Saturday, November 19, 2016

Getting the Boat to Newburyport for the Winter

We like keeping our boat at Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem Harbor during the summer. Its a nicely sheltered harbor, the town of Salem is a fun place to hang out, and its centrally located on the north shore, meaning that its easy to get to a variety of nearby cruising destinations. But we have had some problems with the yard while our boat is stored there during the winter, so this year we are trying something different. Lee found a boat yard he thought he would like across the Merrimack River from Newburyport, in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

Our initial plan is to take the boat up on a Monday and Tuesday. We’ll sail to Rockport, spend the night, and then make it the rest of the way. But weather, as usual, puts a crimp in this plan. I’m running the Smuttynose Half Marathon on Sunday. There’s bad weather coming on Tuesday, and Hurricane Mathew is meandering up the coast after that. If we don’t get the boat up to Newburyport now we might not have a chance until we come back from Italy, and then it will be COLD. Gotta get it done. 

Lee says lets go to the boat Sunday afternoon, spend the night and go to Newburyport really early on Monday. I’m reluctant. I’d rather spend the afternoon after a race soaking in epsom salts, propping up my legs and snacking, but I know he’s right. And I ran Smuttynose as a training run so I’m not really that depleted.  I didn’t want to race full out as I’m training for the Dopey Challenge, and riding my bike a lot as training for Italy. So I say okay.

After the race, a really nice mostly flat half along the coast, I meet Lee at the marina in Salisbury in order to drop off my car so we’ll have some way to get home after leaving the boat. Then its home for a little food, a shower and to pack my bag. By 4 pm we are in Salem hanging out on the boat. We go into town for dinner at the yummy pizza place, Bambolina’s. We take the dogs in for a walk when we get back. This will be their last chance to go potty until we get to Newburyport.

Lee is up by 3 AM, starting the engine and getting ready to go. I try to fall back asleep but the engine is right next to my bed, and I’m anxious too. I don’t like the thought of Lee up in the cockpit all by himself in the dark, making his way out of Salem Harbor. We are very familiar with it by now but still…

I put on some layers, make myself a cup of coffee, and clamber out into the predawn air, leaving the sleeping dogs behind in the cabin. We are out of the harbor, into the sound, approaching Mass Bay. We can see the lights of Gloucester glowing on the horizon. There are fisherman here and there. We have the radio and AIS on. Its peaceful, in spite of the rumble of the motor.

Slowly the sun comes up. We round the point toward Rockport. We are making good time. We pass the twin lighthouses, Halibut State Park. 

We see a whale! And a seal or two as well. I go down into the cabin, fix the dogs their breakfast but tell them they can’t come up into the cockpit until it is fully light. They don’t seem to care too much. We eat some cereal and hunker down.

By 10 AM we are at the mouth of the Merrimack. We have never been here before but we have heard a lot about it. During rough weather, or at maximum tide strength this can be a very dangerous passage. Lee has researched our timing and 11 AM is mid tide so we should be good. 

And in fact we have no trouble making our way through the mouth of the river. Its calm, and although there is definitely a current its nothing our motor can’t handle. Before noon we are safely on our mooring at Rings Island Marina in Salisbury, MA, right across the river from Newburyport. 

We’ll stay on this mooring for the next couple of weeks, until we have time to get the sails down and winterize the boat. Then the marina will haul us out of the water. We are hoping that this marina will be more accommodating to us than Brewer has been so far. Eventually we hope to find a marina to stay in farther north so that we can explore Maine before our sailing days are over, but that’s still a few years down the line. We’ll go back to our mooring in Salem in the spring, ready to explore points south for another summer.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Aretha Franklin and Brian Wilson

No not at the same time, but close! We went to see Aretha in Boston at the Blue Hills Pavilion overlooking Boston Harbor back in August. The concert was on a Friday. Lee used points to get us a reservation at the Marriott Residence Inn at the Seaport, so we were only a short 15 minute walk away from the concert. We brought the the dogs with us and they were super good. We had a suite, so we brought the the large, soft-sided collapsible crate with us and put them all in it while we went to dinner and then to the concert. They were so good, we didn't hear them barking, and Cosmo wore his belly band so we didn't need to worry about him marking either.

We went to dinner at Sportello's, right next to the hotel. It's a Boston restaurant that I've wanted to try for awhile. It has a modern diner feel; much of the seating is at a long winding counter, so you can see all the kitchen action right in front of you. The food was really good. We ordered a bunch of things to share. My only complaint is that the waiter was attentive but he knew the people sitting next to us and spent a lot of time chatting with them. And even though they came in after us he took their order before ours! 

Aretha was magnificent. She is 72 years old, and she looks it, but her voice is still spellbinding. I actually cried through half the concert. 

I'm actually puzzing a little over why I was so moved by her concert. Part of it is nostalgia I know. My mind drifted back to my sophomore year in college. The dorm I was in was fairly diverse and there were a few African American girls on my floor. We got to be friendly and they introduced us to some of their favorite music. Besides some of the classic R&B groups, like The Temptations and Wilson Pickett, there was Marvin Gaye's album "What's Goin On", and Aretha Franklin. Songs like Respect and Natural Woman moved me back then, and move me still.

She is a treasure and I'm so grateful that we got to see her. If you ever ever get a chance, do not hesitate, do it.  You won't be sorry.

The following weekend we went up to Gilford, New Hampshire to the Meadowlands concert venue to see Brian Wilson and the Pet Sounds Tour. This was a very interesting experience.

Lee found a campground very close by where we could take the RV. The only drawback was no dogs allowed. But we decided since we would be leaving them alone most of the evening it wasn't going to be that fun for them anyway, so off they went to Freedog for the weekend.

Meadowlands is a big country western venue but they also seem to be big on comeback tours. We could have seen Rod Stewart there the next weekend. It's not huge but it has a big outdoor food court and there's beer and other alcohol for sale too.

Brian Wilson did not sell out by a long shot. I felt a little sad about that, but he probably doesn't need the money. He came with a huge band, 11 people, all very accomplished musicians. Like Aretha, Brian Wilson is old, but unlike her he is damaged. He came shuffling out and sat down at the piano. Lee and I both had the same thought; Brian Wilson walked just like my dad did in his later years. If someone that is mentally ill stays on their medication for many years, one of the many side effects is a shuffling walk.

For the first half of the show the band played a bunch of Beach Boy oldies. Surfing songs, cars songs, motorcycle songs. This is the Beach era before I was conscious of Rock 'n roll, before the Beatles, before Sargent Pepper. There was a short intermission and then they played songs from the Pet Sounds Album. This was an odd concept for a concert. They actually played the album. Brian even said, "now we're  going to turn the album over and play the other side!" 

Interestingly enough, they left the stage before playing Good Vibrations, and came back and played it as an encore. They saved some of the biggest Beach Boys hits for a final jam session; Barbara Ann, Help Me Rhonda. 

The band was mostly good session musicians, but did include Al Jardine, one of the original Beach Boys, and his son, Mathew, who had a wonderful falsetto.

Brian Wilson is an extraordinary song writer, but he's no Paul Simon. Everything they played was from 30 and 40 years ago. He has suffered, and survived, but lost so much in the process. 

Really the two concerts were a study in contrasts, in what could happen to a person over the course of a creative lifetime. Aretha was dignified, proud of her accomplishments, polished, passionate. Brian was a physical wreck, his voice gone, but at peace with himself and what life has thrown at him. They are both survivors, but in very different ways. 


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