Monthly Archives: October 2013

But how did you get here??

Last week I mentioned cruising aboard the little cuddy-cabin my husband and owned back in our twenties. And as I said, we had many good times aboard that boat. But there’s one in particular we still laugh about – our arrival at Block Island. It was right after that two-day stop-over in Mystic, and wanting to squeeze in as much time as possible on the island, we departed the Seaport before dawn had  begun to tint the horizon. We had our course plotted, the engine was running perfectly, and off we ventured into the darkness.

The passage went smoothly, with nothing but miles of wide, flat rollers while the engine hummed and the blackness gradually gave way to a murky fog-bound grey. We stayed on course, and right on schedule, we reached the red bell buoy marking the entrance to the Great Salt Pond. We motored slowly through the crowded anchorage and made our way to Payne’s Dock, where we had a slip waiting at the floating dock with the thirty foot and under crowd. It was still early; the sun was starting to burn away the gloom, people were just beginning to stir, and the fellow on the 28’ flybridge Carver we were docking beside paused from his mug of steaming coffee to give us a hand tying up. And then he asked the strangest question.

“How did you get here?”

Huh? I looked to my husband, he looked to me, and we both looked to the boat we’d docked only moments before. The answer seemed fairly self-evident. But maybe not. Carver asked a second time, as though we hadn’t understood the question. In reply, I pointed to the boat we were standing in.

But that, it seems, wasn’t the answer he was looking for, so this time he rephrased his question. “But the ferries aren’t running yet. How did you get here?”

Am I missing something here? My husband and I look at each other, perplexed, and this time I state the obvious: “We came by boat.”

Still Carver looked as baffled as us, and finally he elaborated enough to explain his confusion and clear up ours. He said, “But the ferry isn’t running this early. How did you find the island?”

Ahhh! That’s what he meant. I pointed to the compass and my husband held up the chart.

“Oh,” Carver replied. “You know how to use those? We just follow the ferry.”

And sure enough, later that day as we hiked around the island and saw the ferry arriving, it was trailed by a small flotilla of boats, much like a duck with ducklings. Apparently, our friend from the docks wasn’t the only one who used that method of navigation. And while it may have been a reliable way to get from point A to point B in those pre-GPS days, personally, I’d rather plot my own course to explore new and unfamiliar waters, rather than follow in someone else’s wake.

Advertisements

The K.I.S.S. approach to cruising…

C.E. Grundler

The other day I overheard a couple discussing their ideal boat, and I’ll have to admit, it was impressive. The fun of theoretical boats lies in the fact that no expense need be spared — we’re talking theoretical, after all.  But as I listened, I recalled that very boat, the *ideal* boat, because I’d been docked beside it once, years ago.  And more important, it brought to mind a lesson I learned along the way – one that has stayed with me ever since.

My husband and I took a little cruise aboard Sandcrab, the little cuddy-cabin we owned at the time. It wasn’t much of a cruise, really, just a short getaway. Our daughter was small and my parents offered to watch her for a week, so we threw a dufflebag of clothes and an ice-chest of coldcuts, soda and bagels onto our 23’ vessel and set out for adventure… or at least a few days to ourselves. And let me tell you, we were cruising in style.  Amenities consisted of vee-bunks beneath a deck that leaked (some things never change) a porta-potti, and the aforementioned ice-chest. Instruments consisted of a compass, VHF and a depth finder that read ‘ERR’ whenever the water got skinny, and we had a stack of paper charts.  That was it. This was before the time of GPS on shiny tablets, cells phones and all the other bells and whistles that many couldn’t imagine leaving the dock without these days.

And yet, aboard that little boat we traveled to some wonderful locations. There was no set cruise plan; we picked a spot, set out, and since the boat itself hadn’t drained our budget we were able to tie up in some very nice marinas each night. With a boat that small, there was never need to call ahead; they’d always find some spot to tuck us in, and transient fees were minimal. At Mystic Seaport we found ourselves placed into a slip meant for a boat three times our size, surrounded by vessels we could only dream of, towering over us quite comically.

The couple to our port side were lovely people, liveaboards with a well-used boat and countless miles beneath their keel. The couple in the shiny new ketch to starboard, with the TV flickering and the AC humming, however… well, let’s just say HE wanted that *&#@%! boat, and SHE wanted to spend that money remodeling the kitchen… and needless to say, neither of them were happy. With the way sound carries through fiberglass hulls and water in the quiet hours of the night, we all knew in great detail just how unhappy they were. He kept raising the volume on the TV, and she kept raising her volume to match. My husband had walked down the road in search of ice to replenish our cooler, and I was about to go over and say something when the fellow to port had a word with starboard about keeping it down.

When my husband returned, all was once again quiet on the waterfront. As he climbed aboard with the ice, he looked to starboard and remarked about ‘someday, a boat like that.” I explained how not everything about that boat was as shiny as it appeared. And while that couple stayed below with all their fine amenities, simmering anger and resentment, we happily ate our cold sandwiches in the cockpit, then wandered the now silent, darkened Seaport filled with magnificently restored square riggers, schooners and sloops, sitting ghostly in the moonlight.

That little boat took us many places, on that cruise and others, and through it all I came to appreciate the freedom that came from keeping things simple. We could tie up just about anywhere, and occasionally we even skipped the baloney sandwiches for dinner in some very nice restaurants. And when we chose the trawler we have now, we intentionally sought something on the small and simple end of the scale. Yes, it’s nice to have an enclosed head, a real stove and standing headroom, but 32’ still leaves us the ability to cruise in the style to which we’ve become accustomed… at least, once we’re back off the hard, that is!

And for a bit more on really K.I.S.S. boating, a ‘build your own’ video, (it’s funny how much these engines sound like my diesel,) as well as a wonderful demo video of the boat pictured above, (sorry, no subtitles, but I do love that this guy is wearing an ‘Eight Heads in a Dufflebag’ tee-shirt!): Ponyo Pop-Pop Boat

 

Murphy was a Meteorologist

I’d like to apologize to everyone for the unusual shifts in weather patterns that have been occurring over recent years, both here in the north east and beyond. Unfortunately, I predict that through the coming weeks we’re all in for yet more abnormal fluctuations in temperatures and precipitation. I cannot say precisely what weather is headed our way during that period, only that whatever awaits will be either excessively hot or unusually cold, likely with periods of extreme rain/snow/hail and humidity as well. I know there are numerous theories, debates and scientific explanations as to why the weather’s been so wonky, but I can sum it up quite simply and indisputably: it all ties directly to my proximity to my boat.

I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way one little person and one little boat can upset entire weather systems. For years I tried to tell myself that as well, to convince myself it was just my imagination, but the moment I attempt to work with any substance that requires specific setting conditions, my boat immediately transforms into the center-point of a bizarre weather vortex. You want snow in April? Ninety degrees in the same month? Torrential floods? Forty degrees at the end of May? I’ve made it all happen – I was going to work on the boat. Last October’s paralyzing blizzard/ice storm? Same deal. I had the car packed with tools and clean Mix-n-measure containers waiting in the salon. The instant I so much as screwed the metering pumps into the West epoxy I was screwed as well, and the weather immediately reset itself to a temperature that fell outside the recommended working ranges. Varnish and high-gloss paints, I’ve discovered, would cause an even more unique meteorological effect. The weather would remain optimal through the first coats, just a little too optimal, in fact, ideal to stimulate the hatching cycles for swarms of gnats, right on schedule to launch themselves kamikaze-style into the flawless finish just as I’ve laid down that perfect final top coat. And don’t even get me started on trying to USE the boat. Remember a few summers back, when New Jersey was deluged with rain nearly every day from spring to fall?

I’ve begun to believe the only way the weather will ever settle back to some level of normalcy is to throw in the towel on boats altogether. In fact, in over twenty-five years, I can recall only one vacation where the weather was ideal. We’d spent several days in Denali National Park, in Alaska. Mount McKinley, or Denali, as it is known locally, is the highest mountain peak in North America – so high, in fact, that it creates its own localized weather. And that weather, we were told, usually included a thick shroud of clouds that obscure the mountain for much of the summer. But from the moment of our arrival to the day of departure, the clouds parted and the mountain remained in full view the entire time. From there we continue to Juneau, Alaska, reportedly North America’s best guarantee of near-perpetual rain. Not one drop fell during our stay. Our vacation wrapped up with three days in Seattle… bright, sunny, Seattle, where not even a single cloud dared enter the sky for the duration of our visit. But it makes perfect sense – in no part of this trip was our boat a factor. I’m quite certain if that had been the case, the Pacific northwest may have experienced their first plague of locusts in recorded history.