Suzy at the tiller, off of Groton, Connecticut Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Suzy and Shemaya, at Giants Neck, Connecticut, after five days on the boat. Photo credit: Stephanie Jo Kent
Suzy and I laughed and laughed. Brave soul, she came with me on a microscopic sailboat, signed on for five days, swapping out as part of the rotating crew on a trip of about three weeks. Starting out was a little tricky. The weather was cold, and it poured. She walked a mile or so into town and found amazing little cans of something like coffee, to stave off headaches from missing her normal hot cups, which were not going to work on the tiny boat. We stayed the night in the marina, which conveniently took care of any worries she had had about darkness in the crew berth, floodlights everywhere in those places. I didn’t know until later just how daunted she was by that tiny space for sleeping in that boat. Brave soul indeed.
In the morning the weather had cleared and we left the marina (by water), just far enough to go around the corner and anchor in an unoccupied cove, to go over how to sail the boat. She was worried, completely unfamiliar with the tasks at hand. It somehow came to me to take an extra moment, and use words that I don’t usually, nowadays, explaining that although we had known each other a little bit through Annie for a while, I knew that she didn’t really know that much about what I did. I looked at her, with focus, and said that she really didn’t know this about me, but that when it came to sailing, I knew my shit. Because it was her language, and I wanted her to know that it was for real. Later I heard her say that back to somebody on the phone, with conviction, in order to give them ease about what she was doing. I was touched, to in fact be held in that regard.
We spent a little while in that cove, there with the boat anchored, putting the sail up, letting it down, putting it up again. Playing word games about which of the million lines were which, as a way to learn them. I loved her quick mind, absorbing the process at hand. A little later she pulled up the anchor, and we sailed down the Mystic River toward Long Island sound.
I should explain that at the time, coming on these boat expeditions with me involved the crew doing almost all the handwork to make the boat go. I provided navigation, and knowledge. The folks who took turns coming with me provided the bulk of the muscle. The boat was 14 feet long… It was an adventure.
One day, in about the middle of the trip, the breeze had died as we passed near a beach along about New London. It’s really the worst, on salt water, when the breeze quits but the waves are still there – it’s a recipe for seasickness, if anybody is susceptible. Suzy was starting to feel queasy, and the breeze was showing no sign of returning. The boat had a tiny trolling motor, with very limited battery power. This was suitable for getting in and out of tight marinas, but not much else. Waiting for wind can go on for a while.
The funny thing is, there was a wedding taking place, at that beach. Gowns and tuxedos, and elegant, happy people. We brought the boat in close to shore, just down the beach from the wedding, and anchored so Suzy could walk on solid ground. It’s the ultimate cure for seasickness: sitting with your back against a tree. By the time she waded back out to the boat she was feeling better, the breeze was showing signs of returning, and all these years later I don’t remember what was happening with the wedding. But I do know we had fun.
Suzy had decided earlier that she wasn’t liking the boat thing so much, and I said that I could make some phone calls to swap out with different crew, which we had discussed as an option from before we started into this. Five days is a long time on a small boat. While she was ashore I was making those calls, and when she came back I had a couple more to follow up on, but so far had not hit the scheduling jackpot. She decided to stay – told me, twice, that really I could stop trying to set up the big switch.
She got so good at sailing. She could steer accurately with the tiller, and wrestle the sail into whatever reefs were needed as the wind rose, unreefing as it died back again. This was not simple, with the rig that was on that boat at the time, and it has given many people, myself included, fits. Suzy made it look easy. There she would be with the wind coming up, and the waves sloshing the boat around, and when I said hesitantly that I was afraid it was time to reef again, she would spring into action, calling out in her energetic Suzy way, fist high in the air, “Queen Ratifa!” That sail couldn’t do anything but cooperate. It was a wonder to behold, not least because three days earlier we had been anchored in that little cove going over the names of things for the very first time.
By the time we met up with “shore support,” for new crew to come on board, and for Suzy to catch a ride home, it had been heavenly for days. We laughed and laughed. Getting ready to say goodbye, Suzy said that it had started a little iffy, but that “we ended strong.” I always remember the sound of her saying that last. And so we did.
Late in the afternoon, the day before that one, we were sailing in the direction of the harbor where we would meet up for crew change, and Suzy was steering. She asked which way to go. We were headed west, and the sun was getting low, throwing sparkles on the water ahead of us. It just happened that our course was right up that streak of sparkles, so I said to her, “follow the shining path.” She loved that.
It’s where I saw her when she went on her way: following the Shining Path.
The picture of those sparkles on the water from that day is so clear in my mind, but I didn’t actually get out the camera at that time. I’ve so wished that I had, and have looked, over these last years when I’ve been sailing, to catch a photo that really shows what it was, including when I was back in that area earlier this year. Amazingly, there has never been an exact match. So this one will have to do. In the original there was shoreline in the distance up ahead, and off to starboard, as we headed westbound on the north shore of Long Island sound. But maybe this one is where she really went, as we do, over the far horizon. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Marigold kept me company on the trips this year, almost always in one or another of the little boat’s accustomed spots: when at anchor either on a line off the stern or right alongside Great Auk, or underway trailing behind over the waves.
Marigold at sea
A bit about this little craft: Marigold is a Portland Pudgy, made of roto-molded plastic, designed to work as both a dinghy and as a lifeboat with sailing capabilities. (https://portlandpudgy.com/ – included for reader convenience; I’m not receiving anything for posting.) While I’m traveling I don’t bring the sailing rig, which I have used for fun around the bay.
Since I’m not going offshore, the sailing rig for intercepting shipping lanes in lifeboat mode has not felt crucial to carry – but I love that it can be done. The Pudgy is also self bailing, with a compression plug that goes in for regular rowing so no water comes in through the drain, which otherwise happens when there is weight in the boat. But being double-hulled the Pudgy floats high and dry when unloaded, including with the plug out. Self-bailing comes in especially handy when there are showers – or storms – so the rain runs out by itself, with no additional effort required. With weight in the middle of the boat water will generally come quickly in through that drain, if it’s not closed off,but the compression plug is easy to put in.
It actually works to leave the plug out if you just stay in the bow, for example while scrambling down to get rockweed off of Great Auk’s outboard motor propellers when at anchor. With weight shifted forward, the drain at the stern is lifted completely out of the water and the boat stays dry. Three separate people I know have taken it as a point of pride to not bother to put the plug in, and to maneuver the boat with the scupper out of the water, keeping their weight forward. Learning by imitation, I’ve started to do some of the same… It’s a secure little boat, unsinkable if its double hulls are not breached, and comfortable and steady with the plug in and rowing regularly or sailing around the bay.
Marigold in Joy Bay. This is a custom mast and junk rig; the stowable version available from Portland Pudgy is a little different. See December 2018 post in this blog for how we made this one. Photo credit: Deb Lyons
On the way south in May, our little Marigold was put to the test. The boat went on a foray of its own, thanks to a 2 AM interaction with a large fishing trawler off of Kennebunk, in the Gulf of Maine.
I’d like to start by saying that this story has a happy ending. It also has lessons, for me and perhaps for others who might avoid something similar through the retelling. It’s embarrassing to make mistakes, but hopefully useful to be shared. Marigold did a stellar job of coming back to a friendly beach to make the ending especially happy.
When Great Auk and Marigold and I left Gouldsboro Bay in early May there was a marvelous easterly wind, which carried on for over a week. With such abundance, and based on having gotten so overdone and tired last year from sailing overnight to catch favorable wind, I even stopped at night, anchoring for proper sleep. The wind was very reasonable at 10 to 15 knots most days. We had a serious complication with the wheel steering cable, which came apart off of Swans Island, but things went back together and we were able to carry on the next morning.
Leaving Burnt Coat Harbor on Swans Island, after steering cable repairs. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
There was a nice night in the farther Mosquito Harbor, at the southwest corner of Penobscot Bay, and from there we set off with hopes of Damariscove Island, more or less south of Waldoboro, Maine. Although the wind was comfortable, there were small craft advisories for days for the seas, which were varying between six and 10 feet, the result of a distant storm that was keeping its stronger winds far offshore. Waiting for the advisories to go away would mean losing the east wind, so even though those waves had built up, we ventured out of Mosquito Harbor for a test, knowing that we could run back into the nearby Muscongus Bay if things did not feel right. The boat actually handled the seas just fine, which were by then in the range of 6 to 8 feet, and we sailed on.
The tricky part about those big seas is really not out on the open water – they weren’t breaking, by themselves, and the boat rose up and over them just fine. The problem comes near shallows, and in narrow entrances to shelter that lead straight off the open water. There those big waves rise up and break, with quite a bit of drama and hazard.
Just outside the entrance to the harbor at Damariscove Island. This photo doesn’t do it justice. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Harbor entrances that are normally mild and easy become places of significant danger in these conditions, with huge breakers on the rocks on either side, and the waves even rising up and crashing above nearby shoals that are 12 to 15 feet deep. Shoals like that are normally completely insignificant for a boat that draws 3 feet with its leeboards and rudder down, but they become the site of dramatic breakers in those big seas.
In light of this, the entrance to the tiny harbor at Damariscove Island showed itself to be completely out of the question for stopping, and the deeper reefs in its vicinity, with crazy intermittent breakers, made for a serious game of dodge’ems. Looking back, after ruling out Damariscove we could have turned into the wide, safe entrance to the Sheepscott River. From there, a few miles in it would be easy to turn into a protected cove. Ah hindsight!
As it was, we let that opportunity go by. It was early in the afternoon, with such good wind, and Casco Bay seemed like a reasonable second option.
One by one, potential stopping places in Casco Bay were ruled out. First because of breaking seas too close to the entrance, then because of darkness, when approaching the openings that should have been okay felt too insecure with so little visibility. I didn’t want to try them in the dark, unable to see for sure what the waves were doing before being too close to get away.
These safety calculations were influenced by the configuration of this particular boat. The motors are limited – intentionally, to meet electricity usage and weight on the stern considerations, and also because this arrangement is satisfying to my general sense of working with conditions rather than overpowering them at whim. But it did make it tricky when it came to how to get in to a sheltered spot through complicated, tight entrances with current and crosswinds, together with those adjacent breakers. This is after all why they issue small craft advisories for seas, even when the high waves are long and rounded; it’s the dramatic upheaval when those waves meet the shallows and the shore that can trounce a comparatively small vessel. I found it illuminating when I learned that the “small craft” in small craft advisories refers to vessels under 30 feet.
A motorboat with big, powerful outboards on the back would have other options in those precarious entrances, but Great Auk is not that. In wind and tide, it’s a negotiation where this boat will steer, and when. I find that interesting, especially as I have learned more about what to expect and how to work with it, but appropriate caution is crucial to success.
So I stayed out, deciding to sail through the night. This had been a possibility all along – the forecast wind was favorable and not too strong, and the seas on the open water had shown themselves to be just fine. If this had not felt like a reasonable option I would have made other choices well before this point, staying somewhere more sheltered from the outset.
I actually love night sailing. I haven’t been doing it as much lately, because I find I don’t have the resilience these days, physically, after staying up like that, but it’s a treat whenever there is a good enough argument to go ahead and sail through the night. There are opportunities for rest, out far enough for no traffic, especially having the radar detector that will start beeping when somebody else’s radar hits its antenna. This generally happens when other vessels are at least 3 miles away, and even farther for bigger boats with radar mounted higher above the water. Finding that Great Auk is up to this sort of extended trip, I have been really missing the AIS that we installed on Auklet, but that’s another story.
Once you know they are out there, one way to make sure that you will pass with plenty of space from other vessels is to use a hand bearing compass to take bearings on the other boat. If those bearings change over time, you know that you are not on a collision course. Another way is to look for navigation lights, but those are harder to see at a distance. Bigger working boats often have loads of white deck lights, also obscuring the comparatively fainter red and green on port and starboard.
However, a beautiful thing about small craft advisories is that there’s a lot less traffic when they are going on. Added to that, the sensible course from Casco Bay to Portsmouth – another wide river with reasonably easy entrance in big seas – cuts across the curve of the shore of the Gulf of Maine, leaving a good cushion away from the shore itself. We were off of Portland when it was really getting dark, and the nearer options I had looked at were either not sensible because I would not be able to check the seas in the dark, or much too far out of the way, curving around into Casco Bay at that wide entrance between Cape Elizabeth and the islands near Portland. Especially with this nice alternative, it made more sense to stay out and use that perfect wind.
So off we went, headed for Portsmouth, about 45 miles away. Once it got really dark there wasn’t a scrap of traffic, just the distant lights at the shore, with the prominent lighthouse at Biddeford showing clearly. We angled across the curve of the shoreline, and after a while were about 6 miles out. At about two in the morning the Merveille radar detector started beeping. It shows the direction of the signal it’s receiving, and it indicated that there was a boat out ahead of us. Looking through the windows in that direction, there was a small white splotch of light visible in the rather far distance.
The right answer at this point was to get up and go across the boat to the hanging bag on the starboard side of the forward cabin door, to get the hand bearing compass. The seas were now 8 to 10 feet, and not perfectly gentle, and the motion of the boat was impressive. It had been a long day, and half the night, and I was daunted by the prospect of moving across the boat yet again, with everything jouncing around so thoroughly. That was a mistake! (Now the hand bearing compass lives alongside my berth, easily in reach without any scrambling at all.)
Instead I kept watching. You can also line up the distant vessel’s light with some part of your own boat, and see if the mark changes or stays the same, where the far target lines up on something like your own window frame… But Great Auk’s orientation was constantly varying in the waves, so this was not definitive. It was also incredibly hard to believe that in all that wide open water, completely dark except for the faraway shore and that one, single boat, that we could possibly be on a collision course. That was another mistake.
Binoculars are handy – and stored where perfectly reachable – and as the distant white splotch got closer I would take looks to check if there was any more to see with magnification. For the longest time it was still just white stuff. But eventually, and clearly getting closer, I could actually see red and green navigation lights. This is bad. When you can see them both, it means that the boat with those lights is headed straight toward you.
Turning to starboard – the proper direction in an unknown situation – was going to involve gybing the sail, which was going to be a bit challenging. But I should have done it anyway, right when I saw those two lights. I was concerned about whatever the other boat’s plans were, and another approach in that situation is to get on the radio and confirm the intention to pass port to port. I had fears of turning without that confirmed agreement, and that they might for some reason turn in the same direction. Both that concern and the one about gybing were “moderate” – and somehow combined to become enough to opt for trying the radio first. But it was just like so very many stories, “But there was no answer.” And again: “There was no answer.”
Three tries, no response, and the boat oncoming. We put the wheel over, turning to starboard. Great Auk did not pick up speed quickly, what with the waves and the new heading, including gybing. Marigold was on her long towline off the stern. It helps to have a really long towline out in open water, so the dinghy does not tend to run up on the stern of the sailboat as they both go over the waves. Marigold’s line was about 35 feet long.
Apparently the folks in that big fishing trawler were below deck somewhere, also thinking that it was completely impossible that there was anybody to run into on that dark night. Somewhere in there we also gave five blasts – the danger signal – on our handheld airhorn, but I have always found it hard to believe that anybody in a boat with big engines can possibly hear that.
It’s slightly possible that the oncoming boat also turned at the last moment, but I didn’t see that happen. They passed across our stern – we had turned about 90° to starboard – and there was the sound of a thump–bump. Two quick beats. I was at the forward wheel in the cabin. It’s possible that my perspective was off, but the other boat was very, very close. All I could see was the sheer vertical face of the side of their hull, straight off the stern, and it looked to me like if I had been at the transom with an extended boat hook – which goes to 8 feet – I could have touched the fishing boat’s hull. No words for that.
As the fishing boat passed and started to draw away, its bright deck lights illuminated the water behind it, and there was poor Marigold, bobbing upside down on the dark water in those enormous and roiling waves. The towline had snapped right near where it was fastened on Great Auk. There was nobody on the brightly lit stern deck of the other boat.
I briefly thought about trying to go back for Marigold, but in the distinctly un-gentle waves – and the dark, as the fishing boat continued steaming away at speed – it felt both too dangerous to try and regardless unlikely to succeed. Marigold was now upwind, which would mean motoring, and motoring upwind in waves and a good breeze is exactly what Great Auk will not do. Heartbreaking as it was, Great Auk and I sailed away, and little Marigold disappeared in the night.
Of course the worst, scariest part of the story is not Marigold. Great Auk – and I – really did come a whisker away from getting squashed. I wasn’t sure that the motors hadn’t been hit, raised as they were for sailing, extending a bit behind the transom. In hindsight I’m sure I would’ve felt it if they had been, but I just had the sound of that clunking in my mind. I went back to check, but other than the missing Marigold, and the broken line, all was as it should be. The white lights were continuing to recede off our starboard quarter.
Thinking about it afterwards, I believe that what happened is that the fishing boat crossed Marigold’s towline, yanking Marigold against the far side of their hull – the thumping sounds I heard – and pulling hard on the towline until it snapped. I had a hook arrangement high on the back of the post that supports the starboard corner of the cabin top, to keep the towline up and away from the outboard motor. It’s a carabiner tied open, that was tightly lashed to the back of that 2 x 3 post. In the night I thought the carabiner was gone, but the next morning I saw that it was pulled completely to the starboard side of that post, with gouges in the corners of the wood from the seine twine lashing. I didn’t feel Great Auk shift when Marigold’s line was broken, that I remember, but there were a lot of waves making for a lot of shifting already. It must’ve been quite a yank, but very quick.
Afterwards we readjusted our course, and I took about five minutes to catch my breath and consider. Then I got on the radio to the Coast Guard, as it was important for them to know that if somebody found Marigold floating around out there upside down that there was not a person who needed rescue. At the same time I got to tell them what happened, and there was a slight possibility that if that other boat happened to by now be near the radio they might hear about it also. The Coast Guard was appreciative, and suggested we talk on my cell phone, because the signal from my handheld VHF radio was not very strong. So we finished the conversation by phone, with them taking contact information and a description in case Marigold was found.
While that conversation was going on, the white lights from the fishing boat turned, and circled back to where we had been – Great Auk was sailing at about 3 knots, so we had covered a bit of distance from that spot. Then they turned, as if to come up behind us, maybe a mile or two back. This completely freaked me out – the last thing I wanted was to go through that again! – so we gybed again, moving at an angle away from their new course. Eventually they turned again and really went away. Who knows if they heard the radio conversation, and circled back to look for Marigold.
Although I made the mistake of not turning much sooner, technically that fishing vessel was at fault. Primarily, they were not keeping watch, and secondarily they were not actually engaged in fishing, which made Great Auk traveling under sail the “stand on vessel.” It’s not just that you have the right of way – it’s that it’s your responsibility to keep going on your original path, so everything is predictable, and the other vessel is supposed to give way, and adjust their course. But if there is risk of collision, then the give-way vessel is regardless supposed to change course to avoid it – which we did narrowly, with not nearly enough cushion for my taste. And counting Marigold being collided with, we were at fault also for not avoiding the whole thing entirely. There is a book completely devoted to these rules, for anybody who is unfamiliar and wants to get into it: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/navigation-rules-amalgamated is the online version.
It’s also available in print from various marine supply stores, including this one (nope, not receiving anything for posting): https://www.starpath.com/catalog/books/1832.htm
Of course in the real world, usually the bigger vessel does what it’s going to do, and the littler one gives way. But according to the actual rules, that fishing boat had really screwed up, so it’s not such a surprise that they were not getting into a discussion about it on the radio that would identify them. Especially since they would have known from the radio exchange with the Coast Guard that there was nobody in the water needing rescue, or anything like that. So they have stayed a mystery – I never did see a boat name through all that.
Once the Coast Guard call was done, from there we carried on through the night. By dawn I could see Portsmouth in the distance, and by 9 AM we were in the river. Somehow I just couldn’t get my head around the near miss. I was terribly sad about losing Marigold, and whatever emotions I had about the whole event were completely focused on that. I felt like I had let the little boat down, not taking care of Marigold properly, and we have had such a companionable relationship.
But this is what stays in mind: one often wonders why so many people have boats that sit on their moorings or at their slips for almost the entire season. I think that this is a big part of the reason: besides embarrassing maneuvers, like blowing dockings and missing moorings with an audience, things happen on boats that give you pause. Through your own and/or others’ mistakes or inattention, the stakes can get high, sometimes surprisingly fast. It’s letting go the lines that means you take that chance of relying on your own capabilities for a good outcome.
I said that this story has a happy ending, and it does.
After I arrived in Portsmouth I called Portland Pudgy, thinking about what I was going to do about an alternate dinghy. The really nice woman who answered the phone, besides remembering Marigold from the blog post about the junk sailing rig, which I had shared with their office, told me that it had twice happened that somebody’s Pudgy had been lost, and when found by some kind person the company had been contacted with the serial number from the errant boat. Portland Pudgy keeps files on who has bought them, and was able to reunite both of those lost boats with their owners. A friend with a trailer-sailing boat had even had his more substantial boat come back to him, recovered just off a beach in Florida, after a long story of it having been abandoned far out at sea after a rescue. I took some heart from this, but continued making plans for what to do to replace the dinghy.
Meanwhile, the easterly wind had run itself out. Trade-offs in the design of Great Auk mean that this boat sails primarily downwind, with perhaps a beam reach in the right situation. With the wind shifted south and southwest, I wasn’t going anywhere for some time. That was fine by me – I was ready for a rest! I set up to do some visiting, and settled into a nice anchorage on the Kittery side of the harbor.
A couple of days later, wouldn’t you know I got a phone call! Somebody had reported to the harbormaster in Kennebunk, Maine – about 25 miles from Portsmouth – that Marigold had been found on the beach. The harbormaster went to investigate, called Portland Pudgy with the serial number, and next thing you know the harbormaster and I were having a conversation. Me being in the Portsmouth area, I had been in touch with Luke Tanner – regular readers might remember him from the previous post. He and his wife Merrilea drove to Kennebunk with their trailer! Faster than you can say I can’t believe this happened, there they were in Kittery sliding Marigold down the gangway to the public dock, with the sturdy little boat barely the worse for wear. Perfectly, perfectly miraculous.
Now Marigold has a special sticker with contact information, for an even more direct line than the kind folks at Portland Pudgy. Many thanks to Dave Estes, harbormaster in Stockton Springs, who offered that sticker after I told him this story. But we dearly hope that Marigold will stay close by from here on out.
Here’s the track for the territory covered in this story. With endless gratitude to Dave McDermott, of ofmapsandmapping.wordpress.com for this beautiful rendition of where we went.
I took this whole experience to be a little like falling off a horse – and that it’s important to get back on soon afterwards. When a north wind eventually came around we set out from Portsmouth and on to Cape Ann, near Gloucester, Mass. After another few days of waiting for the next favorable breeze we continued south across Massachusetts Bay, which led to another night sail, this time across Cape Cod Bay (see previous post for more on how that came about).
I went into that second overnight passage with some trepidation, but with the feeling of it being important to get back on the horse. There was actually a good bit of traffic on Cape Cod Bay the first half of that night, but on the upside, in all that traffic nobody running those fishing boats was asleep below deck, for exactly that reason; there was enough surrounding activity to keep their full attention. The hand bearing compass was right beside me, and in regular use. Proper distances were kept throughout, and I came away with renewed faith that we could sail at night and be okay.
Nowadays Marigold feels extra chummy. The boat used to stay on the starboard side of Great Auk, at anchor, keeping the slapping of the little waves at a bit more of a distance in the night. But now I rather like it, in my berth, hearing the bit of splashing and seeing Marigold right there out my window. Such a steady companion.
When tied alongside like this for the night there are no unexpected clunks waking a person up, which sometimes happens with a dinghy left on its painter off the stern. And it makes me so happy, looking out the window from my berth, to see Marigold, home snug from that big adventure. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
This blog entry has languished for months. It’s now closing in on the end of November, and both I and the boats are off of the water, as of mid-October. But there was another story before that happened:
One evening in September I sailed after dark in upper Penobscot Bay, leaving Stockton Springs at about 9 PM for various reasons of weather and wind. We were bound for the very snug harbor a short distance away at Holbrook Island, around the corner from Castine. This is a trip of about 6 miles from Stockton Springs, doable in about two hours with a decent breeze.
One part of this little hop involves crossing a very low-traffic shipping lane, that leads up the Penobscot River. It’s possible to go all over these waters for weeks and never see a ship in this particular track. But wouldn’t you know it. As I was about halfway to the harbor entrance by Castine, there was the Merveille sounding that it was picking up a radar signal, and an indistinct white splotch was visible out ahead, about 3 miles off. My preferred course involved angling across the shipping lane marked on the chart, and I was in it.
Out came the hand bearing compass, and the binoculars. The white splotch started to reveal itself as a very thoroughly lit cruise ship, and the bearing stayed the same. You couldn’t have made this up, that a second time I would be out at night with zero traffic, only in this crossing for a scant two hours, and would be on a collision course with the only ship out on this track for days.
You can bet that I turned instantly. Dropped both motors into the water for additional speed, headed perpendicular to both the marked shipping lane and the approach of the cruise ship, and zipped toward shore. This not only took Great Auk quickly out of the shipping lane, but for good measure led into water too shallow for a cruise ship but plenty deep enough for us. When we were safely near the shore and well out of the track marked on the chart for ships, we turned to parallel the land, also staying safely away from the rocks.
It’s a tight area, where the shipping lane is marked, and there was a time when we could see both the red and the green navigation lights on the cruise ship. Their crew was wide awake, and at one point shone a spotlight in our direction (we also had our giant inflatable radar reflector at the top of the mast, as we had on that other less fortunate night). I believe they turned, in order to leave a better cushion, as they had loads of deep water to work with on the other side of the shipping lane, away from the shore, and then they straightened out again. With both of our course changes we passed at about a mile away, with no drama other than Great Auk’s quick skedaddle toward shore, long before the other boat was close.
But seriously! As in, really?!?
I did appreciate the opportunity to do it right, and I appreciated the previous lesson, so there was no question of disbelief, and no hesitation in taking immediate action. Funny, how the Universe provides.
Muscongus Bay, early. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
*** May 5, 2022: Great Auk departs Joy Bay, southbound.
*** June 1: Arrive Connecticut River, anchoring in North Cove.
*** July 7: Arrive Joy Bay, home once again.
Suzanne worked out the number of days away: 64. In an interesting bit of synchronicity, this year I am 64 years old.
That was a big trip! The farthest point south was Sag Harbor, New York, which is out by the Hamptons on Long Island, where I had lovely visits with my friend JG and we made plans for more sailing.
JG at Haven’s Beach, Sag Harbor. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Sag Harbor was one of the original destinations. The even bigger heart calling was the Connecticut River, and sailing up to Deep River, which felt like going home. The hills were right, and the trees, and the sun and the shape of the clouds, and the bits of gentle fog in the rain.
Connecticut River. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
It had been seven years since I sailed away, moving to Maine. And I love Maine, with its rocks and wild wind, and evergreens everywhere. But the Connecticut River feels like home. I didn’t grow up there, but close enough, and then lived for so many years right by its shores a little further north.
In Deep River I made a new friend, years ago. On the day we first launched Auklet, learning the yawl rig in opposing wind and river current, losing steering. Make sure that the mizzen sail is free, or you’re not going to be able to turn. Opposing wind and current pinning the boat, headed straight across the river for the shore, and that big steel sloop on its pilings. We didn’t hit it, anchoring just in time, but things got complicated. This led to meeting Warren Elliott, who was none too pleased at that first moment. And we became such good friends.
Apologies for the fuzzy picture – it was just dawn, as I was leaving, and only looks this bright thanks to adjusting afterwards. But you can still see Warren’s boat… Photo credit (such as it is): Shemaya Laurel
Warren was going to be 93 years old on May 23, and my mission in leaving Gouldsboro so early in the month, in the spring cold before leaves were even out on the trees, was to get there to see him. If not by his birthday, close. I didn’t say anything, ahead of time, because I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed – like last year, when I had set out but got only as far as Pemaquid. I didn’t want to call again to say it wasn’t going to happen. But I should have picked up the phone anyway.
Warren in the garden shed that he built, from wood that he milled… just like their whole house. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
When things felt more assured I left a message, on May 23, singing happy birthday into Warren’s answering machine. This was from the water, having left Rockport, Mass. early in the morning, bound for Provincetown, which in a combination of losing both the wind and the tide became unattainable and led to sailing through the night, straight for the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. But before night fell, there was that song, and I told him in the message that I thought I really would get there this time. I called again a few days later, leaving another message, and getting closer bit by bit.
Sunset about 7 miles off of Provincetown. I had already run through one battery bank for the motors by this point, and now the tide was running out of Cape Cod Bay. The breeze was forecast to come back around midnight, from a perfect direction for heading directly to the canal. Given all of this, it made sense to stay out. Best part: whales! There were several backs and spouts, a bit before this photo was taken, and then for a little while after dark, the sound of them breathing, and the scent of that bit of fish-breath. It was quite lovely to have the company. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Ever so sadly, I missed Warren by a month. His wife, and my friend, Margo, called back with the sad news that he had passed away at the beginning of May, two days before I left home. We came so close to one more visit, after those long intervening years.
Sometimes being on the water is where I do my grieving. The ocean and the broad rivers sturdy enough to contain all those tears, and enough space to wail into the open skies.
Margo kindly invited me to come and stay at their dock, and I waited to see how my travels might go. In the end we had a beautiful visit, in my accustomed spot at Warren’s float.
Margo and Shemaya, having such good visits. Photo credit: Sandy Ward
This had become the place where we fitted out each year after putting Auklet in the water at the nearby ramp in Deep River, and was often where I returned, to pull the boat out of the water in the fall. Equaria, the big steel sloop that Warren had built himself, was still right there.
Equaria, and the riverboat Becky Thatcher in the background. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Warren was a steelworker, in his younger days. He told stories about building a giant steel tower on an island in the Aleutians – I think he said it was 1000 feet tall. He said the height never bothered him. So welding the boat together was right up his alley, and once it was built it led to meeting Margo, and the two of them having wonderful trips sailing off to the Caribbean.
Warren and Margo out for a sail with me on Auklet in 2015. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Coming home is like that. The sweetness of familiar shores, and as one gets older, the presence of those who are no longer here, holding their memories so close.
And now I am back in Maine, in this new home that has actually started to feel that way. I missed it when I was gone, and was surprised to find that the low sandy shores of southern New England felt foreign, from the water. Although I did get used to swimming in comfort, and to so many fewer rocks with which to play dodge’ems, in the swirling current. But now the evergreens feel like they make everything right, and the lobster boats are a welcome change from go-fast churners of a million wakes.
Besides that, people in Maine appreciate this boat. I had become accustomed to the lovely conversations, folks enjoying both Great Auk‘s oddball configuration and bright colors. These friendly encounters were rare in southern New England, where yacht clubs are a lot more common than fishing villages. A sailing houseboat felt out of place and not necessarily welcome, unlike in Maine where Great Auk is more of an attraction, and the frequent interest and appreciation feel extra welcoming in unfamiliar harbors.
Great Auk in Northwest Creek, near Sag Harbor, New York. One person was charmed by this boat, and she took this photo and sent it to JG. We thought we were about to have a word from the authorities, and it turned out to be not only not the authorities, but an admirer! Photo credit: Dee McQuire Renos
The trip overall was wonderful. Now and then it was a bit much, but then something nice would happen, and everything would feel right again. I am ecstatic about having been able to do it, and the boat having shown itself so capable. There were some repair issues, all to do with steering in one way or another, and there is more to address on that – it’s a heavy boat, with an enormous rudder, and the strain of roiled up seas can be substantial.
This was Cape Cod Bay, in the morning as we approached the canal entrance; the seas had actually come down a bit by the time there was enough light for a photo. The breeze filled in just fine in the middle of the night, making it easy to cover the 20 miles by early next morning. Bonus, all the nighttime fishing boats went away once the waves started building! But it was hard on the rudder connection. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
We’ll be addressing the rudder issue, and the boat will be better for it. In the meantime, the temporary repairs held up, and here we are home.
You would think that the original white lashings – a la Wharram catamarans – might’ve been the problem, but they weren’t. Much has been learned about more appropriate fastener arrangements, as well as wood type for that transom post (purpleheart, I have since been told, is the wood we should have used). Not having gotten bolts or wood quite right, under all that strain the lowest part of the transom post broke away, passing substantial strain on to the next set of lashings above. John York, friend of a friend in Cataumet, MA, came up with, and installed, the repair approach shown, after we went through various ideas and puzzles with the goal of a quick and effective temporary fix, that would get me and the boat safely home. Thanks to Jon Bower for introducing me to the Cataumet family! Photo credits: Shemaya Laurel
The lashing repair arrangement provided quite a bit of additional support to the broken piece, but there was still substantial movement side to side in waves, which was worrisome. When I was sailing the Bolger Glasshouse Chebacco Auklet a number of years ago I had the opportunity to visit with Susanne Altenburger, of Phil Bolger and Friends, and when I was back in the Gloucester area I stopped in to say hello, staying overnight in her adjacent cove. The next morning, rushing to beat the tide, Susanne kindly took a look at the situation and came up with the idea for these nifty and simple braces. In a couple of trips to her workshop she put together everything needed and screwed them onto the boat. Miraculous. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
One more bit of adjustment took place in Portsmouth, thanks to Luke Tanner. Luke not only brought his tools, but also food supplies, water, ice, and the most delicious cheeseburger and French fries that I had on the entire trip! By the time I left those southern shores, both the boat and I were in good order. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
My endless thanks go to the folks who helped with those repairs: most especially John York in Cataumet, MA; Susanne Altenburger in Gloucester, MA; and Luke Tanner, who made the trip to Portsmouth, NH to help out. The boat got home thanks to their kindnesses, as well as to the folks who made those connections possible. And further thanks to everybody along the way who made this trip such a joy. How appropriate, to come back to Joy Bay!
Great Auk arriving home after 64 days. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
The bad news is that I have completely abandoned keeping logs. On the brighter side, photos remain both doable and engaging. So the departure date for this trip could be pieced together. It was a Thursday, at the end of May, and I was off for a little over three weeks. This was the sendoff from Gouldsboro Bay, with Chubba, Bonnie and friends.
Initially I had thoughts of sailing to southern New England, and ridiculous amounts of food and water were stowed. But departure was a couple of weeks later than hoped because of how much time it took to complete all the 12 V wiring and autopilot installation. By a week after we were on our way (myself and Great Auk) the weather pattern was getting ready to change over to summer, with consistently south and west winds.
In the end, we went as far as the harbor in the Pemaquid River, on the west side of Pemaquid Point, around the backside of that big peninsula that is about halfway between Penobscot Bay and Portland. This was a good run, including some nice explorations of Muscongus Bay. Muscongus is the next big indentation in the coast west of Penobscot Bay, filled with interesting islands. I hadn’t been around that southwest corner of Penobscot Bay since the big move to Maine, over five years ago. It was nice to bust out a little bit.
Some adventures were had, over the course of those three weeks, particularly related to sailing in somewhat more demanding conditions in order to take advantage of that early east wind. The boat is more capable than one would think from looking at its flat bottom and straight across barge bow. In a good breeze, down or across the wind, Great Auk likes to sail between 4 and 4 1/2 knots. The boat will go 5, but things start to feel strained, on both rigging and steering, and it makes more sense to reef (or reef more) and take the pressure off.
One morning, after several days of erroneous weather reports that forecast bigger wind which did not materialize, I chose a route that would’ve been perfectly reasonable in milder conditions than the ones that developed. I should not know that the boat is capable of what we did – in theory one would keep oneself out of that kind of situation – but it has been very relaxing to have this benchmark, now that it’s done. Taking smaller waves in this boat no longer fazes me in the least!
There were of course many peaceful harbors on this trip, as well as lovely visits with my Aunt Patsy and various friends, and some very sweet days of sailing. An especial standout was Louds Island in Muscongus Bay. This island has a drying harbor on the east side, and I had the good fortune to pass nearby at just the right time to get a good look at it at low tide, and then when the water came back to go in for the night. Bonus, while waiting for the tide the boat got to go down on a sand bar outside the harbor! Drying out on a sand bar was actually one of my goals for this expedition, and I had no idea that I would get to do it this soon. Because of this boat’s flat bottom, it’s perfect for settling down on tideflats. Downeast is almost entirely mud, wherever the water is peaceful enough to do this, which is not terribly satisfying for stepping off the boat when it’s aground. Sand is a completely other matter, and spending time on wide, protected sandflats was one of my motivations for wanting to sail to southern New England. Although I didn’t get there (this time), I did get to have my fun stepping off the boat onto this really nice bar. It made me incredibly happy.
On this trip there was also quite a bit of night sailing. This was to catch the favorable wind and tide, but happened to coincide with that I enjoy being out in the night quite a lot. Further, so close to the solstice, one can go to sleep early, wake up at about 2 AM and set out in the dark, and by 3:30 AM the light is already starting to show in the eastern sky.
During the day there was a good bit of motoring, with that hefty 48 V Torqeedo. I do very little motoring at night, as it’s challenging to dodge the lobster pot buoys, which can get hung up in the motor. Under sail, the boat can just run right over them without problems. The boat really could use the second motor on the back – which I haven’t yet done – for good steering control in gusty changing wind when under power. But apart from that complication, the motor arrangement worked out amazingly well. The solar panels all over the top of the cabin make a real difference in range, even when the motor is drawing more electricity than the panels are producing. The solar charging extends the run time for a given battery bank considerably, and if one travels slowly on a sunny day – say about 2 knots on flat water – the charging will keep pace with the draw from the motor, making the run time unlimited. Routinely, dodging that south wind, we would start early before the breeze came up and motor for two or three hours to jump to the next harbor upwind, sometimes driving pretty hard into the breeze as it started to fill in for the day. The batteries replenished easily once the motor was not being used, and the entire trip was done without using any shore power at all, maintaining both 48 V battery banks, recharged to full capacity within a day of even quite demanding motor runs. Cloudy days charge more slowly, but still take care of business.
This is a Torqeedo 4.0 outboard, 48 V, running off of one or the other of two battery banks, each made of 4 (four) 12 volt 100 amp hour AGM batteries, connected in series to make the 48 V. The solar panels for the motor are 4 (four) 12 volt Xantrex 165 Watt flexible panels attached with adhesive to the top of the cabin. Interestingly, Xantrex technical support said that it would be fine to wire these in series, to make the output for 48 volt batteries – and it has been. But the instructions that came with the panels said that they should not be combined in that way. Regardless, it has worked out fine.
The charge controller is a “Victron BlueSolar MPPT 150/45-Tr” with which I’ve been hugely happy. It talks to the smartphone, and shows off how hard the solar panels have been working, including with a very informative history tab. So far, on a day with excellent sunshine and lots of motor use, the maximum energy produced has been shown as 4 kW, which works out to roughly 80 amp hours for that one day. Not bad!
Piecing together the plan for that system was an enormous job. I am not receiving anything for mentioning the manufacturers, and am including the information above only in hopes of helping others along the way.
Anyway, that’s how we got around: sometimes sailing, when the wind was blessedly workable (no significant upwind sailing in this barge houseboat), often motor sailing, and rarely motoring with the sail not even raised. One of the advantages of having put so much time and effort into sailing motorless over these last years is that I was able to gauge situations of limited wind, judging how long it would take to do what I was hoping to do, as far as destinations and timing, if entirely under sail. Those runs entirely under sail can be exhausting, and the comparison to what was possible using the motor was striking. I have rather sheepishly been telling numerous friends and acquaintances that I’ve become “motor woman.” But at least there are no fossil fuels involved!
Eventually it became clear that it was time to turn around, and let go of the big southerly goal. Every single day in the extended 10 day forecast promised south and southwest winds, with the pattern likely to continue. Also, I felt that my health was not as up to snuff as I would have liked, for venturing so far from home. Sometimes being on the boat has been truly magical, with my well-being improving the longer I stayed. This time, it was instead going the other way. Too many crazy nights, and long days, and apparent limits to the stamina I had upon which to draw.
Suzanne came to meet me in Pemaquid Harbor, to help with doing an adjustment on the autopilot motor position, which had been shifted on the day with those big waves. We had not foreseen a couple of tools, and bolts, that would be needed to really complete this repair in a lasting way, and at a three hour drive from home, I was already well beyond how far Suzanne wanted to travel to meet me, though she generously made that trek, with both tools and supplies. All of the various issues converged, and after Suzanne had gone home, I decided to make Pemaquid my turnaround point.
In hindsight, that was an excellent call. There wasn’t another decent batch of easterly wind for close to a month, and it didn’t last – we are solidly into the summer weather pattern. And there was fun to be had along the way, heading back east.
Not being in a rush anymore, I went all the way up to the head of Penobscot Bay, had some lovely visits with sailor friends, and then ventured up the Penobscot River to Bangor, some 25 river miles inland. (In the chart shown earlier, Bangor is a bit further north, outside the frame where the Penobscot River runs off the top edge of the chart.) This diversion was partly for the adventure, but mostly to get to do more visiting, with friends made over this past year and a half via zoom, as we have worked together to address the woeful state of US politics during these last few years. Some adventure was had on the river, which should have its own post. The lovely visits made it all worth it.
Then I ran for home. It’s amazing what the motor makes possible. By motor sailing when the breeze was in those light times, which previously, in other boats, involved tremendous amounts of floating around, Great Auk and I got a good head start on the miles. Once the wind would really fill in for the day we would blast along entirely under sail. We left from East Hampden, a mile or so south of Bangor, at 3:30 AM, just as the tide started to run out. With the assist of that marvelous current in the river – outbound tide plus the river’s natural flow – we had covered the 23 miles to where the river opens into Penobscot Bay by about nine in the morning.
Once out of the river, as there was so much of the day left to go, and another couple of hours of workable tide to make the turn that one really must get to before the incoming tide starts running strongly north, we hustled south, and indeed got around the corner of Cape Rosier before everything turned. This set things up for riding the flood tide further toward home, and by the end of the day we were putting the anchor down in Mackerel Cove on Swan’s Island, some 50+ miles from where we had begun that morning. In a barge houseboat! The design really has been showing itself surprisingly capable.
The next day would have been ideal for sailing home the rest of the way, on a good 10 to 15 southwest wind, but it would have been another long day, and rest was in order. The day off was delightful, in such a pretty spot.
The morning after that the tide was not right until about 10 AM, so there was no need for a crazy-early start. There was also not a tremendous amount of wind. We got underway using the same approach from the other day, motor-sailing during the morning light breeze to get a bit of a head start, and running all under sail once the wind filled in. (I still cringe to admit this part about the motor, particularly on this blog where I know that some confirmed motorless sailors are reading about this unfortunate conversion.)
By evening we had covered another 33 miles, and were back in Joy Bay, anchored for the night and ready to go in to our float with the early morning high tide. This was none too soon, as there does seem to be a more significant health thing going on, rather than the regular run of long-term issues that can be accommodated one way or another. And it’s nice to be home!
Now I’ve been back for a few weeks, regaining some strength, and having decided that manual hauling of a heavy primary anchor and chain has become a serious impediment to my solo boat fun, as well as to the range of crew possibilities. Great Auk is in the process of acquiring an electric windlass. Installation is not simple, but is progressing. That will get its own post.
In the meantime, it was a great trip to start off the summer. The starry and moonlit night sailing was exceptional, and the boat has shown itself to be a sturdy traveler. Being just early July, and with excellent sailing possible through September, we are hoping for a good bit more.
The boat is out of the water, and I do hope to come back and post some bits from the second half of that last trip. In the meantime, here are a few more recent photos.
Arriving back home, October 1, with the early morning tide. [Photo credit: Suzanne Jean]
A few days later, with the rig taken apart and the masts down, Chubba gave us a tow to the boat ramp. Dave McDermott came along to help, and the gray rain held off until we were just about done.[photo credit: Suzanne Jean]
And this one, taken by one of our neighbors:[photo credit: Jon Young]
In the yard the next day, waiting for wash-up.[photo credit: Suzanne Jean]
And then into the boat shed. Yesterday the mainsail got the salt rinsed off of it… Sure does look big, when it’s not on the boat!
The third trip this year started a couple of weeks ago, heading generally west from Gouldsboro Bay, with a destination of Penobscot Bay. The New England Junk Rig Gathering is coming right up, outside of Castine, which has made for a very specific goal. Having a time consideration, the boat and I set out a couple of weeks ahead, and went up into Frenchman Bay. Here’s Mosquito Harbor, which I’ve been looking at on charts for years. It’s a keeper.
The boat farm came along with.
Going north from there, it’s all about working one’s way around Mount Desert Island.
Ironbound Island catches one’s attention, with massive cliffs. The tiniest white dots are lobster pot buoys. The somewhat larger white dot in the middle is a full-sized lobster boat, handy for scale.
Further along, small rivers feed into the Bay. This one has fishing weirs visible at low tide.
A bridge connects MDI to the mainland, over a narrow passage in the middle of a long causeway. The timing of tide and wind worked at about six o’clock in the morning, for passing through into Blue Hill Bay with about a foot to spare above the top of the mast. Hooray for small boats!
And the view from the other side:
This sailing vessel, ALCA i, has been doing research on algae in the bays of Maine for decades. They come into Gouldsboro Bay, and it was fun to see them again on the west side of MDI, inside of Barter Island.
You can see more about their work, and help if you like, here: https://www.gofundme.com/alcai
Then it was down to Mackerel Cove, at Swans Island. [photo credit: Kent Mullikin]
By the next day there was a fierce wind carrying on in the outer harbor.
Kent, brave soul, rowed out to visit regardless!
Leaving Mackerel Cove involved a side trip to McGlathery Island, due to wind and tide. This trip might also be titled “looking for Bill Cheney” – as yet unsuccessful!
Across from McGlathery, it looks like the Universe was playing at marbles.
This one is for Patty Kirshner – you’ll see why. I like to think of it as DRK, looking on.
There was supposed to be a night at McGlathery, but the wind and waves were bouncy, and with an ideal tide and wind, up came the anchor and off we went, to our original destination of Eggemoggin Reach.
What was completely impossible earlier in the day was now easy, and a little over two hours later, as the sun went down, we were anchoring in a handy cove along the south side of the Reach. In the morning it was down to Pickering Island, which would have been nice if the wind had not shifted east (forecast southeast and then southwest)! On the weather radio in the night it was blowing 35 knots, from the east, at Matinicus Rock… Friends in Carver’s Cove were having the same problem with waves from that wind, but we had some fun texting about the crazy situation, as we all rolled around.
The next day was a great opportunity to go and look at Horseshoe Cove, which has been a place I’ve wanted to see for years, passing by its entrance over and over.
After a night in there, and some fun tacking out in the morning, there was a fine wind going up Penobscot Bay toward Holbrook Island.
Now it’s Holbrook Island, in the rain, with the lovely scent of the dripping forest.
I look back at the pictures, out to sea, and you could have the idea that the wind was blowing.
At least in some of them.
Last week on Tuesday (June 13 – amid all the sailing conventions for when not to leave, is the 13th of any month also bad luck? Together with any Friday, on which one is specifically not to undertake the beginning of any substantial voyage, or risk the misfortunes that befall those who mess with the sailing spirits.) At any rate, unsure of the particular protocol, and with forecasts for the ideal wind, we set out from Gouldsboro Bay, with big ideas for travel.
We had a nice sendoff, from Chubba and Roger, out in Chubba’s skiff.
We were in hopes of a good, sturdy northerly wind for two days and one night. With that in mind, the goal was to sail south out of Gouldsboro Bay, and to keep going until either Cape Ann or Cape Cod was somewhere in sight, one hundred and some miles to the south and west.
Instead, about an hour after passing Mount Desert Rock, officially the start of the long journey and already about 20 nautical miles offshore, the wind basically died. That was about 11:30 PM, or 2330 hours. We sailed on through the night, AUKLET and I, but in place of our previous steady progress there was barely enough breeze to maintain our course. When the sun rose, instead of open water in all directions, the mountains of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park were at some distance but still clearly in view. This was not good! At least from the perspective of human plans and a preconceived notion of what might be achieved in the next couple of days, as far as transport to warmer and sandier surroundings.
The original plan involved making significant southerly progress before a major wind shift to the south on Thursday morning, that would be my ticket to turn west and go in toward shore, somewhere in Massachusetts or its islands. I had kidded that I might end up in Casco Bay, the big bay near Portland, Maine, but it was really not the idea. As Wednesday unfolded with only occasional riffles on the water, even Casco Bay seemed highly unlikely. The harbor at Matinicus Island appeared possible for a little while, and then not, as the tiny wind shifted northwest, putting the island directly upwind. Isle au Haut became a bit of an option, if that little breeze out of the northwest lasted, but as the afternoon went on this prospect, still about 8 miles distant, developed into something that would likely mean arrival in that cozy harbor sometime after midnight. And that only if the now disappearing tiny breeze somehow revived.
The prospect of such fussy sailing for so many hours, and staying awake for all of it, seemed both unpleasant and unrealistic. So toward the end of the afternoon we turned again toward the open water, in order to get enough distance between the boat and any land for some calm rest away from the possibility of rocks. Fortunately, traffic in this area is minimal, making substantial naps a real option if there is enough surrounding water. The radar detector makes an unholy racket in the presence of any other boats’ radar signals, so there is very little danger from other vessels that might be out and about. As well, the AIS transmitter/receiver informs ships and other craft of our presence, and us of theirs, using a VHF radio signal that makes only a minimal dent in the electricity budget on the boat. The AIS also calculates “closest point of approach,” and when that will happen, along with providing a visual image of where everybody is and is going.
Technically, single handing and taking naps at sea is completely against international navigation rules. On a ship that would damage or destroy anything in its path, the whole approach would be completely inappropriate. On a small boat, where the risk is almost entirely to oneself, and in conditions where problems are unlikely, it feels reasonable enough to undertake. Electronics makes this feel comfortable, to me. Knowing that singlehanded sailors were going forth long before electronics, and coming home to tell about it, leaves me willing to take the chance.
At any rate, we did see one cruise ship in the night, apparently coming out of Penobscot Bay and headed for Bar Harbor or somewhere farther on. It was duly announced by both the AIS and the radar detector, and watching its Christmas tree lights pass at about a mile and a half distant gave us a little fun in the dark.
The tiny wind came and went, from a variety of directions. The autopilot worked well enough to keep us from sailing back toward land, and in the morning of that third day, with the minimal breath of wind now from the northeast, we made a new effort to return to shore. The forecast said that by midday there would be a real wind, filling in from the southeast, so there was time for more naps before we might start making real progress.
In the meantime, there were puffins! These are the tiny seabirds with the extraordinary, enormous, colorful beaks. They first appeared in the evening, going into that second becalmed night, and then again the next morning. They fish underwater, popping up unexpectedly, and swim companionably on the surface a couple of boat lengths away, until down they go again. There was never enough time for a close photo, but the memory shines. The low sun lit those beautiful beaks, and, relative of auklets, we were especially delighted to see them.
As if that was not enough bird excitement, on the first morning out we had the pleasure of being a resting point, far out at sea, for this small visitor.
I reached to adjust the sheet rather automatically, after coming into the cockpit, and then pulled back when my fingers touched feathers! The little bird was exhausted, perching on the taut sheet up near the cleat, and didn’t even flinch. As I watched, it would close its eyes, sleeping after what must have been an overwhelming flight.
A little while later it seemed to recover, eyes open and watching me, and eventually flew to the forward part of the top of the cabin where it landed again for a little while, and then was gone. As my own trip became a little long and overmuch, and I occasionally wondered just what I was doing out there, it occurred to me that the entire effort was worthwhile for this one reason. We were in the right place at the right time to provide a resting point for a very, very tired little bird. It did indeed make the effort worthwhile.
Eventually, close to noon on the third day, the real wind finally materialized. Swans Island was in range, and by 1730 we were getting closer to the southern entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor. Originally about 13 miles away, the new steady wind made quick work of the bulk of the distance, before the breeze again faded toward the end of the day. It took close to two hours to go the last mile and a half, fortunately with some help from the tide. What a pleasure it was to finally put the anchor down, in that first cove on the right, in the company of several lobster boats on their moorings. With the long solstice days, it wasn’t even getting dark.
The next morning, it was anchor up, with an excellent south breeze, and out to sail halfway around the island to Mackerel Cove. This northern harbor is sheltered from southerly winds, and made a good place to settle for the wind, rain, and fog that were due to arrive next. There was a lovely visit with a friend who lives on that shore, and I had some restful days and nights, cuddling up with the warmth of the charcoal stove, watching the fog spill over the hills from the ocean side of the island.
Finally, on the fourth day anchored in the cove, the fog opened up a bit. Really, it was clear from Mackerel Cove to Bass Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, about 5 miles away. Bass Harbor is not a good harbor for a sailboat in a south wind, but continuing on and around the corner, a range of comfortable destinations were well within reach on the steady 15 to 20 knot wind that was forecast and already blowing. Reefed down to three panels on main and mizzen we made good time, keeping an eye on the edge of the fog bank that obscured the lighthouse at the Bass Harbor Bar, hoping that things would break up at least a little before we got there.
No such luck, on the fog! Approaching the bar, and the buoys marking the channel across it, we were shortly completely enveloped. On the bright side, over the winter I had finally broken down and acquired a handheld chartplotter. This gizmo seriously simplifies this kind of low-visibility navigation, compared to what I have been doing all these last years. Taking the latitude and longitude position from the GPS and plotting it on the paper chart – while steering – in combination with the traditional piloting and dead reckoning, was not exactly a smooth process, particularly when trying to hold a steady course without the autopilot.
Several friends have been encouraging this move to more advanced electronics, for a very long time. Thank you Bill Cheney, for our conversation last fall that finally tipped the balance toward saying yes to that winter sale. I could not be more pleased.
My skills with the new device are rudimentary, but good enough to find the next buoy on the gadget, and to guide the boat to that mark, before setting up for the next one. This is all in combination with the usual routines of laying out compass headings in advance, and keeping track of boat speed, and time, and distances between marks. But how relaxing, to have an additional check on all those calculations, and a visual image of actual progress. Despite visibility of about 200 yards, and some noticeable tidal current, the second half of the day’s trip went forward in a way that was interesting and straightforward, and so markedly less stressful than previous runs in similar conditions that I am an utter convert. Not that I won’t keep practicing the traditional approach – electronic gadgets fail on a regular basis, after all – but I am delighted to have added this bit of ease to my sailing life.
Interestingly, this new tool had also come in very handy on the first night of this trip. On the way out to sea, our first destination was to pass by Mount Desert Rock, about 20 miles out from the mouth of Gouldsboro Bay. In the dark it is notoriously difficult to judge distance from a light. Previously I have gone by this tiny island and its lighthouse during nighttime hours with a certain amount of stress, plotting position from the GPS, and watching the bearings change on the handheld compass, but feeling very aware that some small mistake could mean being much too close for comfort, out there in the dark. This approach has involved a substantial amount of peering into the night, and listening for waves on a rocky shore that might be closer than they were supposed to be.
The new gadget is quite endearing for so easily reporting distance off of a given mark. With the Mount Desert Rock lighthouse picked out on the little screen, boat distance was continually shown, reassuringly at over a mile and a half away at its nearest point. The distance of the light continues to be impossible to judge by eye, and I continue to watch anyway, and to listen for surf that shouldn’t be there, but the edge was really taken off of that experience also. The fog a few days later was the ultimate test, but in both of these situations, by far the most noticeable result was how much more relaxing it was to be out there. I’m delighted, and enormously thankful to all of the friends who have encouraged my further expansion into the digital navigation age!
Meanwhile, out there in the fog off of Bass Harbor, the breeze kept up (as did the fog), and we soon turned the corner into Western Way and continued north into the islands around the central Mount Desert Island harbors. Just before the entrance to Northeast Harbor the visibility finally started to open up, showing the edges of nearby island shores, and once into the harbor, with the surrounding warmer land, the air was completely clear. We were at the head of the harbor by 1400, and soon on one of the public moorings, after a little diversion to the float so kindly made available to the public by Thuya Gardens. Tomorrow we would be off again, heading the rest of the way to Gouldsboro.
That next day the sun shone, and after a bit of a false start once out of the harbor, with about an hour and a half of near-calm, we inched past the edge of Mount Desert Island and into the good breeze funneling into Frenchman Bay. By about 1400 on this day we had rounded Schoodic Point, flying along with the full mainsail in hopes of beating possible thunderstorms later on.
The best fun was that all of this timing happened to coincide with Suzanne visiting with a friend whose house looks out from Prospect Point, just south of Prospect Harbor. The best course was not close enough for waving, and was at the limits of Suzanne’s camera, but in spite of all that we ended up with a photo record of AUKLET blasting along on the wide Atlantic.
A couple of hours later, and several miles up Gouldsboro Bay and then Joy Bay, the wind had died back but the tide was conveniently running in. The lobster pot buoys are now in place for the season in Joy Bay, and provide perfect channel markers between the barely submerged mudflats and mussel bars of the less than half-risen tide. Suzanne was home by then, and took more pictures, from our home float.
In the end, the two of us decided that it made no sense to stop and then start again in another two hours when there would be enough water to bring the boat in to the float. So on that perfect, peaceful evening, I picked up the mooring and had one more night in the boat, sleeping in the comfort of knowing that we were almost home.
In the morning, on the high tide, the boat and I sailed in to the float. This coming and going and coming back again is the real gift of having moved to this special place on the shore. It’s nice to be home, seeing how much the gardens and flowers have grown and come out in these last eight days.
And it’s nice to remember the water, and to carry the vision of puffins, out there in the gentle waves.
Earlier this summer the motor finally came off the boat. “Motorless in training” was a long-term process, involving gradually less and less use of one or another small electric motor, on one or another of the various boats. With the launch of the Peep Hen this summer, the motor was tried for the short trip from the boat ramp to our float. However, the wind was strong, and clumps of rockweed found their way into the propeller in fairly short order, completely stopping progress, and leaving the boat vulnerable to being blown into the shore. In the end it was more effective to anchor, shut off the motor, and finish rigging the sail, in order to go the rest of the mile or so across the Bay. As it worked out, that was the last time that the motor was turned on. After sailing around and about in Joy Bay and Gouldsboro Bay, and then a month of sailing to Penobscot Bay and back, all without further use of the motor, it seemed doable to simply take it off the boat.
What a relief that was, coming home and putting the motor on the dock! No more snagging lines, and the boat sailed better, without that 30 pounds perched right on the transom. Even better, nobody expects you to use your motor if you don’t have one. A real transition came, in the “motorless in training” process, when I found myself using the motor only because I felt like other people might be aggravated if I didn’t.
This was in contrast to many previous rounds of cranking up the electric propulsion, when I would use the motor because it would get me out of a situation that was less than ideal. With each time that happened, there was an opportunity to think through how to avoid that series of events in the future, and gradually those motor uses became less and less frequent. There was left only convenience, and usually somebody else’s.
As this came about, I realized two things: The “graduate level” of motorless in training is how to sail motorless without inconveniencing other people. And the point where the only reason for running the motor is convenience means that one has made some headway in learning to manage the boat by relying on sails, current, and human propulsion of one sort or another. With those thoughts in mind, it felt reasonable to take the leap.
Not that this wasn’t a little bit nerve-racking! There’s comfort in having a motor available for just in case, even if you never use it. But it was also fascinating.
A couple of weeks after getting home from that first long trip, and then taking the motor off the boat, there was a good weather opportunity for making a trip back to Penobscot Bay. East wind is a special thing in this area in the summer, and it was forecast to go on for days. In that previous trip I never did get to Belfast, in the northwest corner of Penobscot Bay, and I was sad to have missed visiting there. That east wind was an opportunity to jump on the metaphorical bus. Three days later I was at Holbrook Island, and the day after that made the relatively short hop across to Belfast. Just as fast, the wind went the other way, and after a number of lovely visits, folded like origami into a very short time, it was back toward home.
The return trip happened in record time, thanks to an ideal wind, combined with the turning of the various tides coming at just the right moments to make it all possible. Eight days after leaving home, I was back at the float in Joy Bay. All of this with no motor, even as decoration.
What I learned while covering all that territory was that taking the motor off the boat actually made me a more careful sailor. I had already tended toward caution, and I had already thought that having a motor on the boat was a bit of a false security – motors that don’t start, or quit when one was hoping they wouldn’t, are after all a fact of mechanical life. Boat motors that quit when they shouldn’t have caused all manner of problems, probably since they were first invented, and some of those problems have involved very sad endings. Still, and even knowing that, sailing with the motor clamped onto the boat does make one think that one can try things, on the theory that if that slightly uncautious idea doesn’t work out you can always turn on the motor to (figuratively) bail yourself out.
For example, there is the combination of current and dying wind, or traffic and dying wind, or rocks, and waves, and you guessed it, dying wind… Take the motor off the boat, and each one of those possible events should rightfully make your stomach skip, and inspire decisions that will keep yourself and the boat out of harms way, including if the wind quits. Really, it’s not a bad idea to sail in that way even if you do have a motor, but if the motor works almost all the time it can be easy to bet the house on it, becoming a certain kind of complacent.
On AUKLET there is the yuloh (Chinese sculling oar), and on the Peep Hen, SERENITY, one can scull fairly effectively with the rudder, pushing the tiller back and forth repeatedly, to drive the boat forward. Both approaches are very useful when the wind dies, but there is a limit to how much current they can overcome. It’s important to think ahead, starting to scull away – or across the current – from a hazard well before it is close enough to be actual trouble. If there is a motor on the boat, one might wait, thinking something along the lines of “well, if this maneuver doesn’t work I’ll just turn on the motor, which has plenty of power to do the job.” Take the motor off the boat, and that kind of procrastination looks a lot less appealing!
All in all, sailing motorless is incredibly engaging. I hope to be able to do it well. There has now been another trip, of about a week, in and out of various bays and harbors over toward Jonesport, some ways east of here. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover, with a small boat and a bit of sail. I never really believe it’s possible – it’s as if all the time that the motor was sitting there on the stern, doing absolutely nothing, it was actually involved in propelling the boat. Sailing without it, covering 50 or 100 miles or much, much more, feels like perfect magic, in the literal sense. On a puff of wind, that you can’t even see! Extraordinary.
Yesterday, after a gorgeous sail across from Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, I arrived back in Joy Bay. This summer/fall has involved sailing every which-way. First from the Connecticut River up to Joy Bay, in Maine, to see the house that Suzanne and I are moving into, and then off again, as the gradual process of transitioning to the new place has gone on, with building (boat shed), and repairs, and getting things like propane service and a kitchen stove all in order. I’ve had the luxury of being gone off sailing during most of this, available by telephone, and in some ways helping by keeping myself out from underfoot.
Earlier in the summer I went a little ways east, doing some visiting in Pleasant Bay, in the vicinity of Dyer Island, and then back across toward the west, again to Penobscot Bay, with a bit more visiting, and spending time in a variety of harbors. This year I’ve been on “harbor tour,” going into a number of locations that I’ve either seen from a distance, or heard about, for years. Benjamin River, on Eggemoggin Reach, was beautiful, and it was fascinating to finally see Smith Cove, by Castine, which is really a bay of its own, with a number of interesting coves all around the edges.
For a while we had almost a week of very strong northeast winds, and the possibility of a hurricane to follow that. The hurricane thankfully turned out to sea, but I spent the week investigating anchorages that might be suitable for such a storm, and in any case were better or worse at fulfilling the needs for shelter from 20 to 25 knot winds right there in the harbor.
Holbrook Island was nice, hidden behind the steep shore; Benjamin River was lovely after the wind died down, and the water stayed relatively flat throughout, but the wind just howled, not particularly interfered with by the gradually sloping surrounding hills. I was sorry to have left Holbrook!
The biggest prize in the harbor investigations was Seal Bay, on the east side of Vinalhaven. Gorgeous, with no big-world activity, and thus boring to many folks who therefore ignore it. A moderate number of cruising boats go in, but if one chooses out-of-the-way corners for anchoring, the small crowd is mostly seen in passing. (Though one motoring sailboat on its way out took a turn entirely around my anchored boat, sightseeing; not being up yet for the day, I didn’t get to say hello.)
True to its name, there are seals in Seal Bay, and one of the corners where I anchored was bordered by a rocky island that turned out to be where the seals like to spend the night. A friend said earlier this summer how funny it was that seals sound like pigs – she grew up in the Midwest, and was much more familiar with the land-creature version of that sound. The comparison seemed true to me at the time, but I had mainly heard seals from a distance. Two o’clock in the morning in Seal Bay, and the grunting and squeaking about 50 feet away from the boat, and I knew it had to be seals, sounding like pigs! In the half light at dawn, as I got ready to sail off, there they were, eight or ten seals hauled out on that nearby rock. Of course I knew that already – I’d been getting woken up by them off and on through the entire night. I may not pick that exact spot for anchoring again, but it was a lovely place to watch the lunar eclipse, and there are so many other perfect corners in that bay. One hesitates to advertise nice hideouts, but I think that the big boat people already know about it, and seeing another small sailboat or two among those shores would only be a treat.
This year I also went up into Somes Sound. This one has been on my list since way back sailing the Falmouth cutter over a decade ago. This is a long narrow bay that almost divides Mount Desert Island in half, and is said to be the only true fjord in the continental US (though there are many in Alaska). I was daunted by the fjord stories, of no anchoring possible along the steeply dropping shores, and fierce and unpredictable winds rushing down the slopes of the surrounding mountains. In Alaska this is very true, where the mountains are huge and jagged, with freezing glaciers developing cold rushing winds that tumble down in williwaws that can put a sailboat right over on its side. With the word fjord conjuring all that, and the New England cruising guides making much of this unique body of water, I was nervous about it. Then a friend of a friend, who lives in the village at the head of Somes Sound, suggested visiting, and I started to think about going there. Watching the weather, there was an opportunity with a south wind for going north up the sound, followed by a north wind a couple of days after that, to be able to get back out. Getting around to this took some time after the initial conversation, and phone messages never did generate a meeting with the person who inspired this trek, but I’m so glad for the time that he took to reassure me on the various concerns about going up there.
As it turns out, it wasn’t such a big intense deal – much more like sailing up and then back on a good-sized river. There are in fact beautiful mountains along the sides, but these are New England mountains, rounded and old, and the highest is something like 1000 feet in elevation.
Some of the shorelines are steep, but the deepest water is in the neighborhood of 150 feet, and much of the sound is considerably less than that. The word fjord is true – this waterway was carved by a glacier – but the resemblance to the daunting stories from Southeast Alaska or the southern parts of South America does seem to end with the glacial origins. Lucky for me! Instead of an intensely challenging and somewhat hazardous undertaking, what I discovered was a lovely, long bay, with a very nice harbor at the northern end, interesting coves along the way, and tremendous scenery on the way in and out.
I have since been back again, and have shown myself that it is even possible to sail this boat upwind to get out of Somes Sound. But it did take a half a day, instead of an hour. I’d rather do that run with the right wind!
So this is the story of this year of sailing. I haven’t done so well at keeping up with the blog, but there are a couple of other posts mostly written, and some others beyond that in mind. I’m hoping to put them up here in the next little while. Tentatively, we will take the boat out of the water in a little over a week. A friend has suggested that a Google maps trace of this year’s track would be a nice thing to put on the blog – presently this is out of my technical range of skills, but I do expect that I could learn. It would look something like the path of one of those little waterbugs that skitter around on the surface tension of a pond: here, there, and everywhere, with not much sense of specific destination. But you sure do cover some territory! It’s been a marvelous year.
Well, I’m here to say that, in case anybody wondered, having a first and in-depth experience of shingles while cruising singlehanded on a small boat is an absolutely terrible idea! On the other hand, having that experience present itself in the neighborhood of a friendly and supportive harbor and community really helps a lot.
Shingles is a follow-up to childhood chickenpox, endured by some of the people who had chickenpox, generally sometime after they get to the age of perhaps starting to think about reading glasses. It is something to do with herpes, affecting nerves and skin, as well as muscles associated with nerves. It’s not a nice time, but you get a lot of sympathy. In all the assorted health experiences I’ve had, in telling people this or that I have never heard so many emphatic exclamations of “OH NO!” as I have during the last two weeks, followed by complete understanding of whatever is going on to try to make it better, and offers to help. Though it’s been a difficult time, it’s also been very heartwarming, and the kindness from everybody, from total strangers to an assortment of friends, has made the whole process easier than it might have been.
This event got into gear just as I arrived in Belfast, planning to be here for three days or so, meeting up with Suzanne on her way to and then from Gouldsboro. It’s now been two weeks, and thoughts of departure are becoming more realistic. For a person who prefers holistic medecine, Belfast is ideal as a place to land during a healthcare situation. There are quite a number of holistic healthcare practitioners, as well as folks with thoughts on whom to recommend. Two of those practitioners came to the dock to make boat calls, for which I am enormously grateful; those visits resulted in a nice range of possible treatments in addition to what I was already doing.
All of this brings to mind the larger subject of illness or injury while solo cruising. I still have thoughts of Newfoundland, and this issue of possible incapacity is the one that slows that idea down the most. The bottom line is, would I be willing to live somewhere for an extended amount of time during a recovery process, far from people who know and care about me and my well-being? Two or three weeks is not such a big awful deal, but what if it was a few months? A year? My new long-term residence? Being a person who does not travel easily at the best of times, other than in one or another rather unique boat, the question is real. How much am I willing to risk, in order to go sailing? To sail far?
Risk is inherent to everything – to life itself, as well as to any venture in a boat. But one measures, holding the possibilities alongside one another. Having shingles on a small boat can make a person really wish to be at home on land, being taken care of, with all of the comfort that both of those imply. During the worst of it, I seriously considered that we could take the boat out of the water right here on the adjacent ramp, and I could ride home by road to our new place in Gouldsboro, an hour and a half away, and say “enough.” The situation eased, and I’m glad to still be on the boat, but it does get you thinking.
As it is, I am now close enough to seaworthy to be ready to give it a try. With luck I will go across to Holbrook Island, outside of Castine, and continue recovering in the peaceful stillness of the surrounding woods and rocks. Sometime after that I hope to be working my way east, back toward Gouldsboro.
In the meantime, my heartfelt thanks go to each one of the many people who have helped during this extraordinary time.
[Posted from the cove at Holbrook Island, a few days after the initial writing.]
Following are some of the strategies for shingles that I’ve found. It is important to note that I am not a healthcare practitioner, and these are not recommendations; what I have done, or thought about doing, or learned along the way, are all included as food for thought for readers in doing their own research.
Clay packs – In my experience, clay packs both help the blisters to dry up, and are soothing for that bizarre skin nerve pain that is part of shingles. I put some clay in a container, add enough water so that when it is all absorbed it makes a soft paste, put on skin, cover with plastic so it doesn’t dry out, keep on for 15 minutes to an hour, whatever feels good. It gets removed gently, with water and/or a moist washcloth. It’s messy, but plastic sheets are useful, and the clay cleans up easily. Clay for doing this sort of thing can be found in natural food stores, or ordered online. This one is my personal favorite (I’m including this link for readers’ convenience, and am not receiving anything for posting it or any other references on this blog):
Pascalite Superfine Powder, found by scrolling down on this page: http://www.pascalite.com/Prod.htm (For skin that’s tender, the “superfine” is likely to feel more gentle, and soothing.)
Shingles Rescue Plus, made by Peaceful Mountain http://store.peacefulmountain.com/products/shingles-rescue-plus (also available from many other suppliers) – this is a water-based gel that includes both homeopathic and herbal ingredients. It is fragrant, which was problematic for me, so I only used it for one day, but it was very soothing.
Lemon balm (Latin name: Melissa officinalis) – there are a number of products available for shingles that include this herb. It is also available as loose, dried leaves, at natural food stores in the bulk herbs section, or online. The loose herb can be made into a tea which can be drunk, and/or applied to the skin. The plant is in the mint family, so it’s a question whether it is appropriate for use at the same time as homeopathic remedies. Anybody considering using this herb might want to do some in-depth research – there are mentions of thyroid considerations, perhaps among others.
Homeopathy – I like homeopathy best; for many reasons it suits me well. Choice of particular homeopathic remedies depends upon the characteristics of the individual. For intense problems, for example shingles, I believe it’s best to find a skilled homeopath for guidance.
Magnesium oil – this is magnesium chloride in water, called “oil” because it feels oily, like the greasy feeling of sea salt that has dried on the surfaces of a boat. Magnesium is important to a wide array of cellular functions, and can be absorbed through the skin. I ordinarily use this stuff to help with muscle cramps. One aspect of shingles can be what feels like intense muscle pain, quite similar to the feeling of having pulled or otherwise strained a muscle. According to the medical folks, this is actually a nerve problem and not the muscle itself, but since I usually use magnesium oil for muscle strains, I used it for this and it seemed to help. Later, when the blisters got going, it was too irritating, but it was good in the early part of the overall process. This is my personal favorite, but there are others available too: http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Minerals-Magnesium-Oil-oz/dp/B001AD0HL8
Seawater – especially as a cool compress using a washcloth. This feels outstanding at the time, including where there are blisters, and seems to help with reducing skin discomfort later on in the day or evening – I’ve tried for doing it twice a day. There’s a lot of magnesium in seawater, along with many other minerals. There are also microscopic bits in seawater that I’ve been learning about recently, called phages, that apparently go after bacteria and viruses. Nothing but good, if it’s true!
Raw honey, applied topically, is mentioned for shingles in a number of online sources – I didn’t do this, because it’s messy, and would have been difficult to manage over such a wide skin area while on the boat. Otherwise I would have tried it, using Manuka honey, which is said to be particularly good for treating wounds and burns. Honey is completely liquid at body temperature, so when used for a skin treatment it needs to be contained somehow, either with bandages, or maybe plastic.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), brain retraining exercises, and basic breath work – each of these has also been very helpful. Resources on everything except the breath work are described and referenced elsewhere in this blog, and can be found by using the search box in the upper right part of the page.
There are of course mainstream Western medicine approaches to shingles, including antiviral medication, and now a vaccine to increase chances of preventing it in the first place. There are also other holistic treatments not discussed here (acupuncture comes to mind). As everybody says: check with your doctor!
Shingles is a wild experience, and a wide array of approaches for getting through it can be helpful… I wish anybody who needs this information the very, very best in a speedy recovery.