Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2013 Vacation Plan?

Cruising Boston Harbor, Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound makes me a slave to tides and currents. My typical vacation plan starts with picking the best week or two, then crafting a float plan that best fits. But with LIQUIDITY on the hard and a 2013 copy of Eldridge in hand, I'm thinking that's backwards.

While I'll always be subject to the short term weather window, I'm thinking I should START with the tide and current tables. Then, as least in theory, I'll leave Boston on an ebb tide, comfortably arrive at the Cape Cod canal when it's convenient to me, pass through Woods Hole on my schedule, etc., etc. I'll plan on laying out the perfect two week cruise.

Of course, in practice, wind and weather will change everything within a day or two. I'll go for it anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

That's it; LIQUIDITY is on the hard

I know; it happens every year. This year, due to storms that delayed the hauling of boats at Marina Bay, LIQUIDITY is out of the water a week later than usual, but today I got the call. LIQUIDITY is on the hard.

It's as good a time as any to reflect upon the sailing season. I haven't counted the sailing days and in any case I'm not trying to compare this year to any other. This is just an opportunity to look back. Here are the highlights:

This was the first season in a very long time that I sailed without Roxy. She went to sea when she was about six months old and was with me for 13 sailing seasons.

Gracie sailed with us for six seasons, learning to deal with heeling and bouncing and waves, not to mention navigating dock to deck and cockpit to cabin. She's missed as well.

Taking up the slack, Bear took naturally to sailing. He's not yet learned to tack and tends to stay to windward a bit too long (i.e., he slides off!) but he's as comfortable as he can be on the boat.

Enough about the critter-crew. The season found us off the dock often enough. Ports visited included Scituate, Provincetown, Onset, Red Brook, Cuttyhunk, Menemsha, Lake Tashmoo, some multiple times. We spent a sufficient number of weekends anchored at Peddocks Island, collecting buckets of sea glass.

It was a season of light winds, at least while we were out there. Mostly, it was dry, but not always. Visibility was good, at least while we were out there. I have no complaints.

Time to start counting down to Spring, 2013!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hey, it's almost Thanksgiving!

Yes, we have Thanksgiving every year and it's always at the end of November. On the other hand, by now, I'm usually out of the water, gear is back in the basement and the boat's being put to bed for the winter.

This year though, Sandy happened, the election happened, a nor'easter happened. (This would be the first season in the 16 years I've owned LIQUIDITY that we've had snow while I'm still in the water.)

I'm looking forward to good boat weather this weekend.!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clearwater never gets old

I'm back from my third volunteer week on the Hudson River Sloop "Clearwater" and by now I'm used to the routine. I was thinking that I could skip the Sunday training day, being an old hand, but didn't think that would be fair to the other volunteers. I'm glad I spent the day; where I didn't learn much new and barely needed the refresher, bonding with the other volunteers and sharing what I'd learned previously was of value to all of us.

No volunteer week is the same as any other. There's turnover in the crew, different kids (and sometimes adults) rolling through the education program, different weather. Still, the overall experience reflects the culture of Clearwater.

Was there a highlight of the week? I'd have to think about that for a while because nothing comes readily to mind. The real highlight is the week itself.

Does Clearwater make a difference? I know that it does. Over the summer, walking Bear in a local park a "30-something" noticed my Clearwater volunteer shirt. He asked if I had been on Clearwater and shared that growing up in New York City, his elementary school visited the sloop for a three hour sail. I asked what he remembered about the program. He told me that he didn't remember the details but that the message was that it's important to keep the river clean. That's all the detail he and the river need.

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's not over yet

With Labor Day behind us I'm hearing a lot of "how was your summer" talk. Much as for me the summer starts in March (when the cover comes off) it doesn't end until I'm hauled out in November. Here's what's left:

My annual Provincetown sail. This has been a good one for me when the weather cooperates. I fund raise for AIDS Action in the form of the Harbor to the Bay Ride, Copley Square to P-town in a day, and that day is next Saturday. So the plan: sail to P-town (through Scituate) on Wednesday/Thursday, leave the boat, take the ferry back to Boston, ride the bike to P-town on Saturday, sail back on Sunday/Monday.

Another volunteer week on Clearwater in NY. They're always short of vols when school is in session. That's why they'll have me.

Post-Columbus day overnight. With the clubs closed and many boats already hauled, moorings are everywhere and they're free for the taking. It's not the money, just nice to be taking a fall weekend when it's way quieter on the water and on the mooring than in the warmer months.

There's more that's not on the wish list. I'll be keeping a good weather eye.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Summer Vacation

It's not quite back-to-school time and in any case, I'm not going back to school and neither are my adult children. But Laura, Bear and I did have a great nine day cruise on LIQUIDITY. The air was light the entire week but the mostly sunny weather balanced that quite nicely.

Day 1, Boston to Scituate - I pondered going north or south this year, waiting to see the weather window before deciding. South it was and off we went. This was our best sailing day, with a nice 10 ktot SW breeze. LIQUIDITY always feels at home in Scituate, more specifically on a Satuit Boat Club mooring ($35) as it's our usual stop heading either to Provincetown or to the Cape Cod Canal.

Day 2, Scituate to Red Brook Harbor - The weather forecast was "unsettled," with showers and thunderstorms predicted and we thought about taking a weather day. But figuring that I've been wet before and with the weather radar showing rain but nothing heavy, off we went. Yes it rained a bit but we managed to sail half the time and I didn't actually get very wet, so good decision on that front. Through the Cape Cod Canal, we put into Onset for fuel (actually to give Bear a break on a long sailing day) and then continued to Red Brook Harbor. The anchorage at Bassets Island was quiet for a Saturday night, given the weather. Bear had a blast running the beach and we all got a good swim in before settling in for the evening.

Day 3, Red Brook Harbor to Cuttyhunk - We got an early start to insure we'd get an inside mooring ($45) at Cuttyhunk.We sailed some, motored mostly and arrived at Cuttyhunk with lots of moorings to spare. We walked a bit, got sandwiches at the Island Market, visited the Cuttyhunk library, then rowed to the beach along the entrance channel to give Bear a good run and another swim. Speaking of the Cuttyhunk library, it's a delightful place. It being Cuttyhunk, the library still has its card catalog housed in oak. Cruising sailors can't take out books of course (unless you're staying for a bit) but there's a nice rack of paperback books that are graciously there for the taking. After Bear's swim we rowed back to the town dock and ordered lobster on the fish pier. Order at about 1400 and pick up your steamed lobster at 1745. Lobster dinner in the cockpit is one of the joys of Cuttyhunk.

Day 4, Cuttyhunk to Menemsha - First task was to call the Menemsha Harbormaster and reserve a mooring for the night. We left Cuttyhunk late morning to catch the current through Quicks Hole, then motored (another light air day) across Vineyard sound. We entered Menemsha against a strong ebb current, crawling at about 1 knot until we reached the basin. The two moorings in the basin at Menemsha are shared so be prepared with fenders and dock lines. We rafted port side to, keeping the starboard side deck and gate available for Bear, who's not quite mastered the transom mounted swim ladder. Shrimp and scallops from Larsen's, cooked on board, for dinner.

Day 5, Lying in Menemsha - Although it's a short row across the channel, we opted for the bike ferry rather than time slack tide going and coming. Around Menembsha Pond, Menemsha to Gay Head is a seven mile hike (i.e., fourteen round trip) but crossing the channel cuts that to less than four each way. We had a nice walk with Bear (try the deep fried hot dog at Gay Head and thanks to the tour bus driver for the fries he got but really didn't want), with a stop at Lobsterville beach on the way back. Sunsets in Menemsha are spectacular, by the way! This photo was taken from our mooring inside Menemsha basin.

Day 6, Menemsha to Lake Tashmoo - Lake Tashmoo's not listed as a stop in the cruising guide and I wasn't sure about the depth at the entrance and in the channel. The charts don't help much, either. I asked around (a lot) and everyone with local knowledge said go for it; just heed the markers. We left Menemsha at slack tide and rode the current nicely through Vineyard Sound. The entrance to Lake Tashmoo is nearly invisible until you get there but the approach is free of hazards. Based on my fathomer's readings, there's at least six feet at MLW. We anchored on the west side of the lake, straight across from the town dock.The dinghy dock is crowded but there seems to always be room for just one more. From the town dock to Vineyard Haven is an easy walk, less than a mile. Note that it's a very dark walk at night, without street lights. Bring a flashlight.

Day 7, Lying at Lake Tashmoo - Yes, it's that nice. Stay the extra day.

Day 8, Lake Tashmoo to Red Brook Harbor - 0800 departure to catch slack tide at Woods Hole. It was dead low tide but (to repeat) we had sufficient water under the keel and the channel is well marked and easy to follow. Light air, but we sailed and were making 3.5 knots until lighter air forced us to motor. (We weren't moving fast enough to offset the current in Vineyard Sound.) We hit Woods Hole at about the right time and had an easy passage through. With light but sufficient air on the other side and having gotten an early start, sailing to Red Brook, even beating, was a nice break from motoring. Inside Red Brook Harbor, we stopped at Parker's Boat Yard, taking on less than four gallons of diesel and more importantly topping off the water tank. Bear got a break while I filled up. We spent another great night at Bassets Island, where even the five powerboat raftup was fairly quiet.

Day 9, Red Brook Harbor to Scituate - You guesses it, light air once again. We left the anchorage at about 0830 to catch the current change in the Canal, just after 10. We were a long time on the motor (on this leg and overall this week!) so when a light easterly came up in the afternoon, the quiet was worth the slow pace. We made steady progress until the wind totally died in the late afternoon, motored into Scituate and were moored by about 1800. Bear was a trooper, on the boat without a break for about 10 hours. Good to know he has that kind of staying power.

Day 10, Scituate to Boston - Light air but with no rush we sailed most of it, much on a broad reach and some of it wing and wing. Always good to get home, on the one hand. Day 11 will be a much needed cleanup day.

Happy to answer questions and share what little bits of local knowledge I might have accumulated.

Fair winds.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How about a long walk instead?

The weather forecast seemed promising enough. With light wind through the weekend, we'd stay relatively close to home, spending Saturday night on the hook at Lovells Island.

All seemed nice enough as we left Marina Bay mid-morning. As we motored through Dorchester Bay though, the fog settled over Boston Harbor. South Boston Yacht Club mooring field: gone. Castle Island: gone. The radio was buzzing with ferries, "approaching the Long Island bridge," "entering The Narrows" and the like. I watched Spectacle Island disappear into the mist.

I've been in fog before. I deal with it. Not this time, though. The thought of being on the hook, in the fog, at an anchorage that's just a bit of bad navigation away from some heavy traffic didn't seem like the best way to spend the weekend. So reversing course, back we went to Marina Bay.

Naturally, the fog seemed to lift and the sun came out. By then though, we had shifted plans and were heading for a walk to the end of Quincy Shore Drive and back, with a stop for fried clams along the way.

We had a good walk, met a good handful of people, some with dogs, some not, found a nice park where Bear could swim, ate clams and steamers at Tony's, walked back to Marina Bay and took a nap. Then of course the rain came.

We might have had a nice hike on Lovells Island, too, and there was enough food on board that we wouldn't have missed the steamers and clams. But the prospect of being on the hook, rowing to Lovells with Bear, in the rain, before dinner, after dinner, before bed, IN THE RAIN...

I'm pretty happy with the way the weekend turned out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Let the wind take her"

The plan for last weekend was simple: If the wind was from this way, go to Gloucester; if it's from that way, go to Scituate. Well, with Saturday's wind from the Northeast, in the teens, I suppose, Scituate it was. We sailed with the tide, put a reef in the main, beat through Dorchester Bay, beat to Peddocks Island, wind from the Northeast but shifting to the East. The sailing was great, the boat was happy, the rail was in the water... but two hours into it Boston Light remained miles ahead and dead upwind.

With the prospect of beating out of Boston Harbor and then sailing close hauled to Scituate in lumpy seas, a run back to Marina Bay and staying over there seemed a prudent option. We were back in an hour, walked the boardwalk a bit, had dinner on board (salad, pasta with marinara sauce) and spent the night in the slip. Sunday morning, Fathers Day, I walked Bear early, came back to make coffee and pancakes for breakfast and pondered the rest of the day. 

The wind was from the East on Sunday, about 10 knots, high tide was just after 10 and so off we went. Same route as the day before but easier sailing and East vs. Northeast made a difference, too. We dropped the hook at Peddocks, in Portuguese Cove, had lunch, walked the beach a bit and relaxed on board.

With the wind still from the East, we took the long way home, between Georges and Gallops into The Narrows, then back home through President Roads and Dorchester Bay, running and reaching pretty much the whole way.

We didn't make it to Gloucester or Scituate. I'm not seeing that as a problem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Plastic is forever

Those of you who know me and know the Boston Harbor Islands know that Peddocks Island is a favorite overnight anchorage for LIQUIDITY. It’s just five miles from my Marina Bay, worlds away from the city and has one of the best sea glass beaches I’ve ever seen.

Sadly though, tide and current also make Peddocks a magnet for pretty much anything in Boston harbor that floats. The debris line, as observed over Mothers’ Day weekend, included detergent bottles, sneakers, flip flops, water bottles, bottle caps, milk crates, plastic bags, polyethylene line, cigarette lighters and more. Absent human intervention to remove the plastic, it’s there forever.

My view of Peddocks Island came just a short time after spending my second annual volunteer week sailing and teaching about the environment on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and so I’m sensitized to both visible and invisible pollution. On Clearwater, it was commonplace for the Captain to grab the boat hook to retrieve what he might, as we sailed and/or the trash drifted by. We might do the same, doing our very little bit to save the planet and perhaps using the exercise as a crew-overboard drill of sorts. 

Fair winds.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tall ship sailing and doing good

As I did last year, I spent a week sailing and teaching on board the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

I joined the crew a week ago Sunday in Yonkers, where Clearwater was docked so that the crew could more safely and comfortable rig the top mast. With less commercial traffic further up river, the wakes tend to be fewer and smaller.

With the top mast rigged, we transited down river to New York City's 79th St. Boat Basin, where we were based for the week. Generally sailing twice daily, we hosted a total of about 350 students, from 3rd grade through 8th. My job for the week was two part: (i) pretend to be a teacher, and (ii) pretend to be a deck hand. I suppose I did a fair job at each, overall.

My daily routine:
0645 Wake up
0700 Deck wash - slosh and brush the deck, refill the brine barrel, wipe the brightwork with fresh water.
0715 Breakfast and morning muster
0800 Chores - clean the cabin, wash dishes, clean the galley and more
0830 - Ready the boat - set up education stations, flake the main sheet and jib sheets, rig the jib, tie in a reef in the main (once), rig the gangway
0900 - Meet the students and escort them to Clearwater.
0915 - Letting go dock lines and handling fenders
0930 - Fishing, so either on the tiller, boat hook or day shapes
1015 - Sail raising
1030 - Education stations - I taught water quality, "life" (i.e., what's interesting about what we caught fishing that day), navigation, history of the river and what it's like living on board Clearwater.
1200 - Docking and disembarking passengers.
1215 - Lunch
1245 - Chores again
1300 - Afternoon sail, following the same schedule as the morning sail.
1600 - Back at the dock, rigging chafe gear, coiling lines, furling the jib, afternoon deck wash.
1730 - Dinner and crew meeting
1815 - Evening chores
1930 - Dinner ashore with my daughter one night, my son, daughter-in-law and grand daughter another (I only snacked with the crew while they ate, honest)
2200 - Lights out

It's long days but most satisfying.

More about Clearwater and its mission can be found here: www.Clearwater.org. They deserve your support, whether you're in NY (which I'm not) or not. Make a donation, join and best of all, go sailing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


With a fresh coat of bottom paint applied on Sunday, I was ready to go. Dropped the launch form at the marina office first thing yesterday but with needing to wait for the tide and the wind coming up at the same time, Matt decided today would be a better day. So as promised, LIQUIDITY was launched at about noon today and is floating happily in slip I-20 at Marina Bay.

There's work to do but the first task today was to introduce Bear to the boat. He hopped right aboard, sniffed the perimeter of the cockpit for a bit and then followed me below. He handled the companionway ladder quite well for a first try and was comfortable enough to take a nap. We need some work on getting UP the companionway ladder!

Did I mention that my 35 year old Volvo MD7A started right up after its Winter rest? Quite amazing, actually; it fired up on the first compression.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yay!!! The cover is... OFF!

Thanks to my friend Duncan who came all the way down from Canada to Quincy (MA) just so he could help me take the cover off LIQUIDITY. We had a nice lunch, walked Roxy and Bear a bit, then off came the Winter shrink wrap. It's the official start of sailing season.

Oh year, Duncan's son lives in Alston, but I'm pretty sure he came down so he could help me with the boat. Thanks again, Duncan.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

It's always fun...

... when one of my Cape Dory Sailboat Owners Association buddies calls and tells me that he'll be in Boston and asks if we can we get together for a drink. The latest, coming from Canada, has a son living in Boston.

Having never met is of no consequence. We've been corresponding on the Cape Dory message board for years, if not directly, then indirectly as we each read the others' postings. I've never been disappointed with a face to face meeting.

He'll be here in two weeks. If the weather cooperates, the plan is to take the cover off the boat, an easier exercise with two of us, grab a sandwich, crawl on board, have lunch and a beer or two and call it a day.

Pray for warm and sunny. (I did ask my former Rabbi, in fact, if there was a prayer for good weather. "Absolutely," he assured me, although he did add, "Of course, it doesn't work." Oh well. We'll do the best we can, rain or shine, warm or otherwise.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

LIQUIDITY has a new crew member!

As I noted here several weeks ago, we lost Gracie, our almost 12 year old yellow lab, after a short illness. I'm happy to report though that LIQUIDITY has a new crew member, not a replacement for Gracie but because with Gracie gone, we have room on board and in our lives for just one more.  

Say hello to Bear! He's purported to be a flat coated retriever / Newfoundland mix... about a year and a half old, 88 lbs... and as I typo, right here sleeping on my foot.   Roxy our chocolate lab, at age 13, is still sailing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's not just about Boston

One more sign of Spring: I'm booking my volunteer week on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. It's not about Boston sailing but it is about sailing and Clearwater's mission is surely not limited to the Hudson River.

A week volunteering on Clearwater teaches about 400 children, 40 at a time, about the river, it's history and the river environment overall. What's learned there applies to most rivers, most harbors, most environments and, generally speaking, about this planet and how we need to take care of it.

Among the other benefits, I get to be a deck hand on a tall ship. It's hard work on the one hand, but easy on the other since much of the heavy lifting is done by the 40 kids. (It's a really good, practical lesson in physics, watching 40 school kids raise a 3,000 lb. main sail.)

There's the teaching part, too, and as I tell the kids as I introduce myself, "I'm not a teacher pretending to be a sailor..." It does seem to work out and I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anything new to see at the Boat Show?

Not really, but that's not why I go. Here's a sampling of the upside of spending two hours at the boat show:

I did see some good design ideas as I crawled over boats yesterday, though. I particularly liked the wine rack behind the fold up table on the Island Packet and will ponder how I work that idea into a storage plan for LIQUIDITY (even though we don't have a fold up table).

People I don't otherwise see: George and Susan used to be dock mates. Yesterday, they were taking tickets at the boat show. Cap't Steve as I renewed my Sea Tow membership. Brian and Jeff at the Marina Bay booth. Chris, another former dock mate.

It's always good to talk boats!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Grace didn't make it. No need for details here, but she was in distress and it was time to let her go. I'll miss her.

We're talking about one more voyage, maybe to just off Peddocks Island, where I could count on Grace jumping from the dingy at about 10 yards from shore. Let the tides and currents take her where they may.

My reluctant crew

Grace didn't grow up sailing and it wasn't easy for her to accept that the ever heeling, rolling and rocking platform of a 28' sloop could ever be safe. Early on, she'd hunker low in the cockpit and huddle as far aft as she could, wedged beside the tiller. She came around though, and became as good a sailing dog as she could be. She leaped with enthusiasm from dock to deck, from deck to dinghy, from cockpit to cabin and vice versa. But now, Grace is fighting for her life at Angell Memorial.

Hang in there, Grace; good crew is hard to find.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why the boat show?

It's the same every year, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger, depending on the economy. Still, for the most part, it's the same boat show as last year and the year before. So ponder once again whether I pay to walk the aisles of same old same old.

I'm not a buyer. See the picture? There's absolutely nothing wrong with the boat I have. Chances of falling in love with a boat show special would be zero. New gizmos? Not so likely there, either. Hey, I've almost talked myself out of going to the boat show. Almost.

For me, it's not about buying. I walk the boat show because it's yet another sign of Spring. It's a chance to talk boats and see people I know from the boating/sailing community. And as for not buying, that's not completely true. I'll renew my SeaTow coverage, which is a boat show tradition for me. Maybe buy a hat.

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'm going! See you there!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Would Joe have been a great sailor?

I'd have to twist my brain to make a sailing connection here and beyond the title, "Would Joe have been a great sailor?," I won't go further than that and I'll leave it to you to answer that question.

When I arrived at Penn State as a freshman in 1965, Rip Engle was coaching the Nittany Lions. It wasn't until my sophomore year that Joe Paterno took on the head coach title. Enough said, as there's no need for me to document Joe's coaching record here. This is about my relationship with Joe Paterno, not as a player, not as someone who ever met him (except many years later at an alumni event), but as a student and somewhat (but not rabid) Penn State alum.

Almost from the start, Joe was a (non-legendary then) icon. Maybe it was the glasses, which made dressing like Joe easy; it didn't take long before "Joe" started appearing, in caricature, on homecoming parade floats. (My "Joe Coach" shirt, featuring Snoopy with a PSU pennant, had been in my drawer for three decades or more.)

The foundation of what Joe did for Penn State was laid not on the field but across campus. Joe's athletes were in class with me, they took the same exams and they got no breaks. The team didn't get elite, special status; they were a part of the student body and in a small way made us all part of the team. These weren't hired guns on the field, they were friends and dorm-mates, even if the relationships were casual and most often just in passing.

Beyond that, Joe gave back. He might have focused on funding sports' facilities, which have grown substantially since my undergrad days. But no, Joe gave back by buying books and funding a major expansion to the university library. Name another coach who did that.

Joe's not without his faults. I'll accept Joe's words regarding the Sandusky scandal; he should have done more. More disappointing to me were his conservative politics and outspoken support of the Bush administration. (He's entitled to his political opinion, of course; I'm just saying as I look at the whole of Joe, there are things I like and things I don't, and I hold him short of deserving sainthood.)

I could go on. Suffice to say that to Penn Staters, Joe was always more than a coach and he was about more than football.

Rest in peace, Joe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

When does the season actually start?

There's a crossover point, I suppose, where I stop thinking about last year and begin to anticipate this year. When that is, I'm not sure but I do suspect I'm at the crossover point. Here are a few milestone events that turn the temperature up, no pun intended.

 For many Cape Dory sailors in Southern New England (and a few further north), January is about the Cape Dory Sailboat Owners Assoc. Northeast Fleet Winter Meeting, the year's first official event.

If you're from further north, then you probably look forward to the Cabin Fever Luncheon, held annually at Newick's, in Dover, NH. (Those of us who live somewhat in the middle manage to attend both the Winter Meeting and Cabin Fever!)

Next for me is the New England Boat Show (February 11-19 this year). While I typically don't buy anything or even see much that's new, I can't miss the chance to crawl over boats, chat with sailors and, traditionally, renew my SeaTow membership. (In 15 years, I called them once, but don't leave port without them!)

Now comes major anticipation time, when I watch the weather in March to find a good day to take LIQUIDITY's cover off! A bit of warmth, sun and not so much wind works best and I'm usually there by the third weekend. (My official start of the sailing season is the day the cover comes off; vice versa in the Fall.)

If the weather cooperates, I'm waxed, bottom painted and otherwise ready for launch by the second week in April. So near yet so far away.

When does your sailing season start?