23 September, 2014
15th of September, and we’ll leave Maine today, bound for Portsmouth, NH. Should be about a 5 hour run, under windless sunny skies, 50 degrees, over calm seas. On the way, we contact Paul and Cheryl, “Just a Splash” who live on an inland lake an hour from Portsmouth. No surprise to Paul, he’s been tracking our AIS on the interweb, and he knows that we’re coming. He and Cheryl will come in to town, and meet us for dinner. On our way in, we pass the old military prison, which was housed in a beautiful, huge early 1900’s building, and the naval yard, which is currently refitting one of our attack subs (out of sight). As we skirt the cordoned off area, we are greeted by a couple of heavily-armed inflatable boats which keep their distance, but want us to know they’re there. After getting tied up, we hang around for “My Dream” to arrive a half hour later. When T & S are safely tied up, we all agree that the rock and rolley dock situation should be no worse than Portlands’. Up at the visitors’ center at the Historical Society office, we catch a video highlighting the history of Portsmouth, and make arrangements for a private walking tour of the historical sites in town for the following morning. Paul and Cheryl arrive, and have figured that they’ll take us to reprovision. After doing my research, have discovered that N.H. has about the lowest liquor taxes in the country. A shopping cart later, we’re set for the next 6 months of “five to sevens”. Great dinner and conversation with P & C, with the girls trading info on wedding planning (their daughter will be married this October). Next morning, we meet our guide, Sandy, who takes us on a stroll through historic Portsmouth. After our tour, we visit the “John Paul Jones” House & Museum, and the Moffatt-Ladd House, both beautifully restored, mid 1700’s buildings. The JPJ house features an exhibit exploring the causes and course of the Russo-Japanese War, as well as the Peace Treaty which was negotiated and signed in Portsmouth in 1905. This was a Big Deal, resulting in Roosevelt receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts-who knew? Not me (science major). Wednesday, the 17th, and it’s time to bid Portsmouth a fond “Adios”. We would like to leave at slack water, but the tide is not cooperating with our schedule, so we’ll buck a little current on our way out of the Piscataqua River. Ted and Sue leave before us, as they are heading all the way to Boston today, to avoid the high seas predicted for the following few days. We want to see Gloucester and Salem before Beantown, and we’ll just hunker down if the weather turns ugly. 55 minutes out of port, and the “Low oil level” alarm for the hydraulic system starts howling. Suzanne immediately shuts down the engine, and I’m in the engine room. Sure enough, the reservoir for hydraulic oil is only a third full-not good. No troubles visible here, so I move to the next most probable place for trouble, the forward machinery space under our stateroom, which houses the units for the bow thruster and anchor windlass. #@%&!!!. The bilge is full of oil. Hoses all intact, fittings good. Where’s it coming from? Finally find a thin stream of oil exiting the side of a pressure gauge above the bow thruster solenoid. Good news is I have a plug in my spare parts. Gauge out, plug in, refill ½ gallon of oil from my 5 gallon pail, and we’re back underway in 40 minutes. I’m just thankful that the seas are fairly calm, as for the next hour or so; I’m in the bilge, sucking out hydraulic oil with a turkey baster, putting it in an old oil jug. I’m pretty sure that the automatic bilge pump didn’t come on before the alarm, so no oil overboard. The rest of the run sees several pods of dolphins, many seabirds, and the ubiquitous lobster pots. Pick up a mooring ball in the Gloucester harbor, and we’re good to go. –About mooring balls: They are floats attached to heavy anchors on the bottom by stout line or chain. You tie your boat to one in lieu of anchoring. Many harbors are so clogged with moorings that there is virtually no room for you to put an anchor down anyway, so it’s pays a nominal fee to the owner of the mooring and tie up. Moorings are cheaper than staying at a dock, as there are no amenities such as power and water, and you need a dinghy to get to shore. Since The Girl is pretty much self-sufficient in the electrical and water category, and docking is running from $4-$5/foot + electricity in these parts, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do the math. $40/night vs. $260/night. No contest. Anyway, back to Gloucester. Established in the early 1600’s, this harbor town is synonymous with American fishing. It was the setting for the book, “The Perfect Storm”, made into a movie of the same name in the year 2000. Although this port remains an important haven for the fishing fleet, it also caters to the recreational boater. While in town, we visit the Fisherman’s memorial, and the Cape Ann Museum (well worth the trip, highlighting the Gloucester fishing industry). I have to tell you a story about a fisherman named Howard Blackburn. He was on a dory, fishing from a schooner on the Grand Banks in the early 1800’s. He and his dory-mate were separated from the schooner in the fog and became lost. It was winter, and Howard figured that the only way he was going to get out of this was to row to Newfoundland. As it was very cold, he figured that he would eventually lose control of his hands, so he tied them to the oars. He did make it to Newfoundland, but his buddy died of exposure on the way. Howard lost all of his fingers and a few toes, but made it. Later in life, he became the first man to sail singlehanded with the no fingers from New England to Europe in a Gloucester sailing sloop. He continued his seafaring life as the master of a schooner that rounded the Horn, bound for the west coast during the Gold Rush. That endeavor was a failure, and he lost his ship. Upon returning to Gloucester, the townspeople got together and bought him a tavern, the “Halibut Point”, which is still in operation today. We had to stop in for a sip. On the way home, the outboard is running funny; think there might be water in the gas. Next morning, I pull the fuel filter, and sure enough, there’s water and varnish in the bowl (probably from sitting over the winter-Oops). We limp over to Brown’s marina, and they’re kind enough to take our old gas (for a fee higher than we pay for new gas) after I purge the fuel lines, and reclean the filter. Buy new plugs and back to Alizann, still not running great, but I figure the new plugs will do the job. Back on The Girl, we haul up the dinghy. Wind has shifted, and we’re getting the distinct aroma of fried food from the fish processing plant on the harbor. Suzanne’s imagining millions of fish sticks, rolling off the conveyors into boxes labelled with the Gloucester fisherman, replete with his Sou’wester on his head. Too funny. It’s a sunny, short run to Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the infamous “witch trials”. When we arrive, it is first things first, so I gap and install the new spark plugs in the outboard. The marina is a little ways from town, and our walk in takes us past many homes with plaques indicating dates from the late 1600’s on. We figure they didn’t have a devastating fire here, like so many of the ports we have visited. Passing the “House of Seven Gables” of Nathaniel Hawthorne fame, we figure we’ll hit it on the way home. Right now, we’re interested in some history lessons on the witch trials. Frankly, I’m pretty disappointed. Although there is a witch trial museum, pirate museum, Salem dungeon, witchcraft museum, and etc., they’re all pretty hokey and commercial. Tarot card readers and psychics abound-you get the picture. Serendipitously, we find out about a movie at the National Parks Service that gives us what we need. A little more history to fill in the educational blanks. We just can't fathom how a community could put six of their neighbors to death on the testimony of a couple of teenage girls. On the way home, a stop at the Farmers Market is in order for veggies, and that pot of Chrysanthemums that I’ve secretly desired. The outboard is runnin’ better, but still not tiptop. Maybe it just needs to run a little more new gas through.
September 19th, and we’re off the mooring at 0830. It’s sunny and 40 degrees with a 20 knot breeze, and we’re excited to be on our way to Boston. We pick up a mooring ball in the inner harbor, which is smack in the middle of downtown. After this morning’s short run, we’ve got all afternoon to explore. But first, we've got to figure out what the heck that rattling noise under the boat is. Did we pick up a lobster pot buoy? Is it the chain for the mooring ball rattling across the bottom? It's really random, and not continuous. Wait, there it is again...cccCCCclackclackclackCLACKCLACKCLACKclackclackclackCCCccc...Suz says it sounds like a train-AHA! Bet it's the subway (remember the "Big Dig"?) going under the harbor to Logan Airport! Later, we found out that was exactly what the noise was-we got used to it, but pretty strange. Ted and Sue saw us coming on their AIS, so we’re meeting them for dinner. It’s always good to get an overview when in a new city, so we get tickets for the hop on, hop off trolley which stops at the main tourista venues. Three stops in, and we’re at the USS Constitution. The trolley can wait (our tickets are good for 2 days), as “Old Ironsides” is calling us hard. She got her nickname in her first battle with a British frigate, the Guerriere. It’s said that the Guerriere’s cannon balls (shot from long distance), were seen to hit the sides of the Constitution and fall harmlessly into the sea. A crewman, seeing this shouted “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” The moniker stuck, and to this day she is affectionately called “Old Ironsides”. O.I. has never been defeated in battle. She’s the oldest commissioned ship still afloat in the US navy, and is crewed by active duty sailors. Therein lies the rub. Since she is an active naval vessel, picture I.D., and airport-type screening is required prior to boarding. The Admiral carries no I.D.. Oh well, the Cassin Young, a Fletcher class destroyer is berthed here at the naval yard, and since she has been long decommissioned, her tours are run by the Park Service-no I.D. required. We’ll come back for the Constitution tomorrow. After the ship, we’re back on the trolley which passes M.I.T., Harvard, Fenway Park, Boston Garden, Museum of Fine Arts, the mother church of the Scientologist religion, Bunker Hill, North Church, the Granary cemetery, and many other landmarks. Meet up with T & S, and dinner in the North End (Little Italy).
First full day in Beantown, and we’ve got a plan. Bunker Hill Monument and Museum at the opening bell, then back to the Constitution for a guided tour. Then, we’ll head back to Fanueil Hall, where those revolutionary rowdies often met, to catch a free walking tour, conducted by the National Park service, to visit Paul Revere’s house, the North Church, Rose Kennedy’s birthplace, and other stops on The Freedom Trail. In the middle of the day, The Admiral needs to return to the boat to do some wedding planning for our daughter, Alison. In the early evening, a visit to some Italian markets on the North End has us provisioned with meats, cheeses, and bread. After a full day (and productive- Suzanne got a wedding planner hired), we’re back on the boat for a light supper. Ding, ding. Text from Ted and Sue. Do we want to meet for dinner? Sure. Back on the tender and dinner at the oldest, continuously operated pub in America for food. It’s cold as Bejesus (I think that’s pretty cold), so we tow the gang back to their boat, and go home to snuggle in.
Sunday morning, Ted and Sue are leaving, and we’ll hit another National Park Service tour, ‘cause the one yesterday was awesome. Unfortunately, when we get to shore, we find that the schedule is different today than yesterday, and it left twenty minutes ago. No worries, we’ll walk Boston Commons, and the garden, then head out to the Museum of Fine Arts, as it’s supposed to rain this afternoon. Along the way, we stop by the Granary cemetery, where John Hancock, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and other notable revolutionaries are buried. There’s a bar across the street, where it’s said that you can enjoy a cold Sam Adams, while overlooking a cold Sam Adams (groan, I had to say it). There’s a car show on the Commons. In addition to some pristine oldies, there are some current models of high tech metal including Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Lamborghini, and etc. The museum turns out to be a pretty ambitious walk, so we hail a cab. MFA has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo, and an incredible collection of Jamie Wyeth works including portraits of the Kennedy brothers, Andy Warhol, and Nureyev. We had planned on a couple of hours, but end up staying until closing time, still hungry for more. Even though the food in Boston has been awesome, we’re too whacked to eat out, and head back out to The Girl for a simple meal of olive antipasto, salami, prosciutto, cheese and redpop.
Pretty sad to be leaving Boston, we could stay here for a few more days, but the weather will start pushing us soon, and there’s a lot more to see. I’m sure that we’ll stop on our way back to the Maritimes next Spring (yeah, we decided to come back, and catch Newfoundland and Labrador next Summer a few weeks ago). We’ll overnight in Scituate, Mass, which doesn’t have a lot of historical stuff to offer, but will cut our trip to the Cape Cod canal into manageable chunks. Sunny, clear, and the seas are small, in spite of the 20-25 knot winds. Lobster pot dodging occupies your intrepid crew, but otherwise, the trip is unremarkable (boy, have we gotten jaded). Scituate is pretty cool. We take a stroll along the harbor walk, and support the local economy at the grocery store. There’s a music store here, and it’s jammed with about a million used guitars and drum kits, to say nothing of the stacks of old vinyl and CD’s. The place looks like Fibber Magee’s closet-barely room to walk, and I’m talkin’ about 3,000 square feet of this. The poster hanging from the ceiling over the cash register is advertising the lineup from this Summer’s free concert. Heritage Festival Days is a four-day gig every August, and this years’ lineup included Dickey Betts, Dave Mason, Leon Russell, and many others you’d recognize. They just close the streets, and let it roll-all for free (man, I love this country). The owner of the shop looks like he just stepped off the Grateful Dead’s road crew, but when I ask him if he has a copy of Eric Clapton’s, J.J. Cale tribute album (Mark, my good friend in Grand Rapids, turned me on to this), he says “yeah, it should be in this box”. Whereupon, he grabs a razor knife, and opens a box, presumably fresh from UPS, pulls out some harmonica’s, disc cleaners, assorted wires and such, and ultimately, the aforementioned disc. A quick stop at the beer garden to have a sip in the sun overlooking the harbor, and it’s back to the boat, where it’s blowing a steady 25, with gusts to 30. The wind-powered generators are singin’, and as my friend Jeff Parker says “we’re makin’ money”, putting amps back into the batteries.
23 September, and man, is it cold! I be sleepin’ in today, as we have to hit the Cape Cod Canal on the ebb tide to get a favorable (4 knot) current on our way through. 0714, and its 40 degrees out. Since we watched “da Bears” and Jets play last night the battery banks are down a bit and I have to start the generator to pump them up quick. Bonus for the Admiral, as I can flip on the reverse cycle heat and warm the joint up fast before she gets up. She happy. Admiral happy, me happy. My favorite breakfast, smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese, fresh pineapple, peaches, and blueberries, with a side of cukes, cherry tomatoes, and Italian salami. We’re off by 0830, and it’s a sunny, but chilly ride to New Bedford, Mass. En route, we hit the Cape Cod Canal right on the ebb (better to be lucky than good) and get a 4 knot push through the 10 mile trench. On the west end, The Girl gets spit out like a watermelon seed. Buzzard’s Bay is a sailor’s paradise, but for the first time in a month, NO LOBSTER POTS OR NET BUOYS! Yay! For the first time, I can actually do something other than stare out the pilothouse looking for stuff to not run over. New Bedford harbor has a huge stone wall separating it from the sea, with a gate in it, much like a lock. This can be closed in a hurricane to control the storm surge. Once we’re in, we can see why. Suz says that there are more fishing boats here than in any other port that we have visited this summer (oh yeah, Summer was over last night). The hurricane barrier protects the harbor from the storm surge (higher tides) associated with hurricanes, which is the real killer of property and boats as opposed to high winds. On the mooring ball, then the galley slave (Yours Truly) goes to work, chopping veggies for tonight’s pressure cooker stew, as prepared by our famous chef (and Admiral). Really feels like we should have stew-trees are starting to change, and the air just feels like Fall (you know what I’m talkin’ about). Tomorrow is the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and whatever else we can find.