Sunday, 20 August 2017

Lobster Madness

A Carpet Of Floats
Coastal Maine is famous for it's lobsters - last year they landed more than 130 million pounds of lobster and exported over $200 million dollars worth of live lobster, with the majority flown to Asia. Along the coast, lobster shacks decorate every harbor, serving the thousands of tourists that flock to this coast in the summer months.

Cape Porpoise Lobstermen Landing Their Catch
Each lobsterman can have up to 800 traps in the water, and there are more than 6000 licensed boats out there. 

Estimates put the number of lobster traps in Maine waters at over 3 million, and I figure we've seen and dodged the floats marking half of them.

In fact sailing on this coast is hard work, with constant vigilance needed to steer around the thick carpet of floats that dot the water. In places you could walk across the floats with snow shoes.

On foggy days the navigation work load increases even further. Watching the radar for traffic, dodging floats, managing the navigation and constantly peering into the fog means that even a short four or five hour coastal passage is exhausting - we prefer not to go to sea if it's foggy here.

So how do you deal with this carpet of obstacles ? First, we simply don't navigate at night, but there are other things that help .....

Onward to Cape Cod, Boston & Maine

Cape Cod Canal Transat
After two busy weeks in Greenport we moved further north east with a day hop to Block Island. Next morning we continued, heading for Buzzard's Bay and the Cape Cod Canal. With favourable tides we managed to run up the bay and into the canal by mid afternoon, where currents took our ground speed up to more than 11 knots for most of the 8 nautical mile transit.
Plymouth Harbour Entrance

With all that water helping us along, we were able to press on to Plymouth Harbor that afternoon. We were heading for a reunion date in Boston, and with help from the weather and tides we entered Boston Harbor late the next day to a very warm welcome at the Hingham Yacht Club.

There, seventeen years on, we met with the exuberant Nick Steffey once again. He hasn't changed a bit.

Our last time together was when we delivered his boat from Newport in Sydney to Newport in Road Island.

Nick sailed with us often in Sydney, and he stepped on board Crystal Blues with his friend Linda Goulding, at Hingham Yacht Club near Boston. His first words ?  "Boy, I sure drank a lot of good wine on this boat!".

So of course we proceeded to do exactly that. Nothing has changed really.

From Hingham, as we continue north and east toward Maine, the water and climate are growing very much colder, and we're starting to see the whales and seals that this area is known for.

It is summer here, though it sure doesn't feel like it.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Crystal Blues USA Land Cruise - Where Should We Go ?

Sitting in the unusually chilly waters of New England, we've started to dream about another type of voyage. This time, we plan an anti-clockwise circuit around the central USA, by car, taking in the north, the midwest and the south - the American heartlands.

So now it's your turn, please - tell us your favourite places to visit in the US, your favourite restaurants, bars and music clubs. Plus the cities and national parks that you love.

We're building a custom Google map to guide us on our travels, and we'll add selected locations to build a route for our land cruise. Note - we'll be starting and ending the cruise in Virginia, not far from Washington DC. Our timeline will start in early September and run through until early November.

Please comment below or email us with your ideas!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Hostile Target Becomes A Gracious Host

Our Track In The Old Bahama Channel - Nordik Light Is The Green Target Close Behind Us
We first met Arthur Stroem and his crew on Nordik Light in the dark, 35nm north of the coast of Haiti, in the Old Bahama Channel. Nordik Light was following us on a moonless night, edging closer on a course that would bring her - well, a little to close for my liking.  So we altered course, but they followed and settled in behind us again, still getting closer....

There was other traffic around, and I wasn't so comfortable with this mystery boat getting closer in the dark, so I called them on VHF and suggested that they should alter course, away from us, or I would have to declare them a hostile target. This seemed to have the desired effect, and after a few words they altered course and passed us in the blackness.  We thought nothing more about the incident until we docked in Charleston, South Carolina, and there just across the dock was Nordik Light.  That morning Arthur and his crew came down to say hello and apologised for following us in the dark that night.  One thing lead to another and we ended up spending that week together, and Arthur invited us to his home town of Greenport on Long Island.

Lighthouse On The Approach Into Greenport
The Machine Going In
Which is how we found ourselves berthed safely in Greenport at Arthur's dock, doing essential maintenance and undertaking a slightly major washing machine replacement.

The days flowed into one another, the 220volt machinery was ordered (more on that here), delivered and installed and the engine serviced, and we were truly very comfortable in what was a beautiful and social maritime setting. Greenport is a very pretty town, compact and essentially maritime in nature.

Arthur and Valerie, with their friends, Susie and Michael, were gracious hosts, entertaining and very supportive as we worked to service and repair Crystal Blues.  We grilled in the yard, drank wine at sunset on the waters edge, played badminton on the lawn, watched rabbit, deer and squirrel play on shore and generally felt very spoiled by the American hospitality.

After way too long in port we finally (sadly) made a break for the ocean, but are already looking forward to our next visit to Greenport.

Click on the link below for some images of beautiful Greenport homes and environment.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Ocean Cruising Club Gathers In Cuttyhunk

OCC Members On The Beach At Cuttyhunk - Image Courtesy Peter & Patty, SV Serendipitous
From Newport it's only a 20nm day sail to Cuttyhunk, part of the Elizabeth Island chain that leads north towards Buzzards Bay. We motored into 25 knot headwinds and grey lumpy conditions to get there, to spend some time with the Southern New England Rally, run by the Ocean Cruising Club. On arrival we swung to a mooring in "the pond" for two nights, then moved outside to anchor for another night when the weather settled. This was to be our first "on the water" club event, since joining way back in 2004. A fine bunch of cruisers from several continents shared experiences, food, drink and generally played the fool for three days. Well done to the organisers, Peter & Patty from SV Serendipitous.

Cuttyhunk is a real New England gem, a low set island with an absolutely protected mooring field inside the salt pond, populated by a mix of weather hardened locals and seasonal summer residents. The local Raw Bar delivers fresh clams, oysters and mussels right to your boat, so there is no need to leave the boat to sample local seafood. The scenery here is stunning - click the link below for more images. Crystal Blues moved on after three days, leaving the group and heading south west, bound for Block Island and then Greenport on Long Island.


Thursday, 3 August 2017

An Ocean Garden

The things we miss most when at sea? Let me think - it has to be fresh greens!

Onboard Crystal Blues, the Admiral maintains a garden of green, in a (relatively) small plastic planter tub. Right now its growing Basil, Italian Parsley, Arugula (Rocket) and Rosemary.

At least three times a week we get a lovely fresh leafy salad off the garden, and Ley also makes fresh Pesto when we really need to tame the Basil, which is growing like crazy at the moment.

The planter tub is tied down on the port aft quarter, and yes, we do have to "tack the garden" sometimes when sailing - those plants really do not like salt spray. In poor conditions we move the planter to the bathroom, which I think it kind of secretly enjoys....

The planter is a Greensmart large size pot, available in cream or black.  It has a magical self watering design that simplifies the garden maintenance.

This pot worked for us right across the Indian Ocean and then down to Chagos, though the plants suffered badly on the way south to Rodrigue, when we were hard on the wind for many days - we abandoned the remains in the southern Indian Ocean. However its perfect for coastal cruising! Click the link below for an image of the pot on deck.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Boating On Steroids - An Electric Foiling Speed Boat

Seen here during testing on Bristol Harbour, this appears to be a prototype high speed foiling power cat. We did see her rip across the harbour, silently, late one afternoon in the fading light. When I approached the crew later they were unable to talk about the vessel at all, except to say it was an "electric speed boat".

The presence on the dock of a technical support vehicle from Goetz Composites shows that these are serious structures - Goetz have built 10 Americas Cup challengers and defenders, and have been involved in 5 Volvo Ocean Race (Whitbread) campaigns. Ironic that the testing of this high tech vessel was taking place right in front of the Herreshoff Museum, where the boats of the Americas Cup legend were originally created.

Reliance & Shamrock III, USA Library Of Congress Image

Bristol Fashion, Herreshoff And All That

A visit to the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, Road Island, was an essential stop for us on our New England cruise. We day sailed north from Newport to Bristol and took a mooring offered by the museum, the cost of which included museum entry for the crew.

The museum occupies the original Herreshoff factory site, amazingly complete today, with some buildings leased by shipwrights who are building and restoring wooden boats on a commercial basis. Dozens of Herreshoff boats are on display - from dinghys to motor launches to catamarans. It was here that the great Nathaniel Herreshoff conceived and built the beautiful yachts that originally challenged and defended the Americas Cup over a 100 years ago.

I've cruised extensively on H28 and H37 ketches designed by L Francis Herreshoff, son of the master designer Nathaniel. Our afternoon in the museum was an overdose of timber, craft and history, graciously supported by one of the museum volunteers, who recognised our keen interest and escorted us around the site.

The museum is a living, breathing heritage site that, to my delight, operates youth sail training programs in classic timber Herreshoff boats. In the image below you can see the crews getting underway for an afternoon of sailing - they sailed on and off the moorings, bringing back a flood of memories for me, as I started my sailing experiences that way.  Yes, we have sailed Crystal Blues both onto and off moorings, though it has been a while ...