Friday, July 31, 2015

Whirlwind Week July 27-31st, 2015

Tonight (Friday) is a blue moon—a second full moon in one month.

It’s hard to say if the week really was hectic or if it was the prospect of the vacation/break that made it seem so frantic.

Monday began with fog that gradually lifted.  Mike took out a Pirate Cruise on the Ruth.  Then we brought the Cotinga into the dock. We had a family party of six for the three-hour lunch trip.  They arrived with their dog.  I have to confess to being a bit surprised by this.  As we may have discussed earlier, six people in the cockpit often seems at tad crowded.  As they were all one group, we relented and let them bring the dog.  There was no wind so we motored up to Ridley Cove and anchored for lunch.  While we were serving lunch some wind sprang up from the south.  So we set off through a narrow channel into Quahog Bay, putting up the sails and motor-sailing south. We turned to the east to return toward Sebasco when the fog rolled back over us.  It seemed that some fog was still present out over the open water and the southerly breeze carried it into our sailing area.  We returned to Sebasco without incident.
Later that evening, Mike had a sunset cruise on the Ruth.  I was getting dinner ready and realized that it was nearly 8 pm and I didn’t see the Ruth approaching the dock.  Then I spotted the launch going out rapidly toward the navigation buoys that mark the entrance to Sebasco Harbor.  In short order I saw the Ruth appear and tie up to the dock.  Strangely though, I spotted Mike coming toward Cotinga in the dinghy without having moved the Ruth off the dock.  Once he got on board, he explained that the engine of the Ruth had been making some loud squealing noises during the trip.  These sounds were loud enough to prompt Mike to look into the engine compartment (with the passengers on board).  Nothing appeared amiss to the casual inspection.  However just as they were approaching the red marker off Sebasco, the engine cut out leaving the boat drifting toward a lobster pot marker.  A radio call to Ellin had prompted her to bring the launch out in case they needed assistance.  By changing the fuel feed to the second tank, Mike was able to re-start the engine and get the boat to the dock.  He left the Ruth tied up to the dock to allow the mechanics to get started on the repair the next morning.

Luckily for the resort, Tuesday is an “all Cotinga” day.  That allowed the chaps from the “repairatorium” to sort out the engine problems. Meanwhile, we had all three Cotinga trips booked.  The lunch trip was to be a party of four—the Knuckles (who had been out before) and their friends from Florida.  However, once again, the fog rolled in as the southerly breeze got started.  So the lunch trip was cancelled.  In the afternoon we took out Parker (who is working on the dock over the summer) and his girlfriend.  At short notice Cherie (from the gift shop) showed up and came out with us.  The sky was quite threatening with dark clouds heralding a thunderstorm.  We had a brief shower followed by diminishing winds but we didn’t let that stop us.  Fortunately the storm moved off to the west and we were able to go out for a nice sunset sail with two parties—a couple and family with three-year old twins.  I kept thinking that if the couple were expecting a quiet, romantic sail, they might have been disappointed. 

Wednesday was a busy day for the Ruth. The schedule called for two trips, morning and early afternoon but a private sunset cruise had been added to the schedule.  The Cotinga afternoon sail had been moved to earlier (3:30 to 5:30) in the afternoon to allow Mike time to fit in this extra trip, starting at 6:30.  The change over time was short but do-able if everything went smoothly and to time.  However, it seemed that no one notified our sailing clients off the schedule change. The front desk was able to contact them and arrange for them to meet us on the dock at 4 pm.  Mother nature wasn’t done messing with us though.  Just as they arrived a squall hit with torrential rain and we agreed to postpone until 4:30.  We would be able to take them out for an hour and a half sail.  Just then Ellin came up to say that the dock was moving strangely possibly because one of the lines hold it may have loosened up.  She asked us to get Cotinga off the dock so that we weren’t putting more stress on the dock.  Out to the mooring we went in the downpour.  At 4:30 the squall was clearly over, Mike went to the dock on the launch to talk to our clients.  Ellin brought them all back on the launch.  We went sailing with a gentle breeze and lovely clearing skies.

Thursday morning found the repair crew back on the dock, this time trying to fix the broken bracket holding the ramp to the dock.  (If you recall this had been broken earlier in the summer when a large cruise boat had docked as part of a wedding event).  This welding was accomplished in time for the Ruth trip at 10:30.  Cotinga had a four-hour afternoon sail with six people.  One party was a family of four from San Francisco.  They were having a vacation/college tour trip (for the daughter) around New England.  The father, Todd, had suffered a stroke several years earlier and had some difficulty getting aboard the boat.  The other pair was a couple from Virginia Beach.  They had been on a business trip to Boston and decided to head up to Maine to avoid the heat wave.  Bill had worked for General Dynamics and had visited the Bath Iron Works many times, without getting time to explore the area.  So he and his wife Ruthie had decide to come to Sebasco for a few days.  The forecast called for 10 knots of breeze from the Southeast.  We decided to head for Jewel Island in Casco Bay.  Once we got to the outer islands, the winds seemed quite light and the swell was considerable.  Diana, the daughter of the family confessed to being very prone to seasickness.  This, combined with the slow speed we were making, suggested that we head to the tip of Bailey Island and then head northward along Bailey and Orr’s Islands and then back east to Sebasco.  The wind continued to build with significant gusts as we sailed along.  One strong gust caused Diana to shriek as the boat heeled over.  Rather than reef (a process that creates a certain amount of commotion in the cockpit), we chose to ease the sails and carry on.  We were back off Sebasco a tad on the early side and decided to take an excursion into West Point.  Sadly, that was directly into the wind and we chickened out of trying to tack our way there.  We motor-sailed to the entrance to West Point and then through the heavily potted area and back to Sebasco.  By the time we got to the dock the wind was really strong from the south.  That combined with a powerboat at the north end of the dock, made for a nerve-wracking landing.  However, Mike managed it well.  Our clients dis-embarked with onto the tossing dock with some difficulty.  The trip out to the mooring was also made more difficult by the gusty wind.  By the time we had the boat squared away, the wind was easing. 

We had a lovely meal in the Pilot House restaurant to celebrate our anniversary (a few days early).  After returning to the boat, no one had any ambition to start packing.  This morning it was packing, clearing the fridge and buttoning up the boat for our mini-break.  Mike and I drove to the airport in Boston for his flight to Italy. He is going to his niece’s wedding on the shores of Lake Garda.  I’m going to have a few days catching up with myself at home.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Simrad turns up Trumps

Simrad turns up Trumps …   Friday 24 June

The early part of this week was really foggy and we struggled through this entire period with no radar. On Monday we delayed the start of our lunch trip for an hour and then set out motoring in pretty dense fog to Totnam Cove, about two miles away. We dropped the anchor and after a pleasant lunch the fog finally lifted and our guest were rewarded with a nice sail in the afternoon. Tuesday morning was essentially the same, except we departed on time. With two further trips in the afternoon we didn’t have the flexibility to delay, but again the fog mostly cleared and we had a good sail. The afternoon was special because our good friend Sheila came up from Massachusetts to visit. She joined us for both the afternoon sail and the sunset cruise. The afternoon was a lively sail with a good breeze from the SW and we were able to round the southern entrance of Cape Small harbor before encountering fog. However, in the evening the fog banks were visible to the south and for the first time, we headed north up the New Meadows river for our “sunset” cruise, in the hope of avoiding being totally socked in. We usually don’t take this route because it’s where the “Ruth” trips go and we want to avoid duplication. Also it’s heavily potted and often straight into the wind to return southwards. On this trip we sailed a little, but the wind soon died so we had an atmospheric motor-sail in the mist! Once we had put Cotinga back on her mooring, Gloria and I joined Sheila for dinner in the resorts Ledges Pub, which we really enjoyed.

Wednesday morning dawned with much excitement. The wind had shifted to the NW and the weather could not have been more beautiful. We enjoyed coffee on shore with Sheila and then I took out a trip on the Ruth. Gloria and Sheila explored the area around the resort making the most of the fabulous weather, then we all ate sandwiched on the dock. Another Ruth trip in the afternoon was followed by the arrival of Gloria’s brother Rod and his wife Sue. They had come to Maine to complete the sale of the parent’s house and stopped by to visit. I was particularly excited because they had brought with them a large present, namely our repaired radar. At the end of the last blog I mentioned that we were tracking the return of our radar from Simrad. On Tuesday morning I was horrified to realize that the parcel was being delivered to our home address rather than up to Sebasco Harbor and that it was too late to re-route it. I was planning  to drive home and pick it up on Tuesday night, returning the following morning, when we heard that Rod and Sue were coming up. They stopped by our house in Sudbury and picked up the parcel from outside the garage doors and brought it up with them, saving me 6 hours of driving. Thanks Rod and Sue! Anyway we had a lovely time sitting on the boat, chatting and catching up. We lit the gas grill and cooked chicken and steak tips, which we ate with pasta, roasted garlic and basil tomato sauce, and salad. Rod and Sue departed all too soon and headed back to Rhode Island, whilst Gloria and I started to re-install the radar. My irritation that Simrad had failed to read my cover letter and sent the unit to our home address soon moderated and then disappeared altogether as I realized that what they had sent us was not the repaired equipment but a brand new radar unit, and that they had done this free of charge under warranty. Given that we installed the original system just over 3 years ago. Thanks Simrad! It only took us about 30 minutes to drop the radar pole and bolt on the new dome. Everything now seems to work perfectly.

Thursday was also a busy day with a Ruth trip in the morning, a 4-hour sailing trip in the afternoon and an additional sunset sail in the evening. All went well and in the afternoon we actually sailed out of Casco Bay and over to Seguin Island.  We have just a week to go until I take off for my niece / god-daughter wedding in Italy. When we made our plans originally we envisaged that Gloria would continue to run the “Sail Cotinga” business with Rod’s help whilst I was away. Gloria has now decided that she too will take  a break and head home for a few days of well deserved R&R.

Matt .... dock-master at SHR

Matt .... dock-master at SHR

Nina ... works on the front-desk, down at the dock fishing

Nina ... works on the front-desk, down at the dock fishing


Cotinga on the dock, looking South

The fog shows up the cobwebs on the dock

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tuna Picatta

Tuna Picatta      Sun 19 July

As I write the words “Tuna Picatta” my mind is humming “Hakuna Matata”, the music from the Lion King . Don’t you hate when you get a tune stuck in your head? Anyway, we just finished eating an excellent meal – a piece of tuna that we bought frozen from the supermarket in Bath – sautéed in EVOO and left to “rest” in the oven. Then added butter and sautéed shallots and chopped fennel, added white wine (the finest box money can buy!) and reduced, lemon, capers and finally more butter (why not), and you have a meal fit for a king … served with white rice and green beans. To add to the ambience we have fog, rain, thunder and lightning. We are happy to be nestled in our cozy cabin.

It’s been an interesting few days. Thursday and Friday were pretty busy. On Friday we took out 11 guests on two 2-hour sails, as well as running a “Ruth” cruise in the morning. However, Saturday, which is usually a very full day of “Ruth” trips, was a total bust due to poor weather. We awoke to fog and showers, then strong southerly winds in the afternoon with a small craft advisory. We cancelled the whole day and Gloria and I took a ride to Portland to see if her sewing machine could be repaired. No joy on the repair. The man in the shop said that it smelled like the board had burned out and he knew that there are no longer replacement parts available. So he said in all honesty that he didn’t want to take our money on false pretenses and so we used the money we would have spent on repairs buying another second hand machine. We have been concerned that running a sewing machine off a “modified sign wave” inverter, which generates a fair approximation of 120V alternating current from our 12V DC batteries, was the cause of the problem. But we now suspect this a red-herring and we just got unlucky with the old machine. The “new” one seems to work just fine.

Today the weather was foggy to start with, but we ran one “Ruth” trip in the late morning and also a two-hour sail on “Cotinga” in the afternoon. In both cases the customers only signed up at the last minute and Matt, the dock master had to drive over in the launch to let us know both were happening! In the afternoon, we were literally about to jump in the dinghy and go do our grocery shopping when Matt appeared. We scrambled to get things ready and were on teh dock in 10 minutes! The afternoon trip turned out to be part sail and part motor-sail as we did our best in fluky winds and patches of dense fog. We did see some porpoises, which was nice, and I actually think our guests really enjoyed themselves!

One of the great things about this life is meeting the customers. We’ve had a few strange coincidences – guests from Concord Acton squash club (where I play), a former high school teacher from Lincoln Sudbury High School (where Tash went to school), people who live in sight of Framingham State University (where we work during the academic year) and people from Cheshire who knew former colleagues of ours at AstraZeneca in Alderley Park. But the most amazing coincidence happened on Thursday. We had two bookings - a family of three from Atlanta and, quiet separately, a man from London. As the conversation progressed the guy from London talked about a very close friend in Atlanta who has a son, who is his god-son, as well as a younger daughter called Ruth. It turned out that the family from Atlanta not only knew these people, but the daughter was best friends with Ruth. They were understandably very excited and had photos taken together so they could convince their mutual friend.

On the boating front I want to mention that docking was perhaps our biggest source of anxiety prior to starting the season, not least because of Gloria’s accident last year. We were thinking about it this afternoon and we reckon we have now been on and off the dock with “Cotinga” more than 50 times this season and I have also done close to 100 dockings with the “Ruth”. I can’t say they are all pretty, but on the whole they seem to go pretty well and I feel my skills are improving. I think it will be  agreat thing in the future not to be so worried about docking and to feel that we have learned some tricks that we can apply in different circumstances.

p.s. our radar unit is in-transit from Simrad – hopefully repaired. It’s being shipped Fedex from New Hampshire, over ground via Memphis, Tennessee. I kid you not!


Sebasco Dock ... the Ruth on her mooring (close to the dock - on left of photo) with Cotinga visible in the background (Red sail cover)

Sunday morning - pea-soup fog

Sunday morning - pea-soup fog

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Seen and Unseen

Seen and Unseen  ...   15th July 2015

Some strange things have been seen around Sebasco Harbor Resort.  We had many people tell us that they saw several deer swim across the harbor to Harbor Island.  I didn’t even know that deer would swim.  It makes me wonder what is so attractive on Harbor Island to make it worth swimming all that way.  Another sighting that was reported to me was a mink near the dock.  I admit to being doubtful but the other day I saw it for myself.  It was weasel like in size and shape but a dark brown.

Then today coming back from the post office, I saw a guy on a bicycle being towed along (or so it appeared) by two dogs that were leashed to the handlebar post.  They did appear to be huskies.  I found myself thinking that it was off-season training for sled dogs.  I wonder if they are much help getting up the hills.

The story of the last two days has really been that which was unseen.  We woke on Tuesday to a foggy morning.  Mike was slated to take the Ruth down to West Point for re-fuelling.  By the time they set off West Point had vanished in a fog bank.  We had a booking for our lunch trip but by 11:30 the visibility was so poor in the harbor that we decided to delay.  By 1:00 pm the sun was out and the fog seemed to have burned off.  We phone our passengers and took the boat into the dock to collect them.  Shortly after getting the sails up, the fog rolled in again.  Luckily we were able to see the pots ahead but not able to see any land.  The wind also went very light prompting us to put the engine on.  We worked our way westward and dropped the hook in Lowell Cove.  Suddenly the sun emerged and the fog dissipated.  We had a relaxing lunch and a lively sail back. 

By the time of the sunset sail, the fog was threatening again.  The south-east wind was fairly strong and gusty.  We were able to sail due south and peak around the end of Cape Small (Bald Head Point) to have a look at Fuller Rock and Sequin Island (mostly shrouded in fog).  Our sail back through Small Point Harbor brought us close to Gooseberry and Hermit Islands.  The wind gradually diminished and we ghosted back to Sebasco Harbor.

This morning, more fog caused the cancellation of the early Scenic Cruise on the Ruth.  What would be the point of going out on a scenic tour in thick fog?  The afternoon tour started off with a squall and some rain.  By afternoon the weather gods seemed to relent.  We had our dinner (lobster scampi) in the cockpit while watching the sun drop down.      

Moth and spider-web photos taken on the foggy dock

Lunar moth

Close up - lunar moth wing

Pink moth

White moth

Spider web