Thursday, July 17, 2014

Massachusetts Bay, Day Three

I climbed out of my bunk just after 6am while Stephen slept on.  This time, the boat had settled pretty high up the beach, having swung with a wind shift in the night.  (That solved the mystery of why we grounded so early in the ebb.)  The rocks we settled on were bigger than pebbles, big as cobbles, in fact.  But I sighed with relief when I realized it could have been much worse: only a couple yards away, and well within reach of our anchor line, were  boulders.  

After setting water to boil for coffee, I uncleated the anchor line and shifted the anchor to the middle of the beach, planning to move the boat as soon as she floated.  Then I went ashore and got a brochure and map, and studied the trails and sights as the coffee brewed.  Meanwhile, a dink arrived on the beach with a sailor and his dog, and my greeting brought Stephen's head out of the companion.  We ate the last of the croissants, with coffee and orange juice, and watched the dog and his owner play as we waited for the flood tide to lift us.  This would be a relaxing and leisurely exploring day, since we were only 8 nautical miles from our final destination and could not complete it until late in the afternoon when the flood tide was well underway.

At length the boat floated.  I maneuvered her into safer water, but discovered that no reasonable scope of anchor line would keep her off the beach for a long while, so Stephen gave the boat a good push from shallows, while I knelt on the foredeck to drop the anchor farther out.  The kayak brought me back, and we put it high on the beach as insurance before we headed off to explore.

Great Misery has had a varied history, named by a sailor centuries ago who wrecked there and was stranded for days, variously owned and farmed and used with no great success in the centuries after, more recently turned into resorts twice, again both failures, until the Trustees of Reservations bought it prior to the second World War.  Despite all the human influences, the island is still quite pretty, if you're not expecting wilderness.  In fact, I find ruins interesting, stimulating our imaginations as we try to mentally reconstruct buildings from the remaining foundations.  Compared to the Boston Harbor Islands we have camped on, the trails here are genuinely captivating, with high bluffs giving good views in many directions.

Over several hours we walked nearly every trail on the island, only returning a couple of times to see the boat riding safely in deep water.  At each visit, we saw that more and more boats had moored for a visit, and several people and families were now ashore, joining the dog and his human.

At last I decided I had seen enough, as we stopped on a hilltop overlooking the cove.  I decided I would stay there in the shade until the tide had dropped enough for me to wade out to the boat no more than waist-deep.  Stephen declared that it was already so, and set off down to the cove to prove it.  Getting aboard when a chance breeze brought the boat close enough, he settled in to wait there.

Perhaps an hour later a tiny landing craft arrived bearing the awaited ranger.    The ramp came down, and the ranger wheeled a mower ashore for trail work.  (I later learned that Stephen had greeted the ranger from the boat, complimented him on his island, and tried to pay him the ten dollar fee for our visit.  That's my boy!)  At that point I went down too, and was soon aboard.

We weighed anchor at noon, and sailed slowly out of the cove on the light wind.  Since we had only a short distance to go and time to spare, i opted to leave the mizzenmast in the middle step and sail with that alone.  With the wind as light as it was, I came to regret the decision.  After a reasonable start, the wind died in the afternoon, and we eventually found ourselves bobbing near the mouth of Gloucester Harbor, with barely enough wind to keep pointed in the right direction.  

Impatience sent me to the oars, and for the first time in years we set them in the oarlocks, made me up a makeshift rowing seat, and I set to work moving the ton of boat the hard way in the sun and heat and humidity.

Stephen steered as I worked on getting the angle of the blades just right, and the rhythm, and we found I could maintain 2 1/2 knots if I rested briefly every few minutes.  Well into the harbor a little breeze sprang up, and we wasted no time in getting back under sail.  Our timing was good, since the flood tide we needed for the Blynman Canal had begun.

We searched the side of the harbor for the entrance to the canal, and the bridge we would need lifted, and finally discovered it when we happened on the right angle to make it visible.  The bridge operator confirmed that the potentially tricky current was now flowing into the canal (good), but that, no, he wouldn't lift the bridge for us.  "You'll have to lower your masts, Cap'n."  We hove to without a minutes pause, dropped both masts, and paddled into the narrow canal as the bridge lifted twice for larger powerboats.  We never did learn why the operator wouldn't lift for us, though the published rules gave no such hint.  In the end, with the current in our favor, it was not difficult to paddle the 1/3 mile up the canal to the ramp, and we tied up at 5:30pm.  

We had a lot of time to ready the boat for trailing, since Beatrice was stuck in traffic and didn't arrive for more than an hour.  We were very glad to see her when she did.  We would have some stories to tell.

 Great Misery at bottom left, cut off; Gloucester Harbor at top left is obscured
by the cartoonishly exagerated GPS track.

The Beatrice Ann's resting place in the night.  
If the wind had gone a little more easterly, we'd have been on the nearer rocks.

Breakfast of croissants, cold cereal, juice and coffee.

She will float in a few minutes.

The pond, only yards from the cove, is fresh.
The stone structure was a pump house.

All but one of the moored boats left in the night.

Safely afloat.

Looking east from the east end of the island.

Little Misery has a nice little beach with some protection,
and if the tide were low we could wade across.

Evidentally the same family that importuned us last night.

Looking down from near the "Casino."  The rock formed a "salt water swimming pool" for the resort.

These sulfur-colored lichens seem to like coastal rock--it's all over Boston Harbor Islands, too.
Saucer-shaped structures disperse tangles of fungal filaments and algae to reproduce the lichen.

The "Casino."

Steps to the "Casino."

Casino foundations indicate a big common room (dance floor?)
with a big front deck, in this beautiful hill-top location.

Not Stonehenge, but the foundations for a water tank.
Stephen shows each pillar to be about ten feet tall.

Pamphlet calls this "bleak house," but has no other information.

At times people attempted farms.
Water tank foundations in distance.

"See?  It's not too deep to wade!"  But I prefer to wait a little.

In the shade, waiting productively.

Ranger arrives with mower.

Misery Island astern.

Light marking the entrance to Gloucester Harbor.

Where is the entrance to the Canal?

Blynman Canal.  Bridge operator: the current is favorable, but slow.

"Can you raise the bridge in a few minutes?"  "No, Cap'n.  You'll have to lower your masts."

The ramp.  Time to pack up and wait for patient Beatrice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Massachusetts Bay, Day Two

Main furled and mizzen in the middle step, I raised the anchor while Stephen steered us onto a starboard tack that would take us straight out of Scituate Harbor, and onto the second leg of our voyage.  Thereafter the compass settled on northwest for Boston.  I did not rush securing rode and anchor, wanting Stephen to feel needed at the tiller until he was comfortable.  It was 11am, and we agreed that Stephen would take a one-hour watch at the helm, with the option to continue; in fact he sailed an additional twenty minutes until his nervous voice amid rising wind and waves called me from the cabin.   

 In that time, we passed Minot's Light by Cohasset, played congenial hosts to weary dragonflies, and watched the highest buildings on the Boston skyline began to emerge from the haze.  Over the next two hours the city gradually gained sharpness and detail, and gained the peninsula of Hull for its foreground.  Our target, Boston Light, remained stubbornly blurry, until I realized that the whole structure was enveloped in a hazy framework of scaffolding. 

Leaving Scituate Harbor.

Minot's Light

Stephen, dragonfly friend.

I, on the other hand, am only a dragonfly acquaintance, giving him the brush-off after awhile.

Nantasket Beach, and the seaward end of Hull.


 Boston Light, Little Brewster Island, with the other Brewsters in the background.

Hull, the Brewsters, and, west of our track, George's (lower) and Lovell's (upper) Islands

Boston Light is on the island of Little Brewster.  There is a whole cluster of Brewsters, and I planned to sail between them on our way across the harbor, until I took a better look at the chart.  There is little water between most of them, and Great Brewster sends out a long thread of shoal called Great Brewster Bar (visible as the snaky line on the upper left of the image above).  Getting around Great Brewster Bar took some tacking, and the bar insinuates itself between Georges Island to the south and Lovell's Island to the north, leaving little sea room.  The silver lining to this is that it "connected the dots" between our annual Boston Harbor Islands camping trips and the current adventure: We visited both Georges (home of Fort Warren) and Lovells last summer.  It was strange also to see the harbor as if reversed in a mirror: the outer islands, always distant and a little mysterious when camped, were now those nearby, and the inner islands seen in the distance.  

 The Light, enveloped in scaffolding.  The size of Little Brewster is clearer from this angle.

 Another Brewster (Middle Brewster?)

 Great Brewster Bar is the thin brown line extending from the island.
At this stage of the tide, you could walk from Great Brewster nearly to George's Island.

This day mark (tower) shows we have reached the end of the bar, and almost the rocks.

The Brewsters behind us.

Fort Warren, on George"s Island, guarded the main entrance to Boston 
from the time of the Civil War until the end of World War I.

 Stephen at the helm, passing (I think) Lovell's Island.

After we had passed Deer Island, home of Boston's wastewater treatment facility, I turned over the tiller to Stephen once more, and went below for a nap.  So I missed passing Nahant, and didn't poke my head out until we were nearing Marblehead. 

Deer Island is part of the reason Boston Harbor went 
from notorious sewer to a body of water good to swim in.

The combined harbors of Beverly, Salem and Manchester are an obstacle course of islands, reefs, and rocks.  My cruising guide warns against trying to enter in fog, but I wouldn't attempt it at night, either. 

  Even if I hadn't been pretty tired, I would have been reluctant to try to beat up into Marblehead Harbor, chock-a-block with moorings for a distance of three-quarters of a mile.  As it is, I headed the boat for Great Misery Island without a second's thought. 

When I came out of the cabin at 6:15pm, we were very near to shore, but I wasn't sure where.
Here you can see we were near Swampscott, with Marblehead still a few miles off.

Great Misery Island is uninhabited, but welcoming to visitors.  A north-facing cove makes a cozy anchorage for protection from wind and waves.   The island has a long history, but now belongs to the Trustees of Reservations, an old organization that has conserved a great many special places in Massachusetts.  It would lengthen the day's sail by a couple of miles, but with little tacking, and almost no moorings to dodge.

Keep your wits about you, sailing the waters north of Boston!

Tinker's Island, one-third of a mile southeast of Marblehead.

We still had rock-studded Beverly and Salem Harbors to negotiate.  The rocks are well-marked, I hear; seeing was good though, and I mainly navigated by looking for the disturbed water that tells of submerged rocks.  (Don't try this, though, with a fixed keel boat.)  After getting around Children's Island, we scooted between it and little Eagle Island into Salem Sound, thence straight to Great Misery, and around to North Cove.  The cove is very small, and since the wind was ahead of us sailing in, the few moored boats were challenging obstacles.  Fortunately, few people were on deck to see us ghosting a few yards off their sterns on the fluky, shifting winds the island sent our way.

It would have been safer and more considerate to anchor farther out, since a boat in the cove right up against the shore might be rather in the way, but I was tired, and sailing a shoal-draft boat, dammit, and I was going to take full advantage of the fact.  We dropped anchor perhaps fifty feet from shore in eight feet of water in the gathering dusk.  I only put out twenty-five feet of anchor line--a bit risky, but my claw anchor holds amazingly well on a short scope.  Since it was near high tide, I expected we'd ground some time before dawn, but having grown rather too cavalier about this, I didn't give it much thought.  We'd covered about 27 nautical miles in variable winds that day.

Dinner was Beatrice's pulled pork on bread, and we (Okay, I) ate ravenously.  (That roast beef sandwich was a Long time ago.)  As we ate, a Canada goose and her goslings swam over and looked at us expectantly.  Even if I hadn't been so hungry, I am opposed to feeding geese--both because they hang around in large numbers and foul the water when encouraged by feeding to stay, and because I didn't want them to pester us later.  The mom and I think dad scolded us for not feeding them, then went away.  

After dinner, I settled in with my traditional glass of red wine, but neither of us had the energy even to read, so we soon went to sleep.  

We were awakened before 11:30pm by the sound and feeling of the boat's hull grinding on the rocks and pebbles.  A cautious skipper (if he got himself into such a position at all) would instantly have been up and out and protecting his boat from damage.  Me, I lay there and listened, guessing that I would need to mix up some epoxy to fill dings after the trip was over.  Stephen took his cue from me.  The sound seemed to go on a long time, but I finally went back to sleep.   

Children's Island, defended by Cormorant Rock.
I wonder what it's like to live on such a small island?

Backside of Children's Island.

 Approaching Little Misery (on right) and Great Misery Islands.
Not very promising names!

All the little specks you see in the water are rocks and islands.

The sun set behind Manchester-On-The-Sea.

Geese with a strong sense of entitlement.  Even the goslings are pretty big.