Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Report From the Boat That Went

The following is Tim Fallon's account of Kathleen's trip to Bristol. It sounds like quite an adventure on a well managed vessel.

Hi John -

I'm back at work today and just read your blog entry.  I don't know how the MAID would have handled the big weather but I sure can't say that you made a bad decision by staying put. It was the biggest weather KATHLEEN has sailed in and next to a few squalls some of the biggest stuff I've been out in on Buzzards Bay.
We had two reefs and were going easily on broad reach around Monomoy - (oh and saw a big whale, humpback maybe just past the cut near the breaking waves) jibed around Monomoy and at dark the breeze picked up further calling for 4 reefs. Visibility was never an issue but it got windy and the wave height increased with the fetch. There was a lot of steering necessary to keep her headed down the waves and I was wondering how the MAID with her wheel would have handled the abrupt and constant rudder movements. It was an exhilarating ride and the boat felt like a planing dinghy as we averaged 8 knots past Hyannis. We decided to stop in Osterville, home to much of our crew for the night.
We lost 2 crew in Osterville but the 5 of us continued the next day at 10 with more downwind sailing in our future. Relatively easy going down Vineyard Sound as we were able to get into the lee of Falmouth but with 4 reefs we were still doing about 7 knots. The big decision was whether to continue down the sound and in the lee of the Elizabeth's with a more favorable current or go thru Woods Hole. We chose WH so that we could reach across BB while there wasn't a ton of fetch to gain as much windward gauge as we could before it got so that we could only run before it. It got gnarly enough to go to reef #5 when we were 1/2 way across the bay. Reef #5 is to drop the main completely and put up a 420 jib that we brought as a storm tri-sail. BB tower reports that it was blowing in the high 30's with some higher gusts. Under that rig everything was pretty mellow despite the occasional big roller coming over the stern and through the tiller hole. We were doing 4.5 knots with the current. The waves were really big off of Padanaram until we rounded Mishaum Pt. and then Gooseberry Neck and were more in the lee. TUBBY, the Boston Whaler Squall towed beautifully. We weren't sure that we'd be able to turn and go upwind up the Sakonnet as we'd have to put up the sail to do so. It was still windy and the waves were big again as we doused the jib and went up with the fully reefed main. It was slow going as the wind and waves drove us back but we slowly made progress up the river. As we continued north, the waves subsided and after an hour of slow progress we started moving along pretty well tacking back and forth. We put in just before dark off a friend's house south of the Tiverton bridge where she lays to 2 anchors now. 

We had an experienced crew that had sailed the boat a lot, and one with extensive offshore experience. We made good decisions on when to shorten sail and were smart to get windward gauge when it was easy by cutting through Woods Hole. Cutting through Quicks Hole would have been a debachle as we'd have to put the sail up to head to the angle toward Sakonnet Pt. and the waves would have been more broadside.

I suspect you're stuck in Chatham for a day or two. Tony said the fishermen don't even attempt the cut on days like yesterday. Looks like good weather in a couple days though. Look out for that whale on the way out and see you in Bristol.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Stay or Go

We were set to race. It was a distance race with some wind expected so the boat was in cruising mode really. The heavy sail was bent on and the crew was aboard transferring equipment and supplies from tender to cat boat.  Some had traveled a good distance to be with us. Others had worked hard to make sure we had the food and gear we needed. There was every reason to sail and not a few reasons not to. The weather forecasts kept worsening.  Gusts of 25 went to 30 then 35 and even 40. Visibility kept plummeting in forecasts that included torrential rains and patchy fog illuminated by lightening. The wind was from a favorable direction but was bringing waves of increasing magnitude. We were on a calm bay with a perfect little breeze, thinking about going sailing and really wanting to.
This was a chance to even the score with Kathleen. Our boat would be faster in a good wind we were sure and we needed a win.  Yet every report was worse than the last. Thing is they are the reports of the weather liars and need to be taken with a bucket of salt. But the closer the forecast the more accurate it tends to be.  It was my decision and I stayed on the fence as long as I could. I really wanted to go and I am so glad I didn’t.  We did go sailing. Why not? The crew was aboard, the boat was ready and the wind was perfect. We got underway for the inlet.
We motored over to Kathleen to let them know we would not be racing. Tim was determined to go and wondered what would convince me. Maybe I’ve read one sea story to many. All the good ones involving big adventures start with a crew new to the boat, a falling glass, and a determination to push on. Frequently this determination is fueled by some deadline related to a distant job, a sense of optimism, and a healthy or unhealthy skepticism when it comes to weather forecasting. We would sail to the ocean’s edge and see them negotiate their way through the breakers; that was all. But you know I could always change my mind when the time came to head back to a known friendly mooring.  I had gotten off the fence but could still climb back on.
The crew of Kathleen were tying in a pair of reefs before setting off from their mooring. We motored up wind, set the full sail then winched in a pair of reefs. It was good for the new crew to see how this went. It wasn’t too long before we shook one of them out. We had the people to hold her down and no need to conserve energy. We had fun negotiating the sand bars under sail. The local boys on the crew know their waters well and we all had a good time tacking through the shoals working the sail and the centerboard.  It was a while before Kathleen was ready to go so we circled back to meet her once the breakers were in sight.
A couple years back a new inlet opened into Pleasant Bay and changed the character of the place markedly. The current is swifter now and the sandy shoals move around. In general the bay is a healthier place with clean water, thick eel grass and abundant sea life.  Because of this the local seal colony has grown markedly and great white sharks have moved in to hunt. This aspect of the new clean bay, and the houses removed by the new inlet, has some of the locals a little put out but for us outsiders a seal colony of that size on a sand bar was something to see.  No sharks to report his trip though.
Kathleen was working her way through the shoals as we ran down to meet her. Not racing, she had elected to tow her dinghy. We ran past her rounded up around the dinghy and sailed with her for a bit. We had no dinghy and one less reef so we passed her. Another small cat boat had sailed out to see her off and the three of us comprised a small parade. Once we neared the last spit of sand we came about to head back into the shelter of the bay. Just as she approached he breakers Kathleen’s crew broke out a large orange and black flag bearing the logo of Silent Maid.  I stuck with my decision and am writing this in a warm dry cabin as the rain beats down on the roof and gusts of wind cause the boat to sashay around her mooring. Schubert is on the stereo and life is good.  We will set out for Bristol in a day or so when things settle down a little but with the breeze still favoring I hope.

Photos by Pete Byar and John Brady

Kathleen Gets Her Conditions

Those pre internal combustion engine builders knew a thing or two. They valued light air performance much more than we do. Any vessel can get her cargo to market when there is a breeze but it takes some special qualities to accomplish this when there is only a wisp of a breeze and no engine to fall back on. All those boats with fine entries and easy straight runs were about performance at the very bottom end of the power spectrum where the unit of measure is the human rather than the horse.  A human with an oar, or a large sail and a light hand on the helm, can get such a boat and her contents where she needs to go on a barely perceptible breeze.  Silent Maid may have been so named because she had no engine but her owner also had a power boat dubbed the Noisy Lady. I’m sure the Noisy Lady saw employment more than once towing her quiet companion.  Kathleen is a pre gas engine boat and her performance in light air is a testament to that, she would be getting home on the power of her sails no matter how light the breeze.
The starting line was crowded; the Arey’s Pond Regatta had attracted nearly a hundred cat boats. They were staring in several classes but there aren’t many places to go in Little Pleasant Bay so starters and non starters crowded the line. Kathleen took the start and forced the Maid to chase her through the narrows. In the light breeze she showed her stuff and as the fleet  spread out into the open water of the Pleasant Bay she had a pretty good lead. She opted to tack downwind as Silent Maid headed straight for the mark. The breeze was up a little and Silent Maid closed the distance so the two boats met at the next mark with Kathleen on Starboard. Silent Maid jibed over, then back to make the rounding. There was a little breeze now and the Maid showed what she had, pointing higher and sailing faster she gained the advantage and headed back to the narrows in the lead. There was a swift ebb tide running through the narrows as the boats headed that way. The bigger boat strove to avoid grounding while the smaller took her chances outside the channel. It was a risky move, depending on the wind staying favorable and the current on the lee bow as well as staying off the bottom but for the trailing boat it was the only move.  It was a risk with a large return and Kathleen surged ahead through the narrows. She was able to keep Silent Maid in her turbulent air as the two boats headed for the finish. Kathleen completed the course with two minutes over her competitor.
Kathleen is now up two races to one in the series and it is on Silent m
Maid to show what she can do with her size and speed.

Photos:   ©Land's Edge Photography elf@landsedgephoto.com

Saturday, August 14, 2010


     The crew is off the boat for a little while having slept ashore. Silent Maid is on a mooring in Pleasant Bay. It is a sunny morning, the tranquility only broken by the occasional power boat. Water gurgles by the wooden hull, the coffee is percolating. In a few minutes I have to start washing the boat down but for now there is a moment of peace. It is welcome
Yesterday over a hundred junior sailors crossed  the decks of this boat, ferried out to her in a flotilla of whalers and ribs, as she reached back and forth across Pleasant Bay.As each group boarded they got there assignments, steering, sheet, backstays then took turns at each one. It was a full day to say the least, I am a little hoarse from explaining how to steer with a wheel. The decks are gritty with beach sand. The kids were a lot of fun though. In Pleasant Bay Silent Maid is a ship and the bay is dotted with islands containing treasure and even a haunted house.

     My last post vanished into cyberspace, I know not how. This blog thing is by no means perfect. A snippet appeared in a google alert so it must be out there somewhere. It was about hustling down the coast from Penobscot Bay to Nantucket. I haven't had time to rewrite or to catch up with our doings on Nantucket. Suffice it to say we got a "Spirit of the Race" cup and placed respectably for a boat our size. These races aren't consistent in the division of classes or the layout of courses for that matter so it is difficult to tell how fast a boat really is. But does that matter? Think of those kids bouncing around the decks and reflect.

    Now it is time to wash off the beach sand carried aboard by all those tiny feet and get set for the next adventure.

Photos by Wendy Byar

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Eggomoggin Reach

If you like wooden boats the Eggomoggin Reach Regatta is required viewing. The two feeder races add to the build up as the size of the fleet increases with each one. This year's main event attracted 92 boats, all of them gorgeous. This is not including the tenders, often wooden power boats of some size. The hands down winner of the tender category in terms of flat out cool and  classically beautiful, though steel hulled, was the steam yacht, Congarda.

The boats are all yachts, schooners and sloops but only one cat boat. Some carry spinnakers with all the thrills and spills they can bring and some do not. It is a who's who of classic yacht design out there both in terms of design and building, contemporary and from a bygone era. It was a privilege to be in such company I can tell you and doubly so because we were in a small boat that turned heads and did well on the race course. Silent Maid did herself proud, winning her class in all three races. The plan was for the larger boats and the spinnaker boats to start later so they  would sail through the fleet of smaller vessels. Only a few of the biggest sailed by the Maid I am glad to say and those went thundering by, a pantheon of storied big racers, Ticonderoga, Black Watch, Marilee. It was grand thing to see.

The second two races could have been designed so the Silent Maid would do well. Lots of reaching and with her big crew aboard to hold her down Silent Maid reaches right along. In the second race Christian and I manned the tender, Barnegat. She is a 50' wood boat built in 1962 by Stonington boat and designed by Henry Scheel. A displacement vessel with a big rib to tow behind she has a top end of 8 kts. Unknown to us Maid's lunches were left aboard, so while we seized the opportunity to grab a shower before getting under way the fleet was off and running. Silent Maid's crew had very mixed feelings about how long it took us to catch them, even with the engines revving a bit more than they should. We motored through a very large fleet before reaching that hungry fast group.On the way we had the best views in contemporary yachting, no question about it.

The weather for these two races was crystal, a mild cold front having swept the skies clean. The breeze was perfect, the photo ops numerous. I'm sure there are websites packed with good pictures of this one. At night the milky way was visible and the harbor was decorated with anchor lights seemingly suspended between sea and sky. Brooklin, Maine has numerous boat builders and a great magazine but a metropolis it is not. It is a blink and you'll miss it sort of place. This means no light pollution which means a sailor can remain aware of his small  but precious place in the universe here. It is a great place to have a regatta.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Racing from Castine to Camden

The most impressive feature of the Castine to Camden race was the fog. Visibility was down to a couple hundred feet at times and as we short tacked along the shoreline to stay out of the current and in the breeze. Boats and rocky shorelines loomed out of the mist. We were crossing tacks with several of our competitors, glad to see we were holding our own with much larger and more “modern” boats. For the most part the breeze was light, we carried half of our rather large crew to leeward much of the time, though occasionally it would breeze up and we got everyone up and out on the windward rail. We were all in foul weather gear and those on navigation were glad enough of the below decks nav station.
The great thing about displacement boats that use the crew as ballast is they sail with large crews when the wind is up. When it is down much of the crew may be relegated to the chase boat but it happens with surprising rarity. Often this is because we prefer a convivial atmosphere to whatever edge fewer people might give.  The downside to this is it is best to replace dead weight with live, movable weight. Prior to every race the boat is emptied of her contents. Most of the things that make a cruise safe and comfortable have to go, cookware, food, luggage, anchors, spare parts. Everything not essential to winning a race is packed up and moved off the boat to be replaced with crew.  In this way a catboat can be sailed flat which significantly reduces weather helm which in turn increases speed. So these very social boats are also fast boats when they carry a large crew.  When Silent Maid arrives at a race location there is a good deal of work to be done as the boat gets a new sail and is emptied out. Preparing for the next passage takes the same amount of work as the process is reversed. There isn’t much time for tourism as we campaign this boat.  Keeping track of all the stuff is the most difficult aspect of the whole thing.
Silent Maid was racing with 16 aboard. There were seasoned sailors who gravitated to specific jobs ranging from the tactician at the top end of the experience scale to the rail meat who may be neophytes or simply glad of any spot on board. All are important to the success of the enterprise. All have something to contribute. All are aware of the unique opportunity they are experiencing as the stunning yachts and landscapes appear and disappear in the mist. That they are functioning as an efficient pick up team is evidenced by the sound of the gun at the finish. Silent Maid is the first boat in her class to finish.  She would also be the first boat when the handicap system was applied.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Padanarum to Castine

It took four long days to get from South Dartmouth to Castine, Maine. On the first two we sailed as much as we could, the prevailing breezes being with us, but by the afternoon of the third day it was apparent we would have to put the pedal to the metal if we expected to race in Maine. We motor sailed down wind, maintaining 7.5 knots in some lumpy seas along the Maine coast. This rock strewn coast dotted with light houses and covered with pine trees is beautiful and we were very glad to have the visibility as Silent Maid rather noisily surfed by rocks and trees. The first night we made Boston and anchored in Hull bay. The second saw us on a mooring in Kittery and the third in the Sheepscot River. Each morning found us up with the sun and each evening we were seeking a mooring in the waning light. When the afternoon breeze came in it was behind us so we had good sailing until the decision to switch on the motor had to be made.

As we made our easting the shoreline the sandy features of the Cape Cod area gave way to more and more rocks. These all had surf at their edges but were capped in a variety of ways, some had wild life, sea birds or seals, some had pine trees and some had structures. The best structures were lighthouses of course and the worst were mediocre examples of modern home building. It is difficult for architecture to improve on the pine tree. The light houses succeeded mostly because they left the trees alone for the most part. All in all the structures that let the surrounding environment envelop them were the best. That takes a little time so my judgment of the modern structures may be a little unfair.

We arrived in Castine around five with a steering quadrant that needed another repair but a crew that was in pretty good shape. The gear teeth on the quadrant are cast in three segments and attached to the quadrant itself with studs. These had been lightly peened to keep them in place. Too lightly. Pete was steering and reported a hard spot in the steering and a clunking sound. I went to check and found one of the segments in the bilge. I was able to stick it back on and wrap a string around it to hold it in place. We
 arrived a day early to see what resources were available in Castine. The problem was we were arriving just as all shops are closing for the day. There was some thought of getting the quadrant to a machinist or welder first thing in the morning but that seemed destined to fail. We needed a repair that could be done on the boat that night. I came up with a plan to lightly countersink the quadrant and head over the studs. Pete got the task of locating tools while I started disassembling the gear. At this point Sandy arrived and offered to help. He almost immediately produced a wrench set then set about locating welding shops as a backup. Pete located a person at the yacht club with a home shop where he was able to borrow the necessary tools. John found a fish and chips place with carry out. Christian assisted in this. We were swatting mosquitoes and banging away at that quadrant by flashlight until about 9:30. No one complained. We might not have listened anyway. By 10:30 the steering gear was reassembled and we were ready to race. That’s a helluva way to finish a cruise. We did have that classic moment when I got to hand the helmsman a piece of the steering gear though.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


 It isn’t just about boat speed. There are many ways to lose a race. I put it that way because usually the crew making the fewest mistakes wins. In our Padanaram race with Kathleen we had speed. Silent Maid led everywhere except where it counted, on the last leg to the finish. I confused two marks and insisted we round the wrong way then realized my error so we had to round again in the right direction. Racing can provide a good way to acquire a little humility and so it was in this case. All that can be done is admit the mistake in hopes that this will prevent it happening again.  Kathleen’s crew sailed a good race and were in a position to capitalize on her opponent’s mistake.  We are now tied one all and meet next in Pleasant Bay.
     Meantime we are sailing for Maine. Christian, John Pete and I are the crew. We have a tight schedule and must get as much as we can out of each day.  At the time of this writing we are a day and a half into this cruise and have cleared Cape Anne bound for Portsmouth, New Hampshire tonight. We spent last night in Hull Bay outside of Boston.   Since clearing the Cape Cod Canal the breeze has been favorable, we used the motor in the mornings until the wind filled in. The crew has settled into a sailing routine, using some time to clean and come up with improvements to the boat.

Photos by Peter Corbin

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Bumpy Ride

Silent Maid's departure from Edgartown was quick. There were no thoughts of harbor tours, it was roll out of the bunk, fire up the engine and get underway. Coffee can be made and drunk in motion as well as at rest. Well almost.
Once clear of the moored yachts in the outer harbor we rounded up to set sail. The sail had a reef already in and another quickly followed with a third right after that. The wind instruments hovered around 20 gusting to 25 and boat speed was around 7.5. Once we hit open water the sea was jumping and the spray flying across the foredeck. The boat was buttoned up and happy for a bit of breeze. The three reefs made steering light work, I am ever mindful of that quadrant now.

The sea was really up off the entrance to Woods Hole as the current raced out into Vineyard Sound. At this point we really buttoned her up with the cabin doors closed for the first time. Silent Maid was thriving on it as we punched into the seas and current. In the relative calm of Woods Hole we needed the engine to stem the tide. What a dramatic and treacherous place that is with current washed rocks just outside a serpentine channel. It was with some relief that we entered Buzzards Bay and started a long beat to the Northern shore.

We shook out two reefs as we tacked along the shore and by the time we reached South Dartmouth we were comfortably sailing with one reef in flat water. We toured the harbor under sail, much to the delight of the boat workers, who seemed to be the only people around on a Thursday, then sailed back out of the harbor for a leisurely lunch with the boat drifting and the sheet fully eased, lunch was as unlike breakfast as possible. After lunch we furled and motored in to tie up at Marshall Marine’s dock. We were visiting the home of the Sandpiper and Sanderling.

Photos by Peter Byar