With all the travel restrictions resulting from COVID-19 and the Canadian border shutting down, we’ve had to modify our plan for a Downeast Circle Loop this year. We’ve been restricted to day trips and short overnight hops around Southern New England, We’ve also taken this ‘down-time’ opportunity to repair and replace some items aboard Kailani. We had to re-build the lower unit on the forward head (ugly but necessary job), replace the U-Line Icemaker, wet bar faucet and water purification system, replace the four 6-volt AGM house batteries down in the engine room (hottest day of the summer and I’m lugging four old and four new 72 pound batteries out and in plus re-wiring all the connections), repairing some elements and rheostats on our Galley stove and finally, removing the Master Stateroom window treatments with Tracy sewing and installing all new curtains. These all turn out to be fun kind of projects and they all are very rewarding when successfully completed
But all of New England is doing very well, with positive cases at a rate less than 10% throughout, so travel in and around New England (but still not Canada) is now finally allowed. Couple that with the new deal we have as a couple in the fact that Tracy has landed a position with a multi-state health provider and she will start working full time in mid-September. So if we want to get away at all this summer, now (first week of August) is the time.
We make some preliminary plans, provision the vessel (bring on some full time cruising goods and remove some day cruising goods) and prepare for a Monday, August 3rd, 2020 departure. Our plan is made to cruise to Boston Harbor through the Cape Cod Canal, then from Boston, head north to Maine stopping wherever we feel like. There are plenty of anchorages, mooring fields and marinas whenever necessary. We head down to the marina on Saturday, August 1st ready to start our cruise on Monday, August 3rd. But Hurricane Isaias (pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs) has a different agenda than ours and since we are not ones to try and fool Mother Nature, we regrettably decide to sit tight, ride out whatever comes our way and since we’ve never seen a hurricane make a u-turn, we’ll head out after it passes by us. This decision turns out to be a sensible one as Monday arrives. The forecasters are telling us that the storm will intensify when it hits the Carolina’s coast and be very bad for wind, rain and storm surge by the time it hits the Southern New England coast. So we add some lines to our dock and relish the fact that we’re 15 miles up the Connecticut River with a southern orientation (winds predicted to be out of the south). We suddenly think about the thousands of boaters docked at marinas right on the Connecticut shoreline that would die to have their vessels tied right where we are already tied up.
Just as we are accepting that we have a real great spot to ride out the weather, I get a call from solo looper, Mick Anderson who has left his spot on the coast in Guilford and is making his way up the Connecticut River looking to sneak into Hamburg Cove for a night or two based on the impending storm. We discuss his chances of getting a mooring ball in there as it’s already late in the day and chances are a lot of boaters have already thought about getting a ball in the Cove. So he cruises past Hamburg Cove and verifies that its overfilled, so I tell him to keep coming north and come into Chester Creek and we’ll squeeze him into a spot on the wall where Kailani is tied up. We check with Drew here in the Marina and he checks with Marge who says its okay with her to bring him in. So he slowly (6 knots) cruises up to Chester Creek and we get him tied up in front of Time Due just before the sun sets. Tracy had placed an order with Main Moon in Deep River and I go pick it up before Mick arrives and right after he’s safely secured to the dock, we have a Chinese smorgasbord with Tracy, Mick, Chad, Gene, Brian and me. We end up sitting around the pavilion chatting for an hour or two, re-check all our dock lines and head for bed with wary expectations of what tomorrow will bring our way.
If you read more below here, that means we weathered the storm and are safely on our way north for Summer Cruise 2020.
The morning is just another calm summer morning in New England with light winds, a bright sunny sky and no immediate threat of rain. However, this is simply playing out just the way the forecasters called it as they said rains would start around noontime and winds would steadily increase throughout the morning and afternoon. All this factored into a scheduled high tide of 12:51 pm and we know that we need to get prepared for the worst and hope for the best. We double up the bow line to include another line coming from the port (outboard) side of Kailani, over the bow and to the dock and an additional stern line to criss cross with the original line hoping to keep the stern more in line with the expected direction of the winds. We are as satisfied as we can be with our preparations, so Mick & I spend some more time chatting aboard Phantom and he shows me his engine room. It is the neatest engine room I’ve seen with cleanliness to boot! I’m certainly impressed!
The rains start lightly around 1pm and Chad & Gene show up to check on their vessels and spend the afternoon. As predicted, the winds start to build up out of the South along with the rains and soon we’re ducking for cover. We are all checking weather and news apps and we learn that over night into this morning, one of our favorite marinas in North Carolina, Southport Marina took a direct hit from the hurricane and all of their docks including the fuel dock and floating marina office folded up to shore taking every vessel with them and creating one big pile of floating mess. We are heartbroken for the marina and hope that they will recover from this hit without too much hardship.
Meanwhile here in Chester, the trees are ripping but the rains diminish steadily until around 3pm there is no more rain, a few less trees and no power. We look out onto the CT River and there’s whitecaps coming upriver and the water level, now 3 hours after high tide, is still at the level it was at high tide. So obviously, the southerly winds are blowing lots of water upriver. All our boats are tied up as securely as we can tie them being as we have fixed docks and a 4’ tide difference, but they all still dance around a bit with the wind and wave action. As the day progresses, we continue to monitor conditions and soon Gene notices that the dock he’s tied to in the boat basin is cracking apart from the wind grabbing all the vessels tied to that particular floating dock. So Gene, Chad & I get some of our extra lines from our boats and tie around the dock and secure it to some large trees to keep it from breaking loose and taking about eighteen vessels with it. Chad calls Drew and soon two dockhands show up to add a few more lines and we all end up comfortable that we’ve done as much as possible under the circumstances.
Blue skies roll in around 5pm and the winds are back to light by around 6:30pm so Tracy & I decide to take a dip in the pool before dark and soon, Mick, Chad, Gene, Brian, Tracy and I are saying are good nights and wishing everyone a good couple of weeks as hopefully, Mick aboard Phantom and Tracy & I aboard Kailani will depart sometime tomorrow on our respective ways East, then North. Mick is bringing Phantom to Manchester by the Sea for a haul out and bottom paint job while we are obviously headed to Maine. Alls well that ends safely!
Hays Haven and the Town of Chester are still not back to normal. The weather has gotten very nice, but the seas are still not cooperating as there are reports of 10 footers in Long Island Sound. So it looks like at least another morning at the marina.
Mick’s plans are that if the weather stays and the seas calm down a bit, he will take advantage of the afternoon push downriver from the tide and get himself down to Essex where he’ll be a bit closer to the sound for an early Thursday departure. So we hang around the marina in the morning and Tracy & I get all the remainder of our unwanted goods stored in our car for the upcoming cruise. At around 1:30pm I put on a batch of hot dogs and as we’re eating them, Mick tells Tracy that he’s leaving sometime around 3pm and going to Essex. She calls Essex Island Marina and they have power (we still do not have power in Chester). So she makes a reservation for a slip and after the lunch is cleaned up and all departure checklist items are done, we pull away from the dock at 3:30pm to start our mini-downcast cruise. It only takes us 44 minutes to dock at Essex Island and a few minutes later with full shore power restored, the cabin is cooling off and everything feels so much better. Essex Island Marina docks us right in the middle of some large yachts, just when I was starting to get used to Kailani being a rather large vessel!
We take advantage of an open pool and head over for a dip. While there, Tracy hears a bird seemingly chirping in anguish and the chirp appears to be coming from inside the roof structure of the cabana building. So she finds a spot where the soffit is a bit loose from the rafters and sticks her sandal in the opening to make it a bit larger and stay open. While we are swimming, the bird apparently gets free because the chirping stopped. Way to go Tracy!
The marina restaurant is now open for business this year, so we dry off from our swim, change into street clothes, don some COVID masks and walk over to Sliders for dinner. Tracy has a Fish Taco dinner and I order Fish & Chips. Along with a corn fritter appetizer, we walk away full. Once back aboard Kailani we prepare for a decent night’s sleep in a very ‘cool’ cabin knowing that tomorrow, we’re out into the Sound and turning east towards Cape Cod.
A beautiful morning starts with a text from Mick saying that he left his anchorage at 4am headed towards Point Judith for fuel at Galilee Fuel Dock where the supposed lowest price fuel is for the entire area. Unlike Mick, we take a more leisurely approach to departure prep and after getting a block of ice for the cooler, walking Frankie, checking the oil levels, doubling our lines so we can release from the boat, we are eventually underway at 9:44am The lower Connecticut River is a spectacular cruise and the Sound is relatively calm with just some rolling 1 to 2 footers. There is not much boat traffic today, I don’t have a clue why but we’ll take it. We turn east out of the Old Saybrook Jetty and head for Barlet’s Reef, then cross the Thames River channel without any ferry or Navy traffic, then head for Fisher’s Island Sound and work our way out of Long Island Sound and into the Atlantic Ocean when we cross Watch Hill, RI., famous for the summer home (more like hotel) of Taylor Swift.
From that point, its another 16 nautical miles on a heading of 80 degrees per ship’s compass to the mouth of Point Judith Harbor and our planned anchorage in the Harbor of Refuge. By 3:45pm our anchor is set in the southwest corner of the Harbor and our evening here starts. We make a decision to not go ashore because two days ago, Rhode Island was added to CT’s list of states that require a 14 day quarantine upon return, so we did not want to ruin the rest of the way north into Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, (not quarantine states) nor the return trip back thru those same states. Just being careful.
Very early this morning (4am) Kailani is bumping and shaking from waves. They are strong enough to even wake me up! Tracy is also awake, so I check it out and being still mostly dark outside, I surmise that the saves are larger than normal because they are coming all the way down the channel, then echoing off the break wall and hitting us broadside twice for each wave. Thinking I’ve solved the issue, I try to go back to sleep, and don’t. So around 5:15am, I start the generator and turn on the coffee pot. Soon we are drinking fresh hot coffee. Now this is a perfect recipe for boredom for me, because when we are at anchor, I like to just get up, raise the anchor and go. But Tracy has a right (and an ability) to fall back asleep and soon, I’m counting numbers in my head trying to pass the time. By sun-up Kailani is not bouncing and shaking as much so I take a look outside and realize what was the actual cause. Overnight, we drifted into some shallow water and the hull was bouncing off the bottom at low tide. Soon it’s 7am and Kailani is safely floating on her own and the sand bottom is deep enough for us to think about departing. I’m so excited, that I am very rude waking Tracy up and I freak her out. Ooops!!
We retrieve the anchor and trip line and by 7:20am we are cruising slowly out of the anchorage towards Buzzards Bay. Once we are out of the anchorage on the east side, we turn to 90 degrees and cruise across Newport entrance harbor and 20 more nautical miles until we can see Cuttyhunk Island and the beginning of Buzzards Bay. Buzzards Bay starts out very wide, then eventually narrows down at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. It is over seven miles wide at the entrance and more than twenty four miles long. We pass New Bedford on the port side, Woods Hole on the starboard side, Martha’s Vineyard in the distance on the starboard side and then we are turning the corner towards Bourne and our scheduled anchorage for the night. On the starboard side, immediately before the Cape Cod Canal is a decent size cove with five mooring balls owned by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy which is directly across from this cove on the port side. The identifying feature is the 540 foot long TS (Training Ship) Kennedy docked at the Academy on the port side.
So Tracy brings us into the mooring field while I prepare to tie us up to a mooring ball from the transom platform. These mooring balls do not have tag lines on them, so trying to grab a connection from the bow is virtually impossible. The reviews are great for this mooring field, but every review cautions about the issue of tying up. So our plan is to get a bridle line attached to the steel loop ring on the ball and to our stern cleats. Then pass a line back to the stern from midship, secure the two lines together, and walk the bridle up to the bow of Kailani as she turns around to face the ball. This all works out great for us as Tracy puts her into reverse and slowly backs her right to an available mooring ball and by 1:30pm we are safely secured and Tracy is looking for a good fishing spot while I start studying the charts for tomorrow’s cruise into Boston Harbor. Someone is out fishing in his boat and Tracy calls over to him to see if he has any bait he would be willing to sell to her. He says that everyone uses lures around here to catch stripers so he doesn’t have any bait, but he does tell us that the Mayflower may be sailing up Buzzards Bay at some point on her way from Mystic Seaport to Plymouth, Ma. She has been in Mystic for about three years bring restored. If she sails by we’ll have ring side seats for the show! Also, if she sails by today, that means we’ll also see her again tomorrow as we cruise north past Plymouth.
One other vessel comes into the mooring field, a sailboat, so the evening is real peaceful and quiet with just a few ripples whenever a vessel passes by in the channel. The rain that had been in the forecast for the last few days is completely gone from the current forecast, so I decide to leave all the windows on the bridge and the sundeck open for the evening to let them stay a bit cooler than if closed. After dinner, I study up on the protocols for navigating the Cape Cod Canal. First I check the currents and prior to 7:30am the current will be in our face, but after 7:30am and for the next 6 hours, the current will push us through the canal from west to east. There is a 10 mph-limited wake speed limit for the entire canal and vessels are required to complete the entire 10 mile transit within 2 hours and 30 minutes or else call the canal management. Also, there is no stopping, fishing, or anchoring within the canal. Once I feel a bit more knowledgeable on the canal protocols, I study the charts for Boston Harbor for a while, then decide to turn in for the night. I tell Tracy that tomorrow morning will not be a repeat of this morning because we can’t leave before 7:30 am in order to catch the current in our favor. Sleep comes easily for both of us tonight.
Since we fell asleep rather early (for me), I wake up early in the morning. That’s okay because I have to turn on the generator in order to make the coffee. However, these new house batteries have been performing very well and when we awake in the morning from being at anchor the batteries have made it thru the night and still are usually at one third capacity. So I could try some day and turn on the coffee pot without starting the generator, but that day is not today. Generator on, coffee on and my morning is started. Remember back to last night’s decision to leave the windows open on the flybridge and sundeck? Well that was a bad choice on my part as the entire helm station, instruments and seats are all wet with morning dew. So with hot coffee in my Yeti and a couple of towels, I start drying off the bridge in preparation for today’s cruise. At 8:30am Tracy is on the bow releasing our line from the mooring ball and we are off. We keep the engines at 700 rpm’s (very low for us as we usually cruise at 1,000 rpm’s) and in spite of the low engine speed, we are still cruising thru the canal at 11-12 knots. Thats some serious current ruching us, sort of reminds us of the East River in New York.
Well we have no trouble completing the entire canal within the allotted 2 hours and 30 minute time limit, we are past the east end Coast Guard Station and out into Cape Cod Bay in fifty minuted, start to finish. There are no clouds, very sunny and we are turning to nearly zero degrees magnetic for the ride up the eastern coast of Massachusetts to Boston. We are about two to three miles off shore depending on the coastline profile, but we pass Plymouth Harbor where the Mayflower first landed on this continent. Remember the famous rock? Then we keep cruising, or I should say ‘dodging lobster pots’ for four hours and we are rewarded a couple of different times with whale sightings. Tracy tries to google identify them, but we really don’t have enough information about them to narrow it down as there are numerous species that call Cape Cod Bay their home. Regardless, these sightings are a real treat and we realize how fortunate we are to be able to experience so many treats that other people have to sign up, pay for and ride on a commercial vessel with benches of other people to get an opportunity to maybe spot some whales. And here we are just taking a relaxing cruise on our own vessel and there they are swimming right alongside Kailani on a sunny Saturday in August. We are blessed.
Soon enough, we are cruising past Minots Ledge Light,
just off the coast of Cohasset and turning towards Boston with the skyline in view. Surprisingly, there is virtually no large commercial vessel traffic entering or leaving Boston Harbor as we approach, but that doesn’t stop the weekend warriors from darting every way imaginable to make the entrance to the harbor more dangerous. We’re just glad we have two pairs of eyes watching all directions. We enter the outer harbor on Nantasket Roads, then as we are headed straight towards Fort Warren on Georges Island, we turn to starboard and take The Narrows thru a couple of islands and meet up with President Roads which is the main channel into downtown. We can see so many familiar sights including Logan International Airport to our starboard, the convention center to our port and downtown straight ahead. The flight path for incoming flights today is right over Kailani with planes coming from the south to the north for their landing. This gives us a spectacular sight as we can see planes in the distance off the port side and as they descend right in front of us it appears like they will fly right thru the high rises of downtown, only to see them fly by the tall structures and continue across our bow until they safely land at Logan.
Once we can see Rowes Wharf and the New England Aquarium in front of us, its time to steer a bit to starboard and cruise around the downtown Coast Guard Base, then a bit to port to get into Constitution Marina, our home for the next couple of days, The turn to port takes us right past the USS Constitution, ‘Old Ironsides’ which is permanently docked here in Boston. We’ll have to walk over and check out that vessel for sure.
We call the marina on VHF 69 and three deck hands are at the pier to help us dock. They originally wanted us to go into slip D2, but the end slip was open and available, so they let us dock on the Tee Head which is better for us anyway. By 2:30 pm Kailani was safely secured to the docks, shore power and water were hooked up and we were now able to relax a bit. We did a few end of cruise chores, completed the log, and then relaxed a bit while we discussed options and things to do.
First order of business is showers and once we are both clean and refreshed, we decided it was time for a short walk over to Blackmoor Tavern for a late afternoon meal. They had outdoor seating and they were right across the street from the marina office, so we went into the office, got a couple of gate keys from Sebastian and walked over to the Blackmoor. We had a delicious meal and came back to Kailani. This marina is quite large and the dock configuration is laid out so the walk for us from our slip to the office, or street is about as long as any other walk in this marina, so going anywhere definitely can replace a gym membership as far as exercise is concerned. Well, once back, we decide the long walk must be made again because we have to get some laundry done. So off we go to the laundry which is adjacent to the marina office and pool. We put two loads of wash into two machines and walk back to Kailani. I give Tracy the rest of the walks off so she can rest and I make two more trips, one to switch the loads and one more to fold and return the clothes to our dresser drawers. Tracy does a bit of studying (for her re-certification exams), I do a bit of recreational reading during which I read that we missed the cruise of the Mayflower II by less than ten hours. We left the Massachusetts Maritime Academy mooring field at 8:30am and the Mayflower II docked at the MMA around 3:30pm. So if we had stayed connected to the mooring ball for another day, we would have had ring side seats for the docking. Before long eyes are quite heavy. I look to turn in, but first, I have the luxury of shore power, so coffee can go in the coffeemaker and pre-programmed for 6:45 brew time. I get into bed knowing coffee will be fresh and piping hot when I get out of bed in the morning.