Cruising on Carpe Diem

31 August 2009

Cruising North To Maine

31 August 2009
Bob & Sandra
Photo: Carpe Diem anchored at Snow Island in Casco Bay


The Final Leg of our Trip

We returned to the boat in Onset on Friday after celebrating Sandra's father's birthday with other members of the family. It was our hope that we'd be leaving for Block Island the next day. We spent the evening visiting with another boating couple, also from Virginia, whom we'd met prior to going to celebrating the birthday. They too were planning to head south the next day.

Unfortunately, the weather sounded a bit too unpleasant for us, so we waited another day. The other couple moved on and reported that the sail that day to Block Island was as we'd suspected. We were glad we waited. We did leave on Sunday (9-14) and enjoyed a pleasant trip, arriving by 4 PM. Unlike our earlier visit, the harbor was half empty. We found plenty of room to anchor. We truly wished that we had time to spend there. It appears to be a beautiful island. But we were anxious to return to VA and prepare for other adventures, and the weather looked good for travel as long as we didn't wait to leave.

Unlike our trip north, for this trip back, we planned to hug the coastline rather than going out to offshore areas. In this way, we'd avoid some of the heavy weather predicted later in the week. The trip would be a bit longer, but we thought we could make it to Kiptopeke State Park just inside the Chesapeake Bay entrance with only two nights at sea instead of three we'd needed heading north. We could drop the anchor there for the night and then complete the trip the following day.

Day one of this leg took us along the south coast of Long Island. Since we weren't traveling offshore, we could see the coastline including the beaches, huge, expensive homes and villages along the way. Our view of the Hamptons lived up to their reputation. The homes were impressive although much closer together than we'd been shown in movies.

As we approached the western end of the Island in the middle of the night, we were made aware of one challenge this route hands us. We were crossing major shipping lanes. In the daytime this might not have been too challenging, but in the middle of the night, it's difficult to tell what's coming without the use of radar. The lights on ships tend to vary little from smaller boats. Tugs pulling large barges also can be identified only by their lights. We were regularly checking our radar to determine the course of these ocean-going monsters and doing our best to stay well clear of them. Some weren't moving at all, and we swear that others changed course as they got closer. By that we don't mean that they worked to avoid us. Some of the course changes appeared to bring them still closer. After several hours of stress, we got through the area, swearing we'd never do this again during the nighttime.

As the sun rose the next morning, we were cruising south along the coast of New Jersey. The weather remained pleasant and the number of boats near our path appeared to be at a minimum. This portion of the journey was as interesting as traveling along Long Island's coast. We found Atlantic City to be more built-up than we'd expected. In fact most of the coast of NJ was settled. The one drawback to this pleasant weather was that we had to depend on the diesel engine. (For those who don't cruise on a sailboat, this may be a bit if a surprise. Most of our travel is done with the engine. We often put out a sail to assist, but most often the wind just isn't blowing, isn't blowing the right direction or isn't blowing enough to get us to our destination when we need to arrive.)

By afternoon, we were discussing our options for the remainder of the trip. The weather forecast indicated that some stormy weather was coming. We could turn in at Cape May, NJ or across the Deleware Bay at Cape Henlopen and wait out the weather. If we chose this, we recognized that we might be there for three days with no assurance that the weather would be good after that. (We find that weather forecasts more than a couple of days ahead are often not accurate. In fact, when it comes to marine forecasts, we remain skeptical of any forecast - even for the current day. Too often we've found them to be inaccurate.) So after some deliberation, we decided to press on, hoping the forecast this time was accurate when it came to the timing of the big winds. As we continued along the coast of Maryland and the northern part of Virginia's eastern shore during that night, the seas were glassy smooth. The morning brought only light wind until midday. As the wind built up and we were able to sail without the engine, we were already approaching the Bay entrance. By the time we reached Kiptopeke, the winds were blowing about 20 knots, but we enjoyed some protection from ocean waves at that point. We anchored and enjoyed a peaceful night in spite of the continued windy weather. We knew that, had the wind come sooner, we'd seen waves from 6-9 feet, and we were really glad that we got to the Bay before that weather arrived.

The final portion back to our trip would be about 24 miles including crossing the Bay when a small craft advisory was up. After waiting all morning in hopes that the wind would subside, we finally headed out for a good sail across. The winds did in fact subside some, although we did record gusts as high as 25 kts. The waves settled as we approached Mobjack Bay, and we succeeded in sailing almost all the way to the marina before turning the engine back on. As the sun set a month and a day from our departure, we returned to our slip.

Another adventure was behind us, one that we will long remember and appreciate. Although our plans had seemed to be constantly in a state of flux with warnings of hurricanes and other stormy weather, we managed visit new places, have great visits with family and witness many close encounters with nature. Truly another memorable adventure for us.

Back to the Cape Cod Canal - Onset Bay

The last report came from Casco Bay in Maine as we were preparing to leave for the Kittery - Portsmouth area and another meeting with Samantha and family. We secured a slip at the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Marina for three nights. The all-day sail down to the marina on Newcastle Island was pleasant with lots of sun, and not a lot of big waves to bump us around. We got in on Thursday afternoon, which gave us a bit of time to get organized for the visit which began on Friday. We reorganized the boat, so the V-berth would serve as Nathan's bedroom for two nights. Sandra had a collection of toys which formerly belonged to Nathan's mother and her sister Jennifer. They arrived to find great weather and lots of things to do together. We spent time in the pool, went to an animal park (zoo) in York and went on some dinghy rides. Nathan played with the toys - all new to him, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his time on the boat.

We departed the marina on Sunday and traveled a couple of miles to pick up a mooring across the state line in Kittery. We used this afternoon to prepare the boat for travel once again and to relax a bit. The Portsmouth - Kittery area is a great sailing area. We watched a steady stream of sailboats coming in during the afternoon after a day of spirited sailing in the ocean.

We left after sunrise the next morning for a full day sail south. We decided to head for Boston's outer harbor where the islands provide some protection from weather while also offering views of the Boston skyline. Just one more beautiful day that included a sighting of two whales no more than 100 yards off our bow. After surfacing a few times and spouting, they disappeared into the deep. We had never had been sailing in Boston Harbor before. We found it an interesting place to pass through - several islands, lots of pleasure boats as well as large ferries, ships and fishing boats passing by constantly. On shore we saw light houses, an old fort and modern windmills along with lots of homes filling much of the waterfront on the mainland peninsulas.

After a quiet night at anchor, we headed south again the next morning. This day was less sunny, but we had next to no wind all morning and only a light wind in the afternoon. We were able to use the sails for the last couple of hours in Cape Cod Bay as we approached the Canal. By 4PM we were safely anchored in Onset Bay.

As this is written we are in Taunton visiting Sandra's sister Paula. We're waiting for the current high winds to settle down. The forecast calls for improvement by Saturday (9/12). We hope to be back traveling by then, but we have learned to remain flexible, since weather forecasts can change and the ultimate weather may be different from any of the forecasts. More to come.

Crow Island, Snow Island to Jewell Island again

After spending a couple of nights visiting our daughter Sam plus Jeremy and our grandchildren Nathan and Christopher, we returned to Maine. Before returning to the boat, however, we did some Christmas shopping in Freeport and then headed off to Bailey Island and Lands End for some more shopping, sightseeing and another lobster dinner complete with fresh blueberry pie for dessert. The row back to the boat in the dark was a bit interesting. The boat was on a mooring nearly a quarter of a mile from the dock. Finding the right boat with no moonlight to guide us made it more difficult. We did find it, however, and we settled in for a quiet evening back home.

On Monday, after returning our rental car, we left South Freeport and dropped the anchor out in some familiar territory of Casco Bay - between Crow Island and Chebeague Island. We happened to be sitting near a dock where lobster men bring in their day's catch, so we saw a steady stream of lobster boats going by.

The next morning we kayaked over to Crow Island and did a bit of shoreside exploring. At noontime, we left and moved over to an anchorage on the other side of the Bay at Snow Island. We hadn't been here for more than 13 years. It was great to cover some old sailing territory and reconnect with these places. On the trip we did see another seal and a bald eagle. Sandra did her traditional swim in the frigid waters of Casco Bay after arriving at Snow. The night was peaceful if a bit cool once again. We awoke today with the temp in the boat about 56 degrees. The sun warmed things up quickly, however. We'll play here a b it more before heading out to Jewell in preparation for our all-day trip down to Kittery tomorrow.

We will spend the holiday weekend and get to show the boat to Nathan and his younger brother Christopher.

The Journey North

The trip up to Maine started out pretty well. We saw some dolphins in Mobjack Bay as we left, the sky was clear and the wind was light. The weather actually continued to provide comfortable conditions as we headed offshore for the three day trip to NE. The last night of the three, the forecast called for winds from behind us (SW) at about 10 - 15 kts, but the reality turned out to be closer to 15 - 20 with some higher gusts. This made for a rather lumpy last overnight. But we survived. A couple of highlights of that offshore experience included a pod of dolphins playing with the bow and then a swordfish jumping completely out of the water three times within 25 yards of the boat. It must have been 9 feet or more in length. Sorry, no photos.

We decided to stop in at Block Island for a day, hoping to pick up a mooring. We'd never been there before, so we were just a bit surprised by the number of boats in the harbor. We failed to find a mooring, but as we looked, the engine began to act up. I opted for a slip at high price, so I could resolve the engine issues. The "slip" turned out to be a raft up to another boat at the dock - not even a floating dock. Oh well. After some effort and a call to our own marina mgr Dan Camp, I thought I had it resolved with the replacement filters. The next morning, however, as we prepared to leave, the engine acted up again. After running it for twenty minutes, it appeared to straighten out, so we left.

Before leaving the subject of Block Island, however, I should comment that it is a beautiful island that reminded us some of Cape Cod and also a little of the Maine coast. We'd enjoy more time there in the future.

So we left Block Island on a 10+ hour day up to Onset, MA at the western end of the Cape Cod Canal. We planned to get a mooring there and leave the boat as a precaution since Hurricane Bill was headed our way. What luck! It's been 13 years since a hurricane hit NE (Hurricane Bob), and now we get one just as we're sailing up there. Oh well, it turned out not to be a close call after all. The trip up to Onset was not a windy one, but the fog was so thick during most of the trip that our visibility was limited to about 50 yards or less. Many boats were out traveling in the same area, so we maintained a close watch of our radar and adjusted our course at times to avoid some blip on the screen. Most of these were boats we never saw even though the radar suggested they were passing very close by. But the trip, though exhausting, passed without incident and we arrived in Onset with the fog lifting.

We got the chance for a couple of days to visit with Sandra's sister Paula as well as her folks in Raynham, MA. Upon our return to the boat, Paula joined us for a night before we headed up through the canal and on to Casco Bay in Maine - another overnight offshore. The Canal is always interesting with a strong current pushing us at somewhere in the 5 kt range. We were lucky not to have to compete with any ships during our passage.

The daytime portion of this trip in Cape Cod Bay and Massachusetts Bay passed smoothly. The overnight portion got a bit lumpy once again, but not so bad as when we neared Block Island. We arrived in Maine dropping the anchor at Jewell Island in mid-morning for a day of rest and a short walk ashore.

The next day was beautiful if cool. We made a short trip to a group of islands where we dropped anchor and used our kayaks to explore a bit. We also went ashore to explore a little. Nearby was a rocky ledge above water at low tide that always seems to attract harbor seals. We were not disappointed as the photo record will demonstrate.

It was then a short trip over to South Freeport where we picked up a mooring in preparation for the next storm threat - Danny. We rented a car and first went into Freeport to do a little Christmas shopping at the LL Bean outlet store as well as a few others, but not before we had stopped for a fresh lobster meal on the water. Then it was off to Samantha's home for a weekend visit with our grandsons while the wind and rain beat on the boat again. We'll head back and spend a few more days in Maine before a Labor Day weekend stop near Portsmouth NH and then on south back to Virginia at a rate that the weather allows. We've stopped trying to plan many days in advance since Mother Nature seems to keep providing surprises. More to come.

Vessel Name: Carpe Diem
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