Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Was So Sure He Said Low Tide

The boys had a great last night in P-Town, and the consequences left me feeling like I was just on yet another solo passage from Lunenburg to Halifax. While they slept off their indulgences of the previous night, I sat on deck, motoring along (there was not a breath of wind) to the Cape Cod Canal. I had a frustrating day, as she doesn't steer herself quite so well under motor alone. She is very well balanced under sail, you can go for hours with only ever making minor adjustments to the wheel. This gives you the opportunity to do other things, as staring at a compass can become a bit boring. I like to read, practise my piping music, or any other small project that one may do on a rainy day. But when constant frequent adjustments to the course are necessary, there's little you can do but stare at 240 degrees on the compass when crossing Cape Cod Bay. I resorted to my discman, listening to some local east coast greats such as Lennie Gallant, J.P. Cormier, and David Myles, all of whom I never grow tired.

Timing is critical when arriving at the East Entrance of the canal. Advice offered to me made it clear that by arriving at the entrance as the tide was rising would give us the proper current to transit the approximately 5-mile pass in about 1/2 and hour. The correct time is actually turned out to be high tide. Things began to feel wrong as we entered the turbulence at the beginning of the narrows. We had been motoring a steady 5.5 knots. Slowly and surely, I watched the speed on my handheld GPS drop, 5 kts, 4.5, 3.5, 2.... We went about 1/2 a mile, and when I saw our speed drop to 0.8, I knew we were in definitely danger of losing steerage soon, as our charts showed the maximum current increasing by another 2 knots upstream. I decided to bail. We turned around 180 degrees, and our speed instantly increased to 6 knots with the engine in slow ahead. Having noticed a marina just off the canal a few minutes earlier, we made a run for it. It was slightly unnerving as we tried to get through the little gap in the sea wall, the current pushing so hard that I was forced to throttle her up to 2000 RPM and aim not for the gap, but for the concrete wall beside it. Once inside, all was calm, there was little indication in this little hideaway of the raging currents just meters to the north.

Here, we re-grouped and waited for the tide, which meant 4 hours to wander around the town of Sandwich and pick up some fruits and vegetables and the ever-important supply of dark chocolate. While Ed cooked dinner, Logan decided to get serious about plotting our course through the canal, for which he made a paper model of a lovely schooner to envision the passage of our boat between the dozens of green and red buoys on the Buzzards Bay chart.

The next few hours we motored through the cold and dark, and eventually a growing southwesterly swell once we were spit out the west exit of the canal. Our original destination when setting out from P-Town that morning was to make New Bedford, but we were tired and had enough for one day, so decided to seek out a safe anchorage somewhere. Marion seemed to have a well marked channel, so we altered course. Turned out that none of the buoys were lit markers, so with the 12-volt spotlight we scanned the harbour entrance for each successive mark, missing the one indicating the western edge of Ram Island. I don't remember now how we figured out we were heading for a bad place (islands are essentially invisible on moonless overcast nights) but we eventually spotted our red buoy #6, about 1/4 mile behind us and far off our port (left) side.

Once into the mooring field, we were faced once again with one of my favorite maritime games, bumper boats. Marion is very much a sailing community, and there are upwards of 100 boats moored in this harbour. Many empty moorings provided the added challenge of dodging the attached lines, which could foul-up in the propeller. BUT, all is well, and we were all relieved to tie up at the first wharf we could find.

Today we finally cleared customs, during which I received a scolding and very stern warning. There are no Customs officers in Provincetown, but apparently we were meant to at least place a phone call to the nearest Customs office, to make them aware of our arrival, then when we arrived in an official port of entry, we would do the paperwork at that time. Technically, said Officer McQuaid, he should seize my boat. I bit my tongue; play the game, just play the game. I know this may sound terrible, but as I stood down below with the officer, looking over his shoulder at the boys sitting on deck in the cockpit, all it would have taken was one wrong look from Ed, and I would have burst into laughter. McQuaid was very professional and I know he was only doing his job, so I played along, "Yes, sir, I'm terribly sorry, sir. I'll know for next time, sir". Without too much more ado and a payment of $19, I received my cruising permit, and Annie Laurie is now legal in American waters for a year.