Thursday, August 16, 2012

Island Hopping

Block Island

(click on photos to enlarge)
While on Block Island, we rented some bikes and visited the Southeast Lighthouse, which is not only a very unique looking lighthouse, but unique in it's history.  When the old time sailor men complained that they couldn't tell one lighthouse from the next (back then lighthouses had steady lights coming from a kerosene flame lantern - always on, but today they're electric and can flash with distinct characteristics), the Southeast Lighthouse was fitted with a green lens, the only such colored lighthouse on the entire east coast.  The other interesting thing about Southeast Lighthouse is it was moved.  The cliff erosion over the years came so close to the lighthouse, they were afraid it would fall into the ocean, so they moved it.  The giant boulder marks where the lighthouse once stood.  It must have been an amazing feat to move that boulder.

The rolling Block Island countryside was really quite beautiful on the ride back to Moonshadow.  

Once back aboard, we were treated to some great sunset colors.

Next up was a sail to Cuttyhunk Island.  We didn't have the best wind but the distance wasn't too great so we enjoyed the quiet with the engine off, and kept some diesel in our tanks.

A day at sea on a great boat tends to put a smile on your face.

Cuttyhunk Island

We didn't go ashore at Cuttyhunk, but that worked out fine because we learned that Cuttyhunk's answer to Aldo's Bakery's Block Island yacht delivery service is the floating Raw Bar.  A dozen oysters on the half shell with horseradish and cocktail sauce delivered to Moonshadow…priceless!

Not to be outdone, Cuttyhunk's sunset colors put on a great show.  

Martha's Vineyard

The sail to Martha's Vineyard was part motoring, part sailing and lots of push from a strong current.  We passed the first anchorage at Vineyard Haven on the north side of the island, continuing on to Edgartown at the east end of the island, near Chappaquiddick.

This is where the movie Jaws was filmed, so we had to visit the little beach point lighthouse that appeared in the film.  

The view from the lighthouse illustrates what a stubby little mast Moonhsadow has.  All the better to duck bridges!

(click on photos to enlarge)

We also took a bike ride out to Oak Bluff harbor and back where we learned just how strictly roadside signs are enforced.  

The Edgartown Yacht Club hosts an annual regatta called the  12 Metre Regatta.  I guess somebody misspelled "meter" years ago and they just went with it rather than reprint all those t-shirts!  Anyway we happened to arrive just as things were getting underway.  

Twelve Meters are the yachts that were sailed in the Americas Cup off of Newport, Rhode Island from post WW II until the first defense by San Diego Yacht Club.  

With almost 50 years of development, there are some radical differences in the designs.

Eight 12's were here representing a span from the late 1950s to the 1980s, four of them past winners of the cup, all in mint condition and ready for battle around the buoys.

While walking around Edgartown, we found this Pagoda Tree, believed to be the oldest in America, which was brought back by an old whaling captain and planted here.

Our other discovery in Edgartown was Murdick's Fudge.  We watched this craftsman make some peanut butter fudge on a marble top table for so long they had to mop up the drool from the floor where we stood.  The fudge was awesome.


From Edgartown, we had another great sail over to that island to the east of Martha's Vineyard for which so many limericks have been coined. 

40 miles south of Nantucket is a dangerous shoal called Nantucket Shoal for which a lightship was employed to warn sailors.  The Nantucket Shoal Lightship provided the first  light to be seen for ships arriving after a long North Atlantic crossing.  Lightships served at Nantucket Shoal from 1854 until 1985 when the Nantucket Lightship 612 anchored here was decommissioned.  All the US lightships have now been replaced with deepwater buoys or other navigation aids.

Nantucket is a very interesting island with lots of history.  This is where US whaling started, became a global economic factor and just as quickly disappeared as the Gold Rush and discovery of oil in Pennsylvania conspired to make whale oil obsolete.  Nantucket is also where Herman Melville sailed and wrote Moby Dick.  

There's a whaling museum here with all the whaling museum stuff you could want to see, and enough information to put in your blog so you really look like you know your stuff.

Whaling captains and some of the crew got rich and built fine homes in Nantucket.  They put a railing on the top (called a widow's watch) so their wives could stand up there for months and wait for hubby's ship to return home...yeah, right!

Today, Nantucket is where the rich people hang out.  We know this because two drinks cost 35 bucks!  

It is also where the beautiful boats come to hang out for Nantucket Race week.  Hey we're here, right?!!  But these aren't just beautiful boats.  Some are legendary boats.  Take these, for example:


Back in the day, Ticonderoga was it.  Big Ti, as she became known, is a 73 foot Herreshoff ketch that is just beautiful from every angle.  She won the Transpacific Yacht Race (Los Angeles to Honolulu) in 1965 in what was then the most dramatic finish of any yacht race in the world.  John was 13, living in Hawaii, and drove out to Diamond Head to watch the nighttime finish.  Ok, his Dad drove.  For days the reports on the radio differed on who was in the lead, Big Ti, or Stormvogel, a more modern, faster looking boat from South Africa.  Stormvogel was a newer and possibly a faster boat, but Big Ti had won first to finish in 1963.  Both boats reported gear failure, one had a broken boom, the other had a broken spinnaker pole.  

Unlike modern racing with GPS and constant updates of accurate positions, positions were determined with a sextant, and reported once per day in the morning roll call.  Some speculated false positions were being reported.  Really, nobody knew who would win.  That night at Diamond Head in the distance we could see first one, then two lights on the horizon.  Still, nobody could tell who was who until Big Ti sailed into the beam of light from Diamond Head Lighthouse, just 5:48 ahead of Stormvogel, after 2300 miles of racing.  Wow!  

Back then, the finishers tied up in Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu in the order of the finish, so when you went down to view the boats there was Tichonderoga in the first slot, then each of the other boats, with masts getting progressively smaller, all the way down the wharf.  

click to enlarge and see the gold dolphin
In 1965, these legendary big boats were called "gold platers", meaning they were just stunningly beautiful, beautifully maintained with gleaming varnish and polished brass and bronze.  But Gold Platers didn't just look good, they were usually first to finish in the major ocean races.  Big Ti wasn't just first to finish, she set a course record that stood until 1971.

For John, taking in the sights of these thoroughbreds at Ala Wai back in '65 was the moment a lifelong passion for boats was born.

Now at the start of our cruising adventure whose roots can be traced all the way back to those Ala Wai visions and the 1965 Transpac finish; seeing Big Ti here in Nantucket, looking every bit as majestic as she did then seemed a fitting bookend.


Another 73 footer, Bolero is a true Gold Plater.  Designed by Olin Stephens of Sparkman and Stephens, and first launched in 1947, Bolero is probably the best S & S boat ever launched.  She was first to finish in the Bermuda Race 3 times (1950, 1954 & 1956) and held the elapsed record until 1974.  Bolero was recently re-launched after an 18 month refit in Maine.  She looks perfect!


Spartan is a 1913 New York 50, designed by Herreshoff.  She is 72 feet long with a huge sail plan.  Spartan has been completely restored and is looking just awesome.

All the 12 meters that were in Edgartown are here for another regatta plus a few more including Gleam, Nefertiti, and Northern Light.  

Another part of this week's action will be a tall ship gun battle between the Baltimore Clipper Pride of Baltimore and the Privateer Lynx, both beautiful schooners with raked masts, square yards on the foremast, and cannons.  

The Moonshadow crew was invited aboard Pride of Baltimore for some sailing pointers, but the best we could do was look like silly tourists.

There are a lot more classic boats here, but rather than spoil the fun, why not just come for a look!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Goodbye Chesapeake
Moonshadow had been based in Annapolis for three weeks and we were ready to leave, but first, we had some chores to do. Both the engine work and the canvas work we had done while here needed a revisit by the vendors, so we had to wait over the weekend for Monday.

We moved Moonshadow from her slip at the Annapolis Yacht Club to an anchor in "Spa Creek" behind downtown Annapolis and spent the weekend getting Moonshadow shipshape doing things like cleaning the seawater strainers.  On Legacy in San Diego, the strainers get checked and cleaned maybe once a year.  In the Chesapeake, Moonshadow's strainers get an overhaul at least once a week.  

Here are before and after shots of the strainer that sees the most water pulled through it to serve the heads, anchor wash-down and galley seawater supply.  

As you can see, Moonshadow has been in some really muddy water.  In amongst all the brown yuck were some bits of jellyfish too!

Another weekend chore was to clean the brown "mustache" from Moonshadow's usually white hull.  That same brown yuck we found in the strainers ends up on the hull a foot high at the bow.  She looked great when we were done, but the 'stach came back after a day motoring on the Chesapeake.

We were also entertained by the local kayak tour that passed by Moonshadow twice a day.  

We got to the point where we'd both memorized the monologue the guide gave, and even the "ad-lib" remarks by his wife in another kayak, which never changed!

Monday we moved around to another bay called Back Creek where the engine mechanics arranged a dock for Moonshadow while they fixed the exhaust leak.  It turned out that the fiberglass water lift muffler had a crack on the flange where the 4" hose attaches which they were able to fiberglass and put back into service in an afternoon.  While there, we had the canvas man return to make some adjustments to the new dodger.  Finally we left Annapolis for a beautiful night anchored in Martin's cove just five miles away. It finally felt like we were "cruising" again!  

The next day it was on to Georgetown, across the Chesapeake and up the Sassafras River.  This beautiful shot of the sun behind some clouds turned into a loud thunderstorm and squall with raindrops the size of grapes.

From Georgetown, we motored up to the "C and D Canal" which connects the north ends of the Chesapeake and Delaware bays.  There's a tiny little basin at a place along the canal called Chesapeake City, just big enough for Moonshadow to swing a circle around her anchor, and that's where we stayed and enjoyed another lovely sunset.

The best part about the C and D canal is the bridges.  Yes, you read that right.  The minimum bridge clearance along the canal, where there are six bridges, is 132 feet, or exactly twice Moonshadow's mast height!

Delaware Bay is a bit boring with low land on either shore and not much else.  There were also some huge pieces of flotsam we had to keep an eye out for.  Here we had some helpers identifying a big log.

The east coast has some great lighthouses and Delaware Bay has a pretty interesting collection of its own.  I'll bet each one has some great stories to tell if they could talk.  I also imagine being a lighthouse tender would be a really boring job.

At the south end of Delaware Bay is the southern tip of New Jersey with Cape May just around on the Atlantic Side.  Actually, there is a canal that cuts across New Jersey to Cape May, saving a few dozen miles, but it has a fixed bridge with a 56 foot clearance so we went around and anchored just inside the Atlantic inlet, by the Coast Guard Station there.  This Coast Guard base looks like a recruit depot as there are hundreds of men and women marching and chanting all day long.  We took the dinghy in and tied it to the Lobster House's schooner called the "American" where we had lunch.  The American is a steel version of the old Grand Banks Gloucester fishing schooners so it was cool to imagine being aboard under full sail on this 164' beauty...just move these dining tables and the bar out of the way, put some dories over here, add a couple miles of heavy manilla rope and some crusty guys in oilskins...and you have a scene right out of "Captains Courageous".

After lunch we took a walk through Cape May and saw their "Painted Ladies" which are old Victorian houses that line the main street and some of the ocean front boulevard.

There are hundreds of these houses, which are all very old and in various stages of repair, but most are in beautiful shape

When we returned to Moonshadow, we were treated to a fantastic fireworks show that lasted over a half hour.  

We were feeling pretty special until we figured out this was the United States Coast Guard's 222nd birthday.

From Cape May, we chose to skip New York and Long Island Sound and leap-frog up to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard.  The weather looked right for this 265 mile jump so we left at 0730.  The wind never got strong enough to sail but came up enough to boost our motoring speed to over 10 knots, so we were happy to watch the miles roll by so easily.

Here's our command center.  Two B&G instruments give us all kinds of data on wind, speed, distance travelled, you name it.  The Garmin is set to radar mode with a guard zone to alarm if anything gets too close.  Also available are the VHF radio, autopilot and engine instruments.  

In the red box is our Watch Commander which sounds a soft alarm every 15 minutes in case we're resting our eyes.  If we hit the reset button, the Watch Commander leaves alone for another 15 minutes, but if we try to sleep through 30 seconds of soft beeping, an alarm sounds that will wake the stowaway lizard in the engine room! Actually the lizard finally died.  

Every 15 minutes when the Watch Commander sounds the person on watch will check the horizon, check the compass heading, wind, radar, check the engine gauges and count crewmembers.  On the hour or every fourth alarm, we log our position and plot it on the paper chart. Also available to those on watch at our command center is a searchlight, fog horn, binoculars, M&Ms, water, etc.

 Below, all is well with dinner in the pressure cooker kept level on the gimballed stove.

We had a really pleasant passage and finally diverted to Block Island, because it was about 50 miles closer and sounded pretty interesting in the guide book we were reading.  In the end, we covered 210 miles in 23.5 hours for an average just below 9 knots!

When we arrived at New Harbor on Block Island some very thick fog lifted so we could find our way through it's very narrow channel.  Once inside New Harbor widens to a huge bay that was actually once a lake.  We could see about 250 yachts inside.  All day, boats streamed out of the harbor heading back to the mainland to return to work the next day.  We decided to stay and play hookey... 
what'll they do fire us?

In the mornings, Aldo's bakery drives around in a Boston Whaler shouting "Andiamo" and offering breakfast and pastries from their bakery.  This is their 43rd year doing this service for the yachts moored in New Harbor. Breakfast was delicious and we hope fortifying for our walking tour of Block Island today.