NEW ENGLAND 1993

 

BY ELLIS SIMON

 

Monday, July 26. The trip this year is to be the longest we've ever taken. Four weeks. But a couple of days must be lost on the front end due to family obligations. So, at 4 am on Monday, July 26, we leave the dock at Forked River. Sunday was windless and peaceful, but an easterly wind has sprung up during the evening and it has blown all night. Not hard, mind you, but this type of wind can raise a lot of hell with the ocean. It's a theory of mine that some wind velocities can couple energy into the waves much better than others. So a relatively gentle wind can churn up a lot more trouble than a stronger wind.

 

The trip up Barnegat Bay is uneventful and we are assisted through the canal by a favorable current. The fuel stop and dog walk at Brielle is complicated by a strong ebb current and a low tide, but no problems occur. As we pull away from the fuel dock, the "Paramount," a large head boat, passes by on her way to the inlet. I follow along in the Amberjack.

 

When we get to the inlet, it becomes evident that this will not be a good departure. The inlet is glutted with small boats drift-fishing. This is a clear sign that it's rough outside. I watch as the "Paramount" heads out between the jetties. At one point, the hundred footer is picked up, turned thirty degrees and dropped down like a child's toy in a bathtub. She goes on, but at a gentle pace, tossing and turning.

 

One of the ten great lies about cruising is, "It's only rough in the inlet where it's shallow. It'll flatten out once we get in deep water." This one is particularly bad because it s true about one in ten times. If you get a large but gentle swell, it can churn up an inlet while leaving the outside waters relatively passable.

 

Today is not the day for that condition. We drift with the frustrated fishermen and watch. Serious sportfishermen pass by purposefully, but decide not to go out when they see the mess outside. After an hour, only one vessel, a 44-foot Hatteras double cabin, has gone out. They are from New York and it's my conjecture that they have "get-home-itis." They take a liberal pounding just making the seabuoy and turning to the north.

 

We kill time by touring the minuscule harbor, then head up the Manasquan River to anchor. Regular checks of the marine weather turns up nothing encouraging. The wind will intensify. Further, a low pressure system and associated cold front are on their way into the area. It looks like the seas will be heavy until Thursday or Friday. I have plenty of urgent work back at the office, so we decide to call the day a loss, scrub the departure and head home.

 

First, I stop at Tice's Shoal to have a look at the bottom and clean it, if necessary. As simultaneous check on the dive gear, I suit up for the job. I can still fit into the jacket and I can get the pants on over my expanding waist, but there is no way that I can zip the legs over my calves. Years of jogging and skiing have had the desired effect and there is more meat there now. I go down anyway and get the cleaning done, but it will be a necessity to get new pants during the week. New England waters are too cold for bare legs, and I need to be ready if there is trouble on the trip.

 

Saturday, July 31. Some of the work has been done and the weather has turned better. Departure has been delayed a week but so has the trip end. Now we have the four weeks without the loss of half a week. The departure and run up the bay are uneventful. The week has changed the tide rhythm and the current in the canal is now at a peak against us. There is a no-wake rule in the canal, so the Amberjack and a dozen small center- console fishing boats grind along at 4 knots speed over the ground. They'll pass me in a flash soon as the restriction is lifted, but for now, they're "up the same creek."

 

This time around the inlet is docile and by 8:00 am, we're on our way. The first couple of hours are quiet enough that I decide to make a change in plans. I'd intended to head for Fire Island Inlet and lay overnight there. But the weather is good enough to go direct to Shinnecock. The LORAN waypoint is selected and off we go.

 

An hour or two into the run, the seas build up a bit. It's still not uncomfortable, but there are two clear and separate seas pushing us around. The first is out of the southeast and is a fairly high sea but a rolling sea. It has a long distance between peaks and valleys. I measure it at about five feet. It's hitting us broad on the bow and isn't any problem. The second is a real trouble maker. Coming from the southwest, and about three feet in height, it is on the starboard quarter and just strong enough to throw the Amberjack around. The autopilot is just able to hold the course. Conditions continue to deteriorate as the afternoon wears on, but the autopilot hangs in there and we make Shinnecock a day early.

 

There is major work going on at Shinnecock Inlet. The south jetty is gone, and being rebuilt. A new north jetty is already near completion. The sand on the beach is piled high in an artificial dune. This area really took a pounding in last winter's storm. My favorite anchorage area is occupied with dredging equipment, but we're able to locate just south of it. It's been a long day and sleep comes early.

 

Sunday, August 1. It's an early morning. Up at dawn, I go across to the beach to have a look at the ocean. It's a lot flatter than yesterday. We get an early start, but in just the short time it takes to get the anchor up, a fog rolls in. It's a typical summer morning and the fog will burn off later, but right now it's pea soup. We clear the inlet and head east toward Montauk. It's fog the whole way.

 

Just off Montauk Point, something hits my trolling line. Whatever it is, it's big and moving fast. I think it's still there, but it's hard to tell. The fish seems to be swimming fast right toward the boat. I reel like crazy and eventually the fish spots the boat and takes off at a right angle. I take a moderate strain on the line and it just goes slack. When I reel it in, I find that a rather heavy stainless steel hook has apparently broke, for the lure is there and the chain and ring that the hook was attached to are still there, but the hook itself is gone. When I try to remove a hook from another lure, it snaps with practically no force on it. There is a serious problem in the US with counterfeit bolts, but this is the first time I've run into counterfeit fish hooks.

 

The fog lifts a little about eight miles southwest of Block Island and we're able to get a couple of photographs of the Coast Guard "Eagle," which has anchored just outside the entrance to the Great Salt Pond. It is an exceedingly rare opportunity to see the Union Jack on display. The Union Jack, a blue flag with white stars, can only be flown from the jackstaff (near the bow) of a military vessel at anchor on a Sunday.

 

We drop the hook in the Great Salt Pond with the intentions of dinghying in to land to let Duchess run. But when I come down the ladder, I see the trolling line hanging straight down. I grab it to check, and sure enough, it's fouled in the propeller. Oh well, this is a forced opportunity to get into my new wetsuit. I relearn that a wetsuit makes it very difficult for you to descend without weights. Especially this one, which is double thickness around the torso. I finally find a position which approximates kneeling horizontally on the rudder, with my side against the bottom of the boat. The line was neatly scooped up by a propeller blade and wound just as neatly on the shaft. It comes off without the need for a knife.

 

While I'm down there, I find that the propeller is covered with a fine coral-like growth. The surface is rough and not very efficient. This is evident in the clear waters of the Salt Pond but I had missed it entirely in my earlier check in Barnegat Bay. Some determined wire brushing and scraping gets it clean again. This kind of growth is why I prefer to have the prop bottom painted along with everything else.

 

Marilyn is bubble watching while I dive and she is surprised to hear someone calling her by name. The "Uptic," another Mainship, has just entered the Pond. They had visited one of the Mainship club's raftups in Barnegat Bay earlier this year. Unfortunately, by the time we get underway again, they have docked and gone to town, so we don't get to talk.

 

We leave the Salt Pond and head round the northern tip of Block Island. The seas have quieted somewhat, but there is still something of a swell from the southeast. Evening brings us to Cuttyhunk and we anchor outside the harbor.

 

Monday, August 2. Our destination this day is Plymouth, Mass. So we're off up Buzzards Bay in the morning. A mile or two out of Cuttyhunk, we encounter a large school of blues feeding violently. I get a line over the side and within seconds have a blue on. One fish is our limit, due to storage, so the action is over almost before it began.

 

The run up the bay is uneventful, and we're able to catch the very tailend of the favorable current. I feel sorry for the southbound traffic. We've had a following wind and the current will be against that wind in an hour. It'll be a long rough ride down the bay later. We secure a slip in Brewer's Plymouth Marine and settle back to absorb some history. The southerly wind is predicted to veer to the west and intensify, so the afternoon and tomorrow will be clear skies, but rough seas.

 

Before getting into the history, we try out the new inflatable in the harbor. Last fall, after out last trip, we decided that the old Sportyak was just too small for our type of cruising. We bought a 10-foot Zodiac and a 10-horsepower outboard. The stability is impressive, and so is the speed. In quiet waters, it is a lot of fun. With the strong westerlies, the waters were definitely not quiet. By the time we get back to the Amberjack, we're all soaked.

 

I should take a little side trip here and give you my first impressions on inflatable dinghies. First, I quickly learned that the advertised "simple assembly" is not simple. It is tricky and time consuming. So we quickly decided to keep the inflatable inflated and find a way to carry it. The old method of tipping it up on the swim platform could work, but it would extend too high above the transom. This could be solved with one of the cradles that are offered, but there is another problem. Soot from the diesel engine gets on everything in the transom area. This would not go well with a pretty white dingy. We chose to stow it upside down on the cabin top. The good part is that it provides a nice cover for the forward hatch, permitting it to stay open in wet weather. The bad part is that it blocks vision forward from the cabin, and the lower helm. The other bad part is that hauling 75 pounds up over the bow rail is a job for two careful people with strong backs.

 

The propulsion was another matter. The inflatable is rated for 9.9 horsepower. 9.9 horsepower is popular because many freshwater bodies limit outboards to "under 10 horsepower." But a 9.9 horsepower engine weighs another 75 pounds. Hernia heaven. My logic was that a large engine like that would enable us to a.) tow the Amberjack in an emergency and/or b.) tow a waterskier. Now that the sale is final, I must admit that both a and b are possible but extremely improbable. A considerably smaller outboard would have allowed me to scoot around the bay while being easier on the back. In my defense, I held on to the little Cruise and Carry. It is this lightweight that I use to get the dog ashore, or in speed limited harbors like the Salt Pond.

 

Tuesday, August 3. The wind is truly whistling out of the west. This is a layby day and we take advantage of it by visiting the replica of the Mayflower and the Plimoth Plantation. I recommend these, as the players remain true to the 1620 time frame. They are well studied and have answers to most questions about the times.

 

Another attempt to get out to the sand bars in the inflatable meets with just a little more success, but again we come back with wet pants.

 

Wednesday, August 4. The wind has died and we leave Plymouth with flat seas and clear skies. The clear skies don't even make it out of the harbor. By the time we run the main channel, the fog is thick enough to cut with a knife. We see nothing all the way across Boston Bay. An occasional whale surfaces at a distance, but nothing nearby. The monotony is also broken by calls on the VHF announcing this vessel or that, and its activity or course and speed.

 

About noon, we round Cape Elizabeth and head in to Rockport on the north side of the Cape. There is a real need for diesel fuel now. Both tanks are showing about 1/4. The harbor is crowded and very picturesque, but nowhere among its many attractions is there a fuel pump. A question to a local outboarder brings the advice to go into the Annisquam Canal, a mile or two to the west. Since this is new territory for us, it's worth the trip. So we travel around the northern cape of Cape Ann and into Ipswich Bay, thence into the Annisquam River. Both banks of the river are lined with moored boats, and there is a small fuel dock up a tributary, but they don't have diesel fuel. They refer us to Cape Ann Marina, south on the river.

 

The Annisquam river and canal cut through Cape Ann, connecting Ipswich Bay on the north to Gloucester and Massachusetts Bay on the south. By going south on the river, we are making a big circle. But what the hell, it's all in the interest of education. The river is unremarkable except for the railroad bridge just north of the marina. Like the railroad bridge in the Manasquan River, this one stays open unless a train is due. Unlike the Manasquan bridge, this one has a right turn immediately to the north. Also, it has a high railbed which totally blocks the view of opposing traffic. Liberal applications of the horn and quick response narrowly avert a collision.

 

Cape Ann Marina is big, busy, and complex. It is now after noon and there is a severe storm watch in effect for the area, so we arrange for a slip at the marina and call it a day. The marina is an excellent stopping place, as it has a full service boat yard, a marine store, a restaurant, and a movie within a few hundred yards. We take in a movie, and when we come out, it is pouring. Of course, we don't have our raingear. When it lets up a little, we duck between the drops to the restaurant. There's nothing like sitting in an airconditioned restaurant in wet clothes. And of course, this is a place with those hot air dryers and no towels in the restrooms.

 

Thursday, August 5. We get an early start. The cold front of last night has cleared and cooled the air. There is a west wind that follows it, however. The course for Maine is altered to the west to put us in the lee of the coast, where the ride is smooth. Not very elegant from a sea captain's viewpoint, but it's a lovely ride with good sightseeing. Newburyport and Portsmouth slip by to port. At this point, we turn eastward and start what will be days of eastbound travel to get "downeast."

 

Cape Porpoise, just south of Portland, is easy to enter and makes a good pit stop. The only problem is the lobster pots. They are so thick that there are great tangles with a dozen or more markers in a bunch. Treading your way through them is a real challenge. Each year, it seems to get worse and worse. I don't know where it will stop. Some limit must be placed, it would seem.

 

We go on to the east and pick up a mooring behind Great Diamond Island in Casco Bay. Beach walking in the area is not the greatest. Sharp mussel shells and gravel make it a challenge.

 

Friday, August 6. I take a run over to Falmouth Foreside in the dinghy. It is real sail country. What appears to be hundreds of sail vessels, big and small, ride at moorings. After the tour, we set off to the east again. Seas are flat this morning and there is sun but no wind.

 

A little after noon, we pick up a mooring at Monhegan Island and dinghy ashore. This island features an arts and crafts community and a very informal mode of life. The roads are single lane and gravel. Flowers abound but lawns are not the style. This is an island which deserves a longer stay.

 

On the way to Monhegan, we hear on the radio that Rockland, Maine is having their annual lobster festival. This is a big party, the equivalent to a county fair. Lobster eating, parades, contests, and a carnival are just part of the activities. We'd passed by on previous trips but could never spare the day to take advantage of it. So we reluctantly leave Monhegan and head up Penobscot Bay to Rockland.

 

As we're passing the long breakwater to Rockland's large harbor, we're stopped by a Coast Guard boat. Marine inspection. We continue slowly across the harbor as the inspection proceeds. There are no violations and we're given a clean report. But over the following day, we each note omissions in the inspection. It kind of left me with the impression they may have been looking for something else. Perhaps the big party had them nervous.

 

The lobster dinner is well worth the price ($6.75). The shell is so soft that you can break it with your fingers and just as well. The only inplements you get are the little plastic forks and knives. Marilyn goes over to the steamer (claimed to be the largest in the world) and asks how the shells are consistently so soft. The chief cooker explains that he personally tests every lobster before it goes into the cooker. If the shell is too hard, it's rejected. Imagine doing that to eight thousand lobsters! We examine some of the exhibits and call it a day.

 

Saturday, August 7. The Rockland parade is this morning and we also have some shopping to do, so we get a late start. There is a fairly complete marine store near the marina, so I complete a missing part of the Amberjack's ground tackle, 25 feet of anchor chain and appropriate shackles. Before we left, I'd made up two substantial messengers to use with the anchor. These are 16-pound weights which can slide down the anchor rode and hold it closer to the bottom, thereby giving us the ability to ride on short scope with good holding power. With 25 feet of chain, and 32 pounds on the end, we can ride out anything the 5/8-inch anchor line will hold. Of course, there is a price for everything. It takes a while to get this rig set up and deployed, and it takes even longer to raise anchor when you leave, for the chain won't go through the windlass and has to be handled by hand. But the security is worth the price and the chain stays on the rode through the trip.

 

We cross the mouth of Penobscot Bay and head up the channel that bisects Vinalhaven Island. This is always an interesting tour, with a good mix of local workboats and visiting megayachts. We traverse Deer Island thorofare and pass through Stonington. Waters are flat and visibility is good. Fortunate, for both lorans give up. After much upsetment and struggle, I find that the plotter has a computation limit, and just has to be reset to the local area. The other loran is having trouble getting a signal and there's nothing I can do for it.

 

After a day of zigging and zagging among the beautiful islands, we arrive at Northeast Harbor on Mt. Desert Island. Every time I think I've seen it all regarding moorings, a new idea pops up. We're directed to any one of the floats in the harbor. These are 35-foot sections of floating dock, moored all by themselves out in the water. They can accommodate two boats, one on a side. It gives you several questionable advantages. First, it is a little easier to get attached to, since most boaters deal with a pier or float, not a mooring. Second, it gives you a place to sit in the evening. But third, probably most important to the owner, it gets two boats moored for the space of one. In a small, crowded harbor, this can be a significant advantage.

 

We get tied up and go off in the tender to look up the mooring attendant. (Also to get Duchess ashore, of course.) There is a new hatch of some kind of fly (insect). These flies are swarming just above the water by the tens of millions. They like anything white, so the Amberjack, the inflatable, and Duchess are soon covered with them. Registration is not remarkable, but, after casting off from the dock, I happen to look back and see a strange sight. Another boater has stacked several bags of groceries in their dink and then gone off, perhaps to visit the shoreside bathroom. A seagull is perched on the seat of the dink, tearing at the groceries.

 

Sunday, August 8. We top off the fuel and water tanks. From here on, for the next week or so, both may be hard to come by. Many small boats hurry around with people dressed in their Sunday finery. Someone explains that there is a wedding. The couple is from one of the islands to the south of the harbor.

 

We get underway and head further down east. The weather is clear and cold and the seas are calm. There is little to break the monotony, which is the way I like it. Bays, headlands, and coves slip by to port. Things are going so well that we decide to continue on up the Grand Manan channel and go to Eastport for the night. We'd go to Grand Manan, but we do not have charts for Nova Scotia. (Those we do have are sitting at home in the den.) Eastport is the only place I can be sure to get charts. They also have a customs office and I want to get the customs stamp for the boat.

 

We enjoy a favorable current up the channel and the waters are quiet except for pods of dolphin feeding. The current turns against us in Quoddy Narrows, but this body amounts to two or three miles to the harbor at Eastport. Still, the current under the bridge at Lubec is one of the strongest I've dealt with. Kind of scary, and the great holes torn in the riprap on the bridge piers bear silent witness to the damage these currents can cause.

 

Alas, as feared, the gourmet restaurant at Eastport has not survived the years. The buildings are boarded over and the float at the end of the dock is gone. A large freighter is leaving the pier and we wait for it to clear before looking in the small boat area behind the pier. I don't want to get caught up in the wash from his giant screw. While we're waiting, the pilot boat, which is a Boston Whaler, comes over and the pilot advises me that the transient float is just to the north of the pier.

 

We find that the town has provided a very helpful floating dock for transients. With a tide range of 18 feet, this is much appreciated. There is no water or electric, but you can't have everything. The freighter is hardly out of sight when another is pushed in to the pier to take its place. Eastport is still hurting economically, but it would appear that their bid to be a major shipping port is going well.

 

Monday, August 9. Another quiet morning. I get the Customs sticker, buy the charts, and get the insurance extended for travel into Canadian waters. The way the customs sticker works is this. Customs charges an annual user fee of $25.00 for use of their services. You have to have the sticker showing that you've paid the fee on your boat, vehicle, or airplane. Then you can come and go across the border as many times as you like in that year. Try coming in without buying the sticker, and you can have your boat seized and sold. Since most small ports in Maine do not have full time Customs service, it can be a real problem getting someone out to sell you the sticker and check you in. But if you have the sticker, you often may get cleared by telephone. Not always, it's their option, but it's worth a try.

 

We leave Eastport and head back down the Grand Manan channel. The weather is calm, clear and cold. We head across the channel and get close to the cliffs of Grand Manan. It's a pretty day and it seems nothing can disturb it. But you can't count on it. Just a few miles from the Southwest Head of Grand Manan, everything disappears in fog. This is the real industrial strength fog, and the rest of the run down the coast is done with loran and radar. Just to keep me on my toes, the loran loses the signal as we are rounding the head. We're now down to an uncomfortably small number of navigational aids. One radar and one depth finder. Dead reckoning is OK in good visibility, but with strong currents, which are not documented, electronic eyes or local knowledge are the only ways to go.

 

We round the head and the loran comes back on line. Three miles up the channel to the north and we're in Seal Cove. We duck behind the quay into the tiny harbor and tie up. A phone call brings Canadian Customs down to that end of the island and we're legally entered into Canada.

 

While I'm off summoning customs, a man on the dock strikes up a conversation with Marilyn. He is a Grand Manan fisherman and claims to know everyone on the island. He'd taken his boat over to the yard to be hauled out for bottom painting, but the man who does the hauling was not available. So he has a day off with nothing to do.

 

We get the grand tour of Grand Manan, from the north end to the south. It's very informative and I appreciate the enthusiasm of our impromptu guide. But it's long. We don't get back to the boat until 8:00 pm. Several points of interest came out in the tour. The Canadian government prohibits lobster fishing in the months of (I think) July, August, and September. This is a hardship to the fishermen, of course. It is a boon to boaters like me who don't have to dodge lobster pots. The province of New Brunswick has a health care program, which is available to all. It is a good plan and the service is good, but the cost of the plan is running the Canadian taxpayer broke. You pay an 11 percent sales tax for most items, and on top of this there is a 7 percent tax for the health program.

 

Grand Manan is largely self sufficient regarding municipal services, with a small hospital, a senior citizens' home, police, fire, and other services. Each of three towns is run by a town council. The provincial and federal governments provide services as well. They have recently installed a much larger ferry. They hope this will pump up the tourist industry.

 

The federal government is cutting down on the quantity of fishing licenses. A license can be passed down in a family, or it can be sold back to the government. If it goes to the government, it is retired and not reissued. In addition to the license to fish, you need a license to operate a commercial vessel. Grand Manan has a special course in high school to train students to become fishermen. They went through the emphasis on college education, and when the balloon burst, they found graduates coming back with a degree but no jobs and no skills. Schools of this type enable a student to learn a trade that will support them through life.

 

As we ride around the island, it is hard to believe that such a beautiful place can exist so close to the mainland and not be overrun with people. There are dark blue lakes and great primeval forests. Some parts look like the only human incursion has been the road on which we travel. Still our guide assures us that a major part of the island is owned by foreigners, mostly Americans. It's good to hear of at least one area where this is true.

 

Tuesday, August 10. I'm up at 5:00 am, Atlantic Daylight Time. It's still dark, cold and foggy, 55 degrees and 500 feet visibility. Today is the day we go to Nova Scotia ...maybe. Forecast sea conditions couldn't be better. Winds light and variable, seas calm. But with these conditions come the afore mentioned fog.

 

Today's run will be a long one, approximately 60 nautical miles from Seal Cove on Grand Manan to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. We follow a fisherman out of the harbor and set the lorans and autopilot. The morning light always makes me feel a little better, but it doesn't let us see any better. We've timed our departure to be a little before high water. The outflowing currents in the Bay of Fundy are strong and will help us on our way.

 

It is very cold, about fifty degrees, and the fog is dense. The whole situation is made worse by continual fogging of the flybridge enclosure. Then, the squeegee we've been wiping the windshield with breaks. It's the little things in life that get you down. We start the generator and set up a portable electric heater on the flybridge. It doesn't get toasty but the windshield clears and I can feel my hands again.

 

As we move further from the island, the visibility increases steadily. Just south of Garrett Rock, about 8 miles from Seal Cove, it improves to 3 miles. The excitement runs high. This is new territory for us and kind of has the stigma of the areas of the old charts. "Here there be monsters!" It kind of gives you the feeling of Columbus and those early explorers. Position plots hardly ever grace the charts of waters off Barnegat Light, but on this chart they form a nearly continuous line.

 

Despite all our trepidation, the morning wears on without event and we pass out of the Bay of Fundy and across the mouth of St. Mary's Bay. Tidal currents are serious things in these waters and we get a two knot boost at times. At 2:00 pm we round Cape Fourchu and head north for the three mile run into Yarmouth Harbor. In the port, we find a brand new dock and floats with a handful of pleasure boats. We tie up to a float and I go up to check on our facility. By 'check,' I mean, can we stay there? What is the cost? Where can we get fuel? Water? Electricity?

 

It turns out that the docks are maintained by the City of Yarmouth to encourage boaters to come to Yarmouth. There is no cost for tieup. There is electric and water available, and fuel can be provided by a tanker truck coming to the dock. There are a few thousand towns in the U. S. which could learn from Yarmouth.

 

The town itself is small, appearing to be several thousand people. It is a transportation terminal, with ferries from Portland and Bar Harbor. (The ferry from St. John lands at Digby.) The main industry in town is the fishing industry. There are several large processing plants.

 

A quarter of a mile across the harbor from the Amberjack, there is a small island. This island has become the home of every seagull in Yarmouth. From morning to night, they set up an intense racket. Great clouds of gulls swarm round the island continuously. There are also large quantities of a dark bird sitting in the branches of burned out pines.

 

Wednesday, August 11. Another clear morning.....inconsistent for this country. I had thought to go to Digby by boat, but it's about 60 nautical miles, a long up and back for an overnight stay. So we decide to rent a car instead and do a little motor touring. Renting a car is not as easy as it seems. It is the high tourist season, and booking a rental is best done weeks in advance. But my luck holds and a cancellation has made a car available for just today. So the rest of today's account is based on that tour.

 

First, a couple of notes about driving in Canada. Canada has gone metric. So every sign is in kilometers. Speed limits are in kilometers, and so is the speedometer in the car. As in most states outside New Jersey and Pennsylvania, motorists are REQUIRED to stop for pedestrians. If you step off the curb, a driver will slam on his brakes rather than risk a traffic ticket. Another interesting thing is the work areas. There is a flagman at each end of the area. Then there is a shuttle truck which has a large 'follow me' sign on it. He leads the traffic through in one direction at the required safe speed. Then he turns around and leads the opposing traffic through. I'd be interested to see that procedure in this area. Interstate highways have two lanes, one in each direction. In the newer parts, they are limited access, but where they overlay existing roads, they're just existing roads with interstate signs. It's kind of amusing to see a fancy sign advising "Exit 24 2 miles" and then come to a gravel crossroad with stopsigns.

 

We proceed eastward along the northern coast of Nova Scotia. Saint Mary's Bay lies to the northwest. This body of water is formed by a sunken mountain to the northwest of the mainland of Nova Scotia. It consists of a peninsula, a long narrow island, and a third island. The catholic church had a strong influence in this area, and great cathedral type churches rise from small villages. This is also an area of considerable french influence, which shows in the names of villages.

 

Digby is located just above Saint Mary's Bay, on another body of water, the Annapolis Basin. This basin has one narrow connection with the Bay of Fundy. Tides in this area are on the order of 28 feet. Digby is a small town, given over to seafood processing and tourism. There are perhaps a dozen moorings for small boats. A dinghy float and ramp connects you with town. The ramp must be interesting at low tide. Many of the ramps here are cleated ramp on one side and stairs on the other side. You use whichever fits the level of the tide.

 

From Digby, we travel north about thirty kilometers, and then take the only road across Nova Scotia in the southern part of the province. Away from the sea, the geography is fir forests and blue lakes. There is practically no evidence of humans except the highway. It's about a hundred and twenty kilometers across, with a national park at the halfway point.

 

Westward, down the ocean side, is a bit longer. It takes us past hundreds of coves and bays, each postcard material. Each also would make excellent small boat shelter. Nova Scotia has over four thousand miles of shoreline. This will definitely be on the agenda for a future, more leisurely trip.

 

It should be noted that the major industry in southwestern Nova Scotia, in fact, probably the only industry, is fishing and seafood processing. As a result, there is a road around the coastline, with spurs down each cape, but no mapped roads into the interior. In this area, the province is largely undeveloped.

 

Thursday, August 12. Today, we start back toward New Jersey, but to get there, we have to go north a ways, then turn west. We could head straight across to Maine, but the trip is perhaps twenty hours long and in lonely waters. So, first we'll head for Brier Island, the smaller of the two islands to the northwest of St. Mary's Bay, then turn westward.

 

It's a cold morning, and there was fog at daybreak, but it burned off with the rising sun. I return the rental car. $100.00 American for the rental and the mileage charges, but it was worth it.

 

The challenge in today's trip is tidal currents. Grand Passage, between Brier Island and Long Island, is noted on the chart as having maximum currents of 6-knots! The trip out the harbor and up to St. Mary's Bay is uneventful. Calm seas and clear weather. But then, as we approach the islands, it is apparent that the passage is fogged in. Colder water from the Bay of Fundy is raising a dense fog over the narrow pass and the waters just outside. Just what I needed. Dense fog, six knot currents, and granite banks if you make a mistake.

 

There is a way to minimize the hazard in these situations. First, limited visibility means you don't want to be looking for things that are hard to see, and that might not show up on radar, like isolated rocks or shoals. You want deep water close in to shore. Then you plan your approach so as to stay in these relatively safe waters. In this approach, we have deep water close to shore on the starboard side, and an island with shoals on the port side. Once inside the island, a wide u-turn to port will bring us into the anchorage behind the island. A single buoy near the center of the passage marks a shoal that is ten feet at low water and of no concern to us. But the buoy will make a positive identification of our turning point and assure that we're clear of the real shoals. The current is an unknown factor. I've used all existing information and as near as I can figure it, we'll be arriving at or near slack water. I could get on the radio, of course, and try to get local information, but the situation just doesn't warrant it.

 

My plan made, we start into the passage. The current is not slack, but neither is it doing six knots. The fog is thick, however, and we're totally on radar. As we pull abreast of the island, we're just able to make out the lighthouse. A bright radar target signals the buoy and I make for it. Another survival rule in these circumstances is to make positive identification of buoys. You don't want to be turning at the wrong buoy. At about fifty feet the green "GP" buoy comes out of the fog and I begin my wide swing towards numerous targets that should be moored boats.

 

As often happens when things are thickest, the fog suddenly lifts and we have a clear view of the harbor before us. We select an unused buoy and snag the mooring pennant. The trouble is, the buoy has been unused too long, and it's weighted down with kelp. There is no way we can lift it out of the water. No problem, I simply fashion a loop in a dock line and lasso the ball. the line slips over the ball and tightens around the chain below it. It is only after I've done this that I realize I haven't fixed a release line to the slip loop, which is now buried in a yard of kelp under the ball in water that will make the ice chest feel warm.

 

Moored securely, we look over our surroundings. The town of Westport appears to consist of twenty or thirty houses and several fish processing plants. Fishing boats form a continuous procession to an unloading point where their catch is hoisted to the plant. The fog lifts, then closes in again. It isn't til late afternoon that it lifts enough to see the other bank, a half mile away. I dinghy in and go jogging. A road runs down the island to the light house, several miles distant, and I take it. It climbs a hill and passes the island cemetery. Tombstones date back to the 1700s. The road turns to gravel and winds through marshes and stands of pine. There is a light fog and a chill ocean breeze. The fog horn from the lighthouse keeps up its moan. There is a dwelling about every mile on the road and it's lonely indeed. After several miles, the road does a reversal and starts dropping lower. I still can't see the lighthouse and enough is enough. I turn back and reach the seawall at just about dark. The fog has become dense and the Amberjack is lost in it. Marilyn might have to talk me in, but when I paddle out a couple of hundred feet, the boat appears.

 

Friday, August 13. Time for our return to the States. The weather is cold, of course, but surprisingly clear. The entire harbor lies in sharp relief. Seeing it for the first time, I'm surprised at how small it is. Less than a mile from St. Mary's Bay end to the Bay of Fundy.

 

Tomorrow is their "Island Heritage Day." The big feature is the dory races. A lone person rows a dory across the channel, stemming the 6-knot tidal current, loads the dory with frozen fish and rows the loaded dory back across the channel. I'd like to stay to see this, but it will have to wait til some future trip.

 

This is the coldest day of a cold trip. There's no wind, but the thermometer is sitting right on 50 degrees. At first, there's no fog, but suddenly the visibility drops to zero with no warning. Usually, you can see a fog bank before you enter it, but the lack of contrast on this gray day conceals the bank until you are in it. We pass in and out of the fog. As we pass to the south of Seal Harbor on Grand Manan, we're able to see the higher portions of the island rising out of the fog layer. At Grand Manan, a slight turn to the southward puts us on line for Machias Seal Island. As usual, there are birds by the thousands, including many puffins. From Machias Seal Island, it is a long lonely forty two miles to the red "8S" bell off Schoodic Head on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay. Then, its up the bay to Bar Harbor.

 

We get a tieup to the float at the foot of town. This harbor is always full of excitement and action. A three masted schooner comes and goes regularly with its load of tourists. Put up full sail and haul them down every couple of hours. The dock space is shared with a slightly smaller two master. These blend in with regular tour boats and a steady stream of lobster boats and private yachts. The bulkhead is populated from dawn to dusk, and watching the tourists can sometimes beat watching the boats.

 

Saturday, August 14. Today is a rare day off. The weather has finally turned wet, with showers and perhaps a thunderstorm in the forecast. Besides, Bar Harbor is having a chowder fest today. All you can eat for $6.00. You get a vote for the best clam chowder and a vote for the best seafood chowder. While we're going through the twenty offerings, the rain comes down in earnest, but by the time we leave, it's all over. We make two separate tours of the booths, and by evening, we couldn't eat another bowl of chowder if we tried.

 

Sunday, August 15. The front has moved to the east and we're greeted with sunny skies and calm seas. I could be spoiled by this! We make the ten mile run down to Northeast Harbor to fuel up. We last took on fuel in Northeast on our way out to Canada. I still have 3/8 of a tank in the starboard tank, but the port tank, which I'm using, is nearing empty. Just a couple of miles to go. No need to go below and switch tanks, right? Wrong!! 150 feet from the fuel dock, the engine surges and quits. And once you've lost the prime in a diesel engine, you're going to be a while getting it going again. Fifteen minutes, and three offers of a tow later, we proceed in to refuel. There are the usual unsolicited comments, questions, and conjectures from the crowd at the dock. I just ignore them all and maintain that good old stoic silence.

 

On departing the fuel dock, it's necessary to churn around the protected waters for a while and make absolutely sure that all the air is out of the fuel lines. When I'm sure we won't stop dead, we head through the narrows at Bass Harbor Head and turn northbound in Blue Hill Bay. This bay is sort of a smaller sister to Penobscot Bay to the west. It is bisected by an island in the center and provides a vast geography of protected sailing waters. At the very head of the bay is a picturesque harbor and the town of Blue Hill. The town and bay take their name from the hill which rises from the waterfront to an altitude of some 800 feet.

 

On arrival, we are able to secure a mooring at the Kollegewigwak Yacht Club. What that means, I cannot tell you. We are advised that the float at the town center is surrounded by a hundred feet of mud at low tide. Since low tide has passed (I think) we pile into the inflatable and run over to town. There is mud at the float, but not very much. We run in water that progressively shallows up until it's down to less than a foot. Another dinghy group has beached near the float and walked to it, but I do not like the looks of the situation.

 

I double back to somewhat deeper water and head for a gravel beach nearby. We start to walk down the beach but find that the gravel runs out and is replaced by incredibly soft mud. What to do. We could climb up the seawall and go to town, but I note that the water is flowing back in at a goodly rate and will soon reach the float. Further, if we leave the inflatable where it is, we won't be able to get back to it without some deep wading. So we go back to the dink and make our way to the float. By the time we get there, there is almost a foot of water at the deepest corner. There are also footprints in the mud that go deep, maybe six inches deep. I'm glad we didn't land there earlier.

 

The town is a pretty place, heavy on old houses, book stores, and antique shops. A little shopping at a particularly well equipped general store, and it's back to the Amberjack for dinner.

 

One of the differences in these more out of the way harbors is that they go more on "keep the wake down" than they do on "keep the speed down." Small inflatables, Whalers, and the like go speeding between moored boats. Just think what a ruckus this would cause in the Middle Atlantic states.

 

Monday, August 16. I set out to jog up Blue Hill, but I only gain a few hundred feet in altitude when I come up against no trespassing signs. Seems the higher levels of the hill are farmed by a berry company. They have a real thing about people tramping their hills. So it's back down the hill and back to the Amberjack.

 

We go off down the western side of the Blue Hill Bay and through the Deer Island Thorofare. A stop at Billings Diesel Service has been an Amberjack tradition for almost a decade. A little fuel, a little water, and a couple of spare parts. Then it's off across the eastern part of Penobscot Bay and into the thorofare through Vinalhaven Island. There's little problem with all this, but as we leave the western part of the thorofare, the fog closes down again. So it's off up the western part of the bay on radar and loran once again.

 

Calm waters and dense fog prevail, but when we get to the southwestern entrance to Islesboro Harbor, the fog lifts enough for me to confirm our position. Islesboro is an island I've wanted to visit for some years. Ten or twelve miles in length, it lies right in the center of Penobscot Bay and splits the bay in two. The island has close to a dozen coves and harbors, but the main harbor is on the southern end. Our cruising guide lists two marinas and one yacht club in the harbor. One marina is on Seven Hundred Acre Island to the south, and the other is on Islesboro. I want to get on the main island, so we plan for that one. We make our way in and are able to identify the yacht club, but there's no evidence of a marina. It's moving toward low tide, so I'm not in the mood to explore. A passing boater tells us that he doesn't know of any public moorings. So, despite a half dozen vacant moorings, we anchor.

 

Tuesday, August 17. No wind, and plenty of fog. I dinghy in to the yacht club float and go for a walk. A small general store offers light breakfast, and an assortment of basic supplies. The only newspaper available is yesterday's Wall Street Journal. I ante up a buck for a copy. Nearby is the missing marina. It is fairly complete with a haulout facility and a store. But you cannot get near it at low tide. Like Blue Hill, there is nothing but mud at low water. High water gives a depth of seven or eight feet, however. I get a briefing on how to make connections for future reference. They can provide a mooring, with sufficient notice.

 

As a casual remark as I'm leaving, I comment that I'd dinghied in to the yacht club. "Oh, you shouldn't have done that!" The lady exclaimed. "you know how fussy private clubs can be." "Oh well, I'll work it out with them." I replied. But I didn't feel very good about it on the walk back. There were enough "No Trespassing" signs along the way to spook me, including several prominent ones at the entrance to the yacht club.

 

In my travels, I've noted that islands which are readily accessible by automobile are very likely to have problems with privacy, while islands which do not have regular auto access seem not to have such problems. It's always a little bit of a turn-off to be informed that you are not wanted, even if it is proper, and perhaps necessary.

 

My passage through the yacht club was without incident on this morning, however. There was no one around. The anchor does not want to come up and at first, I fear it is wedged in rock. But then, with a steady strain by the windlass, it comes up. When it surfaces, it's covered with a really sticky and dense black mud. There has got to be a market for that stuff. The fog hasn't let up at all, so we get underway with the radar.

 

I hesitate to relate the next part, but it is something which the skipper must guard against, so here it is. The harbor is a doglegged channel, with a southwestern entrance and a northwestern entrance. We entered by the southwestern entrance, but we wish to exit by the northwestern entrance. It is here that the ferry landing and the town dock are located. I'm looking for a radar picture of a channel that funnels down, turns to port, with a nun on the inside, or port side of the turn and an island to starboard. Watching the radar, I identify all of the features, and off we go. I'm steering a constant compass course, 220 degrees. I work my way right up to the nun so as to get a positive identification. That's the point where the whole thing falls apart. The nun marks the southwestern part of the pass, not the northwestern part. Concentrating on the radar pattern, I didn't keep track of my heading. From the center of the harbor, both entrances have the same key radar features. The only way someone who isn't familiar with them can tell them apart is the all important heading.

 

I turn around and head back into the harbor, searching for the northwestern entrance, but the fog is simply too dense to risk another error. There are big rocks out there. Besides, in that lack of visibility, we wouldn't see anything anyway. Once clear of Islesboro, it's a scant four miles to Camden, our next port of call. Camden has inner and outer rock ledges to guard the entrance, but she is kind to us and permits a peek under the fog for long enough for us to get into the harbor. A call to Wayfarer Marine and a few minutes of milling around at the entrance to the inner harbor gets us an overnight spot on he float in front of their operation.

 

Camden's inner harbor is every bit the equal of Bar Harbor for diversity and activity. Vessels ranging up to 100 feet are rafted together in an impenetrable web of lines. It's not unusual to see an 80-foot yawl backing down the length of the harbor to raft up. Fuel lines are snaked out over two or three rafted boats to fuel a visitor on the outside.

 

Wayfarer operates a very serious marine service, and has the equipment to go with it. Have you ever seen a 60-foot deep- draft fin keeled sloop launched from a trailer on a launching ramp? With supports hydraulically powered and remote controlled, the trailer is let down the ramp with a winch from the truck and the boat is released as gently as can be.

 

In the afternoon, employees come down the dock with 3/4-inch lines and start tying each boat fore and aft. Not to the float, but to the wharf. It looks like hurricane tiedowns, so I ask if we're in for heavy weather. No, I'm told, this is just the way the dock manager wants it done. Better to be safe than sorry in the event a squall blows up.

 

Wednesday, August 18. Heavy weather is forecast for today, and since this is about as nice a harbor as you can find, we decide to stay over. Fog drifts in and then recedes. Sometimes the sun shows through and then later it rains. It's just one of those days. Laundry and similar chores are caught up on.

 

Due to limited space, Wayfarer rafts boats three deep. We have a sloop on our starboard and the yard tug is rafted to the sloop. It's interesting to have people tramping over your deck at seven in the morning. Our next door neighbor, the skipper of the sloop, is in his late seventies. He single hands the 30-footer most of the time. He depends heavily on an autopilot, as the arthritis in his hands makes holding the wheel for long times a problem. At present, he is in port to pick up his son and his family for the rest of the week. He tells me that the yacht on which President Roosevelt vacationed was also named the Amberjack. During the second world war, that Amberjack passed him in the Cape Cod Canal with two destroyers as escorts.

 

There are a couple of moderate hills just outside Camden, and I undertake to bike up Mount Battie, which is a state park. Bike up it is a bit misleading, as it is so steep that I have to walk the bike up. I'm worried that the fog will roll in and obscure the view, but when I get to the top, the fog is lying just to the northeast of the harbor, so I'm able to get a photo.

 

The ride down that steep grade is worth remembering. My bike is a mountain bike, so the brakes are substantial. But I wasn't sure they could stand up to that abuse. I could smell rubber burning, and when I got off the mountain, I had to stop and adjust them. It took about forty five minutes to go from the boat to the peak, and about ten minutes to go back to the boat.

 

Thursday, August 19. The weather has subsided, but the fog is still with us, of course. We head down the Penobscot by loran and radar. As we approach the "PB" midchannel marker east of Rockland, there is a slow moving, large target approaching the same buoy from the east. My fog signal is answered by a horn, so loud and deep, I swear it's the QE II. I have the right of way, but there's no way I'm going to exercise it. I put the Amberjack up on plane and get on out of that monster's way.

 

As we proceed south and then west, channel 16 is busy with securite messages about this or that sailing vessel's position, course and intentions. I concede it's all very prudent and proper, but, as I pass some of these 30-footers and note that they are radar equipped, I can't help wondering of they aren't overdoing it a bit.

 

Out of the influence of the Penobscot, the fog thins and then disappears. There are patches of nasty chop where estuaries drain into the sea and the currents are strong, but nothing notable is encountered and shortly we are in Boothbay.

 

Friday, August 20. For the first time in I can't remember when, there is no fog. We get underway in calm seas and sun and good visibility. Today will take us from Boothbay to Casco Bay in the vicinity of Portland, perhaps to a mooring at Great Diamond Island. Since the trip today is so uneventful, perhaps a few observations about cruising up this way are in order.

 

You don't see many muscle boats north of Cape Ann (Boston). Haven't been able to figure a reason for this. Maybe the cold air doesn't go well with bikinis. Or maybe the fog and rough seas limit the times when you can enjoy such boats.

 

You don't see any personal water craft. It's almost as if there is a law against them.

 

You do see large numbers of ocean kayaks. This is new, as we didn't see them in past cruises. Every harbor has a dozen or two kayak paddling around. They seem to like the waters near rocks. I cannot figure out whether they are watching wildlife or what. I would guess it's a new hobby for the bicycle crowd. These things are not cheap, either. The boat costs around $2000, and then you have to ante up another thousand for a wet suit, paddles, the apron that seals you in, and other gear. I guess that's not bad for a boat that is good for your health, politically correct, and all that, but I'll wait til they come with flybridges.

 

Lobster pots are an incredible problem. If the water's less than 150 feet deep, you have to be on serious watch to keep from having to do an impromptu dive. Press articles indicate that loss of traps to boat entanglements is a large economic problem to lobstermen. Yet, when the pots are every 25 feet, I cannot believe they aren't being overfished. Maine is economically depressed, and I assume that is the reason for the high density of traps, but they are making it very unpleasant for boaters. Sail boats have an even harder time of it, as their maneuverability is more limited.

 

As we near Casco Bay in the quiet seas, I decide to relent and head up Broad Sound to Freeport. A little twist and turn around the islands that guard the entrance to the Haraseeket River, and then we're tied up to the float at the Brewer's South Freeport Marina. For those who may have forgotten, Freeport, Maine is the home of L. L. Bean. 1600 employees stand ready to serve your every need in sports clothing and equipment. Their Freeport store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Great place for that last minute Christmas shopping, but one helluva drive. The icing on the cake is that the L. L. Bean store has been surrounded by every discount, outlet, factory store known to North America. Of course, the downside is that Freeport in August contains the single largest group of shoppers in North America.

 

Being clever merchandisers, the L. L. Bean van picks us up at the marina and delivers us to the front door of the store. Ever helpful, they will also deliver the boater to the local grocery for restocking. And, while they limit this service to reasonable hours, one of the drivers confided that they would help you out if you needed a ride at 2 am.

 

This evening the weather is predicted to go down again, with a cold front approaching. Showers and thunderstorms are to be followed by high winds and colder air. The storms hit just after bedtime.

 

Saturday, August 21. The front has passed, and it is cold and clear. Unfortunately, the advertised winds are howling. The waters on the other side of the float are whitecapped and steel colored. There is no point to relocating in Casco Bay, so, to the delight of certain crewmembers, we arrange for another night in Freeport.

 

Sunday, August 22. The wind has diminished, but the morning is really cold. 49 degrees. We depart the Haraseeket and cruise down the inside passages of Casco Bay. At Portland, we slip out the harbor and depart Cape Elizabeth. The logic is, if it's rough outside, we'll go to Kennebunkport and get an early start southbound tomorrow.

 

But the weather isn't rough. So we set in a course for Cape Ann. This takes us about ten miles out to sea, and we pass to the east of Boon Island and the Isles of Shoals. It being a weekend, we have some pleasure fishermen and an occasional whale watching boat for company. The seas pick up a little, but they are largely following seas and by 4:00 pm, we're entering the Annisquam Canal once again. This is high tide on a Sunday afternoon, and everyone is out to enjoy it. Traffic in the canal looks like the Manasquan Canal.

 

The highway bridge on the Gloucester end is low to the water and at high water, has to be opened for most everything. There is a backup of about twenty boats on our side, but fortunately it is just opening. We all parade through, since we have the current with us. I don't envy the drivers who have a half hour wait. We've anchored in Gloucester harbor, but we've never docked and gone to town, so we make arrangements for a slip at Brown's Marina.

 

There, we run into another cruising couple, Phil and Gloria with their 37-foot Egg Harbor, "Glory." They normally anchor, but they are having some work done, so they are at the dock. We have a good evening comparing cruising notes over dinner.

 

Monday, August 23. It's a beautiful morning, no clouds, no wind, no fog. I go for a run to get some idea of what Gloucester is. Certainly, an hour on foot doesn't do justice to a town this size, so the following are first impressions. This is a sea town. Seafood processing plants and support activities ring the harbor. Gortons dominates the scene.

 

The town is like the dowager lady, a little tatty around the edges. I guess this is to be expected in a town where many of the houses date back to last century. Much of the wood trip is gingerbread, and cannot be treated with aluminum siding. You see some finely restored properties, and some that are really in bad shape.

 

In keeping with the seafaring background, the churches are well maintained and look like they have no donation problems.

 

Back at the Amberjack, while I'm preparing for departure, a gentleman greets us and tells us that he'd been a member of Trenton Falls Power Squadron some years ago. He's Bob Martin, who was a member in the late 60s. They are in the process to moving to Maine, having sold their property in Bucks County. They have a lovely 40-foot sailboat which they are presently cruising on.

 

Today, we cover the 40 miles from Gloucester to Provincetown. The trip is pleasant and uneventful. Stellwagen Bank produces a number of whale sightings, but nothing close. It is kind of amusing to watch the newest marine industry, whale watching. The waters are constantly roiled by hundred-footers racing around to cart loads of customers up to the latest whale that's surfaced. How the animals stand the constant harassment without developing a nervous complex, I don't know.

 

We decide to enjoy the stay in P-town and arrange for a slip there as well. Wow! The prices never quit climbing in this town. $60.00 a night for a slip. And then they have the nerve to charge a dollar to use the shower. Well, I guess if you have the location, you can charge the money. We get in early, and by evening the marina is near full. Not bad for a weekday.

 

We're sitting back enjoying the never-ending activity in the harbor when a 42-foot Grand Banks docks across the finger pier from us. She looks brand new and is polished and oiled to perfection. Several couples are aboard and, shortly after the boat is tied up, they take a quantity of luggage and disappear in two vans that had pulled up on the quay. I took no notice of them, other than an incident where one of their overly enthusiastic guests had directed some spray into our salon while hosing the boat down. Marilyn got up and pointedly slammed the salon window shut.

 

A short time later, another couple came down the dock and struck up a conversation about Duchess. This has happened several times, as American Eskimo fanciers appear to be loyal and talkative. Minutes later, they bid me goodbye and as they leave, the man asks, "Did you see Phil Donohue and Marla Thomas?"

 

"No,-- should I have?" I ask.

 

"That's their boat next to you."

 

Tuesday, August 24. We take a day off to enjoy the Provincelands National Seashore. I want to jog the eight miles from Provincetown to the visitors center, thence to Race Point, along the beach to Herring Cove north of town, and back to the boat. Things go well until I get on the beach. The sand is much more granular than usual and it just doesn't pack down. The result is a rather steep beach that keeps sliding underfoot. You'd have to be some kind of tough to jog in that stuff. I walk it, but even walking is a big effort.

 

The chart shows a salt water pond along the beach, with a stream connecting it to the sea. I really don't want to have to swim a tidal stream, so I took great care yesterday to scan the beach and make sure that there were no such streams. Well, it doesn't work, for there is a stream when I get a mile down the beach. It's a good thing it's low tide. The water is moving fast but only about thigh deep. Still, it means removing shoes and socks and crossing, then drying off and getting rid of the tenuous and sharp sand before getting the footgear on again.

 

Rotten luck! There's another stream a half mile further and I have to go through the whole process again. The finish of the grand tour is a mile of running in the hot sun. I get back to the Amberjack to find a very unhappy spouse. Unhappy because I'm a couple of hours late and unhappy because I've promised her we'd go bike riding.

 

So I do the whole thing over by bike, leaving out the beach part. Duchess bravely tries her jump out of the basket trick again, but I catch her by the scruff of the neck in mid jump and put a stop to that.

 

We arrange for dinner at "Bubela's," the latest "in" dining spot in town. The place is tiny, having seating for about 40 people, but the food and service is excellent, and the vantage point of a booth overlooking the endless parade on Main Street is excellent.

 

Wednesday, August 25. The wind is out of the west, and has been blowing strong since yesterday afternoon. Until now, I thought Ptown stood for Provincetown, but it really means Pigeontown. The Provincetown Marina docks are affixed to one of two old wharfs. The top of the wharf has been neatly resurfaced with concrete and sports new buildings, but the underpinning is the same old rip-rap of pilings and beams. It's a perfect home for pigeons. With the 9-foot tide range, the boats are somewhat below the pigeons. It isn't the guano that's the problem, it's the feathers. I figure the last feather will be off the Amberjack sometime in '95.

 

I plan to make the trip from Provincetown to Block Island today, and the timing of the currents in the Cape Cod Canal is such that we should arrive at the eastern end of the canal at about 5:00 am. It's three hours from Ptown to the Canal for us, so this isn't very practical. Also, I'm concerned about the seas, so we wait the morning out.

 

While we're waiting, our famous neighbors return to make their departure. Mr. Donahue (whom we can now recognize, of course) is pleasant and jocular. He personally puts oil in his engines, by the way. But he does have someone to hold the empties. It was amusing to watch hundreds of people debark the Gloucester ferry boat and queue up just behind his boat, grousing about the climb up the long ramp. They were totally unaware of who was uncovering the flybridge next to them.

 

In another incident, I watched as a skipper attempted to depart the float. His understanding of the dynamics of wind was not up to par. A companion asked how he wished the lines removed and he just said, "Take them all off." The companion proceeded to do so, starting from windward and working downwind. This produced the probable result of jamming the downwind lines so that they could not be released. I couldn't let it go any further at that point and got a proper strain on one of the upwind lines. The boat straightened out and the departure went smoothly. When departing, the skipper should always have a look at the wind and the current and picture in his or her mind what will happen to the boat as the lines are released.

 

I have come to like the term "singling up the lines." As more and more marinas take to the use of floats, this becomes very important, and it also is very useful at docks and piersides. First, determine which lines are slack. Slack lines are not needed for a departure. They may have been key lines during your stay, but they won't be needed for the five minutes or so that you will be departing. These are the first lines to go. Next, consider which of the remaining lines, the ones under tension, are really needed. There generally is only one. Sometimes there are two. This line should be led around the cleat or piling and back to the boat. Arranged thusly, it can be released by a person on the boat, without having to have any Keystone Kops boarding antics or any assistance from dockside.

 

I check with a couple of incoming boat crews and find that notwithstanding the howling winds, the seas in Cape Cod Bay are flat. So we get underway a little after noon. We'll catch the slack water in the Canal, but we'll get a good assist from the current in Buzzard's Bay. The ride across the bay is indeed flat water, and the only break in the monotony is watching the whale watching boats charging around bugging the whales. The canal is also uneventful. We don't get much help, but we don't get any hindrance either.

 

Buzzard's Bay is another story. We're hardly out of the canal when the chop builds up. By the couple of miles to the end of Hog Island Channel, the chop is up to five feet and is damned uncomfortable. It's right on the bow and there is no way I want to tolerate even the three hours it would take to get to Cuttyhunk. I make a quick turn to the east and head for Pocasset Harbor. It's only a mile or so to protected waters, but the seas are now hitting us on the beam. It's a wild ride 'til we get in the lee of Scraggy Neck. From there we zig around Bassett's Island and drop the hook just outside a mooring area for a yacht club. There was no real damage from the ride, but the steel wire hooks that hold the ice chest in the cockpit have been deformed from the forces generated during the rolling. The current was slack with what we just experienced. Just imagine what that water will be like when the current builds to a maximum against the wind.

 

Thursday, August 26. During the night, I look out the port to see a starry sky reflected in the mirror surface of the water. We get an early start for Block Island. The current is with us and the wild waters of yesterday are just a memory. As soon as we clear Cleveland Ledge, we turn to the west and head straight for Block Island. The good weather holds and we get a mild assist in speed all the way to the tip of the island. Then it's a couple of miles to the jetty and we anchor in the Salt Pond.

 

There are dozens of boats anchored with us in the northeast corner of the pond. Water there is six to ten feet deep at low tide and the holding is good, but there is a liberal growth of the lettuce type of seaweed, so you have to be sure that your anchor is into the ground and not just hung on some seaweed.

 

This part of the salt pond has a little sand beach and about a 100-yard walk to the ocean beach, so it is a lot like Tice's Shoal. It's used in the same manner. People come in their small outboards and anchor, then go over to the beach for a few hours. I guess some also walk from there to town. We just get settled down when Marilyn notes a 24-foot Chris Craft that is dragging anchor. The different feature about Block Island is that there are rocks, and this boat is headed for the rocks! I get the dinghy and get to the boat about the time it comes to rest on the rocks. In the quiet waters of the Salt Pond, this might not be a problem, but it's high tide. I pull up the anchor and sure enough, it's badly fouled with grass. I get the grass cleared, but my attempts to pull the boat away from the rocks just don't work. The wind goes to work on the big pontoons of the inflatable and I soon find myself in the rocky area.

 

I go back to the Amberjack and call the harbormaster. After a bit, they appear, and I take the dinghy over to converse with them. They cannot get into the shallow water to get the boat. Further, they are not permitted to do more than reset the anchor. We all agree that it is a bad situation for this skipperless boat. I offer to go in and get the anchor and transport it to them, if they will reset it. They agree to this deal. Having considered my earlier failure, I have determined that I need to get the tow point further forward in the inflatable if I'm to have any control over the situation. So this time, when I get the anchor, I hold the rode just above my head with one hand, while steering the outboard with the other. This works so well than not only am I able to get the anchor rode out of the rocky area, I'm able to tow the boat away from danger.

 

Soon as I get to the harbormaster's boat, I hand them the anchor and leave. I watch while walking Duchess. They have a difficult time getting their boat turned around with the other boat in tow. They almost wind up with both boats back in the foul water. Eventually they pull the Chris Craft out of the area by backing their boat. For some reason, they change their policy and take the other boat in tow. Last I see of them, they are headed in to port with the Chris Craft.

 

This brings us to another dilemma. It becomes a game of watching for the owner to appear on the beach and start searching for his or her missing boat. It's after dinner and near sunset when a young couple appears on the beach and starts searching. I dinghy over, but it turns out that they aren't the owners. They're just looking for a prearranged ride. It's another mystery that we'll never have a solution for.

 

Friday, August 27. We're out of Block Island early, enroute to Fire Island. There was no fog to the east when I walked out to look at the sea conditions, but the fog is waiting just outside the breakwater on the western side. The seas start out calm, but there is a brisk breeze out of the southwest, driven by a summer high overhead that isn't going anywhere. The seas slowly build, and we're in and out of dense fog until ten miles east of Shinnecock. We put in to Shinnecock to refuel and then head back to sea. By the time we're passing Moriches Inlet, ten miles west, the seas have gotten to the point where I consider putting it there and continuing westward in the New York Intracoastal. The problem with this approach is that it's usually quite a bit hotter than the ocean. The seas aren't really a problem yet, so I continue. We've got four hours to go, and by the end of the second, I'm regretting my decision to push on. We're quartering a nasty chop, averaging five feet with some waves up to seven or eight feet.

 

The next couple of hours grind on like an eternity. It also gives me maybe a thousand opportunities to review what Fire Island Inlet might be doing. In my mind, I can see breakers all across the bar. But the end of the day is anticlimactic. We just keep working into smaller and smaller waves until we round the bar and are in the calm. We anchor just inside the inlet and relax.

 

Saturday, August 28. The wind blows all night. I get an early start and give the ocean a try out of Fire Island Inlet. By the time we reach the seabouy, I know I don't want to do 40 miles of this! Six to eight-footers right on the bow. We retreat and review the situation. A cold front is due this afternoon. It should put an end to the troublesome southwest wind. But it will also bring thunderstorms, high winds, etc. A check of our references shows a half dozen marinas in the vicinity of Seaford, New York, behind Jones Beach Inlet.

 

I have a problem with some of these cruising reference guides. They are apparently based on a mail survey form, where the owner gets to make whatever statements without any independent verification. What you encounter is not at all like what appears on the printed page. So it is this time. The 500-slip marina is half empty, dilapidated, and neglected. No answer to a radio call, and persons working on a car near the "office" take no notice of a visitor. We get the Amberjack out of there and survey some of the others. We settle on a new looking place with floating slips still under construction. Still, I have to tie up and go looking for someone in authority.

 

In the office, they have no idea what the transient fee is, and go off in search of someone who might know. It would probably be the same in Forked River, as the Seaford area is just about the same distance from the inlet and neither area sees much transient traffic. We eventually get registered and tied up. Dock neighbors are friendly and helpful, offering land transportation if we need it. A walk around reveals an incredible canal complex that puts the Jersey coast to shame. Every home is located on a lagoon, and nearly every home has a couple of boats at the bulkhead. In addition, there are numbers of those houseboats that are really houses on barges. The boat population that I can see is probably multiplied a thousand times across all of this area. No wonder the waterways around here are so crowded on a weekend.

 

Good fortune has placed an excellent restaurant two blocks from the dock, and we try to get an early dinner before the heavy weather hits. This doesn't work. A violent light show, accompanied by strong winds arrives with the entree. Soon as the meal is gulped down, I head back to check the boat. Except for a very scared Duchess, the Amberjack seems to be OK. But a Searay 50 feet away has ripped out all but one cleat. The scary part is that a mini tornado had touched down in the parking lot, only 150 feet away. A soft drink machine and an ice machine have been tossed around like matchboxes. The wind also removed an aluminum storm door and slammed it into a poletop transformer, taking out the power for a major part of the area. It isn't until we're leaving in the morning that the power company is restoring power.

 

Sunday, August 29. I'm up at 5:00 am and ready to get underway at first light. I have about ten miles of unfamiliar canal and narrow channel, and I don't want to tackle that in the dark. Today, I hope it will be Jones Beach to Forked River. Last evening's storm has killed the wind, but we can expect a steady increase in wind and seas from the northwest today. When I uncover the flybridge, I find dozens of little X-shaped holes in the curtains. Hail from last night's storm, so we didn't get off free after all. Still, the curtains are ten years old, so this will motivate me to replace them.
It's a 2-hour run to the inlet, and I'm happy to see that the waters have quieted considerably since yesterday. Without that incessant wind, they are now two-foot swells, and we're off for home. It being a weekend, there are plenty of fishing boats for company. I'm surprised to see several Barnegat Light head boats headed at flank speed for the Shrewsbury Rocks. The fishing must be pretty bad for them to be burning fuel to go 40 miles north.

 

The predicted northwest winds build, but they don't have time to do much mischief before we're inside the jetties at Manasquan Inlet. A couple of hours in the overcrowded green murky waters of Barnegat Bay puts us in Forked River in the early afternoon.

 

The trip took 30 days and covered some 1300 nautical miles. This works out to 43 miles per day, or about five hours travel a day. This is at least twice what would be relaxing. We ran into people who limit their average to one or two hours per day, or even less. It should be pointed out that they don't cover the ground we covered, even with faster boats. All the essential things worked this trip, and I'm happy to note that I didn't have to make any repairs. And so ends New England 1993......