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The Voyage of S/V Estelle
Cruising the Western Caribbean in our Bristol 41.1
A Whale of a day!
Jim Lea
05/28/2007, Isles of Shoals, N.H.

Actually, I'm not certain if we are in New Hampshire or Maine tonight. The state line runs through the group of Islands. Yesterday (Sunday) we got to the canal a bit early, and as a result spent the first part of the trip fighting the current. It changes quite suddenly, so one minute we were going 4 knots into it, the next we were doing 9 knots as it changed and swept us out into Cape Cod Bay. The wind was forecast to start out easterly, then clock into the south east. As our course was north-east, we were hoping for it to clock early, but by the time we left the canal it was still in the east, so we hoisted the main and motor-sailed. But shortly after, it clocked, as forecast, and we pulled out the jib, shut down the engine, and had a beautiful beam reach (wind coming across our beam at right angles to our course) and swept across the bay and into Provincetown. We picked up a mooring from Provincetown Marine, and just as we settled in, a tender came alongside to collect the $40 mooring fee, so we hopped in and went ashore. I was running out of cash and Jeannie wanted to mail some postcards, so we had a quick walk down Main Street, then up to a small deli we knew for some fresh fruit. Then we headed back to the boat. On the tender, we met a couple we had chatted with in Block Island. They are from England, and sailed over last year and are now cruising this side of the Atlantic. They are headed for Halifax, and wanted to chat with us about Nova Scotia, but they were off to dinner ashore and we were headed back to the boat, so never got to chat. Then this morning, we left early and, although we tried to call them on the VHF, they must have been asleep, so we never did connect. We dropped the mooring pennant a few minutes after 7:00 am and motor-sailed out the harbor, expecting our 10-15 knot winds to spring up (I had woken in the night to the sounds of wind and thought we would have a great day), but they never showed up. All day they went from zero to ten and back as we motor-sailed across the Stellwagen Bank, a feeding ground for whales. And at one time, we had to slow down for fear we would hit them, as they rose and dived all around us, some as close as 20' off our beam! And as the whales were considerably larger than our boat, we were a bit concerned about a collision, or more to the point, what the whale would think about a collision! We were so mesmerized that we never thought of the camera! But that was the excitement for the day. All day long we motor-sailed, crossing the shipping lanes to Boston without sighting a single ship, passing Cape Anne and Rockport, a beautiful and tiny harbor where we stayed on 2003, then across Jefferys Ledge, then across Scantum Basin and into the Gulf of Maine, where the Isles of Shoals lie. And, as seems to be the pattern, about 3:30, the wind rose quickly to 25 knots, so we scrambled to put two reefs in both main & jib, and we accelerated to a nice 7.5 knots on a close reach. We got in about 7:00 pm, a 12 hour day, as all day we seemed to be fighting a counter-current and only averaged 5.5 knots, not our usual 6.5. Big day on the SSB today! I finally made contact with Eric Orms on Tabitha. He is off Horta in the Azors, and the signal was weak, but readable. Our problem was that someone else kept interrupting us on the frequency and we couldn't find a free one. But we had contact, so that's a big improvement. Most of today's conversation sounded like a typical cell phone conversation... "can you hear me now?" but it was good to hear his voice, and we will be trying again tomorrow. We also heard Herb talking to Pilgrim, another Canadian boat that we have met a few times. Yesterday they made only 30 miles, and Herb is trying to give them a new course, but they can't hear them. Tomorrow, off to Maine. We hope to make Five Islands, where we have friends with an empty mooring we will use. Hopefully tomorrow's forecast (N-W 10-15) will hold, as motor-sailing is not a lot of fun!

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06/01/2007 | Ahmet
Hello folks, looks like you are having a great trip, and were in our neighborhood just 2 days ago.
We are Sailbloggers too, but have not taken the leap yet. Hope you are having fun.
I sent a separate e-mail to Jim
Be Safe
Ahmet
Through the Canal
Jim Lea
05/27/2007, Red Brook Harbor, Mass.

We left Cuttyhunk yesterday about 11:00 am, after another walk ashore. We had a long chat with the local doctor, a retired surgeon who summers there. He told us the history of the place, first settled by in 1602 by Bartholomew Gosnold, and abandoned shortly after. And there are currently four presidential families that have property on the island. There is one huge home about which we asked. Apparently an Italian immigrant who succeeded in the woolen industry wanted to join a fishing club on the island, but was refused entry by the members, New York bankers, so he bought the whole island, built the house and bought the club! That was in the mid 1800's, and his family are still there today. It is one of the nicest spots we have seen, and will return in the fall. By the time we set out, about 11:00 am, the boats in the harbor had doubled from the 12 or so that were there overnight, and as we sailed out, we could see at least another dozen heading in, so I expect that by Saturday evening it must have been just about full. Outside the harbor, we hoisted sail and bore away on to a broad reach in a 10-12 knot breeze from the west. In the light airs, we passed the places we saw for the first time when we brought the boat up to Maine from Long Island where we bought it. We passed Mattipoisett, where we spent a cool night, and up past Marion, home to a large fleet, and the Marion to Bermuda race. When we looked at the weather, it looked ideal for our sail to Maine, but not leaving Provincetown until Monday (tomorrow) as today's wind is north east, our direction of travel. So instead of spending two nights in Provincetown, where we have been twice before, we decided to try out Red Brook Harbor, just west of the canal. So last night, after a perfect sail, we ran into the complicated channel in late afternoon, following two other sailboats about our size. The channel is complicated, with sharp turns, but well marked and deep. One reason we chose Red Brook Harbor, is that it is off Wings Neck, a small arm jutting out into Buzzards Bay. Last fall we bought a book titled "The Big House" about the life of a large summer home buiilt in the 1800's by a wealthy Boston family. Written by one of the descendants, the book tells the interesting story of the house and its inhabitants since its construction on Wings Neck. It was written at a point in time where the family had decided to sell the house, so we were eager to try to find it. And we finally spotted it just as we motored in to Pocaset Harbor on the way into Red Brook Harbor. In Red Brook Harbor, we found a nice anchorage off a beach in very protected waters, and took a quick dinghy spin around, then back to the boat for supper (steak, potatos, and fiddleheads. And as I am a fan of Italian red wine... We also listened to Herb Hilgenberg, a weather forecaster for boats crossing the Atlantic, and heard our friend Eric on Tabitha calling in. He has had a slow crossing, but is closing on the Azores, and hopes to be in within a couple of days. We will try to contact him today. Today we went ashore at a local boatyard and went for a walk down the wooded roads in the area, and found a Lady Slipper, PEI's provincial flower, in bloom. I have never seen one before and was surprised at its size.Then back to the boat, where we will leave about noon, just in time to catch the incoming tide to sweep us through the canal. Then across Cape Cod Bay to Provincetown for the night.

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The Time Machine
Jim Lea
05/25/2007, Cuttyhunk, Mass.

Our tour of Block Island was fun. It was windy and cool, and kind of like being in a time machine, going back in the season. In Charleston, it was like mid-summer. The roses were past and things had a look they get on PEI in August as they slow their growth. Then in Annapolis, it was like late June or early July at home, with the the roses just coming out and a few bulbs left, but pretty well over. In Block Island (where they say the spring has been terrible), the tulips are out and the daffodils just finishing. And the roses are out in full leaf, but the buds are just forming, like mid-June on PEI. So we are getting a long spring out of our sail north. We walked in to the Old Port area and had lunch at a small take out serving seafood. It was the same one we ate at in 2001 when we landed here with the boat. But this time we managed to remember the camera and took some pictures as we walked. It is a pretty island, well worth a visit, but I imagine it would be overrun with tourists and boaters in the summer. In Great Salt Pond, it is apparently not unusual for the harbor to have 1200 boats in a summer weekend. We were lucky with only six other boats there with us. We picked up a town mooring, $21/night including a free pumpout (holding tank). And their is a launch service to get ashore that we used, saving us the trouble of launching the dinghy. Yesterday (Thursday) on Block Island, we took one shopping bag with us, just big enough for a couple things like tomatoes, and some fruit. We are into the mode of planning our meals for the rest of the trip to ensure we don't get to Maine with a bunch of perishable food we have to get rid of. So we came away with three other bags full and a long walk with way more that we should have. Then back on the boat, we had smoked salmon (kosher... good for passover!) and fresh shrimp (from Cape May) in a peanut/coconut sauce with penne pasta and some veggies. This morning (Friday), we left Block Island about 8:00 am, and before heading out the narrow opening, we hoisted our mainsail with two reefs in it, as the wind was blowing 20+ knots. Once clear of the opening, we headed north past the island, and pulled out the jib, shutting the engine down. Around the tip of the island, we bore off to DDW (dead down wind, or the wind exactly behind us). For those who don't sail, this is not a very comfortable point of sailing, as you can accidentally gybe (have the mainsail come flying across the boat unexpectedly, often resulting in damage to the boat), and you roll quite a bit in the swell. So we headed up just enough to be comfortable, and headed down the bay (or up, I guess it is) towards Cuttyhunk, our destination for the night. After a couple of hours the wind went lighter, so we shook out the reefs and carried on. But we soon had to gybe, as we had not been heading on our exact course, so did so, in a controled way, and were now able to point right at our destination. In mid-afternoon we passed the first of the six marks leading to the narrow entry into Cuttyhunk Harbor, then, as we began to head closer into the wind, we started the engine, rounded up into the wind and dropped our sails. Motoring in the narrow channel (like Block Island, but with a much smaller anchorage) we could see a few masts in there ahead of us, but it was not a problem as there were lots of moorings left. Again like Block Island, there is no anchoring permitted and the community has put out moorings for visiting boats. But unlike Block Island, the price is $40/night! That's the most we have ever paid for a mooring. By now, the wind had sprung back up to 20 knots, and with our dinghy on the deck, we decided to wait until the wind went down to launch it. That may mean tomorrow morning. From the anchorage it looks like a really pretty stop. But tomorrow will probably be our chance to see it. Sitting on the mooring, we watched another dozen boats come in before nightfall. So this destination would be crowded in summer too. Both Block Island and Cuttyhunk are less than 20 miles from Newport, where there are thousands of boats, so I think we have picked the right season to visit! Tonight roast chicken with potatoes and fiddleheads (one of our unintended purchases from yesterday).

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Across to Block Island
Jim Lea
05/24/2007, Block Island, RI

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, we were in no rush to leave, as our sail across to Block Island would be just about 24 hours exactly. So there was no rush to leave only to arrive at 6:00 am. When we came in last night, we saw 4 sail boats that looked like cruisers (dinghys and stuff strapped on deck) that were on moorings. But we decided to carry on further into the harbor and in the end found a beautiful anchorage. And this morning as we left, we saw that the moorings were empty, so they must have been cruisers on their way up to New York. So we started across on a course of 065 mag for Block Island in a light following breeze. Because of the light breeze and our desire to cross the shipping lanes in daylight, we set out motor-sailing. It was an hour to the first of the three lanes, and as we approached, we saw two ships steaming in to New York Harbor. The lanes are like divided highways in the ocean, but without markings. There is an ingoing lane, a median, or separation zone, and an outgoing lane. We entered the first one at about 10:00 am, and left the last one at 7:00 pm. And the only ships we saw were the two in the first lane, and one in the last that passed us after we left. So a quiet day in that respect. About noon the wind got up to about 15 knots, so we shut the engine down and sailed the rest of the way to the entrance to Block Island. As we approached Montauk Point, the eastern tip of Long Island, we were swept in to the north by a 2.5 knot incoming tide. But we had expected it, and had allowed for it by heading a bit further south in our approach. However the wind then decided to fade, so on went the engine, and as the sun rose at 5:00 am, we sailed into Great Salt Pond, Block Island's large and completely protected anchorage. In Great Salt Pond, anchoring is limited to a few quite deep areas with moorings for rent in all the "good" areas, so we chose to pick up a mooring. It was quite cool overnight, and in the rising wind in the morning, it was still cool, and getting damp, so I started the generator to run the electric heater... no luck! An alarm about cooling water alarm showed. After much searching, I traced it down to a loose lead in the control circuit, so with that fixed we were once again warm and dry. As usual, I napped in the afternoon and evening while Jeannie took the first watch to midnight, then I took over until we were off Block Island. safely on a mooring, we had breakfast, turned in for a few more hours sleep, then were ready for the day!

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Up the New Jersey Coast
Jim Lea
05/22/2007, Barnegat Inlet, Delaware

Yesterday (Monday) the wind was out of the north, as forecast, so we decided to stay another day in Cape May. For the morning we did some chores. I changed the oil in the engine, and all the fuel filters. There are three on the engine and two on the generator. The only one that looked dirty was the primary filter on the engine. And it always does after about 100 hours. But its best to have them clean, as a dirty filter is a great way to get into engine trouble when you least need or expect it. I also had a few more strainers to clean, and I operated all the thru-hull fittings, just to make sure they don't seize up. Then we headed in to get some fuel. We carry 150 gallons in two tanks, and were only down by 40 gallons, but we decided to fill up here as it will probably be our last convenient place to do it before Maine. After that, we headed ashore and walked into the town of Cape May, about 2 miles from the harbor. It is a really pretty town (we had gone through it in the fall, too) with a lot of Victorian houses. They were originally large summer homes, but many are now B&B's. And all are extremely well maintained. The paint jobs are fantastic with every color of the rainbow represented somewhere in town, and each home has detailed finish work, all painted in accent colors. After wandering around looking at the homes, we went into a grocery store to re-stock, and with a load of groceries, called a cab to take us back to Utches Marina, where we had left the dinghy. Back at the boat we just had time to put everything away when Mac and Sandy Yuile, from Peterborough, arrived for drinks. We met them in Cape May last fall, and, although we saw their boat anchored in St Augustine, had not seen them since. So it was quite a coincidence to run into them here again. We had a good time talking about our winter experiences. They spent it in the Florida Keys. The wind forecast for the next few days is for light southerlies. The direction is great, but the strength means that we will be motor-sailing. This morning (Tuesday) we headed out of Cape May and up the shore to Barnegat Inlet. We decided to head here and look at the weather tomorrow and, if it holds, we'll head across to Block Island, bypassing New York City and Long Island Sound. So today was a bit of a boring day of motor-sailing up the New Jersey coast, passing mile after mile of high rise condos on the beach, and of course, the spectacle of Atlantic City and its huge buildings visible for miles. But other than that, a quiet day on the water. Barnegat is not a highly recommended inlet in any of the guides, and because the channel shifts frequently, the marks are not shown on the charts, so we had little to go on as we approached. The only other information we had was not to enter if there are waves breaking in the entry. I called the local Coast Guard and they told us the conditions in the inlet (2'-3' waves, no breakers), but offered little else. So we just headed in, and after a careful approach, we were able to pick up the marks and follow them in, to find 2 marinas and a large yacht club, plus a large fishing boat fleet. And we found a very snug anchorage, well protected from all winds. A great find! Tonight, monkfish with a salsa, broccolini and Carolina rice! And... of course, a nice cold chardonnay! And tomorrow, New England (well, tomorrow we cross, and expect to arrive early Thursday morning).

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A big day!
Jim Lea
05/21/2007, Cape May, Delaware

Last night, to celebrate the Chesapeake Bay, we had Lump Crab Cakes. And with a fresh salad and cold white wine, it was delicious! We had bought the crab meat in Swan Creek, where we were surprised to find an excellent grocery store just 3/4 mile from the marina where we docked the dinghy. We hadn't expected to find one, so didn't have our little pull cart, so we were careful of what we bought with the walk back. But we needn't have been, as we were offered a drive by a sailor from one of the nearby marinas. We declined, with thanks, because we wanted the exercise, and its a good thing, as that's the last time we have been ashore. From there we went up to Sasafrass Creek last night, and just as we were ready to head ashore, it started raining, so we spent the evening aboard. Then this morning, we got an early start so we could catch the tide in the C&D canal. And we were on time. And we shot through with the current picking up as we went through. We averaged over 8 knots, and when we shot out into Delaware Bay, we were over 9! And we even had some tide running out of the Bay to help for a while. So with the tide, which didn't last too long, and a fresh west wind, we made such good time that we were off our anchorage for the night by just after noon. Sitting in a remote anchorage for the afternoon with a fresh following breeze going to waste seemed like a dumb thing to do, so we kept going, but now, against the incoming tide. But in spite of the tide, we were able to manage over 6 knots, and sailed down to a change of tide just a few hours later. In a river estuary, the time of high (and low) tide gets later as you go up the river. So although the tide turned at 11:30 am up at the canal, it had turned at 9:30 am at the mouth. That meant that we didn't spend the normal 6 hours fighting it, but just 3, so were in an outgoing tide by 2:30 pm. And as the tidal currents run 2-3 knots, it meant that we were running out the bay at 8.5 knots, for us an unheard-of speed without either a gale blowing or this sort of help. Because the lower end of Delaware bay is full of shifting sand banks, with the exception of the shipping channel, which would add about 15 miles (3 hours) to our route, there is a "back door" canal that leads from Cape May Harbor to the bay. But the problem is it has a 55' bridge over it. And our mast is 60', so we have to go around the cape. Last fall, we wandered through the shoals and made it through OK. But I was reluctant to try our luck again, so we headed through a "natural" channel that isn't as far as the shipping one, but further off than we went last fall. The problem(s) with it are that it is unmarked, and the sands are known to shift, so although we wandered a bit, we made it through and dropped anchor in Cape May at 7:30 pm, a run of 89.6 miles in exactly 13 hours! As we headed for the entrance to the channel, we were met by a ferry from Cape Henlopen (crossing Delaware Bay) that we had to avoid, and in doing so, had to sail well away from our course, and in these currents, it took some time to get back on course after the ferry passed. But we got back on course and carried on, and after a long day of beautiful sailing in 15-20 knots, sunny and warm, it is good to be here where we will begin our final leg home tomorrow (if the wind is willing). Tonight we will finish off the Shrimp Pernod, and also the best cheese we have ever had, from The Cheese Shop in Annapolis. Unbelievable!!! We will visit them in the fall.

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Out of the Bay
Jim Lea
05/19/2007, Sasafrass Creek, Md.

We just watched the Preakness on TV, as it was run just a few miles away in Baltimore. We are anchored here, our last anchorage in Chesapeake Bay. Last fall, we spent our second night here as we headed south, and went through our first Chesapeake Bay squall. And tonight as we were coming in, we went through what we hope is our last! The weather this week has been unsettled. This morning, we got up to a new weather forecast. Rather than north winds for today an west tomorrow, it is west today and north tomorrow, so we decided to change our plans. Chesterton will have to wait until fall, as we took advantage of the westerly winds (15-20 with gusts to 25) to head up the bay to this, our last stop. Tomorrow we will head through the C&D Canal and anchor for the night on Delaware Bay and catch the outgoing tide on Monday down to Cape May. And from there, we will look at the weather and decide when and where to go, either up the New Jersey coast to NYC or across too Block Island, our preferred alternative. But right now, the weather favours the coastal route up to NYC on Tuesday and Wednesday. By the way, we have been keeping note of the boats we meet or see, looking to find a boat name for every letter of the alphabet. We are missing only "X" and "Y". I can't figure out why we can't find "Y", but we haven't seen one. We were stuck with "Z" until Solomons, when we saw a Canadian bat called Zen. For "Q", we were settling for the Queen Mary II which we saw in Ft Lauderdale, but we came across a boat named Quantum also in Solomons. Probably not surprising, given the thousands of boats. But we now need "X" and "Y". So tomorrow, we leave the Chesapeake. It is truly a cruisers paradise with anchorages everywhere, but on the other hand, the number of boats is also amazing. We are fortunate to be cruising in off-season. In summer, I'm not sure I would enjoy it. But from here, we will be heading ASAP to New England, then up to Maine.

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Chesapeake Bay Exploration V
Jim Lea
05/17/2007, Swan Creek, Md.

Yesterday (Thursday) we got up and bundled up against the lower temperatures, and headed out Harness Creek into South River, then out into the bay and up into the Annapolis inner harbor. Not being peak cruising season (we did see a fleet of 10 cruising boats sail off down the bay), we were able to pick up a town mooring for the night, and headed ashore. Although the day had started cool, by now it had warmed up to 70F (20C), so was quite comfortable for a walking tour of the town. We first went into the Harbormaster's Office to register and pay for the mooring, $25 per night, then set out to tour the town. We first went to the Naval Academy, whose campus dominates the town, where we went through security and into the campus. It is very impressive in both its size and the elegance of the buildings. Only some were open to the public, but what we saw really impressed us. The chapel has a crypt underneath where the body of naval Captain John Paul Jones is contained in a sarcophagus, together with a lot of information on his exploits. Back in town, we visited a large historic home of one of the signatories to the declaration of Independence. Our main purpose was to visit the famous gardens. And they were beautiful with the roses in full bloom and the foliage still that bright spring green. After that, we headed up to the State Capitol building where we again went through security, this time with an airport-type X-ray machine. I was surprised to be allowed in with my little Gerber multi-tool, as it has a couple of knife blades, but they didn't stop me. Again, although there were tours available, we just wandered on our own, not wanting to spend an hour on a tour (too much information!). But we saw where the Continental Congress met during the revolution to hammer out the new constitution, and learned that Annapolis was, for a short time, the United States capitol. Back at the waterfront, we decided to run back to the boat and grab the dirty laundry. When there is a convenient laundromat, you do it, as you're never sure where the next one will be! And while waiting, we visited a boating shop and a couple of wine shops, and naturally made a few purchases! Back at the boat, with the clean laundry, we settled in for the night and had dinner in the cockpit, finishing the Butter Chicken. And as the sun set across the town to the west, the temperatures dropped with it. So we tucked down below with the Espar keeping it warm and dry. This Morning I jumped out of bed to turn on the Espar, and... Nothing! After an hour of fiddling, with no real information on it, we decided to go ashore and buy an electric heater. We quickly found one in the hardware store next to the dinghy dock, so, after mailing some post cards, buying a paper and crossword book, we headed back to the boat and dropped the mooring, heading out into the face of a cold north wind (another "Cold front from Canada") and off north. In mid -afternoon we pulled into Swan Creek, described in our 5 year old guide as a nice quiet anchorage. Well, the other thousand or so boats aren't making much noise, but it is certainly not remote. But safely down below, we plugged in our new heater and started the generator to fire it up, and spent a nice cozy night. We continue to look at the Delaware Bay and discuss when we will run down it. Based on tides and the wind forecast, it looks like next Wednesday. So we plan, unless the forecast tomorrow is different, to head up the nearby Chester River tomorrow for a few days. It is navigable for about 25 miles, and has a nice town, Chesterton, about 15 miles up, so it sounds interesting. Then we will spend a day or two heading up to the head of the Chesapeake and across the C&D canal to Delaware Bay.

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