Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sailing Vacation 2007, Days 1, 2 and 3

Hello from New London, CT. Right now I am sitting inside my boat waiting out a thunderstorm. The NOAA forecast said that it should blow through here in about a half hour. I spotted the storm to the northeast of us: the dark clouds that look streaky from the bottoms. The streaky bits are rain that is falling from that cloud. Then we watched it come closer and closer.

Here's what we've done for days 1, 2 and 3. I'll update you more, but so far this is all I've written down. If I get motivated, I can take the photos off the camera and pop them onto my laptop. At the moment I am not so motivated, so you'll get text only and you'll like it.

Friday, 3 August 2007
I came home from work to see two large boxes sitting by the side door of our house. Todd had ordered two gas powered scooters that we could tool around on in each port. I left the scooters where there, as I had a to-do list for the afternoon. I needed to pack my clothes, do things like find our digital camera, buy helmets for the scooters, and I wanted to tidy the house as well. Nothing takes the blissful feeling of a vacation away like a house that looks like a bomb had gone off in it while we were away.

On past trips we have relied a great deal on taxis so that we could see more of where ever we would pick up a mooring or a slip. We’d also walk as much as we could, or rent a moped if it’s available. You’d be amazed at what 2 people can carry with them on a moped. There was 1 time in Newport where we hauled a sack of dirty laundry up Thames St. on a moped, without it spilling over to leave a trail of dirty socks and t shirts. You’d also be amazed at how dumb one can feel rolling up to a Walmart in a taxi.

The gas powered scooters arrived, each in its own box. Each completely disassembled. Each with instructions that contained vague steps like “Fix the screw” or “Now, install the gas tank” with no indication as to which screw was in need of fixing, and exactly how is the gas tank is meant to be installed. Todd laid the parts out on the downstairs TV room in our house while I fantasized about finding the private phone number for the guys from Orange County Choppers on the Internet.

Luckily, Todd is very mechanically inclined. I read him the instructions, and he managed to figure out exactly what went where, and still got me to stop complaining about how lousy the instructions were and how ridiculous it was for this company to expect just anyone to assemble these ridiculously complicated contraptions.

Around 10 PM we walked the first scooter up to the Cumberland Farms to fill the tires with air. Then we walked it over to the parking lot of a factory behind Cumby’s to try them out. Basically what Todd assembled was a skateboard with a weed-whacker mower on it, that has handle bars (or haddle bars, as it was printed in the instructions) and a seat. We tried it out, and rode up and down the parking lot. The seat wasn’t quite right, and kept tipping backward as I tried to sit on it. But other than that, we had a lot of fun tooling around on it. We decided we’d assemble the next one in the morning.

Saturday 4 August 2007
We woke up in the morning with a few things left on the to-do list. My clothes were packed, the groceries already on the boat with the exception of things like meat and chicken that we wanted to freeze. Todd had assembled 1 gas powered scooter, and the other was still in the box. I still wanted to clean the house.

Todd assembled the other scooter while I cleaned the house. Then I went out to the store to see about some other parts for these scooters. They weren’t running properly, and we couldn’t figure out why. After futzing about with them for another hour or so we decided that they were more trouble than they were worth, and left them home. Todd knew that he’d spend too much time on our vacation tweaking them that he wouldn’t enjoy actually using them.

We parted ways so we could divide and conquer the remainder of the to-do list. I went to the bank and then to the gas station to put gas in the dinghy engine, and buy some 2-cycle oil for the dinghy engine. I walked into the gas station and asked:

Beej: Hi. Do you have any 2-cycle oil?
Guy behind counter: (Putting on his “Now now, Little Lady, what are you on about” voice) 2-cycle oil? What’s that?
Beej: You mix it with gasoline for smaller motors, like outboard engines, some lawnmowers…
Guy: (scratching his head) Now, I’ve been a mechanic of 5 years, and I’ve never heard of 2-cycle oil….
Beej: (at this point in no mood to deal with the “Little Lady” bullshit that I sometimes encounter when trying to accomplish something that has anything to do with engines, tools, or whether or not a particular kind of oil actually exists.) Look, just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it does not exist. I’ve bought it at this very gas station before. I’ll find it myself. (Went to look on the rack outside the door.)
Guy: Fine, I’ll ask out back.

I found 2 quarts, and gloated a bit over the actual existence of 2-cycle oil.

Guy: (trying to redeem himself) OK, so, what do you use that kind of oil for again?
Beej: (still gloating over being a Little Lady and being able to explain something to the world’s most knowledgeable mechanic) It’s for… blah blah blah… (Man, I wish I could say something ridiculously intelligent about 2-cycle oil. Like, it’s a crude oil based blah blah with high viscosity properties that blah blah blah).

We met up again, and grabbed some lunch and untied the dock lines. The week before vacation we had the marina haul our boat for a pretty significant repair. Our boat has been steadily taking on water in the years we've owned it. We’ve been noticing it more and more lately. We decided to have the guys haul it for a week and see about fixing it. They put in a temporary repair, and we left the dock knowing that it was a temporary repair. A more permanent repair would end our season. We suspect that it was the shaft tube that was causing the steady leak. The temporary fix seemed to hold, so we were confident in our ability to go on our trip.

We loaded up the dogs and the rest of the stuff pulled in the dock lines, stopped for fuel and a pump out, then we were on our way to our first stop, Jamestown, RI. Of course, the wind was right on our nose, so we had to motor the entire way there. An uneventful ride, we found our mooring and headed into shore for dinner.

Sunday 5 August 2007
We woke up to another very hot day. Yesterday we kept noticing that the temperature on the sign at the bank was hovering around 103 every time we passed it while running the last minute errands. We cast off the mooring lines and headed out of Narragansett Bay.

Again, wind on the nose, we motored all the way to Noank, CT and picked up a slip at the end of the gas dock at Noank Shipyard. A swallow rested on our boat as we made our way west, and we decided to name him Franklin. Franklin stayed with us for a good hour, and then took off again.

We pulled up to the dock, and tied up to our home for the next few days. Staying at a dock is nice in that it’s easy to get ashore, and we can plug into the electricity on the dock and run things that need electrical outlets, like power tools, the laptop and the microwave. Being on a dock is not nice in that we have little privacy, and the dogs sometimes jump off the boat and go wandering. Also, just anyone could wander onto our boat and stab us in our sleep—though this last disadvantage is less off a worry than the lack of privacy and wandering dogs.

Noank is a very picturesque little town. Griffen and I have walked and jogged through the town on past trips and admired the old houses with ornate carvings on their porches, the painstakingly perfect rock walls, picket fences and gardens. Every time we visit Noank I think to myself “Man, I could totally live here.” But then I think I would get run out of town because I cannot be bothered to maintain the landscape around the house I have now. But still, Noank, *sigh*.

Todd looked into the bilge and saw massive amounts of water in it. The temporary fix that the marina had put in did not hold. (Or maybe something else needed to be fixed?) We turned on the electric bilge pump and drained the sump in the bilge, and saw water trickling into the sump from yet another mystery pipe that drains into the bilge. Within a few minutes the sump was nearly full again.

We had a discussion about whether to call off the trip and head back home. If we didn’t stay on top of this leak the boat would sink. The alarming rate at which the water was flowing in was admittedly scary. We discussed the merits of plugging this mystery pipe, and were concerned that the water in it would divert itself somewhere else that we couldn’t get to. We decided to take the “Better the devil you know” tack, and left it alone. There was nothing we could do about it on a Sunday anyway, the marina back home was closed, and the repair shop at Noank Shipyard was also closed.

We took the dinghy up the Mystic River and watched the train drawbridge open for the boats. I have a thing about bridges. I love to sail under them, take pictures of the undersides of the bridges and marvel at how I get the opportunity to go under a bridge in a boat while everyone else has to go over the top of the bridge. Todd was good enough to stop so I could see the bridge open, and so we could hear the "BZZT!" of the electric wires that run the train get disconnected.

We had dinner at the legendary Mystic Pizza. This pizzeria was made famous by Julia Roberts’s first big movie, “Mystic Pizza.” Most of the movie was filmed right in Mystic, and nearly 20 years after the movie came out people still flock to the pizza place. We always eat there when ever we are in Mystic too.

We made our way back out of the Mystic River in the dark, shining the flash lights against the navigation markers to see the reflective red or green strips on the markers. We had the engine gunned as we careened in total darkness back to the mouth of the river.

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