THE LOOP IS DONE ... but we're not. We are back in familiar territory, New England, and heading to our home port of Camden, Maine. Landlubbers and mariners agree: these waters are salty and scenic. But while landlubbers call the coast of southern New England, from New York to Cape Cod “the shore,” or “the ocean,” or “the sound,” mariners have a different set of names: Long Island Sound, Fishers Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound, Buzzard's Bay, and Nantucket Sound.
Beach lovers savor the fun of high and low tides. Mariners take them with a grain of salt. Tides mean currents of two kinds: ebb and flood. And in each of these aforementioned bodies of water, you have to pay attention to the direction of the currents to make maximum headway. Go against the flow, and it's, well, … slow going.
|The Race off Fishers Island|
And beyond that, there are tricky little spots where the rules don't apply, but only for some periods during the ebb and flood. These spots have terrifying names, like “the Race” and “the Pollock Rip.”
Hit it right, and it's “Yee haw, ride 'em cowboy.” You just gotta know when to go.
But, there are aids, like the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book. This handy tome publishes the tide and current tables for the entire east coast. It even has charts and diagrams for the anomalies. See how easy and confusing it can be?
|"Calm" as" like a lake"|
These past few days have been very calm and we have timed our cruising to ride the currents most of the time. Of course, they reverse direction every 5-1/2 hours, but we seem to get through.
We stopped in Newport and felt like the sublime among the ridiculous. The next morning we had a hard time getting Sally W out of the harbor.
She spotted Wallace Foss and insisted we take a closer look. It was love at first sight.
Wallace is the real deal, a 65-foot tug built in Tacoma in 1897.
In 1920 he became the first tug of the Foss family of working boats. For 52 years he dutifully towed barges laden with sand, gravel, and petroleum in the Pacific Northwest.He retired from active duty in 1972 and took up head-turning.
Fortunately for Sally, Wallace now stays in Newport. Guess we'll be back next year. Sigh!
One of the goals on this trip has been to seek out sister tugs along the route.
We hit the jackpot in Lake Champlain.
On our return trip down the Hudson, we found Bodacious had shred her shrinkwrap from our June siting, and was in the water in Kingston. So we decided to see if our luck would hold along the coast.
Yes! Hal and June Findlay welcomed us to the dock in Cos Cob, CT alongside Le Papa. But that's not all. The designer of our tugs, Jim Backus, who just happens to live nearby, joined the party.
It was fascinating to hear Jim talk about the project. Less than a month after he hung out his shingle in Seattle, he was approached by Loren Hart, owner of Lord Nelson Yachts. It was the early 80s and Loren was selling sailboats. He sensed a burgeoning market for trawlers and wanted to offer something different, a pleasure tug. So Jim went to work, and created the 37-foot Lord Nelson Victory Tug. Seventy-five tugs were built in Taiwan between 1983 and 1988, where teak and labor were rather inexpensive.
Jim says it's the most successful design of his career. Judging by the fact that today, all but one tug is accounted for, it a rather strong validation.
Moving along the Massachusetts coast, Sally W couldn't resist stopping in New Bedford. Good call. Neptune was waiting as we passed through the hurricane barrier.
The two beat it to the dock in Fairhaven. Neptune's handlers are John and Ellen Isaksen, part of a community of Norwegian immigrant fishing families. They are a colorful couple. The coffepot is always full and conversation non-stop.
Certainly the highlight was a feast of Ellen's Georges Bank Sea Scallops, which she prepares using a method quite different from those of us who think we know how to cook seafood.
Put the scallops in a shallow baking dish. Top with a mixture of crushed Ritz Crackers, melted butter, lemon juice, cooking sherry and Parmesan cheese. Here's the twist: bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. No kidding! And they are delicious!
We left the Isaksens with a plan to time the passage through the Cape Cod Canal with a favorable current. “Favorable” turned out to be an understatement. With our trusty Cummins 100 horsepower turbo-diesel engine and full-displacement hull, we can normally cruise our 22,000 pound boat at 7.5 knots, or 8.6 miles per hour.
This day, we topped 12 knots, or almost 14 mph!
The passage was so successful that we changed course in Cape Cod Bay and headed to Manchester-by-the-Sea, north of Boston. Even though the waters resembled bathtub conditions, this made it a long day; ten hours underway, and 78 nautical miles. But we knew it would put us in a good position for meeting up with family later in the week.
Our bored and cranky moods changed to surprise and elation as we entered the harbor and spotted one of our tugs. Huh? Who would this be? It was Dick Salter on Messing About. Turns out this is his home port where he's had a mooring since 1965!
We were surprised to find him here, thinking he was cruising Maine waters and preparing to head south for the winter. But, plans had changed temporarily, and he came aboard for an evening of catching up. And, oh yes, we finished off the Isaksen scallops. Thanks, Ellen.