Tuesday July 29, 2003, Saco Bay, ME

merriconeag-yachting-associationOnce we cast off our mooring in Harpswell Harbour, we raised the Merriconeag Yachting Association colors on a pigstick at the masthead and went across for Hugh’s decennial visit. No answer from VHF channel 9 and no useful information from the swells aboard a 50’ ketch moored where the yacht club was supposed to be. This led us to abandon any shoreside activities and strike out for Kennebunkport instead.

Although we had raised the mainsail in the harbor, the flat calm forced us to power as far as Portland Head Light and Cape Elizabeth. Things looked up noticeably by the time we reached Saco Bay, and we raised the jib. Tacking back and forth across the bay, we made a steady five knots. Passing Wood Island Light, we headed out into the bay and turned back towards our destination. No signs, thankfully, of Bushes, presidential or otherwise. Having mercifully avoided Two Bush Channel and the Hypocrites on this voyage, we were anxious to bypass any further contact. The chart also refers to Bumpkin Island which may indeed be their stronghold.

Our route up the Kennebec River was exciting, in a low tide kind of way. Apparently in the old days there were moorings in the river proper, but this time we tied up at Chick’s Marina for the princely sum of $131 per night. Mashantam gleamed next to the shiny, plastic fornicatoriums.

Hugh raised his friends Chuck and Jorie Allen on his handheld. Chuck was Hugh’s roommate at Harvard and retired after a lifetime’s successful service in medicine. Jorie is a nurse with an interest in nutrition. Their pretty New England style house sits set back from Route 35 just outside Kennebunk.  After feeding us a dinner of Thai food, they offered us a room for the night and a shower in the morning.  We met their four dogs, the soppiest of which was Hades, a boxer. When not looking out for their daughter, they are gardening and rebuilding a pond in front of their property. Chuck also paints and teaches part time at the local community college.

Wednesday July 30, 2003, Kennebunk, ME

corwith-cramerWe woke at 6:15AM with the goal of leaving the dock no later than 9:00AM. After scrambled eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast, Chuck drove us to the dock, pausing at the local supermarket for some last-minute provisions. I shopped while Chuck and Hugh chatted. We made our way back to the boat, cast off smartly and motored out to Bigelow Bight on another glassy sea.

We put-putted as far as Ogunquit where the wind picked up and gently heeled the boat over. Having raised the main on our departure from Kennebunkport, it was a short job to roll out the jib, and we were made five knots. The southeasterly winds pointed us out to sea, so we tacked down past Boon Island Light and towards the inside edge of the Isles of Shoals. Duck Island saw a wind lift that increased our speed a full knot.

Coming about we got a good view of the Corwith Cramer, a marine training schooner out of Woods Hole. Handily beating along at six knots I took a few photos of her in the brilliant sunshine. Looking at the time, however, it became clear that we weren’t going to make Marblehead by nightfall – our original ‘stretch goal.’ Our alternatives included Newburyport, Rockport, and our eventual destination, a mooring at the Annisquam Yacht Club.

We tacked across the bight and Ipswich Bay in variable winds. Having taken a good look at Plum Island we put into Annisquam without trouble. Tidal flows in the Annisquam River have the effect of negating the usual head-to-wind behavior of moored boats. The current pushed Mashantam’s stern to the wind, exposing the galley to periodic gusts. Closing a couple of hatches allowed us to cook our dinner of corned beef hash and eggs and warm the cabin to boot. Fortunately, a generous Cuba Libre chased away any late night chills.

Thursday July 31, 2003, Annisquam, MA

Blynman CanalWaking at our usual time and still turned 180o to wind, we breakfasted and considered our options for passing through the Blynman Canal to Gloucester. Hugh did the heavy analytical lifting, working up a timetable of events for our passage. We were told by the AYC that the canal had a couple of 4’ spots which meant waiting for high-ish tide. After waiting a full hour, we left our mooring at 10:00AM and headed off, keeping a sharp eye on our depth gauge. Respecting the buoys, we weaved through the river and on up through the canal.

The navigational aids convention of red-right-returning was consistent for the length of the canal. Unlike the Cape Cod Canal which reverses the colors halfway through. The only difference on the Blynman is that at the mid-point buoy numbering changes from 2+n on the north side to 3+n on the south side. We weren’t really prepared for the amount of wiggle in our course. We’d been using charts with a much bigger scale and the turns, although clear and straightforward, came upon us faster than expected.

There are three major hazards on the canal: a bridge over Route 128 with 65’ of clearance, a railroad drawbridge, and the Blynman Drawbridge. Route 128 proved no problem for Mashantam’s 52’ mast height, providing we stayed in the center of the channel. Even so, it seemed snug looking up from the cockpit. As we turned the next corner, we avoided a wrecked trawler lying half in the fairway and pulled up behind a Gin Palace, the Giovaninni.

At 34 feet across, the railroad bridge is narrow. Its cant, though, means sufficient mast clearance is gained only by sticking close to the Cape Ann side of the channel. Furthermore, the bridge stands at a 90 degree turn in the canal and it’s impossible to see what’s coming upstream towards you. I radioed Giovaninni’s captain and inquired about the traffic situation. He let me know it was clear and we happily followed him through the gap.

Once past the railroad bridge, we could see the open Blynman Drawbridge ahead. The tidal inrush created standing waves making forward motion challenging. At a full 2,000 rpm we again tailed Giovaninni and finally made it out into Gloucester Harbor. We paid our respects to the statue of the Gloucester Fisherman and motored on towards the breakwater and raised the mainsail.

Provincetown-MAAfter all that excitement, the passage to Provincetown took us through the doldrums. An intermittent sighting of a pilot whale, a trawler, and a couple of sailing ships broke up the boredom. By late afternoon we had reached Race Point Light and were once again under sail making five knots. My daughter Katie called me on my cell phone to make sure we were still coming for dinner. We eventually pulled into port around 7:30PM.

The entrance to Provincetown harbor brushes the head of Cape Cod Bay, but the beach drops off very dramatically to a depth of 100’ feet and more. Hugging the shore, Hugh came within a couple of hundred yards of the beach. With one eye on the depth sounder and one on the green buoy Mashantam got around smartly. Not that that could be said of the sailing vessel Diva, following us in. In a generally chicken-shit fashion they tacked just as they closed in on the shore, bearing off just when they should have been celebrating success. After contacting Provincetown Mooring we circled the end of the breakwater waiting for our escort, dancing here and there with some large day cruisers in the channel.

The kids dashed down to the dock to greet us, curious about the beard I was sporting. “Whoa, you look so different!” Wendy was singularly unimpressed. Group-wise we wandered into town and stopped at the Grand Central Restaurant for dinner. The food was fine, the ambiance slightly marred by having to sit outside where it was a little chilly and a little smoky.

When our orders got delayed, the kitchen provided a plate of cheeses to keep us going. I had a full rack of lamb and Wendy a fishcake of serious proportions.  After dinner we wandered the streets taking in more activity in a few minutes than I’d seen all week. In some ways it was a little overwhelming. Ice cream cones followed by window shopping led to a parting of the ways around 9:30PM. The children showed no real interest in joining the last couple of days of the cruise. Which, in the event, turned out to be a sensible decision. Stepping onto the dock for our return to Mashantam the heavens opened and soaked us thoroughly.




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