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 we 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 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.