Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hasta La Vista, Miami!

I am taking off this week to my second favourite city in North America: Charleston, South Carolina! A schooner awaits...

We are bound for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia early next week. We are scheduled to arrive just in time for Tall Ships Halifax 2012.  Impeccable timing!  

If you are in Halifax for the ships and festivities, look for me aboard Schooner Sorca at Alderney Landing.  I will be selling copies of Written In Water, with proceeds supporting the youth sail training program of Think Sail Inc.  I look forward to seeing you there!

I will be posting photos of my journey on my Facebook Page, so for updates on my current whereabouts,  head on over and 'Like' my page.

While away, I will miss certain aspects of my daily life on the River...  Scotty's tail slaps, Ella's wet willies, the look on Jack's face when he presents me with another "gift" of the rodent variety, Effie's looks of ecstasy following a catnip binge, and Ocho's suppertime entertainment as she demonstrates how she earned her nickname, The Shovel

Am I forgetting anyone?  

Oh, right. There is this one guy...

Monday, June 4, 2012

What If...

After arriving in Gloucester, I had finally psyched myself up to make the solo journey from Massachusetts to Sheepshead Bay, near Coney Island, New York.  My friends, Eric and Alexa, had booked their flight to the nearby JFK airport, and I felt I had plenty of time to make the (very roughly) 250 nautical miles in time for their arrival the following week.

The Scituate situation changed all that.
Instead, I walked miles everyday, taking photos of the the continuing nor'easter that pummelled the northern peninsula of the town.  I cringed every time I looked at the tiny entrance to the harbour. Frothy, churning... even the veteran lobstermen weren't taking any chances, and stayed securely on their moorings. I agonized over my broken finger, fearing I would never be able to play my bagpipes again.  The words what if  played like a broken record in my brain... What if I had sailed into the inner harbour the day before, before the brunt of the storm hit? What if I hadn't been kept up all night by 40-knot winds and the fear of the mooring line breaking loose, would I have had my wits about me the next morning, and perhaps snagged that new mooring line on the first try? If only, if only...

But what if I hadn't broken my finger at all? I would have continued to sail alone to New York, mid-November in the North Atlantic.  If Annie Laurie had been lost, she wouldn't have been the first boat to go down in these waters this year.

Whatever makes you sleep at night, Laura.  Yes, in fact it does.

Eric and Alexa changed their flights to meet me in Scituate, and after a week of waiting, we were once again underway.  Our first day out, we made our way to the Cape Cod Canal.  It was a rough ride until we reached the mouth of the canal, where we received our reprieve, dropped the sails, and motored comfortably to the west end and anchored for the night.

You don't know the meaning of cold until you spend a night down below in a wooden boat surrounded by the frigid moisture of New England water as winter is coming on (well, my friends living in Nunavut right now might argue with that statement).  The residual warmth of the engine, Dinty Moore beef stew, and the first few swigs of post-sail rum made the evening tolerable, but there was little worse than having to get out of our sleeping bags the next morning and into cold, damp clothes, then to step outside to find frost on the deck.

As we made our way past Martha's Vineyard and Block Island, motor-sailing in little wind, the engine began making a funny sound, but it wasn't something that was familiar. Having changed the fuel filter in Gloucester, I was confident it hadn't clogged quite yet.  I called Super Dave, who, along with my sister had brought Annie Laurie to Gloucester.  They hadn't had any issues during their passage, but he thought it was probably the alternator.  We were within cell phone range, so Eric called the West Marine in Newport to see if they had what we needed in stock.  They assured us they did.

"It's for a diesel engine, a Perkins 4-108."

"Yes, yes, we have exactly what you need.  Just ask for Derek, we will have it set aside waiting for you."

If you have a boat with a diesel engine, keep reading.  It might one day save you from sailing 6 hours out of your way, which, in cold weather, feels more like 1 week.

West Marine does not stock alternators for diesel engines. 

Sure, they can Special Order just about anything you need, if you have 3 weeks to wait around, but we didn't have the luxury of time.  Having never had the issue before, I definitely over-reacted to the situation.  The alternator was still periodically providing some charge to the batteries, and that was the main concern.  If the batteries were to completely die, there would be no way to start the engine.  We would get by for now though, and ultimately, Phil brought one with him from Miami when he met up with the boat in Norfolk.  We'll get back to that later...

Regardless of my frustration with West Marine and the hours of forward progress we had lost, Newport, Rhode Island was a nice place to visit.  The harbourmaster was helpful in finding us a free dock for the evening, and I had never been to Panera Bread before.  Not all was lost.

We left the dock a little after midnight, and tension built as we approached The Race, the narrow entrance to Long Island Sound, known for its treacherous conditions when the current runs hard and the winds blow harder.  It couldn't have been an easier passage though, as we continued to motor in little wind, and the current was behind us.  There are many such places that have dotted the map of my travels over the years, but they rarely live up to their names or reputations.

Tomorrow: Hell's Gate.