Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day 10: Providence to Martha's Vineyard

It's been ten days since we left Baltimore. We are getting noticeably better at running the boat and taking care of all the details. I no longer feel overwhelmed by the size of the boat despite jumping 12 feet in size since my last boat. Once you live on a boat and run it almost every day, you start to become familiar and comfortable with it.

Yesterday was Benny and Tamara's birthday. We celebrated by taking Benny out to dinner in an Indian restaurant with his aunt, uncle and cousin, and then went to a vegan bakery known for their deserts.

With Ann's brother Michael, his wife Amy, and of course cute little Rebecca
Earlier in the day, we took Amy and Rebecca out in the dingy for a ride around the harbor and the Bay. It was a bit choppy, so we didn't stay out too long. We also rode the paddle boards for a bit.

Dingy ride with Amy and Rebecca
Today was a travel day, and we headed out for a 65 mile boat ride that was supposed to last around three hours. Things did not go as planned.

Day 10 route from Providence to Martha's Vineyard
It started out beautiful. Gorgeous morning, and after a quick pump out, we pulled out of the harbor and left Providence behind us.
Pulling out of our marina near Providence
As we turned towards the Bay, I felt completely at peace and could not imagine anything being more serene or beautiful than our surroundings.
Entering the Bay South of Providence to head to Martha's Vineyard
Unlike two days ago when things felt like they were going wrong, today I had all the navigation data in my multi-function display due to the chip I had purchased, and I felt confident and excited about the short ride ahead.

We passed some beautiful scenery. I love all the lighthouses and bridges around here.
Beautiful lighthouse with a bridge behind it
We even saw some swans.
Swan swims next to Sababa
And all of a sudden, we were going almost blind. FOG EVERYWHERE. Could not see even right in front of the boat. So, of course, the first thing I did was slow to barely moving. I then started blowing the horn about every minute and listening for other horns. Occasionally, I heard them in the distance. I regretted not having a fog bell on the boat and made a note to get one installed when I get home.

Of course, the most valuable piece of equipment in this situation is radar, and I am fortunate to have taken a 2 day intensive course on radar and AIS at the Annapolis School of Seamanship last year. So, I fired up the radar, and I got an error message. The radar could not work. Communication error. Seriously?!? I had used the radar every day on this trip, and I did not really need it, but we never had a problem. Today, it was an essential safety tool, and it did not work! I went down below to the main helm, put the boat completely in neutral so we floated, sounded the horn as I worked and did my best to get the communication working. I rebooted all the equipment, tried a few variations on the startup routine because I figured it had something to do with the order that things booted, and finally it worked!
Radar showed me where other boats were and helped us stay safe in the fog
I cannot stress what a lifesaver radar is when you can't see in front of you. It is pretty scary, you are gliding slowly, about 6 knots, through the fog, and you cannot see more than about 200 feet in front of you. The radar does a good job of showing you the other boats, who is in your path, and when you need to be alert. AIS is extremely helpful too, and on one occasion, I was able to communicated with another boat and arrange for us to each move 20 degrees to starboard as we approached each other. I never saw him, but we were on course to come within 400 feet of each other, and crossed about 1/4 mile apart and could not see each other. On another occasion, I heard the faint beep of a boat's horn. I figured out who it was from my radar and the direction of the sound, and we exchanged beeps until I was practically on top of him. He was a small fishing boat apparently anchored, despite the 50 feet of depth.

Visibility was only a couple hundred feet most of the day
The fog lasted over 2 hours, and it was pretty intense because of the level of concentration it required. Using radar, AIS and the VHF radio in combination, I believe a knowledgeable captain can navigate relatively safely, as long as they maintain a slow course, sound the horn at regular intervals, and leave nothing to chance. Stay alert at the helm, and  be patient.  Was it fun? Not really. But, I felt a pretty good sense of accomplishment when we came out of it successfully. As we approached Martha's Vineyard, the fog magically cleared away, and the sun came out, and we were able to go full throttle for the last 15 minutes, and I got Sababa up above 28 knots for the first time ever. It's good practice to push a diesel engine very hard at the end of a trip, and considering that my engine load was under 40% most of the way, I felt that a good full throttle run would be good for the engines. Also, it really felt rewarding to go that fast after chugging along so slowly all day.

Once we got to Oaks Bluff, our destination on Martha's Vineyard, we pulled into a harbor, and I drove around looking for the marina. I could not find it, so I radioed in on VHF 71 that they monitor, and I was told that the slip is along the outside wall of the harbor. In fact this is no marina, but just a bunch of pilings across along a busy sidewalk. Yikes! I've never docked in anything like this, and my crew had no idea how to do it either. The dockmaster told me I could go bow in, but that would have resulted in absolutely no way to get off the boat. So, I went stern in, and as I approached the pair of pilings, while yelling instructions to Ann, Elana, and Benny on how to tie a loop and attach the lines to the pilings for a spring line, I became uneasy with the distance between the pilings. They looked too close together. I stopped and asked the dockhand who had arrived what the distance was, and he asked me to hold on while he radioed it in. He came back with 17 feet. Well, our beam is 16 feet. That gave me 6 inches on each side. Yikes.

Well, Sababa handles great, and there was no wind or current, so I drove from the stern cockpit and kept myself as close to the starboard side piling as I could without hitting it. The dockhand kept repeating that I was okay on my port side, so I managed to get in safely. Meanwhile, my crew had managed to secure a spring line to the boat after attaching a loop over the pilings. The dockhand and I got the stern lines secured, criss crossing under the dingy, and we were all set. I wasn't too happy with the mid ship pilings being the only support and no bow lines, but there really wasn't much choice. We added fenders at each piling, and the boat is actually touching both fenders to the pilings at the same time. That's how tight our slip is. Really not meant for a boat this size, and we're the only one here that doesn't have bow lines connected. I guess it will work for one night. Don't love it, but don't see much choice. I kept an eye on the fenders because there is a 2 foot tide here, and sure enough the starboard one got loose and moved away from the fender. With the help of the guy in the boat next to mine, we tied the fender to the piling instead of the boat, and that should hold.
Tied up in Martha's Vineyard. Not my favorite setup, but it is what it is. Getting on and
off the boat has been a bit of a challenge, but there is a ladder on the dock that helps.
Martha's Vineyard is awesome. In our neighborhood, Oaks Bluff, we visited a community of "gingerbread houses", which looks more like a movie set than a real neighborhood. We couldn't figure out if these were all rentals, or if people actually lived in the little houses full time.
Benny in front of some gingerbread houses
We took a bus to Edgartown, another section of the island, and saw great shops, beautiful art galleries (where paintings ranged from $6,000 to 60,000), and a really nice lighthouse. In fact, we were supposed to stay on a mooring ball in Edgartown harbor tomorrow night, but when we got our new boat, we were told that the moorings there cannot hold a boat that size, and so we canceled that reservation, and we will head to Nantucket for two nights tomorrow.
Lighthouse in Edgartown
We took the bus back to Oaks Bluff and had dinner at a brewery where Ann and I had locally made beer, and we let Benny and Elana sneak a few sips as well. After a nice meal, we headed up to the beach to watch the sky as the sun set. As we are on the Eastern shore of the island, we cannot see the sun set, but the sky was very pretty at dusk. The last thing we saw before dark was one of the many ferries running back to the mainland.

Martha's Vineyard ferry at dusk. Three lines of cars waiting to board.
Tomorrow we head to Nantucket. Should take only about an hour to 75 minutes. Hope there's no fog!