasn't all that great, but it was a good, spicy and hot meal on a cool, blustery day.
After the meal, we went to the grocery and liquor stores, careful of our selections since the majority of heavy items needed to go in the backpack Diane was to carry (for those that forgot, the folding bikes have a weight limit and Duane is just over it; to add 20+ pounds of groceries would be pushing it a bit far). The ride home was swift, despite the load, and we were on the dinghy by 1230.
As expected, the chop in the harbor was bad and we went very slowly to minimize the amount of salty spray. Once unloaded, Diane stowed the groceries, while Duane hoisted the dinghy and rinsed the salt off the bikes. As of 1400, it is blowing 15 knots steady with gusts over 25. The whole harbor has white caps and we are swinging back and forth and heeling over with the gusts. It isn't really uncomfortable, and at least we figured out how to stop the mooring pendant from snagging the anchor.
We are really glad not to be out there today, but we wonder if the current forecast will be correct or if it will still be almost this gusty tomorrow. If the wind is really WNW, the only rough patch should be getting out of this bay, but after that the wind will be abaft the beam and easy sailing even at 15 knots of breeze.
As of 2000, we had a significant lull in the wind, but it has picked up again to 15 knots or so. Speaking of weather, we see that or homestead, Punta Gorda, FL has been getting lots of wind and rain from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Debby. Friends who live next door said the water has been over the docks for a while, but not over the seawall, thankfully. We hope that is the last storm threat for everyone this year, but that is not likely.
Preliminary Plan (always subject to weather and other factors):
Wed - Northport, NY
Thu, Fri - Port Jefferson NY
Sat - Thimble Islands, CT
Sun, Mon - Mystic, CT
Tue, Wed (Jul 4th) - Block Island