The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2014, Part I, Summer and Trans-Atlantic
Updated August, 2014

Barbara on her Mooring

We quickly settled in at home, and this year the process was a little easier since we knew we would be off again in mid-July. We simply left many things on the boat, including my computer and office papers. That presented its own problems, however, as I found I was little inclined to go out to the boat in the evenings, so time had to be made for paperwork during the days.

A first order of business was to replenish our store of spares, so I spent a lot of time on the phone with suppliers. We also replaced our dinghy, whose patches were holding less and less well.

The Rat's Nest in the Genset Control Box

All through the tropics, our generator had intermittently given trouble, and I became convinced that the problem was some temperature-sensitive component in the electronic controller, so I replaced it and the unit immediately worked better. I also removed a redundant plug for a second remote control panel; that helped reduce the clutter of wires in the control box, but the wiring was still a mess. I considered ripping it all out and re-wiring it, but there were too may other issues, many more pressing.
Barbara, our Son Seth, and our Niece Grace

We also had a melancholy chore to attend to; two favorite uncles had died while we were away, and there was to be a memorial at the end of May, so we drove down to my sister's house in Guilford, Conn, for one weekend. If the occasion was less than joyful, it was still very good to see the assembled family.

On our return I changed the oil in the main engine, took the life-raft ashore to be inspected, and we made trips to the Stone Wharf on Chebeague to unload things we didn't need and load new supplies. Barbara made menus and made and re-made lists of provisions, and shopped and shopped.

Packing Up Stuff

We were too late returning for the Spring bulbs, and since we were leaving, we made no effort at a garden, but the perennials around the yard came up anyway, including a small forest of Japanese Primroses (primula japonica). My father originally planted them years ago and they have naturalized and spread all over the yard. They like mid-shade, and as trees grow or are cut and the shade moves, the plants move with them.
Japanese Primroses

In mid-June we went as usual to Front Street Shipyard, in Belfast, for bottom paint and a few other minor updates. We left inner Casco Bay by Mark Island Passaage, passing by Little Mark Island with its granite monument. The inner Bay is protected and cut off from the sea by a chain of isands and by numerous ledges that have claimed many many ships. The monument has a door in its base and was originally built both as a landmark among the ledges and a cache where shipwrecked sailors might find food, blankets, and other necessities.
Two Lobstercatchers Loading Gear at the Stone Wharf

Little Mark Island Monument

Barbara and I made the trip together in one long day; we left at 7:15 in the morning and by 18:20 were alongside a float at Front Street. We went for dinner to Rollie's, a Belfast stand-by, and spent the night on the boat. The next morning we were joined by our friend Nancy Maull and the boat was hauled out. The bottom had been cleaned by Angel, in Boqueron, and we were happy to find very little new growth.
Steve White's Houseboat in Belfast, Made from 2 Shipping Containers

We met Steve Williams, an old friend from Chebeague, on his boat at Front Street, and were very pleasantly surprised to find him in the company of his daughter, his ex-wife Judy (another old friend) and his grandchidren. We all went out to the Weathervane, on the public wharf, for a leisurely lunch. After lunch Nancy drove us home through a deluge of rain.
Our Friend Steve Williams' Sloop Alongside at Front Street

Front Street Shipyard is thriving and growing, and the huge new lift is attracting new business. We had to wait to be hauled out for the launch of a 140-foot Feadship, Centinela, and several other large vessels have been hauled and launched since the lift was assembled last summer. The launch of Centinela cleared a space for us, and Barbara was parked in the spot she had vacated (but not by the new lift).
A 140-foot Boat in the Big Travel Lift

Another interesting boat in the yard was our friend Wanderbird, a North Sea trawler converted into a yacht, whom we had first met in Ensenada Honda, Culebra. She now operates as a crewed charter boat, principally in the Caribbean, I think. We were hauled on Friday, the 13th (with no bad luck), and on the following Monday I went back to Belfast by car to do some chores and to be sure the yard workers knew what they had to do.
Our Old Friend Wanderbird

A Tracery of Slings and Lifts

I stayed the night on the boat, and on the way back stopped off to discuss a new boat design with the client. This made a very pleasant interlude and a nice break from the constant planning and worry, not to mention the personal matters that had to be sorted out (doctors, dentists, financial matters, and more pleasantly, friends and family).

Barbara was ready to launch on the 24th, and by good fortune our daughter Anne was visiting us, and she wanted to check up on the house she owns further down the coast, so we all drove to Belfast and she drove our car on and eventually home again, a neat solution to a constant problem. We spent that night on the boat, and motored home the next day without incident.

In July our crew began to arrive, first Carl (who had been visiting with his sisters in Maine) and later Dougie.

Barbara in the Slings, About to be Lifted off her Blocking

Carl is a musician who was also a commercial fisherman in Alaska and later a deckhand on tugs in Puerto Rico, and Dougie did a shipyard apprenticeship in Scotland and has run boatyards all his life. Both are good long-time friends. We met Carl in Boqueron, where he lives aboard a boat, and Dougie in Bermuda, where he was manager of the yard where we were hauled so I could replace our rudder. They helped us pack up and load the boat, and in between we made time for some visits to the Slow Bell Cafe, where we watched the later matches of the World Cup.
Sunset at Sea, the First Night Out

We had a plan to leave on the 15th, but a cold front came off the coast just about then, and we knew the low that produced it was hanging around off Newfoundland. It seemed much the better part of valor to leave behind the front, hoping for (light) westerly winds, instead of going along with it as it made its way east, so in the end we moved aboard on the 16th and we closed up the house. The morning of Thursday, the 17th of July, we hoisted the dinghy aboard and at 10:00 dropped the mooring and set off on our adventure.
Sunrise, but not a Good Photo

All the way across the Gulf of Maine we had light winds and a long, easy swell. We stowed the last of the gear and provisions, and we all enjoyed the chance to rest from the hectic pace and worry of pre-departure. We saw one freighter, bound south from Penobscot Bay for Brazil, and several fishing boats as we approached Cape Sable, the southern tip of Nova Scotia.

The reefer door had cracked in the area of the upper hinge on the way home from Bermuda, and I had ordered a replacement, but had not had a chance to put the new one in.

Barbara on Watch

The matter became more urgent, however, when the door all but came off in Dougie's hand during a night watch, so I replaced it on Friday morning, thus solving the problem of where to stow the new door safely.

The weather continued amazingly light, with scarcely a ripple on the water and just a little bit of sea. This was a huge change from our trips to and from Bermuda, and in fact none of our crew had ever experienced such a long period of good weather.

In the Gulf of St. Lawrence we began to see sea creatures, some large seals, much bigger than the harbor seals of Maine, who stared at us as we went by,

Whale About to Sound

and one afternoon a large pod of dolphins, maybe thirty of them, who leapt and played around the boat for a half-hour before suddenly dashing off. The dolphins up here in the cold water are different from those of the south; they have dark backs and white bellies, but they play the same way.

In the calm water we could see small whales floating in the distance, and occasionally large whales blowing and circling. We also saw birds, hundreds of miles from land, Shearwaters at first, then off Newfoundland Northern Fulmars.

Carl on Watch

Herb Hilgenberg, an old friend from Bermuda who has helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sailors with weather forecasts tailored to their positions, has retired, but we have kept in touch, and he mentioned that he does sometimes come on the air when someone he knows is making a passage, so we thought we might take advantage of his offer. He was visiting family in Bermuda when we left (he now lives in Canada), but on Monday he was home and we spoke on the SSB radio.

The source of our good weather, it turned out, was (as I had suspected) a ridge of high pressure running east-west right along our track. There was a gale south of it, that I think was the original low responsible for our front earlier, and another to the north, off Labrador. So it made sense to try and stay in the high-pressure ridge
The Little Cargo Ship Skogafoss, Bound for Argentia, NS

A Painterly Sunset

At 21:00 on the 21st, we rounded Cape Race and altered course for the first real trans-Atlantic waypoint.

The shortest distance between any two points on a sphere (and for this purpose we may consider the earth a sphere) looks like a straight line on the surface, but is technically an arc of a circle whose center is at the center of the sphere. Such a circle is called for historical reasons a "Great Circle" and when plotted on a normal (Mercator) chart looks like a swooping curve.

Our Route

In real life one plots a series of waypoints along such a curve, with straight courses between them, and we now headed in a generally north-easterly direction for the first waypoint.

We had originally planned to head for the very northern tip of Scotland to pass through Pentland Firth (the strait between mainland Britain and the Orkney Islands), but I found I was loath to leave the comfort of our high-pressure ridge, so I decided instead to head

Our Small Iceberg, off Newfoundland

instead for Oban, a fishing and yachting port on the west coast of Scotland, by a route that would not take us so far north. This route had the further advantage that we could then go through the Caledonian Canal, reputed to be very scenic.

We did have one day and night of stronger southwest wind with an accompanying chop that made us roll to an inconvenient extent, so I altered course a litle to the north to get a better ride, and we had a couple of days of fog and heavy overcast, but for the most part our weather was beautiful.

Night Watch Pilothouse

Sunrise, July 24

As all sailors know, Murphy lives at sea, and one night I was wakened by the faint sound of an alarm; as I got ready to come on deck, Carl (on watch) called to me that the autopilot was not keeping the course. It was the autopilot off-course alarm that woke me. I went through the possibilities: making sure that the steering worked, that the belt to the pump was not broken, and so forth.
Dougie and Carl

These were all fine, but I discovered that there was no power to the Pitts electro-magnetic clutch that powers the hydraulic pump. There was power from the relevant breaker to that system, so the most likely culprit was a relay, one thing I did not have a spare for. I hot-wired the pump to a convenient spare breaker and everything worked again, although in a slightly less-convenient arrangement.
Dougie on Watch

That should have been the end of the problem, but a review in the morning turned up another issue: the pump was replaced a year or so ago, and while the original clutch had been a 24-volt unit (like everything else on the boat except the radios) the new unit required 12 volts. In fact we were lucky not to burn it out. I traced out the wiring and found where someone at the yard had added a 12-volt connection from some convenient (n.b. unfused) point to supply the relay.
Our Good-Luck Charms

Perhaps it was hard to find a 24-volt clutch in the available time frame, but I must make clear in the future what I thought was already understood, that no changes are to be made without my knowledge and approval. I changed my hot-wire to a spare 12-volt breaker and all was well. It would have been a real pain to hand-steer for the rest of the trip.
Dubh Artach, Our Landfall Mark

Our good luck with the weather continued, to everyone's amazement. We could leave coffee cups on the table with no risk of their spilling, and only occasionally had to hang on to something. It was sometimes a little damp and chilly, so we did run the heater for a day or so, but then we found we didn't need it any longer.
The Showery Coast of Scotland

On July 30th we asked the GPS to point us toward our last, or landfall, waypoint. It was still some 2 days away, but it was the home stretch.

Early in the morning of August 1, with showers all around us, I saw the mountains in the dim distance behind the coast, and at 07:00 we had the lighthouse on Dubh Artach abeam.

Bach Island

Our First Sight of the Town of Oban

Oban Harbor

We still had about 40 miles to run up the Firth of Lorn to the very protected Oban Harbor, but this was very pleasant, as the showers went away and the sun came out, giving us a beautiful welcome.

We found that the Oban Marina T-heads were occupied, so they had no float big enough for us, but we were happy enough to pick up a mooring. Tucked in under Ardantrive Point we were very quiet and peaceful. The marina is across the harbor from Oban itself, but there is a little ferry that runs every hour and sometimes more often, and it is free to marina customers, so that was fine.

Our Next-Door Neighbor

Our first order of business was to clear in. and at first this seemed to be a problem. The official U.K. website says that one should call a certain number and then send in a form, but the reality was a little different. We duly called the number, but then had to wait for someone from immigration to call us back. It seemed at first that someone would have to drive up from Glasgow, and since it was already 4:00 on a Friday afternoon any progress that day seemed unlikely. No sooner was I back on the boat, however, than we received a call on the radio that something had been worked out, so I went back in to the marina office with all our passports and the marina manager read out the details to some immigration person on the phone.
A Classic Ketch Anchored Outside Us

We then had to wait while they checked on the passports, but eventually the ferry stopped by the boat and Karen from the office handed us an envelope with our clearances, so we were legally in the U.K. and free to go ashore.
A Project Boat that Makes Me Tired Just Looking at It

A Classic Boat and a Cruise Ship

Oban is Still a Busy Fishing Port

We had a few celebratory beers on the boat and dinner that night in the little restaurant at the marina, which was very pleasant. The restaurant's credit card machine was out of order, and we had no British money, so we might have had a problem, but the waitress didn't seem to think so. She asked if we were on a boat at the marina, and on being told we were said they would keep the check at the bar and we could pay after we had changed money the next day.
Fishing Boats

Saturday morning Barbara, Dougie, and I went across to Oban on the ferry. I changed some money and Barbara and I shopped while Dougie went in search of fish and chips. We enjoyed walking around looking at the boats and the Victorian architecture, and we found a street market with international specialties, so we bought some good sausage from a young French woman and some interesting breads from an Iranian. The weather forecasts spoke of a low over Scotland, and it was certainly showery, but that did not seem to bother anyone. The town was full of tourists, who probably knew what they were getting into.
A Lobster-Catcher

To see our track in Google Earth click:
here for summer travels.
here for crossing the Gulf of Maine
here for the Trans-Atlantic trip. This required a different chart plotting program, and that sometimes leaves multiple breadcrumbs.

Part II