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.

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