Day 1 Greetings from Portsmouth Harbor

We finally left Falmouth, Maine and headed south. But with all good plans, snafus happen. We were supposed to leave last week, then yesterday, but small craft advisories kept us from home a few more days. We’d hoped to get the first launch out at 9:00 a.m. but it wasn’t until 10 that we got it all together. Chuck took us out to Little Prince and shared a few insights from his cruising adventures. We were really good to go now. With all the delays we felt even better about tying up lose ends and being ready to go. Then, as we were getting ready to cast off I tried to push a neighboring mooring ball away from the back of our boat. I couldn’t. Somehow it was tangled up with our boat.

We lowered the dingy to try and get a better angle on the problem. Some pulling here and tugging there isolated the problem. Tim took a knife and cut through the tangled line. A few good pulls and the other end came through. A quick knot and that mooring ball was back in working order.

We were now free to head out through Hussey Sound and into the Atlantic. There were three foot waves just as predicted and it was a bumpy ride. We moved a little closer to shore and the waves lessened. As we continued south the waves lessened even further. It turned into a very pleasant ride. Not only were the waves minimal, it was in the high 70’s. Unusually warm for Maine in October.

Our first stop, Portsmouth Harbor. We’re staying on the Maine side but it’s from renting a mooring from the Portsmouth N.H. Yacht Club. When we stopped at the dock so I could walk Tigger, I found it reassuring to see all the New Hampshire license plates on our walk. New Hampshire will always have such a special place in my heart.

It’s always so curious to see familiar places but from this different vantage place. One morning when I lived in Hampton Falls I got up before the sun to watch the sunrise over this very harbor. The lighthouse that marks the entrance of the harbor was the subject of a couple of paintings as well, Whaleback Lighthouse. It’s one of those rugged ones, not a pretty white one. Tonight, it’s sitting out our starboard window, diligently flashing ever 4 seconds. Maybe I’ll get some more sunrise pictures in the morning.

Restart the Clock


The National Weather Service in Gray has issued a Small Craft

Advisory, which is in effect from 2 AM to 4 PM EDT Friday.

* WINDS…North 10 to 20 kt with gusts up to 30 kt.

* SEAS…3 to 6 feet.”

Whenever asked how long our journey will take, I say about 5 weeks, depending on the weather. We are now heading towards being a week behind schedule and we haven’t even left home. Hurricane Leslie is sitting out in the Atlantic making trouble. High winds and high seas and we’re going no where. All we can do now is wait, and continue with more preparations.

No matter what, we never seem to get everything done and are always in a rush. I’m sure organized people don’t have the same problem but it’s a constant with us. This extra week foisted upon us is giving us more time to truly be ready. Gradually we’ve been bringing our provisions onto the boat. Today we’ll bring some more on board. Mostly it will be non-perishable food items and clothes.

If there is good news the plumber stood us up earlier this week. He called Monday and said they wouldn’t be able to make it here on schedule but needed to reschedule for next Monday. That was the first assault on our plans. We were looking for a plan “B” when the Small Craft Warnings started popping up. Plan “A” was having the pipes drained in the house for the winter on Monday, then spending the night on the boat. We would then leave first thing Tuesday morning. The delay could have been much worse if we were without plumbing in the house.

I’ve been worried about how we can get all this onto the boat. Tim’s been worried about where it will fit on the boat. With the delay we’ve been able to make several trips out to load items onboard. Now that the larger items are already on Little Prince (LP) I’m less concerned. Where the rest of it will go, I have a good handle on, so I’ve been named the quartermaster. I always wondered what a quartermaster was, now I know. “The cave” as it is known, is a small berth a step down on the port side of the boat. If kids were on board, I’m sure they’d think it was a fun place to sleep. I don’t know of any adults who would feel the same. That’s where the bulk of our storage lies.

Today’s plan is to bring LP out to get fuel and up to the dock for the last provisions besides the perishables and ourselves. I’m not considering us to be perishable. The extra time will also allow us to get things more organized at home and onboard. We have no excuses now.

48 Hours – Countdown Begins

Departure time is just about here. After I finish writing this post, it will be non-stop preparations. That’s both because it’s necessary and my nerves won’t allow anything else. There was a lot of preparation for the boat. Systems have been checked and re-checked. A couple of days ago we thought there might be a problem with the electrical systems. Until the generator technician arrived we needed to come up with an alternative plan if he brought bad news. We might just have to ship the boat to Florida and drive the car down. When Tim suggested that, there was a sense of relief. While I am very much looking forward to this adventure, my nerves are not. Luckily (I guess), the only problem was the breaker had been tripped when checking the oil for the generator. The lever was tucked in under the deck which made it very difficult to see unless you were practically standing on your head in the well where the engine lives.

While we had the technician I got in a few more questions about how things work on the boat. When we had picked up the boat initially, Peter at the boatyard had just discovered the dipstick for the generator had the end broken off. Because of that, we weren’t able to properly check the oil. When the new dipstick arrived I managed to get it in, again, the generator is in an awkward spot, and it doesn’t go straight in, it goes around a few bends. It seemed to need oil so we added some but we still weren’t sure if it was properly filled. Again, with the difficult positioning, I had attached tubing to a funnel with masking tape to be able to add it. With the technician at our disposal, it seemed like a good time to ask if the oil was at a proper fill line. That’s when the technician realized how the breaker was tripped. You almost couldn’t add oil without accidentally tripping it. It was both that sensitive and that well hidden. There was a proper amount of oil and the mysteries had been solved. We were indeed “good to go”.

Now what? The technician headed out, the gray day was getting sunny and we were on the boat sitting at the dock. I wanted to play with the GPS some and Tim was thinking about practicing docking. A task we hadn’t gotten to between the bad weather and work being done at the boatyard. Also, with the clean bill of health on Little Prince, the notion of shipping it didn’t really seem like an option. At that point, our neighbor came by with a bottle of wine wishing us a Bon Voyage (thanks Bob!). Now, we couldn’t bail on our big journey. A couple of hours was spent practicing docking. I was also able to put some things in their proper places.

Tomorrow afternoon the plumber will come and winterize the house, meaning drain the pipes. The electricity gets shut off Tuesday. We’ll spend Monday night on the boat in the anchorage and shove off Tuesday morning.

Ready to Launch – Kinda

We picked our date to start out boat trip from Maine to Florida, Saturday, September 22. Not gonna happen quite that soon, but it’s good to have set a goal. The preparations are well underway. There are just a few outstanding items. In our test runs, we were concerned about a few items. We had the initial tutorial when we picked up the boat but after going over the manuals and trying to put it all together we were feeling intimidated and overwhelmed. One of the raw water intake filters didn’t seem to be working, but what was its purpose? We couldn’t find it in the manual and couldn’t remember what the boatyard had told us.

img_5627.jpgTim called the local boatyard we’d been dealing with for years and told them of our plans. He explained our concerns and asked if someone could look our boat over and explain a few things. A few days later we had an appointment with Roger. It was exactly what we needed. He found a few maintenance items and went over everything with us. The intake valve which didn’t seem to be working was for the AC, which we hadn’t used.  That was a relief, and now we had a much better understanding of the systems. He also took note of extra filters we should have on board and would order them for us. We had gotten a variety of suggestions of what replacement parts we should have on board. His was a succinct list for which we were grateful.

Item number two, and quite important, the dingy. We have an inflatable but its small and aging fast. We do want to anchor as much as possible so a reliable dingy is imperative. Safety first. We want this to be a fun adventure, but also a safe one. The hunt for a dingy was on. Tim’s research came up with Portland Pudgy. The Pudgy is made right here in Portland, Maine, and a great design. It functions both as a dingy and a lifeboat. It’s very sturdy and with enough room to get us to shore comfortably with any supplies, provisions or laundry. If you have a dingy, you need a davit. That would be a means to connect your dingy to your boat. But we aren’t done yet. We needed a motor for the dingy. Last but not least, a bracket to hold the motor to the boat when the dingy is attached to the davit. There, so item number two included 3 more parts.

In the meantime, I have been cooking. There is a galley on Little Prince but it just seems like a good idea to prepare meals ahead of time so that cooking will be at a minimum. Breakfast and lunch will need to be prepared, but at least dinner will be done. A very small freezer is part of the refrigerator so all the meals I’m freezing will be in a cooler. I have been assured that with a block of ice, and a space blanket, the food will stay frozen for many days. We can also get more ice somewhere along the way to keep it frozen as long as need be.

Next, charting our course…

My Turn

On our way home from the boatyard, Tim had the controls while I helped with navigation. Once we made it up to the flybridge I did do a little steering to avoid lobster buoys, but it was quite minimal. Labor Day, it was my turn to take the controls. First off, we figured out how to have the full controls of the upper deck. Apparently, the safety lock on the thruster was set so wayward children couldn’t take control of the boat from the upper deck. Releasing the lock, we were then on our way, to nowhere in particular.

I was partial to areas where there were no other boats. It was a beautiful day, and a holiday, so there were plenty of boats out on Casco Bay. After getting a feel for the controls, including the thrusters, kinda, we headed towards Portland Harbor. I was originally thinking I wanted to avoid boating traffic so going to Portland Harbor would not have been the way to go. Instead, it was a good challenge.

Even though we were in familiar water and our draft is only two feet we still were conscious of which side of the buoys to travel on. I need to get a firm handle on what the buoys mean – red, right, returning is the phrase that sticks in my head. Knowing which way is returning is the trick. With enough practice, I’ll get it. For now, just handling the boat was the top priority.

There were quite a few boats on the water, and even more, as we got into Portland. Not only pleasure boats but also a cruise ship was docked, the CAT (a very large, high-speed ferry that goes between Nova Scotia and Portland) was pulling into its dock, a tour boat and a party boat were all nearby. Instead of making me more nervous I found it somewhat reassuring that I could practice in a busy harbor that I was familiar with.

Getting Home

Newburyport, Massachusetts is home to a lively old town

Day two of bringing Little Prince home to Maine was a very pleasant outing. Having figured out the automatic pilot, we were one step closer to enjoying our new boat. This was especially true during the last leg of our trip because it was farther out to sea with no obstructions. Before we got to that point, we needed to get back down the Merrimack River. It’s one of those places where local knowledge is key and instinct deceives. The middle of the river is not the deepest section.

We’d gotten out of bed and had some muffins we’d purchased the night before for breakfast. We were concerned about what tide it was and when we should leave. Did we need the extra water from a higher tide? There wasn’t much activity on the river at first but then we saw a couple of boats start to head out. One was a rather large pleasure boat going at a fairly good clip. Tim turned on the engine and headed out after them. Clearly, they knew the way and would be drawing more water than Little Prince.

Six miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a small group of islands called the Isles of Shoals.

Once we cleared the mouth of the river and headed out to sea we set our course for the Isles of Shoals. That was another place I’d often heard about but had never been. It’s several small islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine, six miles out to sea from Portsmouth. We weren’t planning on stopping there but we could at least get a look. The islands are no longer inhabited for the most part except for visitors during the summer staying in the hotel on Star Island. Before the days of air conditioning, it was a popular vacation spot for people from Boston and New York.

Eastern Lighthouse

Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine is home to two lighthouses, this being one of them.

In clearing the islands we were then in Maine. We still had a ways to go, but just having made it to Maine was an accomplishment. Our other accomplishment for the day was riding in the flying bridge. We had stayed in the cabin the day before but we were going to be a little braver on day two. We had some trouble figuring how to shift all the controls up there, but we could steer so that was enough. Occasionally we had to do a little steering to avoid a lobster buoy but by and large, we just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

This trip was clearly a good starting point in seeing what we needed to think about and prepare for when making our way down to Florida.


Switching Gears

A new adventure is about to begin. Preparations are underway and have been for a few weeks now.  Traveling down to Salem, Massachusetts in the morning to take possession of our (new to us) boat is just a few hours away. We are making the move from sail to power so the first step will be bringing “Little Prince” home, some 90 nautical miles. We intend to take our time with this trip so we’ll take 2 days to bring it up to Maine.

Here I sit at the galley table, in the middle of the Merrimack River in Newburyport, Massachusetts. We took possession of “Little Prince” and were given a tutorial of how things work but there is a great deal to learn. After carefully mapping out our course we were not able to put the coordinates into the GPS because it wanted an additional decimal. We had the chart so we worked it out with some trepidation. I followed along on the chart while Tim used the GPS to see where we were. Being 90 miles from home in a boat you have no experience with can try a person’s nerves.

The entrance to the Annisquam River through this drawbridge presents boaters with a challenge.

Instead of going around Cape Ann as planned we took the shorter route going up the Annisquam River from Gloucester Harbor to Ipswich Bay. It was slow going with limited water and quite a bit of boat traffic. The first hurdle was going through the draw bridge from the harbor into the mouth of the river. It was a narrow entry with a swift tide coming out of the river. Watching the boats ahead of us gun their engines and watching their bows lurch upward we were alerted to how it was going to work. Tim gave it some extra gas and had to wrestle with the unfamiliar steering some but we made it through, both of us letting out a “whew” once we did.

When we had some open water to play with we set a waypoint to a buoy we knew we wanted to head towards that was more than 10 nautical miles away. Then Tim turned on the automatic pilot. The boat kept us on course as we sat back and enjoyed the ride. Once we figure out how everything works this will be a very fun boat. Some very simple thing elude us however. There is an additional monitor in the cockpit which is folded back. We can’t seem to figure out how to bring it forward so I can use it for navigating.

Our route home is now being planned after discussing it last night. We’ll pass by the Isles of Shoals and then head up to Maine. The weather is good and we are also planning on sitting up top today and enjoying the good weather.