Acoustic Sailing & First Mate’s Log

Bryan and I are sailing from Long Island up along the coast of Massachusetts to Central Maine and beyond. We invite you to join us. I fully expect the experience to result in the inspiration for a new album, and along the way we will be distributing instruments to kids’ music programs. The ukuleles are donated by Sam Ash and Hungry for Music, with strings by GHS.

First Mate’s Log

Day 18 Monhegan Island 7/23

We had the smoothest sail of the voyage so far, sailing along gently rippling ocean with the large green spinnaker style sail, at a modest 3-4 knots. We headed towards Monhegan, which was our first stop in Maine last year when we crossed over from Provincetown. When we arrived we found a patch of sandy bottom in which to anchor. Just as I was questioning the solidity of our anchorage a white haired man rowed over to our boat. “You WILL drag there,” he said. “You can use my mooring.” We exchanged gifts and stories briefly, he seemed to be a Chet Arkins fan. He now lives in the house on the facing island once owned by “the Hermit.” The island is still largely wild except for his sheep, goats, and chickens wandering about. He was very kind and charming although he told us he didn’t like when tourists would use his dinghy tie-up and come on his property, a rocky steep island sporting a view of Monhegan. He told us we could use the coast guard landing, only accessible at high tide.

There was still time to walk to the Monhegan lighthouse. In the photo taken from that point, you can see our boat Avocet just to the left of the Monhegan Inn, nestled against the facing Manana Island. It’s near the spot where Bryan’s great uncle Junius Allen painted a classic work shown in the episode called “Monhegan“ on our youtube.com/acousticsailing

MORE: FIRST MATE’S LOG

We will keep you involved via our weekly Monday Live (when we have signal), my First Mate’s Log and Bryan’s videos on youtube.com/acousticsailing. Our patrons are very important to allow us to do this tour and to make necessary repairs. Again, thank you for joining us and for your support!

Day 17 Damariscove 7/22

We awoke after a bouncy night. After last night’s distant thunder the wind had soddenly changed direction 180° which caused the waves to come directly into our previously protected harbor.

Since the wind was still coming from the north Bryan chose a destination with with a harbor entrance facing south and with a long and storied history. Damariscove is a tiny natural harbor known to fishermen for some 400 years. The Mayflower stopped there to resupply with cod on their way to Plymouth. Later they sent a ship back for food when the Pilgrims were starving. The residents refused any payment and resupplied them. There is also a legend of the headless Captain Pattishall who roams the island at night searching for his dog.

The island is now run by the nature conservancy and only ruins of the original dwellings plus a cabin, the restored lifesaving station and the caretakers residence remain. The caretakers were very friendly and told us about the island. We took the pond trail around the island, and enjoyed the sheer beauty and variety of surroundings, nourishing ourselves with ripe wild raspberries as we went. We saw many varieties of birds and the island hosts the primary nesting spot in the country for eiders, an unusual duck species. We noticed some clouds quickly closing in, and because I wanted to see just around the next bend before heading back we didn’t quite make it back to the dinghy dock. We found shelter under the canopy of the info sign. It was a good thing because the shower was short and it gave us a beautiful rainbow.

We rewarded ourselves by hiking further. The large pond separated from the ocean by a narrow strip of land also means lots of mosquitoes, so there was much swatting going on late into the evening.

Day 16 Sequin Island Lighthouse 7/21

I managed to drift back to sleep again after the wakes from several lobster boats set Avocet rocking wildly. We can’t complain too much, the lobster fishermen are suffering a bit as the warming waters are pushing the lobsters into deeper and more northerly waters, and there are ongoing discussions about regulations on traps when the endangered right whales pass through. For his birthday, I had given Bryan the book “A Visual Cruising Guide To The Maine Coast.” He located a lovely island only inhabited by the lighthouse keeper and his wife. Seguin Lighthouse is the second oldest in Maine, commissioned by George Washington in 1795. We tied up to a courtesy mooring and went ashore to walk up to the lighthouse. Despite it being his day off, the lighthouse keeper took us up to see the Fresnel light and walk about on the catwalk. The first order Fresnel light was originally a 5-wick candle fueled by kerosene. The 242 prisms of the lens had to be cleaned daily because of the soot. It was recently converted to solar power in 2020 because the underwater electric cable used for several years prior was deemed unsafe.

Day 15 Dolphin instrument Handoff 7/20

We sailed to Dolphin Marina where we met with a class of 14 middle school kids from the Harpswell Academy where they are starting a new music department. We happened to have just enough ukes, plus a student violin and a full size guitar that we were able to donate for their program. I did a workshop for the kids and then we rowed back to the boat, now with much more space in the forepeak where we had been carrying the instruments all the way from Long Island NY.

Frank and Meredith Wnek took us to a seafood dinner at the marina restaurant, which was quite good. In the episode entitled “News and Secrets” on our AcousticSailing YouTube channel, Bryan had referenced a secret, that Frank is helping to facilitate. I am not yet permitted to say more…

Lobster boats circling the marina set our sailboat rocking so vigorously that after dinner we left the mooring. After a short motor/sail we anchored between two islands nearby, hoping the lobster boats don’t check their traps too early. The entire area is peppered with lobster traps seemingly any place there is water.

Day 14 Concert & The Flukes 7/19

We slept on the sailboat as we have every night of the trip. It rained through much of the night and into the morning, so Bryan had to bail out the dinghy and we rowed out in pouring rain. Even with rain jackets we were quite drenched. It’s a good thing all my instruments, gear, performing clothes, and a dozen ukuleles were already at the venue.  The local ukulele group, the Falmouth Flukes, helped to tune the ukes and performed some spirited tunes for the kids who had arrived for the workshop and for the free ukuleles that we had brought with us, supplied by Sam Ash and Hungry for Music.  The Flukes performed some spirited tunes and their sense of joy was contagious.

I grabbed a bit to eat and prepared for the 4pm concert. Bryan’s visuals behind me went perfectly, and it was so great to play for such an appreciative audience at Cadenza. As Chet Atkins would say, they were so appreciative they were throwing babies in the air! The concert will be live for a couple weeks at this link: FB.com/CadenzaFreeport/videos/233922851910504

Day 13 Lenny Breau Tribute 7/18

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We set sail early and arrived in South Freeport Harbor, just past Pound of Tea Island. The island is just big enough for one charming house and the name describes its original purchase price from the Indians. We arrived in the morning with enough time to go two blocks from the venue to the famous LL Bean complex, an impressive collection of buildings.  I picked up a nice hat with sun protection and a chin strap, but in the huge store still no luck to find pants with pockets deep enough that my phone doesn’t fall out and that fit me… nothing in size 1.

It was fun to swap stories about the late Lenny Breau and jam backstage with his brother Denny Breau, Sean Mencher and Hugh Bowden. We extended that energy onstage and the audience enjoyed it very much also. It was Lenny who taught Chet Atkins the harmonic technique that has been the basis for many of my tunes. More guitarists are now discovering his unique contributions to guitar music. The whole concert will be up for a couple weeks at https://www.facebook.com/CadenzaFreeport/videos/3035049310150946

12 Hour Sail for Day 12

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This is the day we had to cover a lot of miles in order to arrive in time to join Denny Breau and friends for a tribute concert to his brother, guitar icon Lenny Breau the following day. I am looking forward to participating in the concert.
For only the second time in our trip the wind was going in a favorable direction and not only that, the tide was giving us an extra knot or so much of the way! After about 12 hours of sailing Bryan was ready to anchor anywhere out of the swells of the waves. We tucked in for dinner on the west side of Long Island, ME, only to find we were next to a popular boat thoroughfare and the wakes of passing boats were not much smaller than the waves we had experienced for many hours.

After dinner I suggested to Bryan we pull anchor and sail a couple more hours closer to our destination on the other side of the bay. Towards end of our sail it was by moonlight and I sat on the bow to watch for lobster pots. We lowered the anchor in near stillness and settled down for a peaceful night’s rest.

Day 11 Isle of Shoals 7/15

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We sailed and motored against the wind again, but only went a short distance to the Isla of Shoals. That gave us time to row to shore and explore the little islands which were hosting a large Unitarian church retreat. We skirted around an energetic softball game with the outfielder standing in the graveyard. It’s really set up well for retreats, with a large main building, charming chapel and enclaves and little scenic views scattered about.

Day 10 Cape Ann Finns 7/14

It was another still and foggy day, with thunderstorm warnings now being delayed until 7pm—just when I would be finished with my concert! I had offered to play for the Cape Ann Finns, an organization only into their third year. Many of the members were friends or neighbors of my grandfather (sax player & band leader) and my great uncle Sylvester Ahola, a famous trumpet player in his time and character around town. I remembered him in his red jacket playing trumpet for us when we visited him. Then he would throwing sticks into the quarry behind his house for his yellow labradors, who leaped nearly the distance of a high diving board before hitting the water.

Bob McGlnchey kindly gave us a ride from the dock to the venue and we took a short detour down Nikolane Way, where I had spent summers camping with the family near the ocean and where my mother grew up. The three car garage was still there where I found my grandparents‘ film from 1929 that inspired the tune “A Fine Pickle.”

When I entered the Lanesville Community Center to set up for the concert I noticed a plaque with large photos of Sylvester. A neighbor came by and offered me some blueberries his yard, something hard to refuse for any self-respecting Finn. When I entered his yard he proudly showed me his free-standing sauna, and I was surprised to hear it was built by my mother’s ancestors. Robert Ranta had arranged a sound system and outdoor stage to the side of the community center, and Diamond Cove Music loaned us guitar stands. Soon the lawn filled with people. They were a delightful audience and at intermission many people shared memories of my relatives and the early Finnish community there in Lanesville. After the show the Rantas invited us to their house on “Finn Alley” where we enjoyed lobster rolls.

Day 9 Rockport 7/13

We sailed around the cape and tied up to a floating dock in the small Rockport harbor, with a view of an iconic red shack on pilings that has been the subject of many paintings over the years. Just behind are rows of quaint little shops, artist studios and ice cream stores. We enjoyed walking about and picked up some fish cakes and chowder to add to our meal that we shared with our good friend Demi who came down from Boston to join us. We enjoyed a nice visit and a meal together on the sailboat. I made some pickled ginger and threw the extra pieces in the ocean, thinking about some lucky fish who eats another fish and has a nice bite of ginger after.

Day 8 Gloucester family ties 7/12

There was a steady rain most of the night through the early afternoon. We set bags to catch the 4 relatively small leaks around the hatches and windows, and made a note to work on those areas later. When Bryan stepped into the dinghy all the water rushed to that area and nearly capsized it. Once the rain lifted we sailed into the inner harbor where the harbormaster gave us a place to tie up for a few hours right behind the coast guard boat and the beautiful large schooner “Adventure,“ once owned by Captain Jim Sharp who we will visit later in Maine. Elizabeth at the harbor was very helpful. I called John Orlando who owns my great aunt and uncle’s house just behind the fisherman’s statue, now converted into Harbor View B and B, to arrange a visit. (Elisabeth was surprised to overhear me calling John, as they are good friends.
Bob McGlinchey who has been following along our acousticsailing YouTube channel met us at the dock and gave me a great tour and inside scoops on historic Gloucester, including the fisherman’s wives statue where my grandfather’s and great uncle’s names are inscribed in the tiles. We swung by the music store where one of my old harp guitars is still in the window. I broadcast my Monday live from the from the harbor. We were going to head back to the outer harbor but found there was a small federal anchorage area right in the inner harbor! This is near the adventure schooner and all the commercial fishing boats but we realized that the boats on their way out of the harbor make less of a wake than in the outer harbor where they gain speed, so we settled down for a less bouncy night & early morning.

Day 7 to Gloucester 7/11

Since we purchased a mooring for the previous night in Scituate, we took advantage of the showers in the harbormasters office. Wow, a real shower! It’s such a luxury after our solar showers onboard, drizzling some water from a bag hanging from the mainsail boom. When we called the launch, a boat to bring us to shore, we were surprised that it was the same person who picked us up in Plymouth, Libby the launch lady.

On our way out of Harbor Bryan swing by a pretty pilot cutter style boat. This is a boat that was designed to bring the pilots out o the big ships, the pilots have local knowledge of the waterways. It’s a worthy tradition that continues to this day. (For instance, going in and out of Plymouth Harbor, we realized that the channels are small and there were many submerged rocks and sand bars. I wondered how the Mayflower made its way into that harbor. They anchored the large ship outside the hazards and used their small shallop to explore the narrow waterways and find the way in.) It turned out the pilot cutter was a famous boat, the Seraffyn, owned by Lin and Larry Hardey, a handmade boat without engine that made its way around the world.

We sailed out towards the ocean to take advantage of a breeze. We could see Boston to our port side, and in 5 1/2 hours we were in outer Gloucester harbor. Once again, we anchored just before the rain started so I sat out under the dodger and improvised a tune while the rain started falling.
I have many childhood memories of Gloucester and Cape Ann, so I am looking forward to the next few days in this area. I’ll be playing a casual concert for the Cape Ann Finns on Wednesday.

Day 6 The Mayflower Tuna 7/10


We took a launch back to our sailboat, moored only a few hundred feet from Mayflower. The two commercial fishermen in the boat next to us that Bryan had spoken to the night before had just returned and they called out to us. “Do you want some tuna?” They gave us…wow… a generous chunk of fresh caught fish. I handed them my Eclipse CD as a thank you.
We then motor-sailed 17 miles against the wind to Scituate, a little less than halfway to Gloucester. I played some guitar on the deck and a concert beautiful sunset and fireworks accompanied our seared tuna dinner.
Well, more to share but it’s late and time to turn in for the night.

Day 5 Storm Elsa 7/9

I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to an erie calm and misty pink & gray sky. I drifted off again until I heard the first of the rain coming down. We stayed onboard to await tropical storm Elsa, securely attached to a mooring. We only had a little while of howling winds and horizontal rain kicking up white misty froth on the water, bouncing the boats around in the harbor. Then the sky turned bright white and it was calm. I thought the storm was over until it came back again from the opposite direction, giving us a hint that we may have experienced the eye of the storm. It was cozy inside. Bryan has worked hard over the past weeks to eliminate interior leaks on old sailboat Avocet, but as I sit here with a drip hitting my head, this storm made it apparent there are still a number of small ones around the hatches and windows. Happy to be snug here at harbor in Plymouth as they were estimating 12-15 foot waves out on the ocean. We got the last mooring in the harbor, shortly behind the Mayflower!

Day 4 Cape Cod to Plymouth 7/8

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The alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning and we got up and under sail right away to get to the Cape cod Canal by 5:30 AM for a nice brisk sail through the canal while the current was going in our direction. However on the north side of the canal the winds and choppy waves were against us so instead of continuing as far as Scituate Massachusetts we briefly considered mooring right at the north end of the canal, but decided to take our original mooring reservation in Plymouth. We got one of the last moorings available, #8, right near the Mayflower, a beautifully renovated accurate reproduction of the original.

We enjoyed coming ashore and seeing Plymouth Rock and several historical sights. However, it looks like the track of tropical storm Elsa has shifted, putting us right in its track. Fortunately our mooring is behind a breakwater and Bryan tied a second line to our mooring ball and secured the mainsail cover with extra ropes. The present calm reminds me of my piece for guitar and cello, The Calm Before the Storm.

Day 3 Shipwreck 7/7

Ship-Wreck

We had planned to spend some days seeing the villages around Cuttyhunk, Menemsha, and Woods Hole to visit our friends Paula and David Isenberg, but getting a mooring further north, perhaps Plymouth, seemed to be better protection from tropical storm Elsa, expected to arrive Friday afternoon. We gave ourselves a little R and R time in the morning, rowing to the nearest strip of beach where, on just the other side, an old shipwreck protruded from the sand. We walked from there to the quaint  town. After a walkabout and an ice cream we headed back to Avocet to set sail to a harbor just south of Cape Cod Canal. It was lovely, calm and sunny so I was able to change my strings and play guitar a bit under sail.

Day 2 Where’s Andy 7/6

Arrival at Block Island

Continuing along our journey… About 3am, Bryan called out that the dinghy had broken free. It is a patched together rowboat with mismatched oars, named “Where’s Andy,” but very important to get from the sailboat to shore. We lost sight of it when we turned the sailboat around, but Bryan was determined to spend until daylight ooking for it,  as the chances of finding a small black rowboat on a large black ocean seemed small. Bryan dropped the sail and motored in a search pattern downwind while we shone flash lights on either side of the boat looking for our wayward friend. In about an hour Bryan spotted it. I maneuvered the boat in that direction while he snagged it with a long hook he had lashed together to the boat hook that afternoon to collect floating balloon trash as we sailed.
As the sun came up in the morning rounding Montauk Point, we caught a bluefish on the lure we were dragging. Then while I was at the helm, the dinghy came loose again and we repeated the rescue operation.
Finally we arrived in Block Island at about 9:15 AM. After a few small repairs including a leather sheath where the rope attaches to the dinghy and a couple hours rest, Bryan realized that we had dragged to the no-anchor zone. This was time to change to our new anchor that I had lobbied to get and finally won when we got our second patreon. Thank you Sebastien! By the time Bryan changed the anchor we were both awake so we decided to continue on to Cuttyhunk to get a little further from tropical storm Elsa while the winds were a broad reach. It was sunny but with 6-8 foot waves which on occasion splashed their whitecaps into the cockpit. As we were nearing Cuttyhunk we saw spidering lightning and a dark mass approaching from behind us. We were making good time so I was hoping the rain wouldn’t overtake us until we arrived at Cuttyhunk harbor. Sure enough, by the time we arrived there was thunder and lightning on two sides of us, but the rain patiently held off until we anchored. Then, fresh bluefish with garden vegetables and real sleep!

Day 1 Dolphins and Onward to Block Island 7/5

We departed on Monday morning, July 5th, after a weekend filled with Bryan’s family, close friends and neighbors who had convened for Bryan’s parents’ memorial service. Over the past few days provisions, guitars, and instruments to give away were rowed out to the sailboat in multiple trips without much organization. We took time to visit with everyone so figured we would arrange things while under sail, but the choppy seas lowered that on our priority list.

In the distance we saw our first school of dolphins all leaping out of the water at once, a welcome sight especially since they had been rare in the NY coastal area for many years.
Despite the waves and blustery conditions, once we reached our usual stopping place, Shinnicock Inlet, the wind seemed in a good direction to continue overnight to Block Island, so onward we sailed, Bryan taking the helm most of the time while I tried to doze between the boat’s usual creaking noises and motion of the rocking waves.