Monday, August 16, 2010

July 30, 2010 - Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts

On Tuesday, while enjoying our picnic lunch at Mackerel Cove, we decided that since the weather was so nice and since we just happened to have a sailboat, we should do a quick trip out to the islands. So on Wednesday afternoon we stocked up at the farmers' market on Memorial and filled out our grocery list at Stop & Shop on Bellevue. Then we met up with Suzy, who was loaded down with a cooler full of goodies from her kitchen. And then the three of us caught the launch out to Mata'irea.

Out in the harbor it was immediately apparent that the southerly had gotten stronger while we were ashore and that it was shifting to the west. We decided that it was too late to beat out to Block Island, and that motoring into 15 to 20 knot southwesterlies would be a miserable way to spend the evening. And so we decided to take a left.

One of the joys of sailing out of Newport is that there is a wonderful cruising ground at our doorstep. With Block 20 miles to the southwest and the Elizabeth Islands, including Cuttyhunk, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, to the southeast, there is a viable option for any wind direction. And so last night we came out of the Narrows and headed east to Cuttyhunk.

After about three hours of sailing east, we came to the edge of the known world, at least as far as our chart plotter was concerned. We haven't yet bought the electronic charts for the area north and east of Block Island. We've done some sailing these past few years without electronic charts, but it has always been in deep water, far from land.

Navigating in shallow water with paper charts makes me nervous. I haven't done much of it. Without the plotter showing me where we are relative to the dangers, I have to do a lot more guesswork and that makes me anxious.

The wind was honking and we were flying as we approached the buoys marking the shallows around Cuttyhunk. We didn't leave ourselves a lot of room to furl in the jib and douse the main. The jib sheets flogged against the lifelines as we furled in the sail. I dodged lobster pots as we turned up into the wind (and towards the shoals) to drop the main. By the time we had picked a spot to anchor outside Cuttyhunk Harbor, I was a little strung out. It was getting dark and we were in unfamiliar waters. And at that most inopportune of moments, the anchor windlass failed.

The last time we went sailing, the engine acted up. Since then the generator has been balky. And we have been having continuing problems with the watermaker. And so those systems have been getting all of Sten's attention. Well, the windlass must have been feeling left out because it decided to stop working as I was easing the anchor out onto the bow roller. The repairs Sten made in the Caribbean were enough to get us home, but the connection was tenuous, and last night it gave out.

There were plenty of open moorings in the mooring field, and Suzy immediately volunteered to pay for a mooring for the night. But we figured we'd give it at least one try barring the windlass open and freefalling the anchor before giving up and taking a mooring. Sten dug the bar out of a lazarette and we got the anchor set and the snubber on.

It was too late to attempt much for dinner so I heated up some French onion soup while Sten made tomato sandwiches. For dessert Suzy provided some tasty chocolate cake. And then we were all to bed.

That night, with the wind blowing hard over the narrow strip of land protecting the outer harbor it was pretty jostley in the anchor field. I awoke several times to the clanging of the bell on the red nun. At one point during the night I looked out and saw that the boat that had been next to us when we went to bed had dragged into deeper water.

Thursday dawned cold and drizzly. After several cups of hot coffee Sten and I took the dinghy into the inner harbor to see if there was any room for us. There were lots of free moorings so we brought Mata'irea in and tied her up to one in the middle of the mooring field. That night we would be very glad that we had not moored on the edge of the field.

The inclement weather resulted in a pretty lazy day. Other than a walk ashore and an evening fishing trip for Sten, we all spent most of the day onboard. Which was just fine. The light peeking out from under the low clouds had the most unbelievably beautiful pinkish golden tone. I'd like to live my life bathed in that light.

Shortly before midnight the front passed through, causing the wind to switch around. As the wind clocked and built, two sailboats that had been rafted up, anchored on the edge of the mooring field, tripped their anchors. The sailboats dragged down into the first row of moored boats, picking up an anchored powerboat along the way.

The tangle of boats and anchors drifted down onto the edge of the mooring field where they fetched up against a small powerboat. There was a lot of bumping and yelling but eventually they all got untangled and reanchored. The lesson of the week - this is one harbor where it pays to take a mooring.


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Andrew Spinney said...

Excellent pictures, great light!

Shannon said...

Absolutely stunning photos and I have to admit I'm jealous of your life! Such gorgeous scenery!