Friday, December 28, 2012


The concept of time is one that has fascinated scientists and philosophers for years. Whether time exists or whether it is an intellectually convenient concept of measurement derived from regular physical movement or repeating events. For us humans however we are all too aware that our life spans are measurable and that we are only going to see a finite number of sunrises.

The Admiral and I had been discussing for some while how we would design our forward schedule. We have other projects in mind and there is a great deal happening in our lives. Looking back over the last three years aboard Last Mango we had traversed the North American continent from Alaska to New England, some 15,000 miles, in distance more than half way round the planet. For us it has been one of those superprojects that had been in genesis for a number of years; a series of personal challenges which we had never before had the luxury of tackling and enjoying - we had never had available to us the limited resource required - time.

Our continuing wish list included a trip across the Pacific, exploring Australasia, and getting around the Mediterranean. I spent a while analysing the logistical implications and realised, regrettably, that we would need to commit a fair number of years to such a plan if we were to continue to do it by sea. Considering our responsibilities to ourselves and family we started developing the idea that we would need to move on from our cruising life. We had great regrets from doing so - we wanted the adventure to go on and on! I put feelers out as regards listing Last Mango for sale. The Nordhavn 55 market has been pretty active lately with a new generation of Dreamers taking the wheel from previous explorers. We arrived in Old Port Cove, Florida and spent some days running through our routine of cleaning, polishing, maintaining (we always do this before we start the social blitz). I discussed with James Knight the possibility of listing the boat and suddenly we were getting our things on board packed and into store............our forward schedule was that we would travel soon to Memphis, Tennessee to stay with friends for the holidays so something was running out - time. It transpired that the stars were in alignment. A buyer out there was keen to find his 55. All too soon we were walking away from the dock leaving our beloved boat for ever. Today the sale completed. No doubt she will have many more adventures and help future owners live their dream but for us the time was up.

Looking back over our journey I want to thank many friends along the way. Captain John Clayman; our mentor over the whole piece. Captain Jerry Taylor; who oversaw Last Mango's renaissance when we bought her. Captain Bernie Francis; our ever patient and knowledgable trainer and adviser. Our friends on Gabriola Island and in Vancouver who looked after us so well while we were based in the PNW. All our West Coast friends from Alaska to Haida Gwaii to Panama. The FUBARistas on the Mexico Rally. Fellow guitar players and jammers. Our family crew; Jo and Dan, Vik and Paul, Luke and Amy, Spenser and Jenny, cabin girls Ellie and Evie-Jane. All our friends who came on board. My Panama Canal crew - Dad, Chris, Bernie, Pete. All our East Coast friends. James Knight; who knows more about looking after Nordhavns than just about anyone else on the planet and who executed one of the fastest sales on record. I salute the Admiral; who ten years ago had no idea that she was going to (a) get her own captain's licence (b) become an accomplished mariner (c) put up with me and my project stream. Last but not least, the Nordhavn Community, a vibrant and energising group of entrepreneurs and adventurers, we will miss you.

As to forward plans, we have none. Time with family especially grandchildren. No doubt some chartering and crewing. More explorations by land. What a luxury having time to fill! Knowing us, we will think of something to keep us just as busy as ever. Now, what project shall I work on first....................


Friday, December 14, 2012

Cape Hatteras on a Bad Day

We planned a long run south from Charleston; the schedule was calling and there were gales forecast up in the Cape Fear area later in the week. We made preparations for a departure on Sunday morning and then we just needed to wait for the tide to stop running so we could get out of the town marina safely. They have depth issues and very few slips have over 5 feet at low tide so we were shoe-horned between an evening cruise boat and the pilings. To exit demanded slack tide and sideways movement of some 30 feet which would have been impossible with the outgoing tide; as it was all was good and the exit was smooth.
Day 1, Night 1 and Day 2 were fine, in fact the weather was excellent with wind less that 10 knots. An issue arose at dusk on Night 1 when I discovered that our port light bulb had blown. I had checked it was working only an hour earlier but it would not be practicable to change it underway with the daylight going. It was on my mind all night. Around midnight somewhere ahead Warship 66 announced a live firing exercise and an exclusion zone of 15 miles so we had to change course to go around the area. All you need is to know that the navy are launching shells somewhere near you in the middle of the night! And it was all very well but, thinking about it, all vessels in the 30 mile corridor would be making the same course changes .............. yes, it meant that we were all going to converge in the dark and go round the same corner. Sure enough a couple of hours later a German tanker was coming up quickly to overtake us at 17 knots with a CPA of only 300 yards. Mindful of our less than perfect port lighting (in spite of having AIS) I turned on the boat deck lights and the floodlights. Never seen a more rapid change of course. In the morning I constructed a suitable harness and climbed up and changed the bulb. That certainly felt a lot better.

Closing on the Florida Coast I tuned into the Coastguard weather forecast as usual around 5pm. Some increase in wind forecast, and veering across us from SE to SW unfortunately (ie head seas); then we heard an announcement that there was a possible tornado warning in the North Florida area. That did not seem to be too much to worry about but we had been experiencing a general increase in wind speed as the afternoon passed.

The storm hit us exactly at sunset with very little warning some 25 miles north of Cape Canaveral. The radar burst into life with a huge red rash and, worse, the storm was full of lightning. Rain and wind are fine but a lightning strike and a boat full of electronics don't mix.The first wave of the storm was between us and the shore and was just full of lightning; we changed course towards the SE and increased to full speed to stay away from the front; I ran the wing engine just in case we needed it and also the generator for AC since the temperature increased substantially.


The picture on the right shows one of the storm waves advancing on Last Mango; the storms were moving at around 25 miles per hour and changing all the time. Just when one died down another sprouted to take its place. The wind increased very swiftly from 25 knots to a maximum of 42 knots (the picture above shows a read of 40 on the wind speed indicator). The barometer dropped 7 mb in four hours. Aboard we had already carried out our routine of securing loose items but we had to revisit that quickly since the sea was getting up and we really needed to get anything that had the potential to become airborne into a cupboard or somewhere secure. It turned out to be a long night. The first phase lasted for some 5 hours from 6pm to 11pm; at that point we were nearly round the Cape and away from the worst of the storm waves; but the fronts kept coming through until around 5am. We had decreased speed and were turning 5 or 10 degrees away from the wind and the head seas from time to time but still the wave heights were very significant, we have no idea how high in the darness but the pilothouse was taking constant spray and the bow dipped into the sea every few seconds. The tensioner securing the anchor came undone in spite of having a locking nut so that was another excursion for yours truly at 2am to crawl onto the deck and resecure the anchor with a mooring line. (The tensioner was retrieved later from behind a fender tied to the deck) We saw only 3 other vessels. A fishing boat did not seem too troubled but another cruiser shadowed us through the night as we dodged the storm fronts; a northbound sailboat was assisted by the Coastguard as they were taking on water over the bow in the heavy seas. A Coastguard storm warning was issued at 2am so not really much help by then.

Looking back on it all it is hard to see how we could have forseen this one. Of course it would have been easier to just cruise in daylight down the coast in short hops but that would have taken more than a week to work down the coast or the ICW. In the end the analysis is that we had an uncomfortable night; once in a while you will get caught. What was impressive, again, was how well our little ship shrugged off whatever Cape Canaveral threw at us. One thing is for sure, I would not like to have been out there on any boat less seaworthy than ours.

Arriving in Old Port Cove we hear tales of the weather being rough out there ............ 25 knots! Mmmm we think ............ that sounds like a cake walk!

We have been away on our summer cruise and adventures from OPC for eight and a half months and it is like coming home. The social calendar is filling up rapidly from the Nordhavn network of other boats here....... the Small World of Cruising.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Charles Towne

The sunsets and sunrises we see while on the move are really quite something. This picture is when we were rounding Cape Fear during our 206 mile run from Beaufort Inlet to the Cooper River at Charleston, carefully timed to arrive at the Maritime Center at high slack in view of the potential for strong current. The colony of Carolina originated in 1629, named after Charles 1. Subsequently  in 1663 Chales II granted the colony to reward eight Lords Proprietors who had helped restore the monarchy after Cromwell. Charles Towne settlement was established in 1670 and it thrived on trade initially with the West Indies. In the early years the prosperity of the Carolinas was founded on the export of deerskin, rice and indigo. In 1676 Magnolia Plantation was founded, a few miles up the Ashley River; this property has been owned by the same family for some 336 years and has been open to the public for well over a hundred years.

We enjoyed our day at Magnolia; the Admiral was in her element photographing life in the swamp (me) on the Audubon boardwalk and marvelling at the Spanish Moss on the Live Oaks. The once grand house at Magnolia is no more; it was originally burnt to the ground after a lightning strike and then
again by Union troops after the Civil War. Charleston was the main colonial port involved in the slave trade and the place where fighting started in 1861. At that time the population of the United States was 31 million of whom more than 4 million were slaves; within five years 600,000 soldiers died let alone uncounted civilian casualties. The fortunes of Charleston declined after the American Civil War; agriculture was much less profitable. However the region recovered as a center for the arts and tourism - the latter is now the number one industry.    
Gershwin was here in 1935  - he was even a visitor at Magnolia - and wrote his opera Porgy and Bess in fictional Catfish Row. It was not a commercial success at the time and subsequently was attacked for its stereotypical racial overtones. "Summertime" has been recorded over 25,000 times and I even used to play it with my earlier rock bands. What connects it to Deep Purple? Well, the riff in "Black Night" was copied from Ricky Nelson's performance of "Summertime". True. Strolling around Charleston is a delight, many miles of streets and avenues of southern style property.The properties South of Broad are all still in single occupation; no convenience stores, no modern developments, timeless.
Checking the weather I find that it is going to be unsettled towards the end of next week so tomorrow we plan to press on South while we have a weather window.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cape Hatteras on a Good Day

The run down the Bay was smooth until near Cape Charles harbor when a small storm came in making for a windy and rainswept night. Fortunately we can just put the heating on and relax with Eric Clapton on the DVD. The prospect of exploring the small town of Cape Charles (pop 1,134) did not seem too interesting but, as we usually find, when you scratch the surface of all communities you will find intriguing things and interesting people. Investment = Return. The Admiral met the Mayor (of course!) while I networked around the local businesses; in the general retail wilderness I discovered a wonderful gourmet wine shop about the size of a tobacconist which even had Cloudy Bay in stock.....cheaper than Fortnum & Mason.  The town is close to the foot of the Delmarva Peninsula (DE, MD, VA ...........) and was founded as the railway terminal. Curiously enough the line ran down the peninsula and then the rail cars were loaded onto barges
to be towed by tugs across the mouth of the Bay to Norfolk. You can't make this stuff up. On one side of the main street of the town are the shops and on the other are the rail cars. The barges are around since the rail line still operates. It would be quite surreal to take the
train south from New York and wake from a nap to find yourself crossing the Chesapeake on a barge. I wonder if they have life jackets on the train, railway cars are not known for their buoyancy.  Of course now one can drive across the mouth of the bay via the Bridge/Tunnel, one of the longest in the world (over 25 miles). For the tunnel sections, a ditch on the sea bottom was dredged; tunnel segments lowered, divers bolted these together and then the water was pumped out. Rather like the Battery Tunnel in New York last month. Looking at the chart of the mouth of the Chesapeake we pay particular regard to Note F "Maneuvering in close proximity of the bridge-tunnel complex is discouraged". You bet.
Ahead we had a 215 mile two day passage around Cape Hatteras. The cape is the junction between the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Bights, and the meeting place of the cold Labrador Current with the warm Gulf Stream. The notorious Diamond Shoals have claimed more than 600 shipwrecks since records began and earned the name "Graveyard of the Atlantic". I have been looking closely at the weather and tomorrow there are forecast light North winds (behind us) and seas of 2-4 feet and falling. It seems that the Coastguard, PassageWeather and Windfinder are all in synch. The Diamond Shoal buoy wind forecast is in low single figures.
I should mention that to journey south from the Chesapeake one can either head outside - round Hatteras, or inside - along the ICW. We came inside on the way up earlier this year. With the weather forecast so good, the outside is the best choice. The inside alternative involves 2 or 3 stops for the night, because running the ICW in the dark is impossible. Additionally the inside run entails a great deal of vigilance in driving the boat; taking care in the narrow and shallow ICW, and the endless succession of bridge openings which require close attention to speed and timing. However, on the outside run there are no places to stop and you are at the mercy of the weather. 
Our departure from Cape Charles was, as usual, low key. 8am; the wind had disappeared and so had the clouds. But it was damn cold; a freezing temperature and thick frost all over the docks. We ran the lesser known North channel down and under the bridge; the tradesman's entrance to the Chesapeake. The radio was busy; the pilots were snaring any foreign-flagged vessel. Every foreign-flagged vessel over 100 tons requires a pilot North of Baltimore and anywhere in the Delaware Bay..........a run up or down the latter will cost a minimum $3,576. Ouch. Another pitfall for the unwary who registers their vessel overseas (Last Mango is 60 tons by way of comparison). Outside the bay a warship was conducting a live firing exercise.........the captain was re-inforcing his warning on Channel 16 to a fishing vessel close by - even I could hear the machine guns chattering away in the background to his broadcast. The Coast Guard were grilling a local fisherman over his licence and his catch. All in a day's work. We cruised directly across the mouth of the bay, pausing briefly to let a thousand-container ship pass in front of us on its way to the Panama Canal.
Our route was approximately 5 miles off the Outer Bank shore all the way to the Cape. The weather forecast was right on; the seas reduced to that glassy quality when all is calm. Eventually the sun disappeared West and straight away the moon appeared East, almost as if they were joined together on a piece of string. There was very little traffic, just one tug with a tow ahead of us. We were doing 3 hour watches, and rounded the Diamond Shoal buoy at 2am in a dead calm, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse pulsing away in the background. An experienced captain was saying to me recently that all the hard work should go into the preparation, maximising the probability that the passage will be relaxing and uneventful. Amen to that. 
Research ahead gave us the choice of Beaufort or Morehead City for a rest up for a couple of nights. Some more research with Active Captain and we booked into the MC Yacht Basin. Friendly folk; cheaper than Beaufort and no current. And we certainly have left the snow behind in Maryland; here in North Carolina the temperature is in the high 60's. With a local IPA in my hand in the Ruddy Duck things were looking good. Tomorrow there is the local craft fair, the Christmas flotilla, the art walk................
Next - Charleston.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Southbound on the Chesapeake

At the time of my last post we were monitoring the oncoming storm, Hurricane Sandy. As readers will know, the Admiral and I were home in Panama at the time. Firstly I will say a sincere thank you to our kind friends and followers who gave us early warning of the storm and that we should organize some assistance to prepare Last Mango. We were very lucky to have nearby available expert assistance to go on board, re-tie lines and carry out other essential preparation work. When the storm hit the New Jersey coast Last Mango was indeed fortunate to be the other side of Chesapeake Bay in a very sheltered marina. The boat was tied some six feet away from the dock, as for another Nordhavn, Sweet Hope. The water level rose above the level of the fixed docks; the marina staff slept in the office for four days, touring the dock each hour. No damage was suffered in the storm I am pleased to say, although there were sustained winds of some 50 knots with gusts of 60 knots. The whole experience was a salutary reminder of how difficult it is to leave one's boat somewhere; you can never account for the unexpected.

Our time in Panama was well spent attending to another demanding mistress, one's land life! We look to have had the medical check-ups, brought the admin up to date and dealt with plenty of unexpected things along the way. And a fair amount of socializing was done. Returning to Last Mango last week landed us in prime holiday time and we met some delightful new friends to join celebrations with.

The weather was unsettled through last week and the weekend but cleared today. After running all the systems on board and carrying out our checks we made a short run of 45 miles today down to Solomons Island in the centre of the Chesapeake. It was a very smooth ride and the best kind of journey - uneventful! I am looking carefully at the weather over the next few days and it remains good - relatively light northerly winds and fairly calm seas, so tomorrow our plan is to head down the bay to the last stop - Cape Charles - and from there we shall make our decisions as to proceed South.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane watch

Where is the blog! I guess you have been asking this question ..............

Well, the Admiral and I have taken a cruising break. We took Last Mango to a marina near Annapolis and have flown home to Panama for the Land Based Chores. Yes, real work. Like catching up on the dentist and the health check ups; getting the admin under control, doing some essential maintenance in the apartment; maybe some sewing, some guitaring - guess who does what......... you will be surprised how much there is to do to get one's lives back under control!

All is fine until one looks at the weather. Here is the current image projected for Tuesday from PassageWeather:

Yes, that is Sandy. We will only travel when the image is light blue, let alone yellow, red, or PURPLE! That is from 50 to 100 miles per hour. Annapolis is in the Chesapeake, just left of the purple tail. Put it this way, I am monitoring the situation!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Guest Blog.....Evie-Jane's own - a Cabin Girl's Story

Well this boating is a lark isn't it! I was wondering what Grandpa was up to on that boat of his and now I know. He has been telling me how much hard work it is but really! We've been partying just about every day!
Anyway I have soon learned how to drive this boat. As far as I can see you just point it in the right direction and you fiddle with this little dial, autopilot or something. We have been going round this big bay called the Chessa Peak, Daddy has figured out that it was created over 35 million years ago by a "bolide impact event" - trust Daddy (huh!). Anyway I thought that the chillest place we went to was the aquarium.........yes, dolphins. The jellyfish were weird too, they are older than dinosaurs - even older than Grandpa.

Mummy has been to America many times but this is my first visit, and Daddy's. It is all a bit larger than life..........we spent the first few days shopping - can you believe it! The Mall.........well, not really my favorite pastime. But I did enjoy trying out Coca Cola (caffeine-free of course), Dr Pepper,

Root Beer (ugh), Ice Cream - wowiee .............and Susie's cooking has been wonderful. Pureed salmon; roast chicken and veggie bake; yum. Actually it is not all that bad here with these old folks.
Baltimore was my first American City. Then Annapolis. Then St Michaels. All these places are getting smaller, but they are very nice and it is great that everyone speaks English although we are overseas. I am thinking that Geography might be a good thing to do at school, especially if we can go on some trips somewhere. But music is great too - I really like Grandpa's guitar and the Eric Clapton DVD's, but Mummy is not so sure!

Daddy has gone a bit wild and I think he is really trying to learn the language. He is really into his Ham 'n Eggs and Pumpkin Ale (?!&?)........ we are still wondering how many ways you can actually get your eggs cooked apart from Over Easy and Sunny Side Up. Anyway I don't like the runny bit on the top, it is so yukky.


Well I am going to sign off now. I have my own cabin with my own bed, so there! Along with Ted and Grandpa's old T-Shirt (after Mummy had her turn with it) I will now let Last Mango rock me to sleep. Goodnight all.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Vineyard to Baltimore with a storm delay

We were up at 0530 for our departure from Martha's Vineyard; all lines were "on the bight" - from the boat to the pilings and back - for a swift exit in the morning without clambering all over the dock. We were on our way when the light allowed at 0615. Once we had cleared the lighthouse at Gay Head our run was 236 miles to the next waypoint right across almost to the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May. We settled into our routines of two hour watches, engine room checks, underway log, and Kindle stuff. For a few hours we had internet access until our antenna signal booster system couldn't access the shore towers on Long Island, off to the North. I was checking the weather on the VHF and listening to the gale warnings ahead; as you can see in the sunset photo we were heading towards one serious weather system. During the night passage the water alternated between calm and confused, the sea could not make up its mind. Just as we were heading for 2-3 feet of sea and less things got up to 3-5. But from peak wind of 24 knots just before dark it gradually eased off all the way down to 8 knots at the end of the morning, and flat calm.

Calm before the storm! When we neared the New Jersey coastline I called ahead to extend our slip reservation; everyone would be doing the same thing. The forecast coming in on the VHF was for winds of 35 to 40 knots and seas building to 10 feet. Even allowing for a little bit of overstatement factor very few people want to be travelling on the water; everyone is going to hunker down while this thing blows through. Looking at the flat sea in the photo it is hard to imagine that in 24 hours time the seas could be coming at you directly from the south at 10 feet with over 35 knots of wind.

Here is a photo of the office as we close in on the coast at the end of our 255 mile trip. Last Mango is in the center of the three navigation screens, on a course of 230 degrees; all screens are North up; that is MaxSea and the double radar/NavNet. Throttle is at 1800 rpm; the speed set in order to get us into harbor at 1520pm to coincide with slack tide - this marina has some slips hard to negotiate into in a fast running tidal current. In the event our docking was current and wind free; after an hour of washing all the salt off from our trip we headed for the local attraction of Cape May - yes, the Lobster House.

In the morning we exchanged all our daily lines for heavy duty and doubled up. Extra fenders as well. Stack cover on for the rain. The gale arrived a little earlier than forecast - one sail boat arrived at midday and they had been severely beaten on their mis-timed run down the coast. They had been battling into 10 foot waves when a large rogue had sidelined them and ripped off the cockpit covers and flooded the cabin. Not surprisingly no other boats came in; no way anyone listening to forecasts would have dreamed of being out there; I went and looked at the beach and saw close up what 35 knots was doing to the sea. No thank you. I checked the weather forecast again a few times; although everything would settle down the next day it would be better to wait a little longer; the Delaware Bay is notorious and why upset the Admiral?

We had plenty of time to explore Cape May. It was America's first seaside resort; constructed while Queen Victoria was on the throne. It has the largest collection of Victorian property in the New World; a delight to wander around.

  Exploring these leafy avenues it is difficult to comprehend what a challenging world we live in; here there is apparent insulation from world issues; the escapism of tourists eating their ice cream and shopping for trinkets.
While we are looking at interesting property, I will also slip into the collection a snap of the gingerbread houses on Martha's Vineyard. The East Coast has an endless collection of towns full of history; impressively conserved and lived in.
The weather cleared and we moved on. A short run along the Cape May canal and into the Delaware Bay. Plenty of commercial traffic, see the example of one of the tugs with a tow. Looking for a place for the night, friends on Grand Banks "Emerald Isle" suggested we join them at the great metropolis of Chesapeake City. The entrance to the basin is a little shallow, so requires a non-low tide arrival; but there is plenty  of water at the dock. And the Chesapeake Inn has excellent oysters and more. A very relaxed evening was had by all. The next day we left at least two hours before low tide and entered Chesapeake Bay while the mist was still rising from the water.

Next destination - Baltimore. Rendez-vous with visitors........................

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Martha's Vineyard

I will confess that until relatively recently I knew very liitle about Martha's Vineyard. In the past it conjured up visions for me of a flower power playground. Well, at least I got the playground bit right. Actually it is an island off Cape Cod, with some 15,000 inhabitants, which swells to over 100,000 in the summer season. We were very lucky that we were invited by close friends to join them for a week in a family cottage over in Edgartown, just outside the peak season but while the weather was excellent. It is all about the timing.

Our trip from Nantucket was also well timed, just before the winds kicked up. Coming into Oak Bluffs Harbor I let two of the regular fast ferries show me they way; they are doing 15 knots or so. Then we had a Med-mooring-style slip but with a starboard walkway. Just another one of those "firsts" that you have to deal with on the spot. Soon after we arrived I saw another Nordhavn 55 "Journey" coming in to join us in the harbor; another one of those "small world" moments - the owner crewed with us through the Panama Canal earlier in the year. I also managed some more boat maintenance; changed the oil and all the filters. Johnny is ready to run another few hundred miles before the next change.

The Vineyard really is a charming island; idyllic village atmosphere and similar-Cornish ambience. Oak Bluffs has the gingerbread houses; Menemsha the lobster rolls by the fish boats; Edgartown the casual elegance; Vineyard Haven the relaxed village atmosphere; Gay Head the views - we explored the whole island as much as we could. We had a wonderful time with our friends; exploring in their rental car - a bright shade of pink, almost worth a discount for that!

For older readers, where were you in July 1969? Wilson was in Downing Street; Nixon in the White House; television was still black and white; the Boeing 747 hadn't even had its inaugural flight yet; Neil Armstrong was on his way to the Moon. I was looking ahead to the Isle of Wight Festival where Bob Dylan would play among many others. But even at 17 I had a keen interest in world affairs so I remember all the details of an incident on 18 July 1969. A young lady, Mary Jo Kopechne, was found dead in a car that had been driven off a bridge by one Senator Kennedy. This took place on a small island, Chappaquiddick, reached in minutes by a ferry from Edgartown; I just had to go and see where it happened. A mere mention of the name Chappaquiddick immediately calls up the details in everyone's mind as if it were yesterday. This was a tragic motor accident after a party and perhaps should have remained so but for one thing: the World did not believe the Senator's story. There were so many implausibilities and inconsistencies. The time line was wrong. The claimed numerous dives down to the car by people. The swim back to Edgartown after the ferry closed. The purses. His behaviour prior to telling the police. The silence from the other 10 people at the party. The closing of the ranks by officialdom and the cover up. Maybe one day this event will get some closure but for the time being it is as live as ever; one of those mysteries that lives on and on; no wonder I found it as interesting in 1969 as I do now.

I have been watching the weather carefully for next week in order to put together our cruising plan. We had ideas of visiting Block Island for a day and then heading South. But there is a blow coming in on Tuesday; wind up to 35 knots and seas to 10 feet. So we will accelerate our exit from the islands and head South tomorrow. We will be off at dawn for a run of over 250 miles; out in the Atlantic and heading for Cape May, the entrance to the Delaware. It is time to say Goodbye to our friends and our wonderful chilled week here in the playground.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Our run to Nantucket was around 7 hours, we are not in a hurry - and it is useful to get 2 miles per gallon. The seas were not uncomfortable but we had up to 25 knots of wind so docking to the pilings in the Boat Basin was more adrenaline charged than usual - actually I was surprised that they didn't have floating docks, the Admiral did curse while the fenders were quickly retied. I am often asked by followers of the blog - how do you know where to dock your boat, how do you find out where to go? Well it is about the same as finding a hotel in the next town - we always have a Cruising Guide to the area, and it will list out for you all the marinas, the available moorings, and the likely anchorages. You do your research; make some plans. Then you telephone and make your reservation. When you are close to the marina, you call them on the VHF and they direct you to your slip. It is important to know how either current or wind might affect your docking plan - when we arrived here I asked for an alternative slip because I did not like the first one assigned; it would have involved steering sideways a 55' long single engine boat in 25 knots of wind between pilings only 70' apart - and putting our beam of 18' between 24' of pilings at the same time. No thanks - it is always useful to have a back-up plan!

Nantucket is out in the Atlantic with Cape Cod to the North and the island of Martha's Vineyard to the West. Looking at the geography of the area one notices the strange shapes of the land masses; this had never really struck me before. The explanation is that these land masses were formed from material deposited by terminal moraines of glaciers receding after the last ice age, depositing sand and rocks picked up hundreds of miles away in Canada. As a result the surrounding sea is very shallow and the coast is subject to rapid erosion and change. In 1659 the island was purchased from its original owner for 30 pounds and two beaver hats; the intention was to farm but the soil is not good enough due to geographic origin. The settlers struck upon an opportunity caused by new markets from the industrial revolution and the desire for artificial light. Yes, it was the first oil rush.

The largest toothed animal on the planet is the sperm whale and it feeds on large squid by echolocation. The science of its complex biology is not fully known but its head contains, unfortunately for it, a large reservoir of a very pure oil called spermaceti particularly valuable in the 18th and 19th centuries for making smokeless and odorless candles and for lubricating machinery. Nantucket residents turned to hunting sperm whales around the world, particularly in the Pacific. The whaling ships had a brick refinery on board to boil down blubber and carry out a first process on the whale oil; voyages would last for up to 4 years until the hold was full of barrels of oil for the world market. Today the oil is found under the ground rather than inside a whale head, and other people are getting rich.

Nantucket did very well while it lasted and the whale ship owners and captains made fortunes and built fine mansions on the island for a hundred years or more until the discovery of oil in the mid 19th century. The whale ships rapidly became redundant. They loaded the ships with prospectors and sailed to San Francisco for the next rush - gold. Nantucket's economic fortunes waned and it went into total decline - hibernation - for a hundred years. The baby boomers re-discovered it in the past 50 years and steadily moved in. Now Nantucket's pristine cottage nature is zealously guarded by local by-laws which prohibit any signs of commercial activity and stop the island being invaded by any chain stores. There are exclusive designer shops and restaurants. For a very short season the megayachts and summer-home dwellers arrive and flush the economy with dollars; in September they disappear home and the winter hibernation sets in.The island is a wonderful place to explore and look around, although its artifical preservation does have a cost - there is not much soul. I did meet a fellow blues player however, and next time we come we will see if we can arrange a real jam.   

Looking ahead I am always checking the weather each day. The local marine forecast is the first source, either on the VHF or the internet. We have a very useful system on board for the internet; I am pleased to say that for an extremely modest monthly cost of $60 we have great access; it works pretty well anywhere including up to 25 miles offshore. The other weather sources are and WindFinder.Com; these are excellent resources for the cruiser. We can look at conditions at least a week ahead - wind speed and direction, wave height and direction, storm activity. Right now I am watching Hurricane Leslie. We have just been able to get under the wire and out of Nantucket on a calm day. But right now the wind is up in the 20's with worse to come; time to stay tied up in the slip and explore ashore until things calm down. Like I say, it is best not to be in a hurry.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Elizabeth Islands - Cuttyhunk

We were on a mooring in Newport for quite a while. Finally the mists surrounding our schedule cleared and we headed for Wickford and a few nights on shore power and a step onto land. Wickford was a peaceful location; a historic village to stroll around, the estuary to explore by kayak, and of course Dave's supermarket - it felt like Harrods to us compared with a couple of weeks of Stop and Shop. After a couple of weeks on a mooring we were also able to get some maintenance jobs done. Both dinghies are now detailed - it was surprising how much bottom growth accumulated in a short space of time. Last Mango is now gleaming inside and out from application of varuious fluids; I think we have just about every cleaning substance available to man on board this boat. We felt virtuous after our labours so it was clearly worth it.

After our chores were done it was time to move on. Destination - the Elizabeth Islands. No, I had not heard of them either...........but they have some interesting history. Named after Elizabeth I; privately owned, mainly by the Forbes family, an old Scottish clan who made their first fortune from opium in China. The island chain lies SW of Cape Cod, and the island we headed for was Cuttyhunk. Here is a picture of Last Mango tied to the pilings at the village dock. In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold founded the first English settlement in the Americas on Cuttyhunk. Gosnold's plan was to harvest sassafras extract, a herbal medicine of value in treating venereal disease. On return to England with his cargo he encountered some difficulty since Sir Walter Raleigh claimed to have a patent on all New World products. Intriguing trivia! Gosnold had been a Cambridge Scholar and studied law at Middle Temple. But I digress.

Cuttyhunk is a great cruiser destination. There is a well protected natural harbor and the island has very few permanent inhabitants, less than 20. But they are fully geared up to looking after the itinerant cruisers who flock here on weekends in the summer. When we arrived I ordered our lobster at the dock and it was delivered, cooked, at 6pm. If you need something from the Raw Bar it will be delivered to your boat - oysters? Clams? The main dining option on the island is Bart's Cart - just what it says it is. But there is also a breakfast option at the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club.
The island is well known for its striped bass. So much so that a group of New York millionaires bought most of the island in 1865 and built the fishing club; there were 50 members initially and the joining fee was $300. What men will do 
to get their fishing! Apparently they wore jackets and ties even while they fished, and drew lots each day to see which of the 25 fishing stations they would use. Although the club is no longer active, it is a rustic bed and breakfast location and a wonderful place to have breakfast. Here is one happy Admiral at the club on 3 September - the last day of the year that the club will be open for breakfast - it is the end of the season for many (not us!), and as I sit here writing this I am watching boat after boat heading home to the mainland after the holiday weekend.
Yesterday I reviewed the stats for this blog. Wow! I am so glad that you all are following us and reading the musings. To have such a following from around the world............from Austria, Japan, Singapore, Russia, and many other amazing. I started looking at the possibility of pursuing the cruising life by following blogs; it did seem hard to achieve at first but feasibility came with more knowledge. Thank you all for looking in on us; it is much appreciated.
Tomorrow we will move on to some more islands. Here is my checklist for today (1) Engine room checks - always a good idea. (2) Weather forecast tomorrow - 5-10 knots, 2-3 ft seas (that is fine). (3)Reservations/mooring/anchorage - I have a slip reserved at the next destination already. (4) Check the route and likely length of trip (48 miles - 7 hrs). (5) Check tide and currents in Buzzards Bay and the Sounds (best current 2 1/2 hrs after current turns SE at Woods Hole per Eldridge).  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New England

Hallo All

It is a while since I posted. So here is a catch-up...................only a couple of months have passed by but it already feels like a lifetime.

Way back in the mists of time (actually it was only June) we left Last Mango in Essex,CT and flew back to England to visit with friends and family. We had new arrivals to bond with, old friends to catch up with, the departed to remember, and then there was my coming of age party. It was good to relax and watch Wimbledon, do some chores, and stay out of the inclement weather. The jet stream was a couple of hundred miles south of where it should be, and as a result the weather was, in a word, horrible. Putting the heating on in July? Oh well, perhaps that means that the poles will freeze over a bit more? Unlikely.

Back over on this side of the pond we started off with a 90 mile run to Newport where our friend John rolled out the red carpet and treated us to New York Yacht Club hospitality and tours of the Belle Vue mansions and the Newport Shipyard. Yes, this is THE yachting center of the North East. Weather was great and although I have some slight damage to a knee (blame 20 years of tennis) we did the cliff walk hike right round the peninsula. After a few days we made the short run to Bristol to tie up at the America's Cup Museum. The admiral was soon off on an Art Evening after some local networking. Next stop was New Bedford, and a visit to the Whaling Museum, quite an exceptional place. I didn't know that whale oil was still used until the 1960's in various lubricants; another example of man's wanton squandering of scarce resource, I guess we will never learn.

When the time comes to get past Cape Cod, there is a short cut - the Cape Cod canal. Quite a project, it is very wide and 40 feet deep, 8 miles long - and the essential part is to consult one's Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book and enter when the current turns in your favor - then you are whisked along at 4 knots over your normal speed, we almost need our seat belts. We anchored near New Plymouth - close to where the Mayflower arrived. Last Mango is 55' long and has two people aboard; the Mayflower was 100' long and had 130 people plus pigs, goats, poultry, cats, birds and 2 dogs. Those brave people took two months - September to November - to make their journey in 1620.

We try to find places to settle into in our travels, where we can establish a bit of a base. We found one at Salem, Massachusetts. There is an excellent wharf in the center of the town, just steps away from all you need. A weekly farmer's market, the train to Boston (30 minutes and 6 dollars), and the Peabody-Essex Museum, quite a gem. What links Normandy, JP Morgan, and Salem? Well, in the first place, Salem was the first port in America where captains decided to gamble on trade with the Far East - the gamble paid off, and in the 18th century Salem was the richest town in America, and the early museum concept was formed. From Normandy at the time of the English Conquest came a family from Pabode - later forming the name Peabody. George Peabody was an entrepreneur in England and America, involved in trade and banking. His very successful firm took on a new partner - the father of JP Morgan. Later the name was changed. As for George, he was the first philanthropist and his generosities endowed the wonderful museum in Salem and of course many other projects - the Peabody Trust for example. The museum has a number of restored period houses in the town which you can tour in date order. And the piece de resistance, they purchased a fascinating house from village in China - then transported it to Salem for a faithful rebuild.

Now I suppose I have to make some passing comment on the Salem witch trials; it would be remiss of me not to. In 1692 there was an outbreak of mass hysteria and the ordinary functions of society broke down. It took almost a year for people to come to their senses but it was too late for many; approximately 28 people had been executed or had died in prison; familes had been fractured, and property confiscated or appropriated. It took nearly 300 years for the victims to be declared innocent.Today this ugly incident is a reminder of how easy it is for injustice to happen in any society. Salem thrives on the notoriety; the town is full of kitsch stores, witch "museums" and ghost tours. Good luck to them.

From Salem we have made other forays on the train - Boston; Lowell. The latter is full of museums and a working cotton mill (not to mention the Quilt Fair!). Boston's Italian Quarter is a great place for dinner. Certainly it almost reminded us of a wonderful long weekend in Sicily a while ago. Our travels by train, boat and road have revealed enormous infestation of fallopia japonica, one of only 32 plants on the list of the worlds most invasive species according to the World Conservation Union. The USA has been slow to recognise the insiduous spread of this plant although it is listed as an invasive weed in certain other non-New England states. It can grow up to 3" a day and penetrate 2" of asphalt and concrete; the root system extends up to 25' wide and a depth of 10'. It is near impossible to eradicate and spreads over vast areas stifling native species. There are thousands of acres of this plant in New England; nobody appears to recognise it and I have seen it tended as a shrub in hedges and gardens. Look out, Japanese Knotweed will take over the area. I am just doing my bit......................
So, back to the travels. We are now back in Newport, on a mooring in the main harbor. It is very peaceful here and we can pop into town in the dinghy for supplies, walks, and entertainment - it is bustling at this time of the year. And this is the place to get boat things done. Here in Newport I have changed the way the title to Last Mango is held so she is now US flagged (again). Being a foreign-flagged vessel in the Americas is, in a word, a pain.

Forward plans are uncertain. Very much in our thoughts at this time are family in England with health issues. We are going to be here in New England for a while; we may see some of Maine and visit the Islands; we may head back to our base in Salem.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Essential valve cover knowledge

The departure from New York to Long Island Sound needs research on the tides. The plan is to ride the incoming tide up the East River and arrive at Hell Gate at slack. Hence we were underway shortly before 0600 and in the melee of the rush hour ferries as we went round Manhattan Island. Of course the end result of doing the tide research and arriving at the right answer is that all the captains have the same idea and all vessels converge on Hell Gate at 0736 - we had three barges and two small tankers for company! But I found that driving one's yacht around and through New York is probably much less stressful than driving a car.

The weather had not been particularly good for a couple of days and today was no exception. East wind against the outgoing tide in the Sound meant that we had short six foot seas so we were glad to get to Huntington Harbor. Although well sheltered, 20 knots of wind made for an interesting pick-up of a mooring buoy from the yacht club - we will work on the technique..........the 10' bow means you need different strategies ready and available depending on the length of the pick-up stick; availability of the ring on the buoy; length of the line on the many options but probably only one will work.

We had a wonderful time in Huntington because cruising friends have lived around here all their lives and very kindly took us out for the day and showed us round. This was my first day on Long Island and I learned a great deal from their local knowledge. Not many people know that the Admiral was a keen biker in her youth and so it was also super treat day for her to view a number of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

For me, I was absolutely fascinated by these incredible machines; it opened up a whole world of something of which I know very little (I know, there are plenty of items in that category). The first Harley was made in 1904 and within five years annual
production was 1,149. The Harley Davidson corporation has survived a turbulent century - the Great Depression, World Wars, Japanese competition, and various forms of corporate controversy. The ability of a brand to stay within the top 50 in the world in these changing times has to be marveled at, particularly when you consider that the focus is on an iconic retro style of product, supported by dream, myth and implied freedom.
HD have a museum containing 450 of their models but there are countless enthusiasts and private collectors out there with their own piece of Harley history.
The essence of a Harley is the V-twin engine which enables a high torque engine to occupy a small space. The cylinders fire at uneven intervals producing the throaty growling exhaust with some popping. The distinctive shape of the valve covers is used by Harley experts to refer to successive model designs. Chronologically they run from F-Head (1914-1929), Flathead (1930-1948), Knucklehead (1936-1947), Panhead (1948-1965), Shovelhead (1966-1984) and so on. If you want to collect something you need to stay in a narrow field..........the bikes in the picture are all Knuckleheads. Yes.
Turning again to that distinctive Harley sound, in 1994 the corporation filed a sound trademark application essentially to protect by patent the sound of their motorcycles. This was dropped six years later after howls of protest by competitors at this sheer piece of cheek. An intriguing factlet all the same.
After all I have learned about Harleys today I will always look upon them in a different light, hoping of course that I will immediately name and recognise them by the valve cover (well, I will try).
We slipped our mooring at Huntingdon and wandered on, pressing further East. Perusing the cruising guide it seemed that the Fishtail would be a good area to visit so we set course for Greenport. The Fishtail is the name for the "messy" end of Long Island. To gain access to Gardiner Bay we pass through Plum Gut, a narrow channel full of current. Gut is probably from the Dutch "gat"  - gate - a Dutch ship foundered in the pass in the 1670's, and in those days there were wild plum trees along the shore. We soon arrive at the municipal marina, right in the heart of Greenport, and explore a charming old world town. Greenport refuses to change, and mixes the old and the new, rich and poor.
We were also treated by Jack, father to Rich, to some wonderful Shelter Island hospitality. Invited over to the island for supper, we thoroughly enjoyed a great evening with Jack and friends, the party never stops in Jack's house. And the following day we were delighted to show off Last Mango and make inroads into the gin supplies on board. May we wish all the best to Jack and Francis, Tom and Irene, and not to forget Frank, all the way from Liverpool. We hope to catch up with you all again either here in the North or in the your other home area - Florida, of course.
Finally we cross the sound and head up the Connecticut River on the flood tide to the charming hamlet of Essex. We will leave Last Mango here for a few weeks while we travel to London, visit family and friends, and generally have a good time. Before we depart I am treated by the Admiral to a special supper at the Griswold Inn, founded in 1776 and exuding eighteenth century atmosphere. The IPA slips down well and I can cut the beef short ribs with my fork. This is not bad at all. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lucille and the Big Apple

On the left Last Mango can be seen across the Hudson River at Lincoln Harbor; the view from the pilothouse across to the Empire State Building is on the right. Let's dispel a myth. The cost per night here of mooring one's private yacht is only a little more than the cost of one night in a bed and breakfast in the UK.
Our ferry across to Manhattan takes only six minutes. We spend several days just wandering around soaking up the unique atmosphere in New York, checking out places we stumble into; Susie also hits the museums on her list. Doing a lot of walking and having the occasional foray onto the subway and bus; part of the relatively inpenetrable public transport system. It is always interesting how one soon adopts places as your own as if you have been here for years. I love the delis and bars here, they are great for atmosphere and value. One day we went for brunch at BB King's Blues Club to see the Strawberry Fields show, a Beatles tribute band. They were fab (of course), tremendous fun; afterwards I was talking with "Paul" and sharing memories of seeing the Beatles perform live back in the early sixties - for me it was the Odeon at Weston-Super-Mare. Of course I didn't mention that a few years ago our firm had acted for Heather in the big break up.
I brought the family to New York in the early 90's, we did a number of US-based road trip marathons for our summer holidays. With no particular plan in mind, on one occasion we had landed at Philadelphia and over three weeks drove to New York, Washington DC, New Orleans, Disneyworld Orlando, Savannah and back to Philadelphia. Our New York trip was short; we woke early with the jet lag on the Sunday, were parked Downtown by 9am, up the Twin Towers for the view and a snack and on our way out of town at lunchtime. As usual, Dad didn't hang about. Here now in NY 20 years later the missing Towers and the events of 9/11 are always in one's mind; on the right the Admiral stands by the National Tribute Quilt in the American Folk Art Museum, this is made from thousands of individually named squares, one for each life lost. One can sit quietly here and contemplate such tragic and senseless killing, designed to provoke even more conflict. More people lost their lives than in the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941; another example of how desperate and evil people on this planet can become towards each other, once again with terrible consequences. Pearl Harbor brought about the full scale conflict in the Pacific; by 1945 the casualties exceeded 20 million, including 240,000 from the conclusive bombs "Little Boy" and "Fat Man".
I was keen to visit one or two old haunts from when I used to travel over here on business in the old days. We stayed often then at the Peninsula, so we popped into the Gotham Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. It hadn't changed a bit. But it was empty, and the prices were shocking - these issues are probably connected. On to Palm Too for supper; the food was still very good and the same waiters are still there, although now they actually have a menu. But my instincts tell me that current economic times are taking a vast toll. The streets are absolutely packed, but the busy places are fast food where you can eat virtually anything "and a soda" for only $5, the high end is having difficulty surviving. In a typical diner my iconic pastrami on toasted rye, with fries and a soda, was delicious and a valuesome $9. The pastrami was piled high - all thirty slices of it!
Some four years after the end of the Pacific War, BB King was playing at a dance hall in Arkansas; two men started a fight, and knocked over the kerosene barrel used for heating. He had to run back into the blaze to rescue his guitar. The fight was over a girl called "Lucille" and from then on, BB's guitars bear that name. It is also the name of the bar at the Blues Club, and on a Monday evening Jon Paris plays and hosts a jam session with friends. Jon is an incredible musician, having recorded and played with just about everyone, and he knows just every blues track there is. Well...............yours truly has been playing guitar a lot recently and the fingers are working well so we turned up for the show. It was a high end affair, with some great musicians (Gene Cornish, Joe Berger, Steve Holley), but I am grateful to Jon who introduced me at the beginning of the second set, handed me his Stratocaster and said "You're on!". Seeing a harmonica in his hand - and knowing that one's key selection is essential in these all too  brief opportunities one gets in life - I seized the initiative and hit the E-chord and we were off for a great blues jam. Playing live at BB Kings certainly cures any stage fright you might have.
Andy Warhol said that everyone is famous for fifteen minutes so I had my ration right there. Great fun and something to remember for a long while. Incidentally I was talking to drummer Steve Holley afterwards; he has played with a great many people; in a month's
time he will be playing at the Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, the week after we will be there. Small world!

Also here is my favorite shot of the evening at Lucille's - the Admiral in full flow, by far the best dancer there that evening Go girl Go!

Soon I turn once again to forward plans...........what next?........