2010 New England Reports

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Course Advanced Coastal Training Cruise; Northeast Harbor, ME to Mystic, CT
Date July 20-27, 2010
Students: Cindy and John Hontz, Richard Dixon, Russ Spreen
Captain: Rose Witte

This was a challenging trip. Sailing westerly into the prevailing winds on a coastal trip always requires much effort and patience. Our weather was mostly fine except for some squalls and the fog in Maine. We used the radar quite a lot and I believe we gained valuable practical experience in using this equipment. All to often people find themselves dependant on radar without having really become familiar with itís use. The crew did an excellent job taking care of the boat and navigating her with care to CT. We had some gear failures and succeeded regardless, using care and in consideration of our conditions and ability.  

Saturday July 18-19, North East Harbor Maine

Captain Rose Witte arrived onboard Celestial Saturday evening July 18th at NE Harbor Marina on Mt. Desert Island. Next, she checked out the yacht and did most of the provisioning for the cruise before returning the car rental on Sunday morning.

Monday July 20, North East Harbor Maine

Students arrived and the class had our first meeting on Monday evening. Present were Russ Spreen and John and Cindy Hontz. Richard Dixon was experiencing travel delays so we went ahead and got started with introductions and expectations. We planned on getting started with preparations @ 0700 the next morning. Richard Dixon arrived late Sunday night.  

John, Cindy and Richard had previously taken a 106 advanced coastal cruise with MDSchool, and were on board to gain more experience. Russ Spreen will be testing for the 106 level after this trip is completed.  

Tuesday July 21, North East Harbor to Bracy Cove (via Seal Harbor)

Tuesday morning dawned with mostly clear skies. We had coffee and a light breakfast onboard then launched the dinghy. We split into two groups for a morning dinghy cruise to ensure that we were all checked out and familiar with the launching procedure and operation of the small boat. This also gave us an opportunity to check out the harbor and do a VHF radio check with the handheld to the ship's radio on board Celestial. Back onboard we organized ourselves to our crew assignments and turned to inventorying parts and supplies.  Each crewmember gave a report on their findings and together we worked to rectify any discrepancies and questions that arose pertaining to gear and equipment and itís operation. The rigging aloft was checked at this time.

We took a break in the afternoon to go ashore for a final run for provisions and supplies, then departed the dock for a short sail to Seal Harbor. Our plan included shaking out the sails and setting up our watches for the trip. Our plan did not include the crowd of (gorgeous) boats in Seal Harbor which made it impossible to find safe anchorage there. We moved over to Bracy Cove which was not crowded but a lot deeper and not as protected. Our weather was quite calm so there we stayed for the night. We set up a modified anchor watch system to do boat checks throughout the night. All was well. 

Wednesday July 21,Bracy Cove to Casco Passage

In the morning we set up our watches, raised anchor and headed out for a sail back to Northeast Harbor because we decided the holding tanks need a good flushing to rid the boat of the odor. We experienced some good old New England fog and all watches are working on procedures for sailing in the fog and RADAR navigation. We were under sail most of the way back in to NE Harbor. Sailing in fog is so much better than motoring in fogÖ.

We landed at the commercial dock and cleaned out the holding tank. The weather called for thunderstorms in the afternoon. Our navigator planned our course to cross Blue Hill channel towards Swans Island through the Western Way and Bass Harbor. We encountered much fog and successfully dodged millions of lobster traps to find an anchorage in 15 feet of water south of the Casco Passage at islets on the NW  Part of Mackeral Cove, Swans Island. Shortly after we settled in with anchor bearings set and dinner started, a large thunder storm associated with frontal passage blew through, lasting two full hours. At 2200 the skies were clear and the breeze filled in from the NW promising us a fair wind for the next day's sail out of Blue Hill Channel and into the Gulf of Maine. 

Thursday July 22,Casco Passage to Gulf of Maine

Our attempt at sailing off the anchor was thwarted by the oscillating wind so we had to engage the propeller to turn and carry us away from our anchorage. With 15-20 knots of northwesterly breeze we reached down Blue Hill Bay. When we were near the MO(A) buoy, Bob, the MOB dummy went over board while John was at the helm. During over maneuvering to employ the quick stop and heave-to to recover our MOB, the helm seemed to be stuck and the rack and pinion teeth just skipped along its gear. We scurried around to steady the boat with the sails as we tried to determine the cause of the apparent steering jamb. The emergency tiller inserted on the top of the post would not budge the rudder. A look under the transom did not reveal any lobster trap or the safety ropes jammed so we unloaded the port cockpit locker to access the rudder post and attendant gear. Meanwhile on deck we are still spotting the MOB and working to slow down the boat as the wind built in a squall that had the wind pipe up to about 25 knots. We decided to let poor the MOB make his own way in the world while we dealt with the real emergency on board. We worked at the problem from all angles when finally the rudder freed itself. What in the world? We made for the nearest safe anchorage to regroup and figure out what happened. We set the anchor in 15 feet of water under East point on Swans Island.

At anchor we discussed our options amongst ourselves and put in a call to Tom Tursi. After dismantling the binnacle to access the steering gear we did not see anything out of order. A thorough inspection of the steering mechanism showed all parts to be fully functioning and nothing loose of broken. Hmmmm... The only conclusion to be drawn was that the steering safety ropes attached to the trailing top edge of the rudder must have somehow flipped up and gotten jammed up between the top of the rudder and the hull, possibly at the stopper knot. We cut the rope, brought it on board and made our way out to the Gulf of Maine to continue our voyage to CT.

Once out in the Gulf our wind died out completely so we had to motor through the night on a rhumb line course to Provincetown, MA. All watches did a fine job keeping track of our DR position on the large plotting sheet, laying down bearings form lighted aids on shore and running the boat in a safe manner. Shipping and fishing traffic were sighted and communicated to the captain as per standing and night orders. 

Friday July 23, Gulf of Maine to Cape Cod Bay

The Captain had the benefit of standing a gorgeous dawn watch and in hindsight should have woken crew for some perfect morning star shots. As expected, the wind filled in from the SW, and so began our long slog to weather. The six hours lost due to our steering emergency cost us some fine sailing breeze and prevented us from being able to make Provincetown. Instead we encountered some pesty, squallish weather offshore Cape Ann that made making headway very challenging. We motor-sailed through the night toward Cape Cod Canal. All watches became well versed in the vagaries of fickle winds and seas. I am impressed with the dedication to keeping a DR plot through all the course and speed changes as well as the attention and care that as given to standing a good watch in this high traffic area off Boston. 

Saturday July 24, Cape Cod Bay to Pocassett MA

We crossed Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay to drop anchor in thick fog off the beach in 14 feet of water west of the canal entrance jetty. There was a lot of traffic with the Saturday morning fishing fleet and vessels transiting the canal. We had breakfast at anchor to wait for the tide to turn in our favor at the canal. The sun burned off most of the fog by the time we made the canal entrance and we had a nice easy canal transit. We were all in need/want of some shore time and a shower so we set a course for Kingman Marine in the town of Pocasett on the Bourne side of the Canal. The entrance to Pocasett is tight with many turns, our keel found the bottom at the tightest spot but we backed off with-out a problem. The bottom here is sand.  We employed techniques learned in the Chesapeake for navigating this area, running the marked side of the channel and looking behind us for ranging the channel. We docked in a slip at Kingmanís, got the boat all plugged in and A/Cíd up as it was hotter than Hades. An afternoon storm blew through which lightened the air and we went ashore for dinner at the Chartroom there. 

Sunday July 25, Pocassett MA to Block Island Sound

 We left the slip after coffee and showers following the same channel that we came in on except on a high tide. Our weather showed mostly sunny skies with 12 knots of NW breeze forecast to go west then SW in the afternoon. A few miles past Cleveland Ledge we pulled out the cruising chute and set it up on the foredeck and made it ready to fly. We made a successful set, and in about 2 minutes the wind shifted to the west then SW. We sailed for about an hour until we decided it was time to stop playing around and get back to the endless slough to weather that is -Sailing Home From Maine In The Summer. Some of our tacks once we got past Cuttyhunk almost seemed fruitless, but once the tide eased its grip we started making better headway. Our crew did a fine job navigating us through the long tacks close to the MA and RI shore and the fishing boats in Block Island Sound. At 2200 we were in sight of Block Island North Light and at midnight we had the light on our port beam. 

Monday July 26, Block Island to Mystic

At approx 0030 we did a maneuver that we will call a nighttime man-overboard drill. We recovered our gear and headed for the channel into Great Salt Pond. Oops, another grounding. We were going quite slow but we almost got stuck anyway. Sent the men forward which put enough water under the keel to let us find the deep part again. Once in Salt Pond we find yet another really crowded mooring field. We cruised the harbor for over an hour searching in vain for a suitable mooring, alas we set the hook in 50í feet of water with just 20í of chain left in the locker. Good - Night!

Morning brings us ANDIAMO with fresh coffee and pastries so we are well fortified to continue the bash. We are tired of motorsailing but it must be done. It is a beautiful day with SW breeze of 15-18 knots. We take a long tack to the beach at Weekapaugh then lay the next tack to Watch Hill Passage with a foul tide of about 1.5 knots. Our passage thru Fishers Island Sound demands precise navigation, which the crew performed with skill and diligence, taking us through the passage between Masonís Island and Ram Island to enter the Mystic River. There are some really lovely boats on the Mystic River. We hailed the marina and were met at the dock by the friendliest dock attendants I have met in a while. Secure in our slip, all hands turned to a thorough boat clean-up, decks scrubbed and interior buff. Afterward, showers were in order followed by a nice dinner at the Daniel Patrick Inn. 

Tuesday July 27, Mystic CT

Another beautiful day. Today we had much to do to put the boat in order for the next scheduled trip and get ourselves ready to leave the boat and head home. We took CELESTIAL across the river to fuel up at Brewers. Our compass had suffered loss of fluid when we dismantled the binnacle so we packed it up and took it to George Winthur, the local compass adjuster and repair guy. Our dinghy came in quite handy here in Mystic as we used it to ferry us up and down and across the river, attending to our various tasks. The crew had an interesting and educational field trip when we went en masse to pick up the compass. George Winthur gave us a nice little talk and demonstration on compass repair in his shop. These guys are a dying breed as most boats these days have cheap and inadequate magnetic compasses and most folks rely on electronic chart plotters. George had much to say on this subject. We watched CELESTIALís ships compass fill with fluid as we listened to George. We left his shop wiser in the ways of the world and with a compass that was as good as new. We loaded into the dinghy for a trip up the river to get a quick tour of the Seaport. The Charles Morgan was hauled up on the hard and trussed for an overhaul and we observed the many beautiful boats and goings on there at the Seaport.

Russ and Richard caught a train home in the early afternoon. Cindy, John and I finished up on the boat organizing gear. I installed the compass and then met Cindy and John for dinner in town before they caught their train to D.C.. My husband Jamie and my daughter May arrived late to pick me up so we spent the night on board. 

Wednesday July 28, Mystic CT

Final details such as log entries and fridge clean out were attended to then Captain Rose Witte and crew secured Celestial and left her waiting for her next captain, due to arrive in a couple of hours.

Captain Rose Witte
S/V CELESTIAL 29 July, 2010
Mystic, CT

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