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.


  1. Yikes and Yikes.. glad you made it safe and sound.. onward sailors!

  2. Wow sailing in the dark is scary. Stay safe and healthy.