Saturday, September 29, 2007

On the Hard

A new season has begun. Perhaps this is not the traditional view; however, it is time for planning and projects. There is so much to be done before the Spring.

And there is competion for time and resources as well as the pent-up demands finally get attention...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

End of the First Season

The end of Dream Weaver's first season in Stockton Harbor came all too soon. On Sunday, September 23rd, I went down to the harbor to unhank the sails and otherwise prepare for motoring over to Belfast Boat Yard to have her pulled and trucked to the front yard back on Cape Jellison. The wind was gusting to just over 20 KTs and blowing onto the dock so I remained on the mooring so that the boat would head into the wind.

It seems that I have yet to make it a habit to insure all lines are free and will not snag in such a way as to require extra hands and arms in such places as my body is not. This was the case with bringing down the jib off the roller furler. Despite the lethal-weapon quality of a heavy metal clew flapping in a strong breeze, en-shrouded (as in ancient burial preparations) in a partially unhanked jib, I was able to make it back to the mast and unwrap the neatly bundled lower rope-length of the halyard. At this point I would have been glad that I was not at the dock with onlookers. If, of course, I had been able to think of anything but that clew lurking around somewhere.

On Monday, I got down to the harbor with a bag lunch and prepared for the run to Belfast harbor. My first stop there would be at the Town's fuel dock to get my holding tank pumped. The breeze was fresh and generally out of the west. I prepared dockline and fenders on the starboard side. My rationale must have been that the conditions in Belfast would generally reflect those in Stockton Harbor. As I found out, this was not the case.

After rounding the Green #1 Gong off Sears Island I bent a course to Belfast. The wind was now only a point off the starboard bow. Despite my attempts to get a picture of the spray, the latency in my little Olympus Camedia was such that, even attempting to anticipate the event as the bow began its descent, the excitement was all over by the time the picture was captured. I rather successfully captured a sequence of over a dozen totally boring pictures just like the one below.

In Belfast Bay, my wind gauge was showing gusts to 25 KTs apparent wind, at best I was making 5 KTs over the ground, and the spay was reaching all the way back to the helm; the dodger having been stowed on Sunday. At this point I probably could have gotten a picture if it weren't that I wanted to keep the camera dry and both hands on something tied to the boat.

At the Red #2 Gong I bent course to shoot right up Belfast Harbor. Now the wind was dead ahead and it was obvious that my docking preparations, for starboard, should have been for port. Reaching calmer water I slowed to steerage way, locked the helm and ventured on deck to re-rig.

I had previously checked out the Belfast Town dock, but had failed to notice something extremely important, under current conditions; the fuel dock was a finger pointing up the harbor with no possibility of coming alongside headed into the wind. Rats! Furthermore, there were people fishing off the dock. I continued to survey the situation as I called the Harbor Master on channel 9.

With approval to dock, I was now committed, but still exploring the alternatives. I could head downwind and try to dock with port to the dock, but this side offered no more than a boat length with a wooden dinghy I would hit broadside if I over shot. I ruled this out. The other side of the dock offered much more space, but there was no room to come about between it and an outer dock which at the time was home to a large lobster boat. The fuel dock extended a boat length or so further out than this, so there was a chance to come about off the exposed part. As I explored the possibility, the wind and current committed me. I found my stern five or ten feet off the lobster boat's bow and closing.

Recalling the maneuvers of Meaghan K II's skipper at the Stockton dock, I finessed the maneuver and would have been able to jump the life line and taken care of the dock lines myself, if it hadn't been for waiting hands. Having commended that skipper, saying, "I wish I could handle my boat one tenth as well as you do yours." He responded, "I didn't think it was that good." I realise now that what goes on in the onlookers mind can be far from what's going on in the skipper's. As skippers, we know that every moment on board has a new trial waiting, there never comes a time when all of the lessons have been learned. I guess that's why I occasionally remark that life is like sailing and proceed to give a short litany of the "last" lessons learnt and the eventual realization there never would be a "last" lesson.

Having tied Dream Weaver to a "Yard" mooring I took the dinghy to the town ramp, called the boatyard and Steve, my neighbor.

As I waited for Steve with truck and trailer, I took time to relax and enjoy the sights. My cell phone rang. It was a call from Emily, my recruiter, with a job offer "verbal" from Metatomix. I accepted with enthusiasm.

It was the end of the first season with Dream Weaver, an end to a wonderful summer and the extended time to prepare her after two years "on the hard", a time to get my sea legs back and begin building some soloing skills. And, it felt good to get a good mark or two.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Second Solo Sail

Too many days had gone by since my first solo sail on Dream Weaver. After last week's solo motoring overnighter it seemed appropriate to do some sailing. The day was absolutely brilliant. When I got down to the harbor there seemed to be a 10mph light breeze.

Before I left the mooring I removed the sailcover, cleared the deck of fenders and dock lines, and gave things a general once over. When I got to the channel there seemed a good breeze off the starboard quarter so I unfurled the jib. But I meerly had steerage way. So I went back to the diesel.

Out in the bay I was hoping for much better. However, I have been forming the opinion of late that it is always windier in the harbor than in the bay and windier yet down the channel between Sears I. and Cape Jellison. Getting out into the bay only strengthened this view.

But, I hoisted the main and unfurled the jib...

The wind was light and variable. You could see on the surface where the wind kicked up waves from 1 to 3... inches that is. I eeked out a little headway sailing by the wind. This way, then that way, then no way.

After an hour or so I called it quits and motored back to the harbor.

If nothing else, the day was calm, cool, and a good for just taking in the beauty of it all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Holbrook Harbor

The ride to Holbrook Harbor near Castine was reminiscent of a few I've had down in the infamous Buzzards Bay (Mass.). A west wind with gusts to around 30 knots. In the clear from Belfast between Sears I. and Islesboro the seas rose to 8 feet. The entrance to the harbor faces west so most of the harbor was unsettled. I finally eased in between Holbrook and Ram Islands.

In this peaceful spot it was hard to believe that the rollercoaster was still running on just the otherside of Holbrook (ahead in the picture below).

I had put off an overnighter until my new anchor, roller, mooring bit, hawse pipe, etc. were installed. Now the anchor was finally tasting mud.

I finished the book The Boat Who Wouldn't Float, by Farley Mowat before turning off the cabin lights and hitting the bunk. During the night I put on a sweat shirt, then ran Mr. Heater for 15 or 20 minutes till I was toasty. By morning I was cold again. Eventually I got up to a bright, sunny, and remarkably calm day.

I made coffee for the first time in a stainless steel drip pot I had picked up at a yard sale years ago. You heat the water in the same pot that the coffee drips into so you have to be fast when you pour the water. The little butane stove worked like a champ. Here is the last egg sizzling in bacon grease.

The heavy winds on the previous day had kept the harbor vacant of cruisers but for Dream Weaver and a catamaran some distance away. The morning brought a few visitors including this lobsterman and his trusty gull.

After breakfast I cleaned things up a bit and settled down in my office to do some design work on my current "saw sharpening" exercise.

I finished a up a good design session about noon, fixed lunch, did my final tidying up for the trip back to Stockton Springs.
On the way back, seals were easy to spot in the now calm bay. However, one lay right on my path and I didn't notice it until it was too late to take evasive action. At the last moment it dived. I turned and saw it surface a couple hundred feet back. Looking at me. I waved. It dove again.
I arrived back home ontime. It was good to see Sue and she was glad to see me. She confided that she "thought" about me, but did not miss going on the overnighter. I enjoyed the solo time and challenge.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dream Weaver

Islands grow well in Maine. There could be no better place for an Island Farm than in Penobscot Bay. First we bought land. Then we built a house. Then I bought a sailboat. And finally I finished the stitch and glue project resulting in the dinghy. This comming winter approaches too fast, but it will provide the incentive to finish the project with dagger board, rudder/tiller, mast and sprit.

Note the careful use of "we" and "I". My wife Sue wants little to do with the boats but she is most supportive of the endeavors. It is great exercise for me and I am much healthier spending my time working on them and sailing off to "South America" as I usually say. Dream Weaver is not the first. That role went to Ichiban. But that was years ago. With Ichiban I was just getting to the point of realizing that I could solo the boat. With Dream Weaver soloing is a stated goal. Following is my Email to friends following my first solo.

Dear Spencer, Ram, Steve, and Greg Page wherever he may be,

Greg got me up to Penobscot Bay a couple of times to join him in renting a sailboat. That was years ago when we both worked at The Foxboro Company along with Spencer. Somewhere along the way, Greg moved away and seemingly dropped off the face of the planet. Spencer, have you kept in touch?

Spencer and his crew met up with Greg and me and our crew on North Haven once. The memories of North Haven, Pulpit Harbor, Stonington, Devil Island, and Islesboro never faded. I can still remember getting up early in the middle of the night, anchored in Pulpit Harbor, and looking out. There were stars above, stars below, and a thin symmetrical line of trees breaking the two half spheres of space in which our boat floated. One could not weave a better dream.

So when we decided to find a place to locate our vacation and retirement destination. I was inextricably drawn to the bay. Now we have a house on Cape Jellison and a I (Sue would correct me here if I said “we”) have a sailboat in Stockton Harbor around the other side of the cape.

Dream Weaver went in the water Thursday a week ago and my Maine neighbor Steve (who gets to work remote over the Internet) helped me bring her up from Rockport. It was 25 motoring in the fog; a good sea trial for the diesel and the three GPS systems on board. But the sails were never unfurled. Most of the trip was with 0 wind and the only mammals seen were a seal or two and the dorsal fins of porpoises.

The diesel and standup enclosed head were two requirements for Dream Weaver. Another was that she be outfitted for single-handing. This past Thursday was my first major single-handing exercise day. Using Steve’s dinghy (mine is still under construction in the basement due to a foul-up on the first coat of paint !@*), I got aboard the Columbia 8.3 (27 feet) using the swim ladder on the transom. After noticing the wind direction I set up my fenders and dock lines and started the diesel. Approaching the dock gently up wind I had a flawless landing (this time). I jumped to the dock with line in hand and accomplished my first solo docking on Dream Weaver.

I brought on board project-stuff from the car and spent some time puttering around. I hooked up the 700 watt inverter, old laptop with MapTech software, and a USB GPS. I had to reconfigure power setting to keep it from going to sleep and disconnecting program from GPS. I left the computer on tracking mode until the end of the sailing day. I also put a seacock and short clear hose on my Racor Water Separator filter so that I can easily drain the water which still shows up a bit without socket wrench and drain plug slowing things down. Installing the petcock effectively emptied the filter. I used a cutoff 2 liter seltzer bottle to catch the oil and small amount of water. The Westerbeke is self priming but it did take several false starts before she ran smoothly. As the motor idled for a while, I took off the sail cover, and hanked on the halyard. I checked the lines leading back to the cockpit: main halyard, jib sheets, and furler retrieve. I checked out the traveler on the cockpit bridge. It was now time to get under way.

The wind was 5 to 10 coming up from the south. I like the inboard diesel and controls at the wheel and I like the ease of motoring out of the harbor to the bay. I headed down towards Turtle Head Cove until I came into the lee of Islesboro which was quite noticeable from the surface of the water some distance off. When the wind died, I headed up, raised the main and un-furled the jib, as she went through the wind and onto the first tack, the sails filled. I shut off the diesel and the water rushing under the hull was a joyous sound!

I was headed to the East side of the bay, to a small cove just above the entrance to Castine. The wind had picked up. At times I made 5.4 knots and the wind instrumentation showed up to 16 knots, I suppose of “apparent” wind. I made a couple of tacks going down to Castine, then reversed and made several, practicing several jibes. Reaching, Dream Weaver liked to grab the wind at 60 degrees off windward and tracked well when making way. I could lock the wheel for long periods. Running she sailed well at 120 degrees off the wind. Around 2:30 I headed back to the lee behind Islesboro. I really liked the way she felt. I was very happy with Dream Weaver.

In the lee and headed upwind; but, without steerage way and someone at the helm the boat (notice the stern formal language here) soon heads off. Dousing the sails has to be quick to maintain control. Furling the jib could have gone better. Next time I will make sure the sheets run free and don’t bind. The main didn’t come down without assistance and I had to go on deck for the first time since being at the dock :- ( The lazy-jack system did a good job of catching the sail once down. What is needed is a downhaul. There is plenty of unused hardware on deck to lead lines aft to the cockpit. My next sailing project is to do this. I Googled and found that it is not typical but that one person interested in single handing had done just that and wrote about it.

Once, sails were doused and engine started I headed back to Stockton Harbor. A good part was directly downwind with the accompanying roll and poor tracking. An Autohelm would be nice here as in other situations like keeping her into the wind, but not this year.

My mooring has one of those “flag-pole easy pickup things”. I approached slowly, headed up, cut power, and when I knew I had it made, went forward to pick it up. This was my first solo mooring on one attempt.

I puttered around some more with a boarding ladder project and repositioned the dinghy off the port quarter. (This turned out to be much easier to get into the dinghy with first step into its stable center halfway fore-aft, half way athwart ship.)

On deck I flaked the main and put on the cover. I noticed that the jib was not completely furled though the retrieve had been pulled fully off the drum. I re-furled the jib to get a clean wrap and then freed the sheets and wrapped them around a time or so to get a complete wrap.

I cleaned up the cabin. Shut the computer down, turned off power to the inverter, checked battery charges, shut off main power, checked the bilge, and finally decided I had to go home.

Almost back to the dock the motor died. I paddled in. Hand on dock, I look for my shore-bag with wallet and keys :- ( I checked the fuel. Perhaps I had not opened vent and petcock entirely. The engine started and I made it out and back… this time with my shore stuff.

It was late before I got home. I was tired and sore. But, the first solo exercise had gone well and overall I was very pleased with Dream Weaver.

We have guest accommodations just around the corner from a good sail. Ram, if you get back to this side of the continent come, please come. Spencer, you, Dawn, etc. please come. Steve, thanks for all the help and lets go sailing next week. Carrie, as always, come up from Portland with Todd whenever you can.

Love and best wishes to all, and
thinking of you Greg, wherever you may be,


Island Farm

Just looked at daughter Carrie's Fort Nest blog ( and those of her dear friends from the Peaks Island days ( and Though the hairs on the back of my neck seem to stand on end by the word "blog", I was drawn in by the informal snapshot-of-life style. So here I go, with my own BLOG.