Friday, December 29, 2017
America The Beautiful/Sequel
The North Atlantic Ocean offers endless possibilities for apprehension. When cruising on the western shore of Lake Michigan the fact that Michigan is 50 to 90 miles away is a cause of anxiety. But once in the Atlantic the miles morph from the tens to the thousands. This increase in distance is palpable in the way Carrie Rose rides the waves. Unseen or even unheard of storms affect the day’s passage.
Six to eight miles off shore the swell, which in my Atlantic experience has been from the SE, begins to pick up the boat’s rear and send it rushing down an extra knot or so. The wave’s peak eventually catches up to the boat and with a whoosh, passes under the keel. Now the boat’s forward motion is slowed as the aft sinks into the trough, and then the process begins again.
Waves develop in patterns. About every seventh wave on the Great Lakes is larger with an occasional one being totally out of proportion. Think minuscule rogue wave. It is impressive, and elicits a hoot and a holler from the crew. These waves are the exclamation point of the journey.
At one moment we are amongst the waves and then suddenly the waves are amongst us: either on the crest with distant views of breaking white caps, or below in the troughs surrounded by walls of dark blue water.
At some point, it is time to head for shore. With the push of a couple of buttons, the autopilot alters course. The boat’s motion takes on a different feel, and several times this year the combination of wind and waves conspired to make me queasy. It does not last long though, because the sea state is in constant change as Maine’s jagged coast manipulates the surface of the ocean.
It is not a simple task to approach the final destination. Many waypoints need to be meticulously followed since for the most part, over the last seven years of cruising, every destination is unique. Islands (both seen and unseen), bays, reefs, mountains, and tides and currents influence Carrie Rose’s path to a slip, mooring, or anchorage.
Each destination requires a different mindset. Different switches, lines, fenders, and gear need to be readied. Different tomes need to be reviewed. And different levels of trepidation inform the procedure. Charlotte and I have become adept at this needing few words to set the plan in motion. Of course, the plan is in constant review. Even after the boat is secured and the engine turned off the process continues.
If we are anchored I will take the next half hour to listen to the weather radio, observe landmarks, enter the Lat/Long into the log, set the GPS on anchor watch, and second guess myself as to where I chose to drop the hook. This can be exhausting.
If on a slip, I adjust the lines and walk the docks to observe how the locals are attached. If they have extra lines, I will come back and do the same, for every harbor has its own idiosyncrasy only known to the natives. This saved us much grief.
Moorings are a different story. Though easier than both of the above, they require faith in the unknown. A mooring is made up of numerous fittings, all prone to failure if not maintained properly. It is a calculated risk, as most cruising is after all. We trust that all will be well. This saved us many sleepless nights.
I started to write about the different Americas we encountered in the thousand miles from Kent Island, Maryland to Herrick Bay, Maine. About the people we met, the food and the culture we experienced, the nature and city landscapes we glided by — that is, about America the beautiful, but I was swept up in the details . . . so be it.
To our family & friends, Happy Holidays from Charlotte & Dean
It only took 1000 nautical miles to go from shallow mud and heat to deep granite and cold. Somewhere in those miles, we crossed the crustacean differentiation line passing from blue crabs to green lobsters. The boats morphed from skinny to wide, and the buoys from a hodgepodge to a constant presence. Carrie Rose went from heading north to heading down east. The language changed but I am not a good enough writer to describe it. The geography aged, the further north (with a few exceptions) the older and more interesting. Flat salt marshes barely holding their heads out of the rising sea slowly transformed into a tree lined rocky coast covered in moss and lichen, and unlike the southern realms, this northern mountainous landscape will require millions of years to erode. South in the heat folk were polite if not a bit edgy. Mid trip in the lands of New Jersey and southern New York an infectious nervous energy developed. We basked in the instant familiarity and joy that was exhibited to us for the fact of having enough nerve to show up in a boat from Chicago. Maine has a more reserved population. They are going along how they have always gone along, and will continue to with or without us. It seems they would be just as happy to be left alone, as long as the world continues to buy their lobsters. Carrie Rose floats through these communities untethered. It is a liberating feeling. When we pack up and head home for another winter of family, friends, and culture it is usually about time and brings no regret.