Our Regularly Scheduled Waters

“Memory is a strange thing, It doesn’t always work like you think it should. I remember moments I shouldn’t, and forget the ones that I should.”

I had a dream recently. My wife and I were boating in waters so shallow that we were afraid to start the engines. We could ruin the running gear, or clog the intakes with muck, so we got out of the boat and into the water, me in front, her in back, and pushed and pulled. I clearly remember the feeling of sand and silt giving way under my feet, and getting stuck in it, making it very difficult to move, yet I kept going, one foot in front of the other, until the danger was over. Metaphorically speaking, there’s a lot going on in that dream. The push and the pull, fear and danger, failure and success, working together towards a goal, that thing where it feels like your feet are stuck in clay. It was a good dream. I don’t often remember the good ones as much as the nightmares, but that one stayed with me. I liked the Yin and Yang of it.

I don’t remember boating after we returned from our Great Loop trip. Which is crazy. I must have gone for a ride or two. Didn’t I?
I know we removed her from the water much sooner than usual because she needed some maintenance after being afloat for so long, but that was in late August. We arrived home in June. Could I have ignored my old buddy Ginger Lee for nearly two months? I feel like I lost an entire boating season.

After over 6,000 miles and 18 months in the water, we took Ginger Lee out of the water two months before we usually do. Her hull needed a new coat of anti-fouling paint, both engines needed new impellers and exhaust elbows, and there was a gaping hole in the aft-deck roof from a storm on Lake Cayuga NY.
This hunk of rust is called an exhaust elbow. As you can see, it’s toast. The new one is behind it.
If you plan on keeping your boat in the water for more than a few days you need to protect the underwater part with anti-fouling paint.

Here we are in the Summer of 2019, our Great Loop trip is in the books, Ginger Lee is all spiffed up, and I’m excited to be back cruising.
We locked up the house, gave our good neighbor Joe the key and our float plan, and walked a few blocks to Swifts Neck Beach.
It was not a great day weather-wise. Steel grey clouds tormented the sky like a schoolyard bully. It felt like rain.

What’s a few raindrops between friends? Besides, the marine forecast wasn’t so terrible–one to two footers–so we loaded up Salty II and motored out to our Trojan F-32 Ginger Lee patiently waiting for us on the mooring.

The dinghy is loaded up.

One of my favorite things about living in Wareham is its access to Buzzards Bay, our super-highway to the world with exits to Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound, Rhode Island Sound, and the Cape Cod Canal.
For our first stop we had planed to go east through the canal, then north to Green Harbor in Marshfield, but that didn’t happen. I’ll tell you the story.

After doing our pre-cruise rituals, which include cutting away the fishing line that I criss-cross along the bow rail to keep the birds away, and taking down the Gull-Sweeps that spin on the roof, also to keep the birds away, the XO dropped the pennants, and once again, after a year long hiatus, we be cruisin’!

I love my wifes new haircut.

It felt good to be thinking like mariners again, free of land-based concerns, reading the charts, checking the instruments, feeling the motion of the water as we carve our way through it, and breathing my favorite cologne Eau De Diesel. The familiar sound of the engines working in unison made me smile. I may have let out a giggle as Swifts Neck faded away behind us.

We left the Wareham River and headed southeast around the Stoney Point Dike, then turned northeast into the Hog Island Channel where you never know what to expect. Even on a day when the marine forecast predicts small waves, this busy channel can be whipped up from boaters who ignore the 10 mph speed limit. Apparently there are not enough patrol vessels to enforce the rules.
A spatter or two met the windshield as we passed between Mashnee Island and Widows Cove. Somewhere between Onset Bay and the Mass Maritime Pier, the rain became steady but light. We were focused on catching the fair current through the Cape Cod Canal and timed our arrival at its west inlet pretty darn good, but shortly after we went under the Bourne Bridge, it became obvious we needed a new plan. The weather was tanking fast. We weren’t going to make it to Green Harbor. Turning around wasn’t a good option because we’d be fighting the three mph current, not so bad, but in a boat like ours, whose top speed is perhaps eight, it’d take us a long while to get to the safety of Onset Bay, the port we passed thirty minutes ago.

“Whattaya think,” I asked the XO.
“Harbor of Tears,” she answered quickly.
The XO refers to the Sandwich Marina Harbor of Refuge located inside the Cape Cod Canal near the east end.
A while back she heard an account from another boating couple who ducked into the Sandwich Marina to get away from the weather. Their experience was terrible. The wind came from the wrong direction and rocked them unmercifully all night, so they coined that name The Harbor of Tears. It just sounds so romantic doesn’t it? I think I’ll write a song!
Take heed all ye sailors
of all of your fears
for the sea won’t be kindly
in the Harbor of Tears

It was pouring wicked hard when I called them on the phone. The wind had picked up as well, but when we cruised into the marina, everything inexplicably went slack. The rain, the wind, the currents, everything. It was like somebody hit the pause button. Must be all those good karma points I’ve been saving up.
We got a slip assignment as we passed the fuel dock. Its attendant leaned out of his little hut and pointed us in the right direction. As usual, the XO wrangled the dingy, hung the fenders, and prepped the lines for an unassisted docking, bow in, starboard tie up. It all went smoothly, but the very instant we got the shore power cable and water hose connected, all hell broke loose.
Mother Nature: “Now?”
God: “Hang on a sec, there almost hooked up.”
Mother Nature: “Jeez! You’re killin’ me here. How ’bout now?”
God: “Almost. Rick’s having a little trouble threading the hose into the pressure regulator. Ooh, looks like he’s done now. Okay Mama, let ‘er rip!

There was a tornado in the area! This is very rare in New England. It wasn’t a big one, we weren’t going to be blown to Oz or anything, but for about an hour the weather was friggin’ scary. The wind was whipping and howling, rain was sideways, trees bent over. It was nuts!

Thank God it was a fast moving storm. By early afternoon we were able to leave the boat and stretch our legs.
We’ve never docked here in Sandwich, it’s quite nice. There are no less than three restaurants within the marina boundaries. There’s also a seafood market, ice cream parlor, clam shack, and a whole shopping center across the street.

Post tornado in the Harbor of Tears.
Post tornado walkabout.
We found the good pub.

Well, we didn’t make it to Marshfield, but since we had a reservation there at the Green Harbor Marina, I called them to let them know we’d be delayed by a day. They were very understanding about the situation, but we had already paid for two nights on Dockwa, an online marina reservation service. Because of their policy of ignoring the fact that boaters are slaves to the waves and weather, it was too late to cancel without a penalty. The manager of the Green Harbor Marina was super nice and we worked out a great deal. We would come back on our way home and he would comp us for the day we paid for but didn’t get to use. Sometimes all you need is a little cooperation.

The canal East Inlet into Cape Cod Bay on an overcast morning.

The morning greeted The Harbor of Tears with overcast but clearing skies. A light breeze tickled the burgee and smelled of good weather, good enough to warm up the engines and head out.
At the east end of the canal we turned left and went north up Cape Cod Bay. The day was getting better by the second as we cruised past the expansive Plymouth Bay, Gurnet Point, the never ending Duxbury Beach, and into the mouth of the Green River. Its rock jetty welcomed us with open arms. Great rays of sunlight streamed through the retreating clouds, warming my face and my soul. Is that a choir of angels singing? I immediately fell in love with the place.

Beachgoers on the Green River rock jetty.
A Green Harbor scene.

People go on adventures to find things they never knew were out there.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. “Why have I waited so long to visit this beautiful place?” I think I know the answer to that question. There are warnings about how shallow it is here, but they are misleading, well, I was mislead. After being here I realized that the depths are not dangerous for the prudent boater. Maybe if you had a sailboat whose draft was, say, five feet, typical for many, you might have a problem at low tide, but there are many such boats in this harbor. Certainly a boat like ours with its three foot draft can come and go at any time.
Even though this has become an overnight stop for us, I’m happy we discovered the truth about this hidden gem. I’m looking forward to returning on our way home.

The next morning brought us bright blue skies and that sweet July heat that us Bay Staters love to complain about. Bye-bye Green Harbor, see ya in a bit.
After leaving the Green River and winding our way around the many working boats pulling up their traps and making their living, we headed directly for the most visible landmark in this area, the famed I Love You lighthouse on Minots Ledge. Not called that because of its phallic appearance, but rather for its light that blinks 1-4-3.

The I Love You lighthouse.

We decided to check out Spectacle Island, one of the many Boston Harbor Islands open to the public. This one has moorings you can rent. You may also anchor, but because it’s near a boat channel where everyone ignores the NO WAKE signs, mooring is the best bet. A big wake can dislodge your anchor.

Moored off Spectacle Island. Boston proper is tantalizingly close. As you can see, there are plenty of empty moorings.

To minimize the wake problem, we chose a mooring close to shore. The distance made the wakes turn into slow rollers, not so bad, and later on in the day, when traffic diminished, the wakes were not so much of a problem.

Slow rollers.

Spectacle Island has a rich and pungent history as a place for horse rendering. Later on, they built a trash incinerator and it became the city’s dump. When the incinerator closed, they simply heaped the untreated trash there for thirty years! What the heck were they thinking?
In the 1990’s they continued the tradition by dumping all the dirt from Boston’s Big Dig project, covering up all that trash and nearly doubling the islands size in the process. If you like beach glass, this is your happy place. You cannot walk one foot on its shoreline without finding the best specimens you’ve ever seen. I filled my pockets in five minutes, then I decided I would keep only one, making it all the more precious.

There are five miles of trails to walk.
I walked every inch of them.
View from the top of the North Summit.
The view from the South Summit. Speed limit? What speed limit? That white buoy in the center is a SLOW NO-WAKE sign that two rude boaters are ignoring.
A lazy Summers day.
Sunset over Boston.
They regularly shuttle people to and from Boston. There’s a nice facility with a snack bar. I had the chili dog smothered with cheese.
You’d never know this was a dump.`
Sunrise over Spectacle Island.

After a few days we somehow managed to tear ourselves away from the Spectacle. Peace and serenity gave way to busy downtown Boston at one of my favorite destinations: the Waterboat Marina.

I’ve been coming here off-and-on for nearly twenty years, and it still remains one of the nicest and friendliest marinas anywhere on the planet, and believe me, I’ve been to quite a few. It’s so close to anywhere I want to go in the city of Boston, a place I used to call my home. A place where a part of my heart still resides. I am reminded of that fact every time I visit.

Boston is not a part of The Great Loop. It’s a week away from Hell Gate in New York–the closest Loop route–so many don’t even consider Boston as a viable side trip, but I was surprised at how many here people recognized the gold burgee and what it means. It’s a real conversation starter. Apparently we’re experts! Sometimes I wonder: Did I really do that or just dream of its beauty.

The Gold Burgee is flown by boaters who have completed the Great Loop. There is also a platinum burgee for boaters who have done it twice. I’ve only seen two of those.

We made friends with a few of the permanent resident live-aboards. They all wanted to hear something about The Great Loop. It’s difficult because there is just too much to talk about unless they want to know about something specific, and that doesn’t usually happen.
“How was it?” That is the hardest question to answer.
“It was…long.” “It was…good.” “It was hot.” “It was cold.”
“It must have been incredible!”
“Yes. Sometimes. Sometimes not so much.”
I usually ask if there is anything they’d like to know about it. That sometimes spurs the conversation. If not, I’ll lay a few facts on ’em.
“We travelled just over 6,000 miles in 11 months.”
For some reason everyone wants to know how much we spent on fuel.
“A bit over $8,000,” is my answer, but nobody ever inquires about the single most costly expense: health insurance. It was tempting to go a year without it, but ‘cha know, if anything happened to one of us, we could lose everything. Peace of mind is expensive. As it turned out, we stayed healthy. Yay!
You can dazzle them with the basics all you want, but I get the feeling that people really want to hear something exciting, inflammatory, or crazy. “C’mon man. Get to the good stuff.”
It’s not so easy. I can write all about the good stuff when I have time to sit down and organize my thoughts, make the corrections and edits, observe the proper elements of style, and pour myself a nice glass of cabernet. Contrary to popular beliefs, I’m not outgoing enough to spontaneously spew anecdotes to total strangers.

The marina is located directly behind the Marriott Hotel. That’s the old Custom House Tower with the clock.

For my birthday the XO got us tickets to see the Red Sox play the Yankees. We caught a cab at the Marriott in front of the marina. Our gregarious driver got us within two bocks of Fenway Park, quite a trick with all the traffic, but the guy knew his back roads well, and we tipped accordingly.

It was the XO’s first trip to Fenway Park. We went all out with beers, peanuts, and hot dogs.
Cabs were scarce after the game so we took the subway back. Before this, the last time I took the subway all you needed to do was put two quarters into a slot on the turnstile. Not so simple today. In the station entrance, a very nice city man–a total stranger–recognized our confusion and calmly explained all we needed to know to get back to the waterfront.

In the early mornings, before the heat of the day kicked in, I walked a lot. I did the same routes I remember walking when I was much younger. The Financial District, Government Center, City Hall Plaza, Beacon Hill, Boston Common, the Theater District, and the North End. It sounds like a lot of walking but Boston is small, everything is very close.
As a lad in my twenties, I remember routinely walking home from Kenmore Square after gigs at the Rat, a popular and infamous Rock and Roll venue. Picture a young musician with long flowing brown hair, guitar case in hand, “echo’s of the amplifiers pounding in my head,” confidently striding down Comm. Ave. at 2:00 in the morning just to avoid the stuffiness of a Green-Line subway car, and to breathe some fresh air before hitting the sack.

This is my old apartment building on Batterymarch Street. Top floor walk-up with balcony/fire escape.
Another view of Batterymarch Street. Standing there brought me back to a time when every weekday morning it was bustling with briefcase carrying men in suits and nicely dressed women wearing midi-skirts, sneakers and ankle socks, and carrying their high heel shoes. Delivery trucks and taxis squealed around tight corners, and exhaust fumes mingled with the aromas of bacon and maple syrup emanating from the coffee shops and greasy spoons that proliferated the area. It all became dead quiet after 6:00 pm when my roommate John referred to it as “the lonely and deserted Financial District.”
The corner of Milk and Batterymarch streets. I worked here as a dishwasher when it was a restaurant called The Exchange.
Dishwasher sounds like such a lowly job, I know, but I didn’t actually wash the dishes by hand. I’d load them into a machine and push a button. I had the easiest job in the place! It was a lunchtime only restaurant so I could sleep late if I wanted to, but the best part was the free food. In the kitchen I would snack on the french-fries, bacon, or anything edible that was laying around. Also, as an employee, I could choose anything on the menu for lunch, a nice perc for a starving musician. After the workday was over, around 3:00 in the afternoon, it was free beers at the bar with the young owners who took a liking to me and my roommate who worked there as a cook. All that and money too!
Hanover Street in the North end. Italian restaurants are everywhere. I like to check out the smaller ones.
I happened upon this parade in the North End. I didn’t know it at the time, but my brother told me later that he was marching in a parade that same day. That might be him on tuba.

I was heartbroken when it finally came time to leave. My wife, with her unwavering kindness, consoled me.
“We’ll be back.”
She’s right. We will be back.
As we backed out of our slip and headed down the fairway, the friends we met waved good-bye from their floating homes as they got themselves ready to go to work. I wondered if they were envious of us, untying the lines and becoming the vagabond travelers all boaters wish they were. But it was I who admired them. Living on the water on their boats, the amazing Boston skyline to awake to each morning, and the calming waters of Waterboat Marina to lull them to sleep every night.

See ya later Boston. We’ll be back.

It’s time to head back to Marshfield where we’ll have much more time to explore Brant Rock. The nice people at the Green Harbor Marina told us to pull into the same slip we vacated, which is great because we knew exactly where to go.

Back at the Green Harbor Marina.

Brant Rock is a small and humble village. People still smile and say “good morning” as you pass, unafraid to make eye contact, and inspiring me to do the same. I imagine it’s been exactly the same for many years. I pray things will never change.

Brant Rock waterfront.
Brant Rock beach houses.
A view of the marina from across the waterway.
Best hardware store ever! I poked around inside for about and hour. It had that pleasing old-hardware-store smell that we all love.
We came across this structure on the waterfront probably used as a submarine spotting tower during WWII. It was for sale! I suppose you could live in it. Windows are tiny but what a view from the top.
I’m all in!
As seen in Marshfield. I wondered what the heck was going on in there.
Dinghy tour around the harbor.

The mornings were hopeful, the days were long and hot, the sunsets breathtaking, and the nights cool and sweet. Places like this make me feel so happy to be alive.

We concluded our Summer cruise with a pleasant stay in Onset bay, another hidden gem but one we’ve visited often, and hopefully will continue to do so as we travel around Buzzards bay and beyond, our regularly scheduled waters.

Onset Bay, Wareham, Massachusetts.

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