22 July 2015

Sailing Newport to Marblehead

Showering on Starboard Tack, Racing Jeroboam, & Starving for Voltage

Third Beach Sakonnet River to Red Brook Pocasset (or not... again)
Bob awoke Linda abruptly Saturday morning at 0530 announcing that he would like to haul anchor and set sail.  Linda fumbled to the cockpit in her PJs to steer Argon gently as Bob worked the windlass and we were off.  We motored for just the first 45 minutes or so in to substantial chop as the current came in to the Sakonnet but we knew we'd be greeted with 10-14kt southerly winds in Buzzards Bay and a current in our favor for a nice 40nm sail.  We had our sights on anchoring in another favorite harbor, Red Brook, by early afternoon.  This would have been around 38nm distance.

Sakonnet Light as we leave Third Beach (just east of Newport) banging in to chop and current before smoothing out once off the wind and in to a favorable current in Buzzards Bay.
Conditions were superb as we hummed along at 7-8kts.  However, this certainly was not wine and cheese sailing by any means but rather very active sailing with constant helm work.  Given that we were on mostly a beam reach we were not heeled dramatically but our house was fairly un-vertical all day.

Bob sporting his new Helly Hansen jacket as he tightens up the genoa in 16kt winds.  The overcast skies and slightly chilly temps were actually a welcome reprieve from copious sunshine.
Linda went down below several hours in the sail to shower and had a heck of a time with the tilt and chop.  In addition, the head is on the port side with the drain towards center, thus our starboard tack resulted in a bit of water overflow in the head. Oh well, boats are designed to get wet, even a bit on the inside.

Starboard tack all day; several hours in to our sail with brisk winds continuing.
Given our early departure and the swift progress, we found ourselves in sight of the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge by 1000 and realized we would be anchored in Red Brook well before noon. Therefore, we checked the canal current and afternoon wind forecast in Cape Cod Bay and decided to keep going all the way to Provincetown nearly doubling our planned leg to 65+nm.
We bypassed our planned Pocassett / Red Brook anchorage and instead caught the current in the Cape Cod Canal
Cape Cod Bay side of the canal at Sandwhich.  Still overcast and with excellent southerly winds 15-20kts.

Continuing to work the helm in Cape Cod Bay about 60nm in to our day.
Track of our 60+nm trip averaging well over 7kts!

Although we preferred to anchor, we decided on the security of a mooring in this fairly deep harbor and to opt for a dry launch ride to land instead of a wet dinghy trip in the high winds.  The wind was blowing near 20kts as we turned in to PTown Harbor, called for a ball, and fumbled a bit in the crowded mooring field near the breakwater.  The launch driver saw us circling with uncertainty and offered us an alternative mooring that was a bit less crowded.  Linda felt a bit deflated as it's just a mooring... we can certainly pick up a mooring even in high winds, right?!?  We eventually got settled and secured with a double bridle.

Bob exhausted after an exhilarating day of sailing that started at 0500.  He was too tired to drink the glass of rum waiting next to him. Little did we know that one of the sailboats moored next to us (just out of sight in this picture) would be our competitor the very next day as we sailed to Marblehead.
Our original plan was to stay put in PTown for Bob's scheduled workdays.  During a leisurely dinner in town at The Mews Restaurant a bit north of the main tourist section of Commercial Street, we discussed options for the upcoming days and again examined wind and weather.  We could take a chance on Thursday being good to sail back to Boston, or we could capitalize on Sunday's conditions and sail somewhere to the North Shore where Bob could settle in for his work days.  We chose the latter and left early the next morning.

Racing Jeroboam
We departed PTown in some fog motoring in to the wind past Long Point.  In addition to making swift headway in to the wind, we needed to run the diesel a bit as we have been struggling to keep our batteries charged sufficiently ever since leaving Sag Harbor about 10 days ago.  More on this later.
Given the early morning fog, we had the radar fired up for a little while. We have high quality Navionics charts loaded on our Chart Plotter. A frustrating feature of  Navionics is the speckling of little pink birds to designate wildlife preserves.  Hmmm put RED objects all over a nautical chart.  Great idea!  To be more fun, they use exactly the same pink as Raymarine chose for the radar traces. This makes picking out the little pink potentially oncoming vessels a bit difficult.  Please Navionics - Nix the freekin' pink birds already!

Still a bit foggy as we pass Race Point but clearer skies were not far off.  This is also where we started to see some whales.
Linda's view skyward while relaxing on the fore deck after the fog had cleared.

Bob working the helm.  Linda, well, not working.
Shortly after rounding Long Point and passing Race Point, we spotted a sailboat behind us with a spinnaker flying.  When two sailboats are heading in roughly the same direction, at some level there is a race - whether or not the skipper admits it. This boat had AIS so we were able to see her name, size, speed and course. Bob noticed the speed of the boat first and could see that it was consistently doing 1+kt faster than us. At this point, we were not flying our spinnaker but had main and genoa out. Bob looked again later and saw that AIS was reporting she was 115 feet long with a 26 foot beam. (I think when they filled in the MMSI application for AIS, they may have filled in feet where they were asking for meters.)  "Oh - he's a huge sailboat. Of course he's going to go faster".  Finally we noticed the name. The boat name, Jeroboam, sounded very familiar and after some searching through neurons, Linda recalled that this 35' boat was in the New Year's Day race with Constitution Yacht Club (Linda & Bob crewed on another boat on New Year's Day), and she had had an e mail correspondence with the Captain/owner earlier in the year about an open ocean seminar.
We soon realized that the sailboat a couple miles off our stern and gaining on us was a locally well-known racing boat with a very seasoned skipper / racer, Jonathan Green.  We starting using AIS to monitor Jeroboam's distance and speed, and (given our broad reach direction) to anticipate wind changes that would come our way.  Initially Jeroboam was sailing one knot faster than Argon - we had to change this.  Here, Bob just had to get a picture of one of the rare moments when we were going faster than them.

Jeroboam is a Beneteau Oceanis 351 looking pretty with her spinnaker and stay sail.
After loosing ground the initial hour or so pre-spinnaker, the wind finally got around behind us enough to be comfortably flying our spinnaker too. From then on Argon maintained her .5nm or so gap with Jeroboam the remainder of the 30nm ride.  The wind continued to clock around behind us and we were both having trouble keeping our chutes full. We should have "put more in the bank" earlier in the day. Both vessels remained on a port tack trying to keep the sails full and speed up while sailing more downwind than we would like. We both jibed just before reaching The Breakers and headed due north for a short starboard run before dousing the spinnaker near Marblehead Harbor.
We deployed Argon's spinnaker when the wind got around behind us more.  
What was the result of our race?  Well, we got to Marblehead first but Jeroboam got there faster.  They left PTown probably nearly an hour after us and were only about 5 minutes behind us after the 42 miles. We've never officially entered Argon into any race and had a handicap established. The owner's manual says our PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) rating is "84 estimated". A Beneteau Oceanis 351 has a higher PHRF rating than a Tartan 4000.  However, we were happy to be practicing our relatively novice racing skills and racing attitude by sailing Argon well enough to not allow Jeroboam to pass during this eight plus hour sail.  We reached out via e mail to Jonathan once in Marblehead to thank him for keeping us on our toes and briefly joined him and some other local sailors at The Barrelman for drinks. This little competition further sparked Linda's interest in participating in the 2016 Newport to Bermuda race.

Marblehead - Sailboat Heaven
Marblehead is a bit like a mini Newport with a tad less sailing cockiness (just a tad).  Power boats are definitely the minority with most of the sparse engines working to deliver lobsters to all of us.
Hundreds of kids out sailing dinghies for Junior Race Week in Salem Sound.  This town endeavors to embed the sailing bug while they are very young.

Marblehead Harbor crowded with masts - a lovely sight.

Linda's home study area while Bob works below.

Another beautiful sunset set looking out towards Salem.

Marblehead Harbor abounds with stand up paddle boards, kayaks, and floating craft of all sorts.
We enjoyed an evening of pizza and conversation with our friends Brenton, Jillien and family who live in town.  We met Brenton, owner of Black Rock Sailing School several years ago at the New England Boat Show and have taken ASA classes from him (and some private docking lessons as well).  His school is fantastic and we always enjoy getting together socially.

Brenton Lochridge is the owner and lead instructor of Black Rock sailing school in Boston, Marblehead, Warwick RI and BVI.  We have taken several sailing classes with Brenton over the years including ASA 104 Coastal Cruising, ASA 105 Navigation, and private docking lessons.  We highly recommend Black Rock Sailing School!!

Starving for Voltage
We mentioned a couple of posts ago about our rookie error mismanaging our electrical consumption. Ever since Sag Harbor we have struggled to keep the main battery at a reasonable charge and have resorted to running the engine simply to get the voltage up.  We have not been plugged in to shore power since NYC two weeks ago but this really should not be an issue if we monitor and control our usage.  However, between Bob's kick ass-hot running-electron sucking lap top cranking during his work days, and with frequent bursts of amps sucked up by the refrigerator, the alternator of the diesel is just not sufficient.  (Not to mention our two other lap tops, two phones, iPad, etc.)  For any sort of serious cruising in our future, in addition to learning to live with less power, we will definitely need to supplement at least with solar (and perhaps also wind).   Needing shore power will not work both for accessibility and expense.

After anchoring and mooring for two weeks, we secured one of the few dock slips in Marblehead and gorged on voltage all afternoon.  Bob was able to keep working his programming magic for Atlas without constantly running the engine to feed his computer.

The 116.2 VAC input and a proper charger made our batteries feel oh so much better.

Normally when we plug in to short power there is "bulk charging" for just a few seconds or minute.  Our batteries were so starved that the "bulk charging" (at 80+ amps) did not switch to floating charge (as shown above) for about 10 hours.  Our batteries are now fat and happy again.  We beat on Battery 1 pretty good this trip. Hopefully it's not damaged or else Bob will have to sell another kidney.
Several boat projects loom in our near future:  solar panels, potentially wind generator, satellite, supplemental heating for winter (do not want to think about winter too much yet), etc.  But for a few more days we continue to just enjoy Argon and sailing around in our home.

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