BOSTON TO MANCHESTER,
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GOING FROM POINT A TO B ALONE
I awoke at 5:00 AM this morning anticipating our trip today. Today was going to be a first time challenge for me. Larry wanted me to take the boat north, to Manchester, totally on my own, as if he wasn’t there. That meant plotting the route, starting everything up, heading out and taking her all the way to the mooring ball our friend Lisa had reserved for us in Manchester. Larry’s responsibilities would solely be taking in the lines, putting the fenders away, and picking up the mooring ball at the other end. The deal was, I was to do it on my own without his help. He was to sit back an observe probable with great nervous tension.
Every so often, I get into a discussion with Larry about whether or not I could really handle the boat completely on my own if an emergency came up. When we run the boat Larry is always in charge and therefore I sit back a lot taking much for granted. I sometimes think, we’ve traveled all this way and I still don’t know how to take the boat from one destination to another, completely on my own. Well, today is the day, to prove me wrong. Larry says I can do it, that I just don’t think I can do it. He is putting me to the test.
Some of you may think what’s the big deal, it’s not a difficult journey heading up to Manchester, as the weather is superb, the distance isn’t great and there’s nothing really tricky about the route except getting through Boston’s busy harbor, so what’s the worry? The problem is, I’m surprisingly nervous even though I can rational that this is not anything major. I had reviewed all the boat procedures with Larry the night before while we relaxed on the back of the boat and had a glass of wine. I even took notes to be sure to remember certain things. When we run the boat we always split our duties and Larry always has the most responsibility. Well, today it will be no more wondering, I will know if I can really get Knotty Dog from point A to B without any help.
It was Saturday morning and by what I could see of the harbor so far it was pretty calm and quiet. It was still early and the day sailors and excursion boats weren’t in full force yet. Many boaters at the docks here had left yesterday afternoon in a mad rush to get out of town for the holiday weekend.
I told Larry I was ready. I started the main engine, then the wing engine, then took in the shore power cord, and then turned on the electronics, the first being the radar and depth sounder, then the auto pilot, the two radios, and finally the bow thrusters. I checked the radio volume and adjusted the squelch on both radios. I made sure one radio was on 16 and the other 13 for commercial boat traffic. I then turned on the computer with the chart plotter. I had plotted my course in last night so all I had to do was pull up that course and position the boat on the plotter and zoom in to a range that gave me a good view of the harbor and direction that I would take us out. I had my paper charts ready too, reading glasses, polarized sunglasses, binoculars. Larry came up to check everything and said I forgot to turn on the hydraulic pumps to the wing and main engine. Crap! I’m used to turning on these engines and I always turn those on but today I was nervous and forgot. Dang it! So already feeling disappointed in my performance, I turned the hydraulics on and ran the wing up to 2200 RPM. I’m getting nervous with Larry watching over my shoulder. I think everything is ready, I gave Larry the nod to take the lines off the dock.
I leave the pilot house to go to the outside driving station located on the Portuguese bridge. I’ve got the hatch door to the control already open and I press the button to activate the station and watch Larry on the dock as he takes the lines off one by one and throws them onto the boat. I give a small punch to the bow thruster to keep it from straying off the dock until Larry gets back on. Once Larry got on I pushed us off the dock with the thrusters slightly. There was no one else in front of us or behind today so I had a clear and easy shot to get out into the harbor. I stepped back into the pilot house, reinitiated the steering control to that position by pressing a button and put her slowly into forward and headed out. I brought the RPMs back down on the wing and turned on the radar to 1½ mile range so I would be able to see if anyone was coming behind me. I also stuck my head out both sides of the pilot house to check behind me. There is a lot of ferry and tug traffic in this harbor and I wanted to make sure we had nothing coming behind us. I gradually increased the speed to 6.9 knots and headed out.
DANG IT AGAIN
Larry came up to the pilot house after stowing the fenders and lines and said I might want to turn the wing engine off. Crap! Dang it again, I forgot something else! I turned the wing engine off and the wing engine hydraulic pump.
I headed slowly out and a fast ferry was coming towards me and two others behind him. I kept to our side of the channel and tried to stayed calm. At times they seemed to point right at us and I thought they are going to cross right in front but then they made their direction known and I could relax again as they decided to stay on their own side of the channel. Ziggy is all excited this morning with me driving and has decided to start barking at every single plane that is taking of from Logan Airport. I guess he’s showing off but it’s making me a nervous wreck. The flight path this morning is right over the harbor and right over us. The noise of both the planes and Ziggy were wearing on my nerves and concentration. I felt like belting Ziggy a good one but just yelled at him at the top of my lungs to “shut up” which did nothing as he continued his barking, chasing the planes around the deck and hooting in excitement. It was all a big game to him with me driving and all the surrounding excitement. He was having a ball.
Normally when Larry is running the boat, I like to follow the paper charts but now I’m solely following the electronic charts today which is totally not what I normally do. At first it’s confusing when you are searching through the binoculars for markers ahead and then try to compare them to the electronic charts, and watching and driving the boat. At times I thought I was going in one direction but it was deceiving. I finally began to totally rely on what the electronic charts said more than my own ability to sort out what I saw ahead. I didn’t like doing that but it was so much easier especially when today I had so many things to keep my eye on in this harbor.
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CAPTAIN AHAB AT MY SIDE
We’re heading out the main channel and Captain Ahab (Larry) is at my side, watching everything I do as if he thinks I'm going to make a major mistake but denying to me that he has any thoughts of it. He makes subtle comments like “you may want to alter your course a bit as you are crabbing this way or that.” At one point he said I needed to get over more towards the green and I realized I in my mind was making the most primary mistake of all and getting the “red right returning” mixed up. Wow, I know that like the back of my hand but found myself momentarily confused. This is not as easy as it looks. I quickly got over to the correct side of the channel and made my turn to the north channel heading out in the direction of Manchester.
Just before the cut over, three HUGE tugs were coming my way. Their wakes were tsunami like or so I imagined. My palms were sweating and the tension and fear was building but I felt I had enough time to cross over before they reached me and I was correct. Also once they understood my course they altered there’s in a way to let me know we all knew where each other were heading. It felt good. Okay, I can do this! Then a fast ferry whipped by out of the channel behind me coming by on my portside and I had no idea it was even in range. I completely missed seeing it on the radar! OK, don’t get over confident, you still don’t know what you’re doing, I’m telling myself. I began to concentrate more on the radar now, trying to cover all playing fields here.
THE ISLAND WITH BALLS
We headed out the north channel and all is looking good. We passed Deer Island and those strange ugly white balls of the sewage treatment plant and just past them, a smell lifted. It was a smell, that we’d been “smelling”, our entire stay in Boston. I couldn’t quite describe it before, just kind of industrial, not “sewagey”. We both realized the smell had been coming from “the island with the balls” and the wind just blows right across that island and straight into Boston. Whew! PEE-UUU-EEEE! Larry said he thought it maybe it was a sewage treatment plant (at the time of writing this we didn’t know). Wow, Boston stunk. Sorry Boston. Fresh air ahead!
MINE FIELD AHEAD
Well, we’re now peacefully heading out the North channel and I’m feeling more confident and then the huge field of lobster traps becomes visible. I had by now, set a course and put the boat on auto pilot, and suddenly have to turn the dial on the auto pilot to make a quick turn to avoid a lobster pot and then another and so on. So I weaved our way out the channel as I watched the many lobster boats off to the side hanging precariously nearby almost watching to see if we were going to snag any of their pots. These lobster boats look menacing and scary in the haze, just like that rusty old lobster boat near our dock in Boston. They are low to the water and have squatty windows and look sneaky. The sea gulls hover over them making them look smelly as they wait for a scrap to be thrown out.
We had a momentary reprieve from the fast little boats, tugs and ferries as we crossed through the lobster mine field. Suddenly the fast little boats appeared again waking their way past us. I forgot to mention with all the other chaos of coming out the channel today, the massive wakes created by these little speed boats and the other challenge of giving right away to the many sailboats in full sail in the channel. All that in combination with the tugs and ferry boats mentioned above and now the lobster traps….good grief!
OPEN WATER AT LAST!
Finally we are out in the open water and I change my course to the next way point. I won’t have to worry about a course change for over an hour as we slowly creep up the north shore heading to Manchester. I’ve increased my speed to 1450 RPMs and can now just sit back relax and keep watch. Every so often I adjust the chart to see what’s ahead and re-center the boat on the electronic chart. Occasionally I check and match the electronic chart to the paper charts where I can get an overall picture of our location in relation to the towns visible on the shore. We crab a little one way or the other depending on the current and I just adjust the auto pilot dial to keep us on course. Now and again, we head through a lobster field and I have a few panic moments trying to see them in the bright sun shine as I maneuver around them. I’m wondering why some have black flags on them. Does it mean they have a net stretched between them like other waters we’ve cruised? If so, where’s the other flag? Oh there it is! Okay turn this way and go around. Now get back on course.
The weather is great, and we have the doors open and are enjoying the day. It’s not muggy out here on the water as it was in Boston. It was just cool, clean and fresh smelling. An old schooner has been ahead of us for some time now. She looks large and beautiful through the binoculars and I have been watching her for a long time as we slowly were gaining on her. I was anxious thinking I’d take a beautiful picture of her when we caught up with her, but missed them entirely as my attention was suddenly required to maneuver us through another lobster mine field. By the time we were out of danger of snagging several lobster pots, I realized we had passed the old schooner. She was way behind us and I had missed a chance of getting a picture of her sailing out in the ocean on this great day.
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ALMOST HOME FREE
The day was going so quickly and soon we have passed Salem and Marblehead and are making our way past our last turn heading toward Manchester-By-The-Sea our final destination today. We pass some charming little islands on our way in, one with a lighthouse and then I get a little anxious as we see millions, no gazillions of white lobster pots in the water! It’s like a trap! But soon as we reached the red markers showing us the way in to Manchester, we make a last turn and find ourselves out of reach of the mine field. We can see our mooring field ahead and begin to look for our assigned mooring ball.
Our friends Lisa and George of Manchester have kindly arranged for a mooring ball for us in this popular place through the generosity of Crocker Boat Yard. Lisa has given us the number of the ball and a description of a boat that should be on a mooring nearby. We spot it easily. I start the wing engine, turn the wing hydraulics on, run the RPMS up again, and Larry goes out on the bow. I turn the stabilizers off. I drive around to the mooring ball and come up to it facing the wind. I point the nose of the bow slightly to the port to bring the mooring ball on the starboard side so Larry can reach down to grab the stick on the mooring ball. I put the engines in reverse to stop our movement and give Larry some slack. He quickly pulls the line up and grabs the huge rope attached to the mooring and pulls it through the hawsehole and gets the eye hooked on the cleat.
He gives me the thumbs up, we’re there! I turn all engines and electronics off. Once all that was done my last job was to turn the engine fans off and VOILA! I did it! Not without some mistakes, stupid things that I knew better than to do, but next time it will be better. I’m so glad Larry gave me the opportunity to do that. I hope he will let me do it again!
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Ahhhhh…Manchester-By-The-Sea. What a glorious place! It is what you imagine the perfect New England coastal village to be, not inundated by tourists, just the real thing…quaint, beautiful, charming and historic. Our mooring location is just outside the harbor entrance in a semi protected area nestled just inside the protection of Great Misery and House Island. We have a wonderful view of beautiful multi-million dollar homes that you probably would not be able to see other than from that water. There’s no paved highway that would give you the view like we had here. This is going to be a beautiful location for a few days.
We are looking forward to seeing Lisa and George who were so gracious to arrange this mooring for us through the courtesy of Crocket Boat Yard. It was a holiday weekend and we were grateful to have it. We got settled in and soon got a ring on the cell phone from Lisa checking to see if we made it OK. We said “just fine” and made arrangements for them to come out to the boat for cocktails, a tour of the boat and then we would head out later in the evening for dinner in nearby Ipswich, another one of my favorite places on earth.
HENRY E. HALL
Late in the afternoon, the Henry E. Hall arrived, that’s the Manchester Yacht Club launch, with Lisa and George aboard. (Who the heck is Henry E. Hall I wonder?) It was so great to see the both of them. We welcomed them aboard for a tour and cocktails. We had a lot to catch up on as it had been several years since we had seen each other. It was a beautiful afternoon renewing old friendships out on the water.
Before we knew it, it was time to pile into the Knotty Dog tender and head to shore as we had reservations for dinner and didn’t want to be late. We decided to take the Knotty Dog tender in, though not as spacious as the Henry E. Hall, but we knew it would be there at the yacht club dock if we got back late that night.
WHICH IS IT? IPSWICH!
Ipswich is a short 10 or so minute drive from Manchester through some beautiful stunning countryside. This whole area is one of my favorite places because of the beauty and unchanged historical landscape which is so rare from where I come from in California. Ipswich is a lovely little village located up the Essex River set on the bountiful landscape of marshlands.. We used to come to Ipswich by car several times every summer when we lived in Boston area just to dine on fried clams, visit the nearby antique shops and enjoy the ambience and exquisite beauty of the area.
Tonight we were dining in a lovely restaurant overlooking the river. The river this evening was mostly exposed mud as the rising tide was just starting to come in and with it, boats would be heading back up the river to their home port as the river would gain depth for them. All through dinner we watched as the rising tide created a changing landscape for our own personal viewing. The little boats returning up the shallow river in the dark looked like fireflies making their way back and forth following the natural curves of the river. It was a beautiful night, good food and great company. If I remember right I think I notched another lobster on my list that night.
Good thing we brought the dinghy in because we didn’t get back to the Manchester Yacht Club dock until 10:30 or 11:00 and the launch wasn’t running that late. In fact, the dinghy was slightly resting on the mud bottom as the tide had changed. We managed to give it a nudge off the mud bottom, hopped aboard and said our goodbyes to George and Lisa heading out into the darkness.
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PICNIC AND MUSIC ON THE LAWN OF CLUB
Lisa gave us a ring in the morning and said we might be interested in joining them and their friends for the town’s weekly summer concert on the green next to the yacht club. We gladly accepted. We were to meet her at the yacht club first for a cocktail party.
We were very anxious to see the Manchester Yacht Club. It is a beautiful structure seen from our dinghy as we would go by heading towards the town dock. It isn’t a large building but it makes up for it in architectural beauty, tradition and out word friendliness. The members made us feel right at home and were a fun loving group. The weather was perfectly warm, sunny and their large deck, that overlooked the channel, made for a perfect backdrop to the gathering. We learned so much that evening as many of the members gladly shared all their favorite cruising spots with us all the way to the tip top of Maine.
The evening continued on in the nearby park as we found a nice green grassy spot, laid out a blanket and set up for a picnic with the sounds of a band nearby. We munched on barbequed chicken, cheese and bread, drank wine, and just got silly exchanging funny stories and experiences. We had a spectacular time meeting Lisa and George’s friends who are full of spunk. We laughed ourselves until our stomachs hurt, as one of her friends, whose name I won’t mention to protect his innocence, theatrically recited a hilarious verse that he called “Ode to my mother’s in law’s tits”. We’ve tried to get him to part with a copy of it to display here but I think it’s a part of his wide repertoire that he doesn’t want to part with and probably for good reason. So we’ll just have to do with fond memories of him telling it in his hilarious manner which is probably much funnier than reading it. We finished the evening on the town dock putting away some very large ice cream cones from Captain Dusty’s . It was an evening that was a highlight of our trip this season and we’ll not forget the fun time we had. We thank everyone for bringing us into their circle for very special evening. I’ve always found New Englanders to be the real thing, though they have a bad reputation for being difficult to get to know, but not this bunch. New Englanders I’ve found once you break that barrier are full of fun and life and will be a true and genuine friends for life.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Again, we are so grateful to Lisa and George and Crocker Boatyard for arranging the mooring for us and thank them so much for their generosity. We had a perfect view of everything, the surrounding homes (rather mansions), Misery Island, and all the boats going in and out of channel to Manchester. There wasn’t a dull moment with all the activity, every moment of the day, to watch and beautiful scenery when there wasn’t activity.
During our stay we took the dinghy in to town several times to explore, provision and occasionally get a bite to eat. It was a pretty long dinghy ride to the center of town but we loved it as it took us past all sorts of interesting boats moored along the channel and in the inner harbor. We would pass the yacht club and the towns nearby beautiful Victorian gazebo at the water’s edge, both architectural landmarks. As we headed further towards town we passed Crocker Boat yard and just past Manchester marine, in the inner harbor, is an old quaint railroad lift bridge that crosses over a very small opening leading into an inner harbor beyond. It’s all very picturesque like a painting with working lobster boats and their small shapely little dories waiting for them to return at their mooring balls.
We usually docked the dingy at the town dock and explored the village from there. It doesn’t take long to see the town as it’s very small. The town’s not usually listed in the guide books as a tourist destination, and that’s what makes it special. It’s a real town, neighborly, beautiful, historic buildings and has just the minimum services to provide exactly what you need. There are just a few quaint shops, a couple places to dine, one ice cream shop, one good grocery store, a hardware store, two boat yards and marine shop, a convenient train stop right in the center and a beautiful white sand beach, Singing Beach, a short walk nearby. The harbor dock is surrounded by a grassy park with huge mature trees and benches to watch the changing scenery as the tide comes in and goes out of the little harbor. It’s the perfect New England village.
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That Saturday morning we got some breakfast at the local family coffee shop and noticed crowds of people getting off the train, probably arriving from Boston. They were dressed in beach wear, clutching beach bags, towels and folding chairs, heads covered in sun hats, and all heading down the road in the direction of the beach. It was quite a huge crowd of people all going in the same direction like what you’d imagine seeing a crowd heading to a concert or college football game. We decided to follow them and see exactly where they were going and what the beach was like. It was strange sight as the crowd of people were all walking double file, a long line of them, heading in the same direction down the residential street, seemingly, heading no where. After a good walk, up and down the meandering residential roads, we arrived at the end, Singing Beach. It was quite a sight to see. Practically every square inch of the beach was covered with people, towels and umbrellas. I was also surprised to see what a beautiful white sand beach it was with what looked like refreshingly clear blue water. I didn’t realize they had such beautiful beaches here. It could have doubled for a white beach on the Caribbean island minus the palm trees. Dogs weren’t allowed during the season, so we watched from afar. They had everything they needed, a clam shack, beach house to change and shower and a glorious sunny warm day.
THOSE NEW ENGLANDERS ARE A HARDY BUNCH
Before we left Manchester we invited Lisa (George had to leave on a business trip), and their friends to the boat for cocktails one late afternoon. That particular day the weather changed for the worse and the winds and waves got nasty. We were pretty exposed to the weather as the wind changed. It was a pretty uncomfortable unsteady day on the boat. The boat was rocking and rolling and I finally called Lisa just after noon. I told her it was pretty bad out here and said that I would understand if she and her friends wanted to cancel. I told her it might not be very comfortable. She said it should be fine, they’ll all boaters and were still wanted to come. These New Englanders are a hardy bunch and sure enough that afternoon we could see them heading out to the boat on the old Henry E. Hall. Fortunately, the weather had settled down quite a bit but it was still rocking and rolling on the boat and I was concerned about it.
Lisa and her friends brought an acquaintance of Larry’s, Bob, who Larry used to work with. Neither of them knew that they were going to see each other as it was a surprised dreamed up by everyone. Bob lives in Manchester and it so happened they were all mutual friends. Bob didn’t know where they were taking him on the Henry E. Hall and Larry didn’t know he was coming. It was a great surprise.
Well, that evening, the boat was rocking and rolling and any other group of people would have been sick to their stomachs but these people seemed to be enjoying every minute or were putting up a stoic good front. There wasn’t one complaint among the bunch. They really are a great group of people and again had so many laughs. Soon, too soon, it was time for them to leave. That’s the woes of boating as you sometimes have the wonderful opportunity to meet new people along the way and renew old acquaintances that you so enjoy and know sometimes that you may never cross paths again. I do hope that we will cross paths again!
ROCK & ROLL ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
On the weekend it was a very busy harbor. It seemed like it was memorial day weekend and speed boats were out in full force. They were coming and going and many were headed out to nearby Misery Island. We could see in the binoculars, several boats anchored in a protected area of the island. We decided to head on over in the dinghy to see what the big attraction was. It was a long, rough, choppy ride over. What we found was a crowded little harbor on an isolated uninhabited island, with people on the hook, sitting on the back of their boats, drinking, barbequing and having a good time. We could see the remnants of an old stone building on the island and asked someone on the back of a boat what was on the island. They said at one time is was a casino and resort but now it’s just a park with hiking paths and lots of building ruins to explore. I guess it’s also a good hideaway to hang out on the back of a boat and just enjoy the day.
We headed back but the journey back was like a speeding rolling rough highway. Boats would literally race full speed right next to us heading either to Manchester harbor channel or out through the opening between the islands, and some were heading in the direction of Salem and Marble head. Many I think were just out to race, circling around the area repeatedly. When we got back to Knotty Dog, the boat was reeling from the wakes. We just couldn’t believe it. Trying to get in and out of the dinghy was a dangerous situation as some of the boaters would speed right by you, too close and cause the dinghy to bang up and down against the swim step. We’d stare at them as we hung on for dear life as they raced by, waiting for a break so we could get on safely. We never saw the likes of it. Some would see us and realize what they were doing. Some would then slow down but others just didn’t seem to care. The wakes were splashing over the railing on everything we had in the back cockpit. The back of the boat was covered in salt water from the wakes. We were one big wet mess that whole day.
Late that afternoon two large yachts came in and anchored nearby. For some reason the small speed boats would courteously slow down by their boats, maybe because they were slowing to gawk at these huge monsters but there was no slowing down for us. We just rock and rolled the whole day.
That night the waters finally calmed down as all the boaters finally went home. The anchorage though quiet was lit up like a city tonight as the two yachts had every light on including those lighting up the water underneath the yachts. It was quite a sight in this quiet peaceful place.
TIME TO GO
It was time to head north. We had reservations at Wentworth by the Sea where we were meeting up with our friends Susie and Bud from Pasadena, California. The morning was calm and flat. There was a foggy mist hovering in the area. The only ones moving about this early morning were the lobster boats headed out for a days work. We’re a little sad to leave as we had so much fun here and love Manchester by the Sea. Thanks again to everyone!
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