Winter is Coming

Quiet time before sunrise in Vinalhaven.

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

I awoke early to watch the sunrise on yet another glorious cool, misty day. The water was pristine, and calm as the sky. At first the stars dim, and then a slight change from inky blue comes a lighter hue from one direction. A splash occurs from starboard – a early cormorant is chasing frantic fish, which boil and attempt to break into the air to escape. Frolicking seals play this ritual in the early evenings. Namesake of this wild spot, Seal Bay, brings frequent visits for a meal.

Sunrise!

Soon Kelly arises, to join me for a second cup of fresh-pressed coffee. We’re still working off the second twenty-pound propane tank that was found aboard when we bought Fayaway last February. Seems like it will last quite a while. But we don’t have a while longer, at least not until next spring. The coffee tastes good, and Kelly asks what we should have for breakfast. Our supplies are dwindling in anticipation of ending this boating season. But still plenty of oatmeal, which is one of our favorites anyway. Since the late summer air is cool and misty, we stay below to eat this morning while we listen to NOAA on the VHF. I climb onto deck, finish the last sips and leave my empty Dartmouth College Dad coffee cup on the top step of the companionway ladder for later retrieval. I empty a spare five gallon jerry can into the diesel tank. We won’t be needing this fuel, and so add this precautionary jug to the main tank with some bio-guard treatment.

Overlooking Burnt Isle. Fayaway in distant far left.

We decide it’s time, so I’m at the helm and turn the key to the obnoxious diesel and look over the port stern for water flowing out. Kelly strolls easily forward, stretching and hooking the washdown hose nozzle on the push pit rail, and proceeds to untie the snubber. I watch her progress from afar as I look around with the sun rising and notice others aboard nearby vessels are beginning to stir. She looks back to check for my readiness and I give her the nod to start cranking the windlass. It has been working well on the uphaul since I rebuilt it back in Mattapoisett a couple months ago. We’ve been able to make the rusty chain last for this season, and now we have more time to find a better deal, as the troublesome world supply chain affects our chain too.

Not surprisingly, the anchor is covered with clumpy muck. I watch Kelly as she signals me a thumbs-up, which means it’s up but I know she’s going to wash the mud off. I can begin slowly motoring away which also helps with the cleaning. After moving the shifter forward into gear and we’re starting to move into an open area, I twist around and release a bit more of the dinghy painter, allowing KoryKory to fall back for a smoother ride. We only have about twenty miles to go on this relatively brief “passage”. A weather report indicates light westerly wind this morning, but building to twenty knots by afternoon.

We slowly motor generally eastward through the winding bay, waving back at and around the anchored boats toward the bay’s entrance. A mega-yacht has anchored smack in the middle, with lobster buoys dangling around. Not a problem for us to navigate around, as there’s plenty of room. But I’m reminded of yesterday’s tranquility in the bay, having been broken by the obnoxious jet-skis, now tethered to their stern. I mutter to myself: Why bother coming to this beautiful place if only to race around on such a noisy toy? I feel like motoring by closely, hoping for once that my noisy diesel might somehow disturb the occupants for a taste of retribution. But we keep our safe distance just the same, perhaps allowing them to sleep off their hangover a bit longer.

Kelly enjoys coffee with favorite bunny mug.

Our mainsail is uncovered and ready to raise. However we’ll soon be heading westward into the wind which isn’t enough to sail anyway. So, the sailties remain attached. We pass a couple working lobster boats as we make our turn and thread our way through Fox Island Thoroughfare. With sun rising behind us, and no fog (surprise!) we make it almost the whole way through without passing another boat. It was only three days earlier, coming the other direction, when we cheerily waved to Roger and Amy aboard their beautiful sister-ship Shango. They offer plenty of enjoyable stories from their recent circumnavigation.

We arrived at Rockport Harbor by early afternoon, finding our designated mooring in the outer area. I called the harbormaster’s office in anticipation of stopping at the dock to meet John, our “Canvas Guy”, hoping he’ll finish installing the grab bars and bimini connector piece. We made it to the empty public dock, but John wasn’t happy with the fit, so he put it off again. Not such a problem, as we will have an entire winter ahead of us to finish up this, and more canvas work ahead. So it’s back to the mooring for we have work ahead. Time to remove sails, coil lines, cotter pins and rings, and generally prepare for the next big day.

Fayaway de-rigged on the night before haul, Rockport, Maine.

My alarm went off at 6, as we expected to be boarded at 7am. Buckets and buckets of rain fell, seemingly all night. And the rain continued to fall in sheets too. Dawson climbed on and inspected our de-rigging work. “Looks like you’re in good shape”, he said with a satisfied smile. I dropped the mooring line, and Dawson motored up into the narrow harbor channel, snaking Fayaway carefully into the haulout basin. First step was removing the boom, then the mast was lifted out and dropped onto a specially-fitted pickup truck waiting nearby. I put a bucket, held in place with a bungy cord over the gaping rain-hole on deck.

Like gears in a clock, workers pull Fayaway’s rig as the tide begins to fall.

Kelly stayed below the whole time, packing and cleaning up the mound of mud left from under the mast. Fayaway’s mast had been sitting uncovered outdoors for fifteen years prior to this year. So, it wasn’t surprising that a few wild creatures had built homes inside. These had been disolving over the summer as rains entered the vertical mast, washing contents into the step. Well, at least now it should be much cleaner!

Working rather quickly before the tide went back out, Dawson made a quick call, and then motored out of the basin and around to an even narrower ramp where Peter was waiting with a large trailer. Rain continued to pour, creating a torrent of fresh water near the ramp. He had some challenge due to the swift current pushing our stern in the wrong direction. But Dawson knew what to do, and asked Kelly to toss me a line at the dock, allowing me to hold Fayaway’s bow as he applied throttle to kick the stern around. These guys are pros, and make the whole process seem simple. We watch longingly as Fayaway makes her way up the steep driveway toward her winter home ashore.

Yes, we are out of the water once again. Time for a serious re-fit! After this post, you’ll probably deal with reading more about the work, and less about the travel for the better part of another year. Sorry about that. Believe me, we’re staunchly dedicated toward reaching our goal. Almost every penny coming in goes back out into the form of a gadget that bolts or ties upon Fayaway. All our friends and associates know it. We just need to be patient, and we’ll eventually get there!

It was a time for warm embraces, for smiles, for toasts and reconciliations, for renewing old friendships and making new ones, for laughter and kisses.

It was a good time, a golden autumn, a time of peace and plenty.

But winter was coming.

George R.R. Martin, Fire & Blood
A short hike on Little Hen.

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