29 August 2014

Visitors Week, Navigating Bridges,Work Day and Broken Water Pump

Visitor Week
We began what Linda is referring to a Visitor Week in that we are happily connecting with some friends and family in different harbors this week.
Linda's son, Josh, and his girlfriend, Sharon visit from Amsterdam (more below)
With Ree and Sammy in Stonington
Argon anchored in Stonington Harbor at dusk

Onward from Stonington to Mystic Up the River and Under (Through) Two Bridges
A sailboat + a bridge is always interesting.  To get to Mystic, one must navigate a little way north up the scenic Mystic River before encountering both a swing railroad bridge and a bascule bridge.  The RR bridge opens on request unless a train is approaching and the bascule bridge opens at 40 minutes past every hour (if there is waiting boat traffic).  Since we were approaching on a Tuesday late morning, there was very little boat traffic which was good since although we had planned our timing well and followed the instructions from both the harbormaster and cruising guide, we happened to catch the RR bridge just as not one, but two trains were approaching.  Thus we had to wait and circle for the first bridge quite a while unexpectedly, as well as then missing the carefully timed second bridge thus having to temporarily tie up for about a 45 minute wait.  Despite the unintended delays, we really enjoyed the travels up the Mystic River and will return again (but this time we would arrive at the RR bridge earlier than needed in case there is a train closure).
Mystic Railroad Bridge finally swinging open after we circle and hover waiting for two trains to go by
Safely through Mystic Railroad Bridge
Mystic River Bascule Bridge (road bridge through downtown Mystic) opens at 40 minutes past every hour but for only 5 minutes - thus Captains need to be ready and alert

Argon quickly following behind a couple other sailboats as the bascule bridge opens on our way south leaving Mystic
Close up view of the Mystic River Bascule Bridge - It is very well maintained and quite attractive.  One can see the huge cement counterweights in the upper part of the photo.
Josh and Sharon Visit the US!
Linda's son, Josh, moved to Netherlands this past May to be with his love, Sharon.  Both Josh and Sharon are spending a three week holiday in the Boston and New England area.  We were thrilled to host them overnight while docked at Mystic Seaport before they spend a few days camping in Connecticut and visiting with friends and family. We look forward to seeing them again back in Boston at the end of our sailing trip.
Enjoying the delicious cheeses that Sharon and Josh brought from Amsterdam
Sharon, Josh and cousins Sam and Morgan pose on Argon's deck
Josh and Sharon relaxing in the cockpit
Josh examines the jellyfish closely to see if they sting
We are so proud of Linda's nieces Sam and Morgan.  They are both embarking on terrific adventures.  Sam has enlisted in the Navy and leaves for bootcamp in about 10 days; and Morgan starts her university career at SCSU this week.  Congratulations Sam and Morgan!!
Mystic Seaport Museum Docking
Despite living in Connecticut for many years, Linda had never been to Mystic Seaport Museum before.  We were not sure what to expect but thought it would be cool to be docked on the museum grounds, well museum waters.  We loved it!  The dockstaff was A+, we felt almost part of the museum with visitors passing by and some stopping to chat about the boat, and the docked guests have exclusive private access to the museum grounds after the area closes to the public in the evening.  The town center is easily accessible by foot or dinghy.
Linda pretends to clean up "road apples" harking back to her stall mucking days in Higganum with Morici and friends
The impressive and recently renovated Charles W Morgan whaling ship from the mid 1800's

View up one of the masts of the Charles W Morgan
Argon on display at Mystic Seaport Museum
Bob loved that we were given a sign to hang from our rail "Private Yacht - Please do not board" as well as our special museum "yachtsmen" passes for the grounds
Among all the fun and adventure, we both are still working a bit also (Bob more so than Linda).  Wednesday of this week was one of our official, pre-scheduled working from boat (WFB) days.

Linda's office
Onward from Mystic to We'll Figure It Out Before We Hit the Head of the River
After a leisurely morning, we said farewell to our guests and headed south down the Mystic River not quite sure where our next destination would be.  After examining the winds, currents and distances, we opted for Dutch Harbor on the west side of Jamestown RI.  The wind was variable ranging between 8 - 20 kts but mostly out of the N.  We used a few different sail trims including reefed main, then unreefed, jib, then genny, then back to jib.  There was a high surf advisory for along the RI coast and we sailed in unusual swells in that they were sometimes 6 to 7 feet but with very long periods between thus still made for a comfortable ride.  Given the height of some of these swells, however, we were sure to stay clear of the several shoals extending from the CT and RI coast.

Large waves breaking as the surf passes over Watch Hill Reef quite a way off the coast
Swells were making their way up the West Passage of Narragansett Bay causing waves to crash against Whale Rock

We anchored in Dutch Harbor just as the sun was setting
Initially tried to anchor along Dutch Island but the rocky bottom prevented us from getting a good hold.  We found a comfortable holding on the east side along Conanicut Island
Plumbing Issues
While in Mystic we ran out of propane as we were making our morning coffee.  Not an issue as we have a spare tank and we quickly switched tanks.  However, we soon were having difficulty keeping a full flame on any of the burners.  Bob took advantage of Josh and Sharon having our car in Mystic and did some provisioning including taking our original tank to get refilled.  This solved the problem but we do not yet know what the issue with the other tank is.  We can address later.  The bigger plumbing issue came up as Bob was doing dishes shortly after we anchored in Dutch Harbor - water pump seemingly died.  Of note:  our toilet uses fresh water, not sea water, hence there were implications and urgency all around with not having a functioning water pump.

After close examination and some experimentation, Bob determines that the pressure switch is faulty and is able to get the water pump to work again - but only for a few minutes.  (Btw.... Bob worked with a similar type mechanical switch extensively many many years ago and indicated that these things normally are very reliable.)
Although it is just the pressure switch we need, the following morning we were luckily able to secure an entire new water pump from Jamestown Distributors, a local extensive marine supply warehouse, and they will deliver the new pump this afternoon to the boatyard near where we are anchored.  We will also send back this practically new water pump to the factory for a replacement (spare) or refund.

Not sure where we will be tonight yet.  But have dock space in Newport and plans for more visitors Saturday through Monday to celebrate the holiday weekend!  :-)

26 August 2014

Motor-Yachting to Connecticut - Stonington and Our First Land Visitors

Block Island RI to Stonington CT
It had to happen sooner or later this trip... a day with no wind. Such was the case getting from Block Island across the sound to Stonington, CT.  We have been in such a stretch of fantastic weather that we did not grumble.  And it was still sunny, dry with modest temperatures.

We stayed two days in Block Island anchored in Great Salt Pond. The second day was spent exploring the island by bicycle and by foot.  But first a visit from the coffee boat!
Fresh croissants and bran muffins at anchor
We rented bikes from a place near the salt pond. These were not great bikes as rentals go, but they mostly worked ok. We had four hours and no hospitals to visit this time, so we got lots of riding in. Once again, we visited Mohegan Bluffs and the Southeast Lighthouse (as we did a couple of years ago when here on Fujin - worth seeing again). Bob thinks he just volunteered to produce the website for the lighthouse historical foundation (they don't have a site).

Kodak Moment on the bike ride.  We passed by only about 15 or so of the 300 ponds on the island.
Looking way down stairs at Mohegan Bluff
Mohegan Bluff - erosion is very noticeable.  The southern coastline of Block Island loses and average of 3 feet per year.

Southeast Lighthouse was built in 1856 due to so many shipwrecks off Block Island shores the prior 30 years

Fresnel lens at the top of the Lighthouse.   Learn more here Wiki Fresnel Lens
The Southeast Lighthouse used to be located on this rock we are posing on.  In 1993 the entire 2000 ton structure was moved 300 feet back to where it is today due to the eroding cliffs. 

And another perfect Lobster Roll enjoyed on the front porch of the National Inn and Restaurant.
No mayo. No lettuce. No huge roll.  Just warm lobster, butter and a toasted hot dog roll.  Impossible to find in Massachusetts.
Off to Connecticut
We pulled the anchor pretty early the next day and took off for Stonington, CT. We noticed as we left that the speed transducer was not functioning. This time, it would be Linda's turn to dive under the boat and un-stick it.  There was very little wind in the sound and what little there was was on our nose so we made some electricity and hot water for a few hours.

Another sunrise - they never get old

Chief Navigator - always studying the charts

Temporary tie-up and fueling at Dodson's Boatyard Stonington.  We really liked this boatyard and the entire Stonington Harbor.  Also were able to give Argon a good deck and hull cleaning finally.
Stonington harbor is lovely and one we will definitely visit again. We took the opportunity to visit the fuel dock and top off diesel but more importantly water. We only took 7.6gal of diesel but both fresh water tanks were getting a bit thirsty. Water is turning out to be the one resource which gets tight on a long cruise like this. Our head flushes with fresh water which increases the usage even more. We're learning to take very quick showers and use as little as possible for washing dishes.  We are also evaluating whether to get solar panels or a wind generator.
Linda dives in to get ready for venturing under the hull to fix the speed transducer
Activities in Stonington
Mostly we just walked around. We had zillow running on the iPhone and were checking out home prices as we walked around the town. One could actually do OK selling a house in Arlington, and buying one down here. Along the way, we discovered New England Science and Sailing. An educational program that combines science and sailing for kids. How cool. So Linda rented a paddle board from them for a couple hours while Bob went back to the ship to do some work.

Bob is being very disciplined about his working from boat time.  Linda has yet to even log on (but will do so this afternoon, maybe.)
We enjoyed dinner and catching up with Ree and Sammy who joined us by land at Dogwatch cafe back at Dodson Boatyard.

Linda, Bob, Sammy and Marie
And onward now to Mystic!......

23 August 2014

This time for sure - Block Island

Today we got up a at a leisurely 05:30 after a fairly bouncy night on the free mooring outside of Menemsha. It was so bouncy in fact that we chose to sleep on the cabin settees rather than in the v-berth. The motion in the center of the ship is so much less pronounced than way up in the bow. We both slept very comfortably.

We were off the mooring and underway by 06:15 from Menemsha.

Dawn view of our overnight neighbor

Pretty skyline eastward as the sun rises

Dramatic clouds westward

We were in about a 1 kt opposing current for the first 5 miles or so until we got away from where the water is squeezed between Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth islands.  We watched Cuttyhunk Island pass by our starboard and looked forward to visiting there again later in the trip.  To our port we had beautiful views of the cliffs and SW tip of the Vineyard, Gay Head.

Gay Head Light

Looks like an inspirational poster. I don't know what the message is yet.

Passing Gay Head

Today's destination (again) was Block Island. We still had this steady N-E wind and so we were sailing pretty low. The N-Eer built up some pretty big swells (3-5') in the sound which rolled us around quite a bit for most of the 40 miles.  For most of the trip, we ran with a full main sail and the 90% Jib.

PFDs and Tethers were the rule today

Chin-Chin got quite a ride today and gulped a generous amount of water

Many hours of very alert sailing today from Menemsha to Block Island

Newport Bridge to the north
That's not land, and stop calling me a ho!
Finally after getting bounced around for several hours, Block Island was in sight.

The astute mariner would notice that we crossed the Traffic Separation Zone at a rather shallow angle. There was no activity in either of the shipping lanes during this time
Last time we went to Block Island (in Fujin) we got a slip in Old Harbor on the east side.  This time, we wanted to try anchoring in the great salt pond. This meant going around the north side of the island and then turning south. There is a narrow shallow spot that extends to the north from the island. We stayed about 1/2 miles to the north to avoid the 11 foot areas (11 foot with 5 foot swells... not much room). The bottom all around this spot is over 100 feet deep and so a huge amount of water gets pushed up on this shallow spot and some very big swells and breaking waves get built up here. Once on the other side of this spot, things get very smooth.

Feels very close to the beach as you head in the channel

Looking forward into the pond

Looking aft at the other boats following us in. Chin-Chin is full of water after the rough ride we had
The entrance to the salt pond is very narrow considering the huge volume of traffic that comes and goes. The salt pond itself is a huge area with thousands of boats in it. There are two marinas with slips, lots of town moorings and lots of room for anchoring. Being cheap bastards that we are, we chose to anchor.  Besides, by the radio chatter, it sounded like the town moorings were all taken.

Bob set up the hammock and Linda got first dibs on it.

Bob worked on a couple emails and was falling asleep at the computer so he laid down in the cockpit and was out cold for almost three hours!  Hey, it was a rough morning.

Night on the Town
We've had some cold-ish nights on this trip. Unfortunately, there have not been any nights where we could sleep in the cockpit. But the REAL cold parts have been that dinghy ride (always into the wind) coming back to Argon from whatever town we're in. Well, this time Linda got smart and dressed us both in our full foul weather gear for the ride. Here's us dressed up for dinner:

We ended up at Dead-Eye Dicks and sat at the bar for dinner. The food was good but this bar is really... a drinking bar. There were quite a few colorful individuals there in various states of intoxication. Food was quite good though.

Sunset overlooking the pond

Enjoying her Merlot at D-E D's
The Ride back to Argon was not so bad wearing our foulies.  Chin-Chin's motor was acting up a bit tonight but she got us home (good thing - would have been a long row).