Motoring in a Fog
01 August 2008 | Lewis Cove, Linekin Bay, Maine
Beth - in the fog
We have had two foggy days, cool weather and no wind.
By the time I finished up writing and posting blogs in Robinhood's lovely library on Thursday, the weather had closed in and we decided that rather than try to go somewhere else, we'd just anchor a couple of hundred metres further into the cove. Our plan had been to leave on the ebb current but the fog and rain moved in for the afternoon and evening, so we put up the cockpit enclosure and settled in to wait.
This fishing boat came around checking traps. As usual in Maine, the traps are everywhere - in among mooring balls, in channels, close to the banks and out in the middle of the wide rivers. Ospreys chirped and called, a seal kept popping his head out of the water near the boat, and the ever-present seagulls swooped and screeched around the lobster boats. Riggs Cove is heavily wooded with a few houses and boatsheds nestled on the banks, and it was a very pleasant place to be - even if it didn't get us any further along on our journey. Or maybe it did after all, for the journey is not just about distance.
On Friday morning, we thought we might get an early start but when Jim looked out at 7 he saw pea soup fog and it stayed that way till noon hour. As it cleared away, we got ourselves ready to do the same thing. Unfortunately it was a short-lived clearing, and by the time we reached the narrowest part of Goose Rock Passage, the fog descended again. Interestingly, we could see the mast of an approaching sailboat long before the rest of it came into view - when it was about 40 feet away. As we slipped by each other, Jim asked how the fog was outside and got the reply that over in Boothbay Harbour it was fine.
We edged our way out into the wider Sheepscot River, intending to take the Townsend Gut route, but the fog was still thick and then, to complicate matters further, our GPS went out.
I've said before that I couldn't sail without the GPS but that's not true. I can - we both can - but it sure is harder. It was an odd thing; it would flick on for a second or two and then go out again. Our handheld showed a fix more often than the primary one, but it too kept losing the fix. Of course it was foggy too, so we worked with the radar, the paper charts, and our eyes as much as we could. Back when this happened in New York, we were going down a well-marked channel so we just made visual sightings of the buoys and kept on going. This was much harder because there were infrequent buoys to sight.
Jim got a fix using the handheld every 15 minutes and plotted them on the chart while I stayed on the wheel. We quickly discarded the idea of the Gut route and went straight down the Sheepscot River, dodging lobster pots of course and keeping our eyes out for radar blobs that turned into boats. Visibility was about 1/8 of a mile.
Multitasking skills come in handy on a boat - look for boats and navigational aids - check the radar to see what is where - check the compass - are we still on course or has the current pulled us sideways? - look for and swerve around lobster pots - compare the radar chart to the paper chart - look for buoys ... and on and on. It was satisfying to meet the challenge. It's curious about that GPS though - was it the fog? Was it the US Military playing games? It's a good reminder to never take it for granted.
Once we turned to port around The Cuckolds (I wonder how those rocks got that name!) at the bottom of Southport Island, and it was still very foggy, we decided to abandon our goal of Harbour Island in Muscongus Bay and head into Linekin Bay, where we knew there was an easy-to-enter anchorage at Lewis Cove. Wouldn't you know - the fog lifted as we went up the river and by the time we stopped, the sun was out and - get this - the GPS fix appeared and stayed on! By that time, however, it was after 3 o'clock and the forecast called for dense fog again in the evening. We decided not to push our luck so we stayed put.
I made a pot of chili and baked cornbread (Johnny Cake), the fog hovered around the edges of the bay and we settled in with books for another cool evening. It's been a long time since I made chili - a cold weather dish for us. However, the meal brought back memories of the sunny Bahamas. The last time we ate chili was at the Marsh Harbour Yacht Club chili cook-off, and Johnny Cake can be found all through the Bahamas - a legacy of the Loyalists, I wonder?
I finished reading a book I bought on Seguin Island - The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife - by Connie Scoville Small. It's a most interesting read about both her experiences as a keeper's wife (and co-keeper) and her views of her role in the marriage and the work. She and her husband, Elson, lived at four different lights, including Seguin, from around 1920 until 1947. After his death in 1960, she went to work as a head resident at University of Maine at Farmington, and when she retired from that, she spent eight years working in a store. She first published this autobiography in 1986 when she was 85!
We got a call from Mary (Strathspey) this afternoon, wanting the Nexus phone number. They wanted to use it to clear into the US in New York where they were cruising with Trident Yacht Club. We provided the number and she text messaged us to say it worked. Yeah - because this joint Canada-US program has finally been recognized by someone (whenever we mentioned it to Customs and Immigration people on this trip, we got a vague reply that "Oh, I think I've heard of it but we don't use it here.") and yeah again because cruisers help each other even when they are miles and miles apart.
An e-mail arrived from Nancy (Solitaire) with a great new (to me anyway) term: CLOD - Cruisers Living on Dirt. I guess that will be us soon enough!