Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hard Work, a Shiny Ship and a Practice Halloween

Seb spent most of the daylight hours in Bristol performing and arranging maintenance for the boat, with the help of Booh’s advice, support and contacts in the industry.  Removed the unsightly and slow beard and barnacles from the hull, new anti-fouling, hull polished and tannin removed from white stripe, battery checked, stock-up of spare parts, wind-pilot maintenance, crack in the keel fixed, anode replaced, oil changed, sail drive oil replaced, air filter motor fixed, design drawn to have a support built for the solar panel, propeller polished and fixed...among other things.  Two rather major tasks were unexpected.  One of our main solar panels flew up in a gust of wind and smashed against a winch while we were on our way to Bristol.  This panel is impossible to replace in the US so we decided to install a support stick with 4-way pivot to maximise the efficiency of our second main panel.  Secondly, the propeller had long been making a rattling sound that we found slightly unsettling.  The local prop pro did some good testing and informed us to our horror that indeed the prop was in need of some significant work or replacement.  The only short term replacement option was an aluminium prop so instead we sent our current prop out for a few days TLC.  It came back glossy and solid.  Whew.  The Pjotter was launched again, with gleaming undersides on October 25.  


In parallel to this, Jen and I spent some time sewing costumes for a practice Halloween to be held on October 24.  Most of the business in the town of Bristol  (and several of the local politicians) opened their doors on this Sunday afternoon for practice trick-or-treaters.  Emma and Macsen had never celebrated Halloween before and seeing the four of them dressed up (unicorn, mermaid, frog and cat) and giggling was super.  

All in all, our Bristol time was full of work and fun.  It was a luxury to have entertainment (kids during the day and adults at night), house, car and occasional babysitter for a couple of weeks.  Most of the time the kids paired off happily and it was great to see them play but sometime we noticed that they (and as a result we) needed more downtime than four kids in a house will allow.  Emma is already counting the days until she gets to see Seren at Christmas.  And the rest of us are pretty psyched too.  

A Hilly Half-Marathon

On October 15, Jen and I drove the route of the Newport Half-Marathon.  It is a stunningly beautiful route along the ocean and through the mansions along the coast.  It is also a truly unique route in that it is at least 80% uphill.  One might think that this is impossible as it starts and ends in the same place but, nevertheless, it is the truth.  With this irrefutable fact in mind, Jen and I left the house in some trepidation on the 17th at 0600 to go stand at the start line and freeze for an hour.  Booh and Seb joined us (my parents stayed home to look after all four kids) and freely discussed their plan to head to the nearest greasy spoon for a hot breakfast while we sweated up the inclines.  Whose idea was this anyway?   

My target was to complete the run in less than two hours, a target I became less and less comfortable with at the 0800 start time neared.  Just as I was about to adjust my target to ‘just finishing’  the gun went off and a group of 4000 people moved along around me as I crossed the start line.  I managed to stay close to Jen for the first seven miles (11ish km) and that definitely helped me to keep a good pace.  As my glimpses of the back of her head became less frequent I was almost half finished so I just gritted my teeth and put my head down, wishing all the while that I had trained a little longer and a lot faster but fairly confident that I would make it in time.  I crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour and 56 minutes and 16 seconds.  Yipee!.  Jen finished in an even better 1 hour 50 minutes and 25 seconds.  Both very happy with our times. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Massachusetts and Arrival in Rhode Island

One thing I will not miss about Maine are the lobster pots! There must have been thousands of them in the small bay outside Freeport on the evening that we left. This meant one adult at the helm peering out to dodge the bobbing buoys one down below keeping the house in order. Seb now has a 7.5mm wetsuit with all of the fixings on board but swimming under the boat in the dark in wobbly waves in 10 degree weather to cut a rope out of our propeller was not in his plans. 
Our average on the Freeport to Provincetown leg was a solid 6,5 knots and we arrived in heavy winds after an 18 hour sail. The winds averaged 25-28 knots and the waves about 2 metres. Heavy but not unheard of conditions yet still we heard three ships calling the coast guard with requests for assistance. We were too far away to help but did hear that all three cases ended happily.

P’town is a bustling town on Cape Cod in Massachusetts known for beautiful dunes and beaches, artists and for its status as a gay village. On our first evening there we took the monkeys for an ice cream and watched the crowds of all sorts moving through, the place was booming and the people watching was fabulous. On our second day I took a long run through the hilly dunes and Seb rented a bike for a solitary pedal. It is unusual for us to do anything by ourselves and thus rather special and probably healthy for a family that lives 24-7 in a rather small space together. 

Wood’s Hole, about 50 nautical miles from P’town and also on Cape Cod, is the home of the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute, renowned for finding the Titanic and for the deep diving research submarine ALVIN. They also have what is reputed to be the oldest aquarium in North America, and the second oldest in the world and that, of course, warranted a visit. Wood’s Hole is a lovely sleepy summery place with a tiny harbour to moor the boat, a fabulous cosy cafe and bakery, and wonderful sandy beaches more to be enjoyed in the warmer months. 

An overnight trip from Wood’s Hole to Bristol, Rhode Island brought us into the harbour of the Brewer Sakkonnet marina at about 0800. Booh was commissioning a new boat at the same marina as we arrived and stopped by for a coffee on his way. We borrowed his car to take the kids to the house where Emma was finally reunited with her cousin Seren. Macsen’s reunion with Rhys was joyous but less dramatic. The boat was taken out of the water in the afternoon by the friendly staff at the marina. The bottom of the boat had grown a rather embarrassingly slow and ugly beard and was ready for new bottom paint and a propeller check, among other things. By early evening we were well settled at Booh and Jen’s watching the kids cavort about deliriously and enjoying a generous glass of wine.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Down the Coast of Maine

Southwest harbour, about 100 nautical miles from St. Andrew’s was our first stop along the coast of Maine. This is the home of Hinckley Yachts and is thus a small community with a big boatbuilding reputation.  Boatwatching in this bay is a real pleasure.  The community has a lovely friendly coast of Maine feel and there is a great playground in the middle of town where there were always new ’friends’  for the monkeys.   A trip to the Mount Desert Oceanarium brought us to small aquarium with a great touch tank, a real lobsterman who took us through the history of lobstering in Maine and a lobster hatchery that releases 30000 baby lobsters a year. Emma and Macsen were impressed with the thousands of 2cm long perfect mini lobsters flying around in the tanks.  They were both very brave and picked up huge 11-legged sea stars and Emma cuddled a large horseshoe crab.  

Frenchboro is the only community on Long Island,  a small island located just 10 nautical miles from Southwest harbour.  There are 90 residents of which 20 are school age children.  The bay is absolutely stunning with rocky banks surrounding a narrow inlet, lobster pots and lobster boats and houses clinging to the hills.  There are beautiful secluded walking trails through the woods and along the ocean.  There is also a small lobster restaurant/ store open in season (which we arrived outside), a great school with playground and a very well stocked library where we could sign-out books for the monkeys every afternoon.  Tammy and Jay, owners of the Offshore Store, had moved to the island five years previously.  He is an ex-boatbuilder turned lobster fisherman.  They welcomed us warmly with free ice-cream from the store freezer and Emma and Macsen frolicked about with their kids. They had won the lottery to hunt a moose and were heading off to the mainland as a family for the hunt and expected to refill the freezer with moose meat upon their return.  By a nice coincidence, we found that Kees and Mart from the big Pjotter had watched the World Cup finals with them in June.  


Our three-day stop in Freeport included a special surprise.  My mother had driven down to Portland (12 miles away) to drop my father off for a flight to England.  She came and spent the night and a day with us poking about in the outlet shopping Mecca.  It was easier to say goodbye this time as we plan to see her in a couple of weeks at Booh and Jen’s in Rhode Island.   

As we left Maine and headed towards Massachusetts, Seb and I both agreed that Maine has a very special coast with wonderful friendly people and amazing scenery and a really great all around feel.  Much like the Canadian Maritimes.