Forecast for “Partly Sunny” Today

I feel a clarification may be in order.  The Maine Coast is not continually foggy in August.  As I type this, the setting sun does its normally spectacular job of playing on the granite rocks marked by marine growth along the shoreline.  The meadows of lime green bordered by tall pines and dark shadows beneath are enhanced by the low angle of the light.  It’s a glorious summer day…but you gotta’ wait for it!

After dropping some friends off in Portland yesterday, we set off again this morning with “Love Cove” (yes really), in Ebenecook Harbor on the Sheepscot River as our day’s destination…a quiet spot just short of the madness of Boothbay.  It is the classic snug cove anchorage that Mosey On’s skipper always hopes to find…but did  I mention fog?  As we cast off in Portland Harbor, the skies were clear and a certain haze foretold temperatures heating up as the day progressed.  By 10 AM we passed abeam Portland Head Light and the fog began to materialize as if on cue!  We’d been here, done this…

Partly Sunny

Partly Sunny

I was not especially surprised.  Fog is a fact of life for pilots as well as sailors.  We know that it is probable when the difference between air temperature and dew point is generally less than 4 °F.  The air along coastal Maine this time of year is normally very moist so….as the morning progresses and the sun begins to heat that air, the “spread” closes to within that 4°F and…..fog.  Aboard Mosey On, the radar was on, the fog signal activated, and her crew concentrated on what little could be discerned in the gloom.  As time passed, the temperature kept rising.  Today was to be a hot one (80+) in our area.  As the temperature rose into the high 70s, the fog fell away…’burned off’ as we say.  We had completed our transit of Casco Bay in the fog, but turned up the Sheepscot River on a sunny August afternoon.  Only afternoon thunderstorms obscured the western horizon.  I think even they have passed us by.  I strongly suspect that tomorrow’s scenario will be much the same.  I’m told that experienced cruisers sleep in, have a second cup of coffee and await the “burn-off”.

Moseyin’ On up the Learning Curve.

In the Foggy Dew

Mosey On has made it to Maine!  The Maine of rocky shorelines, tall green pine, lobster pots beyond number and, of course, fog.  We left Portsmouth, NH toward the end of an ebb tide bound for Portland, ME (a passage planned for about 7 hours at Moseyin’ speed).  The day was fair, the seas small and we looked to be comfortably anchored in an island cove in Casco Bay with a view of Portland by late afternoon.  But as often happens in Maine this time of year, the air temperature was fast approaching the dew point along the coast.  About halfway to Portland, abeam Biddeford Pool, the visibility dropped from several miles to perhaps 1/8th of a mile in the span of a few minutes.  We lit up both of our radars, activated our fog horn, slowed down (a relative term), and the crew went on high alert to avoid entanglement with the ever-present lobster pots and any sign of other marine traffic.  We knew where we were by means of our electronics.  We had to focus on our radar to give us some warning of other boats.  But small vessels and/or those made of wood are more difficult to discern on our radar.  So we stared into the enveloping gloom for a shadow or hint of movement in our path.  We had to trust that other mariners were doing likewise.

Not Much To See

Not Much To See

As the fog showed no signs of abating, and at our slowed speed, we realized that we would be arriving in the islands off Portland after dark.  Finding a safe anchorage in a little cove in the dark would be tough.  With the fog, we thought it foolhardy and so plotted a course for Portland’s inner harbor where we might find a safe mooring in a marina.  The challenge would be to navigate safely among the considerable commercial traffic working this busy port.  Like all ports, the safest approaches are well marked with buoys port and starboard to funnel the traffic in or out.  We picked out the pair of entrance buoys on the radar and aligned our approach up the channel towards Portland. A tall red sea buoy ghosted past our starboard side. We never saw its paired buoy to port. Within a few minutes, radar indicated a substantial vessel fast approaching from the stern.  Shortly thereafter, a 60’ whale watch tourist boat roared past to port…..more evident by the sound of its engines than its ghostly profile 150’ away.   Mosey continued on as the evening grew darker with no sign of the lights of Portland.  Darkness would compound our difficulties avoiding a collision.

Then, across the radio, came a call with which I was totally familiar, but had never heard before on the water.  “Security Call.  This is Odyssey.  We are at the Jordan Reef buoy, proceeding to the Delta (D) buoy, inbound to Portland.  We are monitoring (channel) 16 and 13 for any concerned traffic. Odyssey standing-by.”  This was the form of an aviation positon report used by pilots where radar coverage to provide aircraft separation by a controlling agency is not available.  It was broadcast on the frequency we boaters are required to monitor at all times.  There was no agency managing marine traffic entering Portland harbor and now we all knew where Odyssey was, her course up the channel, and her ultimate destination.  It was clear, simple, useful…..in my eyes, a terrific call by Odyssey’s captain.  I immediately understood that Mosey On was approximately ¼ mile astern and on the same course.  As we proceeded up the channel passing “Jordan Reef”, “Delta”, and subsequent buoys we echoed Odyssey and gave our own updated position reports.   Other vessels then chimed-in giving notice of their identifiable positions and intentions.  Those mariners who may have chosen to remain silent in the fog at least knew where we were!  The electronic aids are marvelous for those who have and know how to use them.  But the verbal positon report was a positive confirmation of a boat’s position and direction for anyone with a chart or familiarity with the buoy system.

Mosey On made it safely to her mooring due, in part, to the good seamanship of Odyssey and the many other unseen boats and crews that spooky night.

Moseyin’ (Carefully) Along

“Cruiseus Interruptus”

We interrupt this idyll with an important message from reality…..Stuff happens ashore (even when you run off to sea) and you find yourself dragged back to deal with it!  We made it to New Hampshire and our favorite anchorage up the Piscataqua River in Great Bay.  The scenery is beautiful, the days have been sunny and the nights cool.  Many good friends live just a short dinghy ride away and we have had time to visit at our leisure.  It is truly a “Margaritas on the back deck at sunset” kind of anchorage.  In short, exactly what we had in mind for a stopover on our way north.

The annoying reality inserted itself via an email from friends back in North Carolina.  It noted that a new supermarket was to be built on land presently occupied by a large indoor storage facility.  Folks were cheered by the coming of this new market, but wasn’t that the storage center where we’d put all our stuff awaiting the building of our new house ashore?   Well yes it was.  Had we received a 30-day notice that we must vacate by the end of the month?  Not until that moment!  It has been our experience that resolving unexpected  ‘hiccups’ like this always takes a bit longer than we would wish, so we had to ‘jump to it’.  Much could be done by telephone: verifying the actual closure of the facility and the vacate date, arranging for a new storage unit, a truck rental, and some able-bodied men to do the heavy lifting.  The remaining issues of our transportation down to N.C. and where to leave Mosey On took a little longer.  Flying back to NC seemed the only reasonable option.  We could take a bus from Portsmouth, NH to Boston’s Logan Airport or we could cruise up to Portland, ME and fly from there.  Portland has more plentiful marina space, but fewer flight options.  We couldn’t leave Mosey On on only her anchor because of the previously discussed need for electrical power for her refrigerator/freezers and finite battery resources.  So….we negotiated the best deal we could with the local marina on Great Bay and left her tied to the dock parallel to the powerful tidal flow of the Piscataqua River.  It was a bit like leaving your pet at a strange boarding kennel….

The long and the short of it was that, with the timely help of good friends and neighbors, we got back to NC and dealt with it.  It is the sort of problem that any traveler might have to deal with.  The difference here is that it was our home that we left tied-up in treacherous waters (ok…perhaps a little melodramatic).  We will, hopefully, be back tomorrow and continue our cruise Down East…….marking the end of this “cruiseus interruptus.”

 Moseyin’ On