Friday, October 21, 2022

The Jersey Jump

Now where was that stupid charger? I had already torn the boat apart from bow to stern, seemed silly to do it again. It had to be hiding in plain sight.

So I went back through the electronic closet again and sure enough, there it was - pretending to be the charger for something else, when it actually belonged to the big flashlight. Aha! It was going to be a very long sail today, definitely an overnighter, gotta get some juice in that flashlight!

The Coney Island Light

Probably wise to look around at the other emergency equipment too. The little lights attached to our life vest are all charged and ready to go, they will come on automatically if wet. Snacks are prepared and standing by. Radio was working well, backup radio on standby and charged, inreach tracking and broadcasting our location, chartplotter and iPad playing well together, backup iPad charged and ready to deploy. Hopefully we never need any of this preparation, but we do it anyway.

We settled into easy shifts, taking turns at the helm while the off-duty crew napped.

Somewhere around 2am we lost all the wind, exactly as predicted. So we rolled in the headsail, tightened up the main and mizzen, and fired up our trusty new Beta. As Lance drifted off to dreamland I found myself obsessing over a weird collection of white and yellow lights offshore. It sort of reminded me of the big container ships we frequently encountered off the coast of Long Beach, CA, difficult to tell which direction they were going without visible red or green lights, just a mass of indecipherable white and yellow.

For a while they kept pace with us, sometimes veering away from us, sometimes getting closer. As we approached Atlantic City the vessel made a definite course change and the chart plotter started blaring alarms - we were on a collision course. I turned off the audible alarms and kept an eye on it, we were on a steady course and they were not changing course either. The GPS predicted that we would crash into one another within the hour.

Barnegat Light, on the Jersey Shore

As we drew closer, the vessel name popped up on the AIS - the Jersey Devil. A little more online research revealed it to be a fishing vessel, which gives it the right of way since we are motoring. I could have slowed down and passed behind it but if it was long line fishing... we do have a line cutter on our prop. I hope to never test it.

My thoughts drifted back to the story our friend told us last summer about the Jersey Devil as we passed by the family home built in the 1700s. He was the 13th child born on a stormy night and was greeted with disdain, until one day he reportedly turned into an actual devil, flew out the window and into the swamp where he was, and still is, blamed for all kinds of mischief.

Well, this devil with the strange lights and indecipherable intentions wasn't going to worry me. I picked up the radio and we worked out a deal, I would speed up and he would slow down and we would miss one another with no course changes. As he passed behind Minerva I noticed the lights that looked so strange from head-on were attached to huge outriggers, so it's good that I didn't try to pass behind him, he probably WAS dragging nets or lines. At least all of the weird motion offshore made sense now. Fishing activity. Now I know what that looks like in the dark: random. It looks totally random.

Atlantic City, NJ

Lance came up for his turn at the wheel as we left Atlantic City and the Jersey Devil in our wake. All the stars were out, and the breeze was starting to pick up a little bit. We debated sailing across the mouth of the Delaware Bay to our intended anchorage at Lewes, but ultimately decided since we were likely to encounter container and fuel ships en route to Philadelphia in the channel, and since the current would be against us and the wind was still slow, we would just motor the rest of the way, it wasn't far and keeping the motor on would reduce our exposure to the large fast-moving vessels.

Now, we both know the rules, it's best not to approach shore at night, but we felt confident here. We had been here before, the chart plotter was behaving and seemed to line up well with the markers, so onward we pushed, although Lance did reduce speed as we passed the breakwater wall. There should have been plenty of room between the end of the breakwater wall and the shore, imagine our surprise when we ground to a soft but sudden halt. According to the chart plotter and the markers, there should have been thirty feet or more between us and the shore. Surprise!

Remember that flashlight? Yeah... It revealed shoaling quite far out into the channel. Certainly beyond all indicators. Sometimes you do everything right and you screw up anyway. Freshly charged flashlight to the rescue - escape route revealed.

A friend once told us of a "good captain box" theory. All the little things you do to check, recheck, make backup plans, rest, buy and maintain top of the line equipment - it all goes into this imaginary box. And now and then when shit goes sideways, you hope that you put enough good things in the box to make a difference.

Jersey Devil vs AIS and a good radio, win.
Delaware shore vs flashlight, we'll call that one a draw.

Lighthouse at Lewes Anchorage

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Passage Planning

The goal for every sailing day is good wind, minimal swell, cooperative tide and current. There's a lot that goes into passage planning to make all of this come together.

The first step is to pick your route. In this case, we are jumping around the outside of New Jersey, heading South in the open Atlantic. Our route will take us against the generally prevailing swell and wind, so we are looking for that rare window when the swell is minimal and the wind comes from anything other than its usual direction. 

Our first intent was to leave on Friday, because it had a speedy tailwind. We would be truly flying! Our friend Al told us last night he wants to leave on Tuesday (today). Let's compare the days.

Wind: this is Predictwind's Friday routes. The second boat which represents a noon departure would have 20-25 knot broad reach winds most of the day. 

Predictwind's Tuesday wind routes: The first boat which represents a 7am departure would have mild-moderate run and reach winds most of the day, with a lull in the middle of the passage which will likely require some motoring. Later departures the same day are much the same, light winds with some motoring required.

We use a variety of tools for planning. We usually start with to get an overview of generally what the wind and rain are planning. In this case there is a high pressure over New York which is rejecting the approach of the offshore hurricane Fiona. On Friday the remnants of a storm currently hitting California will arrive here, bringing strong winds from the NorthWest.

The latest addition to our toolbox is PredictWind. It took us some time to set it up with the tolerances of Minerva and her crew, and like any new tool the more energy we invest in it the better we can make it work for us. With the weather routing enabled, we can find the best travel windows.

Then it's back to Windy to check the swell. It's no fun beating into big waves. PredictWind may have a swell overlay as well, I haven't explored that yet.

Friday's swells as seen on Windy. Ugly.

Tuesday's swells. Minimal.

Now that we've compared the two days, it's clear that Tuesday is the better choice. While we won't be sailing as fast, we also won't be banging into 2-3 meter waves. We may have to motor for a little while in the middle of the trip, or we may be able to sail it all with the light spinnaker. Worth it to take less of a beating.

Lastly, we pull up Savvy Navvy to check the tides and currents. Sometimes we have a skinny water exit from our overnight anchorage. If we can't get out of the harbor to meet our window, we need to move the boat for better staging or start all over again with a new window that lets us escape on time. In this case there are no worries.

The tide setting on Savvy Navvy will help plan for depth throughout the day, just slide the time bar to your projected window. Particularly important when the anchorage entrance is skinny or there are currents to plan around

Lastly, plug the route into the chartplotter, and we're off! 

This will be our longest single passage ever and we are quite excited about it.

Just in case the weather predictions are all wrong we picked a bailout point at Atlantic City. We've been to both our destination in the Delaware River and also Atlantic City before and we are comfortable arriving to either place at night.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Greetings from Gloucester

The shop made short work of the engine mount repair. By Tuesday morning we were releasing the lines in Maine for the last time. Destination: Gloucester. Winds were forecasted to be light but heading in our direction.

Alas, the winds never showed. So we motored. The new motor made easy work of the 72 mile run, and truth be told I'm glad the predicted winds didn't greet us on the legendary shoals around Rockport, the swells tend to get large as the water comes up rather quickly from depth there. As we approached Massachusetts the skies above our destination became foreboding. We motored into the dark clouds and squinted to see the (crab? lobster?) pot floats ahead in the waning light. The final turn into Gloucester found us in complete darkness, Lance at the helm and me standing on the highest point in the cockpit, both of us straining our eyes on watch for the deadly pot lines, the lights of the city reflecting on the water our only visible clues.

Crazy depth contours result in some strange water movement. At one point we found ourselves in some boiling water and debated aliens vs. whales while the motor changed pitch and the boat was tossed around like a tub toy.

Our destination: the first-come moorings at the town down at the far North end of the harbor. We'd studied the chart in advance, and as we passed the landmarks as expected we ticked off the mental checklist towards our destination.

Red buoy, red buoy, green buoy, check. Small island to the right, check. Next we should be seeing a restaurant, a boat ramp, and the harbormaster's office on the left, and the moorings immediately after that.

We were exhausted from a long day of motoring and the excessive vigilance of pot watch.

Cape Ann Light Station, on Thacher Island approaching Gloucester

Ahead of us: an unexpected island covered in bright city lights. Not the harbormaster's office, not a boat ramp, and definitely not the moorings we wanted. What? We both stared at it, looked at the chart, it didn't make sense. Lance blinked and wiped his glasses, I started to go back through the things we'd seen so far, compare them to the chart, nope, that island should NOT be there. Did we miss a turn somewhere?

Then a voice came over the radio "sailing vessel approaching Gloucester, [mumble mumble] Coast Guard [mumble] what are your intentions?".

Huh? Us? We're the only thing moving out here, must be us.

I picked up the radio and answered "This is the sailing vessel Minerva. our intentions are the town dock moorings and a tie-up for the night".

A short pause, then an answer: "I don't care about none of that, what I wanna know is if you're gonna keep hogging the whole channel or what?"

Like one of those pictures that if you stare at it long enough it becomes something else, the view ahead of us snapped into focus with instant clarity. The island that didn't belong was not an island at all, but in fact an absolutely huge barge side-tied by an even larger tow vessel, lit up like the sun in all its proper towing lights. Not city lights and not an island.

We sheepishly moved Minerva off to the side of the channel to give the vessel right of way. "Sorry" I squeaked over the radio.

As they passed by, we could easily see in their wake the restaurant, the boat ramp, the harbormaster's office, and (whew) some available first-come moorings. An hour later we were passed out in our comfy bunk. The next morning at first light we were greeted with a tag from the harbormaster's office to come in and pay for the mooring or be fined.

Ah, Massachusetts. Never change.

It's good to be back.

All three of our lifevests got an upgrade in Maine, they each now have blinking lights that automatically flash when wet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Moments in Maine

"It won't turn" he growled, shirt covered in sweat and grease, forearm bleeding, a dab of grease on his nose, "the engine mount is just too close to the filter". We both glared at the deep scoring on the filter that he had just removed. Our new engine break-in oil change was going so well right up until this moment.

The S/V Hoss at sunset near Brooklin

After a glass of ice water, some pondering, judicious application of a large hose clamp, a screwdriver and a hammer, a lot of patience for slow progress and no small amount of cursing, the new oil filter was finally successfully mounted. We refilled the oil. No leaks. Success. But this won't do. Changing the oil filter is part of routine maintenance and shouldn't include barked knuckles, cursing and epic patience. The shop asked us to let them make it right. So back to the yard we go for some edits to the custom engine mounts they created.

I was flattened. I had become attached to the idea of our first long 150+ mile passage being direct open ocean from Mount Desert Maine to Provincetown Massachusetts. And instead we're going back to Portland. And hopscotching down the coast from there because the wind and swell are less favorable for a direct shot. It felt like failure.

This is the Franklin Island Lighthouse. There are so many lighthouses in Maine, perhaps in the future I will do a blog of just lighthouse pictures.

After stewing on this for a couple of days a friend reminded me this is why we're here. Hanging out in Maine for a while to ensure the new engine and shaft play well with the existing transmission and prop were the primary reason for hanging around Maine for the summer. And we couldn't have discovered this problem until doing the first oil change. And they'll fix it. We are still right on target. I realized I was getting greedy by making overexuberant sailing plans.

Yes, again with the plans. Will I never learn.

Minerva at sunset in Maple Juice Cove

So it's time to wrap up our summer Maine cruise. We set a date with the yard and are working our way back there. As we made the big turn South and West, we said goodbye to the places in Maine we'd come to love; some of them loud and boisterous, most of them peaceful and wild.

Here are some of our favorite moments in Maine.

Al and Elsa showing us their favorite dog beach in Rockland

Al, Elsa, and the S/V Hoss: Cruising with a good friend just can't be beat. We sailed alongside Al and his dog Elsa for many weeks, sharing meals and resources. Al has been sailing for more than 30 years, we learned so many great techniques from him, things he does every day automatically. One example: rowing is his default setting for dinghy runs. We'd become so accustomed to fidgeting with our motor, by the time we had it all situated Al would often be back on his boat already, or rowing circles in the bay waiting for us. Lance has adopted this way of life as standard, and I'm trying to learn but am still terrible at rowing.

The sun sets on Wharton Island 

Somes Sound: At the advice of a friend we sailed up Somes Sound on Mount Desert island. The little harbor at the far North end was too cramped for us so we anchored at Valley Cove in Acadia National Park, and hung out for 4 days. During the days tour boats and power boats lapped through, and hikers walked the beach at the end of their long day of trail exploring, at sunset we reverted to wild Maine. The harbor seal swam up to peer curiously at us. The seagulls pestered the eagle, the raven pestered the seagulls, the peregrine falcon soared above it all on the pressure ridge caused by the high granite cliffs. The fish boiled out of the sea as the dolphins herded them into shore. The fog peeked around the edge of the island at us, and now and then snuck in to envelop us into our own little bubble. On one night the fog was so thick, the sound moving so strangely, the three of us howled at the cliffs just to hear our voices echoing back at us, multiplied and softened.

Valley Cove, Somes Sound, as seen from the beach. Acadia Mountain is dead center.

Eggemoggin Reach: We were sailing East through Egg Reach, an area known for sailboat racing due to the tricky winds around the islands. The wind was at a close reach, and we were lightly heeled over, sort of putzing along when we realized we'd been following the same sailboat, Scout, for some time. As they sailed under the Deer Isle bridge we decided we'd had enough of looking at their backside and trimmed the sails to overtake them. We came up on them quickly, and knew the exact moment they realized we were racing because their sails tightened down too and then it was officially on. Scout is also a heavy bluewater cruiser, a lot younger and a little lighter, still well-matched with Minerva. We tacked through Egg Reach, focusing on every little twitch of the sails in the ever-changing wind, sometimes passing and sometimes following Scout, until we approached Swan Island. By the time we diverged in our paths we were 300 feet or so ahead of them; they peeled off to the right and we peeled off to the left, each to our respective chosen spots for the night. We ended up rejecting the first, second and third spots we'd picked out on the chart due to depth, crowds, or lack of wind protection, and our fourth selection found us motoring into Swan Island just before sunset. Who was anchored at the back of the pack? Scout. The crews of both vessels nodded to one another as we passed by and dropped anchor a few hundred feet away. No words were exchanged.

The wild ocean side of Hurricane Island

Hurricane Island: this location was recommended by Maine Island Trails Association, and the mooring ball for the night came with a donation to the science program and Outward Bound school program onsite. The kids are growing scallops with a focus on sustainable aquaculture, and they're very proud to show you their progress. Long net bags with an assortment of scallops and colored tags hang beneath the dock, and they also maintain the many trails on the island, the trail markers direct hikers past retired granite quarries, hidden coves and ancient forests.

The GPS can't decide which boat will collide with us first

Rockland and the NYYC: We were motoring South past Rockland on a windless day. To our right, the city of Rockland. To our left, 40 or more boats hanging out. Not at anchor, not sailing, not motoring, just hanging out. Silently. Weird. We continued on our course despite the fact that the GPS was convinced every one of them was planning to run into us and making big ugly red collision indicators on our screen. Thankfully we turned the audible alarms off, the scary screen alarms were bad enough. Every boat had several people on it, hanging out quietly, watching us pass by. Nobody said anything. It was eerie. Later we found out they were the New York Yacht Club on the return leg of their summer cruise, waiting for wind to begin a scheduled race, and the wind never showed so the race was abandoned long after we'd passed by.

hello spinnaker, let's be besties

Spinnaker Sailing: On our way to Belfast we decided it was high time we pulled our spinnaker out and played with it. It's been over 5 years since our last spinnaker sail on our previous boat, and we had never pulled Minerva's spinnaker out of its bag. The wind was 10 knots at our backs outside of Brooklin, and we were running for Belfast, expecting a downwind sail all day. The conditions were perfect. The first setting of the sail... not so much. She had not been packed away with any lines, so we rummaged around in the hold to find some lines that would serve as temporary sheets, the resulting lumpy tie onto the clew was clunky and resisted smooth operation. It took us a moment to figure out how we wanted to mount and route the lines to Minerva's winches, and the sail itself was all twisted in its sock. It took a few miles of cursing and wrangling before we finally got her out of the sock, full of air and trimmed properly but once we did Minerva took off like a shot. We sailed that spinnaker all day, up to 90 degrees of wind. When we arrived in Belfast a boat that had been following us all day chased us down to be sure we got the pictures they shot from their position behind us. It was the most amazing sail day. We are once again in love with spinnaker sailing. We'll be buying some dedicated sheet lines in Portland and tying them on permanently with a much sleeker knot.

The folks of Maine are sure friendly. Going back the slow way has a silver lining, we'll get to spend a little more time with them along the way.

We hid out from a Nor'Easter at Brewer Marine in South Freeport. This is their clubhouse. We could actually live here forever.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Logistics of a Liveaboard Dinner Date

Loaded with farmers market fruit, fresh laundry and with our good friend Al and his dog Elsa sailing their boat alongside, we sailed out from Rockland and spent a couple of weeks sailing in good Easting winds whenever we could, and ducked and hid from the occasional squall. One after another we picked lonely little island destinations where the dogs could frolic on the beach together leash-free.

Sunset on Hurricane Island. Once upon a time it was a very active granite quarry, now the island is home to students of Outward Bound studying a variety of nature items, including sustainable scallop farming. For more information on the Outward Bound program, click

Chloe and Elsa exploring the quarry at Hurricane Island

Eventually Lance tired of cooking and I tired of doing dishes so it was time to find a restaurant and take the night off. Now, most folks do this regularly and it's not a big deal. But since we are hopping around mostly deserted Maine islands on a boat, a restaurant meal requires strategy.

Green Isle, this one wasn't even a charted anchorage, we just liked the look of it so we threw our hooks in among the lobster floats and settled in

First up, find a restaurant that is close to the water. This required a restaurant search on Google Maps.

Chloe on Green Isle, with the Fish Stick

After a few of those were picked out, I weeded out the ones that aren't dog friendly and made note of the restaurant hours.

Now, of those that were left, the goal was to get the boat as close as possible, so the restaurant needed to be reachable by dinghy. Time to switch from Google Maps to the chartplotter. One of them had a boat ramp for the dinghy and a spot to anchor Minerva closeby, protected from every direction except the East. Switched to a weather predictor, planned out what day works for winds to sail there, and whether any big winds are expected from the East, don't want that swell rolling into our anchorage and spoiling our night. Verify the sailing and anchoring plan jives with the restaurant open times.

Has anyone ever planned so well for a basic dinner date?

👉A side note about lobster pots:  We are learning to come to peace with the plentiful lobster pots, in that we have decided it's OK to drift among them as long as our prop isn't spinning. So now we anchor among them, knowing we will drift over them while Minerva is at anchor, and the only one that is concerned about this is Chloe, who has decided the perimeter of the boat must be defended, and so she barks at them as we swing over them. To her it surely looks like they are coming to board us.
We came to this conclusion quite by accident, after we struggled to find a spot to anchor in a lobster-pot-free zone, only to wake up to find them planted all around us, and no harm having come to anyone at all in the night. This opens many more anchoring opportunities.👈

At the end of all of this legwork, the answer was a cool little restaurant right in lonely Webb Cove, on the island of Vinalhaven just around the corner from Stonington. The restaurant had an interesting menu. Reservations were made.

The Cockatoo Portuguese also had a full bar. Hello Sangrias.

The predicted winds didn't show up on sailing day, so we had to motor there, not a big deal. As we were rounding the corner into the anchorage Lance said... "where do we get groceries?" Groceries? That wasn't part of the plan! And it's impossible. There's literally nothing else there except a restaurant and a lobster processing plant nearby. Groceries, that's a whole different strategy. For a different day.

A quick island tour before dinner

Dinner at the Cockatoo Portuguese restaurant was well worth the legwork. For the next few days the dogs frolicked on a nearby lonely beach, and the anchorage was well protected and peaceful, and we enjoyed watching the lobster boats work.

It turns out there were no groceries to be found on the island at all, just an ice cream shack and a small convenience store, more or less the same story we'd been finding at all the lonely islands. Perhaps the locals don't eat fresh fruit or vegetables. Or maybe they grow their own.

Al, Elsa and I walked the mile and a half to the town of Stonington. Alas, not a fresh fruit or veggie to be found. It was a lovely walk nonetheless.

As we rounded the corner we found ourselves approaching the lobster boat race starting line. Yes, it's a thing in Stonington in July and it's a total madhouse, complete with lobstermen taunting one another on the radio, and big Coast Guard and harbor patrol vessels doing their best to keep the racing separated from the spectators. We skirted the edge of the pandemonium for a while before deciding our best course of action was just to go around the island the long way and stay way out of their way.

Stonington is very much a blue-collar working town. The guidebook warns that they actively discourage visitors. All our contact with the locals was friendly, but all the same we kept our visit very brief.

The mooring field at Stonington, all lobster boats and no pleasure craft tell the story. We're working here. Go vacation somewhere else.

Somewhere during this couple of weeks of anchoring out, we discovered that we just don't make enough power to keep up with day-to-day living aboard, and were having to run the motor to top off the batteries every few days. So back to Rockland for some new solar panels for Minerva. Oh, and fresh fruit and veggies. Can't be getting scurvy after all.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Bodies in Motion, Maine edition

Recommissioning after the long winter took longer than planned, but in the end we got it done. All the 12v power was restored and we ended up installing a new freshwater pump, a new saltwater pump, and fortunately were able to recover the water heater and refrigerator. We rebuilt the 12v panel with modern switches and swapped out some suspicious wiring in the area of the circuit breaker panel. We put away all the tools, tidied up the boat, loaded some groceries, and considered the chart and weather.

It was about here I started having sweat-inducing nightmares about potential boat drama. Things that might pop up, things that we might not know how to deal with, just crazy worries that didn't make any sense in the glare of the morning sun. Upon reflection in the morning over coffee, I believe it to be anxiety related to once again stepping off into the unknown. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion... well, we need to get our bodies in motion. Weird how the brain can play tricks to keep you in your comfort zone.

Tradition called for a crew party after a long work season. In celebration of Minerva's splash and pending departure, we hosted a pizza lunch party. It was good to have the yard crew in one place and hear their stories of their own adventures with Minerva over the winter. They also had suggestions for their own favorite sailing spots in Maine, we made note of them all. 

We were set to leave the yard on Sunday, which greeted us with gray skies of steady 20 knots with gusts to 25 knot winds and intermittent rain. We needed fuel before heading out, and there's some low tide shallow spots between Minerva's slip and the fuel dock which meant we needed to time our departure carefully. Our tide window opened at noon and every time we went to remove the lines another strong gust of wind would try to blast us into our downwind neighbor. We played this game with the slip lines for a while until we finally got the tide and gust window right, escaped and motored down to the fuel dock. And then the skies truly opened up and fat raindrops starting dumping.

The next morning's carnage from dumping rain, everything still hanging out to dry

All the training we did with spring lines came in handy. Our exit from the slip was not graceful but it was effective, our approach and exit from the fuel dock was much more elegant thanks to a solid spring line strategy. We tied the outside stern line of Minerva back across her backside to the dock, and Lance powered forward and bow-thrusted out and away while I paid out, pulled in, paid out and released the line. With these tricks we smoothly turned Minerva around in a space that was not much wider than her length. In a driving rain. We didn't care. We were going anyways.

Cliff Island - we had this side of the island nearly to ourselves 

Captain Fatty Goodlander's policy prior to a big journey is to go "just over there" and anchor, hang out just out of reach of land life and get settled into the new sail life rhythm while settling the boat for a journey. We decided that was good enough for us, so we motored in the cold driving rain and strong North gusts "just over there" to a quiet anchorage just North of Falmouth with protection from the winds, made some hot tea and snuggled under a blanket. It didn't matter where we were that first night - we were finally free to roam. Floating on our anchor that first night, despite the howling winds, I slept nightmare-free.

Seguin Island Lighthouse

Looking through the Fresnel lens, shot by Carol the lightkeeper

We're trying a new philosophy this year. Rather than try to fit our sailing life into a schedule, we're going to go wherever the wind is going on the day we need to leave, OR hang out and leave on a day with a favorable wind for our next intended destination. Ultimately we hope that by focusing more on the wind and less on an agenda we will sail more and motor less.

Beautiful fancy work done by a Coastie who was stationed here in the 60's

So we put our new plan in motion, and ended up sailing on a loose schedule from lonely anchorage to lonely anchorage, and on to the Seguin Lighthouse (pronounced Sah-GWEN).

Chloe waited impatiently for us to finish the narrow stairs portion of the lighthouse tour without her

Seguin Island Lighthouse was originally commissioned by George Washington himself, to protect the business interests of the Kennebec River. The lighthouse that stands today is the third one on the same piece of property, and boasts a first order Fresnel lens with a 40-mile reach. When the Coast Guard planned to decommission the lighthouse, public outcry resulted in the formation of a non-profit group who call themselves the FOSILS (Friends of Seguin Island Lighthouse), who felt strongly that the lens remain exactly in place, and to that end they became involved in arranging annual lightkeeper caretakers as well attending to the property's needs. This year's caretakers were a couple from Massachusetts by the names of Carol and Steve. They graciously showed us around the property and made us feel right at home.

If you're interested in learning more about the lighthouse, here's a link to the FOSIL page. The caretakers were connected to this seasonal opportunity through a service called, and it's not their first caretaking gig. Who knew interesting projects like this exist!

The anchorage on Seguin Island has 4 mooring balls that line the perimeter of the North Cove. None of them will allow a boat of Minerva's size to swing safely on the shifting tide, and there are signs posted not to anchor because of underwater cables. We were rightfully concerned about swinging onto the rocks, and considered our options carefully, late in the afternoon we ended up making the rather piggy decision of snagging a second mooring ball for our stern anchor. We decided if anybody came out they could raft up to us but nobody else showed so we enjoyed the cove all to ourselves, and slept soundly knowing that we wouldn't swing onto the rocks in the night.

Beautiful architecture in Boothbay Harbor, check out this mint green spiral staircase to the full-roof widow's walk

The next morning we headed off into a windless sky to the closest place we could motor, Boothbay Harbor, which turned out to be an expensive tourist trap but at least we enjoyed a free concert from our cockpit, with the live music from the nearby patio bar reaching out us in the harbor. Just one night there set us up for a downwind run into Rockland.

Owls Head lighthouse

The wind in Rockland always seems to howl just before the final approach into town, and so we took the sails down just before the Owls Head light and motored around the corner, carefully picking our way through the lobster pots and landed on the town dock for a couple nights of catching up with a friend, groceries and a round of laundry.

Everywhere we go in Rockland people love on Chloe. A common phrase we hear from Mainers is "she's wicked gah-juss". And so she is. This life suits her, too.

This smiling dog is getting lots of beach time

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Road Trip America, Home Sweet Floating Incomplete Home

Lance showed up to pick up our rental car and they rolled this beast of an Explorer out. They told him it was the only car they had for us, despite the reservations we made weeks ago for a small SUV. Fuel mileage @19 MPG during a fuel crisis. Sigh, it's gonna be an expensive crossing. On the upside, all that stressing I did about the size and weight of the parts and other items we've been stockpiling over the last 8 months was moot. Packing was easy, and visibility was 100% out of every window.

By the way, Ford, WTF? Our RV got 10mpg, and it weighed 22,000+ lbs, it was old when we bought it, and it was also a HOUSE. Ford couldn't do better on the mpg for a large SUV in the interim 25 years since the RV was built? No wonder gas is so expensive if new vehicles coming out have fuel demands like this.

But I digress. We loaded up the giant SUV and rolled out.

Highway 50, the loneliest highway

Eureka, Nevada
Austin, Nevada

We took the advice of family and friends and crossed Nevada on Highway 50. It was a beautiful drive full of old mining towns, breathtaking valleys and a national park called The Great Basin, which we flew past this time but will come back and explore some other day. For our first midday break we took a walk through some petroglyphs, and ultimately landed in Salina Utah, our longest drive day ever at 657 miles.

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area

Bright and early the next morning we rolled out for the Denver suburbs, eager to make in time for a birthday party date with Victoria, who turned 7. After that we were able to slow our roll quite a bit.

Victoria's birthday party was a smashing success

West Kansas had some crazy winds, like it usually does this time of year. We fought the wind and landed in time for BBQ at Arthur Bryant's, as recommended by our friend Ceri, a Kansas City native. We stuffed our faces with great BBQ and passed out in a hotel not long afterwards. Of all the driving we do, fighting the wind takes the most out of us.

Get to Artur Bryant's early if you want their renowned brisket, sometimes they run out and you'll end up with pulled pork like I did. The baked beans are undoubtedly the best I've ever had and were just as good cold the next day. 

From there we continued North and East on to see friends in the farmlands of Michigan close to Port Huron. They put us up in their swanky 5th wheel and took us out to see the beautiful town of Port Huron, from which the Mackinac Race departs annually in July.

Bluewater Bridge at Port Huron

Chloe discovered her first skunk in Michigan

Then we got a picture from the yard. Minerva had splashed early. The rest of our journey was rearranged to route us directly to the boat. Our new direct path took us right through Canada, entering at Port Huron and exiting into the North East corner of Vermont.

Vermont in the Spring

Vermont is always beautiful, and somehow we always are rushing across it. Someday I will come back and explore it more slowly.

We arrived to Portland Maine on a Saturday, four days ahead of our projected arrival date. Total miles 3600. Minerva was completely torn apart still, and mastless.

The contents of the topside locker spewed in the salon

The boat is a mess. There's no water, no water heater, the 12v isn't working consistently so there's no fridge, no interior lights, and no control panels. Everything that normally lives in the topside lockers alongside the engine compartment is stacked in the salon, so there's no access to the galley and nowhere to sit. The only space that wasn't torn up or piled high and deep was the master cabin. That's one space I can control, so I started there. Out came the bedding I had washed and sealed in watertight bags before leaving, I made the bed and settled our shoes, clothing and laundry. We pulled out our solar lights and an ipad and settled in to bed for an early night with some YouTube and snacks in lieu of dinner.

The electrical compartment under the mainmast

The yard tells us they are short-handed. They've got two out on Covid and a third stepped on a nail last week and is home recovering. So it'll take them a while to re-commission us.

By day 4 I had a little meltdown because of the general cluttered mess. There was nowhere to sit down and so I'd been carrying my laptop to the clubhouse to work, which is a rather social place and therefore not conducive to focus on the client work that was stacking up. The next morning we rearranged the pile so there was seating to work in the salon and access to the stove and sink. This meant that I could work on the boat and we could prepare simple meals until the pump access was no longer an issue and the stuff could be moved to its proper place and out of the salon. The yard crew never showed up to re-commission us, so we started working through the systems one at a time on our own. Total things discovered so far as non-functional, victims of the winter and/or shop projects:

  • Fresh water pump. Lance replaced it last summer with one a friend had gifted us. It was older too, so time for a new one.
  • Saltwater pump. It always leaked and there was never sufficient pressure for a timely anchor rinse anyways. Time for a fresh one.
  • Water heater. This is a new problem and perhaps it just needs a reset, we hope this is just part of the re-commissioning we don't understand yet.
  • 12v intermittent, affecting refrigerator and chartplotter among other things. This is a new problem, and likely related to the electrical work done in the new engine compartment. Lance will need to go through this carefully as there are now all kinds of discarded electrical from the old engine to be removed too. We expected this to be completed fully as part of the engine replacement and are really disappointed to be dealing with such a huge electrical mess, yet again.

Once the first three items are resolved we can put all the stuff back in the locker and return our salon to an orderly state, so those top three are taking precedence. After the salon is sorted we can do a big provisioning run and fully engage the rest of our galley. Between now and then it will be simple meals since we can't access all our food compartments, and because the refrigerator behavior is inconsistent (it runs on 12v).

Lance replacing the saltwater washdown pump, item #2 on our checklist

On Thursday the riggers fetched Minerva and put her mast on. It was really something to see, it's all been documented here. The repair we ordered last September to the main halyard has not been completed, and so we can't mount our sails yet, that will have to wait. We are also hoping the shop comes out to finish their electrical work in the engine compartment so that Lance doesn't have to jump into the middle of their project, but we'll do it if we must after the first three items are resolved. After all, there are puffins to see.

On Friday we returned the rental car. Without access to the lockers, the remaining gear schlepped out from California ended up in the vee berth on top of the sails for sorting later.

The vee berth will be the last thing we sort

It's funny to us, when we visit non-sailors they ask what we do all day. Well... this. This is what we do. Fix, sort and clean. Home sweet floating home.