Today I came up the Danvers River, after a nice sail from Great Misery Island. Great Misery Island did involve a tad bit of misery, but that was counterbalanced by a lot of beauty, and for the last night some solitude. That last bit of solitude would be because the local people were sensible, and foresaw the tremendous amount of rolling that was going to go on in there for the night! A combination of the “pool table effect” and basic wave wrapping, I think, brought on by the strong easterly wind going on out to sea. And then for quite a while the wind in the cove was light enough that the boat did not stretch out away from the mooring ball, so the waves could really smack the two of them together. Sheesh!
So I left in the morning while it was a bit foggy but generally quite lovely to be out. Big wind was forecast for the afternoon – gale warning for Massachusetts Bay – so my plan was to get over to Beverly Harbor (about 3 miles away) well before that started. That worked out fine, and I was anchored in a cove inside the harbor by about 10:30. As it turned out, those east swells were working their way into the harbor just fine, even though the wind had gone more to the south. So in the end, instead of staying for another extremely rolly night, I got to use that nice breeze to come up the river.
This involved two more drawbridges, which went reasonably well, except that the second one said that the sails had to come down. I had had such a nice time sailing through the first bridge, downwind, with the current! But otherwise it was fine, and I came all the way up to the yacht club marina that is opposite the ramp that we are going to use on Saturday. The marina folks are going to help with the masts on Friday, and were quite wonderful about letting me come in today to stay in a slip for the week. I’m ready for a rest, and this will make it easy for a bit more visiting between now and Saturday.
So that’s it! There is so much more to write about this trip, and I am hoping to do that after going home. The yuloh post is written, but waiting for a couple of photos. And a post about provisioning that we did for this trip is in progress.
I am quite blown away by how many people are reading this blog lately, and from such faraway places! The administration side of the blog has a page that keeps track of “site statistics” and includes a map of where readers are from. References in duckworks online magazine made for a big jump in readership, which now has included people from every continent except for Antarctica! Who knows if that will continue, but it’s fun to think of such a broad range of folks interested in this bit of a project. Thanks for coming by!
So anyway, even though we are closing in on the boat coming out of the water, it still might be worth checking in now and then, if you like – there is more to say, just to catch up on bits that have been waiting their turn.
It’s the darndest thing: sometimes you just lose your nerve. Not necessarily because anything dramatic happened. I think it’s usually something, but it can be something small. Somebody looks unkind, or you make a mistake that is easily rectified with no harm done, but suddenly you look around yourself and say that’s it, I’m done. I’m not moving this boat another inch. Well, maybe far enough to get to shore. But that’s it.
In those times, you would swear that it’s truly done. That there is no more stuffing for carrying on. And then, after a bit, the funniest thing happens: you get some rest, some things go better than they did in the previous attempt, and suddenly it feels like time to go sailing! The transitions are extraordinary, in both directions.
I just spent several days anchored near the mouth of the Jones River, which opens into the Annisquam. It’s very beautiful – the site of all those lovely grasses. But it’s tricky for anchoring, with current and a bottom that slips, moving anchors in the night. And there are a disproportionate number of grouchy people.
Admittedly I should have run the anchor light every night that I was in there. I have a perfectly lovely anchor light from Bill, taking the place of the one at the top of the mast that stopped working after the first month of this trip. But the first night there were fantastic stars, and no traffic whatsoever, and it was unclear whether I was technically at the edge of a mooring field, with a float house about 80 feet away and mooring buoys beyond that. The second night there was some traffic, and after a bit I went out and set up the light. I do like to skip the light when I can, because the darkness, and the stars, are so sweet.
The next morning started first with a person in a motor boat, who seems to go out each day to give her dog a run along the shore, as she drives along in the boat. We had said hi a couple of days before, and this time she stopped to talk about the anchor light. Funny, because a man in a motor boat early in the night had said specifically oh I can see you, you don’t need that light, when I went to put it up. He said he used to have a float house in exactly that spot, and that it was the best place in the river to be. This is a jumbled story, because it was a jumbled time!
The next thing that happened in the morning was that somebody from the harbor master’s office (the boat said harbor master, but not which town) came to speak to me about the anchor light subject and to ask in a rather unwelcoming way how long I was planning to stay. He said that this was not in fact a mooring field, but a federal waterway. I said I’d like to stay until Sunday morning (this was Thursday), if that was okay, waiting on the wind. In an unencouraging way he said that would be all right, and he would speak to his boss.
When the harbor master boat had arrived I was in the process of setting a second anchor, Bahamian style, so there would be one anchor for each direction of current flow. The morning when everybody wanted to speak to me about the anchor light I had been up at 3 AM hauling and resetting the (single) anchor because it had moved too close to the sandbar side of the creek and the boat was just ready to go down on the bar in the dark. I wasn’t excited about the possibility of going over at 30° when I couldn’t put all that effort to use to clean the bottom of the boat!
So the grouchy fellow from the harbor master’s office said it would be okay for me to stay there so long as I left a path for people to get by in other boats. (This was interesting because AUKLET really isn’t big enough to block much of anything…) About the time I was pulling up the original anchor, to put it in a better spot after having set the second one, a couple of older fellows were going by in kayaks. I said to them “anchors sure do move around in here!” In Maine I had had no problem whatsoever with the anchor turning when the tide changed and resetting in the mud. Here, in the sand, there seems to be migration on every tide, and last night this had involved migration to the side, which didn’t work out so well. The man in the first kayak said in a particularly grouchy voice “yes, they do.” Though the fellow in the second kayak had a more friendly expression on his face.
Later still that morning another older man went by in an open motorboat. He looked downright hostile, for no apparent reason. In Cutler people took a long time to warm up to somebody, but eventually about half of the lobster folks started waving to me. And even in the beginning, though they were definitely not friendly, they didn’t look aggravated – just rather cold. Here was a different story.
I still don’t understand what really happened in there. I’m in the habit of occasionally staying someplace for several days. I do this partly to get some rest, but also because it seems like by about the third day people start coming to talk to you. Friendly people, who want to say hi. I like that, and it inspires me to stay around for a bit if a place is nice, just to provide for a chance for those conversations to happen. That was sort of what I was up to, staying in the Jones River like that, but what an opposite outcome!
So maybe it’s territorial, and maybe it really did provide navigation complications, where I was anchored. But there did used to be a float house there – just like that man told me – and it’s not like I was in a working thoroughfare. No lobster boats passed, and the boats that did go by were not blocked by my presence. Maybe people were angry because I had let the boat dry out on the sandbar earlier in my stay, and had since been swimming around scraping and scrubbing. Whatever was happening, it was surprisingly inhospitable. There were a few people who were nice, but in all these travels I haven’t encountered anywhere with so many people being specifically unfriendly in such a short time.
So this morning (Friday) I left. After umpteen phone calls related to hauling the boat and trying to get the junk off the bottom, plans were clarified. My destination, rather than the Merrimack River, has become the Danvers River, north of Boston, but on the south side of Cape Ann. This change in destination meant that a north wind was my ticket, rather than the south wind that had been forecast for Sunday. With a light north breeze and later some rain, I was off.
Which brings me back to the subject of nerve. A few days ago I had no nerve left. Yesterday, the same. But this morning the two anchors had worked, and something changed. When the tide was almost low and I checked in the night, the boat was just where it belonged in the deep channel, and I went back to sleep. When I woke up at 5:30 something in my outlook had shifted. It was good to go sailing, even though I had to go through two drawbridges.
It’s such a funny thing – you lose your nerve, and you would swear it’s never coming back. It’s unclear why it went away, but it’s definitely gone. This has happened once or twice on this trip, and it happened a few times last year, also. Each time it has had the rocksolid feeling that it will not change again – that the muscle that makes it possible to do a trip like this is simply finished. At least this time I’m in Massachusetts! It has some complications if you feel like this 300 miles from home.
Of course the obvious thing to do if you feel like you have no nerve to continue is to stop moving. Which is what I have done each time. And then the miracle happens: one day, you wake up, and it suddenly looks simple to put up the sails and venture out again on the wide water. I don’t count on this happening – each time I stop, there is the possibility that I am truly done. But I have learned to not stress about it quite so much – to say that yes, I’m stopped, and I’m going to stay here and just do some projects. And I might not move the boat again. But I might. It’s an interesting process.
So yesterday, that miracle of possibility happened, once again. After the phone calls and organizing it was clear what I was trying to do, and by about 10 o’clock I was headed down the river, toward the drawbridges. The bridges were an event in themselves.
Sails have to be down for these particular bridges, meaning proceeding with just the electric motor once you get close. The first one went well, and then I passed the Cape Ann Marina and got to say hi to Lisa and Andrew, who had helped with the mast bolt. That was fun! At the second bridge I misjudged when to call the bridge operator, and the bridge was open before I was right there. (The photo is of the first bridge – I was not busy taking pictures while going through the second one!) That second bridge is small, and goes up faster than you would ever think, compared to all the others I’ve been through. It fools me every time, and the bridge operator was not happy. This time in the river has been so filled with opportunities for study! But then, there you are, still in your boat, and even if you didn’t do it perfectly, the overall effort somehow still seems doable.
By the time I came out of the second drawbridge into Gloucester Harbor, the open water looked perfectly inviting. Motor off, sails up, and the wide expanse of Massachusetts Bay up ahead. A few hours sail, and now I’m at a lovely cove at an island off of Manchester, Mass., the only boat amidst about three dozen empty moorings. The funny thing about this place is that the name of the island is Great Misery. Regardless, I’m hoping for a nicer time!
That previous post was only the first half of the day. The path to Susanne’s dock just has water for the upper part of the tide, so as things started to get shallower it was time to go. With a couple of tacks to get around the corner, and the current of the outgoing tide, it was another sweet little sail through the marsh. The fall colors, with the salt grass going from green to golden and brown, are a real treat. There are quite a few egrets in this area too, which is fun when they stand in the grass with just their head and neck showing, brilliant white in the fall colors.
Once back to the deeper water I started thinking about going over to the edge where there would be a sandbar as the tide went out further. Theoretically this was going to be a rest day, but sometimes those ideas go by the wayside. In the end it was a clean the bottom of the boat day. Which was fun, though a little strenuous. And then there were all the people who thought that the boat was over on its side because I was too goofy to manage to keep it in the channel!
The funny thing about this area is that not a single person – of all the many who went by – stopped to chat, let alone to ask if everything was okay. And I was, of course, fine. But it did surprise me, and was out of the ordinary, in the general scheme of boat things. Maybe they see this all the time, on the bars in here? Or are a little fried, this being the end of the summer season. Anyway, it did make me glad that I was not in fact having a problem.
The report on the underside of the boat and the ePaint is that, like last year, slime was getting going on all the newly painted surfaces. This is expected, and it comes off reasonably easily with a small brush. The real test was where the trailer bunk boards were. Those spots only had the old paint still left after last year, which was pretty worn and showing the gray marker coat underneath the white. Those areas could have used fresh paint – and the barnacles are there to make the point. I have a plastic putty knife/scraper on board for hull cleaning, and the good news is that it takes the barnacles right off. But it’s a big job, and I did not quite get the entire port side cleaned.
The most useful part of the exercise was getting to see what’s been going on down there on the underside of the boat. Now I’m thinking that if I can get some help – for example somebody who does diving/boat cleaning – that the right thing to do is to get the hull cleaned before we pull the boat out of the water in a week and a half. For one thing, the barnacles are located exactly where the bunk boards go. There will be no cleaning them easily once the boat is on the trailer! Plan B, if the diver idea doesn’t work out, is to consider having the boat hauled on a lift and power washed. And plan C is that I put the boat on a sandbar again on one of these nice days. If nothing else, there are plenty of options!
In the meantime, it’s a perfectly beautiful day, and I’m looking forward to the possibility of more swimming as the tide goes down. It’s supposed to be 80°, and then tomorrow down into the low 70s, so this is the day for it…
Today I should be sailing. It’s a tremendous southwest wind, sunny and warm. But it’s also a beautiful day to sit in this lovely anchorage and take in the colors of the marsh as the tide changes.
I had big plans of sailing up to Plum Island sound today. But yesterday evening, looking again at the chart, I got to thinking how I didn’t really see a place to anchor that would get one out of the wind. And at high tide, or more likely, the top third of the tide, almost anywhere one went there would be a tremendous amount of open water in all directions. Tonight is forecast to blow 10 to 15 through the night, so that didn’t seem like much fun! Besides, yesterday turned out to be a busy day, and it’s nice to just relax.
Two days ago, when the tide was almost low so the boat would fit under the closed railroad bridge, I left the Cape Ann Marina and came partway down the Annisquam River. After a peaceful night anchored in a small slot behind a sandbar – with an evening swim! – the morning tide was just right for a visit to Susanne Altenburger. She lives in the house that she shared with Phil Bolger, in the creeks in back of Pearce Island. What a treat it was to go in there, winding along on a light breeze in the channels among the grasses. We had a lovely visit at her dock, picking up our conversation from the other day about things like how one could conceivably modify AUKLET for travel in ice.
I was quite taken, a few years ago, by the series in Small Craft Advisor about building the John Welsford design Sundowner. One of the things I loved about that boat and its construction was how incredibly sturdy it was (small, and double planked in a crisscross pattern with, I believe, 1 inch boards). I was heartbroken to see that boat go on the rocks – video actually on YouTube – but the sturdy hull would have been up to almost anything short of those ocean breakers on the massive rocks of the Australian coast.
And now, here are some thoughts that would, using techniques different from Sundowner, also create a hull with that kind of sturdiness. And bonus, it would include copper sheathing! The end of bottom painting, and of worrying about scratches on rocks. The basic idea is to add 3 inches of foam sheet (in 1 inch layers, to allow for following curves) to the entire hull, followed by 1/2 inch of plywood, and then copper. The idea is that this would make it highly unlikely that a gouge from an unfortunate bit of ice would actually make it through the inner hull. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m prone to worry – that many layers between the water and the inside of the boat would make ALL sailing quite a bit more relaxing!
There are various details that would make carrying out this idea quite a substantial project, but it’s really nice to think about how it would be done. The winter project list for AUKLET is just comfortably doable at this point, and I do hope to keep it that way. But it’s outstanding to know about ways that one could go forward in the future. SERENITY, the Peep Hen, is not still in the garage for nothing! If AUKLET went into the shop for modifications, I’d have a great excuse to take a break on the giant travel and do some lovely small boat sailing.