coastal cruising,

  • 2018 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Back to the Boat Show Solo Delivery Trip

    Lunacy in slings

    This truly was touch and go. I’d had the boat hauled in early September to attend to a fairly discrete list of chores: 1) put on fresh bottom paint; 2) have some nice handrails sent by my friends at Boréal welded on to the stern arch; 3) make sure the engine’s running gear was OK after that run-in with a pot warp. It was the last item, of course, that created problems.

    Turned out that wrapped pot warp (remember?) had ruined the cutless bearing, and to change that out the prop shaft had to be pulled, and as long as the shaft was out: why not send it on to get it checked to make sure it’s still perfectly straight??? It made sense at the time, but it unfortunately took much longer than it should have. Then there was some head-scratching over Lunacy’s exotic Vetus transmission coupling after the shaft came back, and a missing shaft key, and before I knew it the guys at Maine Yacht Center were relaunching Lunacy (see above) the very morning I planned to take her away south to Annapolis to be in the show again.

  • 2018 SUMMER CRUISE: Thwarted Ambitions

    Lunacy aground

    Job one before embarking on this summer’s cruise was to clean up Lunacy’s bottom a bit. I waited until too late to ask if my home yard, Maine Yacht Center, could arrange to have a diver do it, so ended up having to do it myself. First I dove on the boat, on day one of the cruise at Cliff Island, and scrubbed a good bit of the starboard side, paying particular attention to the log and depth sensors, which were extremely foul. This, as I’d hoped, resolved both my autopilot problem (my modern NKE pilot needs more-or-less accurate boatspeed data to function properly) and my inconsistent depthsounder problem. Two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.

    Day two of the cruise was spent at Popham Beach, at the mouth of the Kennebec River, where I grounded the boat on the sandbar between Long Island and Georgetown Island (see photo up top). The spot is well known to me, as I used to spend summers on Long Island when I was a boy. I wanted to ground out on hard sand, and I knew the sand is very hard here, but I’d forgotten there are also some significant elevation changes, which accounts the nice heel angle you see there. Fortunately, this worked to my advantage, as it gave me good access to the port side, which I’d ignored when diving on the hull the day before, and also the running gear behind the shallow skeg keel, where I found the prop zinc had disappeared and needed replacing.

  • A PILGRIM AMONG THE SWATCHWAYS: Chasing the Ghost of Maurice Griffiths

    Riverside

    The name Maurice Griffiths is not particularly well known in the United States, but in England he is most certainly an iconic figure. A dapper fellow with a goatee beard, he was born into modest circumstances at the turn of the 20th century, the second son of a traveling glove and underwear salesman who had an eye for ladies and racehorses and consequently died bankrupt. At age 19, in the year 1921, not long before his father passed away, Maurice and a friend sold a much-loved model railroad set, invested the proceeds in a 50-year-old semi-derelict cutter named Undine, and the rest--as they say--is history.

    Over the course of the next six decades, Griffiths bought, sold, and cruised innumerable small yachts, and wrote 15 books on sailing, one of which, The Magic of the Swatchways, is now a classic of British sailing literature. Griffiths also trained himself as a naval architect and became a successful yacht designer, drawing several pioneering designs for simple shoal-draft cruising boats. Most important, perhaps, he was one of the first on either side of the Atlantic to publicly champion the concept of sailing as a sport for the common man. During his 40-year tenure as editor-in-chief at Yachting Monthly magazine, he transformed what had become an elitist yachting social journal into a practical, but very literate bible for middle-class sailors who dreamed of getting afloat aboard boats of their own.

  • BECOMING A BOAT DOG: The Further Adventures of Baxter Afloat

    Bax in vest

    There were some suggestions after I introduced Baxter here that I needed to get him a life-jacket. I knew this, of course, and wanted one as much for the handle on the back, so I could heave the beast more easily in and out of a tender, as for the flotation. You see him here, modeling his new Ruffwear vest during our recent week-long cruise from Portland to Rockland, and as the expression on his face suggests he doesn’t really mind it a bit. Indeed, by the end of our time together he had deduced that being asked to wear the jacket while aboard Lunacy meant an opportunity to go ashore, and he eagerly wagged his tail whenever I picked it up.

  • CAPE COD CIRCUMNAVIGATION: We Go To Come Back Again

    Clare in cockpit

    For going on ten years now Clare has each summer broached the idea of cruising down south of Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, as she has never been to those places and so has felt culturally deprived. But she normally can only get a week off work at a time, and I have consistently urged that this makes for a tight schedule when sailing from Portsmouth, or worse from Portland, where Lunacy is normally moored. This year, however, we decided at last to give it a try, emboldened by the fact that we’d been offered a mooring in Wood’s Hole, where we could leave the boat for a while if necessary.

    With the help of our prospective boat-buyers, Nico and Amy, I sailed Lunacy down to Portsmouth from Portland the Friday before last, thus deleting 40 miles off the distance Clare and I would have to sail to reach the anointed cruising ground. We set off late the following morning from Pepperell Cove in Kittery, just across the river from Portsmouth, bound for Provincetown, first motorsailing then beating under sail against a contrary southerly breeze that eventually topped up to just over 20 knots.

  • CASCO BAY CRUISE: Little Whaleback Island

    Little Whaleback

    Earlier this summer, while stopping over at the Goslings in northwestern Casco Bay, I noticed there was a small mooring field just off the north end of Little Whaleboat Island. It had never occurred to me to put in there, and I could find nothing about it in any cruising guide, or in my annual Maine Island Trail Association guide (which can be a great resource, by the way, when looking for obscure islands to visit). So of course I was intrigued. Late this past week, as I headed out on what will probably be my last solo overnight on the bay this year, I thought I might as well check it out.

  • CASCO BAY CRUISE: Out and About on My Wild Lone in Late October

    Lunacy at Jewell

    Tis true, faithful readers. I have been missing from this space for far too long, lost in the endless maze of Annapolis and the boat tests that come afterward (more on those later), the acquisition of yet another rescue dog (no need to go into that here), and straight into a delicious week of wandering the bay alone on Lunacy before she gets put away for the winter. One advantage of cruising the Maine coast in mid to late October is you can visit high-traffic anchorages without finding any traffic. Witness the photo above, taken at Jewell Island just around sunset, where I was the only visitor in its confined nook of a harbor. This after a swift cold-air sail out of Portland late on a Monday afternoon.

  • FOURTH OF JULY CRUISE: The Father-Daughter Variation

    Lucy navigating

    For reasons we need not go into this year's father-daughter cruise fell on the July 4th weekend rather than on Father's Day. Our big breakthrough this time out was that Lucy got interested in navigation, courtesy of the Navionics app on my iPad. This on day two of the cruise, when we were tediously motoring most of the way from Cliff Island in Casco Bay to Popham Beach at the mouth of the Kennebec River, our traditional July 4th destination.

    After Lucy asked for the hundredth time, "How long until we get there?" I just handed her the iPad and said: "Here, you figure it out."

  • GEORGIA MARSH CRUISE: From Hilton Head to Jacksonville

    Lunacy underway

    I did take the family down to Hilton Head to visit Lunacy over the Christmas vacation, but we did not take the boat anywhere. It was far too cold for that. Instead we used the boat as a hotel suite (thank God for the Refleks diesel heater!) and toured the surrounding environs. Savannah, Beaufort, Charleston, and of course the island of Hilton Head itself. To get home we had to drive to Jacksonville (the airport at Savannah was closed) through a vicious ice storm, and I swear I saw more car accidents in those few hours than I’ve seen in my entire life. True fact: people in the South cannot drive on slippery roads to save their lives.

    We tried again last week, in much nicer weather, but still there were complications. Daughter Lucy, who likes horses much better than boats (go figure), had first to be deposited in the Florida horse/cattle country outside Gainesville, so she could indulge this preference. Which perversely meant getting stuck overnight in Charlotte, North Carolina (where family vacations go to die), due to the ineptitude of American Airlines. Which meant the wife and I, once we finally arrived in Hilton Head, really only had a handful of days to fool around on the boat.

  • LABOR DAY WEEKEND CRUISE: Lasers and Dogs From Outer Space

    Lasers racing

    As is traditional, our annual Labor Day excursion got off to a late start. But after we finally dropped Lunacy's mooring pennant in Portland harbor on Saturday afternoon, we instantly found ourselves embroiled in the Laser Atlantic Coast Championship Regatta (see photo up top), which was quite exciting. As far as I know we didn't actually get in anyone's way.

    If you were there racing that day and have a different opinion, please feel free to correct me on that.

  • LUNACY UPDATE: Prospective Buyers and Poop On the Foredeck

    Nav desk

    I was surprised, flattered even, when I heard from some of you that you’ve missed my appearances here. And yes, it has been unprecedented, my neglect of WaveTrain of late, but I do have an excuse. I have been pouring my wordsmithing energy into finishing a book I’ve been working on, which should be out in the world sometime next spring. Loyal readers here can do me a YUGE favor and buy the damn thing when it appears (don’t worry I’ll tip you off when it’s time). Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, you really should buy my first book.

    It’s summer, too, so I have been messing around a lot on the boat, which also means working on the book on the boat (see image up top). There have been two outings I’ve failed to document here, both of which have involved sailing with Prospective Buyers. (The boat is for sale, remember???)

  • MAINE COAST CRUISE: Mouth of the Sheepscot River

    Wing-and-wing

    With children fortuitously exiled in sleep-away summer activities, my bride Clare and I had a chance last week to venture out on Lunacy for several days on our own. We originally thought we might visit the Damariscotta River, but heading out from Portland last Monday we were plagued by light air and had no reasonable hope of its increasing considerably in the days ahead. This is a problem that often confronts the cruising sailor: when the wind lapses do you simply switch on the motor and go where you wanted to go anyway, or do you sail more slowly and go someplace you hadn't thought of?

  • MAINE COAST CRUISE: To Thomaston and Back

    Phil on Lunacy

    This wasn't so much a cruise as a delivery to nowhere, as the goal was to get Lunacy from Portland to Rockland, get her measured for new sails by Doug Pope, and then get her back to Portland again as quickly as possible. The scheduled window for accomplishing this was Tuesday through Friday of last week. Coming along for the ride was my old partner-in-crime, Phil "Snakewake" Cavanaugh (see photo up top), who in his dotage has taken to wearing country-western garb while sailing.

  • MAINE COAST CRUISE: Up and Down the Damariscotta River

    Lunacy under sail

    During our “adult cruise” (i.e., sans offspring) last summer, Clare and I harbored wild ambitions of ascending the Damariscotta River, but suffered a lack of breeze (and an intolerance of motoring) so settled instead for a perambulation about Knubble Bay and the lower reaches of the Sheepscot River. This summer, having once more disposed of children, I was determined to try again, and we were fortunately favored with some brisk wind early on.

  • NORTHBOUND LUNACY: Atlantic City, NJ, to Portland, ME

    Flies onboard

    As I departed the casino-studded shores of Jersey early last Thursday morning, sailing alone this time, there seemed no shortage of wind. There was a nice northwesterly, 20 knots or so, so I tied in one reef as I hoisted the main just outside Absecon Inlet, as I thought it might soon grow stronger. In spite of the firm breeze, the boat was soon infested with flies. Dozens and dozens of them. On the sidedecks, in the cockpit, down below. As if suddenly they had all decided that New Jersey was no longer worthy of their presence and they would risk anything, even a voyage on a boat bound for God knew where, to get away from it.

  • NORTHBOUND LUNACY: Morehead City, NC, to Atlantic City, NJ

    Peter at work

    I had not one but three crew for the next leg of this year’s homecoming odyssey: my brother Peter, an engineer (see photo up top), and two engineer buddies of his, Steve and Greg. They didn’t know much about sailing, so to help them feel useful and appreciated I staged a mechanical emergency within moments of our departure from the Morehead City Yacht Basin last Wednesday. This is not too difficult: all you need do is forget to open your engine’s intake valve.

    I was surprised at how long it took my engine to start overheating. As soon as the alarm went off, I dope-slapped myself and opened the valve, but still the needle on the temperature gauge kept climbing higher. I realized the raw-water pump’s impeller must have self-destructed and immediately anchored the boat and shut down the engine. Fortunately, we were still inside the harbor, in relatively shallow water, just off the Coast Guard station.

  • RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

    Guadiana aerial

    I was sitting in the cockpit of Crazy Horse, my old Alberg 35 yawl, toes contracted in the thin film of cold dew that clung to the boat, cup of hot coffee in hand, watching the sun struggle to emerge from behind the distant hills and fill the river with light. Instinctively, I groped for my watch, a habit remembered from my life ashore, and wondered: what time could it be now? And at once I was struck by the absurdity of the question.

    It said something of the nature of cruising under sail, I realized, that it was only the previous day, after having spent nearly a week on the river, that we finally discovered that the clocks on the west bank (in Portugal) were an hour behind those on the east bank (in Spain). It was appropriate, too, that we had learned this from a village drunk, although now I understood it didn't really matter much. Time in its conventional sense had little meaning aboard a boat afloat on a river like this, except as it pertained to the tide, and one hardly needed a clock to keep track of what it was up to. A glance at the riverbank and at the silky brown water flowing past our anchor rode was all the data required to gauge its progress.

  • SEASCAPE 18: Evangelist Test Sail With Andraž Mihelin

    Andraz astern

    How’s this for convenience? I get the word from SAIL HQ that I should look into test-sailing the Seascape 18 from Slovenia, recently revealed on these shores, and it turns out the new U.S. rep is based in Kittery, Maine, mere footsteps from my home. Even better, on arriving at the anointed moment last Friday at Pepperell Cove, where said rep, Toralf Strand, a tall gangly Norwegian fellow, has assembled both a Seascape 27 and 18 for test-sailing by prospective buyers and this one journalist, it turns out I’ll be sailing with Andraž Mihelin (see photo up top), one of the masterminds behind the whole Seascape concept.

  • SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Delivery to Annapolis Completed

    Departing Manhattan

    Not surprisingly, the very best weather window for getting Lunacy from Huntington to Annapolis came over the Wednesday and Thursday of the Thanksgiving holiday, when abandoning hearth and family for the vicissitudes of offshore sailing would have cost many spousal brownie points. It’s hard not to feel a little anxious about these things this time of year. Every day lost means the day of departure, when finally it comes, will likely be colder, with a smaller weather window and a greater chance of stepping in something.

    Not to worry. After the trauma of grinding my fingers through the anchor windlass I was due for a run of good luck. Stroke one: my old partner-in-crime Hank Schmitt (see image up top), a professional delivery skipper no less, was willing and able to ride shotgun on this next leg. Stroke two: it looked like our weather window was stretching out for a bit.

  • SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Down Chesapeake Bay and Through the ICW

    Phil & John

    For many years now my semi-regular aquatic flights from winter have involved offshore passages from New England to the West Indies by way of Bermuda. This year, however, what with new Lunacy already ensconced in Annapolis in the aftermath of her appearance in the boat show in October, I thought I would try an even older trick. It has been more than 20 years since I took a boat down Chesapeake Bay in the fall, and thence down the ICW from Norfolk to Beaufort, North Carolina. So though I had no clear idea of where I might end up, I did have some dusty memories to guide me en route.

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