Virtual cruising

It is February, or as we used to refer to it when I was teaching secondary school: “the F month”. When I am not shoveling snow, I do get a chance to get out into the backcountry on my skis from time to time. However, my thoughts have already begun to wander to next sailing season. I have started to drag rigging into the shop for overhauling, and I have already indulged in an activity that I refer to as Virtual cruising.
          Virtual cruising can take several forms. Sometimes I just read last season’s logbooks looking for trips to repeat. Sometimes virtual cruising is about researching places that you have never been, and dreaming about going there. I keep an old tattered chart-book and several editions of cruising guides in my bedroom. I read more about places to visit in the winter than I do in the summer. With any luck, I am too busy actually cruising to research cruising in the summer months.

Eek, the cat checks out Casco Bay

          Sometimes virtual cruising takes the form of a navigational exercise: “If I depart Rockland with a true south wind, can I lay Greens Island in one tack? If my average speed is five knots, how long will the trip take? What kind of approach can I expect if I want to pass north of the island”?
          Several resources worth mentioning to anyone cruising Maine waters: A Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast by Hank and Jan Taft and Curtis Rindlaub is the guide that I have found to be the most comprehensive (a new edition is supposed to come out this spring).
          As you might expect, no one guidebook will cover everything, and small boat sailors would be wise to join the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA). MITA members get an annual guidebook with detailed information about islands that are part of the trail system, anchorages, and which islands welcome visitors. It also includes information such as islands that might be closed part of the year due to birds nesting, and privately owned islands that welcome visitors under certain conditions, or at certain times of the year. The guide has changed over the years, formerly it focused on the needs of paddle driven craft, recently, more useful information for small boat sailors has been included.
          Another worthwhile resource is a column called Gunkholing with Gizmo by Ben Ellison that appears in the Magazine Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors. I have a three ring binder that I put copies of this column in, sort of a separate cruising guide.
          Yet another useful resource is the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. I became a member because of the number of times we stopped at some beautiful spot, and found a discrete sign stating that the island in question was in the care of the MCHT.
          So this morning, when I went downstairs and looked out the window and saw this:

Snow covering the Library window

And yes that is snow, I thought I might try to wrestle the chart book away from the cats tonight and go on a virtual cruise.


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