Sometimes the creative well needs to be refilled–my composing inspiration and Bryan’s photography and sailing passions. So, we set off together on his 1974 Grampian sailboat, just shy of 30′, from Long Island towards the coast of central Maine. I call this a sailing adventure, as we don’t know what’s in store and there are bound to be ups and downs–that’s the way of life. I’ll update on the days we find internet, so you can travel along with us.
- Day 15 Thu Aug 6 Great White
I saw a big splash in the otherwise calm ocean, and a little while later I saw a small seal floating by with a bite taken out of it. We learned today that there is a Great White cruising around the bay, unfortunately for a lady who was swimming here last week.
Well, the water is 55 degrees and we haven’t thought much about swimming anyway.
- Day 14 Wed Aug 5 Fog
The previous night’s tropical storm left us with some cool weather and a fine sailing breeze. From Long Cove we went to North Haven, and snaked through the lobster pots and lobster boats on the Fox Island thoroughfare. We had a beautiful sail to Stonington at 6.5 knots and were heading towards Coombs islands when the fog socked in so thick that Bryan turned back to known waters, to anchor for the evening. After a row about and a frolic around the rocks and shells, we moved the boat around to the other side of the little island to escape the sound of a tv blaring from a nearby catamaran, a stark contrast to the sound of the gulls we had become so accustomed to. We cooked up a lobster we had bought from an old fisherman and some potatoes, and peeked out at the misty grey and white scenery diappearing into the fog. As quickly as it came, the fog lifted revealing a brilliant moon. The calm waters were disturbed at 4 am with dishes falling out of the cupboards and the boat rocking wildly from the wake of a lobster boat, then another, as a cavalcade of boats zoomed right by us for some ridiculously early lobstering.
- Day 13 Tue Aug 4 Gentle Storm
In the morning I rowed out to the wider bay where we had been previously anchored, to see if any texts had come in about the progress of the hurricane as it moved up the east coast. In the center of the bay I can occasionally get a few seconds fo signal, enough to receive a text but rarely enough signal to send a text. At low tide Bryan rowed to some flat rocks near the shore to collect mussels,. A collection are now hanging off the boat in a net bag where the mussels will spit sand out for a day or two before ready to clean and cook. We learned from a neighboring sailboat that in this area if we see a lobster boat, we can hold out a bucket and put two fingers in the air, and the lobsterman will drop two lobsters in the bucket, for $5 a piece regardless of the size of the lobsters. It was a day of boat repairs and waterproofing before the rain, and I played guitar and composed a bit. The wind and rain came that evening, rocking the boat even in our small protected cove. We were lucky that the bulk of the storm had dissipated inland.
- Day 12 Mon Aug 3rd Hunkering down for the storm, reversible waterfall
Our friend the Stephan Taber raised his sails and left to return it’s charter to Harbor, leaving Avocet alone in this part of Long Bay. Bryan rowed the dinghy further to a more secluded harbor to find a few boats and several empty mooring balls. Upon talking to a sailor on one of the boats, he learned that there was a very hearty mooring which would be no problem for us to tie up to. The owners had gone to Costa Rica and because of Covid regulations, had been unable to return. We moved the boat to that mooring, thus reducing the chance we would drift off anchor should there be a strong winds. Although the water was still gentle, there was still a great difference in tides, so much that there is a reversible waterfall, flowing one way going to high tide and the other way going to low tide. Bryan rowed out to see it while I watched a harbor seal repeatedly swim underneath the school of fish, followed by a great “whoosh”, a fountain of fish jumping into the air. A lone bald eagle was watching the top one of the tall pine trees.
When Bryan returned, between repair projects, he sat on top of the four peek to read the book we bought from Captain Jim Sharp at Sunday’s picking party. The first chapter opened with the story of how Capt. Sharp bought the Stephan Tabor, the very boat we were anchored next to. He only had six paid passengers on his maiden voyage, so he invited a crew friends including Gordon Bok, who eventually ended up living on the boat for the entire summer.
- Day 11 Sun Aug 2 Finding safe harbor and boarding 1871 schooner
While Bryan moved the boat from our borrowed tie up and anchored, I joined in on a weekly jam session in front of the sail, steam and power museum. It was hosted by Captain Jim Sharp, a true salt who sang and played charming old tunes and shanties. We bought his book on his sailing adventures. Gordon Bok returned to his floating dock where we had tied up, and we had a short visit on the deck of his houseboat that he designed to accommodate his wife who lost the use of her left side due to a stroke. He’s 80 years old and still plays the occasional show with his wife on harp. It was poetic because we ended up visiting Rockland through a series of circumstances beginning with a guitar student, Bob, who only wanted to learn Gordon Bok tunes.
We are following the progress of hurricane Isaias, so we set off to find a hole in Longcove in Vinalhaven Island, where there are many coves and small islands to break the wind. I sat on the bow to direct around the many lobster pots while Bryan took the tiller. When we sailed into Bryan’s chosen spot, we found another boat had also taken anchor there, a beautiful 1871 Windjammer charter schooner, the Stephen Taber. It seemed like a lively crew on board, so after anchoring nearby we rode over with guitar on back and announce we were taking over the ship. Captain Noah seemed happy to be relieved of his duties temporarily, so he invited us on board. I gave him a CD as a ship-warming gift and after playing a couple tunes, he divulged that he is a guitar player also. He took out his guitar and we jammed on blues and old jazz tunes, well spaced apart on the breezy deck. We rowed back, cooked a late spaghetti dinner with a glass of wine, and slept well.
- Day 10 Sat 8/1 Small World
Bryan and I went for a short walk along the road by the harbor where there were vey few cars. Someone in a pickup truck motioned to us, and as we approached Bryan recognized that it was a neighbor, Bill Froehlich, from his little town in Long Island. In our conversation I asked if he knew where we could find a welder to fix a small fitting on the traveler. It turns out Bill is now working in Maine in a boat building/machine shop!
That afternoon Nicholas invited us to a social-distancing outdoor jam session of performers who would have been playing at the Sweet Chariot Music & Art Festival in Swans Island this weekend. There I ran into Lisa who I met 20 years ago in CA and Doug Day who still had my card from 40 years ago in Chicago.
We loaded up on ice and Nicholas dropped us off at our boat for a nice still night on the water. We checked the weather again to track a storm which may be moving in our direction in a few days, making contingency plans for safe harbor.
- Day 9 Fri 7/31 Jam in Rockport ME
Our only contact in central Maine was a luthier, Nicholas Apollonio, who had built an instrument for my friend and my former student Bob Peterson. We sailed into Rockland, docking on a slip graciously loaned to us by fellow musician Gordon Bok, just outside the Steam Power & Sail Museum. Nicholas met us at the slip and invited us for grilled tuna steaks on his screened-in porch at his home in nearby Rockport. Before and after the meal we jammed on Celtic style music together on instruments he built including a fiddle and 12-string guitar. We had all been carefully isolated for well more than two weeks, so we allowed the usual 6-foot distance to be reduced to 3-foot distance for the jam. We shared sailing and music stories, played original and traditional tunes, and life seemed normal again.
- Day 8 Thu 7/30 Pleasant Island
We met some sailors the previous evening who told us we could use the Port Clyde ferry mooring for the night, but were politely chased off the following morning as the ferry made her entrance. So, we sailed towards mussel ridge, and ended up dropping anchor at Pleasant Island, a beautiful rocky cove with only one little house in the distance so thoughtfully tucked behind the trees it becomes part of the landscape. We rowed to the shore and lifted the dingy onto a large flat rock. Bryan worked on fixing the rope rub rail around the dingy with a drill and strong twine, while I enjoyed hopping across the rocks, finding all sorts of beautiful driftwood and lobster buoys that had drifted ashore. I had my guitar case on my back, and sat down on a rock to work on the tune I am writing for the tune contest winner from my last livestream. My feet were getting splashed as the tide was coming up quickly. I had to leap further across the rocks to get back to the dingy, just about the time Bryan was finishing up his repairs. We rowed back to Avocet as a light shower rewarded us by a brilliant double rainbow across the entire sky.
- Day 7 Wed 7/29 Arrival and Fin Whales
Bryan and I took turns manning the helm for about 4 hour shifts through the night. Fortunately for the one at the helm, there was a moderate wind which meant we could use the jib & mainsail and string up the self-steering, an ingenious apparatus which adjusts for the wind and tiller, requiring only occasional adjustments instead of the constant attention to the tiller. However for the one off duty, it also meant waves that rocked the boat aa it creaked and complained, making actual sleep more challenging. I got the treasured shift of late night into the morning, with beautiful starry skies that made way to sunrise over the water. It was my first crossing, and we were blessed by good weather and calm winds. In the early morning light Bryan and I both spotted some larger whales, with a fin on top, and many sunfish – a very interesting fish about the size of a shark with a large top fin like a sundial, large head and tail with nearly no body. We arrived at Monhegan Island, Maine in time to take a walk in the charming town, and to go to a little shop by the water for a lobster dinner!
- Day 6 Tue 7/28 Humpback Whales
We started sailing from Provincetown across to the central coast of Maine. A few hours out, we were in an area with a natural shelf from the 80 foot seafloor to several hundred feet, called stellwagen bank, and spotted a humpback whale. As we got closer, it’s pouted and then dove underneath the boat, to rise up and splash his tail right by the stern. Later two whales floated by us, nearly close enough to touch, quietly sunning on the surface of the water.
- Day 5 Mon 7/27 The Rescue Operation
We were sailing towards Provincetown, Cape Ann, when I spotted a small inflatable boat. When I checked with the binoculars, I noticed there was a motor on the boat, but someone was rowing against choppy waves. I told Bryan to sail in that direction, and saw that it was a lady. I threw her a line, and we towed her back to the marina. It turns out in addition to her motor dying, she had hurt her wrist, so it would have been hard for her row that distance.
- Day 4 Sun 7/25 Exchange at Sea
Well, we found out why we were the only boat at Kettle Cove. Some west winds picked up, and likewise waves. Bryan tied a second anchor to pull the boat from a straight beam to the waves, so things didn’t fall off shelves, but still the boat swayed and bounced all night, meaning not much sleep. Morning was lovely and we rowed to the beach for a walkabout before heading up Buzzard’s Bay. As we approached the Cape Cod area, I called a friend, David Isenberg, who happened to be out fishing and he pulled up alongside our sailboat. I tossed a copy of “Acoustic Chef” into his boat, and he recommended a harbor for the night. He met us there, with a bag of fresh lettuce and zucchini from his garden, and a much needed raincoat for me to borrow.
- Day 3 Sat 7/25 Dolphins
We left on a light breeze, so Bryan put up the spinnaker, or rather a large asymmetrical green “flasher” sail. The early morning fog gave way to sunshine. Heading east at 3 to 4 knots towards Cuttyhunk, we were soon joined by about 100 dolphins who surrounded the boat, passing us on both sides with occasional graceful leaps out of the water. Bryan and I took turns hanging off the back ladder of the boat for a few minutes to cool down in the rushing water. We anchored at Cuttyhunk, picked up some ice for the coolers and then took off, past a lighthouse with elephant seals sunning on the rocks, to spend the night in a completely uninhabited little cove, Kettle Cove. Bryan and I watched shooting stars, satellites, and what we think was the space station passing by in the clear night sky.
- Day 2 Fri 7/24 Block Island
An early departure gave us a breeze for a short while, on the silvery gray-blue water. Onboard, I started writing a tune for the winner of the contest from my last livestream concert. We crossed over to Block Island, which has been kept delightfully much the same for many years. Upon anchoring at Great Salt Pond, we heard a shout “Andiamo!” which meant cannolis and other Italian specialties were being delivered by boat, as they had been for 50 years. Yes, we waived them over and ordered one. At the moment the sun dips behind the horizon, it is a tradition here that all the boats toot their horns and toast a beverage, as all the masthead lights twinkled on across the harbor.
- Day 1 Thu 7/23 Departure and Brief Storm
We packed provisions, spare parts, plenty of flex-tape and duck-tape, and departed Fire Island Inlet at 9:30am on Bryan’s 1974 30-foot Grampian sailboat, several hours earlier than we had anticipated, as a nice sailing breeze came up. Bryan and I both saw a couple dolphins gracefully leap out of the water, only two waves away from us. We hit some rain and thunder, and I discovered the “rain jacket” I brought with me was not really waterproof. Then the wind calmed down, but not so the waves, meaning a bouncy motor-sail for much of the way. Bryan manned the tiller almost the entire time. Ah, so nice to come into port at Shinnecock inlet.