Thursday, 14 September 2017

South West, To Warm Water & Sunshine

Repaired & Heading For Warmer Water
Having completed repairs at the excellent Journey's End Marina in Rockland, Maine, we quickly made a jump south and west over the past two days, chasing warmer weather.

Penobscot Bay To Block Island Sound
Crystal Blues was launched on Monday at 13:00hrs and we fueled, conducted a small sea trial and finished rigging the boat that afternoon. Early Tuesday morning we struck out southwards down a very cold Penobscot Bay, dodging the ever present lobster traps all the way until we reached the open ocean.
A Cold Captain

From there it was SSW to the Cape Cod Canal, a 150
nautical mile run that we covered in around 22 hours of mixed motoring and motor sailing.  We zoomed through the 9 mile canal in just under an hour and continued WSW down Buzzards Bay in light airs. Sunshine and warm air lightened the mood - Ley turned to the galley and produced multiple loaves of fresh bread from the oven.

What a difference a solid day of travel can make - by 4:00pm yesterday we were anchored in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island, stripped of our multiple layers of clothing and enjoying balmy conditions around 25degC. We had passed the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and were into warmer Rhode Island waters.

Thick fog shrouded the boat this morning, so we delayed our departure until mid-morning when it had mostly cleared. It was a glorious day for sailing with 12 knots of wind and smooth seas, so Crystal Blues was in her element. It was our best sailing day in many weeks.

We romped along at 8 knots for most of the afternoon, hard on the wind with only a light salt spray decorating the foredeck. Six hours of travel now finds us back in New York State, in Greenport at the home dock of our friend Arthur Stroem. It's damn good to be away from the cold, and even better to be away from all those rocky reefs and ledges .....

Warm Air & Sunshine At Last - Approaching Long Island This Afternoon


Here in Greenport we'll do a complete rig survey - it needs to be carefully checked since our incident with the rocky ledge. Then we'll look for a weather window to take us safely south to Reedville, just off the Chesapeake Bay. September is the major hurricane month on the US East Coast. While Texas and Florida are cleaning up from the last two hits, hurricane Jose is hanging around out there in the Atlantic, and two more disturbances are now rated 70% chance of forming hurricanes in the next five days. You can update on those right here.

A Busy Month For Atlantic Tropical Storms







Sunday, 3 September 2017

Navionics Sonar Charts & The Missing Reef

Part Of The Keel Damage
Early on August 9 we departed Potts Harbour, heading for Booth Bay, Maine. Leaving the anchorage we collided with a submerged reef, bringing the mighty Crystal Blues to an instant stop from around 5 knots. Ouch. Our first computer assisted grounding!

Fact is, we were lucky.  The mast and rig stayed up, the hull was not breached and the damage could be repaired fairly simply. However a boat built less heavily would have been in severe trouble. The story that follows is intended to serve as a warning for others, to help prevent further accidents. So how did it happen ?

First off, I made the mistake of trusting Navionics Sonar Charts, which I'm unlikely to do again. Secondly, I failed to check any secondary navigation aids or references. So with more care I could have avoided the reef. Dodging lobster pots, early in the morning, I was busy at the helm and trusted the charts that had brought us into harbor the afternoon before. Never again...

It's ironic that I was actually looking at the charts (on the iPad) as we connected with the reef - when Ley stumbled up the companionway and I picked myself up off the wheel, we both looked at the chart on the iPad - it showed over 13 meters of water depth. Wrong. In fact very wrong.

Crystal Blues was at that point bobbing on the gentle swell, afloat, but occasionally colliding with the reef on the bottom of the swells and occasionally hitting something as she rocked from side to side. Not wanting to start the engine in unknown waters, we lowered the dinghy and towed her away to deep water using the outboard motor. We lifted the floor boards and inspected the bilges for damage or leaks, and then (more than a little shaken) proceeded to Booth Bay, where I dived on the boat and captured the image above.

Pulling Away From The Reef

So now, over three weeks later, we're hauled out of the water at Journey's End Marina in Rockland, Maine, working towards repairing and refinishing the keel. In the time since the accident both we and others have had time to look at the Navionics charts for the area in some detail, and the results are not good.

The Missing Reef

First of all, this problem has nothing to do with zoom levels on the screen. No matter how close in you zoom, that reef was not shown. So here is what we were viewing on screen right when the collision occurred :















With the wisdom of hindsight, it does look weird. The yellow line is our track, and it shows just over 13 meters where we came to a sudden stop. When we checked the standard Navionics chart (not the Sonar Chart version), a serious chart error became apparent :















You can see that this version shows a depth of 5.4 meters nearby, and the dark blue zone adds to the message that we shouldn't be there. However it gets worse, much worse.



The official government chart, above, shows a minimum depth on that reef of less than 1 meter. Yoiks ! So, not only the Navionics Sonar Charts were wrong, but also the "standard" Navionics charts.  How can this be ? How widespread is this problem ?

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Cruising The Lobster Coast

Goat Island Lighthouse Greets The Full Moon
We worked our way north from Boston, stopping overnight in Portsmouth  before another day hop to Cape Porpoise Harbor, just a few miles north of Kennebunk. It's small harbor, almost full of moorings but with space for perhaps three yachts to anchor just inside the sheltered zone.  During high tides a little swell does cross over the reefs, though it was never uncomfortable in the time we were there. Strong onshore winds could change that, so Cape Porpoise needs to be treated with respect.

It also has an incredibly dense field of lobster traps at the entrance - a huge tangle of floats on the surface, almost blocking the entrance - though with care we found a pathway through.

Crystal Blues At Anchor, Cape Porpoise Harbour, High Tide

Inside, the harbor looks huge at high tide, but is reduced by almost 70% at low tide to a much narrower channel between the islands, with dozens of lobster trap boats lying on moorings. A processing plant sits on a pier head with the two good restaurants adjacent, plus a large dinghy dock. The local supermarket is only a half mile walk, and has everything a cruiser could want.

The Admiral In The Lighthouse
At the entry to the harbour, the Goat Island Lighthouse is fully functional (using an LED light source we noted), with the historic site and buildings maintained by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, who open the site for visitors most days.

The small floating dock on Goat Island can be accessed for an hour or so each side of the high tide. We used our dinghy to cross the pond, climbed to the top of the lighthouse and enjoyed the warm sunshine - something that was becoming scarce as we moved north east.

Lobster Dinner, Of Course, With Ralph Hurlbutt
Here, close to Kennebunkport,  we enjoyed a great reunion with Ralph and Louise Hurlbutt, whom we had last seen in the year 2000. We had worked with Ralph in Sydney, and even lived with Ralph and Louise in their Sydney home.
Stowaways In The Forepeak
Of course they cooked up a storm of local lobster, clams and seafood, and we shared a grand table with Ralph, Louise, their family and friends. Later, we played host to them onboard Crystal Blues, where the kids explored the boat while the adults explored the local wines, a perfect arrangement.