Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 16: Boston to Newport, RI - route interrupted

Everything on this trip was going great and on schedule, until today.

Yesterday, we had a very nice visit with Tamara at Camp Young Judaea in New Hampshire. She has a lot of friends and is extremely happy there. We took her out to lunch and the to buy some supplies. After a few hours meeting her friends and some of the other parents we headed back to the boat in Boston.
The whole family finally together again
The forecast for today called for lots of rain, but no thunderstorms. I checked the marine forecast last night, and it predicted 2-3 foot waves - nothing we couldn't handle easily on Sababa. Unfortunately, I did not check the waves forecast this morning. Bad move.

It would take us about 4.5 hours to get to our marina in Newport, RI. Elana left for the airport around 8:30 a.m. She was going to take a water taxi to the airport, but it was raining, so she took a Lyft and texted us when she got there. We will miss having her on the remainder of our trip home. I was a bit displeased with today's forecast because it meant I would have to drive from the lower inside helm while still dodging the crab pots that littered the route to the Cape Cod Canal. It's not as easy to spot the pots from below as it is from the flybridge. Little did I know the pots would be the least of my problems today.

Before we got under way, I decided that despite the rain, I wanted to fuel up. We probably had enough fuel for the whole trip, but "probably" is not the best practice for a boat trip. When we got to the fuel dock, it was raining pretty hard, and I was concerned about getting water in the fuel line, so I held an umbrella over Benny who opened the tanks and filled them with diesel. Up to now, I had been the one fueling, and Benny was not familiar with the burping of our tanks, which spit up diesel if you let the fuel flow too quickly. So, he learned the hard way. After about 35 gallons in the starboard tank, all of a sudden fuel shot up everywhere and hit him in the face and covered his body. Luckily it did not get him in the eyes or mouth. He was not a happy camper, but he did finish the job for a total of 150 gallons between the two tanks.

Despite the rain, which was increasing in intensity, Ann and I decided that we should pump out the heads. We had enough capacity to get to Newport, but it seemed silly to travel with almost full waste tanks if we were already at a fuel dock. While Benny and I dealt with the fuel, Ann opened the tanks, and then I brought over the hose from the dock, and we pumped out the good stuff. Pumping out proved to be the best decision we made all day, and arguably the only good one.

As we got out of Boston Harbor, we encountered several challenges. The waves were starting to get bigger. More pressing, my starboard side windshield wiper got stuck, and independent of that the windshield fogged up. As I was trying to get the defroster working, I noticed a huge ship coming towards us from the port side. I pretty much had no visibility at this point and was barely moving at a crawl, and in fact, the strong waves and current were pushing me backwards. We had all just dried off and changed from the fueling in the rain experience, and none of us wanted to go out and manually try to get the wiper working, but I resigned to doing it. Just then, it started moving again, and the defroster began working, so that was lucky. We got moving with all systems in order, went around the big ship, and I got us on a plane at 22 knots. Let me emphasize (especially since my parents are reading this) that we were never in any danger, and it was just a big stressful inconvenience.

As we got further into the sea, the waves became much bigger. We had a few huge jumps and hard landings, and everything on the boat started flying around. Lamps, wine glasses, iPads. And we heard crashing sounds from below. I slowed to about 8 knots, and we were able to handle the waves better, but they were still quite impactful. We later learned that the waves were 5-8 feet, meaning that was the average, and some waves were bigger. We could not go faster than 6 knots, and at that speed, I had trouble maneuvering around the crab pots that we were able to see. Benny was getting sick, and Ann started talking about turning around or finding refuge somewhere.

I was still determined to get to the Cape Cod Canal, because once there, I expected that things would calm down, and despite the big waves, I did not feel like the situation was unmanageable. However, some simple calculations indicated that at 6 knots, we would be in this for almost 6 hours before reaching the canal, and the waves were getting worse, not better. So, while trying to keep the boat straight and avoid pots and 8 foot waves, and while bouncing several feet in the air on occasion, I pulled out my iPhone and explored  the area around us on the map. In the meantime, Benny started throwing up, and I knew that Ann was questioning my judgement and the wisdom of being out today without her needing to say anything (that would come later).

Feeling some urgency, but also surprisingly calm given the situation, I found a protected area called Cohasset Cove with a marked channel about 4 miles ahead. I discovered that it had a yacht club, so I assumed there would be somewhere for us to tie up. I was unable to reach them by phone. Getting to the cove was tricky, as there were rocks and shallow areas in the approach, but everything was marked on the navigation charts and with markers in the water, and I was confident that I could navigate through it, even in the bad conditions.
Not the route we planned, but the one we ended up taking
When we got to the cove, the water was a bit calmer, and I radioed to the yacht club. They told me that their dock was exclusive to the yacht club members, and there were no exceptions for transients. I told them that I was escaping a storm and really bad waves, and that I couldn't go back out there, and they told me to talk to the harbormaster. So, I spoke to the harbormaster on the radio, and she asked me to hold tight because she was having an issue with her boat.

Sitting tight in this marina proved to be impossible due to the tremendous wind and current from what was now a full fledged storm. Unhappy, but determined not to panic or let my spirits get down, I headed out of the cove. We decided that we would have to anchor just outside the channel and ride out the storm at anchor.

However, after we were just outside the channel, the harbormaster got on the radio and told me that she had one mooring ball in the harbor that was big enough to hold me, and that it had a sailboat on it, which she was going to move to another ball so that I could have it. Amazed at this good fortune, we stayed outside the channel, moving back and forth against the current and staying away from all the trouble spots. (Did I mention that I had to pee for the last 2 hours but did not dare leave my station??) Moving a sailboat off a mooring and onto another ball in these conditions was very impressive, and the willingness to do this to help a stranger with a pretentious 59' yacht was surprising to us.

They radioed us when the mooring was ready, and three of them were on a workboat waiting for us when we got back into the channel. At this point the storm was really upon us. Ann went up front with the boat hook, and it took me several tries to get her close enough to attach the mooring with the dockmaster's help, without hitting the ball, the dockmaster's boat or anything else. The whole scene was kind of crazy. We finally hooked up. I thanked them profusely, and could tell they were slightly annoyed by the whole situation. They asked me why I didn't go back to Boston when I noticed it was bad, and asked me if I didn't know how to look at weather forecasts. I felt a bit humiliated to be in this position. The harbormaster was very concerned because my anchor was rubbing hard against the mooring lines each time the boat would swing. I suggested dropping the anchor so it wouldn't be in the way, and she agreed to that. So, the anchor is down, but not doing anything, just sitting on the ground in the water below me out of the way of the mooring lines.

I asked the dockmaster if I could pay them for their help and what I owed for the use of the mooring ball until tomorrow, and they would not take any money! Before I was able to go back in for my wallet, they were gone and told us to tune into channel 10 if we needed anything. My faith in humanity is restored.

This all happened around 1:00 pm today. Now it's just about 5:00, and we've had time to reflect on our situation. It's really not that comfortable. Even here in the cove, the water is quite active, and we are swinging back and forth and constantly amazed that the mooring ball is holding, and that we haven't hit any of the other boats that are also swinging quite a bit out of rhythm with ours. I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep tonight without keeping watch on those other boats. So far, though, in 4 hours, everything has held, and no boats have hit. Also, things are supposed to calm down by 9 pm tonight. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Wish we had filled the water tanks before we left Boston. Elana and I showered this morning, and Benny had to shower to remove the diesel from all over his body. We are left with about 1/4 tanks, which is plenty for our regular needs, but no more showers until we find another marina. We're also down to 5 small bottles of water, so I will have beer this evening, and OJ for breakfast, and Ann will have iced tea, leaving the lemonade for Benny. We actually bought 24 bottles of fresh water in Boston, but managed to leave them in the shopping cart when we unloaded, a mistake that may haunt us if we're still stuck here tomorrow.

The storm continues, and it's 58 degrees out, so we have the heat on for the first time on Sababa. Thankfully, it works great, and we are nice and comfortable with the windows fogged up all around us. I keep having to clear them with my hand to keep an eye on the boats moored near ours, which still worry me with their swinging.

In the meantime, Newport marina, where we were supposed to stay tonight says they will not refund us because of their 72 hour cancelation policy. We're not sure we will even go to Newport anymore. I'd like to make up the day, and perhaps we can do some longer runs to stay on schedule. That said, the forecast for tomorrow is not perfect. The seas are showing 3-5 foot waves. That's a lot more manageable than 5-8. Forecasts like that change by the hour, and we'll see what it is tomorrow morning. The forecast for tomorrow actually improved while I was writing this blog post. We will not go if it's not safe. Not sure we'll enjoy 2 full days sitting on this mooring in a cove in Cohasset, MA, but at least we pumped out our head tanks!