Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm more than a Boston Sailor

Yes, I'm a Boston Sailor, and LIQUIDITY has been home ported in Boston (technically Quincy, but on Boston harbor) for decades. But returning from my 7th volunteer week on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, I've been thinking about my affinity for spending time on a vessel focused on Hudson River environmental issues.

Part of it is the opportunity to live, work and teach on an iconic tall ship. Part, I suppose, is growing up in Yonkers, and still having most of my family in the New York area. But overall, it's more than that.

Restoring, preserving and protecting the Hudson is important, of course. It's more than that, though... the Hudson is a metaphor for all rivers, all bays, all oceans, the air we breathe, the only planet we have. Teach kids about the Hudson and Boston harbor benefits. It's not complicated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's that time of year

No different from any other October for me, I suppose. It's post-Columbus Day and I've been packing up gear and hauling it home, a carload or so at a time. Sails are off and stowed, galley's stripped clean, cans and jars and bottles are off. There's still bedding, foul weather gear, electronics and more still on board, perhaps two trips worth. The last offload will likely be cabin cushions.

It's not really a sad time for me... I see it more as the beginning time for winter boat projects and getting to all the whipping and splicing I don't get to while I'm sailing. And, of course, it's the beginning of the countdown to taking the cover off in the Spring!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Can you whistle up the wind?

I don't usually race LIQUIDITY, with one exception. Annually, in support of the Boston Harbor Island Alliance, I've entered their regatta.

Through luck and circumstance, I've managed a fair number of trophies. I won the Cape Dory 28 class trophy one year. With four of us registered, heavy weather the day before and fog the day of the race, there's were just two of us on the course. 50/50, I suppose, for evenly matched boats. Last year, I sailed away with the Master's trophy, being the only senior in the cruising division to register and race. Other years, well, they tell a different tale.

The 2014 race was something I looked forward to, as defending Master's champion. All I needed was a small enough number of competitors and a Cape Dory wind in the low to mid teens. That's not what we got.

At race time last Saturday, wind speed was, well, ZERO! The start was delayed, delayed, delayed, then postponed to Sunday.

Sunday just a handful of the registered boats returned. Wind speed... marginal... delay, short delay... then off we went, in light but sailable air! We passed the committee boat just a few seconds after our scheduled start time and headed off on a comfortable starboard tack. With a good line on Nubble Channel, we tacked... and the wind went to, well, ZERO. Now, at the mercy of the flood tide, we were, before long, behind the starting line (and well to the left of the course!). Seeing little prospect in the afternoon forecast for recovery, we scratched. I fired up the motor and headed out around the course to see watch the lighter, faster boats.

All told, there were just four or five boats left on the racecourse. None had made it half way around the loop and time was running short. As we headed back home, we could see the committee boat, heading out to the few remaining boats... pretty much shortening the course to wherever they happened to be at the time. (Extra credit goes to the Catalina 30 who was the sole "finisher" in our division, without making it to the first mark after trying for three hours to sail in near zero wind against the flood tide.)

It was a disappointing weekend because it's a fun race and usually a good sail, trophy or not.

Stay tuned for 2015, where if all goes well, we'll be back. And note that none of the Masters finished, so I remain the defending champ, for at least one more year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pre-Fall sailing at its best

Cooler weather on Saturday, combined with a 10-15 kt. NE wind cut the traffic in Boston Harbor significantly. A smattering of boats out fishing plus fewer sailboats than usual for a summer Saturday, made for traffic control a lot easier for us.

With Scituate as our destination I avoided the short tacking through Dorchester Bay and motor sailed until we passed Thompson Island and could take the turn into Western Way. From there it was an easy reach under the Long Island bridge and around Sunken Ledge.

About that time we heard a report of a dog lost overboard in Nantasket Roads, between Georges Island and Hull Gut. Yellow lab was on board, then not on board, and nowhere in sight. We didn't get there for an hour or so but didn't notice anything, no dog but also no search boats.

Hardening up to close hauled, we sailed almost to the anchorage at Peddocks Island, than tacked toward Rainsford. Our next tack took us to about Hull Gut, where the effect of wind vs. current was heaping up some nice waves. At least the current was favorable. With a good breeze, we punched easily through the head seas.

Four more tacks and we were outside, sailing close hauled toward the buoy marking Harding Ledge. We passed just inside of the mark, well outside of the ledge and had a spirited sail on a close reach to Minots Light and then on a broad reach to Scituate.

Those gentle right hand turns made life easier and the sailing faster as we headed down the coast. Ordinarily, with the prevailing SW summer breeze, it's exactly the opposite! Excluding the two hours it took to clear Boston Harbor on the beat, we probably made our best time ever to Scituate. Surely, the ten miles from Harding Ledge to Scituate could not be done more quickly... we were at 6+ kts. the whole way!

Mooring in Scituate was an uneventful comedy of errors. First assigned to and picking up the wrong mooring (the launch driver thought I said 48 feet!), we were escorted to a mooring closer in. First pass at pickup, our boat hook broke trying to pick up a tangled buoy (i.e., the pickup stick was lying flat). We went around again, dredging the #2 boat hook from a cockpit locker, put the bow right on the mooring ball, snagged the buoy, hauled it up and lost the mooring as the line securing the buoy parted. Around once again as the bow blew off, third time we managed to snag the mooring underneath and find the pendant. Safely moored.

As Bear and L headed ashore, I stayed on board to tidy up. I watched as a neighbor cast off her mooring and motored about two boat lengths before the outboard died. They did a slow drift through the mooring field, running under bare poles in a light breeze and landing safely on a dock several hundred yards downwind. There was no panic on board and no heroic efforts required to keep them safe.

We also listened as a boat heading to Scituate reported that they had lost their rudder, and later watched as they were towed in, also safe.

It was a great pre-Fall sailing day! Little traffic, beating first, reaching last, and interesting goings on inside Scituate harbor, where no blood was spilled and no boats were crunched. And as for the yellow lab, I checked twitter later; he was picked up by a passing boat and is just fine.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Small Craft Advisory? Just choose the right sail combination

Yesterday's forecast included a Small Craft Advisory, with winds 10-15 from the south, gusting to 25 knots. LIQUIDITY was in Scituate overnight Saturday, with a planned sail back to Boston on Sunday, arriving in time to watch the World Cup final.

We left Scituate at 8:45, sailing off the mooring on a reefed main, and setting the 130 Genoa after clearing the channel. From there, it was a beam reach to Minots Light and then to Harding Ledge, close reach to Nantasket Roads, beam reach through the Narrows and close hauled through President Roads and Dorchester Bay. We were in our slip at Marina Bay at 1 pm.

LIQUIDITY spent the day on a port tack and pretty much sustained speeds of around six knots, as the gusts were fairly steady in coming. She could not have sailed better! The reefed main and full Genoa was pretty much exactly right for yesterday's conditions.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Be careful out there!

Great weather this past weekend. Also busy times for the Coast Guard, Sea Tow and TowBoatUS. Here's a sampling:

19 footer sunk (yikes) near Castle Island. The Coast Guard didn't say but I suspect the rock ledge there had something to do with it.

Sailboat went hard aground on Great Brewster Spit. Sea Tow got them off after sunset and towed them home.

There was a report of a kayak adrift outside of Hull Gut. The Coast Guard presumed a possible person in the water. More likely the person was on Peddocks Island wondering where their kayak went.

At least one call from a boat that was out of gas. (I always wonder how much gas they had when they started out.)

The call the Coast Guard didn't get was from a boat that I saw leaving with a dozen on board. Don't ask me what the capacity might be but I suspect they exceeded the number of life jackets on board by a factor of three.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The bottom is wet!

I'm usually in the water by mid-April, but "usually" doesn't include an engine replacement. A very cold March followed by the usual delays in getting anything new and different into the available engine space of a Cape Dory 28 delayed LIQUIDITY's launch until today. There's still some engine plumbing and electrical hookup to do, but LIQUIDITY is now floating happily in slip I20 at Marina Bay. Sails, gear and the like should all be on board by the end of the week.

It was sad to bid farewell to my loyal MD7A, which was (finally) picked up on Sunday. It's been trooping along since 1977 and while it shows its age, it worked hard last season and it always got me home. The little Volvo will live on though, and no doubt it will save someone's sailing season as a somewhat temporary replacement engine.

Let's have a great season, with fair winds and following seas!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Forever on the river

When you volunteer as crew on a tall ship, you never know exactly what to expect. My most recent unexpected experience was a memorial sail, quite unlike the education sails I'm used to.

A ship is a confined space and while the crew stayed on the perimeter, we were all part of the experience.

About 30 guests, a combination of family and friends, arrived on board for a late afternoon/evening sail. The mood was reserved; what I describe as "respectful."

We motored upriver, raised sail, and motor sailed, for a total of about an hour. There, the Captain cut the motor and we quietly lay to wind and current.

Some gentle words were said about a woman who loved the river, and whose request was that her remains be spread there. And so they were, along with a long trail of flowers.

I chatted a bit with the family and learned just a bit. Pamela was 65. It turns out we grew up in the same city at the same time, but went to different high schools. That, and her passion for the river, is all I know about her.

Rest in peace, Pamela.

Monday, May 12, 2014

We need to do better

I just completed my sixth volunteer week on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and it was, once again, a magnificent week working, teaching, and living on board. The sloop is a magical place and the staff, crew and volunteers do magical things.

What's disturbing is not the sloop or the crew or the program. It's the waterfront infrastructure that Clearwater needs to fulfill its mission.

Last week, Clearwater tied alongside three piers, each with its own issues:

New York City, 79th Street Boat Basin - During its season, Clearwater no doubt spends more time at the Boat Basin than elsewhere, as that's where most of the school groups it carries live. It's a good, convenient place to tie up, but naturally, there are "issues." Twice over the course of four days, we were told we needed to move, because a boat was coming in and needed the dock we were on. The first came just for dinner, and surely would have fit without our moving. We'd have been happy to help with their lines. The second didn't show up at all. Of course, there's the ongoing issue of the Boat Basin staff needing to walk about 30 feet to open the gate for the Clearwater crew if they ring the gate bell instead of calling someone on board. Lastly, it's sad to see the sloop so isolated from the public, behind locked iron gates. New York City can do better.

Piermont, NY - Clearwater ties to a concrete pier there, which at one time was faces with a heavy duty wood face. Sadly, the wood is gone but the giant spikes that once held it in place are still there. Large truck tires provided protection but now most of those are missing, too. Piermont can do better.

Yonkers, NY - The area around the Yonkers pier has gentrified and the pier itself is in great shape. We tied along a floating dock that had been taken over by assorted sea birds and perhaps hadn't been cleaned, well, ever. Yonkers can do better.

We all love our tall ships. We need to do better.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is it Spring yet?

I don't need to tell you today's temperature or the forecast for the week. Equinox or not, Winter isn't done with us yet.

We did get one nice, cool (i.e., not cold!), sunny day last weekend, and that was my window to taking the cover off of LIQUIDITY and officially starting my 2014 sailing season. Now just the little project of installing the little Beta 14 and I'll be ready to go.

Aside from the repowering, I'm at least two weeks behind my usual schedule. And, so is everyone else! I'm thinking that I'll catch up if it warms up... I need to compound and wax the hull, paint the bottom and paint a new boot stripe. Oh, and grease the seacocks. That done, I'll launch, with a little luck, within three weeks.

I'm already feeling for Matt at Marina Bay, though. Between now and Memorial Day, Matt's responsible for launching 600+ boats. Procrastination (the boaters', not Matt's!) exists every year but bad weather will really back him up this time. By now, he's usually scouring the yard for boats to launch. This year, he won't be finding any.

Stay tuned. Sooner or later the answer to "Is it Spring yet?" will be "Yes!"

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I feel like an organ donor

Those who poke around the "Buy/Sell CD Boats and Gear" message board may have read that I sold my 1977 Volvo MD7A, to a diesel shop in CT. I got a fair price for an engine that runs but has some cooling issues, water dripping issues and transmission oil leaking issues. And as needed, the parts will extend the lives of countless other MD7As.

The motor is out of the boat and sitting, winterized and covered, on a pallet tucked under the bow at the boat yard at Marina Bay. Unsold, I'd need to crack 35 year old bolts to take off the "good parts," drain and dispose of engine oil and haul what's left to a scrap dealer. I'd also need to carefully hide the stripped off parts in the basement, in a place where L won't find them! And, of course, I'd be in the business of listing parts on Craig's List and eBay, over and over until some unfortunate soul had a need for the identical part.

I'm happy to trade the motor and the pain and suffering that would go along with still owning it for a small bundle of boat bucks. That said, my 13HP MD7A served me well for 16 years (not to mention the years and owners before me) and always got me home. It's somewhat sad to see it go.