Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Reality of Running “Sail Cotinga”

The Reality of Running “Sail Cotinga” … Sunday – Monday June 28 – 29

When we were planning this charter sailing business I don’t think we envisaged that the weather would ever be bad. What planet were we on! Sunday was one of the foulest days that we have spent on board – it poured with rain and blew at 25+ kts. The one good thing was the wind was out of the NE so there was very little swell in the harbor during the day. We took a couple of trips to shore, in the morning to shower and in the afternoon to eat dinner at Anna’s Restaurant. Both trips required us to put on full waterproof gear and we wore life jackets for the dinghy ride to the dock.

Then Monday morning dawned with fine weather and it seemed like a different world. With no sailing trips of any sort on Sunday there seemed to be pent up demand, so we were really busy. There was a “Pirate trip” on the Ruth at 9 am, followed by a lunch trip on Cotinga and then an afternoon sail on Cotinga, and we finished up with a sunset trip on the Ruth. Apart from an hour break in the afternoon, I was working from 8 am to 9pm! The lunch trip was great. We were joined by a  couple from Annapolis and Michelle Lamb (a friend and former colleague from AZ) and her son Malcolm. We had a blistering sail (7kts+ most of the way) across the bay and anchored near the cut between Orrs Island and Bailey Island. Our guests ate soup, sandwiches and rhubarb/strawberry crisp for lunch. Then we headed back eastwards planning to take a more southerly route. However, the wind had piped up some more and there were unpleasant swells rolling in from the south and breaking in shallow areas, so we quickly decided to head closer to land and somewhat more protected waters. We arrived back just in time to pick up our second set of guests (6 people), which included Michaela, the daughter of the resorts managing partner and a friend of hers. This didn’t go quite so well as one of the other guests became sick within 30 minutes. We altered course and took a scenic motor sail in the sheltered flat waters of Quahog Bay. Michaela did post a couple of photos and a nice review and the resorts facebook page.

We sail in the same area every time, but I can honestly say that each trip seems different. The wind, waves, sunshine, wildlife and route all vary and contribute to a different experience. Overall I would say things are going pretty well … so far.

A lovely sunset from our boat - earlier last week

A panorama of Round Pond, a ten minute walk from Sebasco Resort dock ... note the dead calm conditions

Looking out from the back of our boat during the storm on Sunday

The same view on Monday morning

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Feast or Famine--27th June 2015

You might think that we have been insanely busy with charters and hence have been neglecting the blog.  In fact the days have been a strange mix of really busy and pretty dead.  Feast or famine as Mike suggested.

Wednesday in the late afternoon, we went out with a couple from England who had traveled to the US for the first time ever.  On Thursday afternoon we had initially scheduled a longer sail but revised that to a set of three 2-hour trips.  We didn’t get anyone who wanted to go out.  Friday was another picture altogether.  Mike had two morning trips on the Ruth.  We knew we had a party of six for out 3:30 sail as they had booked well in advance.  We took them out in decent winds for a nice sail toward the south-west (taking advantage of the rare easterly wind).  These people were a subset of a family gathering of 17 people.  They had come to Sebasco to celebrate the patriarch’s 75th birthday.  Later that evening we took a party of five out for a sunset sail.  By 9pm when we had the boat back on the mooring, we were pretty tuckered out.

Today, Mike had three trips on the “Ruth”, including the first pirate cruise of the season. The resort seems to find an employee willing to dress up as The Pirate.  His costume consists of a tri-corner hat, red jacket, eye patch (naturally) and funny trousers.  I’m not quite sure what story he tells the kids but he has a “map” that’s one clue to finding the treasure.  The children use the map to figure out that the next clue is on a buoy in the harbor.  From this buoy they get another map with the location of the treasure.  This leads them to the island (Harbor Island) across from the resort.  I hear the treasure is in an old chest and they scatter some plastic bones along the path to the chest.  I didn’t hear too much about the trip from Mike other than is was “chaos”.  

Today’s one trip for Cotinga wasn’t booked.  We went into Bath to do grocery shopping while we could.  Tomorrow some horrible weather is headed our way.  The winds are forecast to be about 25 knots gusting to 30.  The seas are predicted to be 9 feet.  It’s time to batten down the hatches and say our prayers. (Maybe we should take some sea-sickness medication as well.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A sunny Day

A sunny Day ...   Wednesday 24 June 2015

Today it was sunny and warm ... yippee! I had a fun trip on the "Ruth" in the morning. There were 13 people on the tour, including three young guys who work at Sebasco armed with smart phones and a selfie stick. They just couldn't get enough photos of themselves ... particularly standing next to their Captain! Then there were two young boys (~9 and ~7 years old) who were very keen to steer the boat. That worked out great - it's really not hard - you just turn the wheel to the left then to the right, constantly because the boat won't go in a straight line very easily. Lets just say the steering isn't very responsive!
Later Gloria and I made a quick trip to Bath to fill one of our propane tanks and to try and get some sewing supplies. We managed to get a seem ripper but failed to get a cutting board as the shop didn't have the right size (hopefully next week). At $1.79 that's what I call a good trip to a quilting store!
Whilst out, we got the call from the front desk to say we had people signed up for a late afternoon cruise on Cotinga. It turned out to be a couple from Harrogate, England visiting the USA for the first time. We also took Nina, a lovely young lady who works on the front desk and has been a great help to us. Winds were light but we had a very pleasant sail. Our guests asked if we could get closer to land to try and see wild life, so we did some nifty sailing, including a couple of gybes, and cruised right up the side of a long rocky ledge, just a couple of hundred feet off the rocks but with plenty of deep water. We saw lots of birds, mostly nesting cormorants, eider ducks and turns.However, shortly after that we saw two bald eagles, one flying and one perched in a tree. We also got a brief glimpse of a dolphin. About 15 minutes form teh end of the trip the wind finally died and so we motored back through the very picturesque harbor of West Point. A great trip.
Back on Cotinga, we were about to cook dinner when Gloria noticed the beautiful reflection of the sunset in our compass cover. Out came the camera! After a yummy dinner of ham, eggs and beans we settled down to watch series 3 of Homeland from Netflix. I tell you - it's all mod cons on this boat!

A beautiful sunset reflected in our compass cover - shot from the companionway you can see the mast, boom and dodger silhouetted against the setting sun

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The benefits of a workshop—23 June 2015

I never really thought of my sewing room in terms of a workshop.  Monday afternoon when Mike went out for a sunset cruise on the Ruth, I decided to get out that sewing machine.  After the previous experience, I did have some trepidation...

Once the machine was all set up and plugged in (but not turned on), I pulled out the squares that I had worked on previously.  I realized that the edge I needed to sew along wasn’t very straight so I thought I’d best straighten the edges before starting to sew.  Then came the search for a ruler. Nearly everything had to come out of the chart table before a straight edge tool for chart plotting came to hand.  The next item I needed was a marking pencil.  That required a full rummage through the box of sewing items that I brought on board.  You start to get a picture—the boat is definitely not the “room of requirements”.   In my “workshop” at home the cutting mat and rulers are to hand on the large, flat sewing table.  The rotary cutter is right there with the mat and marking pencils. The machine is set up and ready to go at a moments notice.  The iron and ironing board are two steps from the machine.  Sewing on the boat is a different sort of experience. 

Having said all, that the forecast for today is more rain and thunderstorms (aren’t we lucky), so I plan on more sewing. If I can make a bit more progress, I’ll get Mike to take a picture of what I’m working on.  It’s more traditional but interesting.

Well, the forecast certainly delivered the promised thunderstorms and heavy rain.  In fact after a nicer interlude in the late afternoon we are starting to hear thunder again.  It might be a wet night.


Postscript: I had a great time taking photos on Tuesday morning. First a trip to the dock at Anna's restaurant, just about a mile north of here. It gave me an opportunity to to shoot more panoramas and to take a couple of portraits of fishermen that I met on teh dock. (I think I'm going to try and build  collection of panoramic shots while we are up here.) Then I went over to Fort Popham on the Kennebec River. We visited here last year, but this time I remembered to take my tripod. There are some great shots to be had in the gloom of the archways - but you really need the tripod. I played around taking some abstract shots using long exposure - part stationary and part zooming the lens in and out. All of this whilst it bucketing down rain, thunder and lightning and blowing a gale. It was dry inside the fort and pretty much all over by the time I got back to Sebasco Harbor!

The dock next to Anna's restaurant - Sebasco village

View northwards from the dock at Anna's restaurant - we cruise down this channel on the "Ruth" scenic tours

Robbie - a local fisherman

Robbin - a local fisherman

Stacked pots on the dock

Floats - easier to spot than the painted Clorox bottles!

Kennebec River from Popham Fort just after the worst of the storm had passed

Popham Fort

Popham Fort with visitors

Popham Fort abstract 

Popham Fort abstract

Sunday, June 21, 2015

“Maine, the last Hurrah!”

“Maine, the last Hurrah!” ….   20/21 June 2015

It was more than two months ago that Laurie Corron contacted us to enquire about sailing charters for this weekend as part of a celebration she was planning. Of course we said we’d be delighted to help, but at that time we had no idea about the extent to which Laurie would include us in their party. The story goes like this…. Laurie’s great grandfather was one of the original founders of Sebasco Harbor Resort. At some point the family sold the business and bought land and a cottage overlooking the ocean just around the corner from the resort. As time passed, the property transferred from one generation to the next until it was owned jointly by Laurie and a few close relatives. Whilst wonderful in many ways, managing the property as a group has proved challenging and so Laurie decided to sell out her share and host a party “Maine, the last Hurrah!” to celebrate all the wonderful time they had spent there.

On Friday evening we were invited for cocktails and dinner and had a great time seeing the cottage and meeting friends and family. I use the term “cottage” with some trepidation. Over the years there have been many extensions and the house now boasts five bedrooms and three bathrooms. There is a deck on the back that overlooks Casco Bay and the ocean, as well as a board-walk that leads down to a dock. I have never seen a more beautiful setting anywhere. One aspect I haven’t mentioned is that Laurie and her husband Roger come from Acton, MA, the town next to Sudbury where we live, and we already knew a few of her friends through the Concord Acton squash club. In fact we had by complete chance met Laurie once before. She won a prize in a raffle at the Sudbury Art Association – Art Around Town event last year and called round to our house to pick it up.

Saturday arrived with almost perfect weather – clear skies and light winds from the southeast. We got up really early (5.45 am) and had Cotinga on the dock by 7.15am. Our scheduled charters were not due to start until 10 am and 1 pm, but I also had two trips on the Ruth to run at 8 am and 4 pm – so it was a really busy day! Our sailing cruises both worked out fine. We had 5 people on the first and 6 on the second. We had worried about whether it would be too crowded with this many people in the cockpit, but we cleared the aft deck and put out a couple of camping chairs that increase the seating available and this worked out really well. I should say, they are extremely comfortable, a great location and we’ll be keeping them on board in the future! On both trips we sailed similar routes, westwards across the Bay and back, but we got further in the afternoon because the wind was stronger. I think that everyone enjoyed themselves.

In the evening we were invited to a clambake and dance at one of the function rooms at Sebasco Harbor. We had a tremendous feast – lobster, clams, Andouille sausage, salad , potatoes, coleslaw, clam chowder and blueberry pie. After dinner there was line-dancing with live music provided by three members of the party. It was a lot of fun and tremendous to see Gloria dancing when just a year ago she was just out of hospital after her fracture-surgery and no weight bearing for ten weeks. The whole event was a great experience and we returned to Cotinga just before 10 pm, tired but happy.


Photos from our morning sail ... 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Catching up June 17 -19, 2015

Wednesday morning was sunny and breezy.  We had an early start for a charter at 9:00 am.
Despite the northerly winds, the docking went well.  We met Gene and Joann on the dock, they live near Worcester and were at Sebasco for a vacation.  We had a fast sail out to Orr’s Island, tacked around and came back on a more southerly route.  We threaded our way through the gap between Blacksnake ledge and Ragged Island and carried on in a southeasterly direction until we could turn north toward Sebasco without crossing any ledges. (Overall we took a very similar route to the shown in the blog for Sunday June 14th).  The big difference was that with northerly winds we were now tacking to windward with Gene at the wheel.  The whole sail went well and the docking maneuvers also went smoothly.

In the late afternoon, Mike was slated to take the Ruth out with a private charter group.  This left us with a large chunk of time in the middle of the day—just perfect for doing laundry.  We went to shore with the dirty washing and our showering kit.  After showering in the gym building we started the laundry and read our books while waiting.  We were back on Cotinga with clean laundry by about 2 pm.

Mike took out his charter group (a company outing type of thing).  They brought along a cooler full of drinks!  That was quite a different thing from the standard Scenic Tour on the Ruth. 
Everything went well but our early start and full day left us pretty tired.


Mike had a morning trip on the Ruth.  I went to shore to help with the lines when he brought the boat into the dock.  That trip went smoothly. Over the course of the day the wind continued to build.  By afternoon the forecast was predicting 18 knots of wind from the south-southeast with gusts to 25. 
As luck would have it we had a sunset sail booked for 6 pm!  We tried all afternoon to get in touch with our clients but cell phone coverage is not terrific here and we never reached them.  Mike and I were thinking that we should just cancel or rearrange for Friday evening.  However when Mike met the clients on the dock, they had other ideas!  So under these windy conditions, with no one to catch our lines, we brought the boat into the dock.  We set off happily, thinking the docking was likely to be the worst of it.  Once we put up the mainsail we took in a reef.  Our plan was to sail with the reefed main only.  However, after a while it seemed that we weren’t making good progress.  We looked up at the sail and noticed that the reefing line had come untied.  This was lending an absolutely hideous shape to the mainsail.  We partially unfurled the genoa and tried to sail on that while Mike wrestled with the main to take in the second reef. We carried on as best we could but true sailors might have been horrified.  Part way back, Bill (the client) started to feel a bit seasick as a result of the swell.  Thankfully we managed to re-gain the harbor without further problems.  The docking went quite well considering how poor the conditions were.

Of course the mooring pick-up was also fraught with difficulties....We passed another bumpy night.

Friday was supposed to be a free day.  We started out with showers on land and then decided to bring the boat into the dock to pump out the holding tank.  First we had to find the maintenance chap who opened the dock house for us.  Then a lot of fooling around with switches allowed up to power up the pumping apparatus.  The docking went well and we were soon tied up on the unusual starboard side (needed to get the hose to the waste pipe).  After more fooling around we found the correct sized hose end and were ready to get started.  Mike was going to work the hose end on the boat.  My job was to turn the pump-out station on.  We got started.  After a short while I heard a noise and notice some liquid bubbling out of the hose that takes the waste to the storage tank.  Exercising caution, I moved to the other side of the dock.  Over the next few minutes this bubbling turned into a veritable shower all over the dock and one kayak that was tied up nearby.  We shut the system down and tried to duct tape the hose.  We manage to finish up pump out without further showering of the dock.  Liberal application of the hose removed the mess from the dock.  We even rinsed out the kayak and turned it over to drain.  

Once order was restored, a lady appeared asking if Mike was the captain of the Ruth.  She said that a private group wanted to go out in the afternoon but she had been unable to get in touch with the dock master.  We agreed to do the trip, with me acting as crew on the Ruth.  Our “free day” was suddenly looking a bit busy.  The trip went smoothly and we returned to Cotinga to sort out the reefing lines and get ready for the party.

A few months back a lady from Massachusetts had asked us to run some charters for a group of her friends who would be coming up to Maine for a celebratory weekend.  We agreed to do these charters and were thus invited to the party this evening.  This woman has a connection to the Sebasco Harbor resort and owns a part share in a cottage on the waterfront nearby.  For a number of reasons she is selling her share in the cottage and is throwing a big “end of an era” party.  It’s a lovely cottage in a stunning location.  We met some of the people who will be coming out with us tomorrow.