© By Ellis Simon


SATURDAY, DAY 1. July of 91 is hot.  So hot that a record falls every other day.  It seems like the global warming will happen all in one summer.  Saturday, the 20th, is Day 1 of a 23-day cruise.  But we aren't going anywhere yet.  Provisions have to go aboard.  The oil and filters have to be changed.  Three days of work have to be crammed into one. Further, we have to go to Wall, near Asbury Park, to pick up the new loran/plotter for the boat.  As the old Ford (air conditioner nonfunctional) grinds under the Garden State Parkway, I knew we’re in trouble.  A solid three lanes of traffic inches its way along, stopping every few seconds.  We can be sure the highway is a parking lot from Asbury to Atlantic City.


We find the store and buy the plotter, an Apelco DXL 6600.  I don't buy the chart chips for it, however.  Despite assurances that they have the local charts in stock, there’s nothing closer than North Carolina.


The Garden State is crucial to movement along the Jersey Shore. All other highways have long since been reduced to an endless mess of shopping centers, small businesses, and what have you, punctuated every few thousand feet with traffic lights.  If the parkway isn't moving, neither is anything else.  The 20-some miles from Wall to Forked River, where the boat is harbored, can be made in 20 minutes on a good day. Today, wandering along back roads, making detour after detour to avoid traffic, the ride takes nearly two hours.  Every person in the Boston-Washington megalopolis seems to be in this area, in the car, waiting at an intersection.


The oil change is hot work but it goes well.  Not so the Racor fuel filter.  Some years back, some illegitimate sold me a load of fuel with a liberal quantity of fuel sediment thrown in.  I'm still getting quantities of that sediment in the filter sediment bowl.  Draining the filter and making the change invariably results in about of pint of diesel fuel in the bilge.  I haven't found the secret yet!


SUNDAY, JULY 21, DAY 2. We finally get underway, leaving the fuel dock at 9:20 and the value of the loran/plotter shows right away.  You can drop little boxes on the screen, like buoys, to mark anything of interest.  It's a simple matter to mark the course of the river and lay out the boundaries of safe water in the bay itself.  Each buoy pair in Oyster Creek Channel gets a mark.  This serpentine channel can be troublesome in poor visibility, even with radar.  The buoys don't give a good return and the numerous small boats clutter the screen.  We'll see at some future time what the plotter can do.  Amberjack clears Barnegat Inlet at 10:20.  This is the first sea journey for Duchess, our miniature American Eskimo, so I set up a course to Fire Island Inlet, rather than the 12-hour run directly to Shinnecock.  Fire Island is 60 nautical miles, about seven hours at our 9-knot cruising speed.


Seas are out of the south, large swells with a long distance between crests.  The ride is one of those "busy" rides, but not really uncomfortable.  The waypoints are loaded in, the autopilot is set, and there is little to do but watch the water.  There is a heavy haze and visibility is limited to two miles.  Radar is a big comfort at times like these, as we're crossing the approach and departure lanes to New York Harbor.  Sure enough, a large target shows at four miles off the starboard beam and closes slowly.  It turns out to be a long tanker barge propelled by a push boat.  He's making maybe a half-knot less than the Amberjack, so we're able to cross his bow. The swells have flattened a bit, but the heat and humidity is thick enough to cut with a knife.  To make things worse, the wind is out of the southwest at about eight knots, about the same speed we're making. There is little or no wind on the boat.  Flies start appearing in droves.  Not greenheads, but common houseflies.  How they get ten or fifteen miles out to sea is a mystery to me.  But once there, they're delighted that we came along.  They are hungry, and they attack anything that resembles food, including dead flies.  Soon the flybridge deck looks like a frog's banquet.


We've just crossed the Hudson Canyon when a routine check on the weather yields the grim news that there is a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Northern New Jersey, New York, and Long Island. Seems as though the thunderstorms are directly proportional to the heat of the summer.  We've already been through two in the month. 


The first squall line started to roll down on us while we were bottom fishing outside the inlet.  We got back inside and took a slip at Barnegat Light.  There was just enough time to get everything secured and covered before the wind and rain came.  The second time, we were caught in midbay by a vicious squall, which apparently was born right over us. It started with the beginnings of a waterspout about a quarter of a mile away.  I didn't like the looks of that!  There was no time to secure the bimini top or cover the bridge.  Fortunately, all I had topside in the way of electronics was the handheld VHF.  I scrambled below and then the wind hit.  There's no way of telling what it peaked at, but the wind meter at the marina 2 miles inland hit 60.  I would estimate we got 70 knots or more.  The bimini went on the first gust, taking the TV and one of the loran antennas with it.  The port side of the top went over the stern rail on the bridge.  Fortunately, the starboard side caught in the nylon mesh and held.  Marilyn wound up sitting in the rain holding the bimini down. 


Flash after flash of lighting was followed immediately by crashes of thunder.  Visibility went to zero and the seas went to over six feet.  It was all I could do to hold Amberjack's head up into the wind.  For the first time in ten years I buried the bow pulpit.  As is usually the case in weather of this type, the noise generated by the seas makes depth sounders unusable.  The radar was safely stored below, but it wouldn't have been any help either.  The dense rain can't be overcome.  This was the reason for the loran/plotter.  But I didn't have that this time.  I was holding into the wind by using the little clips on the bow staff. Whenever I got off the wind 20 degrees, they would stand straight out.  As usual, a storm of this intensity only lasts five or ten minutes, but let me assure you, they are the longest minutes in your life.  My knees were weak by the time the visibility abruptly returned and the seas dropped as swiftly as they had risen.  We limped back into Forked River.  The radio was crackling with distress communications.  Boats were aground, sailboats were knocked down, all sorts of problems.  The towing services were having a field day.


The bimini vinyl was only torn in a couple of places, but the hoops were badly bent and most of the fittings were broken.  It took several evenings and a Saturday to get it all back together.


So here we were once again, twenty miles from the nearest land, in lousy visibility, with a severe thunderstorm warning.  The National Weather Service wasn't much help either.  Sundays, I guess they're shorthanded.  Normally, they give hourly updates with the radar picture of storm locations and movements.  Today, the same warning with the same storm over Morris County came for hours.  Either Morris County was obliterated, or the reports were very old.  The afternoon wore on. Every half hour I checked the radar out to the limits of its 12-mile range.  No precipitation showed.  My spirits would alternately rise when the obscured sky brightened, only to sink again when an unseen cloud obscured the sun.  Fishing boats crossed our path, racing for homeport. About the only slim encouragement was the occasional airliner making the approach to JFK.


About an hour out, Fire Island Inlet's distinctive shape came up on the radar.  Now if we could just make it before the fury began.  We ran past the red and white "FI" sea buoy and traveled up the well-marked channel into the inlet.  Just inside, on the west side, there is a well-protected cove off Oak Beach.  There were still a dozen boats at anchor there.  We got in and anchored in 15 feet of water with a liberal scope. First order of business was shore leave for Duchess.  The beach is at one end of a park, and is very pleasant.  The sand is clean and relatively free of grass and debris.  I imagine this is a very popular spot for weekending boaters.  Its relative emptiness was probably due to the weather warnings.  As we prepared for dinner, a few dozen drops of rain spattered on the windshield.  That was the extent of our weather for the day.  By nightfall, the cove was deserted except for the Amberjack and one other boat.  There was one peculiar event, which I don't have an explanation for.  Some type of creatures set up a concert of sorts.  Each would sound a series of staccato clicks, something like a woodpecker would sound, or a party noisemaker.  The sound would last for a second or two.  Then another, nearer or further away, would sound.  There appeared to be perhaps a half dozen of these, and they sounded on and off through the night.  Whether it is a bird, dolphins, or some other creature, I know not.


MONDAY, DAY 3. It's cooler and drier.  The sea in the morning is almost calm.  Just gentle swells greet us as we clear the inlet at 7:20. The day wears on, staying cool enough that I have to don a jacket by noon.  Moriches and Shinnecock slip past to port.  The incredible beachfront homes of Southampton make me wonder.  Many are larger and more extensive than the mansions at Newport.  Who owns these homes? How did they amass such wealth?  And these are probably second homes.


Funny how the traffic thins when you get out of the New Jersey area on a weekday.  As we ride along, it's rare that we can see more than one other boat in the seven or eight mile circle that limits our visibility.  The only time you can find that condition in New Jersey is in January.  The houses seem to go on forever.  I get jaded.  The wind had picked up around noon, and I thought we would be in for a nasty chop and a rough ride.  But then, early in the afternoon, the wind dies.  I ease in closer to shore for a very rare look at Montauk from a calm sea.  Our speed picks up a knot or so as we come closer to the point and the current from the rising tide gives us a lift.  It drops off again as we get out into the open water between Montauk and Block Island.  At one point, I have to carry 30 degrees of crab to match the wind and the current.  Then we come into the lee of Block Island and the speed over the ground creeps back up to 9 knots.  The 48-foot tower on the south jetty of the entrance to the Great Salt Pond is as welcome to me as it is to Duchess.  It has been over ten hours on the water.  Smooth and relaxing as it may seem, for the captain, it's incredibly tiring.  For the Captain's dog -- well, you try going on a voyage without a potty for ten hours!


The Great Salt Pond is a unique experience.  Over a decade ago, on our first layover here, we anchored to the north of the channel and collapsed.  The next morning was dense fog.  When it slowly cleared, we were in a roughly elliptical pond, about a mile at its greatest dimension. There were perhaps a dozen other boats at anchor and a couple of long piers extending into the water from the south shore. Large windmills dominated the heights above the shore.  Rest assured that the burgeoning interest in boating has not let the Great Salt Pond go on so tranquil.  The windmills are gone from the skyline.  Moorings and marinas have appeared.  We thread a narrow waterway between literally hundreds of sail and powerboats on moorings.  Water taxis bustle about as though it were Newport.  I finally find my way to the Block Island Boat Basin and we get a slip for the night.  Pretty islands demand their own price.  $2.25 a foot per night, or $76.50 for the Amberjack.  That amounts to two thirds of the cost of a 3-bedroom house at the Jersey Shore.  It's late, and we're tired, so dinner aboard sounds good.  Marilyn convinces me that we should take an extra day and see the island so we sign up for two nights.


TUESDAY, DAY 4.  We're awakened before daybreak to lightning and thunder.  Rain drizzles down through the hatch.  Looks like Tuesday will be a washout.  But the small front makes its way through and the sun peeks through for a while.  Late morning, we take a walk into town and work our way over to the Old Harbor.  We go out on the jetty as far as I think a tiny Eskimo dog can hop from rock to rock without disappearing into the yawning gaps between rocks.  Then we walk the beach below the bluffs.  For a while it looks like we'll have to retrace our steps when a jetty appears with a fisherman on it. Fishermen never walk, so there has to be a way up the bluff.  A rough way, it turns out.  We climb up a washout that fortunately has dried somewhat from the morning rain.  The road above takes us past several of the quaint guesthouses and hotels back down into town.  After a brief rest in a forgotten park, we enjoy lobster sandwiches on the Old Harbor waterfront.  Then it’s back to the Amberjack. 


In late afternoon, I go to the flying bridge to button things up.  We’re planning a nice dinner on the town, and our biggest problem is selecting a restaurant. Out of habit, I tune the radio to the weather channel.  Nothing much, just severe tornado warnings for Rhode Island and the coastal waters! I pass the bad news to the boats around us and go to work, taking down the flybridge curtains, pulling off all the electronics for safe stowage below, and closing up and securing the bruised bimini top.  By the time I'm finished, the cloud cover has over flown the island, the wind has picked up, and the sky is threatening indeed.  There is some lightning and thunder and some rain, so dinner out is cancelled. The storms bluster and threaten all around us, but no serious weather hits tonight.


WEDNESDAY, DAY 5.  The bad weather has cleared out and we're left with the morning fog that goes with island life.  I set off on foot to do some serious jogging.  I go out the road that runs to the west and then south and east in a great loop.  Along the southernmost road, I come upon Rodman's Hollow.  This is a huge wildlife preserve, which is operated by Block Island, the state of Rhode Island, and several others.  They have "greenways," which are walking trails, no wheeled vehicles allowed.  My tour had to include a trip through one of these trails.  I highly recommend it.  I wasn't able to identify much of the flora and fauna, but it was a beautiful trip.  When I got back to the dock, I estimate that I've covered about eight miles.


But the morning isn't over!  We've made arrangements to rent a moped for four hours so that I can ride my bike and Marilyn can keep up with me on the moped.  We do the grand tour of Block Island. The large loop road at the wider base of the island, stopping at Southeast Light Museum, which is closed on Wednesdays, naturally.  Then back through town to Corn Neck Road and out to the North end of the island.  When I get back to the boat, the little electronic speedometer shows 23 miles and my backside attests to it.


The moped has turned out to be an impressive support tool for cruising. It's nothing to run to the hardware store or the lumberyard, several miles distant.  It will bear further investigation.  Heavier than a bike, it still could be handled by the Amberjack's boom.  Further research is needed.


It's 1:30, the moped has been turned in and the boat is more than an hour overdue for departure.  Reluctantly, we leave Block Island for islands more east.  Our next waypoint is set into the magical plotter. This time it's just off the tip of Cuttyhunk Island, at the end of the string of islands that extend like a spur from the inner elbow of Cape Cod.  Marilyn has her heart set on the fresh cut shellfish served up by a small boat in Cuttyhunk.  I have my heart set on visiting Menemsha, perhaps ten miles to the east.  The westernmost part of Martha's Vineyard, it has often beckoned but never fit the schedule.


The first leg of the trip is not fun.  Northerly up the western side of Block Island, the westerly wind has a hundred mile run to build seas that crash against Amberjack's port beam with disconcerting regularity. By the time we're off the shoals that extend out to the north of the island, I've had enough of the rough ride and turn eastward.  I watch as the depth meter goes from 96 feet to 12 feet, then down to 8 feet. Just as swiftly, it drops off again to 50 feet.  We're around the point with the wind and the seas now almost dead astern.


While in the lee of Block Island, the ride is good, and it doesn't take much to keep her rolling along.  But an island is only an island, and ere long, the great swells are growing into a nasty following sea. They are steep and tricky to steer.  Each one reminds me of running an inlet. The least bit of carelessness on the part of the helmsman and the boat is off and running to the side in the classic broach. Somewhere an hour from our waypoint, I decide to push the boat up on plane, hoping to catch a wave that will take us all the way to our destination.  Well, I catch a few that carry Amberjack well past 13 knots and into 14 knots.  But they’re short-lived and there are some that send us careening into a broach.  The ride is definitely not comfortable.  There is little to do but ride it out.  As we approach the entrance to Vineyard Sound, the wind picks up and the waves get shorter and steeper.  Menemsha would mean an extra hour of this punishment, so I head up the east side of Cuttyhunk.


There is a narrow pass between Cuttyhunk and Nashawena Island to the east named Canapitsit Channel.  I pass the island itself, and the harbor and cut in to shore to find the pass.  It isn't there!  Fighting the wheel with one hand and scanning the shoreline through binoculars in seven-foot seas is not exactly precision navigation.  At one point, I think I see a buoy, but it’s gone just as quickly and I can't pick it up again.  Once again I curse the government for going back to green from black on the buoys.  I guess it is a good thing for normal people, but for me, with partial red-green blindness, it makes green buoys in a green sea practically invisible.  Eventually, I spot the black and white bell outside the cut.  I had erroneously placed the channel too far west. Eight hundred feet through the channel and we’re in calm water in the lee of the islands.  There’s no point to even trying to go into the inner harbor.  There are already about 40 vessels at anchor and on moorings just outside, so it’s evident that there is no space inside. We drop the hook and settled in.  Shortly thereafter, the little seafood boat comes through and we buy clams and shrimp.  Having these goodies prepared and handed to you after a run like that is worth every bit of the dear price we paid for them.  By nightfall, the rain has started again and thunder rumbles in the distance.


THURSDAY, DAY 6 shows much promise.  Skies are clear and there is just a summer haze in the morning air.  Duchess and I dinghy over to the beach just inside the seawall and explore Cuttyhunk.  If you want to get away from it all, this is a place to visit.  "Town" consists of one narrow street, a marina, a restaurant, a general store, and private homes. There are a few vehicles on the island, mostly fourwheel drives and pickup trucks.  There are also a few golf carts.  As we head up Main Street, there is a large shaggy dog sprawled precisely in the center of the street.  A woman comes out and gives him a large doggie bone.  He just lies there munching on his biscuit as Duchess and I walk by a few feet away.


There is one strange artifact that I cannot explain.  Branching off at right angles to the main street, and running about a quarter mile to the top of the hill that is the highest point on the island, is a paved road.  This road is narrow, not quite two car widths, and it is bordered on both sides by a meticulously crafted stone fence.  The stones have been matched and mated and mortared in place.  The fence is capped with a concrete cap.  In places the mortar has fallen away and the concrete is crumbled.  There is nothing at the top of the hill but an abandoned WW II lookout station, converted to a viewing platform.  Who built the fenced road, and why?  There are a couple of houses along it, but they surely don't match the grandeur of the road.  This is a mystery that I'll have to get an answer to, but not now.  It's six am and no one is around.  On the way back to the dinghy, we encounter the first and only traffic, a pickup truck.


We crank up and head for Nantucket.  The ride up Vineyard Sound is blissful after yesterday's gale.  A fringe benefit is that the current is with us.  As we pass Woods Hole, I see the first of many strange new craft in the area.  These are ferries for trucks only.  With a high bow and wheelhouse forward, they are then flat and low.  Able to carry about a half dozen eighteen wheelers, they work back and forth in the same general area that the more conventional ferries service.


The current stays with us as we pass Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.  We hear other boats calling the Nantucket Boat Basin and arranging for a slip.  We want a slip at the boat basin partly for Duchess, but also for the easy access to town.  Repeated tries fail to raise the basin. There is concern that all the slips will be taken by the time we get there.  I solve the problem by calling the marina on the cellular phone.  The reservation made, we can enjoy the rest of the cruise. When we get into the boat basin, we find that there was little reason to be concerned.  Again, the price is $2.25 per foot, plus $6 for electricity and $6 for cable TV.


The Nantucket Boat Basin has been developing over the years, and it is well worth a visit.  It is really a part of town, existing on several of the historic wharves from last century.  It is a distributed marina and hotel.  Many of the wharves have small cottages on them, and there are more along the waterfront.  You can rent a one or two room cottage right on the dock.  Interwoven with the cottages are small shops and restaurants.  Everything is weathered shingle and white paint. Main Street starts at the wharf where the Amberjack is, and runs up the hill.  The marina has a concierge, who is helpful in arranging reservations at one of the finer restaurants.  21 Federal is the equal of any metropolitan area restaurant, with excellent food and service.


FRIDAY, DAY 7 starts with a nervous dog at 3 am.  Thunder and lightning again.  It rains heavily for a while but by first light, we're left with oppressive humidity.  I haven't run since Block Island, so I get out and cover some of the Nantucket streets.  Then it’s time for some major bike touring.  This time, Marilyn chooses the easy way out and takes one of the bus tours of the island.  I head east toward Polpis. I assume I was there, but there was no way to tell.  There wasn't anything to indicate a town.  Then I turned north on the road to Wawinet.  Wawinet lies on a narrow ridge that separates the bay from the ocean.  There were two memorable items at the end of this road, one was the hungry mosquitoes, the other was the Wawinet Inn.  The Inn is a spare-no-expenses resort and getaway for the very wealthy.  It is a beautiful place, with manicured lawns and great bowers of flowers.  In season, the daily room rates start at $300. 


Retracing several miles on Wawinet Road, I pick up the main road again and continue in a large circle to the south, passing the Sankaty Head Light and continuing to the small fishing village of 'Sconset.  The sun is getting high in the sky and the biking is hot, so I stop for a cool drink and a chocolate cookie at the little general store.  Then I take off for the long haul back to Nantucket.  When I get back to the boat I have clocked 23 miles.  I'd wanted to go west and see the little town of Manomet, but that will have to wait for another day.  I'm dead tired.  Dinner in the evening is at a small restaurant that overlooks the boat.  Neither the cuisine nor the service could come close to what we'd experienced at 21 Federal.


SATURDAY, DAY 8, I awaken to -- guess what -- heavy rain.  No biking or running today.  The forecast is for the weather to continue and it surely looks like it.  We could get on with the journey, as the wind is calm, and Amberjack is equipped for the weather.  But another day in Nantucket isn't hard to take, either.  There's plenty to see and the rain will reduce the crowds somewhat.  A pass to all the historical exhibits, about twelve in number, is $5.  The Nantucket Historical Museum is toured, followed by the Nantucket Whaling Museum.  Several exhibits are out of town, and several are historical dwellings.  I do not have a penchant for walking through musty old houses.  On the edge of town, however, there is a working gristmill.  One of four that originally stood in a row, this is the only survivor.  This, of course would interest me.


Wouldn't you know, there was not one but two of the old houses along the way to the mill.  "OK, we'll just stop in for a look," said I grudgingly.  Not to be!  Due to the rain, there were more tour guides than tourists.  We got the whole thing.  The obscure details about people dead for a century went in one ear and out the other.  Then we got the same treatment at the second house.  There was one little pearl of trivia to come from the second house.  Beds of the nineteenth century did not have box springs.  To provide a little resilience, the mattress was supported on ropes strung head to foot and spaced about a foot apart. These ropes would over time stretch, giving a hammock curvature to the mattress and an uncomfortable bend to the sleeper. Furniture craftsmen had devised a simple way to compensate.  The foot of the bed was a simple drum, a round post, whose position was controlled by a ratchet. When the ropes stretched, a crank was inserted in the drum and the ropes were tightened up.  The ratchet kept the drum from slipping. From this came the term "sleep tight."  Aren't you glad to know that?


The old mill was not operating at the time, the wind not being right. It was still interesting to see the giant gear, eight feet in diameter with wooden teeth.  Each tooth can be replaced and probably has been, dozens of times.  These windmills were somewhat more primitive and smaller than the Dutch mills, but they get the job done.  Here, too, there was a pearl of trivia.  The mill has four large wind blades. These are made of a wooden lattice.  When they wish to use the mill, they hoist sheets, made of canvas sail material up on the lattice blade, using halyards.  Depending on the wind velocity, they can use two blades or four.  One or three blades in use would cause an unbalanced situation and the mill would wobble erratically, out of control.  Hence came the term, "three sheets to the wind."


We have lobster dinner aboard the boat.  Wearied by the heavy learning session, I fall asleep after dinner.  I wake up at 1:00 am to a great babble of voices.  Saturday night in Nantucket is party time for lots of people.  The restaurant near the boat has turned into a gin mill and is crowded with noisy groups.  Oh well, they will probably close up at 2:00 and then we can get some sleep.  They did close, but the noisiest of the partiers promptly settled in on the boat next to us and opened up shop.  The noise was incredible and the language was not very nice either.  I debated getting up and hunting up the hotel/marina security, but it just didn't seem worth the effort.  Every ten minutes they’d get quiet, and you'd think it would end.  Then they would start shouting or whistling. 


SUNDAY, DAY 9, comes up the second clear day of the cruise.  I'm determined to get a tee shirt from Nantucket and I fell asleep after dinner last night.  Being Sunday, nothing opens before nine, so it’s nine thirty before we clear the marina.  We at least have the satisfaction of watching a very upset manager visit the boat next door with two security guards.  Unfortunately, the 'host' was already gone. Notwithstanding, the guards were directed to check periodically and report as soon as the boat was occupied.  The sky is bright, and the air is cool.  Unfortunately, the wind is blowing about twenty knots out of the northeast.  Again, it’s a rough ride.  The seas follow us for the several hours it takes to get back to Woods Hole. (There's no benefit to going outside along Cape Cod.  There are no harbors and the run out and around is longer than going back to the Cape Cod Canal.


Once inside the quiet waters of Woods Hole, I get a moment of real concern.  There is an extremely strong current, perhaps 3 knots.  I'm right in the channel where there should be 20 feet of water but the depth indicator is indicating four feet!  I quickly switch on the backup and it says the same thing.  Several other boats are roaring through on plane.  Then, both indicators go back to reading 15 feet. Whether it was a shoal, or whether it was some sort of a false echo, I didn't know, but I wasn't about to go back to research the matter.


We take a short detour through Hadley Bay and drop the hook in a pretty cove behind Bull Island to let Duchess stretch her legs.  The town of Woods Hole has set aside Bull Island as a picnic spot, complete with a dinghy float.  Then they put a damper on the whole thing by putting up a notice that the area may be infested with ticks that can cause lime and other diseases.  Use it at your own risk.


The run up Buzzards Bay to the Canal entrance is without incident, the seas being much smaller due to the wind direction.  The only problem is the heavy Sunday pleasure boat traffic.  It never fails to amaze me how so many people will use you as a buoy.  Head straight for you and pass close aboard when there's so much open water around.  Then they gaily wave while you're grabbing your beer, the chips, the chart and everything else while the boat dances in their wake.


The autopilot isn't working again.  I know it's the connector on the flybridge, because it works fine at the lower station.  Using the autopilot at the lower station when you're running from the upper station is an exercise.  It takes fine adjustments every ten minutes or so to compensate for variations in the wind and the current.


We hit the Canal just past maximum ebb, which means our 8-knot speed is cut to 5.7 knots at one point.  It's slow but we make it.  I'd like to get a little further north, but the sleepless night and the late start argue for us to stop, so we pull into the marina at the east end of the Canal.  They have a slip for us and there's an excellent restaurant right next to the marina.  We're able to watch the boats come and go as we dine on the open porch.  Sometimes you find the most wonderful restaurants in the most unlikely spots.  This one is in the little town of Sandwich, which is not on the main Cape highway.  We have lobster stuffed with seafood.  The magic that chef can perform with spices and a variety of seafood is incredible.  Unlike many 'gourmet' meals, this is served in liberal portions, too.  We take enough with us to have for lunch the next day.


MONDAY, DAY 10 promises to continue the break in the weather.  I get to do something that I've wanted to do for years.   The Canal is lined on both sides with bike paths.  So we get up and for the first couple of miles, Marilyn rides while I jog.  Then, she and Duchess head back to the boat while I bike down to the western terminus and back.  Then, we're off again.  We leave the marina at 8:00 am, destination unknown.  The weather is forecast to be good today, but a low is due in for tomorrow, with high probability of wind and rain.


Cape Cod Bay is dead calm.  I find the right combination of wiggles and twists to get the autopilot working and we're off and running.  Off Scituate, just south of Boston Harbor, the first whales appear, but they're a long way off and only surface for moments before diving again.  The water turns a little choppy and the ride gets bumpy.  We start debating whether to go on to Portsmouth/Kittery or find a port nearby.  Then, as we pass Cape Ann, the wind dies and the sea goes flat again.  I lay in a course for Portsmouth, but when we get to the Isles of Shoals, 7 miles to the southeast, we decide to make the most of the excellent weather and continue the additional twenty some miles to Kennebunkport.


The weather keeps calm and the miles drag by.  There is a little excitement when the light at Boone Island appears, specter-like in the afternoon haze.  This little rock, only a fraction of a mile in size, sits six miles to sea.  To protect mariners, a 133-foot lighthouse sits on the rock.  It is the only thing approaching this height in the area, so it appears much closer than it is.  It also gives a very convincing imitation of a surfaced submarine.


The last hour of a long passage is always the longest.  I don't know which is worse, searching for a landfall in clear weather, or searching for one in fog.  At least in fog, you know you won't be able to see anything ‘til minutes before arrival.  In clear weather, you repeatedly search for that bell that marks the harbor entrance.  The day wears on.  At four thirty, as though unionized, all the head boats start the run back to their respective ports.  By five thirty there is little in the way of traffic on the water.  And by seven, it is downright lonely.  Oh, well, at least I don't have to face the prospect of a long night run.


It's funny, that strange attraction the autopilot has for buoys and lobster pots.  Sometimes I suspect that machine of a certain amount of deviousness.  It will act totally ignorant of a lobster pot off the starboard bow, holding steady on a course that will take us well clear. Then, if I divert my attention in the least, when I look up, the lobster pot will be dead ahead.


As we approach the Kennebunk River bell, a powerful performance boat with none of the usual markings clears the jetties.  It runs out to the south for a bit but then it diverts directly toward the Amberjack.  We can already see the large white buoys delineating the exclusion zone around President Bush's summer home.  Is this a patrol boat?  The President is in Moscow for the summit, so it seems a little unlikely.  Just then, Chick's Marina calls to inform us we can tie up at the fuel dock instead of the prearranged inner slip.  By now, the performance boat is 200 feet off our stern.  It looks very new and not very official.  It suddenly comes to me that this is the Marina staff in one of the new boats.  They'd diverted to identify us.  The next morning they confirm that they were on their way to dinner when they saw us and called.  The clock says 7:16 as we round the bell, just as predicted by the loran four hours earlier.


It's dead low tide, and the width of the river is less than twice Amberjack's length.  This is a place to exercise considerable care to assure that we don't come to a sudden stop on a gravel bar.  Everything goes well and we find a large open space at the outside float, just behind a seventy-five foot two-master from Florida. Duchess is wiped out from eleven hours of running and so are we, so the day ends early.


TUESDAY, DAY 11, comes all too soon.  Blessedly, the rain does not.  We settle up the bill and set out down the river.  Past the white buoys marking the exclusion zone and eastward to the Cape Porpoise buoy. This is the turning point.  Courses to Kennebunkport are within ten degrees of north.  From Kennebunk, they're more east than north.  Hence the Maine term, downeast.  I program the loran for the buoy just southwest of Seguine Island.  From there we would make our way in to Boothbay Harbor.  There are head seas for the fourteen miles to the sea buoy off Portland Harbor.  They’re small and do more to produce a nuisance than anything else.  It’s a busy ride, humping this way, wriggling thataway, sort of like riding down a channel through the wakes on a busy day in Barnegat Bay.


After we pass the buoy, the Atlantic gets down to some more serious mischief.  Rollers from the south combine in an erratic manner with a chop from the northeast to give one of those rides that makes the skipper wonder just when he should back off on the power.  I've taken the August issue of Offshore magazine up to the flybridge with me. This issue features twenty spots to spend a rainy day.  One of these spots is the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.  Bath lies approximately eight miles up the Kennebec River, just a few miles west of Boothbay. The seas calm a bit as we make our way to the buoy, but I have already changed our destination.  I key in a waypoint square between Ellingswood Rock, just north of Seguin Island, and Jackknife Ledge to the north.  From here on, it will be too tight to navigate by loran. The Amberjack slips into the quieter waters behind the island and we pick up the buoys.  Here on to Bath will be river waters.  But not like the rivers we're used to.  Here they can be 100 feet wide, 200 feet deep, running over two knots of current, and edged with granite.


The run up the river is beautiful and uneventful.  A quick zig to the west and then again north brings us to the large, deep harbor that is Bath.  A bridge at the north end of the harbor slopes from ten feet above high water at the Bath side of the river to somewhat higher on the eastern bank.  Our magazine shows the Maine Maritime Museum located above the bridge.  (The bridge, by the way, carries US Route 1, with which many of us are familiar, I'm sure.)  The most impressive sight in the area is the Bath Iron Works, with several massive US Navy vessels in for refitting.  I'm not knowledgeable about naval vessels, but they look to be missile frigates.  Giant cranes, towering so high that they carry aircraft warning beacons, hover over the ships. I'm glad that we didn't meet one of these monsters on the Kennebec.  How they traverse the narrow river, I do not know.  Ever mindful of the strong current, we ease our way up toward the yard.  The book says the museum is above the bridge. 


A look at the signs on the bridge shows that it will not open for any reason from six am to six pm, except for two time slots at ten and two.  It's now two forty five.  There appears to be a marina just north of the bridge, probably the museum, but how to get to it?  A quick and careful check of the chart shows that the water under the eastern end of the bridge is 25 feet deep.  The up ward slope at that end should afford the 18-foot clearance the Amberjack needs for permanent superstructure. The radio antennas are lowered, and the Amberjack comes dead in the water.  The skipper has to climb up on the bridge rail for the time honored sighting that, indeed, she'll clear the bridge.  I scurry back to the helm and we power through.  The loran antennas, springy and much like fishing rods, clear the bottom of the bridge by a couple of feet.


We make our way over to the little marina.  They have no space for us to stay for the night, and they've just given the last available mooring to another boat.  We inquire about the Museum and are informed that it moved to a new site south of the shipyard a couple of years ago.  I'd seen moorings and nice grounds there, but had just assumed it was a private yacht club.  We retrace our path to the far side of the river, under the bridge, past the shipyard, to the museum.  We take an open mooring and Marilyn dinghys over to make arrangements.  She comes back with the necessary papers, letting us moor for the night for $15, which includes entry to the museum for the captain.  Can't complain about that.  Right, mates?


WEDNESDAY, DAY 12.  We drag out of the sack at the insistence of our little furry friend.  The day is bright and partly cloudy.  We take a long walk into town past the shipyard.  Dozens and dozens of workers are either hurrying toward the gates or lingering for last minute banter with their buddies.  As we reach town, the whistle blows.  It is 7:25. Cigarettes are stubbed out and everyone moves to the gate.  The whistle blows again at 7:30.  The streets are now empty save for the occasional straggler, jogtrotting toward one of the several entries.  We wander on and find an old-fashioned coffee shop in the old-fashioned downtown business district.  Coffee and danish go quickly on a bench on the brick sidewalk.


The Maine Maritime Museum is worth the side trip.  This institution has recently moved into new buildings on these grounds.  The grounds are actually the Percy & Small Shipyard, which built large schooners there from 1897 to 1920.  They operate an apprentice shop on the grounds. Perhaps the most realistic and interesting exhibit is one on Maine Lobstering.  Methods, boats, and all aspects of the industry are on display there.  It's interesting to note that in the eighteenth century, lobster traps consisted simply of a hoop with net stretched across it. The lobsters were so plentiful that they just put a baitfish in the center of the net and dropped it to the bottom.  After a short wait, they could haul in the net and grab the lobsters. Another method was to just walk along the shallows and gig them.


We were fortunate because, while we were there, the Sherman Zwicker was on display at the museum.  This 142-foot grand banks dory fishing schooner was built in Nova Scotia in 1942 and is still fully operational.  This vessel is operated as a museum and as a special representative of Maine fisheries at activities such as Operation Sail.  I wouldn't have believed she's almost a half century old.  Before I read the brochure, I thought she was a reproduction.


Currents in the Kennebec at Bath are impressive.  Riding on the mooring, I turned on the knotmeter and it read 2 knots.  The water is very clean and there were fish breaking the surface nearby, probably mackerel.  When you're on a mooring in a river with strong currents, the outboard for the dinghy becomes very important.  Having to row at flank speed just to keep even with the river isn't much fun.  Of course, that was just the time that the little kicker decided to die. I did have to row back to the Amberjack and get out the tools.  It turned out to be a badly fouled sparkplug.  Normally, the motor is stowed either in an upright position or lying on its side.  Since we would be using the engine the next morning, I'd shut it off and tilted it up so the prop and lower unit wouldn't gather any junk.  This put the cylinder head and the spark plug at the lowest point.  Some unburned oil, or whatever, seeped down into the plug and fouled it.  From now on, when she's stowed in that position, the tiller points up.


Having seen all that we could absorb of the museum, it was time to head east to Boothbay Harbor.  There are two routes to take.  One can head back down the Kennebec River, cross Sheepscot Bay and go up Booth Bay to Boothbay Harbor.  The other route is shorter but much more challenging.  That is to go directly east from Bath into the Sasanoa River, through Hockomock and Nubble Bays, then across the upper reaches of the Sheepscot River and down Townsend Gut into Boothbay Harbor. This latter route is eight miles from open water and should provide nothing but miles of lovely close-in scenery, right?  Wrong!  As mentioned earlier, there are colossal currents here, and these passages are narrow and rockbound.  In fact, two of the narrowest passages are named Upper Hell Gate and Lower Hell Gate.  It doesn't take much experience with boats to get the message that these are tricky waters. So, demonstrating my usual impeccable judgment, I set us out down the inner passage.


In my favor, I've timed our passage at nearly high tide, so that we'll have the combined advantage of seven or eight feet of water over the charted depths, and we'll also have a slackening current that will have to eventually go to slack.  Also, I want the current against us so we can maneuver at relatively low ground speed with plenty of control. Sounds logical, doesn't it?  All this stuff looks good on paper.


As we approach Upper Hell Gate, I can see why it was named. Barely two hundred feet across, with rock walls on each side, and only about thirty feet deep, the current is so strong that I have to bring the Amberjack to full power to make headway.  The rips and cross currents have me wrenching the wheel from side to side to keep her headed in the proper direction.  Once we pass the underwater ledge, the current slacken somewhat, but it still takes careful piloting to avoid the many rocks and bars, now obscured by near high tide.


We cross Hockomock Bay and challenge Lower Hell Gate.  Here, the situation is different.  Here, the water meets a rock ridge and has to make almost two 180-degree turns in a couple of hundred yards.  Sort of a giant Z.  Here, the current is not as strong as before, but the sudden reversals have the water roiling and boiling.  I see whirlpools twelve feet in diameter and sinking feet below the surface.  White knuckles spin the wheel back and forth repeatedly to keep the Amberjack from careening into the rocks.  All this is at what has to be a slackening current.  I hate to think of what these passages are like at maximum current!


We escape the clutches of Lower Hell Gate and enter the relatively tranquil waters of Knubble Bay.  A lobsterman seems not to be pulling traps or hustling around so we approach him about buying some lobsters. "Might's well." He says.  "I just blew an engine, so I'm not goin anywhere."  I offer him a tow, hoping he's not from he other side of any of the hell gates, but he says, "Naw, my father's working in that boat over there.  He'll pull me in soons he's done."  We buy three one and a half pound lobsters for ten dollars and go on our way.


At the south end of Knubble Bay is Robinhood Cove.  I see a large mooring area with very nice vessels and what looks like a first-class marina and boatyard.  I'm tempted to see if they have accommodations for us, but we decide to save it for another time.


As we head out into the Sheepscot River, I note what looks like a heavy smoke plume extending from the land up the river.  It's been unusually dry in Maine, so a forest fire seems the logical answer for this gray-brown pall.  When we hit it, its true nature is obvious.  Cold, dense, impenetrable advection fog!  We preach that a navigator should always be prepared, but there are still too many times when I get caught unprepared.  Here I am in tight, narrow waters, no waypoints stored in the lorans, hanging by a thread of visibility to the last daybeacon that can lead me to safety.  The area is hopelessly complicated.  A ledge here, rocks there, and no less than 14 small islands to help.  Just as I'm deciding to beat a safe retreat to Robinhood, we break out of the fog on the east side, and all is again clear and sunny.  I hustle down to Townsend Gut and we go on to Boothbay Harbor.


Everywhere on this cruise, there appears to be evidence of the economic recession.  Boothbay, like all the other premium ports, is not particularly crowded.  The glitzy yachts of past years are not around. I call the Tugboat Inn Marina and get a slip for the night.  On past trips, you couldn't get a slip without a week's advance reservation.  Our newly acquired crustaceans are devoured in a single sitting that evening.  Even without the fancy megayachts, Boothbay is always a pleasure.  The view is excellent and the comings and goings of all sorts of craft keep me busy for hours.


THURSDAY, DAY 13 is the first day of August and the thirteenth day of the trip, which means we're now on the downside, past the halfway point. A little exercise is overdue and I go jogging.  Around every turn in the road lies another postcard view of Maine.  A bike ride takes me over to the east side of the bay.  I avoid the west side because of the hills, but the east is worse.  Apparently most of the roads do not rate 'no outlet' signs.  After pumping my legs out to get up a mini-mountain, the road ends abruptly and I have to go down a ski slope to get back to the main road.


Back at the marina, I connect by phone with a coworker who retired to Maine a year ago.  Jack and Anne are located in Brooklin, Maine, which is on the eastern end of Eggemoggin Reach.  This is between Penobscot Bay to the west and Mount Desert Island to the east, about ten miles from Blue Hill.  Arrangements are made, and we set out at 1:00 pm, having scrubbed the boat down somewhat and tarried about waiting our turn at the fuel dock.  The current is with us up the channel past Monhegan Island and into the Penobscot.  The ride is a little rough until we get out of the open water, then it smoothes out.  Everything goes with us, but it is a long run.  The sun is falling in the western sky by the time we make our way up past Islesboro Island and finally make the turn around Western Island and work up past Buck Harbor.


Eggemoggin Reach is like a straight highway, about ten miles long, a mile or so wide, and with depths that average 60 feet.  The Deer Isle Bridge slips overhead as the sun sinks toward the hills behind Camden. In the sunlight, it looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge, which it seems to be a model of.  By the time we reach Middle Harbor at Brooklin, the nav lights are on, the radar is on, and twilight is upon us.  The Amberjack works her way up past dozens of sail craft at anchor or on moorings to the head of the harbor, where the Brooklin Boat Yard keeps stern watch over the rocks.  We drop the hook and search in vain for my friend.  By now it's dark and the mosquitoes are attacking like the fighters in Star Wars.  We give up the search and sleep.


FRIDAY, DAY 14, brings crystal clear skies and no wind.  It's a short paddle to the boatyard float and Duchess gets her morning walk.  This part of Brooklin is distinctly rural.  The little store at the top of the hill is closed for the season.  For many seasons is my guess.  Back at the boat, I try to get a call through on the cellular phone.  The radio contact is excellent, but all I get is a system busy signal.  I would guess that the system in the area is heavily overloaded in the vacation months. Later, an article in the newspaper confirms my guess. Island summer residents who have foregone telephones in the past are now bringing their cellular phones with them.


The problem is solved when Jack and Ann appear on the float.  We have coffee aboard and they talk me into laying over a day to see the area and have dinner with them.  Duchess won't be any problem, as they have an aging black Lab.  Marilyn is concerned about leaving the boat anchored in the harbor.  I concede and dinghy over to the yard owner to see if I can get a mooring.  Not to be.  Brooklin is home of the Woodboat Magazine, Brooklin Boat Yard is a wood boat yard, and they're all having the giant wood boat rendezvous of 1991.  However, in typical downeaster manner, he assures me that the Amberjack will be perfectly all right on the hook where she is.  I debate using the second anchor as a messenger again but decide not to hold up our host and hostess any longer.


So off we go for a ride to Stonington for lobster, then on a delightful tour of Blue Hill, Brooklin, and the surrounding area.  Then its over to their house for a tour of the old farm that they're restoring. Jack and I just settle on the porch for a drink when the phone rings. The ladies have taken a little walk down to the marina to check on the Amberjack.  When they got there, the Amberjack wasn't where she should have been.  A brisk southwesterly breeze has come up, and that, combined with high water, has caused her to lift the anchor.  She’s come to rest alongside a moored daysailor.  The boat yard personnel, perhaps feeling some complicity in the incident, had gone aboard and rigged the fenders between the boats.  My orders from Marilyn are to appear post haste and correct the situation.


When I arrive, I find that the water, which is unusually high due to the strong wind, has totally inundated the little beach where I've left the dinghy.  The dinghy is bumping on the rock breakwater and entangled with several other dinghies in the same dilemma.  I finally get the dinghy cleared and row out through the chop.  The objective is simply to get clear of the little sailboat, raise the anchor, reposition the boat and set the anchor.  When I try to raise the anchor, it won't come up.  Several tries from different angles produce no results.  The anchor is fouled in the little boat's mooring. Marilyn commandeers one of the yard personnel and a yard dinghy and comes out to join the party.  We rig a line from the Amberjack to the stern cleat of the daysailor, so that the tension will be off the anchor line.


Then it's time to get out the dive gear and suit up.  That water's cold, so I go for the full wetsuit, including hood, boots and gloves.  It's the first time in years that I've been in full dive gear.  Once in the water and following the anchor line down, I find that my ears won't equalize.  I puddle around a few feet below the surface, trying repeatedly to clear them.  Finally, I remember.  You have to let water into the hood and thence into your outer ear, or you are in for a lot of pain and no equalizing.  After doing this, they slowly clear and I'm able to get down the fifteen feet to the bottom.  I never did find out just what the foul-up was.  As soon as I could get my hands on the cross bar of the anchor, I pulled it up and it came free.  With the added weight of the anchor in my hands, I simply walked across the bottom fifteen paces and dropped it.  Then I followed the anchor line back to the boat.  We released the line on the daysailor and raised the anchor.


I will confess that I carefully kept the anchor and chain below the surface as we repositioned the boat.  I didn't want any of the wood boat onlookers or the yard personnel to see the short chain I'm limited to by the anchor windlass.  We get the anchor back down and 60 feet out.  Then I rig the second anchor and assure that we have scope equivalent to fifty feet of chain.  The dinner (fresh lobster, corn and salad) and the company are great, and a weary two people and dog dinghy back to the Amberjack, which is contritely right where we left her.


SATURDAY, DAY 15, we're underway before seven.  The wind has died down to calm and stays that way as we travel down the east side of Penobscot Bay.  The Stephen Tabor crosses just behind us, her push boat propelling her in the absence of wind.  This is the flagship of the Maine windjammer fleet.  She's likely headed to Rockland for their big lobster festival, which started yesterday.  To starboard, just off Rockland, is a Russian ship.  She is one of two that anchor in the Penobscot and buy fish, mainly menhaden, from Yankee fishermen.  When their holds are filled, they sail for mother Russia and another ship takes their place.  


The trip west past Monhegan and Seguin Islands is tranquil with a light following breeze and sea.  The autopilot is able to handle it, and most of my time is spent fussing with the new loran/plotter, which is a dream to use, but has the nasty habit of not being able to compute its position to within two miles.  It appears to need daily reprogramming to stay close.  There will be some intense communication with the manufacturer when this trip is over. Fortunately, the older loran is up to its usual level of performance, so I can get by.  We slip into the quiet waters of Portland Harbor and tie up at DiMillo's Marina.


SUNDAY, DAY 16.  The weather is threatening and the radio forecast is dismal.  There's a full low system in lower New England and headed this way.  Four to six foot seas are forecast.  Showers and thunderstorms are also in the briefing.  I decide to give the run to Portsmouth a try.  There are a number of good ports along the way, including Kennebunkport, so with a little luck, we'll keep to schedule.  We head down the channel under a very low overcast, which obscures the taller buildings.  By Portland Head, we've encountered a fog bank.  Visibility is a hundred yards.  As soon as we hit open water, it's evident that the storm is ahead of us.  Steep seas, seven or eight feet slam us head on. Another mile down the channel and I'm convinced that I don't want five hours of this!  I turn around and head back to Portland. We'll just have to take a weather day.  Once back in quiet waters with some visibility, I debate whether to run five miles up the bay to Falmouth Foreside.  Large drops of rain begin pelting the windshield just as we approach the Spring Point light.  Then the heavens open up. I can hardly make out the light to port and House Island to starboard. Wind and rain blast down.  As I mentioned earlier, the radar and the depthfinder are both rendered useless in this type of downpour.  Speed reduced to an idle, we just sit it out, our headway counterbalanced by current and wind.  The storm goes on for fifteen minutes before letting up enough to let me see the half mile across the harbor.  I make a beeline for DiMillo's Marina and we tie up at the same float.  The rain continues through the day and into the night.  We get some shopping done and get out to a nice dinner at the ferryboat restaurant that is part of the marina.


MONDAY, DAY 17.  The worst of the storm has passed.  Most of Maine has received an inch and a half of badly needed rain.  I'm anxious to get on the move.  We've used up nearly all of our weather days.  If we don't get out of Maine today, there will have to be long and arduous runs to get back to New Jersey by Sunday.  The weather broadcast is not at all optimistic.  The low has moved offshore into the Gulf of Maine, and the showers are concentrated in eastern Maine now, but they're still calling for occasional showers and thunderstorms all across the area.  Of more immediate concern is the automated buoy report.  Portland sea buoy is reporting winds from the north at eight knots, but the seas are reported at five feet every seven seconds.  Not exactly comfortable cruising.  I delay ‘til after 8:00 hoping that the latest hourly reports will be more favorable, but there is no change.


Off we go, down the channel past Portland Head.  Once again we're in steep seas.  Also, they don't look to be five feet, they look more like eight or ten feet.  At least visibility is better.  Also, the period between crests is longer, so the ride is impressive but not punishing. Wind and a strong current are with us, so I press on, hoping that things will be better offshore.  After what seems like an eternity, we get clear of Cape Elizabeth and turn to the southwest for the run to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The seas are higher but also wider. They're just forward of abeam and the boat rides well.  It is more than a little disconcerting to sit with my eyes twelve feet above the water and have the seas rise almost to eye level.  Thank God for deep wide inlets.


A few showers pass, but they're little more than sprinkles.  Boone Island slips by to port, then we pick up the Portsmouth sea buoy.  A call on the VHF gets us a slip at the Wentworth-By-The-Sea Marina in Little Harbor, south of Newcastle Island.  This is a marina to match the casino marinas in Atlantic City.  Spacious floating docks with all the services. Golf, tennis and a gourmet restaurant are within walking distance.  We take Duchess for a walk to see Newcastle Island, but a short distance from the marina, Marilyn takes a bad fall on uneven pavement.  So it’s back to the boat and some ice packs for her.  Dinner at the restaurant is excellent, mussels followed by tuna steak in a lemon sauce.


TUESDAY, DAY 18.  Duchess and I take a jogging tour of Newcastle Island.  Except for a large Coast Guard port, it is largely residential. But the residences all date back to before the civil war. The town center consists of a post office, a church, and the town hall. Fort Constitution is on the Coast Guard station grounds and doesn't open ‘til 8:00 so we leave that for another time.  Its claim to fame is that it was a British garrison and was one of the first to be attacked after Paul Revere's ride. Aside from exploration and exercise, I'm on a quest for an elastic bandage for Marilyn's sprained ankle.  There's not even a convenience store here, so I take Duchess back to the boat and set off for Portsmouth.


Downtown Portsmouth has been almost totally restored, so there are endless boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and historical buildings. But no food markets or drug stores.  It's 8:30, and my hoped for early departure for Provincetown is already blown.  I flag down a cab and tell him I have to get to a drug store and back to Wentworth Marina. The drugstores don't open for another half hour so we settle for a supermarket.  He has to travel several miles past more shops, and junk stores to get to a small shopping mall.  Then it’s back five miles to Wentworth.


The departure is uneventful.  Gentle swells are all that remain of the low-pressure system.  Visibility is unusually good.  At one point, just north of Cape Ann, I can see 35 miles to the north, to Mt. Agamenticus southwest of Kennebunk.  From Cape Ann, it is a 35-mile journey just east of south to Race Point on the tip of Cape Cod.  


The seas alternately get moderately choppy and then smooth out again.  One or two whales surface as we travel on.  Eventually the Pilgrim Monument comes over the horizon.  When we reach Race Point, I try on the radio for a slip at the marina, but it's late afternoon and everything is taken.  So we take a mooring.  Moorings, which a decade ago were $5 per night, are now $30 per night.  At least it includes unlimited use of the launch.  That used to cost $4 per person per round trip to shore. 


We start the generator to cook dinner and it promptly dies.  If the fuel tanks are run lower than half full, they pick up minute quantities of air due to sloshing.  This air winds up in the generator line, due to the plumbing.  Three prime jobs later, the generator stays alive and we get dinner. 


WEDNESDAY, DAY 19.  Today will start with a walk for Duchess, followed by a bike ride over the bike trail in the Cape Cod National Seashore.  Then it will be off for Cuttyhunk, Newport, or Block Island, depending on the weather, the seas, and our inclinations.  I take Duchess in the dink about a mile and a half across the harbor to an isolated beach.  She starts getting nervous when we're half way there.  I think it's just the long ride.  When we beach, I go to tip the motor up and the top nearly comes off in my hands.  The bolts have worked loose and gas tank, starter assembly, etc. are attached only by a fuel hose.  I really think the dog heard some strange rattling and was upset by the change in sound. 


We’re a mile and a half from the Amberjack, with no tools.  I try running the engine while holding the top on.  It works, but the position is awkward and I can only go at idle.  Next, I wrap the dinghy painter around the engine and tie the top down.  It looks like a giant toothache, but we're able to double our speed and use the tiller. 


Back at the boat, Marilyn informs me that the generator sounded funny when she tried to start it, so she'd put off making coffee.  When I crank it, it turns over very slowly but when it starts, it comes right up to speed.  A check of the battery voltage shows that both batteries are nearly dead.  The main engine won't crank, of course.  The generator is running and that means the charger is recharging the batteries, so there's nothing to do but wait.  The boat has to stay attended, of course, so that's the end of my shore leave.  Marilyn has to go ashore to restock some of the food basics.  I go to work to solve the mystery of the dead batteries.  Both batteries are the large diesel type, both are exactly three years old, both have required little water, and do not require any now.  The connections are clean and well protected.  I turn my attention to the known loads.  The main drain is the refrigerator.  A check of the freezer section shows serious frost buildup, inches in one part.  When you're running every day, it's easy to put off defrosting the refrigerator.  A frost buildup makes the compressor work harder to maintain the temperature in the refrigerator. This in turn can double or triple the drain on the batteries.  While I’m waiting for the batteries to slowly come back to life, I defrost the refrigerator.  


The main engine gets started, Marilyn returns, we fuel up, and set out for the Cape Cod Canal.   This time, the ride is easy.  Last time, in 1986, it was just after a hurricane had passed, and it was the nearest thing to hell on the water that I ever want to experience.  We catch the canal just as the flood is building to its maximum.  This means that the current is against us in a big way.  At one point, we're down to 4.5 knots speed over the ground.  This equates to a 4 knot current. 


As we slog up toward the western end, the damn railroad bridge comes down!  A four-car freight comes across with a man walking ahead of the locomotive.  Ten minutes pass, then the man comes back across the bridge, without the train.  Another ten minutes pass, then the bridge goes up. 


 By now, it's past 3:00 in the afternoon.  I decide to stop for a few minutes and let Duchess have a run.  A long sand spit marks the western end of the canal and the chart shows clear water behind the spit.  I get the boat in position and go to anchor, when all electrical power goes out.  The anchor's down with no scope, so I have Marilyn raise it by hand while I get us out of there and back in the main channel.  A check of the power panel shows two breakers tripped.  When they are reset, everything comes back on.  


 By now, I'm tired and a little spooked.  Onset Marina is an excellent facility so we get a slip there, get the ac power on, and get the charger working.  I want to check the possibility that one of the batteries has a bad cell, so I separate them and put the boat on the port battery alone.  I also shut off the charger.   There should be no appreciable drain because the refrigerator is on ac.  In less than an hour, the port battery is down to seven volts.  The starboard battery stays up near 12 volts.  I put the boat on the starboard battery and turn on the charger.  Then we settle down for a quiet night.   


THURSDAY, DAY 20. At 6:00 am the charger has shut off and the battery is holding, fully charged.  We hang around ‘til 7:30 to see if the yard can replace the port battery for us, but they don't have one on hand, and are not sure how long it will take to get one.  We're short on time, of course, so we decide to make do with one battery and get on toward home.  The ride down Buzzards Bay is dead calm and the current is with us for a change.  For a while, we make 10.2 knots.  A tug pushing a 600-foot tanker barge is coming out of the canal as we make the channel.  He is our traveling companion for the next four hours.  He's doing perhaps a knot more than we, but he has to stay in the channel while we can shortcut the turns.  Eventually, we separate. He heads for Newport and we round the north end of Block Island.   Because of the battery situation, we decide to assure that we have a slip with ac power for the night.  The options are Block Island or Montauk.  The difference between them tomorrow would only be an hour extra from Block Island because of the lost time to run back east around Montauk Point.  A call assures a slip at Block Island Boat Basin and we slip into the Great Salt Pond. 


 While getting dressed for dinner, there's a knock at the transom. Inge from the "La Vie En Rose," another Mainship in our Mainship club had spotted us when they were getting on the launch.  They and Warren Timm, with the "Gusto," are anchored in the Salt Pond.  Both boats are on a cruise of Long Island Sound.  Arrangements are made to talk on the radio later in the evening, so I take the handheld to dinner with us. As we're into the main course, the call comes in, but it's a little more complicated than just a chat.  The auxiliary generator on the "La Vie En Rose" has quit.  On a Mainship, this is no trivial thing.  The galley is entirely electrically powered.  No generator means you can't even make coffee.  Also, as I'd noted earlier, it's the key to getting your batteries up if there's a problem there.  We finish our dinner and take the Amberjack out to raft with them.  They'd had to replace a resistor previously, so they point me at that.  It is burned out, but only half is used, so I'm able to get them going by using the other half.  We compare notes, tell some stories, and go back to the boat basin for some much needed sleep. 


FRIDAY, DAY 21.  We get an early start to make the long run to Fire Island.  Block Island Sound is glassy calm as we start out, but there is a light fog.  Once again, my lorans are disagreeing.  They both have the same waypoint programmed in, and are showing the same position, but one is showing a considerable steering error while the other isn't.  Using separate checks with the radar and the compass, I determine that this time the plotter is right and the older unit is wrong.  For two hours the disagreement bugs me.  Then I note that the distance to the waypoint on the older unit is increasing, not decreasing.  Then the error is identified.  The plotter is giving me the coordinates for a waypoint requested earlier, not the waypoint I’m currently using.  It’s doing just what I asked for, I just didn't know how to use it.  I reprogram the older unit with the correct latitude and longitude and the two units agree exactly.  The moral here is that the more sophisticated the navigation equipment becomes, the more important it is to gain experience with it.  Also, most important, trust nothing.  A navigator should use every piece of information he or she has at their disposal. If something doesn't agree, you should know why.   


At 8:30, I pick up the latest weather forecast.  It's more dismal than I thought possible.  A storm system is moving into the area this afternoon.  Winds will be picking up to 20 knots, seas six to eight feet. Further, this mess is forecast to carry into Sunday.  And me with 120 miles to go.  Fifteen miles east of Shinnecock, the first of the light rains meet us.  The seas are still not bad, but they're out of the southwest at about two feet.  A light chop on the port bow just makes for a busy, bumpy ride. 


Hourly, now, the seas build higher and the ride gets rougher.  Just off the inlet, there is an area of white-capped chop that extends a couple of miles to sea.  It's the result of the chop hitting the intense current shooting out of the inlet.  The nasty look of the inlet, combined with ten miles of tortuous channels and four drawbridges to get to Moriches Bay makes Moriches Inlet seem a safer bet.  We bounce through the "plume" and find that the seas on the other side are a little lighter.  


Still, it's a long hour and a half to Moriches.  This inlet, although it always seemed less complex than Shinnecock, is closed to traffic and is not buoyed.  A call on the radio brings some help from a local boater. Just get lined up square with the jetties and run straight down the center.  I line up and try to stay in the quietest water (nothing was over 3 feet), which was probably an error.  The current is very strong here, too and I should probably have been where it was strongest.  Shortly, we're in quiet water, inside.  But the excitement isn't over yet.  Eastern Long Island bays make Barnegat look like blue water.  I have to read the waters and negotiate about a mile of unmarked waters to get to New York's Intracoastal.  We make it without incident and set off for Fire Island.  Naturally, the current is strong and eastbound, so it'll be a long ride. 


The rain settles in to a light drizzle.  One of the sadder sights in these waters, as well as our home waters, is the hulks of old wood boats, beached, gutted, and left to rot.  Once we're in the open waters of Great South Bay, the weather gets nasty yet again.  The wind and rain intensify until visibility is so poor that I have to use the loran and radar to find each buoy pair.  The ride is extremely rough.  


The shallow waters of the bay are churned to a violent chop by the winds.  Slowly, the channel wanders over to the windward, southeast.  In the lee of the shore, the chop is diminished, but the wind continues.  A quick peek at the charted marina on the Captree side of the channel shows a heavy concentration of headboats, and no obvious haven for pleasure boats.  We go under the bridge to Moses State Park and enter the state boat basin.  It isn't clear whether boats are permitted to stay overnight here, but they'll have to throw us out.  Everyone is thoroughly soaked after tying up, but the marina is empty except for one other boat and it is a well-protected area.


SATURDAY, DAY 22.  The storm has left, the wind is down, and the skies are clear.  But the sea hasn't forgotten.  A quick hike over to the beach shows a boiling sea and great waves to the horizon.  The forecast calls for a wind shift from east to west during the day, then high winds again as the back side of the low passes through.  I really want to get across the 40 miles of open ocean to Manasquan before we're blocked in by the weather.  Right now isn't the time, however.  All the head boats from the marina across the way are sitting inside the inlet, bottom fishing.  If seventy to one hundred foot boats aren't going out in those seas, neither is the Amberjack!


After breakfast, we start off down the inside waterway for Jones Inlet.  This will kill an hour and a half and will cut about ten miles off the ocean crossing.  Jones Inlet is a repeat of Fire Island.  Some boats are getting in and out, but they are reporting a very rough ride.  The strong ebbing current is combining with the high seas to produce an impossible breaking condition.  There's nothing to do but wait for the current to change.


We poke back and forth for an hour, then anchor in the waterway for lunch.  I want to get Duchess over to the beach a hundred and fifty feet away, but it's just too risky.  There's a strong current, I shouldn't leave the Amberjack, and it isn't clear that Marilyn can row the dinghy in the current.  Finally, we decide to go in to the town marina and tie up for just enough time to get the dog a walk.  Two Power Squadron members help us tie up and, while Duchess gets her walk, I tell them my woes with the inlet.  "Go on down to Rockaway, that's a much easier inlet to run!" they tell me.  So off we go for another six or eight miles and another hour to Rockaway Inlet. Their advice is sound.  The bar is deep, and not very wide to cross.  At 3:30 pm, we're offshore and headed for Manasquan.  In minutes, however, I revise my plan and program a waypoint off Shrewsbury.  The swells rolling in from the southeast are giant, some reaching eight or nine feet, but they are far apart, so they don't present a problem.  The problem is the west wind.  It is strong, as advertised, and has already kicked up a three-foot chop.  This will only get worse, so I want to get in the lee of land as swiftly as possible.  Chop conditions vary from almost calm to over 3 feet, but as we draw near to the coast, the chop gets even smaller.  The buoy at Shrewsbury Rocks draws a bit of nostalgia for me.  How many times have I drifted near that buoy chumming for blues with my father so many years ago?


One nagging concern remains.  What will be the condition of Manasquan Inlet?  The tide will have changed during the run, so the current will be with the seas.  Also, it won't be dead low tide.  Still, will these large swells be breaking when we get there?  Belmar and the Shark River Inlet give us some reassurance as they slide by to starboard. A goodly assortment of craft has come out the inlet and there doesn't seem to be a problem.  The plotter starts counting down the last couple of miles to Manasquan Inlet.  The inlet has changed little over the years, but everything around it has changed since I ran it so many times.  In the fifties, I could spot the inlet out of the corner of my eye at five miles.  Now I have trouble picking it out of the welter of new shoreline at a mile and a half.  Much to my relief, the swells are rolling in undisturbed.  I hit at a quiet moment, and soon we're between the rock walls, flying along with the current.


It had been my intent to tie up at Baker's Wharfside and treat us to a nice dinner ashore, but I forgot that it's Saturday night in August. The restaurant is crowded and so is the dock.  We give up on the idea and go on up the Manasquan to the canal.


Just inside the canal, a New Jersey Marine Police boat comes up behind us with red lights flashing, in a great hurry.  I'm sure he's after me for excessive wake or something, but he rushes on past with a local police boat in trail.  As he passes, we note that there is a man in a life preserver and handcuffs sitting in the rear of the boat.  Another of those little mysteries to which there will never be an answer.  What did the guy do? What were they going to do with him?  They turned into the marine police headquarters near Bay Head and that was the end of that.


One more obstacle faces us.  The charming Mantoloking Bridge is always a cliffhanger.  Just about the height of the permanent structures on the Amberjack, it takes great care and nerve to head under the closed bridge.  Normally, I have good luck in being able to slip through on someone else's opening, but not this time.  By using the back side of the bridge, the radar antenna clears by a foot and we're through.  Loran and radar come to the fore again in the dark to get us into Silver Bay, where we anchor for the night.


SUNDAY, DAY 23.  The two-hour ride down the bay to Forked River is an anticlimax, the quiet end to a good trip.  There was rain or other adverse weather 12 of the 23 days.  As usually happens, the flybridge curtains were up for 22 of the 23 days.  There was some sun, but generally the concern was to dress warm, not to dress cool.  We visited four ports new to us and reconnoitered several others.  Traveling with a dog aboard was a new experience, but not difficult.  


Water storage capacity on the Amberjack is simply not adequate.  It seems that we're always short of water.  A couple of showers and we need water.  More storage is probably the answer.  The fuel system needs an air trap to permit full use of tank capacity without generator problems.  I envy other Mainship owners their new and much quieter ac generators.  On long cruises, the racket gets tiresome.  The dinghy needs to be addressed.  The Sportyak is compact, easy to launch and pick up, but it really can't carry two adults safely. An inflatable is probably the answer, but it will take a lot of looking to get something that isn't more trouble than it's worth.  A moped is also probably in the future for the Amberjack.  I fear all the additions that we seem to need will result in a bigger boat.