22 August 2014

Leaving (too) early, New Anchorage, Guarding the President and Menemsha Sunset

Enjoying Edgartown
We spent a laid back afternoon bobbing on our mooring, swimming and just kicking back on Argon.  We eventually ventured in to town and enjoyed walking around in the late afternoon sun and Linda indulged in a pedicure. We continue to enjoy this fantastic spell of wonderful, sunny (and breezy) weather.
Strolling around Edgartown - these guys were really good playing outside  Chesca's restaurant

Back at the ship, we decide to be proactive and rig the spinnaker in preparation for an early sail tomorrow - see below

I've got a great idea!
Today (Friday), Bob learned not to plan for current in Vineyard Sound after a second glass of wine. We got up at 0300 (yeah, 3AM) to take off from Edgartown. The plan was to do a long downwind leg to Block Island taking advantage of a favorable and strong current in the Sound - We needed to leave very early in the morning to hit this. We even had the spinnaker rigged the evening prior to make for an easy hoist in the wee hours and coffee ready to make given the painfully early, but thrilling early morning departure. This was absolutely perfect timing... that is if your idea of perfect timing is to hit the strong vineyard sound current at peak opposing current. I'm an excellent captain (perhaps periodically dyslexic).

Piloting out of Edgartown Harbor at 0320, confident in Bob's plan

Sailing at night = cool.  Sliver of a moon was mostly obscured by clouds thus it was extremely dark.  (We still have not discovered our mistake.)
We realized it would be stupid to try to make any progress toward Block against the 2-3 kt current so we considered alternatives. Linda noticed there is actually a pretty big anchorage right outside of Vineyard Haven. This is good to know as this is a nice free way to stay there!  Anyway, we dropped the hook in there and took a nap while waiting for the current lessen.

Bob prepares the anchor as we watch the sun rise

Sunrise Friday morning as we anchored in Vineyard Haven to await a proper current (~4 hours)

Young children should leave the room for this part
While heading into the anchorage, Bob noticed something in the water and was trying to decide if it was a bird or a Lobster Trap. Guess again... it was a young deer struggling against the current about a mile off shore!  This was pretty tragic to see because he was getting swept out towards the sound. We considered trying to help the fawn using the dinghy but were concerned about fighting the current (and a terrified, kicking deer).  We also scanned the area hoping there might be a small power boat nearby we could radio to for help - but there were none at this early morning hour. We hope he made it back to land.
Don't think this guy had much of a chance

Plan B
So we decided to cancel plans for Block Island today and instead set a course for Menemsha on the North-Western point of Martha's Vineyard. We've heard good things. We will repeat good things. Also, President Obama is in a town not far from here on vacation so there's been a coast guard cutter and several go-fasts along the shore all day. The best part is that Linda found the elusive perfect lobster roll in this tiny fishing town. Too bad we had just finished lunch when she made this discovery (she had a lobster roll anyway).

A couple Coast Guard go-fasts near Menemsha Harbor

This particular fishing boat was somewhat scary and very rusty

Interesting mix of fishermen and tourists at Menemsha

Lobster Roll Shopping; Also bought some freshly caught cod and stuffed scallops.

Menemsha is very pretty

Being Townies
After walking around, Bob headed back out to the mother ship to get supplies (wine and glasses) and we hung out on the beach for a while. Bob also visited the Chandlery which was more like a building that a garage sale threw up in.

We have been searching for an anchor snubber hook at every port - no luck yet
The away team returns to the mother ship with the shuttle craft

Bob bearing a bottle of rose and a pair of plastic wine glasses to enjoy on the beach along the jetty
Dinner on Argon Tonight
Menemsha has a couple excellent fish markets. We got some extremely fresh Cod and some fixings.  Linda made a wonderful five star dinner.

Near Scutra-quality dinner (Scutra is our favorite Arlington restaurant)

And That Sunset
Well, unfortunately some low clouds on the horizon obscured it, but Menemsha is one place on the east coast you can actually see the sun set into the ocean.

Watching the sunset from the cockpit

(Linda) Planning For Tomorrow
We're going to try for Block again Saturday morning - this time at 0600 instead of 0300; will be a 40 nm trip with ETA 1400. We will face the same opposing current early in the morning but the wind will be higher and we've only got a few miles of the narrow part of the sound where it runs fast. Also, we're about 14 miles closer than we were yesterday. Wind is expected to be North East.

Studying potential harbors
This trip is remarkable so far for how little we've spent on overnight fees. So far, we've only been on paid moorings twice for a total of $65 ($25 the first night in Chatham and $40 in Edgartown)! And no overnight dockage yet. Tomorrow, we will probably anchor in Block Island's Great Salt Pond so that should be a freebie too.

End of week one of LASVA.

20 August 2014

Running Aground, John Kerry, and a Trip to Nantucket Hospital

After a leisurely Monday morning moored in Stage Harbor Chatham, we ventured to the nearby Town Dock to explore and chat with the harbormaster. Interestingly, they have an unassuming Upwelling Facility that raises thousands, perhaps millions, of quahogs and scallops from larval stages for about a year. Then the small clams are moved to the shallow tidal waters under protective netting for another one to two - Quahogs are fully mature as of about four years old. We did not have cameras with us but here are links to photos and information: 
Upwelling Technique for Raising Quahogs and Scallops

Nursery and Growout Methods for Aquacultured Shellfish

Running Aground.....  It's a Matter of When, not If ......
It is commonly understood by sailors that running aground is inevitable at some point.  However, we have enjoyed, with slight smugness, being able to say that "We have never run aground..." always careful to add "...yet".  Well, we must now say "We ran aground when...." <cringe> (Actually, it's "Linda ran aground when...")

We decided to move to the [free] moorings on the NE side of Harding Beach for easy dinghy access for beach exploration and to spend another night in Chatham. There are large swaths of shallows (good for clamming, see above) and one should follow the channel markers over the chart and GPS as the markers will be moved frequently to accommodate for shoaling and shifting depths. As we pulled along Harding Beach we examined which of the few moorings to pick up and took note of the small area to maneuver.  Linda did a pass by and got herself disoriented momentarily whilst focusing on wind, current, moorings, etc... and unknowingly moved slowly towards the edge of the channel - right next to a small green marker btw <cringe again>. Linda frantically called out "the depth!" when seeing it at <5' then we experienced a soft stopping of Argon.  We have a 6' draft thus the depth sounder, being several feet in front of the keep, gave us a predictable two second warning as our keel wedged firmly in to the sand. We had about 13kts of wind across our beam with a mild current in the opposite direction.  It was almost low tide - only about a 3' tide swing down here.

Some of you know that Bob has a love-hate relationship with our dinghy, Chin Chin. Well, Chin Chin is now forever in Bob's favor; no more grumbling and swearing about all the inconvenient aspects of towing a dinghy, fumbling with the gasoline, and the unpredictability of the outboard. Chin Chin saved the day on Monday.
Bob and our hero, Chin Chin
After a quick "Oh, shit, we #@^*% ran aground!" Bob jumped in to Chin Chin to try to pull the 22,000 lb Argon backwards off our soft landing and away from the large swath of shallow clamming waters ahead.  With the modest 3.5 hp Mercury fully revved up, Linda applying gentle reverse throttle, and generous bow thrust to port, Argon soon began to slowly twist bow in to wind (to avoid more shallows) and inched backwards off the mud.  Phew!  Then Bob and Chin Chin motored to the mooring whilst Linda maintained astern propulsion backing partway out of the narrow inlet to let her heart rate come down (and to get re-oriented as to where the forbidden depths were) before re-approaching the mooring carefully as Bob and Chin Chin await to attach to the bow.

Safely moored NE side of Harding Beach Chatham
Exploring Secluded Beaches
At this point, we focused on avoiding excitement and achieving boredom.  Did not get bored, but certainly found peace and tranquility exploring Harding Beach and part of Morris Island.

Linda plans to become a bird lady in her later years.  Until then, we can't tell you what kind of fowl these are but they were plentiful and graceful.

Linda posing on the thin strip of dunes between Harding Beach and Morris Island

Argon is the blue hull sailboat in the background. Linda mucks around clamming shallows.

Bob with his trusty dinghy, Chin Chin

After dinner on the boat (Cesar salad and mushroom ravioli) we settled in to watch a spectacular sunset over the marshes and Stage Harbor Lighthouse and examined the wind, currents and tide to plan what we would do tomorrow.
And we reach the end of Day 3 of our LASVA :-)
Onward to Nantucket
Up and off our mooring at 0600 Tuesday for a leisurely beam/downwind sail south in light winds - presumed destination is Nantucket.
Sunrise as we leave Chatham and Stage Harbor 0600
Enjoying coffee on a comfortable beam reach in 10kts
Nantucket bound

Entering Nantucket Harbor, known for being a port of call for high end yacths.  That is his dinghy being pulled behind!
US Lightship Nantucket is currently undergoing restorations and is usually docked at Boston Harbor Shipyard on the Logan side of Boston Harbor, but she was back in Nantucket this week.  Read more at Lightship Nantucket.

Back side of the Range Markers at the US Coast Guard Station.  Range Markers are extremely helpful to mariners entering harbors with currents to ensure one stays on course.
Just a few of the luxury liners one can ogle in Nantucket Harbor
John Kerry and Isabel
We decided to top off our fuel and give the deck a good hose down before seeking out an anchorage spot in Nantucket Harbor. The dock hand casually mentioned that John Kerry was just pulling up behind us. Of course we tried to act nonchalant and continued with our fueling and deck swathing chores. As Linda pulled the hose back to the dock (all sweaty and grimy) she found herself standing right next to the Secretary of State as he stood their with his yellow Labrador waiting for the rest of his party depart from his 76 foot Friendship (gorgeous, very high end yacht made in Newport).   Linda lamely just coiled her hose at Mr. Kerry's feet trying to think of something intelligent to say. Uncle Ken would be so very disappointed in the missed opportunity. Bob in the meantime fumbled for the camera but we missed any good shots.
Our peak at Secretary of State John Kerry.  Uncle Ken would be disappointed in Linda.... she was too shy to speak to the esteemed Secretary as she coiled a hose at his feet (there is a joke in there somewhere).  Post Note after consulting with Uncle Ken and in case SoS Kerry reads our blog someday....  I wish I had said "Don't let the RepubliCants rattle you, many of us know that both you and your boss are doing just fine!."

John Kerry's sailing yacht, Isabel, next to Argon at the fuel dock
Anchoring = Free 
We have been anchoring more this year as we want to become proficient in various holdings and comfortable in a range of conditions.  In addition, anchoring is usually free whilst moorings (and dock space for sure) come with a fee normally.  We were able to find a good anchoring spot at the far side of the mooring field in Nantucket Harbor.  A dock slip would have been well over $200 a night and a mooring would have been $70 a night.  And, with our trusty Chin Chin, we can make the ~1nm trip to shore without much difficulty.

The Ocean Does not Hurt Here
We have noticed that the water temperatures are splendid around the Cape this time of year.  Linda's declared threshold this season for swimming has been 68 degrees minimum of which we have never reached around our Boston stomping grounds (except for the thick marina waters at Constitution in which swimming is not permitted nor safe).  But in PTown, Chatham, Nantucket and most places in between we have noticed our water temperature instrument usually measures an inviting 68-74 degrees.  We ventured out to explore the vast harbor on Chin Chin with our feet dragging in the comfortable waters. 
One of our several stops during our dinghy exploration along Coatue Points

Bob swims in the warm waters and brisk current off Argon after our dinghy exploration trip
Venturing to Town
Despite loving our anchorage, we ventured in to town for the evening enjoying the quaint cobblestone streets - the cobblestones are actually the ballasts from old whaling ships.  We enjoyed a drink at Met on Main and dinner at a great Latin restaurant Corazon del Mar.

Cycling to Nantucket Cottage Hospital
Despite our bikes at home being largely ignored these days, we do still love cycling and exploring new places.  Thus Wednesday's schedule entailed a leisurely morning on the boat followed by renting bikes in town to explore more of Nantucket.  However, Bob had an increasingly painful and worrisome infection on his big toe and we were concerned about it getting out of control in the days ahead when we expect to be in more remote anchorages.  Thus our first stop with our bicycles was the Nantucket Cottage Hospital. 
Bob gets his toe lanced and a prescription of antibiotics to stave a staph infection
While Bob is at the clinic, Linda does laundry at a nearby laundromat.

Even the laundromats are kind of quaint in Nantucket

We continued to bike around the island admiring the many small and large grey shingled homes with colorful flowers and made our way to the the south shore after having lunch at The Sea Grille which is out and away from town (near the hospital / laundromat / pharmacy that were our main attractions this morning).  We weave our way to the lighthouse at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor where we traversed yesterday midday to watch the various boat traffic enter and exit - anything from kayaks to mega yachts. 
Secluded beach along the south short

Bob wants one of these Hobbie Cats badly
Water fountain fill up along the bike path
Towards the end of another spectacular day
Busy dinghy dock as we prepare to head back to Argon for the evening
We stroll the piers and have an expensive drink at Cru; over dinner we examine the weather, wind and currents and decide to set sail around 0800 for Martha's Vineyard. Some light provisioning is done at Stop-n-Shop before boarding Chin Chin to nestle in to Argon for the evening.  Night night.

17 August 2014

A Tale of Two Extremes: Around The Outer Cape from Provincetown to Chatham

Teaser = 95% of this day was fantastic.  5% was terrifying.  Read on to learn more.....

Day 2 of LASVA (Long Awaited Summer Vacation on Argon)

We have enjoyed traveling through the Cape Cod Canal many times but Linda has been wanting to take the adventurous route around the outer Cape for a few years.  We examined several sources of wind and weather reports and determined that there were close to ideal conditions for this trip Sunday with 8-15kt winds shifting SW to W (then back to SW which was less than ideal).  We studied several sources of charts and information about preparing to cross Pollock and Butler Rip originally hoping to go to Nantucket (no moorings available) and instead planning on Chatham.  Determining that slack through Butler Hole would at 15:45, we selected an early morning departure time.
Pulled anchor at 0600 leaving PTown; Chin Chin pulled behind as we watch the sun rise behind interesting clouds
Long Point Lighthouse:   Oc G 4s Horn
Approaching Wood End as we prepare to turn NW and hoist sails (Fl R 10s 13M Horn)
All is well
Spinnaker Time!!
As we rounded Race Point to head NE then E, we expected to be downwind.  Winds were still around 8kts thus perfect for practicing our weak spinnaker skills.  The spinnaker has been up only once this season during a practice run out by The Graves early in the season and our prior sailboat, Fujin, did not have a spinnaker.  Thus we are novices for sure.

All rigged and ready for the sock to be lifted

Beautiful (note we have an asymmetrical design for the asymmetrical spinnaker)

Hummed along at 6-7 kts in 8kts of wind (positive current around Race Point helping out)

Wind shifted from the west as if the wind gods had us in their favor thus we were on a beam reach vs the expected broad.  Learned that our spinnaker (name TBD) does quite nicely on a beam.

All is well, perfect actually, as we round the Cape
Enjoying the Scenery, Perfect Conditions and Seclusion
The wind oscillated from W to slightly SW inching up to 12+kts allowing for a nice run with the spinnaker before we doused and pulled out the Genoa.  We were surprised that for hours there were virtually no boats in sight and enjoyed the miles of serene national seashore off our starboard.

Cape Cod National Seashore south of Truro

Linda ensures backstay pressure is just over 1000 lbs (Bill would be satisfied)
Hey, we're on a heading for Bermuda - tempting.....
Milestone Achieved
We hit 1000 nm on Argon since her commissioning in May just a few months ago - hurrah!!
Celebrating our first 1000 nm on Argon and looking forward to many 1000's more in the years to come!!
We re-examine our Richardson's Chart, Navionics, GPS and cruising guides in preparation for sailing through the infamous Pollock Rip Channel and Butler Hole as this is not to be taken lightly.  We were still going against a current about 45 minutes ahead of schedule and slack.  Given that we were going to Chatham since there were no mooring in Nantucket, we examined staying close to the southern tip of Monomoy Island vs. making the 15 nm U shaped course south then north of Hadkerchief Shoal.  WRONG DECISION!
Wind has picked up - switch Genoa for jib and sail a bit higher; heeling over quite a bit but very little weather helm; wind is picking up to 15+ kts.  Needed to head in to wind so took sails down shortly after.  Then the fun ended.
Fun is Over - Hang On
Most of the trip through Pollock Rip and Butler Hole was fine.  We decided we would turn NW near R"10" and carefully go through an area of 11 and 13 foot charted depth having checked multiple sources and knowing it was high tide.  However, the tide is only about 3-4' thus not a lot of extra depth at high tide and there are numerous warnings about shoaling.  Linda spotted what we think was hundreds of seals sunning themselves on Monomoy Point and asked Bob to get some pictures.  You will notice that we have no pictures of the seals.....

We were suddenly hit with 7 foot waves with Argon being tossed around in the troughs; we immediately donned our life jackets and soon found ourselves in alarmingly shallow depths.  The stability of Argon in these churning waters was fantastic (would not have felt so confident in the much lighter Fujin) but we had not counted on being in such dramatic troughs in such shallow depths.  In addition, the extreme shoaling in this area made even our very up-to-date sources not very reliable.

This was the worst rip and biggest waves we have ever been in.  Linda was at the helm and we both kept a nervous eye on the depth gauge as it oscillated from 14ft to 8ft to 16ft to 10ft, then the dreaded 7ft to 6ft to @#$%! 5ft (we have a 5"11' draft) and then we felt the dreaded thud as we hit bottom. Our heart rates increased even more as we felt another shot of adrenaline course through our bodies. If we ran aground in these rough waters that would be catastrophic. Bob yelled "turn around!" but Linda, estimating that we were more than two thirds of the way through the dangerous section, quickly decided to press on rationalizing that we could easily hit bottom again if we turned around and ended up on a more shallow path. We were both on high alert during the 30 minutes it took us to weave through these difficult waters.  We will never ever go this route again!  (Instead one can take the 14nm longer route around the southern tip of Monomoy Refuge.)  When the charts showed deeper depths and the seas calmed, our bodies and minds still swirled with anxiety thinking about what almost happened and not yet allowing ourselves to put our guard down.

On the other side of the rip near Monomoy Point but we will take the long way around Handkershief Shoal next time 
Chatham Roads Entering Stage Harbor for Respite
We were very happy to arrive safely in Chatham.  The harbor is absolutely lovely.
All is well again

Chatted with a dockhand in the Harbormaster office about our harrowing trip around Monomoy Point.  He replied "Yup, good rip out thar today."  Yup.

Stage Harbor:  One can take a long dinghy ride up in to Little Mill Pond and tie up a few steps away from Main Street in lovely Chatham.
End of Day 2 of our LASVA
We took Chin Chin over calm harbor water under a tiny wooden draw bridge up in to Little Mill Pond where one can tie up and enjoy a stroll in town.  It was great to see so many open shops and museums on a Sunday evening with a nice choice of restaurants.  We had a wonderful dinner at Vining's Bistro a few steps off Main Street, reminisced about our adventures of the day, and indulged in ice cream on our stroll back to the dinghy.  We discussed how we handled today's adventures - What did we do right? What did we do wrong? The key error was that as soon as the sudden 7 foot waves hit, we should have known that our depth would be precarious and decided on the much longer southerly route at that time. The positive aspects is that we did not panic, we communicated clearly (even when Linda decided against Bob's plea to turn around), and we handled the boat confidently.

A night ride on glass smooth water back to Argon was a peaceful end to a long, fantastical, memorable day.