Respecting Mother Nature! Ep. 17

Do you know what a five day cone is? For those kiddos who might be reading this, it is the National Hurricane Center’s visual product which represents the most likely path a currently active named storm will take over the next five days. The cone shape comes from the increased margin of error which naturally occurs as you predict further into the future.

Anyway, we have been living by the cone! There is a web site that we check at least twice a day to make sure there are no surprises in our future with the predicted route of “Florence”. For all you power boaters out there, it is important to remember that our max speed is between 6 and 8 knots, so getting out of the way of the storm takes us a while! We will experience higher than normal seas and strong winds as a result of Florence passing off-shore so when we will be the most affected, we plan to stay put for a few days. The anticipation is a bit unnerving! We typically use NOAA for the latest status.

Saturday, September 9, – In hopes of making it to Martha’s Vineyard for our hold-over location, we went through the Cape Cod Canal, part of Buzzard’s Bay, Woods’ Hole Passage and into Vineyard Sound… all in one day! When we passed through the Cape Cod Canal we had as much as 4 knots of current helping us along. It was fun to see speeds in excess of 10 knots on our speed indicator when we know our engine can only push us along at about 6 knots!! It was like a ride at the fair! Due to the narrowness of the canal, the brisk currents and the high volume of ship traffic, you are required to pass through the canal under engine power … not sail. You can use a sail to aid in your speed, but your engine must be your primary power source. Here is a picture of us passing under a bridge while in the canal, headed for the raised railroad bridge in the distance. What fun!

Woods Hole Passage was WILD! You have to check out the chart for this. We were passing through this area against a pretty strong current of at least 2 knots and I was at the helm. Every one of my senses was tuned in to what our boat was doing. For at least an hour afterwards, I felt the tension slowly dissipate from my slightly raised shoulders! When passing through a narrow and curvy area like this and going against a strong current, you have to be very careful not to let your boat go at all side-ways. One wrong move and we could be in trouble … We know this causes our power-boating friends to gloat, as they can just power through what ever the current is doing around them! However, if an engine fails them they have no fall-back like we do with our sails. Sorry, no pictures of this passage … too much concentration required!

We were exhausted but happy when we anchored in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard for the night.

The following day, the winds picked up substantially, as did the seas. There were small-craft advisories all along the New England coast and we knew it was time to get to a protected harbor. We would move our boat that evening to Edgartown Harbor — another harbor further around Martha’s Vineyard which was more closed to the surrounding seas and the expected Northeast winds. However, mid-morning we made what turned out to be a poor decision … we all wanted to go ashore, see the town and stretch our legs after the long trek the day before. We packed up our dinghy and headed ashore.

The air was warm and we all had hopes of a beach day so we boarded a bus toward Gay Head Light and the beaches nearby. This location was on the southern portion of the island and out of the wind and seas. We had a great afternoon! Here is a picture of Zachary (left) and Caleb playing in the surf.

There was a very strange phenomena with the starfish on this Martha’s Vineyard beach. There were literally hundreds of them stranded too high up on the beach to be able to get back into the water. At first, we thought they were all dead and had been washed ashore. Then we noticed that several of the starfish had tracks behind them showing that they were attempting to move back into the water. We saved several of the ones who had large tracks and, therefore we surmised, a stronger will to live! Here is a picture of the beach littered with starfish and a second picture of a starfish with a long track showing his progress.

When we came back to Vineyard Haven Harbor late in the afternoon, the seas were big and the winds stiff! Getting off our dinghy and onto our transom (swim platform on the back of our boat) was dangerous and scary. Our big boat was bobbing up and down like a row boat and we had to time the waves perfectly to get one person safely on board before having to back up the dinghy and await another moderate wave window. Then we would work to get the next person on board, etc.

With the day’s adventures on shore and our trouble getting back onto our sailboat, we left for Edgartown much later than we should have. We had a great sail in the 20 knots of wind, but when we finally got settled on a mooring it was near 10 pm and the tricky entrance and unknown harbor required all four of us to be on our toes with search lights in hand probing the darkness for other boats, mooring balls, pilings and lobster buoys … always lobster buoys!! We were all very content to stay on this mooring for the following three days!

The day before, we had purchased a three day bus pass to help us explore Martha’s Vineyard. After a walk around Edgartown, we boarded a bus to Oak Bluffs — a town known for its architecture! There was a period around the mid 1800s when Oak Bluffs became a destination for Methodist congregation retreats. This group settled Oak Bluffs, erected pavilions for worship and celebration and built these great little gingerbread-style cottages — hundreds of them in close succession on winding roads around the center of their community. Over 300 of these cottages still exist, as does the final church and pavilion they erected. Here is a picture of a row of these cottages.

After three days of exploring Martha’s Vineyard, Hurricane Florence had moved into a position of no longer being a threat to us. The seas were subsiding and we were getting the itch to move along. On Wednesday, September 13th, we left our safe harbor of Edgartown and moored at the harbor of Cuttyhunk Island. This is the west-most of the Elizabeth Islands off the southern coast of Massachusetts and separated from the mainland by Buzzard’s Bay. Although this is in closer proximity to the mainland than is Martha’s Vineyard, it has been kept much more primitive and natural! We had a great hike to the top of the island’s hill where we could see all over Buzzard’s Bay, to Martha’s Vineyard and even to the mainland. Here is a picture of the beautiful sunset we experienced during our one night on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts.

Thursday ended up being a long day! After too much prodding and nagging, we finally got the kids ashore for a walk before heading out to our next destination — Block Island, off of the Rhode Island coast. The day started out with some pretty good winds and we were making ok progress. Then, the winds died. We were lucky to get a knot every few minutes so we decided to motor the remaining 8 miles to Block Island. Oh, and did I mention that it was on and off rain since we returned to the boat after our walk??! Caleb and I were up in the cockpit … soaked to the bone … attempting to amuse ourselves with what was now just about 3 miles to go. Then, we heard what sounded like a small airplane … or, wait a minute … that’s our engine sounding way too loud. I looked at the exhaust and no water was coming out which meant that the engine was not being cooled. I called Tom and shut off the engine. We raised sails and Tom looked into the problem. Turns out we had a broken water pump and could not use the engine until we got a new one. With less than a knot of wind, we turned toward the mainland to a place called Point Judith. Luckily, there was a current helping us so we were actually making progress … albeit slow! Two days ago, we were held up with big seas and strong winds and now we had NO wind. We considered calling a towing service (which truly do exist!) but then had an idea to use our dinghy as a tug boat of sorts! It worked! Our little dinghy pushed us along at nearly 3 knots for an hour and a half until we were safely anchored. We had the needed part sent overnight and were again on our way!

Gotta love Mother Nature’s sense of humor … and strength!

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