Shakedown, Where We Went

Finally, finally, Goblin left the dock for more than a day’s adventure.

The plan was to head to Gloucester but we all know what happens to sailors who make plans. We left about 10 in the morning, beautiful day but almost no wind close to land so the plan was to motor out of the harbor and then sail to Gloucester as the wind picked up. The reality was having the engine die out near Deer Island. We were a little closer to the shore that I wanted to be when we lost the engine but got up the sails and there was just enough of a breeze to maintain steering, barely, so we could ghost back and forth in the channel while we figured out what to do. Alex guessed the problem was air in the fuel lines and bled the engine, but it still wouldn’t start. Concerned that the problem might be bad fuel, rather than take anything apart while we were drifting around in the main shipping channel, we called for a tow back home. We had a lovely lunch while waiting for TowBoat to come and bring us back to Boston. Back at the dock, we confirmed that the problem was air in the fuel lines and figured out the trick to getting the engine bled, after which she started up just fine. Turns out that while she really likes to be off to bleed the injector pump, she needs to be cranking over to bleed the injector pipes themselves. Little did we know how good we were going to get at bleeding the engine on this trip.

We headed out around 10, feeling more prepared to deal with potential engine issues. Alex kept the necessary wrenches just outside the engine room. Good thing too because the engine stalled five times. We had sails up for a couple of hours but motored for the rest of the day in super calm waters. Along the way we discovered ginger cookies for the win! Super thin, melt in your mouth, Anna’s ginger cookies saved the queasy stomaches aboard. The gingersnaps we found for the trip back didn’t go over nearly as well with the under four foot crew members. The autopiliot worked well for the couple of hours we had it on. I discovered that I really love to be at the wheel so we didn’t run it much. We came into Gloucester and picked up the mooring with little to no difficulty, celebrated, and then called the launch to head ashore. Turns out the local ice cream shop has the very same ice cream that we can get three minutes from out marina, including Owen’s very favorite flavor. For the kid who was promised ice cream and libraries no matter where we visit, this was perfection.

Absolutely no wind was the theme of the day. There were times when the water was glassy around us as we motored north. Early in the morning we spotted the Roseway in the distance, all sails up and hardly moving. Slowly over the day we pulled away from her, losing her from sight about an hour out of the Isles of Shoals. We turned on the autopiliot mid morning and enjoyed a laugh while Goblin drove herself in circles. Unfortunately, she couldn’t manage to find a course and was declared the first casualty of the shakedown cruise.

We were joined for a couple of hours by a hitchhiker, a yellow warbler. Oddly enough, he joined us for a few hours from the Isles of Shoals to Edgecomb as well. Watching him flit from lifeline to stay was wonderfully entertaining.

We hadn’t read our guidebook quite well enough before heading into the mooring field at the Isles of Shoals. There were both blue and white mooring balls and we mistakenly picked up a white, rather than blue. The line was much thicker than expected and we wondered if perhaps this wasn’t the mooring we were supposed to be on. We headed ashore to try and find out at the same time that Star Island’s mail ship, Perseverance, was unloading mail and supplies to the island. We talked to her captain who said that yes, we had managed to pick up the one mooring in the field that we couldn’t possibly stay on, since it was the only one strong enough to hold Perseverance. He offered us use of one of the other moorings belonging to Star Island, since it’s regular occupant wasn’t around that night. But as we started towards our dingy he stopped us and told us to just stay where we were, there was no wind forecast that night and he’d grab the other mooring until we left in the morning. Everyone we encountered on the island was sweet and friendly.

Star Island was absolutely delightful. We happened to be there while they were running an all ages summer camp. Tie dye, rainsticks, book groups, yoga, they had it all. We spent a few hours on the island and wished we had another full day. Owen and Kinsley adored the playground. We went looking for one of the three geocaches but didn’t find it. Just means we’ll have to head back. The only problem was the flies, many and varied, that found us on land. Window screens kept them off the boat, fortunately. To top off the night, the Roseway came in around dinnertime and dropped anchor in the harbor as well, so beautiful.

We planned a long day and so got an early start, heading out around 7:30. The weather forecast called for almost no wind once again, followed by strong winds overnight so we were highly motivated to reach Edgecomb as early as possible. The day was long for the kids. Kinsley rediscovered audiobooks which saved my sanity. Naps were had by the under four foot crew, little did I know how grateful I would be for their extra sleep.

Ten hours into the trip we were starting into the Sheepscott River and the fog started to roll in. Not so much that we couldn’t see our landmarks but enough to make me nervous about navigating. Fog and lobster pots, I know Maine is known for both but they really aren’t to my taste when combined. Alex turned on the chart plotter for the first time in the trip. The fog was joined by rain and the kids headed below, despite their excitement about our nearing arrival. This portion of the trip proved to me what a strong team Alex and I make. He began very detailed navigating, using both paper charts and the chart plotter to talk me through my expected landmarks and bouys while I held silent and non-so-silent arguments with Goblin about her tendency to follow the current rather than my steering. The stress was just starting to fade when the engine cut out.

Alex flew below to bleed the engine, the solution which had worked many times a day over the past three days, but still Goblin wouldn’t start. We put up sail to catch what tiny bit of wind there was, just enough to regain steering enough to stay in the channel. I called Joanne at our destination to let her know that we were stopped. The fog rolled in, we drifted very, very slowly, more with the current than with the wind, and planned. More than 100 feet of water, right in the middle of the channel, some steerage, more rain, not an emergency. Alex went back below to the engine room while I steered us, so slowly, through the growing fog. And then, suddenly, I heard a burst of air. In panic, I spun around to see not a disaster but a pair of dolphins, maybe ten feet off the back of the boat, coming up to breathe. They stayed for maybe thirty seconds before moving on. No great loss without some gain.

After a few more minutes in the engine room, we made the decision to call TowBoat once again. Forty-five minutes later we were attaching a tow rope and starting the last leg of our trip up the Sheepscott. So close! Alex stayed in the rain at the wheel while I went below and made dinner for everyone, got the kids into pajamas, brushed teeth, and read bedtime stories.

Joanne, our hero, headed out to our mooring and lit it up so we could find it in the dark. The rain had tapered off, the fog faded, and we caught the mooring which would be our home for the next week. Everyone slept hard that night.

We spent a fantastic week enjoying our beautiful location and a variety of family fun. Also, ordering parts, refueling, and getting the engine up and running again.

Necessity sent us for a brief trip out of the way before heading home. We needed pump out services before heading home and Boothbay was the closest option. We’ve enjoyed playing tourist there and looked forward to one last dinner with Joanne and Henry.

The trip itself was short and simple, though motoring all the way. No wind for the day though it started kicking up right after we picked up our mooring ball. Mooring wasn’t stressful at all at this point, we’ve started to get pretty good! To fulfill the second half our our travel promise to Owen we wandered to the library for a couple of hours and could have happily stayed for a couple more. A lovely dinner on the patio of the marina rounded out the day and put a bright finish on the northern end of our trip.

Winds and seas were predicted to be high all day and into the night so we planned an extra night in Boothbay. As we rocked and bounced through the night and the next day we congratulated ourself on a smart decision.

A lazy breakfast was enjoyed by all before rowing Wren to the marina dock. We spend the morning in town. The kids and I went to the library while Alex ran a couple of errands in town. For a small town, I was extremely impressed with the library. Owen and I both found many of our favorites on the shelves and added a handful of titles to our request list for once we reached home. After a very tasty lunch of pizza, we fought the wind to row back to Goblin and settled in for a quiet, if bouncy, afternoon.

Heading out on the morning of the third day wasn’t a stupid decision, but it wasn’t fun. We really should have waited around in Boothbay an extra day before heading south but timetables were starting to exert their pressure. We headed out into 3-5 foot seas with the wind dead against us and the sea on the beam, which made for an uncomfortable ride. We sailed, and bounced, and motored, and bounced. Both kids curled up on my bed and slept for nearly three hours, lucky kids. I stayed at the wheel, as long as I was there and fighting to keep Goblin out of the worst of the swell, I was ok. Alex tucked himself into the corner of the cockpit with the chart and did his best to provide me with a course that balanced between the direction we wanted to go and the direction we had to point to avoid being nastily rocked for the whole trip. 270 degrees, despite being the shortest trip, was just not going to happen. Five an a half hours later my leg muscles were killing me, but we were approaching Potts Harbor.

Fortunately for all involved, as we turned to head into the harbor the winds and seas calmed, the sun came out, and suddenly everyone was glad that we had sailed. With very careful navigating, Alex directed me along a crazy S-shaped route. Red right returning, red right returning. Sailing isn’t usually a time during which I expect my directions to include turning, rapidly, 90 degrees to the right, but hey, we made it.

The kids celebrated by suiting up in wetsuits, plus a lifejacket for Kinsley, and leaping off the back of the boat. Unfortunately for me, this meant I needed to be in the water as well for at least the first jump for each of them. Maine water is no joke! I earned my hot shower. The kids rejoiced at the feel of still land under them, after the days wild water.

Dolphin Marina was just perfect for our needs. The staff was friendly and helpful, the launch service quick, the scenery beautiful. I wish we’d had longer to stay and borrow their kayaks to explore some of the nearby islands.

A short sailing day that turned out to be even shorter than expected. One again the small bit of wind was coming straight at us, the reoccuring theme for this trip. Motoring again. Everyone settled in and we got underway early. Owen alternated between reading in the cockpit and reading on my bed. Kinsley switched between lookout and navigator, as well as requesting many games of twenty questions. Today drove home for me just how amazing my kids are at adapting. Owen wanted to know when we would moor but wasn’t impatient once he knew our expected arrival. Kinsley was cheerful and sincerely interested in helping. Both kids continue to be wonderfully self-entertaining. The highlight for everyone were the porpoises off Cape Porpoise. We made great time and got to Portsmouth around 2:00.

We aimed for a Portsmouth Yacht Club mooring, chatted with the fishermen on the one we were directed to, picked up a different one, then casually switched to our assigned mooring once the fishermen left and called for the launch, eager to explore one of the two visible forts. Unfortunately, the launch landing was on the other side of the river from everything. We wandered around a residential neighborhood for a bit, romped on the lawn of the historical society, and headed back to the yatch club. Fortunately, the afternoon was saved by the kindest employee at the yacht club, who found Klondike bars for all. Ice cream soothed the disappointment of no forts to explore.

This was our first opportunity to return to a harbor other than Boston. We had a smooth, short trip and pulled in to familiar sights. Ice cream in town and grass to play on, a touch of the familiar was appreciated by all.

Pulling out of Gloucester we could see Boston’s skyline on the horizon. Distances are deceiving, just because we could see Boston didn’t mean we would be there quickly. About five hours lay between us and home. The day’s trip had a similar sensation to the end of a long car trip. We started seeing landmarks we knew well, places we’ve been before. Owen pointed out Spectacle Island, one of his favorites. Kinsley kept lookout for bouys and ferries, and we put away the charts and switched to navigating by familiar sights and bouys.

The closer we came to the harbor, the stronger the wind and waves became, with whitecaps everywhere on a day that was forecast to have barely enough wind to sail in. Guess which way it was blowing? Yup, straight at us, as always. The only excitement for the day was encountering a car carrier along President’s Road, the main channel into Boston. Watching the giant approach caused me more anxiety than lobster pots, even knowing that there was plenty of space for us both in the channel. At least when it passed by it blocked the wind for a while.

After the lobster bouys, winding path into Potts Harbor, and strong winds and currents, docking at our marina wasn’t even particularly stressful. We came in smoothly, tied up, and celebrated a successful trip.

The boat is unfamiliarly still here at the dock. We’re already talking about weekends away while the weather remains nice. This time though, we’ll head with the wind, not against it.

Comments

Joy. Thanks for sharing the tale of your first trip. It sounds like all of you did well, despite the windy conditions. We enjoyed visiting with you, touring your boat, and watching the kids play so well with the others. I enjoyed playing Scrabble with Owen, Joanne and Paige. Owen is such a quick learner. Look forward to next year’s reunion.

Wonderful life adventure for your family! Hope the weather is good for you this fall.

Love, Aunt Jackie