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).