Archive for the ‘traditional sail’ Category

Summer 2017

November 14, 2017

Yes another boating season has come and gone. The spring prep season went by too fast with a lot of painting and varnishing on the Friendship sloop and an new rudder for the sailing-launch, Fee-Fi. We also managed to do some long overdue work on the dinghy, Fo-Fum, including replacing the oak bench that was fast rotting out with a new bench of Spanish cedar (interestingly Spanish cedar is not actually cedar, nor does it come from Spain).

The spring launch went about as smoothly as it ever does with perfect weather and we had two whole weekends to bend on the sails and remember which end of the boat is the front bit before setting sail for our two weeks cruise to MDI (Mount Desert Island). We were supposed to be cruising with a small fleet of Friendships, but since everyone on the other boats is now retired, they no longer look at calendars, and so missed us by a week. We did our best to catch up, putting in 35-mile days despite very unstable winds and weather. We were just entering the Fox Island Thoroughfare when we identified a good friend taking our picture from an immaculate classic powerboat. We waved and continued on, perhaps a mistake (the continuing on part, not the waving) since we got overpowered by strong winds just off Isle Au Haut and had to run for cover in Merchants Row. Once we were safely anchored, the weather lightened up and turned into a perfect Maine evening.

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The photo taken of us by a good friend as we entered the Fox Island passage

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Perfect Maine evening

The next day we got underway and saw our friends in the distance heading for Blue Hill. We were about two hours behind them but we needed to get to Southwest Harbor before the forecast poor weather set in. All went well until we made the turn into Western Way and entered into the “washing machine” that can happen when tide and wind are in opposition, the weather is disintegrating, and very large powerboats decide it would be fun to see how closely they can pass the big Friendship sloop. To make matters worse, with a building following sea, Fee-Fi decided this might be a good time to come aboard for a visit. I spent the next forty minutes trying to discourage her attempts to visit us while the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand anchor watch clung to the wheel, white knuckled, dodging wave, rock, and incoming and outgoing traffic.

We picked up a mooring at the harbor entranced and were endlessly rolled by harbor traffic. I called friend who has a brokerage in Southwest and asked for advice about a better mooring. Several phone calls later she had arraigned for boats to be moved so she could put us on her guest mooring, a typically gracious act by a truly gracious lady.

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Our host’s boat in Southwest Harbor, OLD BALDY

We spent the next day ashore catching up with family and friends and then sailed up Somes Sound for Somesville, where we had a spectacular sail and of course the wind suddenly built with us over-canvassed and having to jibe, not the best jibe, but no one was hurt, and we made it into Somesville without further incident. About two hours later the Friendships that we had been trying to catch up to sailed in and moored nearby. That night we were host boat to cocktails and long tales.

Back to Southwest in the rain to pick up another crewmember who had flown in from South America via Boston and then the next day was the Southwest Harbor Friendship Sloop Rendezvous, a scratch race (I use the term “race” loosely) made up of however many Friendship sloops show up. This year there were sixteen sloops and very light air with some overcast for the start and gradual clearing as the “race” progressed. It was such light air that the course was simply a reach out to a single buoy and back—I think we can do this!

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Us getting ready to set the topsails before the “race”. Photo By Paula Dowsland

We made little attempt at getting a good starting position, crossed the line in the middle of the fleet and ended the race in the middle of the fleet and that is the way I like it, too far in front and you have to know where you are going and care about that, too far in the rear and you miss the start of the after-party.

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Another great photo by Paula Dowsland. That’s us in the middle, all the kites set.

The day was now clearing and for some reason we all still had a little wind, while the big local fleet of more regular racers were becalmed in the distance. So we all kept sailing in company and had a delightful afternoon. The after-part hosted by a generous local sloop owner was a delight with many old friends and several new ones as well.

There is much more that I could write about Southwest, but it all come down to the triad of summer in Maine, fog, lobster, and good company.

We stopped off in Rockland for a night on our way back west, and once again met up with many Friendship sloop owners, before heading out into some disintegrating weather to make our way back to our home mooring. When we got there we were feeling pretty beat up and spent most of August and early September sailing off the mooring and only doing one overnight away. This was partly weather driven since we too often saw winds build rapidly out of nothing and did not want to be caught on an anchor in a less than perfect spot, and partly because our mooring is in a quiet location that is well protected. We sleep better at night knowing that we are on the home mooring and what to expect for protection from the weather. Despite not cruising, we sailed every weekend save one, and on four occasions saw whales along with the usual harbor porpoise. So all in all, some beautiful sailing this summer and much of it in our own back yard so-to-speak.

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The fleet is now put away and ready for winter and work continues on out cottage renovation, a new book is out, (more on that in a future post) and it is time to hunker down for the fall—firewood, winter reading, and planning future sailing adventures.

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Marine Paint Part 3

March 7, 2017

The lead is gone….

It is March, and that means that the process of preparing for the next boating season has already begun. It is in February and March that I start ordering materials and looking at the work that needs to be done before the boat(s) go back into the water. I have written about this before, but I wanted to write an update on this subject of yearly maintenance because I got a nice comment from one of the Kirby’s regarding their paint.

I wrote in Marine paint part 1 about why I like Kirby paint, (you can read more here) but I commented that it contains lead. It turns out that Kirby paint has not contained lead for over twenty years. They still put warnings on the cans because sanding old paint that might have lead in it can still present a health hazard.

It is great to know that there is one less toxic hazard to face when preparing for another season.

One of the things that I like about wooden boats is that when they are looked after and well maintained, they can last and incredibly long time. We have several friends who own Friendship sloops that are over one hundred years old, those boats are still sailing and are still in good shape.

The key phrase there is “looked after and well maintained”, maintenance that is messy, 8px910qlhbe7m81y94ijvlkj93ohojkeinvolves dangerous chemicals, or results in cleanup of toxic ingredients are typically the first things to get dropped from a maintenance schedule because they are too much of a pain. And few things are more discouraging than doing all the hard work of sanding, fairing, cleaning and tacking and then applying paint, only to have that paint not hold up to the environment, fade, or peel.

A wooden boat is a living thing, and like all living things they require regular care and when a problem develops that might affect the health of the boat, it needs to be dealt with or the boat will start down the road to the burn pile. But it is getting harder to find good quality wood and good reliable products to care for a wooden boat. Good paint that gives consistent results and that does not change its formula or color chart can be even harder to find, but good quality paint is also critical, it provides an absolutely vital barrier to the elements and contributes to the longevity of a wooden boat.

As I have said before on this blog, I like Kirby’s paint, we have used it on our boat now for sixteen seasons and are pleased with the results, and now that we know that it does not contain lead, we like it even more.

 

Summer 2016

November 16, 2016

Well Labor Day has come and gone and so has Halloween, we pulled the fleet out of the water and started winter layup in September,  a little early this year so we could continue renovations on the cottage that the two tortoiseshell cats own.

First a word about sailing this summer; wind.

The summer of 2015 was a light air summer, as a result we got very good at setting and striking topsails. By contrast, this year we only set topsails twice all summer. We joined four other Friendships, a Marconi sloop and a lobster yacht for a two week cruise in July and never needed diesel, and never even topped up the main tank from our reserve tanks. It was a fantastic cruise with good company, good cheer, and great sailing.

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Sailing in the company of Friendships.

Not only was there wind but also we were incredibly lucky in that we had predominantly fair winds. We had one rough day of high winds and big seas getting into Southwest Harbor on MDI. And there were two days on our cruise when the winds blew 25-30 kts, and not from a favorable direction, but we spent those two days tucked up snugly in a hurricane hole, hiking, reading, and relaxing, and those days proved to be among the most relaxing of the trip.

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Moonrise in a hurricane hole.

We spent the last few days of our cruise in Rockland at the annual Friendship Sloop Homecoming and gathering.

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Friendship sloops in Rockland 2016

We had a great time gathering with other Friendship sloop owners and fans in Rockland.

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At the dock in Rockland, I don’t know why John is staying on the dock…

While we were in Rockland we also had a chance to take some of our extended family sailing. There were so many of them they had to come sailing in shifts.

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Sailing with family…do I look worried?

After returning from our cruise we had another six weeks of weekend cruises, some of them extended weekend cruises, and great sailing.

The winds were so consistent and fair, that we did not get out to sail our tender, Fee-Fi nearly as often as last year since we never wanted to miss a chance to take out the Friendship.But even there, when the time came to pull Fee-Fi out of the water, we managed to sail to the take-out ramp in two long tacks, which was a delight since it is usually an hour of hard rowing.

Our lives have been so very full this last year or so that at times we wonder if it makes sense for us to dedicate so much of our time and energy to our wooden classic, but we saw so many beautiful boats, and old and new friends on the water and our summer was so rich an fulfilling that we mostly feel fortunate and grateful for what we have and what we are able to share.

The Main Gaff

April 26, 2013

The spar that is.

After twelve seasons of using, living with, and working on our Friendship sloop, we started off this year with only one spar that we had never refurbished, and that is the gaff for the main sail. I had slapped a little varnish on it once, but basically it has been without maintenance since we became the caretakers for this vessel in 2000. It was time to pay attention to this important spar.  On surveying the spar, we found that although the condition of the wood was generally good, the finish had disintegrated, and the service on the slings and horse were overdue for attention.

Gaff before work started

If you look at these pictures you will see that the wood is just starting to degrade where the finish is gone and that the service is worn and in need of repair and that the blacking is essentially gone.

Wear on the gaff

Service in need of attention

 

We have been working for the last month to make-and-mend the needs of the gaff.

We removed the slings and the hardware from the gall and then stripped the finish to bare wood.

Gaff stripped of varnish

Next we faired the spar and gave it an even closer examination. All of the questionable areas disappeared with the removal of what finish was left and with the fairing process.

Thus we started the two pronged process of re-finishing the gaff itself and repairing and refurbishing the service on slings and horse.

Starting to re-varnish the gaff

Refinished service

The same section of the gaff shown above after we started the refinishing process

 

One of the things that I noticed when I first surveyed the spar was that the service on the slings was wearing into the finish and resulting in damage to the surface wood where the weight of the spar was carried by the slings. We decided that the best way to protect both service and gaff was to leather the service where it makes contact with the spar.

Leathering is sometimes dismissed as overly “yachty”, but where bights of standing rigging make contact with any spar, I have found that leathering extends the life of the finish on the spar and on the service significantly. It is also an easy, clean and meditative chore that I don’t mind at all.

Leathering

Finished sling

 

We are working on the last coats of varnish now (ten in all) and then we will reassemble the hardware and walk the gaff back out to the boatshed from the shop. By then it should be warm enough to start on the rest of the painting and varnishing for this season.

New Boat Part 22

August 13, 2012

Observations:

Before I continue with the building of mast and sail for our new Penny Fee, now called Fee-Fie, (the dinghy has become Foe-Fum), I wanted to record some observations on the performance of the boat thus far. We have had the boat in the water and have been using her for about three weeks. We have used the boat to ferry loads to and from the Friendship sloop, and have towed it to Rockland from Boothbay and back, and have basically rowed it around a bit. As of this weekend we have been sailing it too, but I will save my observations on sailing qualities for the end of this post.

Penny Fee: Fee-Fie

Towing:

The first surprise was how easily she tows behind the Friendship Sloop. She is heavier than our dingy, but she also has a much longer waterline and appears to sit high in the water when unloaded. She also tracks well, partly due to the longer waterline and partly due to the lap-strake construction.  The result is a longer heavier boat that does not squat down in the water behind our sloop but that slips along with less resistance than I would have imagined. Part of our trip back from Rockland was in 5 to 8 foot seas with 15-25 knot winds. We found that in every condition except heavy following seas; this is a very well behaved boat. In following seas she tends to surf and surge and a long towline and a watchful crewmember to tend the towline is advisable.

Rowing:

We have noticed that when under oar power it is more comfortable to sit on a seat cushion that raises up the rower about 2 ½”. I don’t think that this is the result of the benches being placed low, either by the designer or in our construction, but rather that we deliberately raised the height of the oarlocks so that the oars would be less prone to rub on the fender of the boat. She does take more back power and a longer stroke than the dingy to propel, but she carries her way beautifully and once moving is easy to keep moving. The other aspect that will take some getting used to is that she rows a little easier with a load rather than without. This is both the opposite of our dinghy and is also a bit counter-intuitive.

Stability:

Another impressive feature is the stability of the boat, it has greater secondary stability than I would have imagined and, in some ways this drove us to make the sail because we wanted to see how she handled the pressure of the sail and how that effected the stability. We have experimented by having a helmsman stand in the back of the boat and steer with the rudder while the rower provides the power from the front bench. Our experience is that she provides a stable platform for the helmsman, to say nothing of the fact that it is just plain fun to stand in the back of the launch and con the boat.

Now on to the last pieces of construction:

The Mast:

I bought two pieces of 2”x 8” spruce stock that were not flawless but that had long, relatively clear sections in each. I got them at the local home center, total cost was about $20. I then ripped out the two best sections and using a dato-blade on the table saw cut a ¾” channel in each that started a bout a foot below the truck of the mast and ended about a foot above where deck level would be. Then the two halves were glued together giving me essentially a mast blank with a hollow core.

The two mast halves with dato ripped

The two mast halves glued together

When the glue was dry I cut a taper using the table saw so that I had a long, tapered, spar that was square in cross section. Next step, cut off the corners of the square so that the spar becomes eight sided, and then move to hand planes to make the mast round in section.

Mast with taper cut and corners cut off to make a long octagonal spar

Spars varnished and ready for hardware

The sprit is made of solid spruce about 1 ½” in diameter, shaped in the same way that the mast was shaped.

The mast has four, unfinished teak cleats; one each for halyard, brail, snotter, and downhaul. There are two heavy cleats set inside the gunwale, port and starboard aft, for the mainsheet. These too are made from unfinished teak. My experience has been that cleats do not hold finish, due to lines running around them, they are also a pain to keep finished. Raw teak weathers well and always looks pretty good without much care.

Cleats on the mast

Building the sail:

We used as a reference the excellent Sailmaker’s Apprentice, although sailmaking is not new for either me, or the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch. It is also worth noting that first, the sprit sail is one of the easier and more forgiving sails to make, and second that we are using canvas that we were given free, so, in many ways this is a prototype sail and we might make a more durable version once we have learned all we can from the performance of this canvas model. On the other hand if this sail works, why fix it?

The sail is made of four panels and will take its shape partly from the cut of these panels (particularly the two closest to the mast) and partly to a slight curve built into the luff of the sail. A bolt-rope is hand stitched along the head, luff and foot of the sail to help minimize the stretch in these sections of the sail. We used 3/8” brass grommets for the reef points and the robands on the luff of the sail, and the brail-line grommet in the leach of the sail. The rest of the sail hardware is sewn in by hand. The thimbles and metal rings are all solid brass.

The building process:

One thing we did that made the whole sailmaking process much easier was to recycle the boatbuilding table and use it as a sailmaking table. All we did was cut the table in half into two eight-foot sections. This allowed us to either push the sections together and make one long table to lay out panels and pin seams and that kind of thing, or we could pull the two apart and put the sewing machine in between them and pass the sail from one surface to the other over the sewing machine table. If we were making a larger sail I would have raise the levels of the tales to the same level as the sewing machine table, but with a sail that is only 85 square feet it seemed unnecessary.

Work table with sewing machine in the middle, sail in the foreground

The sail took about two weeks to build working in the evenings and in what free time we have, but I would not want to be misleading about this. As I said before both the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I have sailmaking experience, added to which I have a fairly comprehensive collection of sailmaking tools and supplies on hand. It would be a different story if we were having to figure out each step from scratch and then purchase the appropriate tools, materials and hardware. As it was there where plenty of choices to make regarding where to put in grommets, cringles, and thimbles.

Details of the sail showing the hand-sewn hardware at the clew and head

Anyway the finished sail looked great, the question was how would it perform in collaboration with the Penny Fee? The short answer is: far better than I expected.

Penny Fee under sail

This shot shows the boat well

Sailing in light air

There is a tendency to make leeway with very light air, but that disappears when there is any real wind. The boat points higher than I thought it would and virtually flies downwind. Beam reaching it is remarkably stable. The other factor that I love about this rig is how easy it is to haul on the brailing line and collapse the sail and sprit against the mast. It was really fun to sail right up alongside the Friendship sloop, touch the side, and collapse the rig by pulling on one line.

Sail brailed up against the mast

The two aspects of the rig that I question at this point have to do with the mast and the foot of the sail. I went to great effort (explained above) to make the mast hollow and light, it now appears that that was not necessary and that it may in fact be a weakness, because the mast does flex alarmingly in strong gusts. However, if the mast breaks it will be easy and inexpensive to replace. My concern about the foot of the sail is simply that now that we have seen the sail and how it takes shape in the wind, I think we could have easily added twelve to fourteen inches of length to the foot of the sail and gotten her to round up a little faster when tacking.

In both these cases, however, I am splitting hairs and speculating. The factual evidence that we have so far is that this is an easy rig to sail, to break down and set up. It brails quickly so that if the wind dies you can row without taking down the rig, and you can dowse the sail quickly when coming alongside. In short, it is everything we had hoped for and we had a fantastic fun day testing it out.

Really fun to sail

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.

Summer Reading

July 5, 2012

If you are looking for a good read this summer, I can recommend an excellent memoir:  the RIME of the ANCIENT UNDERWITER (Hobblebush Books, 2012) is sailor Jim Salmon’s account of his 19 month circumnavigation aboard the barque Picton Castle.

Jim Salmon worked as an insurance underwriter for years before a family crisis created an opportunity for him to retire early and go to sea and fulfill a dream to to sail around the world. I have read more of my share of “how-I-sailed-the-world” tales, and was not prepared for such a refreshingly balanced take on an old theme. Jim does not waste much of the reader’s time with describing personality squabbles and the “he-said-she-said” nonsense that has become all too typical of books about expeditions. Instead Jim paints his shipmates from a respectful distance, adding color to the tale but allowing the reader to focus on the places visited and life aboard the ship. In fact, in many ways the barque Picton Castle is the real main character of the book.

The RIME of the ANCIENT UNDERWRITER  is a delightful combination of travel-log, memoir, and description of life aboard a traditional  square-rigged ship. If you are looking for a great summer read, look no further.

New Boat Part 17

April 6, 2012

Centerboard trunk and more on the interior details.

In our last exciting episode we were struggling with seat supports and gearing up for multiple coats of paint on the interior surfaces of the centerboard trunk. Since then we gave the interior of the centerboard trunk two coats of epoxy-paint-primer, three coats of topcoat, and three coats of antifouling paint. While we were painting we primed the sheer strake and the outwale of the boat and got the exterior of the boat ready for its final coats of paint.

Two halves of the centerboard trunk in foreground and the Penny Fee in the background

 

While paint drying we started to fit the blocking for the oarlocks. We had bought the actual oarlocks a year ago on sale, and now it was time fit them into the gunwales. Once they have been fitted we will leave them in place right up until the interior painting of the boat. They will be removed for this step and then will be bedded in marine bedding compound and permanently installed.

Blocking for oarlocks

Oarlock in place

With interior of the trunk painted we glued the two halves together and got the trunk ready for installation. The centerboard trunk, as is always the case in small boats of this nature, has taken a lot of time and work to complete, but this is also the part of the boat that is most likely to cause problems if it is not completed carefully.

Centerboard trunk glued together

Because of the placement of one of the floor timbers cut into the aft end of the centerboard trunk, and because the base of the trunk is the same width as the keelson, the alignment of the trunk during installation is easy. What is not easy is dealing with the squeeze-out of epoxy inside the trunk as it is secured. You see, you need to be able to get under the boat and reach up inside the centerboard slot to clean this out, and you can’t do that while the boat is sitting on the boat table. However,  when I decided to go with the table method of building the boat,  was aware that this issue would arise and my plan has to do with the fact that the tabletop is made using two pieces of plywood. The plan was to unscrew the two pieces from the frame and separate them leaving a space big enough to get under the boat and reach up and clean off the squeeze-out in the centerboard slot. This method worked pretty well and the process of shifting the boat made me again appreciate the lightness of the vessel.

Opening in the boat table

With centerboard trunk in place, we continued to work on the interior of the boat. The forward bulkhead with the framed opening for the hatch that will eventually go there was glued into place. We also measured out and cut the two seats that run crosswise in the boat. These were fairly easy projects.

Centerboard trunk in place

Rowing benches and fwd bulkhead

More difficult was the layout for the aft benches. The primary difficulty lay in trying to lay out the pieces of the aft benches so that we could get all of the pieces out of the Spanish Cedar bought for the purpose and not have a lot of waste or have to try and find more.

Starting on the aft benches

While the benches were being fitted I was also making adjustments to where the mast step and mast partners were located.

The Penny Fee plans come with an extraordinary number of options for the rig; lug sloop, lug yawl, gaff rig, gaff yawl—just not the rig we are looking for. All of these rigs have advantages. They are all beautiful, to my eye anyway, and I am sure they all sail well. They are, however, all more complicated than what we are looking for in a sailing launch for our Friendship Sloop.  What we want is something that we can set and strike with as little fuss as possible, has minimal spars, and those spars need to fit comfortably into the boat. After much thought (nearly two years) we have opted to go with our original instincts and chose the sprit rig.

The reasons for this are multiple and are rooted in simplicity. First, we have a loose-footed main. No boom means that the sail can be brailed up against the mast and the boat can be rowed without the need to strike the mast and sail. Second we get away with a mast and sprit that are the same length and shorter than the mast for the lug rig. Third, the sail area and shape of the sprit-sail is almost identical to the lug sloop rig which should result in very little change in performance. The center of effort of the sail is a little bit lower which should make the boat a little stiffer. The center of effort is also a few inches farther forward than on the lug sloop, we will correct for this by slightly adjusting the position of the mast step and partners. If you look at the drawings below; the first one is the lug sloop as drawn as part of the boat plans we bought. The second drawing shows the modification to the sprit rig. You can see yourself the differences and similarities.

Sail plan for the Penny Fee as a lug sloop

Our plan for the sprit rig for the Penny Fee

In essence we have changed little about sail area and placement, but have reduced the number of spars by one and the length of the remaining spars by at least a foot. Lastly, we have chosen a rig that has only three pieces of rigging, a sheet, a halyard, and a line called a snotter. Awesome.

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.

November is here…already!

November 3, 2011

A month has slipped by during which the boat was taken out of the water, winterized (just barely before an autumn snowstorm), we fit in a trip to Mystic Seaport while visiting family, built two more ukuleles, cleaned out the tractor shed and built a new loft above the rafters, built a foundation wall for new back steps for the cottage, and hung the storm windows and got in most of our winter fuel. All of this has left little time to attend to this site, so it is time to get back to “dovetails”.

Mystic

The trip to Mystic was fun because neither the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of a stormy night and stand an anchor watch, nor I, had been to Mystic in several decades. It was also fun because in late October the place is devoid of crowds, which pretty much allowed us to look at what we were interested in. We were impressed by the ongoing work on the Charles W. Morgan and equally impressed by the shop floor and piles of beautiful timbers that will take their places as new pieces of the old vessel. We were also impressed by the rest of the fleet and the small boat collection.

The ukuleles that we produced were part of a wedding gift and although one was a tenor and one concert ukulele, they were both made of Hawaiian Koa wood with Aquila strings (the tenor was given a low ‘G’ metal wound string) . They both sound just beautiful, although at the time they were given away the strings were still stretching.

With luck, as we get the sails settled in the sail loft for winter and do our final chores putting the Friendship sloop to bed for the winter, we will be able to get back to the Penny Fee and I will be putting up some more boatbuilding posts…

Autumn Weather

September 13, 2011

The last month for us has been dominated by the weather. First came the approach of hurricane Irene (Tropical Storm Irene by the time she reached us). A weekend spent getting the boat secured against any eventuality, and a part of another weekend getting her back into commission. Since the season for many people ends with Labor Day, we noticed the disappearance of many boats.  We are very fortunate to have a little more extended season. This time of the year can be very full and has not left much time for writing or to work on our Penny Fee project, but as we ate the first pie from our own apples last week, and followed that with a wonderful weekend with Family on the boat, we savored the pleasures of September and the more salubrious side of the weather.

We hate to see the boating season winding down, and we need to leave ourselves time to wash and dry sails, and clean and winterize the boat. Our focus will shift more and more to getting the cottage ready for winter, but we are not there yet. There is time to enjoy a few more sails and a few more quiet evenings before the shorter days and the colder nights prompt us that other, different chores await us—and that the end of one season heralds the beginning of another.

Summer Cruise in Maine

August 4, 2011

We just returned from a cruise on the Maine coast. The woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I set out for a nine-day trip. Our excursions took us first from Boothbay Harbor to Rockland It took just under seven hours to make Rockland and we entered the harbor as the second day of Friendship sloop races was finishing up, a very pretty sight, and it was fun to come in with the tail end of the fleet and tie up. Our Friendship sloop, the Black Star was berthed just forward of Banshee, this years overall winner of the races, and Salatia and just inboard of Gaivota, the Vice-Commodore’s sloop; very good company. What followed was a delightful several hours of socializing with many, many old friends and a few new ones too.  Seventeen Friendships this year gathered on the docks at Rockland, we missed a few friends who had already come and gone, but there is always next year.

Friendships in Rockland

The next day was the last of the Friendship sloop gathering. We woke late and spent most of the day visiting and trying to recover from the trip up. Dinner that night was the annual Friendship Sloop Awards dinner, which was very funny and full of good cheer. A wonderful sing along which defies description was lead by the crew of Eden.

The next morning we took on last minute provisions and cast off, following out Banshee, Gaivota and Hegira, who were bound for Cape Cod, and Phoenix who was headed east. Halfway across West Penobscot Bay, we were still not sure what our destination should be. We had all lowers and uppers set in light air and finally decided that the winds were directing us through the Fox Island Thorofare, so that is where we went. The thorofare is narrow and winding, and typically has a lot of boat traffic. It was a challenging sail, and one we were probably over-canvassed for, but we headed in anyway. By the time we were off North Haven proper I had struck the jib-topsail, and fifteen minutes later I was striking the main topsail too.  By the time we cleared the Eastern entrance to the thorofare we were moving more comfortably but it was getting on towards late afternoon, so we made for Seal Bay between Burnt and Hay Islands.

An exquisite night, quiet, and cool, fantastic sleeping weather and classic summer-in-Maine scenery, we did spend some time remembering the last time we were here with our lovely ships-wolf, Saxon, now gone, which added just a touch of sadness to an otherwise perfect evening.

The next morning we set out for Isle Au Haut under all sail. We had a delightful if languid sail across to the island, a special place for me since I first visited the island in 1974. I have been back many times since and we looked to make sure that the flag was not flying at the house of friends (no flag means no visitors) before heading by. I can remember my first stay at that house as a child after a long cruise on an Alden Caravel, and sitting on the porch overlooking the Isle Au Haut thorofare, a porch where the then owner had become somewhat legendary among cruising circles for hailing friends in passing boats and inviting them ashore for “hot water and cold Gin”.

We ducked behind Merchant and Harbor Islands in Merchants Row and ran into a 180 degree wind shift, which we decided was going to mean work, so instead we turned back north and west to McGlathery Island where we anchored and went ashore. While on McGlatherly we saw two friendships headed east through the Stonington thorofare, we decided they had to be Salatia and Eden heading home to MDI. McGlatherly is a lovely spot and we enjoyed stretching our legs, but we were still seeing a building south-easterly wind, which made me uncomfortable, so we motored around the corner to Camp Island for the night. We were in very good company since the schooner Nathanial Bowditch was already anchored there and the Lewis R. French came in as we did and anchored as well. We felt much more sheltered and ended up spending another quiet and restful night.

the Bowditch

Lewis R. French

In the morning there was overcast and winds still out of the south-east so we worked our way to windward into Jericho Bay and the entrance to the Eggemoggin Reach and spent most of the day running downwind along the reach under the mainsail with one reef and the jib-topsail. We were straining to see if the Concordia 41 owned by a friend was in Center Harbor as we passed, but were never sure if she was there or not. We saw another Friendship off Center Harbor, but she was too far away to identify.

Passing under the Deer Island Bridge is always exciting and as we passed through the western entrance to the Reach, the J&E Riggin was entering on an opposite tack. This was particularly exciting because the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch worked on the schooner Riggin for four years in the 1980s.

We spent the night in Smith Cove off of Castine. We wanted a quiet night so we went quite far into Smith Cove where there was the most shelter, passing two schooners at the dock in Castine, the Bowdoin and the Grace O’Malley, and yet a third, Timberwind, also at anchor in Smith Cove. The training ship State of Maine was also at the docks of Maine Maritime Academy, quite hard to miss.

Another quiet night and in the morning a rough headwind up around Turtle Head at the northern end of Islesboro and then one long starboard tack almost twenty miles long to Owls Head where we picked up a mooring. Wonderful sailing. Owls Head can be an exposed anchorage, but the forecast was for westerly’s, which would give us good shelter. We rowed ashore to pay for the mooring and bought lobster and made preparations for classic Maine dinner. When we returned to the boat we were joined by yet another schooner, the Stephen Taber. We sat down to a delightful meal on a beautiful summer evening in Maine.

Stephen Taber

It does not get much better than this.

It took us several more days to work our way back to Boothbay, we even did a side trip and motored though Friendship harbor where we saw the Friendship Gladiator on her mooring.  Further along after anchoring in Oars Island Cove we saw the Friendship Sarah Mead out for a sail in brisk winds.

Oars Island Cove. There was a time when I used to sometimes run the Snowgoose I.

We still had to negotiate fog and headwinds before returning to Boothbay, but it would not be cruising in Maine without headwinds and the “F” word.

On the way into Boothbay to pick up our mooring we saw two classic motor yachts headed out,

and two more Friendships the Mary Ann, which we had seen in Rockland was on a mooring in front of the yacht club, and Bay Lady, out for a sail with clients. It was a terrific end to a terrific cruise.