Paradigm Shift - Season 2, Chapter 5 Re-Entry
August 27 – October 22, 2018
After three months in Bermuda and Canada, it was time to return to the USofA! We planned our departure based on our successful voyage last year from Yarmouth, NS to Southwest Harbor, Maine. One of the really great parts of having done a similar trip last year is that we are able to draw on our logs and experience. Last year the trip from Yarmouth to SW Harbor took place on September 9 and we covered 102nm in just under 13 hours (or a speed of 8kts). We departed at 3:00 a.m. Atlantic Daylight Time and we arrived at 3:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. This worked so well we did exactly the same this year. The nice part was that we had company this year. Our friends Beatrice and Bruno on N76, Trixie, were following us for the entire trip. Julia and Beatrice had traded notes a day or two prior to departure and both of them filed a float plan with the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). This step is not supposed to be necessary according to the website, but the new App that they claim is up and running is not up and running so they decided to follow the old rules and it worked great.
We had a new Automatic Identification System (AIS) antennae installed while in Yarmouth and I was happy to get to test it out. AIS is a great system for larger boats that travel long distances and for any boats that tend to operate at night or in the fog. Modern chart plotters like Garmin or Furuno show icons of boats based on the AIS information being shared by each vessel with AIS. These icons are also displayed on your radar which allows you to estimate, speed and course and closest point of approach (CPA). This is all great information when it is working, but when it is not the captain needs to able to get by without all of the fancy AIS information. We were living in the netherworld between AIS and no AIS. Although I did an extensive electronics upgrade over the winter, a new AIS antennae was not part of it. Don’t ask me why? It just slipped through the cracks. As a result our AIS was working but only for vessels within a radius of about 2 miles. This is OK but not that helpful if the other vessels are operating at high or even moderate speeds. This became obvious when we arrived in Halifax in June in the thick fog to a packed Harbour of commercials ships all with AIS. My display was not lighting up with the information on all of the targets, so I noted this and the first time I could address was when we arrived in Yarmouth for the Tuna Tournament. Anyway, it worked splendidly! We could see targets 8, 10 and sometimes even 12 miles away. Trixie stayed on our screen the entire day closing from about 6 miles behind us at the start to about 1.5 miles behind us when we arrived in SW Harbor.
The weather was very good and Julia and I sat upstairs on the fly bridge for most of the trip. We saw lots of dolphins and we finally got a good look at a whale tale from a Northern Wright Whale (at least think that is what it was). We also saw lots of dolphins and seals. Two hours out of SW Harbor we had cell service so we called CBP with our information hoping that they would clear us over the phone without the need to have an agent come to the boat. They did, and they saw we were traveling with Trixie and they cleared Trixie over the phone with us. I radioed Bruno to tell him not to bother calling CBP because he was already cleared and he couldn’t believe it. He called anyway but was told they were already cleared. Good planning paid off once again.
Last year I talked about the lobster pots in Maine so I won’t dwell on it too much, but I have to say, as much as I love to eat lobster, I really hate navigating around lobster pots. It’s not the ones that are well marked that bother me, well not just those, but it is the ones that the lines are not measured long enough and the float ends up 1-3 feet under water where you cannot see them. One of the best parts of cruising in Nova Scotia is that there are no pots because their lobster season ends at the end of May. The other nice thing about cruising in Nova Scotia is that there are so few cruisers which means quiet anchorages - at least for the most part. Julia and I decided we would not make many stops in Maine because Nova Scotia was just as pretty as Maine without the pots and people. Turned out this was a good call - at least for us. We stayed in SW Harbor long enough to find some needed spares for the main engine and to socialize with some of the boats and crews that we had seen in Nova Scotia who had also come back to SW Harbor to clear. We had a great cocktail party on board Gratitude, a Nord 64 with new owners Alec and Lorie and their son Jack. We also got a peek at the larger version of our boat. This set off an episode of boatitis (the irrational desire for a bigger, better boat) that continues as of the writing of this addition. More on that later...
We left SW Harbor a couple of days later headed to an anchorage in North Haven called Carvers Cover. It turned out to be really nice and quiet. After getting set on anchor, we dropped the tender and went to the nearby dinghy dock on the island of North Haven. North Haven is a quaint little island with ferry service to accommodate visitors. We did a nice morning walk the next day and then off again to the next anchorage. If only the next one turned out as well as this one did...
Next on the list was Booth Bay. I’d been told about Booth Bay by many experienced cruisers. This was a can’t miss spot. We had only left time in our “hectic” schedule for one night in Booth Bay, but hectic schedules like ours are made to be changed. It was only 43 miles from North Haven to Booth Bay but it felt like much longer because we dodged so many pots I was exhausted by the time we arrived. We found a nice spot in the harbor to anchor and we got set with no problems. We dropped the dinghy to go explore and before you knew it it looked like a squall that I thought was going to miss us was going to go right over us. Here is where the fun started. We were already in the dinghy and headed to the dock when I looked back at VAMOS and I clearly had incorrectly forecast this fast approaching squall. The looks of the clouds were ominous and I even thought there was a chance of water spout (tornado over the water). Ugh! I’m still not all that confident in our anchoring skills although we have had absolutely no problems with dragging anchors. I think this fear is a result of being awakened in the middle of the night as a child onboard my father’s various Chesapeake Bay cruising boats to find that we were sitting on a beach or banging into other boats because the anchor had dragged. Keep in mind that in the dark ages of boating, you didn’t have an endless number of Apps to forecast the weather and to alert you to potentially severe weather. You used to just pick a night, go to an anchorage and take your chances. Not so anymore! We monitor at least three different weather apps before we even leave the dock and if we are anchoring at least one of us is updating this information throughout the day.
Anyway, we get to the dinghy dock and it starts chucking down and blowing a gale. I dropped Julia and Tortilla and they ran up the dock to give T a chance to conduct business. She cooperated and then they were back on Little V. I was so concerned about the boat dragging anchor and ending up on the rocks that I decided to take a “short cut” through the harbor. There was a funny looking marker obviously marking something but it was unclear (at least under the stress of thinking VAMOS was dragging into the rocks) which side I was supposed to be avoiding. In my entire lifetime of being on boats I have never run a boat aground due to poor navigational skills. Don’t get me wrong, I have run aground before, but usually in a very controlled, testing the waters sort of way. In other words, how close do you think we can get to the beach before hitting bottom? Oh! About 30 yards is the answer... Well not this time. I was humming along in Little V and I had picked the wrong side of the marker on a low tide. First we went into a bunch of seaweed and then quickly we bottomed out on a freekin rock. A rock! A big rock! It was chucking down rain, blowing thirty or forty knots and a sightseeing boat was passing us on the correct side of the marker. The first thing I realized is that we hit hard enough that I had broken the steering cable...This is not good! Julia was soaked and Tortilla was shivering and I was trying to find paddles. The sight seers were watching this entire thing from the safety and comfort of the enclosed cabin. Then, the lady that lives on the island with the rock pokes her head outside with some friendly advice - “You are on the wrong side of the marker!” I thanked her for her sage advice and I tried to scrape up some semblance of self-respect by pushing us off of the rocks. OK, we were floating again but had no steering. No problem! I just grabbed the 60 hp outboard by the back and hand steered us back to VAMOS in time for the entire storm to have passed. The sun was coming back out and the winds were calming. VAMOS was right where we left her and now she was cleaned of all the salt water! We could have docked the dinghy, sought some shelter in a local watering hole and waited out the brief storm. Ugh! We picked up the dinghy and decided we should leave early the next morning to avoid as many people as possible.
The thing about coastal cruising is that you can stay connected. As we were dodging pots on the way to Dolphin Marina I was on the phone finding a shop to perform repairs on Little V. I kept telling myself that this was a great learning experience, even though I was quietly embarrassed about the whole thing. Good news was that we were met at Dolphin Marina by the guys with a trailer to take Little V away for needed repairs and a couple of upgrades. Why waste this valuable opportunity - I said? Let’s get the motor serviced, install that last fuel line that I keep not getting to myself and have them check over everything else while she is there. And, by the way, I’d like her back tomorrow so I can be on my way when the weather is good. Ah, it is good to be back in the land of instant gratification! A day later we had Little V back and we took her for sea trial as we toured all of the places we didn’t get to go last year when we were fogged in at this particular stop. We had a glorious day visiting Cliff Island - another of Maine’s little jewels that are quiet respites served by ferry only. We had a nice lunch and a short walk. I can see the appeal of Maine - if it was not for the 8 billion lobster pots. Another highlight of Dolphin is that the dock crew brings coffee and warm blueberry muffins to your boat in the morning. Really nice! We left with a few extras which we froze and have been enjoying along the way.
Next stop - XMAS at Wentworth by the Sea, New Castle, New Hampshire! What? XMAS in September. After three months outside of Amazon country we needed a little online retail shopping therapy. When we arrived at Wentworth, we got docked with no problems and we had a train of dock hands coming down the dock with packages. I can’t even remember what they all were, but it was great! Wentworth has great walking, good loaner cars for doing errands, and a spa! We took advantage of all of these. The day after Amazon XMAS, we treated ourselves to a 90 minute massage, a martini at the hotel bar and a hand tossed pizza. Nice! The next day we discovered some great new walking trails and a state park that was a former WWI POW camp and lookout. The weather was perfect if not a bit hot. We were running the AC in New Hampshire. Perhaps the globe is warming...While in New Castle, we were joined by our Cayman friends Annette and Bryan. They arrived laden with lots of North Dakota treats - a selection of sausage and bologna, the best pretzels I’ve even eaten, chocolate and dish towels. Wow! They are invited back anytime for sure.
Next stop, anchoring at Rockport, MA. Rockport is located on a promontory just north of Gloucester, MA. Everyone remembers Gloucester as the place in the movie “The Perfect Storm”. We got set and dropped the dinghy. Julia and I took Tortilla for a walk and then returned to VAMOS. The plan was to have dinner with Andrea, Sharon, Joe and Cousin Derek and his wife. These are all members of our extended, Nova Scotia family. Sharon, Joe and Andrea reside in Winthrop, MA (just outside of Boston) and Cousin Derek and Trish live in Wedgeport, NS. They were visiting the relatives and got swept up in the dinner plans. Rockport turned out to be a great stop. If we had more time we would have stayed another night, but, you know, the hectic schedule...Dinner with the family was great. It had been quite a while since we were all together last year at Eric and Yvonne’s during the Tuna Tournament and we spent the time catching up. This is truly the best part of cruising - the people. People making an effort to see you and spend time together. This is fairly unusual in real life. We just happen to be the catalyst to make people go out of their way and we really appreciate it!!! The extra effort does not go unnoticed.
After Rockport we headed across the Cape Cod Bay to Provincetown, MA (PTown). On the way to PTown we crossed prime whale viewing territory. We just followed the AIS and found the whale watching boats. We were treated to quite a show of whales surfacing, tales splashing and more. Unfortunately, no jumping whales. We arrived in PTown and went exploring. PTown is at the northern tip of Cape Cod and is known for its flamboyant population of male cross dressers and gay community. It is quite the sight to see. We walked a great deal of the town and found a quiet cocktail bar where we enjoyed martinis and old fashions. Our alternative lifestyle bartender sure knew how to make a drink!
From PTown we headed to Sandwich, MA at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal. Last year we stayed in Sandwich on our way north and we had an enjoyable, extended stay while we waited for some parts. We reconnected with our friends Anne and Harry on the 48’ Tiara, and PJ who summers in Cape Cod and winters in Exuma. We hope to catch up with PJ in Exuma next year! It was Sunday Funday in Sandwich so we hosted football Sunday. We had some of the sausage that Bryan and Annette brought along, chili, and corn muffins stuffed with BBQ pulled pork. We also learned that Direct TV has its own RedZone channel. This one is not hosted by Scott Hanson, my favorite sports MC. I’ve been watching NFL RedZone for years and have introduced many of you to the madness of watching “Seven hours of uninterrupted football.” RedZone brought to you by Direct TV is just not the same thing. But it was a great day - friends, food and a few spirits!
We left Sandwich and headed to Newport, RI in time to go to the boat show. The show was great. We talked to many vendors and ended up purchasing a stand up paddle board and a kayak, both of which are inflatable. Amazing technology. We also met a rep for Garmin who we stumped with our connectivity issue on the Garmin WiFi. The fun really began when we were leaving Newport on Monday morning. We were leaving the dock at the same time as all of the boats for the boat show were leaving the harbor. There was literally a parade of boats leaving the harbor including VAMOS. I noticed that the steering seemed squishy and was not responding well. I had Julia take a look at the steering pressure and oil reservoir to make sure all was good. All was not good! No pressure and no oil. Ugh! In the middle of the harbor with big, expensive boats all around and virtually no steering. Julia called the marina to tell them we were returning with limited maneuverability and I called a distress signal over the VHF radio to alert the other boat captains in the harbor. Fortunately VAMOS has great, hydraulic thrusters which came in handy when I was slowly bringing her back to the dock without incident. Once back to the dock we discovered that the autopilot pump had leaked oil. This was the same pump that I had pulled out of the boat and had “rebuilt” over the winter. Nordhavn plans for plenty of redundancy so they put two of these pumps in the boat. I isolated the bad pump, Julia and I bled the steering system and activated the backup pump. An hour or so later we were underway to Block Island! It is amazing how much difference a year of accumulated experience and knowledge makes. If this had happened last year we would have been stuck for quite while we learned how the backup pump worked and while we determined it was safe to operate on the back up while trying to fix the primary pump.
Also, while in Newport we decided to take advantage of the great weather and take Little V for an extended tour of the Narragansett River. We hugged the north coast on the way out and passed the US War College and then circled Prudence Island. We were now about 15 miles away. We were just heading back into the now building waves and getting beaten up a bit when the outboard died. Ugh! Start her back up and try again. She died again. Is there fuel??? Yes there was fuel but apparently it had water in it! We dropped an anchor which would not hook and called Tow BoatUS. We pay for this service annually in case of such an emergency and they responded splendidly. They arrived in less than 30 mins and had us hooked up. They sped us back to the back of VAMOS and we spent the next hour changing the water separator filter and getting good, clean fuel in the boat. Voila! Little V was underway again.
After a lot of time on the dock in PTown, Sandwich, and Newport we were looking forward to anchoring in Block Island. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. It was rainy and blowing quite hard so we opted to stay on the dock at Champlin’s Marina. Despite the blustery weather we enjoyed a great deal of walking and exploring on Block Island. We hadn’t expected Block to be so rural and agricultural looking. There is quite a bit of open land and farming. There is also a good deal of history remaining on the island. We were visiting off season so there were very few tourists and few boats in the harbor. We were told that there are literally thousands of boats in the harbor at the peak of high season and there are 20,000 plus people walking, biking, and mopeding around the island. We were sure glad we hit it off season! We were really struck by just how rural Block Island appears. We walked all over the island and there are many spots that are obviously related to farming and probably have been for many years. We also learned that despite the fact the Block Island is close to Montauk, Long Island, NY (only 6 miles away), Block Island is part of Rhode Island. Who knew?
Next stop, Fishers Island, New York. Fishers is only about 20 miles away from Block Island and it is located about 3 miles off the coast of Connecticut. Again, we were surprised to find out that despite the fact that Fishers Island is so close to Connecticut, it is part of New York. Fishers is smaller than Block by quite a bit and it has a very wealthy population that wants to keep the island to themselves. There is little ferry service and little to do if you visit. There is only one restaurant called the Pequot Inn. They mostly serve pizza and beer and they let you bring in your unfinished beverage that some people bring to make the short walk more exciting. We walked even more in Fishers. One day we logged just about 10 miles of walking. Much of it with T in the backpack. Fishers is quiet and picturesque.
We stayed at the Fishers Island Yacht Club which was not designed for 55 foot trawlers but we snugged up to the dock and found a comfortable spot. We also got some good weather to test our new toys in the bay near the Yacht Club. The standup paddle board (SUP) it nearly as good as a solid board, but the kayak leaves a bit to be desired. Oh well, we have them and hopefully we can put them to good use next year in the Bahamas.
Next stop was Mystic, Connecticut. Fishers is only 4 or so miles from Mystic so we left the dock at Fishers Island despite the fact that the wind was blowing about 30 kts. Normally we would not leave in these conditions but we were only going a short distance. Bad decision! The waves in Fishers Island Sound were 4-5 feet and hitting on our beam and the current was ripping into the waves causing even more unsettled conditions. We zipped across the sound as much as we can zip at 8 kts, and we entered the narrow channel to head up the Mystic River. We called the marina to get docking instructions and they wanted us to go down a narrow fairway, turn the boat around and back into a narrow slip. Under normal conditions this would not have been a problem. In 30 knot winds it was a bit nerve racking. Julia set the lines the same way she has set them the past two years and we entered the fairway. Just then I realized I lost the bow thruster. UGH!!! This is really not good as VAMOS is only maneuverable using the thrusters. Otherwise she is just a big, tall sail. I quickly backed out of the fairway without incident and we discovered that the bow lines had fallen in the water and gotten caught in the bow thruster propeller. Fortunately the lines came out without needing to get in the water and they could be untangled. We did all of this while trying to stay in the narrow channel in the high winds with other boats passing us. The marina called back and redirected us to a slip at the end of a dock which was much easier. We came to Mystic to have the autopilot pump fixed and to have an issue with the stabilizer fins sorted out. This was the only reason to come to Mystic. The service guys arrived shortly after we did and things got off to a good start. The pump was removed to be rebuilt and the fin issue was being diagnosed. I felt pretty good about our prospects. It turned out that my good feelings were unfounded. I will skip all of the back and forth, but the short story is that the rebuilt pump leaked from the same spot as before, the fin issue was never diagnosed and the tech that reinstalled the autopilot pump broke a relief valve that is part of the steering system. The valve was findable online but it was Friday afternoon so the new part didn’t arrive until Monday. When it did arrive we were told a tech was not available until Tuesday sometime so I replace the valve myself, which I should have known was going to happen.
Despite this, Mystic was pretty nice. Decent restaurants, easily available Uber rides, bars and of course, Mystic Pizza. While at Mystic, we also reunited with Acqua Dolce, our traveling partner for much of the early part of the trip. Keith and Romy arrived in time for Sunday Funday on board VAMOS. We also met a nice couple that are new owners of a Nord 62 - Eric and Anya. Eric and Anya are learning all of the lessons we learned about a year and half ago and they are learning them while boating only on the weekends. Eric is due to retire soon but in the meantime they are weekend warriors. We toured their 62 and then we asked them to join us on VAMOS for football and food. They were quite reserved when they arrived. “We can only stay for one beer” they said. I had made chicken soup with wilted arugula and black beans and then I put a pork tenderloin on the grill. Julia had made an arugula salad. Keith and Romy joined and we all got acquainted over five bottles of wine and some NS liquor tasting thanks to Ironworks Distilling, in Lunenburg, NS. New friends for sure!
We finally left Mystic eight days after we arrived and we headed down the Long Island sound to Port Jefferson, NY. Acqua Dolce was right behind us. Port Jefferson is about half way down Long Island heading toward the City. We took a mooring ball in the harbor and dropped the dinghy. We took T to the beach for walk and the dinghy almost floated away. I had to run to grab it as it floated off the beach. Keith and Romy joined us for dinner on board VAMOS and then the next morning we took a walk in the town. Port Jefferson was worthy of another night, but we had plans to arrive in NJ in two days and we needed to move on. Next stop was Port Washington, NY. This is another popular spot to stop for cruisers and sailors to be able to stage and time the current that runs through Hell’s Gate in the East River. We took a mooring again in Port Washington. Moorings are great! We just discovered this... Port Jefferson was our first mooring experience. The mooring is a semi-permanent anchor that is maintained by a local Yacht Club, marina, or municipality. We shied away from them because we usually liked to dock instead. The convenience of docking is offset against the privacy and cost of a mooring. Bad news for us is that moorings are not very popular south of NY.
Liberty Landing, NJ in Jersey City is just across the Hudson River from downtown NY. We stayed here last year and liked it. Keith and Romy had an appointment with a diver and an appliance repair person in Liberty Landing. They decided to leave Port Washington at 6:00 a.m. to catch the beginning of the ebb tide. I waved goodbye to them as they silently passed us on the way out of the harbor. We had a leisurely morning with a nice walk through town and breakfast and then we departed at noon to catch the very end of the ebb tide. All was smooth and we once again enjoyed seeing New York from the perspective of the fly bridge of VAMOS.
We stayed in Liberty Landing for the weekend and met up with our friends Bob and Dory aboard Liberdade. We all got together on Saturday for lunch in midtown and a show - The Book of Mormon. If you haven’t seen this show it is really worth it. The Catholic in me was a bit put off by some of it, but it was all in good fun and was hysterical. We finished the night with an early dinner at an historic restaurant in downtown, NY called Fraunces Tavern. We caught the last ferry and got back to Liberty Landing in time for a couple of night caps and a walk.
Sunday was a mild Sunday Funday as Julia and Romy went back into the city for lunch and Keith was working on a boat project. I slept through much of RedZone :( and enjoyed my BBQ pulled pork while watching the Titans lose to the lowly Buffalo Bills. Sunday afternoon, Keith, Romy, Julia and I got together to make plans for the Chesapeake Bay. We’d been looking forward to this part of the trip because the Bay offers such great cruising and anchorages. Liberdade was headed to the Bay and Trixie, just a couple of days behind us, was also headed to the Bay. We had a tentative plan to leave the next day and time our arrival to transit the Delaware Bay. There is a good deal of current in the Bay and you need to time your arrival to coincide with the flood tide. We were all set, when I said, “How about if we skip the Bay and head to Ocean City, MD?” This was followed by silences and then, how far and where do we stay? We looked at all of the options and picked Sunset Marina at the OC, MD inlet. Sunset Marina hosts many fishing tournaments and the inlet is plenty deep for our boats. We made our slip reservations and Julia and I left on Monday and Keith and Romy left Tuesday. The run was 157 miles from Liberty Landing to OC, MD. We left at noon and we immediately ran into a problem with the stabilizers while still in the NY harbor. I started trouble shooting and found that cell phone reception in the harbor of the most active city in the US is terrible. I had Julia’s phone and my phone and was on and off the phone with the expert, Dave, from ABT. We diagnosed the immediate problem and found a work around while Julia piloted us around the numerous barges and ferry boats. About 30 minutes later we were on our way. We cruised out of the Harbor with a one and half knot current behind us. We were looking good until the current met the twenty knot opposing wind. The sea got real rough real quick. The waves were not so big but they were stacked up close to each other and they were breaking off quickly. We were headed right into this mess while getting out of the channel. The waves were breaking over the bow and some of them were covering us in green water. I mean you thought we were in a fish tank instead of a boat. This was the worst we had seen! Ugh! We turned as soon as we could and took the waves on the beam and it immediately got better. We went for two more hours and were out the way of the current and things smoothed out to a reasonable level, but we were both a bit shaken as was T. The rest of this leg was fine and we arrived in OC at about 9:00 a.m. as expected. We got VAMOS tied up and took a walk with our 9:30 a.m. safe arrival beer! It felt good to be on land and in OC, MD. We hadn’t been in OC in 15 years or more. Keith and Romy made the same a trip a day later and they had much better seas. Oh well. I guess we are better for it...OC was great! I could have stayed longer for sure! We rented a car and explored Assateague Island and the wild horses one day, and then another day we went to Lewes, Delaware for lunch and shopping.
Next stop, Hampton, VA near Norfolk. The run from OC to Hampton was 110 miles. We decided to leave at 2:30 a.m. from OC in order to arrive before dark in Hampton. VAMOS travels at 8 knots and Acqua Dolce travels at 7 knots. Over the course of a long day the one knot difference adds up. We arrived at 5:00 p.m. and Acqua Dolce arrived three hours later. In addition to the slower speed they hit current that had reversed after we passed by. We were at the slip to help guide Keith and Romy into the slip and then they joined us for Moroccan Lamb made in the crock pot, along with a nice bottle of French Bordeaux. Keith picked Hampton as a stop to be able to visit an Uncle and cousin he hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years. The family reunion went well and the next day we all got together to see “First Man” at the nearby IMAX theater. The movie was excellent and I rate it 4 1/2 stars.
From Hampton we moved 12 miles to Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth, VA. This will be home for VAMOS for five weeks while Julia, Tortilla and I attend to some non-boat business, like weddings, board meetings, family visits and fishing in Panama with my buddies. We will resume our trip south in December!