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Madcap Sailing
Beautiful Isles
Beth - hot days and cool nights
26/07/2008/11:08 am, Isles of Shoals

We made a nice early start from Gloucester with a plan to reach Isles of Shoals in good time and secure a mooring ball. I say "nice early start" - which for us was 0700 hours, but the fishing boats started leaving the harbour around 0430. We'd feel the roll as they went by and then drift off to sleep again - glad to be in our cosy berth.

The Isles sit off shore about 6 miles from Portsmouth and Kittery, and are divided between New Hampshire and Maine. We passed by the lighthouse on White Island sounding its haunting fog horn and into Gosport Harbour, the one sheltered place between islands named Cedar and Star and my favourite ... Smuttynose! By arriving at noon, we thought perhaps we'd beat the crowds, but the moorings were all occupied and we were just lucky that as we cruised slowly through the field, a tour boat was leaving. As Jim picked up the ball, he noticed that it had a name on it but we figured we'd stay till we got kicked off. Anchoring here is not recommended because of the rock and kelp bottom, but by evening, several boats had dropped their hooks - and we would have too if we'd had to.

These islands are full of stories - of pirates and Indian attacks and a murderous Prussian fisherman. They were centres of commerce back in the 1600 and 1700's when the cod fishery was richer than any seen before by the Europeans. Star Island has a big old hotel complex on it - dating back to 1872 when boatloads of visitors would come to "get away from it all". Now it is used as a retreat centre by the Unitarian Church and groups come in for daily and weekly programs. We watched as boatload after boatload arrived and disgorged people. Thomas Leighton, lighthouse keeper, built another old hotel on Appledore Island. His daughter, Celia Thaxter - a poet - lived here and hosted many literary figures of the day - Hawthorne, Longfellow and others. Most of the islands are open to the public during certain hours and we'd love to have gone over to Star Island but because we were on a private mooring, we were hesitant to leave the boat until later in the afternoon.

Fortunately, Susan and Mike (Tabbycat) came paddling by in their inflatable kayak so despite staying on board we had good company as we caught up with all their adventuring.

At the end of the afternoon, we felt ready to leave, so we dinghied to Smuttynose Island, and braved the resident seagulls to walk along the trail there. A couple of cabins are located right at the top of the path and we discovered that families who come for weekly stints as resident caretakers occupy them. Once upon a time, this little island was home to Captain Samuel Haley who built a ropewalk (not something you walk over but something you make rope on), a saltworks for curing fish, windmills, bakery, cooper and blacksmith shops. The tiny graveyard where he and his family were buried back in the 1700's sits just behind his cottage.

Now the island is home to a couple of sheep - the local lawn care workers - grazed around the meadows as we headed down the trail. Susan and Mike had warned us to beware of the protective gulls, and they were right. We moved along slowly as the adult birds shrieked and squawked loudly at us. The youngsters were pretty much adult sized, but mottled in colour and not yet airborne. We watched as the adults shooed them into the bushes while they took to the air - hovering over our heads and warning us to stay clear.

Boats kept coming and going all afternoon; as soon as a daytripper would leave, another one - or a cruising boat - would take its place. The Portsmouth Yacht Club owns a few of the balls and our guidebook said that folks from there have first dibs on those balls. We watched as a sailboat came along, had a conversation with two powerboats rafted on one of those balls. The powerboats left and the sailboat took its place so we thought they'd been booted out. About an hour later, the sailboat left too and we were wondering if he'd ousted the first boats just so he could stay a short time. Surely not - that seems hardly fair, but who knows?

We went over to Tabbycat in the evening for shared edibles (pork cubes in spicy peanut sauce, tendercrisp pattypan squash slices, smoked oyster-stuffed mushrooms, chocolate chip cookies) and a rousing game of dominoes. Finally we had the opportunity to learn this "cruisers" game. The version we played - and that played by the cruisers in the Bahamas - was Mexican Train Dominoes and it was a blast. Mike and Susan were good teachers and gave us tips on how to use strategy as well as luck. In the end I won and it had nothing whatever to do with skill. A house rule that Tabbycat picked up from Morning Glory was that at the end of each round a score of 50 or 100, 200, 300 etc can be halved. Imagine the surprise when my 400 score got cut down to 200 near the end of the game. Imagine how frustrating that must have been for those who were truly in the lead! It was a fabulous evening with good company in a beautiful place.

Next time, we'll plan to explore some of the other islands - because for sure - there will be a next time!

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Lazy Days
Beth - high 20's inland, cool on the water
25/07/2008/9:58 pm, Gloucester, MA

We finally dragged ourselves out of Boston on Friday, sailed about 3 knots per hour for a few hours and zigzagged our way among the lobster pots to a new port just up the coast.

On Wednesday, Jim went to see the JFK Museum - and he loved it too - while I took myself off to the Public Gardens to visit the ducklings (made famous in Robert McClosky's "Make Way for Ducklings", a well loved children's story set right here. On my way back to the dock, I discovered a real farmers' market by City Hall. Local vendors sell their produce here on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I was finally able to stock up with salad greens and peppers and patty pan squashes and bright red tomatoes. Apples are just starting and I got some of those too.

We had intended to leave on Thursday, but oh how it rained. Visibility was poor, and winds ranged 15 - 20 knots with higher gusts. Even if the wind was OK, we'd have gotten just soaked out there so it was a pretty easy decision to stay put. We managed to make a run ashore to get groceries, but we spent pretty much the whole day and evening curled up with our books while we listened to the raindrops beating over our heads.

By Friday morning, things looked much brighter, so Jim bailed out the dinghy... and bailed ... and pumped ... more than any other time on this trip. After a stop at Mystic Marina down on Pier 1 we were topped up with diesel ($4.29) and had the head pumped out and were ready to go. The water there has a lot of sediment so we didn't fill the tank.

On Cousin Russ' recommendation, we sailed to Gloucester MA from Boston instead of making a longer trip. Because we didn't have many miles to make, we lazed about on the water - making 2.5 to 4 knots for a couple of hours. That is a luxury we rarely allow ourselves, but it was most pleasant to roll back the bimini, bask in the sun and just listen to the waves swoosh by.

At one point, Jim heard a new sound and leaped up shouting "A Whale! A Whale!" Sure enough, we watched several of them (or maybe it was just one or two?) gracefully surface and dive over the next few miles. They were far enough off that we aren't really sure what they were but we're thinking perhaps Fin Whales. They were dark, long and had dorsal fins. We've been hoping to see Right Whales, but these definitely had dorsal fins so we'll keep looking for the Rights. The Coast Guard frequently reports sightings and we always laugh to hear them say at the end of the report, "Mariners should be advised that whales may not remain at reported location."

Russ gave us good advice - Gloucester is a really pretty and active city - very much a working seaport that is big enough to handle lots of pleasure boats too. The large harbour gradually narrows and splits into two arms, making lots of space for the huge fishing boats, large whale watching tour boats, and lots of pleasure boats too. The city maintains a number of moorings, but we spent so many nights on a mooring in Boston that we chose to anchor in the designated area in the Inner Harbour. There was very little wind or current so although we were in 25 feet of water at high tide (there is a 9 ft tidal range here), our 100 feet of chain held us well. After taking a long walk all through the city, we walked out along the seawall to see the Fishermen's Memorial. This was the homeport for the fishermen who were lost at sea in "The Perfect Storm" as well as over 5000 others since they have been keeping records, and their names are inscribed there with so many others. We could see family names repeated from year to year as son followed father and grandfather. A man we spoke to said there have been 6 boats lost this year already, although the hands have been saved. Going out there to earn a living from the sea no matter what the weather is far different from what we cruisers experience.

We decided to take advantage of the opportunity for seafood so we dinghied over to Rocky Neck and ate at the Mad Fish Grill. It was innovative and tasty - I had tuna and Jim had crab stuffed haddock - both artfully presented, fresh and delicious - although not as good as our dinners at Rabia's in Boston.

We're off again on Saturday - possibly to Isles of Shoals - another spot we have not yet visited, with hopes of more whale sightings and a peaceful anchorage.

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Parks and Neighbourhoods
Beth - 28C and hardly any wind in here
22/07/2008/7:26 am, Boston

The solo keeper of the boat has been doing well!

I've developed a routine here in Boston; I get up and make my coffee, go to work on my morning's chores and then in early afternoon I dinghy ashore and go somewhere. Back onboard in the evenings, I eat a light dinner, sip a glass of wine and sit in the cockpit watching the lights of the harbour. It is only after dark that things calm down a bit and there aren't as many rock'n roll wakes coming through the mooring field from the many tour boats and ferries passing by. It's a nice life!

Jim always said he enjoyed his interludes alone on Madcap and I agree with him. Neither of us has ever been anxious about being on our own and it has never even occurred to me to be nervous. If I had to do it all the time, I'd have to go looking for someone to talk with, but he comes back tonight so we'll probably both be talking nonstop!

I'm really impressed with the water parks here. Both in the one downtown near the aquarium and in the large park in the North End there are great jet fountains that always have children - big and little - playing in them. None of this "Stay out of the Fountain" stuff around here. Because of the tunnel taking through-traffic down under the city, they've been able to make great open expanses of people-space. That's in contrast to the narrow and curvy streets leading away from the water. Once through the maze to the Commons, the space opens up wide again and once more, there are people playing and walking and sitting on benches.

I strolled through Beacon Hill on Monday, pausing in front of #10 Louisburg Square - once the home of Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) and wondering which front door belongs to John Kerry, a current resident in this elegant little square. The gas lights and occasional cobblestone streets recall the days when famous literary and high society figures lived here, and it still looks to be a well-heeled neighbourhood. According to the brochure I picked up, the largest age group living in Beacon Hill is 25-29, average family size is 2.42 people and price per square footage ranges from $500. per sq.ft. to over $3000. per sq.ft.

My favourite place so far, is the North End. I love wandering there - stopping to buy more shrimp at Mercato del Mare, and have a pastry at the Modern Pastry Shop, and generally mingling with the families and folks on their way home from work. I don't know the facts and figures for this area, but it strikes me as a mix of young and old, families and singles. There are a number of festivals coming up and signs are everywhere, along with lights being strung across the streets and along the sidewalks. Wish we could stay...

I've worked on the stainless, and done a lot of sorting out of the "stuff" that filled our aft cabin, and cleaned up the insides of the boat.

The weather has stayed overcast, not as hot but still heavy and threatening rain.

.... Jim got back on Tuesday afternoon after a fine time in Ottawa. His work related discussions went well so now he is back on board and ready to cruise for another 2 months. He's been dining well there and came back with reports of fine meals so we headed out to find another one!

We went to Rabia's on Salem Street for dinner (North End of course) and had spectacular meals - mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp cooked in garlic wine sauce over risotto for me, and salmon and scallops baked in cream sauce and served over spinach linguine and little green peas for Jim. Both were perfectly prepared, the service was good and the atmosphere lively Italian. It's on our Must Visit list

We decided to stay here another day to give the man time to relax a little before we move north again. I'll go off to see the ducklings in the park and he'll visit the JFK museum and then if the weather report is good, we'll head out on Thursday - Isles of Shoals if the wind is right, or a spot on the coast if we need more protection.

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