High and Dry in No Name Harbor

I’ve been around boats all my life and the one constant that I have always found to be true is that it’s never easy getting off the dock and underway. It’s always something, “we just have to get some ice,  I just need to stop and top off the fuel tank, I’m just going to grab another case of beer, do we have enough rum, maybe we should stop and get another bottle?” It simply takes forever and a day to actually cast of the docklines and leave!” So was the case with us when we tried to get not one boat but two boats off the dock and underway to the Bahamas.

Sailing onboard the Jeanneau 469 to No Name Harbor in Miami, FL.
Crossing the Gulf Stream can be as easy as sailing on a duck pond or as wild as shooting rapids on the Colorado River.

The original plan was to leave Miami early in the morning on Wednesday with the new Jeanneau 469 and big sister 509 and sail across the Gulf Stream to Cat Cay on the western edge of the Bahamas, arriving late Wednesday afternoon. We would spend Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Bahamas and sail back to Miami first thing Friday morning. Sailing with us would be Senior Editor, Herb McCormick of Cruising World Magazine, marine photographer Billy Black and his assistant, Megan, crew member Stefanie Gallo, and Jeanneau staff members, Valerie Toomey, Jeff Jorgensen, Erik Stromberg and myself. In theory, this was a reasonable plan but from a practical standpoint it had “not a snowball’s chance in hell” of actually working.

Jeanneau 469 sailing in Miami, FL.
The Sun Odyssey 469 doing sea trials off Miami.

The wheels really came off the wagon on Tuesday when we had over committed doing test sails aboard the 469 which we had just introduced at the Miami show. We then got hung up in customs Wednesday morning trying to clear out of the US. Then there was the usual delays trying to get everyone on board and settled. The long and the short of it all was that by the time the last boat left the dock it was close to 4pm in the afternoon and we still needed to pick up diesel fuel.

Jeanneau crew relaxing on the 509 and 469 in No Name Harbor, Miami FL.
The Sun Odyssey 509 and 469 laying on the Sea Wall in No Name Harbor.

We decided to opt for plan B which was to spend the night in No Name Harbor on the southern end of Key Biscayne and depart at first light for the Bahamas. So we parked the 469 and the 509 on the seawall, shot a few pictures, had a few cocktails, and headed up to the Boater’s Grill for dinner. We were all feeling pretty relaxed now having finally left the dock and having been properly watered and fed;  then, somewhere along the way, there was a movement to go back to the boats and immediately set sail for the Bahamas.This idea had a certain amount of merit, if we left now, we could make the 50 mile trip across the Gulf Stream at night, arriving in the Bahamas at dawn to catch the morning sunrise and make up for the time already lost. So we gathered ourselves up, paid the bill and headed back to the boats.

Jeff Jorgensen tries every trick in the book to get the 509 floating again including swinging the boom out to the side and bouncing on the end of it.

Initially,  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the sailing at night plan, primarily because I was tired and was really looking forward to looking at the inside of my eyelids rather than at a compass all night. But, the thought of sailing under the almost full moon across the Gulf Stream in tandem with the other boat was suddenly exciting to me and I found myself walking along the seawall with a renewed sense of energy, eager to  hop on board and cast off.  However, as we approached the boats, we noticed that the 509 was sitting at an awkward angle, with the bow being unusually high and the stern being unusually low. We gave the 509 a wiggle but got no movement. The boat was clearly aground in a very large way. Our attention quickly fell to the 469 and thankfully, although she too was aground, we were able to get her moving with the help of some strong hands and the diesel engine moving in full reverse.

As we moved the 469 away from the dock and into the anchorage, we looked back to see Jeff Jorgensen and the crew of the 509 earnestly trying to get the boat unstuck. They would labor on for a while longer before they would eventually give up and give into the idea that the best solution was to wait for the tide to come back in and float them off. For now, they would be left sitting high and dry with Billy Black who continued snapping pictures throughout the ordeal. The Bahamas would have to wait just a little longer.

KokapelliTo Be Continued…..

You can Bring a Moose to Maine but don’t Bring a Jaguar!

Friendship 2Some time ago my wife Kim and I went to Maine to visit Kim’s Auntie Lou who lives in the small town of Friendship. Lou didn’t always live in Friendship but she did always live in Maine. Lou grew up on North Haven Island which sits out in the middle of Penobscot Bay, not far from Rockport and Camden. I remember her telling me that she was one of just 14 in her graduating class. She went on to be a teacher and taught in the Connecticut school system for 30 years. She was and still is as smart as a whip. She never married and at the end of every school year, on the last day of school, she would load herself into her car and drive home to Friendship. Lou is warm-hearted but she’s about as stubborn as a 200 pound mushroom anchor that’s been sitting in the Maine mud for the past twenty years.

Kim and I flew into Manchester, New Hampshire because at the time, Manchester was the closest airport to Maine where Southwest flew and we always flew Southwest. Kim, being the more organized one of our small team, had dutifully and efficiently arranged for a nice, reasonable, economy minded,  rental car for us.  Up until this point, I had not played a very important role in the planning of this trip (I know, no big surprise. What can I say?). This however quickly changed when the rental agent asked “would you be interested to hear about our available upgrades?” Kim immediately said “no thanks” but I was louder and 1-jaguar-hood-ornament-jill-regermust have been more assertive because at the same time, I replied “absolutely!” As it turned out, “absolutely” was the only thing the agent behind the counter conveniently heard. Fifteen minutes later, we were loading our bags into the trunk of a very shiny, immaculate looking, extremely posh, Jaguar XJ6 and heading for the quiet New England town of Friendship. Oh and didn’t we feel special, for a mere 12 dollars a day extra, we were now driving in grand style, sitting behind the wheel of, yes.. a Jag! We had the music going, the sun roof open, we were feeling as flush and important as a couple of Wall Street bankers.

seals-1Friendship, population about 1,200, sits on the rocky shore of Muscongus Bay. Aunti Lou doesn’t live in town but rather on the coast on a hunk of rock that looks out over the water. Tides here are large, about 12 feet between high tide and low tide  One of the things that never ceases to entertain us is watching the seals that live here. When the tide is out, they like to climb up and sun themselves on this clump of rocks that are uncovered at low tide. When the tied comes in, the rocks are covered so the seals have to one by one jump off and swim around for several hours until the tide turns and heads out again. It’s always fun to look out and see the last couple of seals giving into the inevitable and reluctantly taking the plunge.

seakayingmusbayThe extreme tides also make for good kayaking. The trick is to launch your kayak on the incoming tide and ride the current all the way into the mud flats at the head of the bay. These areas are completely dry at low tide but covered when the tide is high. A simple kyack allows you to slip effortlessly along over the flats and into a myriad of hidden nooks and crannies that team with wild life. Then, when the tide starts to turn and head out, you simply paddle along with it and ride the current all the way back to where you started. Such a deal!

The average income for Friendship is only about 45,000 per year with many of its residents making their living lobstering or working on and around boats and on the water. One thing you see a lot of in Friendship are pickup trucks, one thing you don’t, are Jaguars. To say we stood out driving our fancy car through the rural streets of Friendship is an understatement. Did I mention the car had New York plates?  We arrived at Lou’s later in the day but well before dinner. “What ya got there, a new caa?” Lou called to us as we pulled into the driveway. “Wow, very fancy… a Jaguar.” Kim immediately shifted all the attention to me with her response, “talk to Paul, it was his idea.” “Yea, well, seemed like a good idea at the time” I said.

Lou thought that lobster should be in order to celebrate our arrival and first night in Friendship. She told us the best place to get lobster was down on the docks where the boats come in. She said if we hurry, we could just catch the guys before they all head home. She told us to ask for hard-shells. She said that most of the lobsters being hauled right now were soft-shells but we should ask for hard-shells because they were better eating. So we piled back into the Jag and headed off to the local lobster dock in search of some fresh, hard-shell, bona fide, Maine lobsters.

Lobster ViewThe smell of the bait shack that wafted our way on that summer evening about knocked us off our feet. Lobsters are scavengers, cleaners, they live on the bottom of the ocean and although they prefer fresh food, they are happy to pick away at most anything, even if it’s dead. Because of this, lobster traps are always baited with very stinky, dead fish. The fellow in the boat sported orange-bibbed overalls. “Hi” I said, “we were hoping to buy a few lobsters.” “well, I got-um.”he said.” “Got any hard-shells?” I said. “Nope, just shedd..es.” I looked at Kim with an expression that asked the question, “shedd..es, what the hell are shedd..es?” After a few seconds of looking somewhat stupid, I then remembered where we were, Kim and I quickly determined that “shedd..es” was “Maine talk” for shedd..er or in other words a lobster that had recently shed its shell and was now in the process of growing a new one. To keep the conversation short, we said “we’ll take three.”

Now, while I’m no expert on lobster, I have bought a few in my life and when I did, all of them came with pegs or rubber bands around their claws to prevent them from reaching out and grabbing your finger. These lobsters however came right off the boat and they were waving and snapping their claws as if they were dancing the flamenco. “Do you have a bag?” “Nope.” “How about a box?” “afraid not.” “Ah… well do you mind just sticking them in the trunk of the car?”  So the lobster dude in his orange-bibbed overalls climbed out of the boat and onto the dock and with a disgusted look on his face and rubber boots on his feet, he trudged over to the Jag and dropped the lobsters into the trunk. Talk about feeling like the turd in the punchbowl, yikes; we were definitely it. We paid him cash and quickly hopped back into the car and headed back to Lou’s.

Once we got home and hauled the lobsters out of the trunk and into the pot, we had a grand time recanting our story to Lou all about the “shedd..es” and the guy in his orange-bibbed overalls and how because he had no bags we had to carry the lobsters home in the trunk of our car. The wine was flowing as steady as the incoming tide by then and the story became more hilarious with every sip. It was a great first day to be in Maine.

We tried not to dive the Jaguar after that. For the remainder of our trip we let ourselvesAR_MooseXingLarge succumb to the easy-going summer days of Friendship. We kayaked when we could and rode the currents of Muscongus Bay. We watched the seals hop on and off the rocks. We talked politics and religion, drank far too much wine, played cards after dinner, laughed a lot, enjoyed each other’s company, and came to the conclusion that while you can always bring a Moose home to Maine you shouldn’t bring a Jaguar.

On We Go…..