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. 

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