Castaway

The ferry captain calls him Castaway, which I thought was appropriate. He looks like he has not shaved in a year or so and smells like he has not showered in at least a week. It was not a BO smell, more like fermented chemicals of some sort mixed with mud. His boat was a sad looking sight, and the Coast Guard vessel beside it did not help his cause. Not wanting to bother the Coast Guard, I asked the marina manager what was going on this late in the evening as I was returning to my boat from work. Castaway had called the Coast Guard because he was taking on water and his engine was dead. As the Coast Guard was towing this unnamed vessel, it forced more water in through the prop stuffing and they thought he was scuttling his boat, which is common for drug dealers.

The Coast Guard called in a welcome party for him in Winter Harbor, there were state officers, local officers, and the warden service all waiting to throw him in cuffs and turn his boat upside down at least three times. Each department searched the vessel and found no illegal items. I think they did not like his wise cracks and may have known him from previous contacts. The warden service was kind enough to throw all his books and maps into the bilge, even his Bible. They issued him a summons for no registration and no type IV personal flotation device. I kinda felt bad for the guy.

After the Coast Guard put him on a mooring I grabbed a of couple beers and rowed my way over to what was left of his rig in hopes of a good story. Right away I realized that he was missing one of his two masts. It looked to be in parts on the deck along several lobster crates filled with coal, salvaged moorings, and broken parts to his boat. The mast that was standing was very dry, and cracking, the green paint was old and flaking off. His boat looked like the cover of a Farley Mowat book, but with one mast.

I was afraid to look below deck and my fears were confirmed when I looked down the hatch and smelled a combination of lacquer and diesel fuel. It was trashed. It was like a bunch of trash got turned upside down and trashed even more. It was closer to a workshop full of trash than a living space. There was the bottom half of a fiberglass dinghy on his futon, a stove for burning coal, lots off clutter with no value at all. The water was up over the floor boards with a nice layer of diesel covering everything. This guy has been living on this vessel for just under a year.

I brought my starter battery over so he could get his engine going and pump the water down. When the engine turned over it was as probably the most awful sound I have ever heard coming from a diesel and I had an overwhelming urge to get my 20 gauge and put it out of its misery. It was as if his engine was full of stones and the prop was striking concrete at the same time. Actually I wanted to put the whole boat out of its misery.  It was so loud we had to yell to communicate. He pumped the water down and I left my battery on board over night so he could keep up with the water coming in.

The following morning I did a welfare check on him and I was very unpleased to see his boat was still floating. In retrospect I probably should not have given him my starter battery. He had lost his anchor not long ago and I gave him one from my four-piece collection. It was the one that I had recently lost and recovered. With the hardware removed from the anchor, I am pretty sure it is worse than useless. It did not work on a 30 foot boat, it is not going to work on a 40+ foot boat. I told him it might be a bit small and he should get lots of chain.

After chatting for a while I learned he also made an attempt at the Bahamas last winter. He left Portland, Maine on December 25, which is insane. I secretly hoped he did not make it as far as we did but he made it to Ocean City, Maryland. And he did the trip solo, with a boat that looks like it has been sitting in a backyard for the last 40 years.

Night Sailing

It is a good thing I am not required to sail in a straight line. If one were watching my boat from the sky it would like I am a very drunken sailor. There is definitely an art to night sailing alone in Maine. With an auto pilot, a spot light and a little moonlight it can be done. It requires lots of running back and forth across Big G to quickly swerve around lobster buoys. With thousands of buoys in Frenchman’s Bay, and currents against me, it made for a long boat ride. There were some stretches where I had a few minutes to sit on the bow and shine my light into the water. I saw a few schools of mackerel, lots of jellyfish, and several patches of seaweed drift by with various amounts of trash. There is plenty of time for contemplation while on a boat traveling at about three miles an hour.  If the ocean is calm enough, it looks like the sky is both up and down.

It took three hours to get across the bay and I pulled into Bar Harbor at about midnight to pick up Stefanie. Words can’t explain how happy I was to have my new anchor in operation. There is nothing better than dropping an anchor and going directly to sleep without worry.

There are now three spare mediocre anchors on Big G. I am not sure what to think of this. I suppose if I lose one I can just put out another one of equal value if not worse than the first, which may not necessarily solve my problem. Or I could string them together and hope I snag another lobster trap. I suppose the traps are not a complete nuisance to boaters. If you drag anchor in any direction you will catch a lobster trap which will slow the dragging a bit. My mooring had one snagged on it for a while last season.

The anchor lost at Frazier Point while visiting with the in-laws was recovered. Fortunately for me, there are scuba diving classes occasionally at the marina and Schoodic area. There has not been a group of scuba divers that are not up for a challenge. Last summer I challenged a father and son to find my prescription glasses and grapple that were lost off the stern of my boat. I offered them money but they would not take it. Both items were waiting on my deck when I returned from work.

I did not really want the anchor back except to give it to the guy I bought it from and tell him it is trash. What I wanted off the anchor was the chain and hardware, which is worth more than the anchor itself. However, you can never have too many anchors. There is a fourth anchor at the bottom of Winter Harbor. I put it off the stern to keep my boat pointed into the waves, which worked great until the line snapped. I might try to grapple it back up but I am not sure I care enough to do it.

Mine Fields of Maine

After hauling about 50 feet of anchor line up I decided I did not want to pull any more and tied the it off on a cleat to rest.  It probably clocked in at several hundred pounds with the anchor, 30 feet of chain, and at least two lobster traps. It seems more often then not we pick up a trap or two while at anchor these days. Despite efforts to avoid them, we usually get tangled up with them one way or another. We put the line in the winch and it was putting weight on the dodger and we bailed on that idea. I was getting frustrated at this point and I put my gloves on and got it done at the expense of my back.

Getting to Sheep Porcupine island was a bit difficult, the depth was about 50 feet right up to about 30 feet from the shore line. I had to drop the anchor in a spot where it would run aground if the tide shifted, which it did. I usually pay out 4-7 feet of rope for every foot of depth, and Big G swings around on anchor depending on currents. When we got back Big G after our land excursion the depth was 5.3 feet. I hauled on the anchor line right away to get us further out and started pulling the anchor up while Stefanie started Humphrey, the engine.  When I knew the anchor was off the ground I told her to put it in gear and it instantly pulled the trap line into the prop. We had drifted a little ways by this point and decided to let the anchor fly in 50 feet of water and went swimming to clear the rope out of the prop. Stefanie told me to cut the line and I should have listened to her. Usually I save the line because traps are expensive and it’s not very nice to cut them.

When hauling the anchor up for the second time the trap broke free of the anchor and unfortunately there was not enough line for the 50-100 feet of depth and the buoy and trap went to the bottom. It will probably get snagged and retrieved by some other trap set on top of it. The buoy is also floating some distance off the bottom and could easily be grappled. I had the intention of putting it back, it just didn’t work out. About a stones throw north from where we were anchored the depth drops to over 300 feet. It’s probably a hole filled with hundreds of lobster traps.

Other then that mishap, our day was perfect. We went to Turtle island and found some sea glass, goofed around on the beach, which we had all to ourselves, found some sea anemones to poke.  After getting back to Big G we took a short nap and then made it back to Winter Harbor without even starting the engine. We even caught the mooring without having to start Humphrey. Not bad for an Amateur Yachtsmen.

I Found an Oar

It started off as a miserable day full of fog and rain. I was two shackles short of having my new anchor and chain in commission. Mold levels are getting a bit high for house standards, however as far as boats go it was about average.  The tides have been above average lately and the surf has been impressive causing very large patches of seaweed to float around like shag carpets over the ocean. I lie awake in bed while my boat is on the mooring listening to the ferry engines go into reverse as they pull into the dock. It sounds a little like a boat propeller driving through loose gravel. I was tempted to tell them their engines sound like ice skates on concrete but I figured they already know. The dense fog mixed with seaweed patches the size of football fields makes for difficult maneuvering because by the time you see the seaweed it is too late. However, seaweed patches collect stuff, usually logs, trash, buoys, styrofoam, and boards, among other things. It is best to take a look to see if there is anything worth salvaging and to my surprise I spotted an oar. It was a bit salty with worn out leather and chipped paint but it was still nicer than my oars. It felt better in my hands with a tapered handle, and the leather and girth fit into the oar lock much better. It was a great find and I have now broken even on losing oars and finding them.

Challenge Accepted

Stefanie’s Brother and sister-in-law were up to Maine to visit and we all came out to my boat for a sail and a picnic. After about an hour of sailing we decided not to go past Schoodic Point due to the large waves, heavy winds and sea sickness. We got out a little past Mark Island Light before turning back. Coast Guard and Marine Patrol were out looking for a lost kayaker in the area. The coast guard was requesting all vessels in the area to assist in the search. I would not have been helpful anywhere past Schoodic and opted not to go out. Big G would just get beat up and I can only do 3 knots at best with this wind and surf unless sailing down wind back to Winter Harbor. We later learned he just swam ashore, fixed his kayak and went home.

We dropped anchor off of Frazier Point for our picnic and I rowed everyone ashore. Not wanting to get tangled in a lobster trap we adjusted the anchor to a better spot and it seemed to be holding pretty good. After Lunch we left in in-laws at Frazier and Stefanie and I went back to Big G to take her back to the mooring and get the car. We soon realized the anchor was caught on something big. We motored forward, backward and in circles with no luck. I hauled on it with all my might and got it up to the anchor chain. Whatever it was stuck on probably weighed 500 pounds. I pondered putting it in the winch but did not want to stress it to much. My curiosity was peaked and I really wanted to know what it was caught on. It was so close to the surface but I still could not see what it was.

Stefanie had the, lets go look on her face and was not in the mood for messing around with the anchor. I was not quite ready to give up but I cut the line anyway. We both disliked that anchor because it ruined date night a couple weeks back. I did like the chain and hardware attached to it though. I am going to have to wait until low tide and go swimming or try to hustle a diving group into retrieving it.  I really just want to know what it was caught on.

Moss

It appears there is moss growing on my boat, or something of the sort. It has been a little damp lately due to the fact that it has not stopped raining for weeks. If it is any sort of green vegetation growth, I ignore it or throw it in the ocean. If it is white or black then I get the spritzer bottle of vinegar. That usually holds it off for a while and does not harm the woodwork on the interior of my boat.

All clothes have been removed from the boat, even if they are clean they still get damp and collect mold depending on the type of fabric. The only food kept on the boat is a random assortment of rusty canned goods and a few other things in airtight containers. Even when I am hungry, I don’t really cook because it’s a hassle. If I am feeling a little faint and coffee does not do the trick then I open a rusty can of beans.

Henry Cove has been quite lonely lately. The ferry boats have not been running the last couple of days due to the enormous surf and small craft advisories. There is not too much high wind but there is most definitely a weather cell of some sort off-shore because the rollers are pretty impressive. Fortunately, Schoodic Point breaks them down a little, however they are still big when they get to the Lonely Cove. Rowing Little G is a bit difficult at times. Of course I do not want to sit down on a wet seat so I pretend the dinghy is a stand up paddle board and I very slowly make my way ashore while focusing diligently on balance.

None of the locals have put their boats in yet and Big G is still the lone sailboat in the cove.  If I had to venture a guess I would probably say it is due to the weather, although some of the locals might not like the changes at the marina and might have gone elsewhere. I also observed a local casing my car in the parking lot as I was walking up the dock. He made up a bogus excuse when I confronted him and later learned he is a felon and has been arrested recently for having a fire arm. I see him at the marina on a regular basis.

I was happy to see Mr. Hibbard’s dinghy at the dock. Mr. Hibbard is a scruffy looking man, with a large beer gut, long gray beard, few teeth and sports the bandanna pretty well. He is a Harley Davidson enthusiast and has some pretty great stories of his days as a trucker. Mr. Hibbard is not a man you want to cross, he has drawn his gun on me late at night when I am rowing Little G to my boat. “That you, Benton!” he yells “Ok, just checking” then I hear him de-cocking his gun.  During happy hour, Mr. Hibbard and Carolynne always invite me onto their cabin cruiser for wine and cheese. After a few stories and some wine I stumble onto Little G and find my way back to Big G. It is nice to have someone keeping an eye on things. I am a supporter of due process of the law and Mr. Hibbard is an adventurous old man with nothing too lose and lots of guns. Someone you definitely want to stay on good terms with.

 

 

Decisions

Once again, I felt like a computer lacking the proper amount of memory to run several programs at once as I stared blankly at the hundreds of pasta sauce options at the grocery store. At the moment I am lacking refrigeration on the boat and all I want is to not have nutrient deficiency, food poisoning, or no money. Pasta is difficult on a boat due to the fact that it absorbs moisture. Even if the box is unopened it will be moldy within a couple of weeks depending on where it is stored. So ziplock bags or tupperware needs to be purchased as well, or it needs to be stored in plastic totes with the clothes. Once pasta sauce is opened it then has to be used or stored in a cold place. Of course there is no single serving size containers of pasta sauce other than something nasty like tomato paste. It can be difficult to even make a decision on flavor, not to mention size, brand, price, organic, sodium level, container type, aesthetics, and paring with moldy, organic pasta.

There are just too many variables and I could not make a decision. Stefanie completed all her shopping and found me staring blankly at the pasta sauce where she left me. I explained my conundrum to her and she just grabbed a smaller container of marinara and tossed it in the cart, problem solved. I did not argue and we moved on.

Rollers

There are times when I want to sleep and can not, due to rollers literally rolling me over in my sleep. Sometimes there is not a puff of wind, but rollers still find their way into Winter Harbor and upset my beauty rest. My boat seems to orient itself perfectly parallel to the rollers for maximum amount of boat rolling and minimum amount of sleeping. The currents are either coming into or going out of the cove and there should be little time when Big G is not pointed into the waves. If Big G is oriented into the waves it tends to roll much less, if at all.

After a breezy afternoon with SW winds at 20-30 miles per hour I knew exactly what was coming. After getting off work late in the evening I thought I would attempt an anchor off the stern. I pulled out my slightly undersized Danforth, which I think is better than my normal size plow, and tossed it into my dinghy along with 75 feet of rope. The next twenty minutes was a game of trial and error. I rowed the anchor out a ways, dropped it, rowed back to my boat, and realized I put it out too far and did not have enough rope. After pulling it up I managed to cover my pants and dinghy with a copious amount of mud. Doing this in the dark was a terrible idea, but I attached more rope and rowed it back out to a good location.

It kinda worked. Big G was never parallel to the waves but it was a bit canted at times, causing a partial roll and I ended up just taking some sleeping pills anyway. The following morning, I was admiring my mediocre work with the spare anchor and realized it was a little bit of a hazard for the ferries.  After pondering on a solution for about 30 seconds I tied a milk jug to the line and cast it overboard then went to Stefanie’s place.

Never Ending To-Do List

My boat came outfitted with a bunch of stuff on it and one item I found rather perplexing was a cassette labeled “sounds of the ocean”. After placing it in my cassette player I found it rather entertaining to listen to synthetic ocean sounds while on my boat. If you have not guessed already, evenings on the boat can be rather dull, especially if it is raining. Public radio makes things seem a little less lonely until the reception gets annoying.

One could say I have been feeling rather homesick for Stefanie’s apartment the last few days. It is nice to have good company, internet, and a large bed that does not move. The rollers last night were intense and I gave up trying to sleep at about 5am and went into the office to work. It takes a few days to get used to the simple, quiet boat life. Each day after work I look at my to-do list and choose not to do anything, make a dinner consisting of something that does not require any preparation, read a few moldy pages in my book and fall asleep around 8:30pm.  If the boat is floating and the batteries are charged, I am happy. One of many things on the to-do list is scrub the significant amount of vegetation growth on the right side of the boat. The vegetation is possibly due to the fact that Big G is listing slightly more to the right, possibly due to the fact that all my booze in stored in the right side compartments. It is a bummer to spend so much time working on the hull to have it covered in vegetation after a month. Boat life can be testing at times weather it be copious amounts of vegetation, loneliness or boredom.

 

The Elements

The boat sits patiently on her mooring day after day, in a never ending test against the elements. She waits for me to take her out and dive into waves head first, raise sails and roll with every gust of wind stressing the mast and shrouds. Vegetation grows on her underside like a thick, green five o’clock shadow wisping back and forth with the currents. The ocean never loses and like a floating hour glass, Big G holds her ground and stands against the elements as best she can.  There may come a day when my gentle boat will endure no more and rest on the ocean floor.