As of this writing, it’s Tuesday, August 27, 2013. I’m anchored in Cutler, Maine, which is about 15 miles southwest of the Canadian border.
After that last post, I had a tremendous rest. Dyer Island was beautiful, and the fellow who does the puffin tours and cookouts came back out, just to visit. That was a real treat, and as things developed it worked out that Suzanne would send the new charger for the phone to Buzzy, this new friend, and then he would bring it to me, wherever I was anchored in the general vicinity.
One thing I’ve learned with all these equipment issues is that “overnight delivery” is a figure of speech, not a definition of service! My desires for receiving things quickly happen to have fallen on the weekend, which is probably part of the issue. Regardless, both the post office, and even FedEx – who charges more than twice as much – decline to carry things around on the weekend. FedEx has the poor grace to receive a package on Saturday, accept “overnight delivery” rates, and actually deliver the item late on Tuesday. I’m only mentioning this in case somebody needs this information in the future – I had no idea how these things go. The post office said that they could not guarantee delivery until after the weekend, but actually managed a Saturday arrival after receiving the package on a Friday.
As it turned out, FedEx was helping ensure that I had a nice long stay near the town of Milbridge, which was not a bad thing. Buzzy was doing another cookout at Dyer Island on Sunday, and brought another lobster! Nice visits were had, I went up the river to Milbridge for one night, and out to Trafton Island, which was also very pretty. Here is a shameless plug for Buzzy’s business, Downeast Coastal Cruises, which has a nice, detailed website: http://www.downeastcoastalcruises.com The puffins have now pretty much left for the season, but earlier in the summer they spend a lot of time in this area. I didn’t see one, but wasn’t looking in the right places. The cruises are still going out for other wildlife and lobster…
Going back to the story, nearing sunset on Tuesday the phone charger package finally made it – and it worked! That was at Trafton Island, and the next morning I was off. When I visited with my friend Bill Cheney a few weeks ago, who sails a lovely catboat without an engine, we talked about his sailing this summer, and his biggest comment was that there hadn’t been much wind this year, and that he had been doing a lot of floating around. I can second that… I’ve covered a good bit of distance, but doing that has involved a lot of very minimal wind, floating around, moving gradually with the current, and admiring the sights of particular locations – for extended periods of time!
So I made it to Great Waas Island, about 10 miles away from Trafton Island, after a full day. The breeze did come up more seriously around four o’clock, which was a great blessing. I was able to get into my all time favorite harbor – The Mud Hole – and stay a couple days. From there I made an attempt to sail to Cutler. Plan B was something to do with Machias.
By the time you get up this way, it’s almost the Bay of Fundy, and the current is a serious factor. There was a little bit of a breeze, and the current running the right way for a good long time. But a funny thing happened off of Cross Island, about 5 miles southwest of Cutler. The current had turned – just past full moon, so the current was extra substantial – and the wind was shifting between north and northwest, tending to push the boat away from the shore. I had been happily moving along about 3 miles out, with the afternoon wind blowing quite nicely after a very slow morning. After the current turned I gave up on Cutler and started thinking about one of the harbors on the other side of Cross Island. Not to happen! In fact, any way I turned, there was no progress to be made toward land. On the port tack the boat was headed straight into the current. Sailing nicely the boat was going about 3 knots through the water, which is about how fast the current was going in the opposite direction. Which meant that the boat was at a standstill, in spite of the substantial wake it was making. On the starboard tack, theoretically headed toward land, the only direction that the boat would hold was a little bit off the shore from where I had begun that morning at Great Waas. Which was about 15 miles away.
It felt like the Twilight Zone – according to ordinary sailing dynamics, a port tack that heads parallel to the shore on your left should mean that on the starboard tack (wind coming toward the boat across the starboard bow) you should be making progress toward that previously left-hand shore. Both tired and frustrated, I was also confused. Debating spending the night out and waiting for the next incoming tide, but I had just succeeded in getting rested with that almost a week around Milbridge and a couple of nights at The Mud Hole. An overnight of constant vigilance with short dozing naps was really not the right answer so soon after the last one, and night navigation in the vicinity of the Bay of Fundy is not something to be done with anything less than full attention.
On the bright side, I had a working telephone! And friends who sail without motors in challenging conditions. Miraculously, those friends were handy to their phone, so there I was getting to run through the situation with Dave and Anke, the folks who sail in Southeast Alaska. After laying it all out, there was Dave’s voice sympathetically saying “I think you’re in it.” Ah well. I had called mainly because I wasn’t sure of my analysis of the situation, thinking that maybe I was missing something, and feeling very aware of the fatigue issue and how that affects thinking.
Anke said that if it was her, she would go for the conservative approach, and go back to where I had started, even though it meant giving up so many miles, and coming in after dark. I pondered all this, and felt comforted by the conversation, even though I was still tired, and the sun was still getting lower. So we got off the phone, I looked around for another few minutes, holding position sailing into the current, and then said the heck with it and turned back the way I had come.
Eventually the ebbing tide ran itself out, and it became possible to work more toward shore. Sometime after dark I was able to make real progress toward Roque Island, which was a few miles east of where I started, though also more north. The moon was due to come up about an hour after sunset, and it felt like a harbor I could get into with that bit of light. Fortunately there was no fog! The wind died back after sunset, so it was a slow business tacking toward the island, but it was possible to make progress, and satisfying to see the various landmarks gradually move along.
As it turned out, I sailed about half the night, anchoring by the big beach at Roque Island at about 12:30 AM. But it worked out pretty well – I got to have a beautiful night sail, with lovely stars and moon, and I got to have that lovely sail knowing that I didn’t have to keep going all night long. Once anchored, it was a great sleep!
The primary lesson in this experience has to do with distance from shore. Ordinarily I like sailing a little ways out – the navigation is less complicated, it’s less stressful as far as variation in the self steering equipment, and when there’s a favorable current it often runs faster at some distance from the shore. But my crucial mistake was that I didn’t start moving closer in while the current was still favorable, so that when it turned I could duck right in to one of my Plan B harbors. So one learns! And also about the Fundy tides, which make themselves felt so strongly even this far away. It’s been just fascinating, on many levels.
Next time, I’ll talk about Cutler…