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.”

After a quick two-minute tutorial from yours truly on the app’s basic features, Lucy was fully engrossed. Soon, rather than constantly asking when we were going to get there, she was constantly telling me when we were going to get there (see photo up top, which was taken during the brief 15-minute period during which we were sailing on this leg of the cruise).

This in child-rearing circles is known as Major Progress.

Day one of the cruise, Friday, was very brief, just a quick evening sail from Portland to Cliff Island after I picked up Lucy from horse camp.

Climbing mast

Cliff Is. sunset

We arrived in time for Lucy to practice scaling the mast and to receive some random guests from another boat (perfect strangers who were attracted by Lunacy‘s no-nonsense industrial-strength demeanor). We also got to see a very crisp sunset.

I will not describe Saturday’s tedious motoring in any detail, except to note there was four hours of it (minus the 15 minutes under sail). We arrived at Popham with large appetites (and a depleted iPad battery) and immediately went ashore to Percy’s store to enjoy an enormous lunch of chicken tenders, fried clams, and French fries. We then hooked up with our old friends, the sprawling Meinen/Thompson clan, who immediately lured us across the river for an enormous dinner.

Lucy’s dinner, I am embarrassed to say, consisted of three servings of pie–strawberry rhubarb, sour cherry, and mixed berry, in that order.

I have written of Popham before at some length (you can see examples here, here, and here) so will spare you any geographic description. Instead I thought you might like to consider the topic of turbulence. The Kennebec is easily the fastest river in Maine, and I spent a good part of Sunday morning while Lucy was sleeping off her pie sitting in the cockpit contemplating the ferocity of the outgoing tide.

Popham from boat


Tide line


The patterns in the water were infinitely various with all manner of ripples, upwellings, whirlpools, eddies, rip lines, and counter-eddies appearing and disappearing at random intervals.

I have long believed that turbulence is the Essence of Existence, the Ultimate Reality, the One True God.

Cannibal galaxy

Anyone who has had to cope with children (or cannibal galaxies) will appreciate this.

One reason I was watching the tide so closely was I wanted to be sure we caught the very last of the ebb to escape the river mouth. I hoped we might leave late enough to have some hope of sailing on the in-filling sea breeze all or most of the way back to Portland, with as little motoring as possible.

We were very sick of motoring.


Pond and Seguin

And so it was. Very shortly after elements of the Meinen/Thompson clan descended on us in kayaks to bid us farewell, we eased out the river mouth twixt Pond and Seguin islands under power, and as soon as we were abeam of Seguin (the more distant island in the photo there, three miles out from Popham) we were in just barely enough west wind to sail slowly a bit west of south straight offshore.

We did this for almost two hours. Then the wind shifted southwest and started building as the sea breeze came on. We tacked over once we were sure of it, and then had a marvelous afternoon sailing closehauled on just one board directly west all the way back to Portland.

Screecher closehauled


And I do mean closehauled. Here you see the screecher flying at its tightest angle in what I consider its maximum working breeze.

Eventually the wind got strong enough we had to switch to the working headsails (yankee and staysail), and as it strengthened it steadily shifted south, so that we were just able to clear Halfway Rock (with schooner in background)…

Halfway Rock

…and past Junk of Pork before slipping through Whitehead Passage into Portland Harbor…

Portland Harbor

…where we found still more schooners.

It was perfect.

Just absolutely perfect.

UPDATE: Just received this titillating photo of the post-dinner festivities from our host Mr. W Kurt (Meinen):

group photo

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6 Responses
  1. John Zeratsky

    I can’t help but notice that your boat is not rigged with a boom vang. Does this present problems when you are sailing downwind? (Or any other time?)

  2. Charlie

    @John: You have a good eye for detail, sir! You are right. I don’t have a vang in the conventional position, between the forward end of the boom and the base of the mast. What I have instead are two tackles on the toerail on either side of the boat that I can take to the boom, about halfway along it, to vang it down as needed when sailing off the wind. These can also serve as preventers. You can see the tackle hanging from the lifeline on a couple of the photos in this post. This vang-to-the-rail technique is recommended by Don Street, among others, as it provides a lot more leverage than a conventional centerline vang. It is also useful for immobilizing the boom, tensioning one vang or another at an angle against the mainsheet, in null wind conditions when you want to leave the mainsail up to stabilize things. Thanks so much for following the blog!

  3. John Zeratsky

    @Charlie: Thanks for responding. Your blog is one of my favorites!

    I like this arrangement, particularly because it opens up the cabin top for stowing dinghy, sails, etc. My boat (a Sabre 38) has a topping lift and a so-called “rigid” boom vang, and one of them needs to go.

    Do you have a topping lift to support the boom when the sail is not up?

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