A decision to stay

SIrocco at sunset in Oriental harbor
SIrocco at sunset in Oriental harbor

Well, I have thought for a few long weeks about what to do with the rest of this winter season and came to the conclusion that there isn’t a lot of winter left, so I may as well stay here in Oriental in order to get an early start on work that I want to do on the boat before next summer’s sailing season.  Just putting my current plan down in writing makes me wonder about actually following through with it, though!  The last few times that I have told anyone about what my plans were I have had to change them.  I just think at this point that it makes more sense to tough out the remaining weeks of winter weather in place rather than sailing.

Just because I am staying in this area doesn’t mean that I won’t be moving at all.  I will get out sailing when I have free time and when the weather is nice on days like today, or whenever else the mood strikes me to get out of the harbor.  I don’t want weeds on the bottom to grow too thick, after all.

Today was just the kind of weather that makes me glad that I am living on my very own sailboat.  The temperature reached about 65 degrees, the sun was shining brightly, and there was a gentle breeze stirring the surface of the Neuse River.  I decided to head in to the town dock to see if I could entice anyone out onto Sirocco with me for a few hours.  I thought that this would be the perfect time to go looking for unsuspecting crew, as the Bean was crowded, and there were many people out shopping at the farmer’s market.

Well, despite the crowds and the perfect weather I had a difficult time finding anyone who wanted to go for a sail!  I eventually ended up with just one other person on board for our little jaunt on the river.  Luckily, that person was Keith Smith, one of the energetic people behind the website towndock.net.  He and I had plenty to talk about as we enjoyed one of the most pleasant January days that I can remember.

We backed away from the dock under power and then set the sails once clear, but while still in the harbor. I stopped the engine as we passed the Oriental Yacht Club, as there was just enough breeze to keep Sirocco moving at about 1 knot.  There were a few tacks to be made to climb to windward down the channel, so that kept the crew busy walking the jib through between the inner and outer forestays, as there was not enough wind to blow it through.  Sirocco made steady progress in this light air despite her 17,000 lbs and slightly scummy bottom.  The wind was blowing at all of about 1-3 knots–not enough for exciting sailing, but perfect for making the galley an easy place to work!  I served up a couple of fried-egg-and-tomato sandwiches and they quickly found their place in the crew’s bellies.  The wind petered out completely leaving the Neuse River to become glassy and mirror-calm.

Sirocco at the town dock in Oriental, NC
Sirocco at the town dock in Oriental, NC

The breeze came up again just as we finished our sandwiches.  It didn’t come up with any great force, mind you, but it was enough to blow us gently back to the dock while we enjoyed a cup of tea.  Since a fair breeze was blowing, I decided to sail all the way in to the town dock–to a few cheers from onlookers who were watching the show from the front porch of The Bean, the local coffee house which is directly across the street from the town dock.  I had furled the sails several boatlengths away from the dock and let Sirocco glide in gently on her own momentum, so a couple of bystanders who had not immediately understood what had just happened commented, “I thought you were going to sail all the way in!”  It took a moment to explain that that was exactly what had been done.

It is now almost 11 pm and I still want to move the boat back out to the anchorage before I go to sleep so that the town dock is empty for whoever may want to use it in the morning.  Time to get underway again…

Sirocco's dinghy
Sirocco's dinghy moored on a calm evening. It's back to rowing for me!

Happy sojourn

New Year's Regatta
Sailing upwind in the New Year's Regatta

Well, here I am still in Oriental several weeks after arriving.

I always run into such an interesting mix of people here that I have a difficult time tearing myself away.  It is easy to find one excuse after another to stay–bad weather; some little thing that needs fixing; provisioning; an upcoming event; weather again…  I would have been foolish to have headed out into the southwesterly gales that we experienced soon after I arrived here, but since then I could have certainly made some progress south in between fronts.  Instead, Oriental drew me in.

Sirocco and Tally Ho!
Sirocco (right) and Tally Ho! at anchor in Oriental

One of the most interesting things to happen in the past couple of weeks was the arrival of the original Tally Ho!, which is the boat that William Atkin designed as an evolution of the thinking that went into Ben Bow, which is the design to which Sirocco is built.  The trio of designs that began with Fore An’ Aft is featured in the book “Of Yachts and Men”, by William Atkin.  These are some of my favorite cruising yacht designs!  It was wonderful to have two boats from this series in the same harbor at the same time.  All three of the designs share many of the same characteristics–short overhangs; long keels; and relatively heavy displacement.  Ben Bow is the lightest of the three and has the finest waterline and is described as a “light displacement” boat by Atkin, but at 17,000 lbs for a 28′ boat is pretty heavy by modern standards.  I could go on about the subtle differences between the three boats, but one who is interested could study them on the Atkin design website at:  http://www.atkinboatplans.com/Sail/ForeAnAft.html http://www.atkinboatplans.com/Sail/BenBow.html http://www.atkinboatplans.com/Sail/TallyHo.html

New Year's Regatta- motoring to the start
Motoring to the start of the "Better than Football" regatta

Sirocco raced in Oriental’s “Better Than Football” New Year’s Day regatta this year.  The event attracted over 60 boats out onto the Neuse River on a beautiful winter’s day that didn’t feel at all wintry.  I had onboard as crew Christian, who was familiar with Sirocco from his time onboard during the delivery to Oriental from Marathon, FL, in July.

The race started out in almost flat-calm conditions.  It was warm enough for me to be comfortable in just a long-sleeved t-shirt as we sailed slowly up and down the starting line, positioning Sirocco for a boat-end start on starboard.  Actually, we started at the green #1 end, which is where the committee boat would have been.  The pin end of the line was marked by a large inflatable football.  I had string of assorted flags flying from the spinnaker halyard to help keep the mood light and festive.

Soon after the 1200 starting signal the wind began to pick up.  The flags were soon lowered as I began to feel more competitive.  I wanted Sirocco to make a good showing against all of the modern boats that were beginning to spread out across the river.  The first mark was upwind, so I trimmed the sails for a closehauled course and coached Christian on how to keep a good course for maximum upwind speed.  Sirocco heeled over and trucked upwind at 5 knots.  As we approached halfway to the first mark I tacked away to clear our air because some larger boats were to windward of us.  Christian thought that we were bringing up the rear of the fleet, but after another tack back towards the turning mark it was apparent that we were solidly in the middle of the pack and holding off some much larger modern boats.

Sirocco silhouette sailing upwind New Year's regatta
Sirocco silhouetted sailing upwind New Year's regatta

The wind continued to increase and whitecaps were now dotting the surface of the recently mirror-faced river.  I thought about reefing the main to ease the weather helm and heeling, but we only had another mile to go to reach the mark where we could turn downwind and would want all of the sail up again.  We held on to all of our sail and the leeward rail dipped below the surface of the river as Sirocco sailed upwind at about 5.5 knots, which is as fast as she ever goes upwind.

After rounding the windward mark I was grateful to ease the sails out and let Sirocco come back upright.  I set the whisker pole to windward and we sailed towards the next mark wing-and-wing, with the mainsail out to one side of the boat, and the jib out to the other.  We passed a couple of boats on the run and didn’t lose any even to some 40-footers who had rounded the windward mark after us.  Not everyone bothered to set whisker poles, and only the boats at the very front of the fleet were using spinnakers.

The final leg of the race was a close reach and even though the wind was gusting over 20 knots I kept all sail set.  Sirocco creamed along at over 6.5 knots, overhauling another couple of boats in the last couple of miles and giving us a solid mid-fleet finish.  Had the wind come up sooner we probably could have finished in the top 1/3…  Not to worry, as all have equal chance to place at the top of the board in this race–the winners are drawn by lottery!  I think this is a great idea for a fun race.

We sailed back into the harbor and anchored.  After tidying up the boat we joined the party at M&M’s for the post-race gm and awards ceremony.

There have been a lot of boats passing through late in the season, encouraged by the relatively warm winter weather that we have been experiencing.  Amongst these have been a couple of boats with people close to my own age.  It has been fun having some younger folks around to chat with and go out with.

My plans are anything but firm for leaving here, but I am starting to get restless and ready to head a bit farther south.  The next good weather should be here in a couple of days…


Cornered in Oriental

Town dock in Oriental
Sirocco med-moored to the end of the free town dock in Oriental, NC

It has been almost two weeks since I arrived in Oriental, NC, with the idea that I would rest and refuel and wait out a strong southerly wind that was predicted for the day after I arrived.

I don’t have a good track record of making it out of Oriental quickly.  The last time I was here I came for a week and ended up staying more than two months.  A local diver here named Ralph says that it is because of one of Blackbeard’s curses.  Whatever the reason, Oriental seems to be one of those placed that just holds onto me when I come.

I can’t say that it is at all an unpleasant thing to have happen, as I enjoy this little town as much as almost anywhere else that I can think of.    The people here are friendly to visiting sailors–an overall attitude that I find to be the exception among the places that I know.   The town has everything that a sailor could want–good, protected anchorages or marinas; free town dinghy docks that are safe and convenient; marine supply stores (including a marine consignment shop, a West Marine, and the supplies available through the local marinas); a grocery store that is a comfortable walk from the harbor; some good restaurants;  a local gathering place in The Bean coffee shop where sailors from all over the world can swap stories over a fresh cup of brew…  The town is very pleasant to walk and one can see many people out enjoying the quiet, friendly atmosphere of Oriental’s quiet back streets.  There are also a couple of well-kept parks, including one stretching along the town’s waterfront on the Neuse River, which is a wonderful place from which to watch sailboats come and go.

Oriental bills itself as the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina”.  I can’t argue with that, as it may very well be true, but I think of it as more of the “Sailboat Storage Capital of North Carolina” for all of the boats that are here that don’t get regularly used.  It is true everywhere that most boats spend the great percentage of their time tied to a dock or mooring or on the hard, but for all of the hundreds of boats in this area I am regularly surprised at just how few are ever on the water on any of the many lovely afternoons that I have passed in this pleasant city.  On an absolutely gorgeous day it is common to only see one or two boats sailing out on the wide Neuse River.  On a weekend I would put that up to 4 or 5.  I don’t recall ever seeing more than a half-dozen boats out sailing on the river at the same time except for a special event or race.  Dinghies from the sailing camps are the exception, of course.  Maybe everyone is just enjoying the welcoming atmosphere ashore, as am I…

Sirocco at Deaton's yard in Oriental, NC
Sirocco docked in Deaton's boatyard, Oriental, NC

Today I took advantage of the unseasonably warm winter weather, with a high of about 55, to put a coat of varnish on the tiller and a coat of white paint on the inboard end of the bowsprit and the mooring bitts.  Sirocco is thanking me, I am sure.  The bitts had seen some abuse in the past months, including having been tasked with holding Sirocco fast during hurricane Irene, and the tiller can always use another coat of varnish because of the constant wear that it receives during regular use.  I didn’t think that I would be painting and varnishing at this time of year at this latitude, but I’ll take it, thank you!

The plan now is to stay here for the New Year’s celebrations before moving on.  Northerly winds are forecast for next week, along with much cooler temperatures, so that will spur me on.  It was a fine day today for moving south, but I wasn’t ready yet to say farewell to friends here in lovely Oriental.

Firing cannon
My friend, Christian, salutes the sunset and Sirocco with a black-powder signal cannon that he made from scratch from a bronze propeller shaft


Merry Christmas!

Just a quick few words to spread good cheer! I send my best and warmest wishes to all on this Christmas eve for a wonderful and joyful Christmas day!

SIrocco will spend the holiday snugly tied up in Oriental, NC and I will likely pass the day in quiet reflection.

Much love to all!


Cape Cod to New York

I left from Little Bay, which is right next to Monument Beach, MA, in two stages–First, I pulled up both of the anchors and exited the bay, and then I re-anchored just outside to clean and stow the rodes and dinghy and make the boat properly ready for sea.  I needed a couple of hours to clean off all of the marine growth that had decided to attach itself to my anchor rodes during the weeks that I had been anchored in the area.  I scrubbed all of the nylon (rope part) with a brush and rinsed it with buckets of saltwater.  The chain only needed to be swished in the sea to remove the mud.  I removed and stowed all of the chafe gear and put the dinghy on the cabin top.  It was just after sunset when I finally got underway on my way out of Buzzard’s Bay even though I had arrived on the boat at 0830 that morning.  The wind was light and out of the southeast, so I had to motor down the bay.

The wind continued to lighten throughout the night, soon leaving me motoring over a flat-calm sea bound for the Race at the eastern end of Long Island.  I would have gone around Long Island but for the strong westerly and southwesterly winds predicted to arrive in 24 hours, which would not have been enough time for me to make port on that coast.  With a fair current helping me down Buzzard’s Bay, I made good time.  Slack water found me just off of the mouth of Narragansett Bay with the current soon to change in my favor again.  That made for picture-perfect timing of the run down that body of water, as the fair current would then carry me through the Race, where a 4-knot push would be most welcome–doubling my speed over the ground instead of stopping my progress completely.

I decided that my first port would be North Cove in Old Saybrook, CT.  I would get an anchor down well before sunset and then ride out the next day’s predicted foul weather.  Instead, as I sailed up the Connecticut River past the first marina I saw a familiar boat tied to the dock–it was Dominion, the boat that belongs to Tim and Andrea, who had sold me their old hard dinghy a few weeks earlier.  They had left Marion a couple of weeks ahead of me, so I was surprised to see them so soon.  They waved me over, so I started the engine and pulled in to the marina behind their boat.

After getting Sirocco tied up I decided that I wouldn’t be comfortable there overnight due to a strong current pushing on her and straining her lines even in the relative calm of that evening.  With the front that was due to come through that night I was sure to regret staying on the dock, so over Tim and Andrea’s slight protest I departed for North Cove just as dusk settled over the river.  When I arrived at the narrow channel entrance to North Cove I found that the markers had been removed.  I knew that the channel was very narrow and subject to shoaling.  The sky was almost completely dark now and the ebb current was running strongly.  I would have to “feel” my way in slowly.

I turned away from the main river channel where the entrance to the North Cove channel should be and slowed to dead ahead.  With 12 feet of water showing on the sounder readout I continued forward.  My method for staying in the channel was to wander slightly north and south until I saw the soundings begin to drop.  If I was on the north side of the channel when the water started to shallow I would turn slightly to the south, and vice-versa.  This kept me roughly in the deepest part of the channel.  I was prepared to turn around or start poking in different directions if I ran out of water, but that didn’t happen.  I had at least 9 feet of water all the way in, which was good for my nerves, as the tide was falling and bad weather on the way.  Once I was safely inside North Cove I continued just until the water started to shallow, and then set the anchor.  I know that North Cove is very shallow in places, so I didn’t want to push my luck.

The wind and rain arrived as predicted that night, but I slept soundly with the CQR anchor buried firmly in sticky mud.  I estimate the maximum wind that night at around 30-35 knots, so it wasn’t terrible, but the weather change brought a blast of cold weather to remind me that winter was chasing me down the coast.

Finally on my way again

Little Bay
Dinghy in little Bay with Sirocco in the far background left

That’s not a UFO in my pictures–there is dirt in between the sealed lenses of my trusty Canon A630 camera that I can’t remove.  I have tried to disassemble it, but since the camera still works I don’t want to risk its’ destruction to remove an annoyance.  So, for now there is a little dot in the upper left of most of my images…

Maybe I should wait until after I actually depart before posting this…  Nah, I’ll risk it!  I am finally getting underway with the bow pointed toward warmer climes for the winter.  Talk about a late exit!  I am now a couple of months behind when I had originally planned on leaving Massachusetts.

One thing after another conspired to keep Sirocco at anchor–not all of them unpleasant diversions, of course, but one that does stand out as a sad occasion was the passing away of a dear old friend.  She was 105 years old, and had been slowly losing her vigor, so it wasn’t wholly unexpected, but it still came as a shock to get a phone call late at night that she was in what was expected to be her final hours.  A visit was arranged for the next day, but early in the morning I received the sad phone call that she had passed away during the night.  That was a bit of a blow, as I had fully expected to be able to say goodbye.  I had a long visit with her widowed husband that day, which helped to lift both of our spirits.

On the bright side, I got to spend Thanksgiving at home with family, and that was a wonderful and festive occasion.  I was particularly thankful to spend the holiday with my parents, brother, his girlfriend, and my young nieces instead of on a cold boat in a lonely anchorage somewhere!  Now the time has come again to make an attempt at departure.

Engine room hatch
Work progresses on the engine room hatch

I have made good use of my extra time here and Sirocco is better-prepared than she was even a couple of weeks ago.  I replaced the rusted, grease-clogged alternator with a new 65-amp one; relocated the dipstick tube to accommodate the new alternator; installed new LED lights at the masthead for the anchor and tri-color lights (still have to figure out why they aren’t getting good voltage though…); hinged the engine room hatch; added chocks to the dinghy so that it will sit in place on the cabin top; and many other little things…  There is always more to do and it seems that the “to do” list never gets any shorter!

I am now carrying a SPOT satellite tracking device so that I can update my position to family and friends back home even when I am beyond the reach of radio or cell-phone service.  My position can be viewed at:



One of these days I will try to figure out how to put that map here on my blog, but for now if you are interested you can just click on the link.

I have a new storm anchor thanks to the young family that I bought my fiberglass dinghy from.  They were ready to depart almost two weeks ago and called me one afternoon to see if I wanted the nesting dinghy in which I had shown some interest a couple of months before.  I could have it if I met them in Marion harbor before sunrise, they said.  I told them that I would be there and showed up at the boat just as the sun peeked over the horizon.  They were still asleep after a long night of last-minute preparations, which didn’t surprise me.  As I waited for someone to answer my knock on the hull, I struck up a conversation with their neighbor, who had come by to offer an Eldridge pilot book for the departing boat’s trip.  He asked me if they had a storm anchor and I told him that they only had what was on their deck.  He said that if they wanted it they could have the danforth off of a 45-foot Hatteras sportfisher that he used to own.  “Everyone needs a storm anchor”, he said.  He is totally correct there!  Later in the morning the neighbor came by again, and this time the departing family was up.  The neighbor brought down his big, 40-lb Danforth anchor and gave it to the grateful new cruisers.  They passed their old 30-lb danforth-style anchor to me to make room for the gift from their neighbor.  There were two very happy anchor recipients that morning!

I have to get going now–there is still much to do if I want to leave this evening!

A false start

I tried to unglue Sirocco from Little Bay last week.  I pulled up the anchors and brought the boat out into Phinney’s Harbor to a position from which I could leave at any state of tide.  Little Bay has a very shallow, unmarked entrance so I can only leave at high tide with Sirocco‘s nearly 6-foot draft.  The next day I received word that a dear old friend had died, so I moved the boat back into protected Little Bay, asked the harbormaster for permission to stay on for another week or so, and then drove down the Cape to visit my friend’s husband.

Since my departure was delayed I was able to get a few more things done on the boat.  The most important job that I completed was the installation of a new alternator.  The old one was at the end of its’ useful life, and had actually endured far longer than I ever thought that it would, given the advanced corrosion on all of its’ terminals and hardware and the copious amounts of grease and belt dust choking its’ innards.  Since it was working when I removed it I suppose that I will clean it up and keep it somewhere in the farthest reaches of some forgotten locker on Sirocco where it can act as ballast until I finally discard it one day as completely useless.  Installing the alternator was not a lot of fun, as removal of the old one was complicated by frozen fittings, the new one is slightly larger, necessitating relocation of the dipstick tube (I still haven’t worked out where that will go yet), and replacement of some wiring.  I was getting dripped on by the leaks around the cockpit sole because it was raining during all of the hours that I was bent over the engine performing those tasks.  Solving the leaky cockpit sole problem is still on my “to do” list.

I made a trip to the masthead two days ago with the idea that I would fetch the masthead light unit so that I can install the new LED lights that I bought from Bebi Electronics, but on arriving at the masthead I discovered that my unit is not equipped with a quick-release feature, so I will have to make another trip up with tools to unscrew the unit from the masthead truck.  Hopefully it will come off easily, but that is not how things usually work on the boat.  Next time I will take the time to remove all of the mainsail slides from the mast track so that I can put the slides of my “Mast Mate” climbing device into the track.  It was not much fun trying to climb that stretchy, twisting piece of webbing while it was hanging free, only supported at both ends.  I thought that I could just pull it tight and secure the free end of the unit to the deck to keep it from swinging about, but it has too much stretch for that tactic to be effective.

Thanksgiving is next week and though it is difficult to think of having to leave right before the holiday, I think that I should be on my way.  The weather has been unseasonably warm for November in Massachusetts, but that weather pattern is coming to an end.  It is seasonably cool out today, with the high in the mid-40’s F.  That might feel brisk when one can easily return to a warmly heated house, but when out sailing all day on a boat with no heat it can be miserably cold.  Still, it would be nice to celebrate the holiday with family…  We’ll see what the coming week brings!

Almost ready to head south

I have been slowly getting things back to normal on Sirocco after out extended stay here in Massachusetts.  I can’t believe that it has been over two months since that beautiful sail up Buzzard’s Bay only days before Irene blew into the area.  It has been great spending time with family, but I am ready to get back to living in one place.  It has been stressful to be staying at home but visiting Sirocco out at anchor every day.  Every time I heard the wind rustling the trees I worried about whether the anchors were holding fast.  It is much easier on my mind to be on the boat while she is out at anchor because I know immediately if something is going wrong and am in a much better position to do something about it.

Today I spent the morning getting food organized and packed and the afternoon loading it and gear onto the boat.  Once the majority of the stores were put away I turned my attention to getting the yankee up on the furler because the wind had dropped to almost zero.  By the time I had the sail up and furled it was getting dark, but the moon was close to full and the tide was almost high, so I decided to haul up the anchors and take advantage of the calm weather to exit Little Bay, which has a tricky unmarked entrance.  It took me nearly an hour to get the anchors on deck, as I first had to untangle four wraps in the rodes.  The quickest method that I have found for untangling the rodes is to unshackle one of the nylon rodes from its’ chain, unwrap the turns, and then re-shackle the rode back together.  With all of the gear on deck I motored two miles over to anchor off of Monument Beach.  I set two anchors and put the Sirocco to bed for the night.

In the next couple of days I will point her bow south.  I am not sure how far we will go this year.  Rather, I will stay open to the possibility of finding the perfect winter haven anywhere along the way, although I do imagine going at least as far as North Carolina.  Any farther north than that would be a test of endurance since there is no heat aboard Sirocco.

Why aren’t there more young people out here?

Fort Jefferson sunset
One of the best ways to see the Dry Tortugas is by cruising sailboat. The cruising sailor can stay for an entire week for less than the cost of a day trip on the ferry from Key West.

While speaking with a friend a couple of days ago the subject of the average age of cruising sailors came up.  He had the idea to start a “young cruiser’s club”.  It would be a place to meet other cruisers and encourage more people to get out there.  My first question was, “Well, what qualifies as young?”.  Who should we focus on?  After a couple of numbers were tossed out there I finally said that we should admit anyone who isn’t yet eligible to collect Social Security benefits.  That really thins the crowd these days.

The fact is that I don’t meet very many people out cruising who are not fully retired and out enjoying their golden years afloat.  I immensely enjoy meeting other cruisers and rarely focus on the fact that they may be a few (or more) decades my elder.  I have made some wonderful friends who are old enough to be my grandparents, but I can’t help but feel just a little bit removed from their social circle.  There is more than just a generation gap between me and the average cruiser that I meet.  It’s more like an immense, yawning canyon with a tiny little river and some trees waaay down there in the shadows at the bottom.  We can laugh together for a few hours at a potluck on the beach, but there isn’t usually much shared experience beyond the fact that we are all out cruising.

The fellow who brought up the idea of some sort of club for younger cruisers is in his 40’s.  He sails a Bristol 30 that he bought on the cheap.  He is a new cruiser and told me that he often feels that he is the only “young” person out sailing!  He was floored by the fact that he seldom sees anyone under the age of 50 out cruising.  I am in my early 30’s and should probably feel even more removed from most of the cruising crowd than he does, but I have been cognizant of the demographics of this group of people for years because I have spent a lot of my spare time in boatyards and in anchorages where cruisers gather ever since I was a teenager.  I had stopped giving it much thought except for the times when someone near my own age would call me an old man because the average age of the people that I hang around with is about the same as that of my grandparents.  This time hearing from someone who was looking at the cruising lifestyle with fresh eyes got me thinking about what is keeping younger people off of the water.

Cost is the obvious answer, but a summer cruise could easily be done on a modest boat for less than a summer cross-country road trip or similar, and there are many people who undertake trips like that in any given year.  There is a minimum knowledge that needs to be acquired before setting out so that the cruise can be made safely, but that can be had at one of the many Coast Guard Auxiliary or sailing school training courses available throughout the country.  It would be great to hear from others about what is keeping people in their 20’s and 30’s from taking to the water.

I would like to see more people take a “gap year” cruising vacation before going to college or before starting work or before starting a family.  These are natural transition periods for young people.  Those transition periods work well for providing the time necessary to have a grand adventure.  Going on an extended cruise can be fantastic way to hone decision-making skills, take the time to decide what to do next, unwind, get fit, meet new people, and visit new places.  All of this can be done at a very reasonable cost, especially with the very low price of some quality used boats out there right now.  If more people begin to make these sorts of cruises, then there will be an even better market of inexpensive but adequately outfitted boats as people enter and leave the cruising lifestyle.

I hope that there is a new wave of young cruising sailors about to take to the waters in small but seaworthy craft.  They should be ready to spread their sails to a fair wind and discover the exhilarating feeling  of true freedom that is still available to anyone on their own boat on the wide rolling sea.  They will discover the peace of a snug, deserted anchorage, and the wonder of a sky full of bright stars on a dark night.  They will feel the excitement of new landfalls and learn of the satisfaction of successfully navigating their small ships safely to their intended destinations.  They will benefit from learning the art of self-sufficiency and from having their personal horizons broadened by meeting new people in new places.

See you out there!

Autumn Gales

The weather has certainly been keeping things interesting for me the past couple of weeks.  We have had two extended periods of southwest gales that really stirred things up around Cape Cod and the Islands, so I decided that I needed to move Sirocco to a more sheltered bay.  This move had to take place after I had finished my regular daytime obligations, so I missed the afternoon tide and had to move the boat at midnight, as the entrance to the little bay where I planned to shelter Sirocco from the forecast strong winds is too shallow to pass at low tide.  Luckily, there was a full moon to make the move easier.
I arrived at the boat ramp nearest to where Sirocco was anchored at about 2200–just in time for it to start pouring.  When I left the house it had been clear.  Now bands of rain and thunderstorms were rolling through.  I waited a few minutes for the rain to taper off before launching my dinghy from the beach next to the boat ramp.  The wind was already blowing at 20 knots out of the SW, which caused an uncomfortable chop in the harbor and made rowing more challenging.  As soon as I shoved off the rain came in again, and hard.  I rowed the half-mile to Sirocco through the dark and rain with a sailbag containing my pillow and some clean, recently dry bedding on my lap to keep it out of the rising water in the bottom of the dinghy.  The oars occasionally caught on my cargo, causing the blades to strike the surface of the water on the return stroke, which slowed progress and showered me with salty spray.
I made it to the boat, hauled the dinghy on deck because the anchorage was too rough to leave it snatching at its’ painter, and went below to shelter and stow my sopping bedding by the light of lightning strobing through the portholes.  Luckily, the wind and rain slacked off in advance of the front that was to bring the first round of gales, which made it much easier to begin hauling up the anchors.  Just as I finished hauling the first anchor the wind came up all at once to 35 knots.  I worked quickly to haul the other anchor.  I was only able to make progress between gusts because of the pressure of the wind pushing on Sirocco.
Once the anchors were both on deck I secured them and started motoring upwind against a rapidly building chop.  I was very glad that I had taken the dinghy on deck, as the wind began to gust ever higher, and the chop in Phinney’s harbor was soon up to about two feet high, with the occasional higher wave pitching Sirocco enough to cause her propeller to suck air and lose all drive.  After those waves it would take what seemed like ages before the prop would bite again and Sirocco would begin to regain momentum.  At least while we were stopped dead in the water there would be no spray blowing back from the bow to cover my glasses.  That gave me a chance to lick them dry enough to see for a few seconds to get my bearings relative to the channel markers before Sirocco built a little speed and sent the top of the next wave showering over the cockpit.
It took an entire hour to force the boat to windward two miles to the new anchorage.  I was thankful for the light of the full moon that shone down in between low, racing clouds that moved across the sky so quickly that they reminded me of some movies where the scene is an entire day that has been sped up to fit into a couple of minutes.  Only the angle of the moon’s light didn’t change quickly enough to complete the effect.  When possible, my attention was focused on following an electronic trail that I had previously plotted in calm weather to lead me into the sheltered bay behind Toby’s Island through a very narrow, unmarked channel.  I only had one shot at it because the wind made the island and gravel bar that guard the bay into a lee shore that night.  I was thankful that I had taken the time to commit the entrance to my memory as well, because I don’t like to be overly dependent on the electronics, but I needed the GPS trail to show me exactly where to turn into the bay, as the small buoys that normally mark the entrance had already been removed for the winter.
I made it through the entrance without incident and drifted downwind about one quarter of the length of the bay before turning up and dropping anchor.  I set one anchor and let out plenty of scope.  I wanted that anchor to dig in deep, as the overnight wind would blow to about 40 knots, according to the forecast.  I reasoned that if the single anchor held, then when I set an additional anchor later on the boat would be secure enough to ride safely without me having to stay aboard.  It was almost 0300 before I went to sleep to the sounds of the wind howling in the rigging.  The anchor was holding fast, though, and the bay very sheltered from waves, so it was a relatively peaceful night.
After I awoke in the light of day I set a second anchor so that it also held the bow to the strong SW wind.  The boat lay very quietly to the two anchors, as they worked together to keep her bow from falling off very far to either side.  It was good to have the insurance of two good anchors down because that day the wind blew at up to 47 knots–a test for any boat’s gear.  Once I was satisfied that the boat was holding I got in the dinghy to return to the car.  Within one minute of leaving the boat on a fast downwind ride to the boat  ramp a very heavy shower passed over and threatened to completely obscure the shoreline only two hundred yards on either side of my course.  The deluge was short-lived, thankfully, as it also threatened to burden the dinghy with a load of rainwater.  My mile-long dinghy trip back to the boat ramp was powered by the strong wind.  I had only to correct my course by occasionally dragging an oar.
I contacted the town’s harbormaster during the week for permission to stay anchored in that bay for the rest of my visit here.  He granted me permission to stay, so now I don’t have to worry about where I will keep the boat for the next couple of weeks until I start my trip south.  The bay where Sirocco is anchored now is protected from all directions, so I don’t have to worry so much about each new wind that comes through.  That is doing very good things for my peace of mind!