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Saturday, August 09, 2008

South from Portland

Gesa's been writing good long emails again, so I thought I'd borrow one to describe, in her words, our recent few days as we start heading back towards Boston from Portland. The weather has been uncooperative, as you will read, in fact this first week in August is proving to be something of an 'English' summer with plenty of rain and grey skies.

We've got photos to go with this entry but no wifi right now so in the interests of staying up to date, photos will follow. Gesa writes.....

Canada was great, but full on and with little sleep. It is good to get back to some sort of routine and reasonable bedtime. In fact the last couple of nights have been spot on with kids bedtimes, between 7 and 8pm.

Yesterday we were all in bed by 8pm, as our anchorage was so rocky, lumpy and bumpy, I spent most of the time lying down anyway, so I would not get sick, and it only made sense to go to bed. Unfortunately, the swell did not calm much until morning. We had left Portland early Wednesday morning with breakfast en route under grey skies. It didn't take long before the rain started and once we were in the more open water, out of the shelter of Casco Bay, the sea became rather choppy and uncomfortable. No sense in two of us getting wet, so while the kids watched a movie quite happily I lay on the couch, in full gear, ready to jump into action when needed. Every now and then I would open an eye (as I do not really sleep) to make sure I could see Nick and generally know all was well.

I feel reassured that he is wearing a man overboard tag and lifejacket. The tag beeps VERY loudly should he fall overboard, and of course the lifejacket inflates the moment he hits the water. Of course we hope never to test this, as it would then leave me in charge of the boat and trying to recover him. So, we always err on the side of caution. I would please ask you, if you sail, that the moment you lift anchor or leave the dock be wearing your lifejacket, no matter what the sea state is. The water here and the UK is COLD. It will put you into shock and you risk drowning before help can reach you. A lifejacket will at least keep you afloat until help gets to you. I write this with passion at the moment, as I have insisted that if we make the kids wear lifejackets, we do too, under all conditions. Nick, lying on the couch, just read an article to me about a 65 year old sailor who fell overboard in Rhode Island after being hit by the boom. His wife reported it at 430pm and his body was found three days later. He was NOT wearing a lifejacket! OK, the knock to the head might have killed him anyway, but if it hadn't he would have had a chance had he been wearing one. So, I hope you see my point. OK enough with the lecture.

We had planned to sail to Cape Porpoise, but things were so awful and the rain quite heavy that we cut our trip short by an hour and a half and sheltered at Wood Island. We stopped here before with Nick's parents. Not particularly exciting, and rather stressful getting in as it is quite shallow. I would love to say it was very sheltered because of this, but because quite a swell had built up with all the wind we had recently, and now the rain, it was particularly unpleasant, especially at high tide when the rocks no longer provided some sort of barrier. We found one boat anchored, and used her as a mark to anchor our boat, in keeping a good distance from the mooring balls (empty at the time). We did end up in the middle of the channel, but figured there was still enough room for boats to maneuver either side of us and sod it, it was pouring rain and we were dug in hard. Unless someone told us to move we were staying put. Well, over the course of the afternoon boat after boat arrived in the anchorage seeking shelter, just like us. The mooring balls were taken up and the rest anchored anywhere there was a space. Blocking the channel was no longer an issue.

Nick managed some school with the kids, while I basically supervised with a hot water bottle from the couch, until Nick was clearly getting frustrated and I stepped in to help finish the lesson. All of us were rather grumpy and on edge from all the rocking, so Issie in particular was being very resistant to school. Thankfully, the promise of hot chocolate and marshmallows encouraged her to complete her work and we had a far more pleasant end to the afternoon. I wish I could say I had a great night's sleep, but in fact got very little as the boat got into a rhythmic rocking from nothing, to a little to more to a big wham, then stop and start the cycle again. Read back to Nick's blog on his crossing from the UK to the Canaries to see what I mean.

So, we took advantage of being up reasonably early this morning to set off before breakfast. We managed a coffee, however my mocha was probably a mistake as any sailing into rough sea, I should know by now, should not have coffee preceeding it. It makes me feel worse. This time better prepared with rain kit etc., but we could not be prepared for the continued rocky seas. Ug, it was awful and not what I signed up for. We also had not eaten, which did not help, and it was far too rough for me to prepare anything. I eventually managed to stumble to the cupboard to get some tortilla chips (salt always helps), but in all the rocking, things shifted in the cupboard and out dropped the grapefruit juice, breaking the lid and gushing juice all over the galley. Now of course the last thing I wanted to do is bend over and clear it up, but it was the lesser of two evils, the other being on deck and being on watch. 45 minutes into our 5-6 hour trip to the Isle of Shoals, thankfully Nick had a change of plan, agreed things were miserable, and said we could aim for Cape Porpoise, yesterday's planned destination.

Well, you would not believe it. After navigating the zillions of lobster buoys at the entrance, and reading the GPS closely, we found a perfect spot to anchor and guess what - it was perfectly calm. Heaven!!!! It was now only 1030am so we made up a sort of brunch, which included the poor imitation of 'Kraft Macaroni and Cheese'. Felt much better and keen to explore ashore. Well, what a treat that was. The sun came out and we had a very pleasant walk into town from the town dock passing many beautiful homes, a mix of year round and summer residences. The old hardware store has turned into the 'Cape Porpoise Kitchen'. Not only could we find a nice cup of coffee for us and home baked cookies for the kids but free Wifi as well. It was an interesting shop, clearly targeted at the more affluent summer residents. It had a deli with a great assortment of cooked goodies, to a fantastic cheese selection, a large range of wines (none of which we could afford!), and jars and jars of every sort of interesting and exotic mixture you can think of, like brown sugared peach pie filling jam, to pesto and artichoke dip. It of course had the typical seaside Maine selection of gifts and souvenirs (more tasteful than tacky), and a few tables on the side to enjoy your coffee or light lunch. We ended up staying a couple of hours while Nick wrote up some blog, and we made a couple of calls. In the meantime, the library across the road had opened its doors so after buying some milk and fruit at the market store we spent another 40 minutes just sitting and reading in the library. Even better, they had a whole bench full of free magazines so I stocked up. By the time we finished and got back to the boat it was well past 4pm. No wonder I was hungry. But how relaxed it all was, just what we all needed.

Max was keen to sail his toy boat so, on return, Nick loaded up the dinghy with water containers and they headed back to the dock to fill up while Max towed his boat behind. Issie and I relaxed on board. Me reading my magazines, Issie wrapping presents for the Fairy Ball. What a nice change after the nightmare 24 hours we just endured. I am indeed rather tired, and am rather behind in writing and sorting photos, but it will now have to wait for another day as it is time to head to bed. Tomorrow we will indeed be heading to the Isle of Shoals, but now only 22 miles, about 4 to 4 1/2 hours. The winds have completely died down, so hopefully the swell will too and we will have a better go of things in the morning. Maybe even giving us enough breeze to use some sail. Nick remains hopeful having already taken the sail cover off the main in preparation!!

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