It’s a late October morning and boy is it cold outside. Not the mid-winter bone-numbing cold, we’re talkin’ maybe 55 degrees, more like the cold you feel after your blood has been thinned out by a hot Summer.
There is not a cloud to be found in the sky, nor a puff of wind, and the diamond encrusted Buzzards Bay beckons us once again. This is the real last cruise of the season. The day we cruise our boat to its winter home in Fairhaven.
I am pleased at how good we have gotten at prepping Ginger Lee for departure. We barely need to talk, each doing our own jobs. Before you know it, the mooring pennants drop into the water, I let Ginger lee drift back clear of them, and engage the drives.
Yes yes, I know it’s a sad day. And yes, I know I will certainly miss boating. But I’m okay with that; I want this vessel on land, protected from the harsh New England Winter. I want our whole fleet, (dinghies, kayaks and sailboat), tucked away safely. They’re like friends. I’ll be good to them and they’ll be good to me. It’s boat Karma. Since we’ll be taking the boat out of the water, we need to leave our dinghy here, tied to the mooring. It feels funny leaving him behind, like something important is missing. He’s always with us, dutifully following us wherever we cruise, reassuring us that if anything bad happens to Ginger Lee, he would quickly bring us to safety.
“But Captain Rick, how will you retrieve Salty from the mooring?” you ask.
“With our other dinghy,” I answer. Yes, we have two dinghies on Swifts Neck! Sometimes the tide is so low that it’s impossible to move Salty’s two hundred pounds across the sand to the water, so we a have small aluminum pram with wheels. We can easily roll it down to the water’s edge and row out to Ginger Lee.
We have a three-hour trip ahead of us, but first we need to pump out our holding tank, so it’s off to Zecco Marina, just around the corner.
This pump out station is self-service, so for obvious reasons we put on rubber gloves. The XO stands by the pump switch on shore while I handle the nozzle. It’s really easy to do and environmentally responsible. To help keep our waterways clean, Massachusetts and many other states provide free pump out stations in most harbors. Since our boat lacks the ability to discharge waste at sea, we know this routine well and do it about every three weeks. Uh-oh. A loose fuel fill hose on the center tank caused a gallon or two of diesel to spill into the bilge. I turn off the bilge pumps so it doesn’t end up in the water. I’ll have to deal with it later, when on the hard.
We set a course for the Moby Dick Marina on the Fairhaven side of New Bedford Harbor. The seas are pretty much flat for most of the trip until we make West Island. As we turn Northeast into the New Bedford Entrance Channel, three footers suddenly appear and dog us all the way to the Fort Phoenix Reach. There’s not a lot of pleasure boats out here in October. The working boats are busy though. We give them all plenty of room to do their thing.
New Bedford Harbor is scenic, historic, and definitely worth exploring, but there are so many nooks and crannies you really need a small boat to do it properly.
Finally we reach the swing bridge and the last half mile of this cruise. Because the tide is a little on the low side, we approach Moby Dick Marina with great care. Even so, our props kick up some mud as we dock in front of the ramp. Ginger Lee will be the next boat pulled out.
As usual, marina owners Arion and John greet us warmly. These guys are great! Friendly, hardworking (they do most of the work themselves) and just down to earth. I think I was their first customer. Years ago, after a sudden and catastrophic relationship failure, I was stuck for a place to put my boat. Nobody would take her. Probably because it was December. I talked to a lot of answering machines, but Arion answered on the first ring. “Sure. C’mon down. We got room for you,” he said. I could feel his big smile right through the phone. Stuff like that means a lot to me. I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.
John told me that he and Arion went to the Moby Dick Marina to check out a used boat and ended up buying the place!
“How do they pull a 16 ton boat out of the water?” you ask.
“Very carefully!” Sorry. Couldn’t resist. For those who don’t know the real answer:
They have this huge trailer with four, hydraulic, articulating arms. With a tractor, they back the trailer into the water, float the boat over it, operate the powerful arms so that it captures and lifts the vessel, then pull the whole mess up the ramp. When on level ground they power-wash the bottom.
It’s quite a big job that requires nerves of steel. One dropped boat can ruin your whole day!
Back at home on Swifts Neck, I row Pepper out to meet Salty, remove the mooring ball and pennants, attach the winter stick to the mooing chain, motor back to shore and put everything on a trailer.
We only have the one trailer, so I leave Salty in the back yard and go back to the beach to get Windsey, the XO’s sail boat.
And so ends the 2014 boating season. It was a good one too! We experienced new places as well as visited old familiar ones. We covered almost 500 miles and the engines clocked just over a hundred hours. All doing an average of six MPH. We are fortunate to live in such an awesome boating area. From our South Coast location, there are so many wonderful place to explore, here in Buzzards Bay, and of course, beyond.