Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Update, January, 2007. Donna, Neill and Tesla are spending the winter in sub-tropical Rhode Island, and Etude is on stands on the hard. More on this as we catch up. My apologies for the dislocations in layout -- the blog publisher shows something different from what I enter into the work space. Maddening! Thanks for reading, and please leave some comments.

Berke Breathed
Opus is the name we had given our dinghy. Why Opus? There is the much-loved penguin in the comics. And in music, the Opus (composition) is based on and follows the Etude (study). Opus the dinghy follows Etude the sailboat. In our last posting, we explained how he is'nt following us now. He is lost yet again.

Losing the dinghy is a kick in the stomach. Our boat moves us from place to place, but the dinghy is our ‘wheels’ in the harbor or anchorage. Without it we have to rent a dock space or 'slip' at $45 to $100 per night, pay a taxi at $5-10 a pop, or we're stuck on the boat. We are depressed for a week, and lose that much time from our already too-short window for cruising in Maine. To begin the search for a new Opus, we are directed to Hamilton Marine, a local ‘chain’ of four stores. They have the best rowing supplies, good prices, and a beautiful fiberglass 10’6
Puffin, $1400 beautiful. Donna, ever hopeful (tightfisted?), says we should hold the purchase 'til we get to Rockland. This gives Opus another week to come in out of the cold. Or for us to find his replacement.

Despite the dinghy depression, Portland is one of our favorite cities. With few really tall buildings, light penetrates to the streets, and there is no highway dividing the town. An interesting mix of the old and the new makes it a joy to bike or walk around. Donna’s mom Nancy and brother Len join us as we visit an LL Bean outlet store. Donna really enjoys the Historical Society museum, featuring a fun exhibit on ‘things ordinary people collect’.

Portland to Belfast

On Thursday September 14, Portland recedes in the distance. Etude is joyfully bound for the ‘heart of Maine cruising’, Penobscot Bay and Mt. Desert Island. This leg features two days of light sailing and motoring, and a one day layover in Boothbay Harbor.

Rockland Harbor Lighthouse

Finally, rounding Owl’s Head brings us to the lighthouse on the breakwater and to Rockland, well remembered from our charter here in 2003. Rockland is yet another charming New England fishing town, everything close to the harbor, picturesque old buildings, and renovated movie theatre…but we have a mission.
For two days we search intensively for a cheap dinghy, scouring want-ads, E-Bay, bulletin boards, Craig’s List, dumpsters, tidal flats, whatever. Pain, but no gain! The locally built skiffs are strong but too heavy. A kind older guy has a used sailing dinghy, but it’s too fat. So, we throw in the towel on Opus and cheap dinghies, and order a Puffin from Hamilton Marine. The delivery will be three days later in Searsport, 21 miles up the bay – just where we want to go anyway.
The plan is to spend Sunday in Rockland. On Monday we’ll sail to Dark Harbor on Isleboro, and Tuesday to Searsport, where Hamilton’s owner has kindly offered the use of his mooring. This gives us a break to reacquaint with the Farnsworth, a wonderful museum featuring regional artists, especially the Wyeth clan.

"Braids" 1979

Meanwhile, back at the boat…the GPS will not boot up. The local electronics techie is in his shop and available on a Saturday morning. Really! After about a half hour of tracing wires, he finds a switch half hidden below the autopilot wheel. ‘Try that.’ Oooh yeah! Great! Neill is still unable to grasp the need for three different ways to turn off the GPS.

We ask people about food: everybody says ‘go to Conte’s’. This is a totally funky, Italian seafood joint smack on the waterfront. The outside is this chaotic jumble from a lobsterman’s shack, and the inside décor is more of the same. (We walked by it four times without being aware that it was a restaurant.) Patrons order from a floor-to-ceiling hand drawn menu at the hostess’ desk, then stand there until their table is ready, complete with salads. New arrivals are backed up out the door, where they get to entertain the talkative young hound tied outside. That can be fun -- until some folks come with a ‘guide-dog in training’. But the food is outstanding. We’ll be back.

Tesla likes to hide out in some deep far part
of the boat during the day. She emerges at
dusk to make her rounds of the deck, then
she sits on the cockpit coaming surveying
the night sights.

Penobscot Bay

Monday we’re up early with the lobstermen and off to Dark Harbor. Oops, that bit of fog we saw is for real, a solid bank of it rolling in. The Dark Harbor entrance will be a narrow rocky passage, and we are not yet sure about the GPS. So it’s ‘ready about’, and return to the Rock.
Light fog remains on Tuesday, but we’re aweigh at 7:30, with a nice SW breeze for the 24 mile reach to Searsport. As we approach, the breeze has piped up and three foot whitecaps are rolling into the harbor. The ‘harbor’ at Searsport is a wide bay completely exposed to the weather. Nowhere else have I seen such a place called a ‘harbor’.

N O T !!

Trying to catch and tie onto a mooring, get ashore, return, and possibly spend the night in these conditions – this prospect is not appealing. The Hamilton office suggests Belfast, five miles east, as an alternative. We haven’t looked at it, and have no idea how this will work. But it looks good in the guide book and the chart . It’s a hard, close reach, but proves to be a well-sheltered harbor. It’s too late to get the dinghy today.

Etude at the Dock in Belfast

Belfast, Sept. 18. The harbormistress offers us the off-season rate of $20 for a dock slip. This is a beautiful little town on a hill (…yet another charming…), with a natural food co-op, a stunning huge library, and no highway running thru town. It does not think of itself as a tourist attraction. Serendipity.

O P U S II Donna Likes Her New Oars

The next day, Wednesday, our dinghy is delivered to the dock at Belfast. Donna and Neill try rowing tandem, but the setup isn’t quite right. Donna finds the boat easier to row than the late Opus I.

A ‘Community Rowing’ Gig, a Bigger Boat

Later Wednesday evening, Neill gets to row in the six-oar gig of the Community Rowing group. A club owns the boat, and has an open invitation to anybody who wants to row. There are the usual suspects (oh, are they suspect!) and always one of two newbies. Have we told you how Neill the former beach lifeguard loves to row? He does! He does!

Coming soon: Belfast to Blue Hill and Southwest Harbor


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


It's been a VERY long time since my last post. Please forgive. We sailed majestically into Wickford RI about the 29th of July. Donna's brother Len came to greet and we spent about 3 weeks in and around Wickford making lots of boat improvements. Len re-vamped the electrical system, we had a real holding tank (a.k.a. sanitation system) installed, and made lots of other improvements. Left RI mid-August and lingered for a week or so in Manchester and Marblehead MA, partly to wait out the wind & rain that were the remains of Ernesto. Found great joy and beauty on the Misery Islands. Proceeded on to SMUTTYNOSE Island. God, I love these names! Spent two days in Kennebunkport to visit with family vacationing in Wells, ME. Never need to return.

We left Kennebunkport last Sunday and were sailing along at about 6 knots in rolly seas when the Captain looked back and said, "The dinghy's gone!" (The dinghy, for you landlubbers, is a small boat that is towed behind the big boat and used to go ashore when big boat is at anchor or on a mooring, which is a sort of permanent anchor that you use temporarily.) Our dinghy is/was a 13' fiberglass sailboat that Neill bought cheap, CRAMMED with stuff for the drive to NC, and had made countless improvements upon since setting sail. We rowed it, and it had two sets of nice wooden oars in it. Not something we wanted to lose.

We came about, fired up the engine, and with the help of our GPS chartplotter, we were able to retrace our route and fairly quickly spotted the dinghy, floating along quite jauntily. With Donna's steady hand at the helm, we pulled along beside it and Neill was able to attach a line to it's snoot-boot. Not the best attachment, but it worked and we got a mooring at a yacht club in Portland (ME)

Now, it was the clip at the end of the line that had un-done itself. We should have replaced that right away but, no hurry, right? We weren't at sea. Or were we?

Monday morning we loaded our folding bikes into the dinghy and rowed to the yacht club dock. Neill tied it up and we rode off for a big grocery haul. Four hours later we return, break into the yacht club (they didn't give us a keycard) and unbelievably, the dinghy is gone! The line is still tied to the dock, so the clip must have undone itself again. We've been searching the harbor since (it's a big area) and have notified the Coast Guard and the harbormaster and every marina and yacht club. So far, no luck. Have begun to shop for replacement. Sure wish the old dinghy would float back!

Moral of the story? Don't rely on something that has failed once, and be sure to put your name and phone number in your dinghy. Not that WE did.

Monday, July 24, 2006

NORTHWARD! And More Stupid Boat Tricks

My college roomie Ted wanted to know if we had found the edge of the world. Not yet. We've just been out of touch with libraries.

Next stop after Belhaven was Elizabeth City, NC. Captain Bligh continues to demonstrate wonderful grasp of seaman-ship. Approaching a public dock after a long motorsail, I carefully circled to scope it out, then pulled into the slip down-wind with aid from the 'dockmaster'. Etude seemed to be pushing hard into the slip. Dock dude says, "That sail isn't helping." Bligh thinks, "Sail, what sail? Oh, the mainsail is still up!" I confessed to the skipper on the next boat that I hadn't REALLY planned that.

That was Stupid Boat Trick #2. #3 was running aground, which we did repeatedly. The fourth was failing to check water levels in our deep-cycle batteries. Result: batteries-as-ballast. This morning we replaced two of them, which should get us to Wickford RI and Donna's bro, and his extensive electrical know-how.

Memorable places transited include the Dismal Swamp Canal, Point No Point, Prissy Wicks Shoal, Great Kills Harbor and Hell Gate. Our route took us up the Chesapeake Bay, through the C&D canal, down the Delaware River to Cape May, then up along the New Jersey shore to NYC. Now at anchor in Oyster Bay, Long Island, home of T. Roosevelt. He's dead though.

Surprises included a lovely night at anchor in Atlantic City, in a pond surrounded by sea grass and birds, with the casinos on view about a mile away. Following night we anchored in Manasquan NJ, in another small gem called The Glimmer Glass. That night a line of violent T-storms rocked the East Coast. One moment we were enjoying dinner in the cockpit and noticing some distant lightning; 15 minutes later, the wind was howling, driving sheets of rain and brave Captain Bligh manned the wheel in shorts, slicker and scuba goggles, powering the boat to and fro to keep it off the other boats in that little anchorage. Our anchor didn't hold in that wind. Another half hour and it was pretty much over. Bligh reset the anchor, we drank some hot chocolate and went to bed.

Now that we've reached more temperate climes, we're slowing down and smelling the roses (as Darrell told us to do.) Plan to mosey up to Wickford, arriving next weekend. After a week or two there, who knows? Maine-bound, we think. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On the WATER at last

We finally left Bock Marine's yard near Beaufort NC around noon on the 22nd of June. Got a nice send-off from the previous owner and 2 of his employees. They run the motel we stayed at while cleaning and loading Etude. Motored up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to Oriental, where we sweltered for a couple of days and amused the "captain's club" (regulars at a coffee shop right next to the harbor) by wrapping a dock line around the prop. (For you non-sailers, this is a classic, maybe THE classic, stupid boating trick!) They were great, actually. Ran over, moved the boat to the town dock, then helped us fix it. After which, we did the final sorting o' the STUFF and repacking o' the truck and parked it in a secure location.

Left Oriental Saturday afternoon and actually PUT UP A SAIL! Had strong winds so we flew just the jib. Anchored in Broad Creek and that was fantastic. Quiet, cooler, and lots of stars. Saw a rainbow while sailing, and two shooting stars while kicking back after dinner. Good omens, methinks.

The next day, we sailed again and with both sails! Again, plenty of wind and waves. Etude handles nicely and seemed to appreciate being sailed again. Neill spent a lot of time messing about his dinghy, which is a small, de-masted daysailer. The self-bailers always seem to be open when they should be closed, and vice-versa. But it tows well and he loves to row it.

A tropical depression moved thru dumping tons of rain, and we had to sit still for a few days anyway because we've sold the condo and it closes tomorrow. Came to Belhaven so the title company could send us papers. Got here and found that our cell phones don't work because US Cellular has a monopoly here. Just a small area, but we found it. Note to Alltel--GET IN HERE!!!! Other than that, Belhaven rocks. Small, friendly, good library and the marina (River Forest Marina) lets boaters use golf carts to get around town.

A nasty windstorm blew through yesterday evening. We were in the marina, talking to some other cruisers. Suddenly, the wind blew up to like 50 mph. Neill & Cliff ran out and joined the other men in yellow slickers who were working the docklines, trying to keep the boats safe. The docks were full, and boats were bucking like rodeo broncs. There were a few rubbings, and one large motorboat pulled a piling right out like a loose tooth. A couple who were waiting it out in the channel watched it on radar and said it had an eye. Does that make it a hurricane? It lasted only about an hour so probably not. But I was impressed. No damage to Etude--just some unsecured miscellanea tossed to the floor.

It's beginning to feel like home!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What a Muckety-Muck MESS!!!

Neill warned me about the state of Etude. "A little rough," he said. "Needs a good cleaning." He didn't exaggerate. Not just dirty, but mildewy and full of the previous owner's STUFF. Dozens of spare parts, books, books, safety gear unopened geriatric jars of herbs & 18 cans of tomato soup. And the bedsheets! At least a dozen plus pillowcases. None of it very clean. For 5 days we swamped out, scrubbed and sorted. In the summer heat, in a boat that's NOT in the water--think sauna on stilts. Then we return to a little motel room that's piled full of our STUFF, which we can't load on the boat 'til we get the other STUFF off. It got to me last night. So today I left Neill on the boat and came to Beaufort. Did laundry, replenished the cooler, and dumped some stuff at a thrift store. Went back to make lunch--our first meal from the galley. Only sandwiches, but it felt like a milestone. Civilized!

Back to town to post this at the library. I swear, librarians make the world go 'round. God bless every one of them. A library is home away from home.

Beaufort's a friendly little tourist town. Like Durango with water in place of mountains. And MUCH older. Houses built in the 1780's in the old town. NC feels verdant. The corn's about 4' tall and they're trucking out potatoes already. Lotsa small farms and big gardens tucked away behind the trees. And boats everywhere.

Etude needs work on her propane system and holding tank. (Think septic tank, landlubbers.) The marina it's at can't get to it, so we may have to put her in the water and head north. Get the work done later. And keep a sharp eye out for outhouses. Hmmmm. We found some giant corks on board!

Friday, June 09, 2006


After six plus days and 2530.8 miles on the road, WE ARE HERE! Here being Beaufort NC, where Etude waits. We’re camped out in a very basic, but pleasant little motel.

FINALLY left Durango about 1 pm May 31st and drove to Las Vegas. New Mexico. Next morning drove down to I-40 and through Santa Rosa. I was sorry we didn’t stop. Did my open-water scuba certification there a mere 20 years ago and liked the place. We exited at Cuervo, 17 miles east, for a pit stop. The stop was a REAL pit, so we U-turned in the gravel and headed back to I-40. Heard some nasty scraping noises, stopped, and found that the boat trailer had essentially collapsed. What to do, what to do? I should explain that we were hauling a 13’ sailboat packed with four, five hundred pounds of stuff.

Neill foraged a nearby junkyard and found a long, strong iron pipe. Levering the trailer tongue with that, we got it off the truck. Decided to rent a U-Haul in Santa Rosa. Took the first exit there, stopped at the first gas station, and asked where one could rent a U-Haul. Right across the street, they said! A place called Silver Moon Automotive, which is also a repair garage and (fortuitously) a junkyard. Explained our dilemma to nice young proprietor, who said that U-Haul will not rent a trailer if it’s to be pulled by a Ford Explorer. (True, I checked their website.) But he could sell us a 6’ x 8’ home-made flat trailer that needed some repair. He had the parts; just needed a couple hours to fix it. And he did. To summarize, he fetched the boat with his tow truck, fixed his trailer, stacked it with old tires and put our boat on. We never had to unload it. 26 hours after the initial meltdown, we were back on I-40. Santa Rosa is cool. If you ever get there, eat at the Lake City Inn. And appreciate those New Mexican junkyards.

New trailer was solid, towed beautifully. We slept in Childress TX that night, and left early for a very long drive across Texas. Caught I-20 near Tyler. Drove hard to Vicksburg MS, where we met Donna’s sister, Lana. Spent the night with her family. Drove the Natchez Trace to Nashville on Sunday. Viewed the sacred site of Neill-san’s childhood home AND the replica Parthenon.

Oak Ridge TN has a great little science museum. Mostly related to the Manhattan Project and WWII. That was our E.A. (Enrichment Activity) for Monday. Tuesday’s EA was a short visit to a co-housing place near Durham. Cultural experiences included eating bolled peanuts and seeing a Baptist church that offers a large parking lot with free hookups for RVs. We passed. Next post, the big cleanup!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Thought we’d leave Durango on the 23rd, but that was not to be. Too much to do. The neighbors are probably taking bets on when—or whether—we actually leave. We worked two or three really long, hard days and realized that if we kept that up we were going to get sick and start hating each other. Not worth it. So we slowed down a bit. Our deadlines are self-imposed, so why suffer.

This isn’t like moving, where we’d throw out some stuff and cram the rest into boxes and move. This time, we’re considering every little thing; will it go with us, go into storage, or go away. Can we sell it? Can’t take very much with us. Space is limited. We’re driving to NC in the Explorer with a 15’ sailboat in tow. The thrift store has hit a jackpot!

We did mail two big boxes to our destination. Is that cheating?

Caved in and bought a paper shredder. Too many papers had bank account or social security numbers. We’ll leave it in Durango with someone who’s in the same fix. Seven years of tax returns and Ace records are also at her house. Guess we’ll be back for annual shred-fests.

Sold the TV days ago, and lost the DSL when the phone was cut off so, in a way, we’re rehearsing life on the boat. No loafing in front of the tube or spending hours on the ‘net. The kitchen is down to just a few essentials, so we don’t spend a lot of time cooking. We use up whatever food’s on hand when we do cook. That’s another boat practice.

And so, the condo becomes emptier by the day. Here’s what we’ve learned about stuff.

1. ‘Tis easier to acquire than to divest.
2. We hold on to things for the damnest reasons
3. It’s good to get all of something in one place. Things like vitamins and gloves end up all over. You buy more because you’ve run out in one place. But there’s probably more in the fridge, the car, or a closet.
4. Cats do not appreciate chaos and disappearing furniture!
5. Life is good.