Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nantucket Adventures: Exploring Nantucket & Wheeler History

More about Nantucket.  In the photo below you see Guided Discovery next to two buildings on the docks. Those are cottages that can be rented by the day.  A two bedroom rents for $1,000 while a three bedroom rents for $1,200.

Explanatory Note: Knowledgeable boats may notice the fender hanging forward of the dock and will be thinking (correctly) "not yacht."  Guilty: I was too lazy to put the fenders in the lazarette.  There are three more hidden by the pilings.  We threw them over the side to clear the walkways.

Rental cottages behind Guided Discovery 
More about Wheeler.  I have searched on line unsuccessfully for photos of a 1958 65 foot Wheeler Motor Yacht. I've also looked for photos of their 50 footer as that was the boat where I first worked as first mate. Again no success.   The photo below of the 1937 65 foot model is the closest I've come.

1937 Wheeler 65 Motoryacht (for sale in Spain0
In the previous article I spoke about meeting Jane, the former wife of a son of the Wheeler who owned the shipyard that built these magnificent boats.  Jane gave me the phone number of her former husband, Gene who I contacted today.  He was stuck in traffic on the Bourne Bridge that crosses the Cape Cod Canal at the south end (we were within 50 miles of each other)  We had a lovely conversation.  Turns out he was in college when the 65 foot Randy Boatshoe was built and worked on her construction during the summer.

From Gene I learned some Wheeler history.  Wheeler was founded in 1910 and build boats through the early 60s.  Wheeler is famous for building Ernest Hemingway's 38 foot yacht, Pilar, in 1938.  Hemingway paid $7,495 for her (value today would be approximately $1,000,000).

Ernest Hemingway aboard Pilar
Ernest Hemingway's yach Pilar built by Wheeler
During World War II the Wheeler Shipyard built 230 wooden hull subchasers to patrol US waters. Following the war they built wooden yachts, of which the Randy Boatshoe 50 and 65 and a 65 foot sister ship named Fram are three of the boats I knew. I first saw Fram on Nantucket during my 1959 visit.

In the early sixties Wheeler saw the then emerging movement to build boats in fiberglass and floated a
$500,000 stock offering ($20,000,000 today) to set up a facility.  Around that time, five New York firefighters were killed in a fire involving the polymer resin used in making fiberglass boats.  The City Council passed a law requiring manufacturing facilities working with polymer resins to be sprinklered.  The Wheelers, who were stretch financially, could not comply and that ended their business.

And more about Nantucket.  Sunday morning we awoke to partly cloudy skies and a forecast of rain for later in the day.  Today's adventure was a visit to Sconset (short for Sciasconset), a fishing village founded in 1670 on the eastern end of Nantucket. We used the NRTA's Wave bus service to get there ($1.00 per ride for seniors).

Siasconset Post Office
We walked the village until it started to rain.  I'll let the photos give you a feel for what we saw in this lovely setting.  Note: The value of the rather modest single family homes in this village are well over a $1,000,000.

The Summer House Inn and Restaurant pictured above is located on the ocean.  It charges $275 to $695 per person per night for a room and $495 to $2,000 per night for a cottage.  Our slip at just under $500 a night almost seems like a bargain.

Gastronomical adventures.  Dinner tonight was at the Straight Wharf Restaurant, which turned out to be 100 yards from the boat on the opposite side of the fairway.  However, at 5:30 PM we were unsure of the restaurant's location and it was raining.  So we went to their website and clicked on directions to determine if we could walk there.  The link took us to the Ipad's mapping software where we learned that that the address, 6 Harbor Square, was 1 mile east.  Umbrella's in hand we walked to the cabstand, got into a cab and gave the driver the restaurant's name.  He replied it right behind us.  Google's mapping software got it wrong.

Our dinners were spectacular as was the white burgundy wine.  By the time we departed at 8:15 the rain had stopped.  This prompted us to take an early evening dock walk.

Walking the Nantucket Boat Basin docks is like being at a smaller version of the Miami Boat Show.  We saw no less than a dozen spectacular mega yachts (120 to 150 feet) med moored on the north side of the marina.  Even the smaller boats (50 to 100) were mostly late models in pristine condition.

Tomorrow we retrace our steps and cruise back to Hingham.  The weather looks OK enough with diminishing winds and waves on Nantucket Sound at 2 to 3 feet.  With a 7:00 AM departure we will cover the first 44 nautical miles in about six hours and arrive at the Cape Cod Canal at 1:00 PM as the flood tide begins giving us, at worst, a neutral current through the canal. Then 7 NM through the canal and then 44 more NM to Hingham. We should be pulling into our slip at 7:00 PM.

Bottom line: We all (including Kodi) loved Nantucket.

Written by Les.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Nantucket Adventures: We arrive!

Well first we had to depart Kingman Marina in Cataumet and that had elements of an adventure.  It was 7:15 AM and dead low tide.  The question that Myrna and I pondered at that early hour was whether to retrace our previous route, which involved heading north and west around Bassetts Island to Wings Neck, or head south and west around the island.  The latter was the shorter distance and the "official channel" according to the dockhand yesterday.  It was also consistent with our proposed route south through Buzzards Bay to Woods Hole.

Morning in Cataumet
What caused the "question" was the paper chart.  While it clearly showed the channel markers it also showed that there was no water at low tide.  Myrna felt we should retrace our route while I wanted to use use the "official channel."  The Garmin chartplotter showed 9 feet of water in the southern channel.  Which media should we trust?

Explanatory Note: Myrna's boating resume is quite extensive involving 27 years of sailing in New England and the Caribbean.  Her chart reading skills are as good a mine and her judgment is extremely sound.  Her opinion has weight.

We settled the matter with local knowledge.  Diana recruited Tom to help us cast off and he provided the local knowledge needed to move forward.  It did not hurt that he had a boat that drew 4 feet (we draw 5).

Look close and you can see Guided Discovery on the southern route about to turn west
We proceeded slowly along the southern route and encountered no problems despite the extremely low water.  We never saw less than 6 feet on the depth sounder, which adjusted for transponder location translated into 8 feet of water at the lowest point.

The next challenge was Woods Hole, which links Buzzards Bay to Nantucket Sound.  This is a tricky piece of water due to raging currents, intersecting routes, converging traffic and often wind driven waves.  We arrived there at 9:25 AM.

View of Wood' Hole heading eastbound.  Lots of buoys
Negotiating Woods Hole requires an understanding of the lateral buoy system along with knowing where you are going.  We also programmed the chartplotter with a route through Wood's Hole, which made the passage even easier.

With Woods Hole behind us and a route programmed all the way to Nantucket, we proceeded east across Nantucket Sound.  The winds had picked up as the morning progressed resulting in inconsequential one foot waves.  However the number of boats headed toward Nantucket, many of them big and fast resulted in considerable man made wake turbulence.  Our stabilizers totally smoothed out the ride.

Below are photos of a few of the many ferries we encountered as we crossed Nantucket Sound.

Luxury Yacht headed west bound (most likely returning from Nantucket)
At 1:30 PM we entered Nantucket Harbor, past Bradley Point Light and called Nantucket Boat Basin to announce our arrival.  The dockmaster told they were very busy and asked us to approach the marina from the south east via the moorings so as not to disrupt the big yachts that were med mooring.

Nantucket viewed from the channel

The Bradley Point Lighthouse and Coast Guard Station

Luxury Yachts "Med Moored" at Nantucket Boat Basin

An old wooden Trumpy motoryacht moored in the harbor
The next challenge involved negotiating the rather narrow fairway to our assigned slip.  Here we have to give the dockmaster kudos for the best directions to a slip that we have ever encountered (and those of you who follow our travels know we have been to hundreds of marinas).

Nantucket Boat Basin.  Note the med moored large yachts on the outer perimeter
Our slip, number 1216, was located in the third fairway from the left and about three quarters of the way in on the left hand side.  We were given a stern in starboard tie.  Again we had favorable conditions consisting of a slack ebb tide with low winds.  The slip proved to be a narrow with about one foot of space on either side of the boat.  Again, the remote saved the day.  We slid into the slip without touching the pilings.  It was now about 2:30.  It had taken just over an hour from the time we announced our arrival at the lighthouse until we were safely docked.

Guided Discovery at Nantucket Boat Basin
Time to have fun.  Diana, Myrna, Kodi and I went exploring in downtown Nantucket.  I took charge of Kodi while Myrna and Diana shopped.  The Furry Kid and I had a ball entertaining passersby with Kodi's wide range of behaviors.  The invariable question is how old is she.  My response is she can tell you and the smiles are incredible when she counts out her age (6) by tapping her paw on the ground.

Shops just outside the docks

Myrna and Diana

The Social Director (Kodi) makes another new friend

Cobblestone streets in the city center
Nantucket's city center is a very unique place and thoroughly charming with its cobblestoned streets, old very well maintained buildings and a wide variety of very nice shop.  This place caters to tourists with money to spend..and they do.

Antique car carved in wood.  Only $800
Folk art windmill $3,400
At 4:30 PM we adjourned to the aft deck for a class of wine (Rombauer Chardonnay 2012) and light appetizers.  As we were sitting there we noticed a plume of black smoke just east of the marina.  I learned that a 30 foot center cockpit boat moored just outside the marina had caught fire.

Smoke indicating a fire, which was on a boat moored in the harbor just outside the marina
Side Story: Fire on a boat is scary and dangerous.  Fire in a marina is scary and dangerous on steroids. We experienced this in July of 2008 when a 45 foot Sundancer on I-dock caught fire after midnight when a canvas cockpit cover blew onto a lit citronella candle.  The 45 Sundancer was completely destroyed as was a pristine vintage 46 foot Bertram sedan with a flybridge.  A 36 foot gasoline powered express next to the Sundancer and a sailboat next to the Bertram were also severely damaged.

More details: The Chicago Police Marine Unit quickly relocated the 36 express to prevent a massive explosion had fire reached her GAS tanks.  That would have been a game changer as flaming debris would have rained down on other boats potentially igniting them.  Still more.  The Chicago Fire Department had the fire out by 3:00 AM.  At 8:00 AM the following morning the 45 Sundancer started to smoke and caught fire again.  This time the Fire Department sunk her.

Fire breaks out on the 45 Sundancer at 8:00 AM

The 45 down at the stern after being sunk by the Fire Department

Aftermath of the fire on I-dock.  The 45 Sundancer, now raised from the bottom,
and the Bertram (Honey Girl) are a total loss
We had a spectacular dinner at Venturo, a lovely gourmet Italian restaurant on Federal Street and  then proceeded to explore the city at night.  The shops were open and filled with people.  We then explored the residential district just off main street.  The homes were charming, old and well preserved.  Seeing them at night was magical.

Venturo restaurant on Federal Street

The marina was magical at dusk
Willy's Jeepster circa 1948 to 1950
The photo above is of a Willy's Jeepster.  Parked just outside the marina it brought back found memories of my first trip to Nantucket circa 1959.  I arrived here as first mate on a new 1959 65 foot Wheeler Flush Deck Motor Yacht named the Randy Boatshoe (after the boat shoe of the same name). Bobby Cohen, the owner of the yacht and CEO of the Randolph Manufacturing Company, asked me to go to the grocery store and told me to take the rented Jeepster.  Turns out it was a stick shift and I did not know how to drive a stick. Well I learned very quickly and probably destroyed the Jeepster's clutch and gears in the process.

Last Thursday, Diana and I (and Kodi of course) visited a laundromat to wash our canvas settee covers. While there, Diana struck up a conversation (resulting from Kodi performing) with a woman who turned out have been married to the son of the Wheelers who built the Randy Boatshoe that brought me to Nantucket 55 years ago.  We of course left for Nantucket the next day.  Funny how the world works.

Written by Les.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nantucket Adventures: Let's Go to Nantucket

Let's go to Nantucket.  This was the conclusion of a discussion with my sister, Myrna, about how to take advantage of the fact that we had a 63 foot boat at our disposal that basically had not moved (except for a 3 hour cruise to Boston) since our arrival on May 5 from Norfolk.

We scheduled the cruise for a four day weekend to Nantucket starting on Friday, 18.  The grand plan was to cruise south Friday to Marshfield Mass to take on fuel at bargain basement prices and then continue south to Kingman Marine in Cataumet via the Cape Cod Canal.  Then on to Nantucket the following day.  Spend Saturday and Sunday on the island and return to Hingham (105 NM) on Monday.

This grand plan required reservations.  Welcome to New England.  It's a short season and we charge a premium for your cruise in this part of the world (at least that's my interpretation based on the following facts).

Dockage on Nantucket is outrageous at $7.50 per foot and you must have NON REFUNDABLE reservations.  In other words if the weather turns out to be lousy and you choose not to put lives and property at risk too bad.  So, our reservations for two nights (Saturday and Sunday) were $945 - use it or lose it.  The reservation at Cataumet's Kingman Marine was SLIGHTLY friendlier.  Forfeit 50% of $4.50 a foot (or $141.75) if you have to cancel.

Oh did I mention fuel costs?   Our average price for diesel since taking possession of the 63 on February 10 was $3.98, which was pretty good.  Fuel prices in Boston area run $4.80 at Marina Bay to $4.69 at Hingham Shipyard Marinas.  Ouch.  However, Green Harbor Marina in Marshfield Mass, which was on our way, was charging $3.72 per gallon.  So the final grand plan was to stop at Marshfield to take on fuel and then proceed south to Cataumet.  We also planned to pump-out while taking on fuel.

Explanatory Note: Pump-outs: Again, welcome to Massachusetts where we restrict overboard discharge of "black water" (human waste) but fail to provide convenient and adequate pump-out facilities.  Cruising 6,150 miles on the Great Loop and 1,500 miles north from Fort Lauderdale to Hingham we had no problem pumping out.  We pulled up to marina gas docks, took on fuel and concurrently got rid of black water.  Not so in Massachusetts.  Hingham Ship Yard Marina's pump-out is not at their gas dock.  Rather it is tucked away next to their travel lift dock where it is inevitably blocked by a boat recently or awaiting launch. The Hingham Harbor Master has a pump-out boat which comes to the marina once a week.  Put out a flag and they will pump you out (if they can gain access to your deck fitting with their SHORT hose.  More on our pump-out adventure as this story unfolds.

Now to the cruise.  We departed Hingham Shipyard at 9:45 AM (15 minutes ahead of schedule) on a beautiful sunny day with light winds out of the north.  The first leg of our route took us past Peddock Island, Hull Gut, Boston Light, Harding's Ledge (I used to fish there with my uncle louis - circa 1958), Minot Light (Cohasset) and finally to the Green Harbor River where we stopped for fuel.  

Peddocks Island

Hull Gut and Pemberton Point

George's Island

Boston Light being renovated

Diana, Kodi and Myrna as we cruised on Massachusetts Bay

Minots Light off Cohasset
Now I understand the bargain fuel price ($3.72 per gallon).  Green Harbor Marina is located in a shallow tidal river (6.0 feet at mean low water) with a NARROW channel leading to the marina.  The marina has a small 45 foot floating gas dock with a very tight space to turn around.  Maneuvering a 63 foot boat in this channel is not for amateurs (present company included). Fortunately the weather was perfect and we timed our arrival as the tide was coming in (up about 2 feet at the time of our arrival).

Marshfield Mass' Green Harbor River - shallow and narrow

On big boat arriving at one VERY small fuel dock

We stuck out a bit (how about 20 feet?)

Departing the narrow channel

The Sagamore Bridge heading south in the Cape Cod Canal
We arrived at 1:30 PM, waited 10 minutes for a boat to finish fueling, docked and took on 676 gallons of diesel.  No pump-out.  No problem (for their viewpoint) you can pump-out at the town dock but be careful there's shallow water over there. UNBELIEVABLE!  We departed at 2:40 PM.

Explanatory Note: Fuel management, specifically, how much is on board and how much did we use has always been an area of key interest.  Sea Ray's fuel gauges were notorious for overstating fuel usage. Hence, I went to elaborate lengths to calculate fuel on board.  I developed adjustment factors based fuel added in relation to tank level.  These were constantly refined over time to the point where I could predict within 2 to 3 gallons the amount of fuel that I would need to take on.

It seems that I am to be further challenged by the 63.  Here today's facts: I had transferred fuel from my auxiliary tanks to the mains upon arrival in Hingham until the site gauges read empty.  In theory, I should have had empty auxiliary tanks and should have taken on 150 gallons in each.  Not so.   The port side took 122.4. The starboard took 127.0. (based on filling to the top by listening for the change in sound as the tank tops off) Conclusion: When the site gauges read zero there's still about 25 gallons in the tank.  The mains showed 320 on the port side and 325 to starboard.  Simple math showed a need for 180 gallons to port and 175 to starboard (total of 355).  We took on 676.5 gallons as compared to a prediction of 625.  On the surface it looked close but it's not.  We were approximately 50 short in the auxiliary tanks and considerably over on the main tank predictions.  Bottom line: I do not have a good handle on fuel usage and fuel on board. To add insult to injury, my Tank Tender shows 113 gallons in each of the auxiliary tanks (vs 150).  After traveling 35 NM to Cataument, the main tank's site gauges show full (impossible) while the Tank Tender shows 437 to port and 450 to starboard (versus 500 on each side).  The Cat engine monitors show a total of 30 gallons used.  Note: I topped-off the mains based on sound.

We arrived at the northern entrance to the Cape Cod Canal at approximately 5:00 PM.  Our timing was DEAD ON.  We were at full ebb tide and being pushed through the canal on a 3.4 knot current.  We showed at one point a maximum speed of 14.2 knots.

The graph above shows the current running southwest (248 degrees) at 3.4 knots

Explanatory Note: The 63's engines were set at 1500 RPM, which yields 9.0 knots at 8 gallons per hour. Our speed was 13.2 due to the favorable current.  Perspective: The 63's top speed at 2500 RPM is 13.1 knots with a fuel burn of 50 gallons per hour.  The current was pushing us at our top speed while we were burning only 8 gallons per hour.  WOW!

Approaching the Bourne Bridge

At 5:55 PM we rounded Wing Neck and headed for Cataumet Harbor at low tide (OK we eon on the canal and lost on the arrival) through a long winding narrow and shallow channel with tricky buoys.  We passed a sail boat hard aground (sorry no photo).  40 minutes later we arrived at Kingman's gas dock where low and behold they had a real pump-out (compliments of the State of Massachusetts).  Just like that we had an empty holding tank.  HURRAH!

We moved to our assigned space of their face dock at 7:00 PM and checked in with the Chart Room receptionist for our 7:15 dinner reservation.  Yes, if you are paying attention, we covered 60 nautical miles over 8 hours, stopped for fuel, pumped-out and made our dinner reservation at the Chart Room on time.  I would like to take credit for all of this but I cannot.  DUMB LUCK.

Witch, a 1929 Elco cabin cruiser at the Kingman Marina
Hope you enjoyed.  Stay tune for more in the next three days.

Written by Les.

Hinghan 9:45
Marshfield: 1:30 PM Took on 676.5 gallons at $3.715
Marshfield 2:40 PM
Cape Cod Canal:5:00
Buzzards Bay: 5:35
Wink Neck off Cataumet: 5:55
Kingman Pump-out: 6:45
Kingman face dock: 7:00