So my latest adventure included joining a contract in Kittery at the Navy Shipyard. The drive is about 2 1/2 hours each way from where I live in Waterford CT. Although I am accustomed to lengthy commutes, that my friends is just a little bit too far. Elyse and I looked into apartments to rent, and the minimum available rentals were for no less than $750 a month, and that did not include any of the utilities. So went on a quest for a budget sailboat large enough and sound enough to sail to and live aboard for my stay in Maine this winter. We got on Craigslist, and started calling people with sailboats they wanted to part with. We looked at 3 or 4 and there were a few others that were great steals from all appearances but the conditions to get to them were a little too much effort and had to happen too fast to make it worth the effort. One of the boats we looked at stood out as a solid boat, still in the water and being sailed by its owner and in pretty good condition from an appearances point of view. It is a Standfast 33, which is a 32 ft blue water sailboat designed by Frans Maas, and built-in the Netherlands by Standfast Yachts in 1979. With a little negotiation, and asking for an item or two to be remedied by the seller, we bought the bought, and I started making trips to Defender Marine to get the boat outfitted for a winter (well, in reality late fall) North Atlantic voyage.
After another few thousand dollars and time spent ripping out old equipment and replacing it with new equipment, gear and supplies (stove, heaters, foul weather gear, food, etc.), she was ready for the voyage. There was a short window before really bad weather set in for the winter, with a few days of projected nice (for winter) weather and favorable winds, so I hired a co-captain to go with me so we could sail with as few stops as possible on the way to Kittery. Well the first captain I hired injured himself on another yacht delivery, and the second captain I hired backed out due to a scheduling constraint and he couldn’t miss a family event that required his attendance. I hired an ordinary seaman to help me along the journey, which meant I was going to be the sole captain of this journey, but sometimes you have to get there. This wasn’t a pleasure cruise after all and the boat had to be in Kittery on time.
We set sail on Thursday December 8th, and about 2 hours underway, the engine started to act funny. It was running like a top, then it started losing RPMs until finally it shut down. We were already well out of port, so we raised the sails and headed to the first way point in Buzzard’s Bay called Fiddler’s Cove Marina which is a Brewers Yacht Yard marina in North Falmouth, MA. We sailed there slowly because the airs were light, but we were getting there. Along the way while sailing, I was trouble shooting the engine and one of the things that because apparent was if I let the engine stop running for an hour or two, the engine would start right up and run like a top again. At the time I didn’t know if was temperature or what, but I checked the water lines and the water was running clean, so that wasn’t it. So at various points we started the engine to get a little boost in speed for a while until we got to Fiddler’s Cove.
When we arrived, it was well after-hours and because the engine didn’t run reliably, I was reluctant to try to pull in dockside under my own power, so we pulled into the cove, and dropped anchor in one of the holes where the boat could swing safely and we went to bed. The next morning I gave the marina a call and asked explained what was going on and they came out to meet me in case the boat needed a nudge while docked. While pulling the anchor up, and once in daylight we discovered we were anchored in the middle of an oyster/scallop trap field. The field is only marked at the corners, and the traps are connected via long lines, so we didn’t see that we were in someone’s fishery. There they were pulling traps. It was lucky that my anchor didn’t fouled any traps or lines. As a side note, when I saw the fishermen later that day, I did take the time to apologize sincerely about not seeing the field, he really appreciated that I said sorry at all because most people just don’t care one whit. So please take note of this…watch where you anchor in New England, because most of the water is actively fished in one fashion or another, but if you do inadvertently stray and anchor in someone’s trap field, take the time understand you dropped your big fat anchor on his traps and lines and just made life a little harder for him or her. Take the time for a sincere apology if you can muster it.
So we dock, and I go up to the marina office and talk to the mechanic to see if he has any idea what the issue might be. Because I am a Brewers employee the yard manager asks the mechanic to just come down to the boat and spend some time with me to help me troubleshoot the issue. We look at the fuel filters, they both look clean (and I changed the Raycor filter while we were there). Anyway, the best that could be figured was the fuel line must be collapsing because it’s sucked up some diesel algae. Well, I don’t have any time, and I have a hired hand I have to pay for so we decide together that we can sail the rest of the way and use the engine on an as needed basis. We prepare to shove off, and then well off we go up Buzzards Bay to the Cape Cod Canal.
On our approach the tide was going the wrong way, so making way to the canal entrance was slowly getting slower and slower until we were at the very mouth of the canal and the sailboat was pretty much sailing at 5 knots through the water, but our speed over ground was next to zero knots. The Army Corp of Engineers hailed us on the radio to ask what we were doing, and I explained we were just waiting for the tide to change, and that we knew it was expected to start swinging not too far in the future. So we waited until I was able to make a little over 1 knot of headway and I radio ACE Canal Control for clearance to enter the canal. In hindsight, this was definitely a good situation to be in, because the tide helped move us through the canal at over 10 knots over ground. If we had to fight the current the entire way, it would have taken half a day to get to the midpoint of the canal and at the height of the current, we’d have been sailing backwards. As it was, it took us two hours to sail through the canal. And this is where it stops being as much fun.
As we start going off-shore the wind really starts picking up. It’s a westerly wind, so it’s coming from shore, but it’s picked up way more than forecasts. So much so, that I am forced to pull in the jib, because the jib was creating a lee helm and kept pushing the boat heading downwind. Our next step was supposed to be Plymouth Marina, it’s really the only next stop and it’s about 6 hours away at our present speed which is about 4-5 knots with just the main up. Although we were making good headway, the force of the wind and the gusts coming for different directions made it very difficult to keep the boat on course. Although GPS was showing we were making steady forward progress and not zig zagging through the sea, I don’t see how that was possible. The seas were probably only 6 feet, but there was lots of 2 to 3 foot chop riding the swells, and it made for a bumpy ride. When we got to Plymouth, the wind had picked up even more and there was no way I could navigate through a channel, regardless of how broad and wide it was with the winds throwing us around. If it were high tide, we might have had some forgiveness, but it was low tide and I wasn’t going to chance it. We decided to anchor as close as we could get to the windward shore under power, and dropped the anchor. Made sure everything was secured, and we went below. I made some from scratch beef stew, and we went to sleep taking shifts to check the anchor.
The next morning despite forecasts that the wind would settle down, it did not. It looks like a North Atlantic storm between Greenland and Iceland decided to reach its arms out and pull some air from New England and that’s where all this wind was coming from. Anyway, after another day on the hook and without a window of fair weather to continue sailing on toward Kittery, nor fair enough to navigate through the channels by sail, it was time to blow the whistle and call this leg of the journey to a close. We made it halfway there safely and intact and without any serious issues other than annoyance at the delay and the weather turning sour, so I used my SeaTow membership and had us towed into the marina that was already expecting us. We arrived on Saturday, and Elyse came to pick us up, and home we went. I called the Marina first thing the following Monday morning and asked them to figure out what was wrong with the engine. I’ll explain that in my next post, along with the next leg of the adventure but the short answer? The tank was topped off with gasoline. (nope I didn’t do it)
Hopefully I’ll have the second half of the journey posted by the end of this week, but that will depend on how busy I am. Being busy is why it’s taken me almost three weeks to write this post.