Posted by: nauticalchronicles | March 15, 2012

PETER AND MARY’S EXCELLENT VACATION

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

Peter and Mary’s Excellent Vacation

As you will recall Peter and Mary were temporarily living in Leominster with The General and his wife, Deb. This was due to the loss of their winter home and cherished 50’ Carver just before Christmas, to a sudden fire. After their beloved “Out Of Service” was declared a total loss, they made a short trip to Florida in search of a new vessel with broker, Norman Norman in Fort Lauderdale. At Able & Son Marine in Stuart, he showed them a 1979, 48’ Tolly Craft CPMY Pilothouse Motor Yacht which they loved. Through Norman, they made a full-price offer on the new beauty subject to a professional survey of the boat. They had planned to take delivery of the T-Craft next month or early May, and drive it up the coast, arriving at Cove Marina by May 15th.

The new T-Craft

Well…Peter and Mary just returned from Florida; their plans had changed. Louise and I got together with them this past weekend to get an update on their latest boating adventure; it goes like this.

The General and Deb grew tired of providing temporary housing for Peter and Mary in late December; their friendship was wearing thin. Always astute, Peter recognized this growing rift between the couples and, wanting to preserve their relationship, made plans for a two month vacation in Florida. They arranged to spend January and February in the warmer climate, leisurely returning to Salisbury in their new boat in late March or early April. As luck would have it, the survey of the Tolly Craft turned up several deficiencies which needed to be addressed. The owner agreed to the repairs which could all be done by Able & Son Marine, but which would take several weeks.

Since killing bugs in January and February is not, annually, in high demand (his slow months), Peter was able to have his nephew run UCM Pest Control during those months. Mary had just completed editing the mid-winter edition of “Reptile and Bird Talk” magazine leaving her schedule free until spring. They planned to stay with Bob and Rachel for two weeks, Benny and Kay for one week, Peter and Cyd for another two weeks and finally, catch up with Alan on his 54’ Hunter Sailboat “Amenity” which he was sailing to the Bahamas for a week in February. Having solidified their plans, they purchased two, one-way tickets to Fort Lauderdale on Delta for January 3rd.

The General and Deb were ecstatic. They cheerfully drove Peter and Mary to Boston Logan Airport departures and wished them well on their journey; they were looking forward to seeing them again at Cove Marina in May.

Upon their arrival at Palm Beach International (their flight to Ft. Lauderdale was cancelled due to high winds), they rented a red Chrysler 200 convertible, called Norman to check the status of repairs to the boat and headed to Stuart to see the progress for themselves. Satisfied that all was progressing well with the T-Craft, they headed to Boca Raton for their new temporary housing…with Bob and Rachel.

Bob and Rachel had retired in 2009 and so were able to spend much time with their new house guests. Peter and Mary spent two lovely weeks in Boca seeing the sights and lazing on the beaches. Only two minor incidents occurred during their stay: Peter developed a serious case of sun poisoning on his arms and legs due to his splotchy application of sun screen, as well as a sunburn to his head due to over-use of the convertible and under-use of his hat.  Mary became dehydrated, possibly due to over-consumption of alcohol and over-exposure to the sun, requiring delivery to the emergency room at West Boca Medical Center and an overnight stay for intravenous fluid replacement. The weather turned sour on the final four days of their visit with Bob and Rachel, allowing them partial recovery from their ailments and requiring the top of the convertible to remain up and covering Peter’s head.

They next drove to Deerfield Beach to stay with Benny and Kay. Their lovely home is situated on the Intracoastal Waterway and within walking distance to the beaches. They also have a lovely pool and hot tub. Again being retired, Benny and Kay were able to spend much time with Peter and Mary, introducing them to the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi system, the Lighthouse Point Marina located near the Hillsboro Inlet, Flanigan’s Irish Seafood Bar & Grill, The Whale’s Rib, Ocean 234 Restaurant and, of course, the now famous Elbow Room on Lauderdale beach. Incredibly, the week went by too quickly and with no incidents save the night they stayed in the hot tub too long drinking Bacardi Gold & colas. Finally, they bid farewell to their friends and headed for their third temporary housing location on the west coast of Florida.

When they eventually arrived at Peter and Cyd’s place in Tampa (a seven hour drive), they were pretty well beat up from the sun and the wind, driving the entire day with the top down. Their stay on the Gulf coast was memorable and, again, without serious incident. They were able to visit Busch Gardens, Disney and Epcot Center; they made trips to Sanibel and Captiva Islands as well as Naples, Marco Island and Fort Meyers. They searched Venice Beach for sharks’ teeth, and spent time swimming in the warm Gulf waters. They even rented jet skis from Channelside Watersports in Tampa (Peter and Cyd opted out of that adventure). The two weeks they spent with Peter and Cyd flew by, and before they knew it, they needed to meet up with Alan in Fort Lauderdale.

Alan had called them on Friday indicating they needed to be aboard his sailboat by Sunday night and leaving for the Bahamas Monday morning if they were to take advantage of favorable weather conditions crossing the gulfstream. If they waited, weather forecasts predicted deteriorating conditions for Tuesday and Wednesday, forcing a postponement of their trip. Mary was looking forward to the boat trip since, prior to power-boating, she had extensive sailing experience. Peter, on the other hand, had no experience sailing and was apprehensive of the upcoming experience.

 

54 HunterAmenity

Peter lucked out. They arrived, per schedule. They boarded and settled in. Alan had cajoled an experienced sailing friend to make the passage with them. The crossing was exceptionally pleasant with perfect winds and reasonable seas (reasonable for the gulfstream); Peter and Mary, with no sailing skills being needed from them, spent the day drinking champagne from stemware and talking with Alan about old times up north.

After securing dockage at the Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour on the west end of Grand Bahama Island, they visited the Tiki Bar and danced the night away to the island reggae sounds. During their stay, they visited the casinos in Freeport; Alan did well but Peter and Mary, not surprisingly, lost over $500 in the first half hour they were there. Leaving Alan to acquire his fortune, they made their way back to the streets for some touristy shopping and to the beach for some sun worship.

 

West End

Their week’s visit with Alan was exciting and relaxing. On the return voyage, they were again favored with fair winds and waters allowing for a nine hour crossing. They spent Sunday, their final night, aboard “Amenity”, making plans to close on the purchase of their new boat; they had spent enough time in Florida and were anxious to begin their trip north.

Monday morning, bright and early, they bid farewell to Alan thanking him profusely for their adventurous week. They rolled the top back on the Chrysler and headed for Stuart. On the ride, they spoke with Norman Norman; he was to meet them at Able & Son Marine in Stuart to close the deal; he had spoken to the dealer and had been assured that the boat was “in the water and ready to go”. Peter and Mary were looking forward to signing the papers and spending the night on their new boat, preparing for a Tuesday morning departure. They had decided to change the name from “Beachcomber” to their old name “Out Of Service” hoping it would finally bring them some luck.

They arrived at the marina around 10:30 am; Norman was already there or, at least, they saw his car in the lot. As they approached the office, John Able Sr. and Norman were standing outside the doorway deep in conversation. Peter gave them a hearty “Good Morning!” They turned to face Peter; John Able Sr. actually had tears in his eyes; Norman just shook his head slowly. During the early morning hours, while tied to the dock, “Beachcomber” had sunk. Three quarters of her were below water with only the tower and partial bridge showing; it was listing badly to port due to the cleated lines holding on the dock; air bags had begun lifting it out of the water, but only to save the dock…the boat was gone. Mary fainted; Peter picked her up and put her on a nearby park bench using his jacket as a pillow. He sat down, put his head in his hands and began crying. This was the last straw; the one that broke the camel’s back.

John Able Jr. came running with a first aid kit. He was able to rouse Mary with smelling salts; he gave Peter some tissues.

 

The sinking

John Able Sr. said it would be several days before they could determine the cause of the accident. Able & Son Marine had obviously missed something. Norman Norman wrote out a check for the deposit he held and, lamentably, gave it to Peter and Mary; he said he would continue the search for them if they wanted. They said, “Don’t bother”. They returned to their rented convertible, check in hand, no boat, no destination, no airline ticket for home; and no home to go to.

Our boating friend Brian recently said, and I quote: “There is absolutely zero chance that new vessel will ever see “A” Dock this summer; dark clouds follow that couple”. We thought he was being overly pessimistic but he was right. Louise and I will surely miss Peter and Mary this summer if they don’t return in some type of vessel, however, as it stands now, they have gotten their deposit back from Cove Marina; slip #A-42 is once again available; call if you know of someone looking.

 

length overall is what

But obviously this is not the end of the story. Peter decided they should not “throw money away” by buying flights home (to what home?). They decided to purchase a motor home, drive leisurely back while making a stop in Syracuse, NY to visit friends. They settled on a 2006, 34’ Admiral SE with two slides and were able to close the deal in two days.

 

Admiral RV

The plan worked well until, after leaving Syracuse, a sudden snowstorm made driving difficult on Interstate 90. Just east of Utica, somewhere between Herkimer and St. Johnsville, visibility degraded forcing the RV into the median strip. Eventually, a tow truck arrived. Unable to hook up to the motor home in the blinding snowstorm, Peter and Mary were taken to the nearest toll station where they remained overnight listening to the PA system’s weather announcements repeated over and over, “18 degrees and blowing snow”, “18 degrees and blowing snow”. By noon the next day, they were back on the road headed for the Hampton Beach State RV Park in New Hampshire.

And that’s where they are today; living in the RV, back to work and with no talk of future boats. Oh, and one more post script: Butch, their German Shepherd died while in doggy day care in Leominster, of natural causes…old age.

 

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | February 22, 2012

CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

California Here We Come

Louise and I heard there was an ocean near California, so we went there. I had actually been there once before near Monterey Bay in Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, but there was so much fog, I never saw the ocean. It was similar to the time I went to the Kentucky Derby, stayed on a house boat, went onto the infield of the derby track to watch the race…and never saw a horse (a story for another time). Louise and I went to Davis, California for her cousin’s wedding, and while there visited San Francisco. We could barely make out the Golden Gate Bridge due to the fog, and there were no boats on the docks near Fisherman’s Wharf due to the seals occupying the docks; the seals are protected, but the docks sinking under their weight are not.

San Fran Bay

We eventually did see the Pacific Ocean. When the fog very suddenly rolled in, we looked at each other and immediately decided we did not need to bring our boat, “HalfMine”, out west. In all fairness to the pacific coast, we did not spend enough time there to become enamored of west coast boating.

While in California, we did make a trek to Lake Tahoe and enjoyed a day’s boating aboard a large sailing catamaran. The day was cool and sunny; the water was a deep, dark blue/black color and made quite a beautiful palette with the dark greens of the mountain background and the blue sky. Music and dancing were in abundant supply during our day’s voyage and we enjoyed ourselves.

The lake cat    Sailing Lake Tahoe

Getting to Tahoe was a different matter. The lake is high in the mountains…very high. I’m told the views there are fabulous, but I Hate Heights. Our main route into Tahoe split left and right at the lake; the right split going to where the tourist area sail boat rental was located, and the left headed out and around the lake (as I remember it; my recollection may not be accurate). As we took the left turn, there was a small, stone bridge with no side railings, a very short bridge which crossed a deep ravine, a very deep ravine. As I recall, the road was narrow and two-lane. I remember cars and motor homes coming at us from the other side of the bridge, and I recall being able to go no more than 2 miles per hour due to my fear of crossing that bridge. I almost stopped, mid-bridge, not being able to go further; unfortunately, there was a three-mile backup of traffic behind us and still I would have to change places with Louise which was even more frightening than continuing on. I recall, an hour later, on the other side, sweat pouring off me, parked in a vista-view area with Louise telling me I should come look at the view, asking her if she could drive the rental car for the remainder of our visit to Tahoe. Many of my recollections regarding our visit to Lake Tahoe are most likely inaccurate due to the lake’s height above sea level and the fact that my eyes were closed most of the time. Louise drove for the remainder of that day. We ended up in Carson City, Nevada on the other side of the lake, and I was never as happy as when we stopped at the Bucket of Blood Saloon for late afternoon WHISKEY. We pushed open the saloon doors, slowly looked around at the occupants seated at the gaming tables while they peered curiously back at us. We knocked the dust off our hats by whacking them against our floppy, well-worn chaps, and proceeded to clomp across the floor, noisily jingling our spurs while sidling up to the bar, putting one booted foot on the low bar railing, losing one spit into the spittoon…and ordering our shots.

To Lake Tahoe Vista view area Whiskey break

How she ever convinced me to drive the Donner Pass with her the next day, I will never know.

no way

Driving The Pass was way worse than driving around Lake Tahoe. The best part of that day, for me, was that I don’t remember any of it; my eyes were shut most of the time while Louise drove, pointing out the spectacular views and wondering how our pioneer forefathers could venture forth into such a demanding, inhospitable, forbidding environment. Since my eyes were closed, it was a fairly easy conversation to engage in. She must have eventually sensed my discomfort since, at her first opportunity, she began heading west toward the pacific coast and Napa, away from the mountains and the Donner Pass and back to sea level…thank goodness!

We enjoyed our time spent in Davis and San Francisco as well as our vineyard tours of the Napa Valley. San Francisco’s climate is very acceptable (though it does get cold) and especially enticing is the fact that there are no bugs in the city; none. Windows can be left open, without screens and with no threat of bugs entering. Just imagine; a bug-free boating environment. For the most part, though, Louise and I thought California was just “too far away”; we were not certain we would be returning anytime in the near future.

End of the trip

Then, not too long after our return, my starving, struggling actor friend, Alan, called us from New York City where he lives and he said, “thought of you guys for this, especially if Louise is retiring!!”.

Alan Dary

DOCU-SERIES FOR MAJOR CABLE NETWORK/Television/No Union Affiliation/

CASTING NOTICE: we’re looking for really interesting, compelling, unique people who want to boat from New York to Washington State, USING ONLY AMERICA’S WATERWAYS—NO OCEANS! Believe it or not, it can be done! We’re going for a John Steinbeckian/Travel’s With Charlie/Huck Finn kind of feel. People (a minimum of two) who are driven to make this journey for a reason, whether it be to reconnect to land as they make their way through these routes; or maybe two people named Lewis and Clark? We also want to see quirky, interesting folks; no upper-crust, slick, beautiful yachters, but real, gritty, bursting with color and personality characters who have a story. They should be somewhat knowledgeable at boating and have a passion to be on the water and make the trek.

Since we had enjoyed the pacific coast area so much, and since we were looking forward to returning in the near future, and since it wasn’t really “that far away”, what better way to go than by boat?

Alan said we wouldn’t even need SAG cards (Screen Actors Guild) to do this documentary for PBS, AND…We could get paid for this (“remuneration TBD”); does this audition call have our names written on it or what??!

Here was the rub…we needed to get a 3-5 minute video of us, in action, to them within the next 3 days; already we were beginning to understand deadlines. We had no videos; we had no knowledge of how to make videos or what should be in them. We had no acting experience (but neither did Boston Rob, right?)… We were left with the only thing we could do; call Sean, our son.

As luck would have it, we had planned a family get-together with all the kids in Hoboken the upcoming weekend. We made certain Sean had his video camera and was prepared to produce the requisite audition tape. Our backdrop was to be the New York City skyline as viewed from the Jersey side. As his super 8mm film began to roll, Louise and I introduced ourselves, described some of our adventures to date, and explained why we would be the perfect candidates for this TV opportunity (Alan had told us “JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT HOW YOU COME ACROSS ON CAMERA; your personality will come through!!! The camera picks up on phoniness!”) Our “shoot” was interrupted only once by a low-flying, noisy helicopter, but otherwise…was boring.

On the day of the deadline, our casting company called and extended our deadline by another week. This was an excellent opportunity to have a professional video done by our starving actor friend Alan; and an excellent job he did! He was able to piece together several short clips we had managed to put together (editing I think it’s called), and the finished product was very professional. He over-nighted the finished audition video to us and we decided to hand-deliver it to the production company in Medford. While Louise double-parked in front of the studio, I ran the disk upstairs. I was buzzed into the waiting room, but then waited a few minutes for the receptionist to return from an errand. I had an opportunity to view all of the production items displayed on the walls and was very impressed with their work; what a different way of making a living (I’m always looking). When the receptionist returned, I told her I was hand-delivering a casting call video to our agent Carol in order to make a deadline. She thanked me and headed back into the office area; as I opened the glass front door to leave, I heard her yell into the studio, “Carol…here is that audition video you’ve been waiting for!!”  We were pretty sure that our audition video was not the one she was waiting for! But it was fun.

And then the waiting began. Alan said we should not expect to hear back from them at all unless we were chosen for the series. We called two or three times during the following months, but no decisions had been made. Then, three months later on an otherwise dull day, we got a message from our casting company; they had changed the format of the series to use families instead of couples and were we still interested. Well, of course we were…but none of our kids, with their kids and their jobs could take three months off to “Boat Across America”.

And so ended our dream of adventure, fame, fortune; our hope of becoming the next Boston Rob and Amber of a reality series…but it’s not the end of the story.

We called our casting company just last week to follow up on the series progress. Carol, our casting agent, was exuberant as ever, sparkly and very positive in her response. She said, “Sadly, nothing came of the show. This is pretty common in TV development—we develop ideas and get to the point where it comes time to shoot the pilot, and then they get shelved. We were all very excited about “Boating Across America”, and sad it didn’t work out…but happy we got to meet all of you! Your journey with Ralph was what would have made our show great!”

So, sadly at the conclusion of this adventure (which was mostly in our minds), our hopes and spirits dashed, we have only two questions…how were we to boat across and through the Rocky Mountains (they said it could be done), and…Who’s Ralph?

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 31, 2012

NOT JUST A BUNCH OF DINGHIES

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

Not Just a Bunch of Dinghies

As long time boaters we have developed a high regard for safety while at sea aboard our power vessels. We continue to develop skills needed to carefully and safely venture into nature’s vast, constantly changing, unrelenting, unforgiving and unpredictable environment…the sea. We help each other, especially our new boating compatriots, to learn new, safe ways to handle boats. All of our boating friends operate their vessels in a safe, responsible and professional manner; otherwise, they would not be our boating friends. The learning curve needed to safely operate power vessels is not only huge but constantly changing. We consider ourselves responsible power boaters.

Having said this…it seems that when it comes to our dinghies, it’s another matter altogether.

A dinghy, as defined by Encarta Dictionary (English, North America) is a small boat; an inflatable raft usually towed behind or carried on a larger boat. In our experience, most of these rafts come equipped with a small, outboard motor allowing for easy access to ports of call from the larger boat which would be tied to a mooring or at anchor. These rafts, many times, are considered “tenders” to a larger boat.

A Bunch of Dinghies   Getting to shore

Dinghy styles vary dramatically. For example, Louise and I have two dinghies. Our favorite raft is 12’ in length with large inflatable pontoons, a soft bottom and capable of carrying six passengers. It is approved for a 15 horsepower outboard motor and weighs close to 200 pounds. We used to carry it with us on “HalfMine”, as our tender, but recently decided it was too heavy to lift aboard and too awkward to remove the motor, parts and pieces, then stow aboard each time we left the docks. We have since opted for a very small, 8’ inflatable raft which we can always carry on our bow, and a very small, 6 horsepower motor which we can keep stowed below deck; we use it only to get to shore while on a mooring or at anchor.

carrying our dinghy towing our dinghy

The reason, however, that the big dinghy is our favorite is because…it’s more fun. It goes faster, farther and with less resistance to the water (sometimes, in the river, our small dinghy barely moves against the currents and tides). Another characteristic of dinghies is that the learning curve to operate them is maybe ½ hour; 45 minutes tops. The required skill set for operation of “the big boats” is not required for dinghy operation. A certain amount of lackadaisicalness is what commonly appears in dinghy operation.

Acceptable dinghy practices

On particularly warm days, while at anchor or on our moorings, or stuck at the docks in the Merrimack River due to unforeseen circumstances, dinghies become our 1st choice of activity; and the variety of activity is limited only by our imaginations. Here are some of our typical activities:

  • Several years ago, we were introducing our new friends and 1st-time boaters at Cove, Peter and Victoria (not to be confused with Peter and Mary), to our dinghy activity of “actual, natural deviation”. The word “deviation” must have painted a picture of nude boating in their minds as they were inclined not to participate. Later, they told us they were “concerned” about what they may have gotten into by coming to Cove Marina and becoming friendly with “these people”. Their anxieties were eased as they discovered that tying a bunch of dinghies together and floating with the current, up or down river, without power was what we call “actual natural deviation”. Very rarely, if ever, do we bring libations and snacks with us.

A gathering of rafts

  • River sandbars provide the perfect venue for swimming, sunbathing and general camaraderie…and the best way to get to them is by dinghy. We constantly explore the rivers for new sandbars. We generally plant a flag on newly discovered islands, giving them names (New Brownland, Perry’s Pint and Steve’s Naked Landing). We explore them, dominate them and then lose them back to the sea. An annual event in the Ipswich River is “Sandbar Golf”; one year the sandbar was “lost back to the sea” before the last 3 foursomes were able to tee off.

Newbrownland discovered   Sandbar fun

where did the sandbar go

  •  When the seas are nasty, making it difficult to take the big boats out, we are still able to travel from the Merrimack River, via “back river” to the Ipswich River and then via Fox Creek to the Essex River and Hog Island…by dinghy. These can truly be voyages of epic proportions since travel in these back waters is dependent on and restricted to high tides; they cannot be travelled otherwise. Louise and I got stuck back-river at low tide one day, unfortunately at the height of green-head season. Jamie and Whit left one day for Essex; it was two weeks before we saw them again. Last season’s “Award Winning” trip was when Carol and Jim got stuck in Fox Creek with a large crew on board; the stick was so bad, all crew members were required to exit the craft and enter the murky, mucky, gooey  water in order to free the vessel.

Dingy  On a hot day

  • Of course there is the, now famous, Run to the Crescent from Newburyport to Haverhill for dinghies only…ha. “The Run” is now composed of a wide variety of water-craft, most of which are still powered by “small” outboard motors.

Heading up river

  • Exploration of distant ports of call, by dinghy, remains one of our favorite pastimes. Our most memorable dingy excursions were while “the big boat” was tied up at Liberty Landing Marina in New Jersey. One night, after dark we used our tenders to travel up the canal in search of a small Italian restaurant in Jersey City. We found the restaurant ok, had a nice dinner, got lost after leaving the restaurant on foot, and forgot where the dinghies were tied up. We obviously must have found our way back, but as we recall, it was an ordeal. Also, while in Jersey, our last night was so clear and quiet, we decided to take the dinghies out to “look at the stars”; we ended up crossing the Hudson River and exploring the Manhattan shoreline, eventually “bumping into” Chevy Chase’s yacht. Louise was not especially thrilled with the decision to cross the Hudson at night in dinghies.

NYC before 911  Crossing the Hudson

  • And then there are the party boats. We remember one particular incident involving a dinghy and a party boat; I believe it involved Peter, Mary and…The General. As we recall the story, Louise and I were attending a friend’s 50th birthday party on one of the larger party boats operating in the Merrimack River. There were well over 100 partiers aboard dancing to music provided by the DJ, eating catered delicacies (including wings) and, just possibly, entertaining a cold beverage or two. As we were looking out at the passing marinas and town docks, we recognized two of our chums motoring in a rather large, new center console dinghy with a 40 horsepower motor, also new. Of course you know who they were…Peter and The General (this is where The General gets his name). It turns out that Peter borrowed his friend’s new dinghy; all $18,000 worth of it and was cruising the river. He and The General managed to sidle up to our party boat to partake of the fine music, the snacks being tossed down to them and the loud party atmosphere. We remember them as not behaving in a particularly responsible boating fashion; after all they were in a dinghy. The captain of the party boat however WAS acting in a very responsible manner. Peter and The General should have expected the Coast Guard when they arrived in their bright orange Coast Guard RIB. Both Peter and The General were dressed in bathing suits with no shirts and no shoes. Neither had identification. Their dinghy was registered to someone else and was covered in chicken wing bones, some type of red, gooey liquid and various other types of food; to their credit, the coolers on board were empty; how they got emptied we can only guess. They, of course were arrested immediately and taken to the Coast Guard Station in Newburyport. We, however, were not aware of this at the time since we had returned to the entertainment on the top deck of the party boat.

When we returned to our dock after the party on the boat, Peter and The General had not yet returned…and Mary was beside herself. She asked us to go in search of them, fearing something might have happened. We declined since we had no idea where they might be (it’s a big river) and it was dark; we had faith they would return in short order.

By 10:30 PM, we too were getting worried. They finally arrived back at the docks in their bathing suits with no shirts and no shoes, delivered by the local police in the local police cruiser. The dingy (their friend’s NEW dingy) had been impounded by the Coast Guard, chicken wings, red gooey liquid and all. Mary threw what was left of a rather large, over-cooked meat pie at Peter and walked off the docks shouting and screaming, not to return that night.

What we later learned from Peter clarified why it had taken so long for them to “get released”. Peter had told the Coasties that “he was a naval officer” and therefore deserved special recognition in this situation, and that he should immediately be released. Of course, he had no credentials to substantiate this claim. On hearing this claim, his cohort from the raft immediately told the Coasties that if Peter was an officer, he in fact, was a general… and that’s how The General got his name. After these announcements and a quick breathalizer, they were immediately detained in protective custody; they were very lucky to even be released after all that nonsense.

As we’ve said before, we learn a lot about what not to do from Peter and Mary.

Our small, relatively inexpensive dinghies provide us with much of our on-water enjoyment. We are fortunate to have discovered this multi-faceted pastime called boating. The activities appear to be ever-expanding, with new experiences presenting themselves each season. As Wankasheek says, through boating we are able to enjoy the 1st wonder of our world…the Ocean.

As the earth turns toward the sun and the sky regains its warmth (thanks Elyse) we approach our next summer boating season and look forward to new acquaintances, new experiences and new opportunities, as well as continuing our tried and true, past activities.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 25, 2012

AN UPDATE

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

An Update

Do you remember Peter and Mary Smith? We’ve mentioned them before. They are the General’s boating friends at Cove Marina; they live on a 50’ Carver Californian on “A” Dock in the summer and in Rye Harbor during the winter; the boat’s name is “Out Of Service”; Mary is an editor and Peter kills bugs…

Well, we can all learn a lot from their mistakes. Anyway, they had another “accident”; specifically another boat fire. We always thought this might happen while they were living onboard in the winter because of their funky and probably not-up-to-code heating system on the boat. Interestingly, that wasn’t the issue in this case. They have a small portable butane stove, maybe 14” by 14” square and maybe 6” tall. It works well for cooking items in a frying pan or boiling water for hard boiled eggs, noodles and such. We guess they were making breakfast because the accident happened in the morning. The small butane tank fits into the front of the stove. There are very short legs on the stove and a grill on the top; it’s easy to mix up which side of the stove is top and which is bottom. We guess they got the upside and downside mixed up. When Mary put the stove on the table and clicked the flint to ignite it, the flames came out ok, but downward toward the table top, causing the fire to start there, in the galley at the table.

Being the prudent mariner that he is, Peter was able to quickly get the fire extinguisher and turn it onto the stove and table; it wasn’t enough, however, to quench the fire. Mary was on the bow side of the now blazing fire in the galley and couldn’t get out to the stern; Peter was on the stern side and unable to get to Mary. They knew that the inferno was now too much for them to handle…and decided to abandon ship. Mary went into the V-berth and out the hatch over the bed; Peter scrambled out onto the rear deck and up to the docks.

As they watched the fire consume their boat, they considered how very lucky they were…they both escaped unharmed. They were also lucky in that no one was aboard the boats nearest to them and that there was only minimal damage to those neighboring yachts. Unfortunately, the volunteer Rye fire department was not able to get to the docks to put the fire out; their hoses wouldn’t reach down the length of the dock to the boat. Tow Boat US responded in a spectacular fashion and the captain was able to pump continuous streams of water on the now fully engulfed vessel minimizing the risk of a fuel explosion. He was also able to tow the boat out of harm’s way, away from the docks and into open water eliminating the chance of fire spreading to the dock and other boats. The Carver was declared a total loss and was set on dry dock pending the insurance investigation and eventual demolition.

Peter and Mary have lost most of their personal belongings as well as their home on the water. Fortunately, they still have their storage unit in Salisbury which, to hear them talk, is loaded with items they couldn’t fit on the boat; it should help them get a new start. Peter would have been fine temporarily staying in his pest control office which is very large and equipped with bathroom and shower, but Mary refused to live there due to the disarray of the place and the horrible, permeating smells from chemicals, cigars and general dereliction of maintenance.

Since they are such close friends with The General and his wife, they are staying with them in Leominster…temporarily we guess (although it’s now been over a month). Peter agreed to put Butch, their German Shepherd, in extended doggy daycare as Butch and Bella don’t get on very well together; when looking into Butch’s eyes we can tell that he would like to have Bella as a mid-morning snack. Life in Leominster has been manageable but wearisome for the General and his wife; not so much for Peter and Mary.

The General and Deb did get some relief two weeks ago; Peter and Mary went to Florida on a boat-searching vacation.

Peter contacted a broker in Lauderdale, Norman Norman (believe it or not, that’s his real name) who scheduled several showings. Apparently they traveled from Sanibel Island, Port Charlotte and Fort Myers on the West Coast to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Stuart on the East Coast. They stayed in a bungalow in Hollywood near the beach though they didn’t have much time for sunbathing or partying due to the schedule Norman had arranged for them. The search was aided tremendously by the fact that they knew what they were looking for…another Tollycraft.

This time, they decided they could afford something built between 1975 and 1985; in the 50’ range; maybe with diesel engines (diesel fuel is not quite as flammable as gas). And this time, they are planning on having it longer than one day like the “Penn Yan” and longer than the two years they had the other “T-Craft”. They have not yet decided whether to change the existing name, “Beachcomber”, to their old name, “Out Of Service”.

We heard it was quite a grueling boat search; the weather was hot, the days were long and the broker, Norman was pushy; Peter mentioned that he didn’t care much for Norman, but the boats being shown to them were all contenders. In Stuart, the site of their last showing, they found the boat they were looking for. Their soon-to-be 5th vessel will be a 1979 Tollycraft CPMY pilothouse motor yacht, 48’ in length with TWIN DIESEL motors; and for the asking price of only $99,000!

                                The new T-Craft

Since this new boat is less than 50’ in length, Peter and Mary will be able to return to Cove Marina in the summer and remain docked in their old slip. We don’t think they will be returning to Rye Harbor next winter, though we’ll have to wait and see.

We know they made an offer on the boat and are now waiting for a response from Norman Norman. In the meantime, they have returned to Leominster to begin planning for the return trip from Florida to Massachusetts in their new boat. This trip, much to the dismay of The General and his wife, may not occur until late April or early May. According to The General, this gives a whole new meaning to the concept of “temporary housing”; he is now thinking that Peter may need to clean up his pest control office to Mary’s satisfaction. Either that or maybe add a heating system to their storage unit in Salisbury and live there for the remainder of the winter although that idea may create more of a risk to them than a solution…

The General is asking for volunteers to help with temporary housing.

Meanwhile, we will try to keep you updated on the continuing plight of Peter and Mary. We can’t wait to hear about their trip up the coast from Stuart in the Spring, assuming nothing happens between now and then. Remember…we can learn a lot from their mistakes.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 16, 2012

RUN TO THE CRESCENT

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES:

Run To The Crescent

15 years ago, Louise and I, Paul and Debbie, Kenny and Julie took a trip up the mighty Merrimack River out of Newburyport, MA to the Crescent Yacht Club in Haverhill, MA…a journey of epic proportions, in rubber inflatable rafts, 13.5 miles.  We called it “The Run To The Crescent”.

                   Two original mates Two original captains

Somehow, this run has become an annual event; we go each year no-matter the weather.  It is now listed in the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming agenda of activities, being held on the last Saturday of each year’s Yankee Homecoming celebrations.  We began having T-shirts made several years ago, and have also, over the years, been able to make sizable contributions to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Of the original 6 founding fathers (and mothers), only 2 have made all 15 trips…Louise & Debbie.  Paul went hunting one year and missed the event; I needed to be in Ohio one year with  family and missed the event.

they made all 15 runs

Here’s what the event consists of:

  • Power-up the inflatable rafts & meet in the Merrimack River
  • Circle the rafts until all are present
  • Begin motoring up the river as a group (the group doesn’t  stay together long since there are many motors, many boats of different sizes and many different mentalities; but this is not a race!)
  • Stop along the way to wait for slower boats; also for photo ops, rest room breaks, and so on
  • If low tide, stop along the way for swimming & other antics
  • Arrive at the Crescent Yacht Club late, mid-morning
  • Two free drink coupons  and $1 hot dogs (Steve thinks they’re free); various types of activities (hula hoops, a new form of darts, announcements, catch up on events with friends, old & new, music…always music)
  • Begin the return trip just after noon with the same antics on the way back (and a few more stops; only three people have been lost overboard due to mismanagement of boat wakes on the return trip; only one injury requiring stitches occurred)
  • Arrive back at the various home ports in time for Yankee Homecoming celebrations, parties, fireworks, dancing and carrying-ons; staying awake is always a challenge

4th annual 5 boats 5th annual 9 boats 13 years of fun

here they come another big year 45 boats record set in 2011 53 boats

original ones 2 more original ones and the dinghys get bigger

the arrival more of the voyagers the end of the run

DON’T MISS THIS EVENT NEXT YEAR,

IT’S OPEN TO EVERYONE WITH A DINGHY.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 11, 2012

NOW IT GETS SPOOKY

dedicated to my superstitious friend Paul:

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

NOW IT GETS SPOOKY

I am not superstitious. I believe in the credible, not the incredible; the logical rather than the illogical and the rational instead of the irrational. I consider myself to be fairly well grounded here, in the real world; imaginative sometimes, but with my beliefs firmly rooted in this, the real world. Even though vampires are all the rage today, and have been around for centuries if not from the beginning of time, they are not my rage. I don’t believe in them. Admittedly, I do love science fiction. Logically, in an infinite universe with an infinite number of planets, we cannot be alone, but I do not consider myself gullible.

However…having said this, there have been a few things I would not have believed unless I had seen them with my own eyes. Some can be explained by research, some by science and some by knowledge; but not all.

One occurrence we (Louise and I) would not have believed unless we had been there was…”The Rogue Wave”. It is explainable though. At the mouth of the Merrimack River, during incoming and outgoing tides, the wave action can be tremendous. Usually, the Coast Guard monitors this activity and issues informational bulletins to local boaters in the form of small craft advisories and warnings. On this one particular day, we had planned on taking some guests out for a short cruise aboard “HalfMine”, our 34’ Sea Ray.

There had been stormy weather on preceding days, but this particular day was sunny and warm sporting a cloudless sky. The river was calm and there were no advisories about stormy seas. We headed out at a speed less than 5 knots and slowly approached the mouth. As we moved closer, there appeared to be some slight wave action, but nothing out of the ordinary; the mouth usually has some activity. The area inside the north and south jetties continued to be fairly calm. Just as we approached the center of the mouth at the end of the two jetties, we were suddenly facing a mountain of water…a wet wall coming directly at us. We had no opportunity to turn the boat around without running the risk of broaching, so we put the bow into the wave and climbed it hoping to ride it out.

At the peak of this rogue wave, we witnessed the second approaching wave, as large as the first and very close to it, the trough between the two waves being very narrow. Again we had no opportunity to turn back without risking capsizing in the trough. As we descended the backside of the first wave, we kept the bow of the boat into the second wave. Unfortunately, we did not ascend, fully, the front of the second wave. Our bow cut through the midsection of the second rogue wave, allowing water to rip back the taut canvas top, pounding green water on the windshield and soaking all passengers. One of our heavier passengers, seated in a heavy deck chair was lifted into the air and returned to the chair flattening it. This entire event occurred in less than 20 seconds.

The third wave was less potent and we were able to power up and turn, quickly on its peak allowing us to “surf” the waves back into the mouth of the river and to the safety of the harbor. We were very lucky that day; many different scenarios could have been written about that trip. Our scenario was that no one was lost overboard or injured, there were no serious damages to the boat, the engines did not fail us and we didn’t sink, all of which were likely possibilities. If we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, we would not have believed it…and, in this instance, there were witnesses to the Rogue Wave Episode.

rogue wave

Another event we were privileged to witness was the Dolphin Migration. Louise and I were alone aboard “HalfMine”, our 27’ Carver Montego, out probably five miles somewhere between Cape Ann and the Merrimack River buoy. It was near the end of our boating season and there were few if any boats in our vicinity. As we turned to head back, we noticed what appeared to be dolphins. There were only a few, at first, but we like to stop and watch any wildlife when we find it (which is rarely). We’ve had some good whale sightings, but it is amazing how little wildlife we see in our travels. This day was to be an exception. The few dolphins turned into many. While stopped, we became surrounded by dolphins. It appeared they were traveling south and east around and away from Cape Ann. We decided to follow them, and soon were in the midst of thousands of dolphins; on all sides of our boat, following us, leading us, engulfing us…thousands of dolphins. I know this really sounds like a “fish story”, but it happened. Our friends do believe this story, but also believe we exaggerate the number of dolphins we traveled with. Unfortunately, Louise and I were the only witnesses that day; we would never have believed it except, we did see it. We travelled with the migration for close to an hour before turning around, heading home.

dolphins

And then there was the “Emerald City” which we have alluded to in stories, but never fully explained. We haven’t fully explained it because…we can’t. We do have a possible scientific explanation, but still this “occurrence” remains unbelievable.

The day was sunny and warm with only a light covering of clouds. The sea was flat-calm. We had just left the mouth of the Merrimack River on our day’s excursion. Our intent was to go out several miles and “float around”. As we slowly motored in an easterly direction, I noticed something out of sorts…there appeared to be an extra body of land where there should not be one. I mentioned this to Louise who looked at where I was looking, and listened to what I was saying, and still remained skeptical. “How is that possible” was her recurring question. We had been in this sea many times; we knew where Cape Ann was, and we knew where the Isles of Shoals were; being fairly early in the morning, we had not yet had cocktails, and we KNEW there was no body of land between our two known points of reference.

And yet, there it was, shimmering on the horizon in full sunlight, with the sun’s reflections off the glass of the buildings windows. The island was far enough away to be on or near the horizon, but large enough to make out the buildings which were located on it. Some of the buildings were tall, but smaller houses or cottages could be seen. Also, we could see what appeared to be a crane or lift of some type.  The island was definitely there…and definitely should not have been there. Fortunately for Louise and me, we had four guests aboard who also witnessed what has become to us our voyage to “The Emerald City”. Also, fortunately for us, we were able to contact two friends on another boat near us, and have them validate this sighting. The Emerald City remained on the horizon, even as we ventured ten to fifteen miles out into the ocean moving toward it. As we traveled toward this island, it remained clearly defined, shimmering with sunlight…and distant; we could not get closer to it, nor could we get further from it as we traveled in other directions. The apparition continued well into the day. Late in the afternoon, we again looked toward it; it was gone; vanished. It should not have been there to begin with. The only explanation we could come up with was…refracted light; maybe from Portsmouth, or Portland, or Kennebunkport; we could never explain this mirage fully (our friends don’t believe this even happened); we would not believe it if it had not happened to us; at least with this event, we have six other witnesses (who our friends also don’t believe).

The Emerald City

Now it gets spooky… (Read this late at night, alone; by flickering candlelight)

It’s hard to explain the chill I get; the cold, crawling, skin-rippling feeling; how goose bumps develop on my arms, back, legs and scalp and how the hair literally stands up on my arms and head, when I am startled (scared); just like on a startled, scared dog. It is hard to explain how these things happen when I get a premonition, a forewarning or feeling about…something. The goose bumps and chills come about quickly, and then go away quickly but numerous times. It’s like a light bulb repeatedly turning on brightly, and then slowly dimming its light to nothing. Sometimes I can get rid of these feelings by listening to music or thinking about “other things”; and sometimes I can’t.

I have spent a good portion of my working life working odd hours. Being fully awake at 2:00am, 3:00am or 4:00am is not uncommon practice for me. Most of the time, I find these hours comfortable and quiet, relaxing even. Because my working hours have been…odd, so have my sleeping practices. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to sleep almost any time of the day or night, without any trouble, almost anywhere, for my full eight hours. I’ve also spent a lot of time driving at night and during the early morning hours.

One particular jobsite I was working nightly was in Cambridge. Rather than travel back to Hampton after work, I was staying in Peabody at Louise’s parents’ house. The windows were all “blacked out” for daytime sleeping, and this arrangement was allowing me to travel less while being tired after working all night. Edward, her father, was living in assisted care near us in Hampton, while Ann had been admitted to hospice care two weeks previous to my project start-up in Cambridge. Two weeks into my project, Ann passed away.

The night before she died, I worked at my jobsite. At 3:30am, I was returning to their house in Peabody. As I remember, it was COLD;  a dark, starless, cold night; possibly there was a slight mist; it was quiet and still with very little traffic on the highway. The minute I left the site, I began to get a feeling; a premonition. Like I said, it’s hard to describe or explain these feelings; the goose bumps and chills were, however, very real. Music and thoughts-of-other-things did not get rid of these feelings. When I arrived at the house, I sat in the truck for several minutes before finally chiding myself for being such a bone-head; I got out and locked the truck. I let myself into the house; and then I turned on all the lights. I ascended the stairs to the small, blackened bedroom where I had slept comfortably for the past two weeks. I could not get rid of those “feelings about something”. Again, I told myself this was unacceptable behavior on my part; I shut off the lights & went to bed.

I found it impossible to fall asleep that night, so I know I wasn’t sleeping when a little while later…I heard the rocking chair squeaking and knew she was in the room with me. She was not a malevolent presence, but she was there; and the feeling that she was there that night has never left me.

When I turned on the light, it revealed the empty room and the empty rocking chair, as I knew it would. None the less, I hurriedly dressed and left the house, not to return (for sleeping purposes anyway). It was during that following day that Louise and I were informed by the hospice folks that Ann had passed away during the night.

          alone in bed on the stairs

For the remainder of the project I commuted from Cambridge to Hampton.

And last but by no means the least, there was the time we were out on anchor by ourselves. It was, again, a dark but misty, starless, moonless night, warm and humid; maybe 3:00am while checking the lines, I saw a strange, multi-color, pulsating light hover and then land on the still water near our boat. A very small creature with luminous skin appeared to emanate from the light and silently drift toward us…

The Alien

 But, this is a story in itself, and for another time.

As I said before, I am not superstitious. I am fairly well grounded in my beliefs of this real world and its happenings. We (Louise and I) have been most fortunate to expand our own knowledge through our shared experiences. As we are finding out, most occurrences can be explained by thought and investigation, by science and by thousands of years of amassed knowledge, most all of which is available through Google…but not all.

Captain Robert Brown

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 6, 2012

YOU NEED A VACATION: part two

CONTINUED

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

YOU NEED A VACATION (part two)

From Jost Van Dyke, you set out for Cane Garden Bay, Monkey Point on Guana Island (this island is private but can be rented for up to 36 people for $23,500 per week) and then on to Trellis Bay and The Last Resort for the night. Monkey Point is reputed to be one of the best snorkeling areas in the islands and you agree. While there, you also are able to help a fellow mariner remove several of his dock lines from his props; he and his family don’t swim and are having difficulty. As you watch them leave, your thought is that this is their first time chartering as well as yours, but you also think this may be their first time boating…what confusion aboard that vessel. After a light lunch, you head for Trellis Bay. Getting a mooring there poses no problem and you call in your reservations and dinner requests by radio, a now common practice here in the islands. The Last Resort is…well, different. It may be due to the honking donkey, Vanilla, or the Singing Dogs or the Prattling Parrots, but the food is good, the music is ”rocking” and the gift shop is fun. You learn that Trellis Bay is a haven for artists and local craftsmen and home of Gli Gli, the largest Carib Indian dugout sailing canoe in the Caribbean; you opt not to go on the day charter…other ports are calling you.

Your plans next take you on the longest leg of your journey…from Trellis bay you head northwest past West Dog, Great Dog and George Dog islands, and thirteen miles to Anegada Island. While most of the Virgin Islands are mountainous with tropical forest areas, the highest point on this sandy, flat island is 30 feet above sea level. This stop is to be the best; you and your friends pledge that should you return to the BVI, more time will be spent on Anegada to fully appreciate the island’s beauty. The entrance to the mooring field is shallow, surrounded by shallow shoals and coral reefs. Finding the entry markers is difficult, carrying you only twice into trouble. After you find the mooring field, there are plenty of available moorings and you tie up for the day and night. You quickly lower the dinghy and head to shore. You stop for a cocktail at the Anegada Reef Hotel (of course) and to get the lay of the land. You make arrangements to rent a jeep for two days. Two members of your crew make plans for a bone fishing expedition. Your first stop in your rental jeep is The Big Bamboo on the beach at Loblolly Bay; a fun stop on a beautiful beach on a hot, sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing. From there it’s back to the boat for a nap!

Later, you call in your reservations for dinner at Potter’s By-The-Sea, but find that the restaurant needs the entire crew’s order in advance to ensure that there is enough for you when you arrive. You know you’re ordering the “all you can eat” lobster dinner; unfortunately, your crew is still napping forcing you to call back later. You dinghy in for dinner of lobster and conch fritters; other crew members have the “all you can eat” BBQ. But this is the islands and, of course…they run out of salad before you have any and they run out of lobster before you’ve had all you can eat (let’s face it; you can eat a lot of lobster). Also, being the islands, they charge you the same price regardless of their claim. It’s been what your crew calls “a tricky meal”. You head back to the boat, somewhat dissatisfied and unsatisfied, for some late night entertainment…music, dancing, and cocktails.

In the morning, you get an early start in your jeep for Cow Wreck Beach. You hear that the name comes from a ship which was wrecked on the shoals and sank off the near coast carrying a cargo of…cattle. Most of the cows made it ashore, but this was not the shore they originally were heading for. The folks on the island had no use for these animals and allowed them to fend for themselves or die. You see that they have fended well for themselves as they are everywhere, loose and free. You and your jeep are forced from the road in several instances to avoid hitting them.  You and your crew agree that this is a must-see stop on the island, the beach and the Cow Wreck Beach Bar and Grill. After some shopping at The Settlement, you return your jeep with only minor damages to the rental owner (who is also the police chief, mayor, deep sea fishing charter captain, taxi owner and bone fishing guide). While there, your two crew members cancel their bone fishing expedition; how much time did they think you’d have?

You head back to the boat to begin your return journey to the big island of Virgin Gorda and Gorda Sound (this and Tortolla are the largest of the BVI). You pass by Necker Island (owned by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic Airlines) and Mosquito Island, entering into Gorda Sound headed for the Bitter End Resort and Saba Rock for the night. You struggle to get a mooring due to the large number of boats already in the mooring areas; this is one of the busiest anchorages you have visited.  Once tied up, you head to shore. For the first time since you began your journey, you spend a quiet half-day shopping, exploring, dinghying, people-watching, boat-watching, swimming and snorkeling in the clear, blue-green waters of this harbor. You spend a quiet evening at the restaurant on Saba Rock, a fairly up-scale affair, and return to “Southern Composure” to watch the stars, recuperate and prepare for your next day’s adventure.

Leaving Saba Rock, your journey next takes you west across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Marina Cay (just off Great Camanoe & Scrub Islands) & Pussers, the British Virgin Islands Chapter of Pirates Society and home to the now famous Pusser’s Rum selection. You know you will need to spend the night here; “Happy Arrr” begins at 3 PM.

You leave Marina Cay mid-morning, and head for Fat Hog’s Bay and the dinghy graveyard on Tortolla (you never did find Fat Hog Bob’s in Maya Cove and there is no one to ask about the numerous and deflated dinghy carcasses) then again across Sir Francis Drake Channel going southeast to Ginger, Cooper & Salt Islands before landing at Peter Island for swimming and snorkeling. You find Salt Island one of the most enjoyable stops due to the isolation of this beach, and the abandonment of the settlement. It’s like a ghost town encampment with a gorgeous sandy beach and overhanging palm trees loaded with fresh coconuts, the likes of which are perfect for a rum cocktail later on. Too soon, you bid farewell to this lovely beach, to the small memorial established for Autley by his good friend, and to this alluring and addictive life-style.  You find, back on the boat, that the coconut doesn’t make such great rum cocktails; too chewy.

And then it’s back to Roadtown to return what’s left of “Southern Composure” (there are only minor damages and there is no liquor left; in fact, at Pusser’s you needed to replenish the supply; it appears you were too conservative when supplying the boat). You have just spent seven nights in paradise; it is easy for you to understand how J. Buffett could write and sing such alluring songs about these gorgeous islands and this addictive way of life. Your head is filled with those romantic songs and his immortal words of wisdom, “wasting away in Margaritaville”, which is exactly what you want to do (or continue doing) now that you have discovered how to do it and where exactly this “Margaritaville” is.

You know, full well, that you must return to the real world and continue making the livelihood needed to carry on vacationing in this, the style that you’ve now become accustomed to. You also need to talk with your sons and daughters about the possibility and likelihood of relocating to the islands to start or purchase a bar of your own. Much to your pleasure and surprise, they don’t think the idea is too much outside the realm of possibility. You and your best friend and two close friends and your families and their families begin making plans to sell your houses, quit your jobs and relocate to the islands; in fact you contact a real estate broker in Tortolla about bars which might be for sale.  All 19 of you are very excited (actually the seven younger ones not so much). You have begun planning THE NEXT GREAT ADVENTURE.

And now, you feel much better about what a miserable day it is outside with the mist, the clouds and the snow. You actually whistle while shoveling the heavy mix of ice and snow from your driveway and while clearing the thick sheet of permanently attached ice from your windshield. Though there is no sunshine today, you see sunlight and warmth in your future and are again…an optimist.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

                     

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 3, 2012

YOU NEED A VACATION: part one

Dedicated to those who think staying at Holiday Inns is “roughing it”…see what you’re missing!

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

YOU NEED A VACATION (Part One)

I know; it’s a miserable, really sloppy day outside. It’s overcast, icy, misty, and there’s a chance of snow. Not the white, fluffy, great-to-be-alive, happy kind of snow; the miserable have-to-commute-in kind. The kind that needs to be shoveled & plowed in the dark because it gets dark at 5:00 when you get home from work, and it’s dark at 5:00 when you get up to go to work.

Well, if you can, picture this and try to use this picture as a temporary diversion…

You and your best friend and two other close friends have just touched down in San Juan, Puerto Rico. You have flown from Boston Logan where you’ve left that foul weather behind, and are bound for the British Virgin Islands. You board a puddle-jumper, bound for Tortolla, BVI and taxi onto the runway, only to be detained and then returned to the terminal. The captain of the plane (whom you are sitting next to in this puddle-jumper) informs you that “someone” has forgotten to re-fuel the plane; your flight is delayed pending fueling. The captain says this occasionally happens “here in the islands”.

Re-fueled, a little nervous but again underway, you have a front row seat on the flight; a clear view of everything beneath and in front of you. It is warm, sunny and exactly the opposite of what you’ve left behind. You can see Cuba through the windshield. The water and island views are spectacular, especially the varied blue-greens and aquamarine colors of the sea. You fly over the American Virgin Islands in their Caribbean splendor and touch down on the runway at Beef Island, BVI. You quickly de-plane and proceed through customs. You immediately order cocktails (drinking in public is strongly promoted in the islands) and board the special bus taking you to The Moorings, your charter boat rental company.

You have left behind the real world and have entered this fantasy world of bare boat chartering.  You immediately realize that this fantasy world can become addictive. Your 1-hour drive takes you past small villages, various sites and wonders, all located in the most beautiful sea you’ve ever seen, the existence of which you have only imagined; the crystal clear Caribbean. There is nothing quite as exciting as this 1st- time island adventure. It is the first time you’ve been to this part of the world and it is outstanding. The bus trip ends in Roadtown, Tortola, a well populated, bustling town with a history rich in pirating. This is home to the Moorings fleet of power and sail catamarans.

You check in, receive your briefing, pile aboard “Southern Composure” (your 37’ power cat) with your duffels, plug in your favorite Marley CD and begin the inventory of supplies you’ve ordered for the voyage. After the short briefing, you are handed the keys to half-a-million dollars worth of boat, you are wished a safe and enjoyable journey with the parting remark, “see you in a week; enjoy”. You’ve ordered supplies which are to be “easy on the chef”; you’ll be eating out a lot and only cooking on board two nights. Breakfasts and some lunches will also be made on board.  And then there is the liquor. You’ve been conservative in estimating your requirements (after all, you will be ordering quite a few drinks ashore, especially the reputed  “Painkillers”); you’ve stocked: 6 bottles of Stoli, 6 bottles of Absolut, 2 bottles of rum and a bottle of Baileys and think this should suffice; you have also stocked the appropriate mixes… and a case of beer.

You have done some homework, so you know you are going to head first to Cane Garden Bay on the other side of Tortola, or to the island of Jost Van Dyke just around the western tip of Tortola, through Thatch Island Cut. The sea, however, says “no you’re not”; as you leave Road Harbour, you find the weather disagrees with your plans; your first stop is going to be Norman Island, a “mere” 4.5 miles directly across from the mouth of Road Harbour (a little over 1 hour of powering through wind and rough sea). You are surprised at how well the cat handles in the wind and water even though you can only make 4 knots (you have been told that in a suitable sea, the cat will do 12-14 knots).

On entering the Bight of Norman Island, you find a vacant mooring and settle in for the night (you will only be using moorings and anchorages during your voyage; there are no plans for stopping at marinas as there is no need to stop at one). You read your guidebook to familiarize yourself with this island. You are delighted to find that the Bight is home to The William Thornton, nicknamed “Willie T”. The guidebook says that “stories abound about many wild nights of partying aboard; the ambiance is casual and often riotously fun!” It is also home to the famous “Body Shot” (a drink which, after imbibing, causes you to jump, topless from the deck to the water, an activity which may earn you a free T-shirt…if you are a female pirate.  You, of course, find this out after jumping and not receiving the T-shirt). You, your best friend and your two close friends find that all of the claims made by the guidebook and the “Willie T” are true; your assessment of this stop is that it has been as memorable as any stops, ever made, anywhere…bar none.

The next morning, you find it difficult to get moving, but your next port is calling. The sun is out, it is warm with calm seas and only subtle winds; and seeing the five naked, showering men on the deck of the sailing yacht next to yours nudges you into action. You stop at “The Indians” for some snorkeling on your way to Frenchman’s Cay and Soper’s Hole. Schools of tropical fish abound, and you also notice a large, rather skinny fish under the boat between the pontoons cooling itself in the shade. After conferring with your crew, it is determined to be a BARRACUDA; you are very glad you kept your distance. After a brief lunch, you’re on your way to Soper’s Hole for some shopping and touristy stuff. You pick up a bottle of World Famous Pusser’s Rum and head for White Bay on Jost Van Dyke, home to a beautiful white sand beach, The Soggy Dollar and Sidney’s One Love. You anchor offshore and swim into the beach; this is how the Soggy Dollar got its name, and you see many dollar bills hanging by clothespins from a clothesline…drying.  This is possibly the most relaxed beach you have visited; Sidney’s One Love with its soft couches and self-serve bar epitomizes the concept of relaxation. Of course, “Painkillers” and several orders of conch fritters help to relax you even more.

You hoist anchor and take a short cruise to Great Harbor (also on Jost Van Dyke), where you spend your 2nd night (and your first night on anchor; no moorings available). You call in your reservations, by VHF radio on channel 16, to the World Famous Foxy’s Tamarind Beach Bar; you make early reservations so you can see Foxy, himself, playing his Calypso ballads. It is definitely a relaxed atmosphere with sand floors beneath various types of table-clothed seating areas. You begin with Foxy’s famous Fire Water Rum, and enjoy a delectable seafood meal. You dinghy back to the boat, go directly to your berth and fall into a deep, deep sleep; until 2 AM when you find you have broken anchor and drifted into the nearest moored boat. It’s OK though; by 3 AM, you’re all squared away…these things happen in the islands.

You learn that Foxy has opened a new establishment in Diamond Cay, just around the corner from Great Harbor. Your crew helps you decide that an additional day and night on Jost Van Dyke is an extremely good idea. Your 3rd day and night are spent in Diamond Cay, swimming, snorkeling, hiking to the Bubbling Pool, taking pictures of breath-taking  views…and partying at Foxy’s Taboo.

TO BE CONTINUED

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

                  

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | December 27, 2011

THE GENERAL’S BOATING FRIENDS

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES

The General’s Boating Friends

Our friend, “The General” on “C” Dock, has noted (and rightly so) that “it’s difficult remembering all these Peters and Davids on our docks”.  He has said that he may need to cut back on his whiskey intake this coming season; he doesn’t remember any Marys except for the one at the Thirsty Whale; he needs to be more aware of who is on the docks (or what is on the rocks); he does however remember his other friends Bud, a Mr. Daniels, a Captain by the name of Morgan, a Mexican fellow Jose and a gentleman named Jack on “A” Dock.

Well, I’m here to refresh his memory about who is on the docks and who Peter and Mary are (and no, this is not the other Peter from “D” dock).

Peter and Mary Smith have the 50’ Carver Californian live-aboard style vessel on “A” dock, slip A-42 (it is the maximum size boat allowed at our marina).  Their boats name is “Out Of Service”.  She is a circa 1985 vessel with twin GAS motors that are rarely in good running order.  They love that boat but we’re not certain why.  They have become “attached” to it, literally due to all the hanging potted plants and flowers, not to mention the forest of weeds growing from the dock edges because of the bird seed overflowing the edges of their feeders.

 The Carver

They summer with us in Salisbury on the Merrimack River, and winter in Rye Harbor at the Rye Harbor Marina.  Living aboard in the winter requires them to put up an ungainly wood framework for their clear shrink wrap; they also have a stovepipe sticking out the side for whatever heating system they use (we don’t want to know).  Their winter neighbors stay as far from them as possible due to the likelihood of fire (their winter neighbors have also heard about some of their past mishaps).

They were 30-something years old when we first met them several years ago, and appear to be remaining at 30-something, probably due to their healthy life-style and diet. Trim and energetic, they like to dance, workout, run; they have kayaks on the boat which they use often (the girls on our docks ogle Peter when he’s in his wet suit). They have no children. The boat has a 12-speaker stereo system and is well-equipped for parties of which they have many; oh…the stories!

He owns UCM-Pest Control Services, a New Hampshire LLC.  The corporate motto is “We see ‘em, we kill ‘em”.  The logo is a bumble bee smoking a cigar and run through with a marine officer’s Mameluke sword; the bee has a tiny pink tongue hanging from its mouth.  He has several fairly weird employees whom we’ve only met in passing and, of course, a fleet of UCM vehicles (including a termite rig with his logo painted on the side).

Mary is self-employed as a copy editor and works for a number of local and national publishers.  She prefers murder and mayhem novels and has a vivid imagination.  She has also edited many short stories for boating magazines.  Unfortunately, due to the economy, her editing in the past year has been limited to pet-related publications (they have no pets) and Black Belt, a karate magazine (she studies Kempo).  She is able to do most of her work from her office on the boat but is forced to travel some and doesn’t like it (are you beginning to remember these folks now General?)

Most of us can’t understand how Peter and Mary are still boating after all they have been through.  Heck…most of us can’t understand how they are still alive.

The last time they took the Carver out was the day after a hurricane.  I know it sounds unlikely, but the river was calm and the weather was sunny and warm.  They had several relatives on board with them.  They thought they’d “take a peek” out the mouth.  Well…as they ventured forth, slowly, the surf at the mouth of the river began to build; as they “peeked”, so did one of the waves “peak”.  In boating parlance, two rogue waves, close together attacked them before they knew what was happening.  Their boat climbed the first wave, only to descend the other side and chop the second wave in half.  The Carver is a sturdy vessel and managed to survive the “green water” plunge with only a shattered windshield and a broken chair.  Peter was, miraculously, unharmed but his entire crew was saturated.  He was lucky no one was lost in this onslaught.  He was able, again miraculously, to rotate the boat on the crest of the second wave, without pitch poling or broaching, and surf back into the harbor with his frightened and soaked passengers. Needless to say, their vessel was “out of service” for the next several weeks (the windshield has been replaced; not the chair).  And this was just the last time they went out.

Peter and Mary have had 4 vessels; this Carver is their largest, and we can’t believe they still have it since they’ve not been lucky in hanging on to a boat for a very long period of time.

The next-to-last “Out Of Service” (they’ve kept the same name for all their boats) was a 1977, 30’ Penn Yan Sportfish (some pronounce it “pinion”).  We all remember (except maybe The General) how their story went regarding this vessel.  They were bringing the boat from the point-of-purchase in Boston back to Salisbury.  They had made their final inspections for this voyage and were comfortable with the on-board systems functionality; everything seemed to be working fine.  A short distance outside Boston, they were hailed on the VHF by the Coast Guard; apparently they were inside a restricted zone used for off-loading LNG tankers.  They made haste to exit the area, but not before two jets, dispatched from Hanscom AFB in Bedford to intercept them, dived on their boat indicating to them the need for added acceleration away from this zone.  So, they accelerated.  Just south of Cape Ann, they encountered engine problems…both motors quit running.  Their acceleration away from the LNG security area had most likely loosened the exhaust hoses allowing water to enter the engine room (we’ll never know for certain).  Unfortunately for them, the water had risen nearly to the flybridge before they became aware of their predicament (they certainly should have noticed how close they were getting to water level).  They barely had enough time to dawn life jackets before their new (to them) Penn Yan sank gracefully beneath them ending the shortest period of ownership they’d known.  Of course, they were successfully rescued by a Coast Guard cutter, probably dispatched by the same person who sent the planes to the LNG zone.  As Peter said, “where were the planes when we really needed them?” Their 30’ Penn Yan, “Out Of Service” was never recovered and is now home to various bottom-dwelling, aquatic sea creatures.

The Penn Yan (pinion)

Immediately after “the sinking”, they found and fell in love with a 1968, 38’ Tollycraft Tri-Cabin which also had twin GAS motors.  This is a vessel we can’t forget.  In the two seasons Peter and Mary had “the T-Craft” as they called it, it only made two voyages…one each season. 

The Tollycraft (T-Craft)

Talk about a vessel “out of service”; their first year’s voyage was from the Merrimack to Boothbay Harbor.  They actually made it to Boothbay; it was the return voyage which proved challenging.  Just north and east of Casco Bay, near Bald Head Cove, in a minefield of lobster traps, their T-Craft, with one of its props, hooked one of the pot buoy ropes with such force that the boat was spun, in place, hard enough so that the second prop also hooked another pot.  Both buoys hit the boat with enough force to shatter them and to make Peter think he had blown an engine.  As the boat was spinning around, in place, he immediately shut down both engines and began the lengthy process of determining how much damage had been done.  The boat of course continued to spin, subsequently drifting over several more lobster buoys and ropes, exacerbating his situation; he was hopeful that the lobstermen who owned these particular pots would not be coming to check on them any time soon.  However, he also needed to determine how to get out of this mess.  As The General will now surely remember, Peter did not tell us how he got out of the mess (and he never has); we only saw that they were towed back to the marina by Boat US, and we found out later that the damage was substantial enough to end that years on-water boating adventures (not however their on-dock adventures).

The next year, with all repairs made and the boat again boat-worthy, they planned their vacation trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and “The Cape”.  The boat fire occurred just south of Boston near Minot’s Ledge Light.  At least they were close enough to Boston for the Coast Guard fireboat to reach them; the fire extinguished, they were towed to Marina Bay for, what turned out to be, extensive repair work.  That’s how far they made it on their planned vacation; no Cape, no Martha’s Vineyard and certainly no Nantucket. Since this ill-fated voyage was taken early in the season, they spent most of that summer without a boat.  Later that boating season, for obvious reasons, they went to Boston by car and took the ferry to the islands for their vacation.  But in the end, it worked out well for them.  By mid-October, they had found the boat of their dreams. Incredibly, they found a buyer for the Tollycraft and immediately purchased the current “Out Of Service” Carver which remains here, each season on “A” dock. 

And now, after all this “refreshing”, if The General can’t remember these folks (who are some of his closest friends) and their antics, he really does need to cut back on the whiskey this coming season!  It’s a good thing The General’s not married; how could any wife put up with such forgetfulness and such whiskey drinking. Or wait; maybe he is married and he’s forgotten?

Captain Robert Brown

the little man

Posted by: nauticalchronicles | December 21, 2011

JUST LOUISE AND ME

This one’s dedicated to all the 1st mates out there (and their captains)…especially the new 1st mates (and their captains).

NAUTICAL CHRONICLES:                                      

JUST LOUISE AND ME

It seems like yesterday we took our first boating voyage.  We left the dock at Larry’s Marina, Amesbury, MA on the Merrimack River and traveled 500 yards…to the red marker.  That “Yesterday”, for Louise and me was the summer of 1996; the vessel was our newly purchased, formerly repossessed 1989, 22’ Four Winns cuddy, 350 V-8 inboard/outboard; very quick. And we named her “HalfMine” (half Louise’s and half mine).

What Louise & I try to remember, today, 14 years later, with our new, 1st time boating friends at our marina…patience and guidance (the guidance only if solicited).  Our first year was demanding and frustrating, to say the least.  We got laughed at…a lot. We made a lot of stupid mistakes. We looked up to our new friends and depended on them for guidance (especially Frank and Cheryl who had 12 years of experience!) What we did find, however, was that there was an over-abundance of guidance, recommendations, directions, help of every nature and that help did not need to be solicited…everyone had an answer, usually different than the others, and everyone was willing to help.

What Louise and I also discovered that first year of boating, other than boat handling, was that what we thought was going to be our serene, getaway pastime, just- for-the–two-of-us adventure, in fact came with a whole lot of new friends who were not only there for you when you needed them, but were always there with you, even when you didn’t need them. There were very few “serene” moments aboard “HalfMine”, but it was an exhilarating summer and we truly enjoyed it.

We (Louise and I) spent a lot of time, in heated debate (fighting) about who should do this or that, and when it should be done; usually this happened as we were coming into docks, moorings, other boats; usually when the boat was going that way, the wind was blowing this way and the current…don’t forget the current, was taking us somewhere else altogether! One of our friends (Morrison probably) told me that “the Captain is the person in charge of the vessel; everyone must listen to the Captain!”  I, mistakenly, took that advice to heart; a mistake because for this “pastime” to survive and possibly become enjoyable, a partnership needed to be negotiated between the “Captain” and the “1st Mate”; and…some distance needed to be put between us and our new friends.

By the end of that first season of boating, our new hobby could have gone either way; north or south.

Luckily, we figured it out; the balance between Captain and Mate, and the balance between us and our friends.  We figured out that our kids enjoyed boating excursions (luckily no one got seasick) and liked to spend time with us on the boat.  We figured out that our parents also enjoyed boating and looked forward to “short trips”. We enjoyed life at the marina as well as life on-board and on the water…and we liked traveling.

We started our 2nd season of boating at Cove Marina in Salisbury, MA.  We maintained our friendships from Larry’s while making new friends at Cove; Cove was much closer to the ocean which is where we wanted to be…”out there” (rather than spending so much time getting “out there”).  We also started our 2nd season with “The Carver”; a 27’ Montego with a real galley, head, aft-cabin and V-berth…and a GPS!  We kept the name “HalfMine”.

All the skills Louise and I had developed the previous year seemed to disappear; what reappeared were…the heated debates. Our discussions, though, did not last long as we learned our way with our new vessel (except for the time the GPS failed to find Boston for us). 

We spent lots of time “out there” traveling from Kennebunk & York to Boston and through the Cape Cod Canal.  We spent time drifting, out several miles, on calm, warm summer days; sometimes Louise would fish (I don’t fish).  We spent time following thousands of dolphins in mid-October as they appeared to be migrating south; we lost them as we turned around beyond Cape Ann.  We spent time watching Old Ironsides under full sail go from Boston to Salem & back.  We spent time lazing in Portsmouth, NH and Great Bay.

We also spent time traveling with our friends to new ports in the Northeast.  By travelling with “Those Experienced Friends”, we were forced to learn boating skills and boat control we never would have attempted on our own; “guided discovery” is what we called it. Those adventures pushed us beyond what we thought we could do, and added valuable skills to our expanding marine skill set.  Together, Louise and I were feeling more comfortable with our abilities to travel and navigate in the water, a pastime which was still blossoming and so new to us.

Since that 2nd season, we’ve had two more and, of course, bigger vessels; a 34’ Sea Ray and a 46’ Post.  We’ve been from Bar Harbor to New Jersey and most places in between.  We’ve been with friends and by ourselves.  We’ve kissed the ground at some ports after truly bad seas and we’ve survived encounters with rogue waves.  We’ve sung karaoke in Castine and seen misfits in Montauk.  We have a picture of us docked at Liberty Landing, NJ with the Twin Towers in the background.  We had the kids visit for a night in Kennebunkport and then stay for the week.  We dinghied to Haverhill one year with two other couples and now go each year with 50 other dinghies.  We’ve rented bare boats in the British Virgin Islands three times and one time in the south of France on the Canal du Midi.  We party at the docks and the moorings and we spend summer days on the sand somewhere, anywhere.  We’ve followed dolphins and whales and we’ve seen the Emerald City. We’ve answered a casting call for a proposed PBS series, “Boat Across America” and made a short video for it (we obviously didn’t get the part). We’ve been to the Charles River for the 4th of July…before 9/11 when boats could still tie up to the shore and dinghies could still travel on the small waterways of the river.  We’ve been to New York City and have crossed the Hudson River, at night, by dinghy.

And we’ve done it all…together.

Our boating has become our mutual interest; our experiences now are (usually) mutually entertaining (excepting when I get out of hand; it used to be me losing control but more recently it is becoming a balanced act; Louise can keep up).  We have a really good time, together by ourselves and together with our friends.  We are looking forward to the new adventures our next boating season will bring; we know there are many waiting for us.

But we’ve also found that boating, truly enjoyable boating is a two-person sport.  I can’t imagine that I would still be involved if she were not “on-board” with the idea; I know she feels the same way.  And now we’ve found that the grandchildren really like it too; it’s nice knowing there are such great common interests among us all…a love of boats, a love of the water and our love for each other.

We are also thinking about taking our retirement condo (The Post) to Lighthouse Point in Florida late next year (if they’ll have us; hopefully our reputation doesn’t precede us).  From there, who knows; we know we can make it from Lauderdale to the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, the Virgin Islands, and beyond…we’ll see what happens. We’ll do what we always do; take one step at a time.  As I’ve said before, our stories speak for themselves; our enjoyment and laughter are forever.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

just us  Dunn Falls JamaicaDeerfield Bch, Fl

HI FROM HALFMINE  Staying Alive In The Water  Soggy Dollar, BVI

Dingy Loblolly Bay, BVI rain just means foul weather gear

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