Saturday, August 24, 2013

Coastal Maine!

Downeast, Maine
22 August 2013
It's now 15 days into the voyage and I haven't written a thing.  All of the last 15 days have been spent aboard my sailboat Daphne.  Much of the last few weeks was spent with wonderful crew and wonderful people I've been visiting along the way.  But now it is just me and Daphne as we continue downeast and life aboard Daphne, my 27 foot pocket cruiser extraordinaire, and life on the Maine coastline is too interesting not to share.

Two weeks ago, Daphne, my father and I departed from Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.  I had spent a few weekhat here getting her ready, there were times when I loved the prep work and the anticipation of what was to come and times where I wondered what the heck I was doing being the sole owner of a sailboat.  The old adage says a boat is a hole in the water you throw your money into...I just had to trust in myself, Daphne and my decisions along the way that this was a worthwhile adventure.

The short version of the first leg highlights my dad as First Mate, sailing on his 75th birthday in the pouring rain into Marblehead where we were met by many other members of our family.   Dad at this point was an old hand having sailed on the delivery with me from Long Island, where she was when I purchased her.  With his experience aboard, his willingness to do any task and more of what was asked for him, his treating me to dinners and moorings in interesting towns, and the fun of sharing a second sscone sailing adventure, Dad was an excellent first mate.  He and I sailed from Mattapoisett to near Freeport, Maine, and some excellent sailing weather, broke some speed records and had a wonderful time.

At Bustins Island we Visited with home town friend Dave McCoy and family, who treated us to lobsters on the beach with an amazing warmth and hospitality to be reckoned with!  It was then time for Pops to go on other adventures so Rob Lloyd, of the Crazy Horse sailing adventure to Panama and back, filled the first mate slot.  Over the next few days Lloydo and I set even faster speed records (breaking 7 knots), visited a lighthouse on beautiful Seguin Island, and had a wonderful time getting our sail on.  Rob also had numerous contributions and discoveries as I am still learning about the boat.  One of the most exciting was that there is a broiler with which to toast sandwich bread!  What a boat, I say!

Lloydo and I made it to Tennants Harbor where we met up with his wife Nadine, Chris Cabot, also of Crazy Horse, his wife Kai, and their infant son Saer who would all join us for the next day's passage to North Haven and Vinalhaven Islands in Penobscot Bay.  while in Tennants Harbor I crossed paths with Teresa Carey, Daphne's previous owner, who came sailing in on an Outward Bound pulling boat.  It was wonderful to see her as well as welcome her back aboard to share stories and for me to learn a few of her hard earned tips!  She took such good care of Daphne (named adter her grandmother) and I have her to thank for Daphne's excellent functionality and style.

Then on to the Fox Island Thorofare and what a treat to have three of the four Crazy Horse crew together!  (We missed you Ted!)  And really fun to have a big wonderful crew on Daphne!
After a very social and wonderful weekend with Chris and many Outward Bound friends on North Haven I headed back to Hurricane Island to test out a real solo sailing voyage.  the trip there and back was successful - some parts went according to plan and others were totally chaotic, but there was controlled learning in all and they helped shape the plans and routines that are now used.  The voyage to Hurricane was when things went very much according to plan was one of my most memorable sailing days I've ever had.  Planned and executed and it took me to Hurricane Island, one of my most favorite places in the world.  To have sailed there from home, to have done the last leg solo and to be welcomed there by good ffriends are for an excellent day.

I spent a few days on Hurricane exploring, clearing trails, going for runs and dips, visiting with new and old friends and discussing the new Hurricane Island Foundation/Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership, I headed back to North Haven to fill up on water, food, diesel and a few other miscellaneous supplies.

This afternoon when all the errands and visits were done with many thanks to all who fed me and helped me get around (Joel, Amy, Cecily, Jen and Dieter, you guys are awesome!) it was time to depart. It was very hard to leave my wonderful friends and the wonderful island of North Haven, but there is a short summer window in which to explore the islands and coastline to the Northeast, So I bid them adieu and set off for adventure with lady Daphne (right after meeting Liv Tyler - she's awesome!).

Across East Penobscot and a now current speed record of 7.42 knots!  The learning comes from the chaos and the order.  I suppose both are always necessary.  I had lots of help steering from George (the traditional name for the auto pilot) and little help from Frank (my non-traditional name for the self steering wind vane). Apparently Frank did not want to cooperate since I had not properly balanced the boat for a 15+ knot wind coming across the bay.  (I should have put a reef in the mainsail.)

I anchored at McGlathery Island after much time talking and singing to myself and all who may have secretly heard me on shore, with many laughs and smiles.  I later played taps as the sun went down, went for a swim and cooked a mean dinner for one as a huge red moon rose over the island.
There were times where I thought today, "Why should I leave North Haven?"  But something drove me on and as I came in to anchor with the recent laughter still in my ears from speaking in a Scottish accent (brought on by McGlathery Island) and comfortably sailing along at five knots in beautiful protected waters, steering with my left buttcheek I thought, "Ah, yes, I prefer to sail with good friends and family, but there is also some purity of sailing solo.  It takes ten times longer to get underway, but the rewards and learning that come are so far so good and I hope to keep them that way.

For my parents and anyone else who may be worried, I try to check in every day on the ham radio maritime net, I sail conservatively when alone and I wear my personal floatations device or PFD which has now really become a "life jacket."  If for some crazy reason I were to fall overboard, I would have my PF to keep me afloat and if George or Frank were steering Faphne away from me I could use the waterproof VHF radio stooped in the pocket of my PFD to hail a boat.  And if that didn't work I could activate the emergency signal from my Personal Locatorn Beacon also attached to the PFD  (of course activating the PLB after trying first to swim to the nearest island).

By the numbers...
Miles sailed today: 15ish
Wind speed (from the SW in knots): 15-20
Hours sailed: 3
Hours George steered: .5
Hours Ben steered: 2.49
Hours Frank steered: .01
Hours with Billy Bob on (Billy Bob's the diesel motor): .5
Number of other sailboats in the anchorage: 3
Tide range in feet: 11
Number of watches that went overboard today: 1
Temperature of the air: 70
Temperature of the water: 60
Lobster pots passed today: infinity...and beyond!

That's all for now.  Now to do a walk around the boat to make sure everything is ship shape and quiet for the night and then to hit the aft cabin for a restafter not sure how far Downeast I will get, I suppose I will turn around when it feels appropriate.  Daphne is taking good care of me, I don't think I will ever own a finer boat.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Off the Ice!

And so once again I find myself in the unfrozen world.  It never seems to amaze me.  All at once, I feel like I’ve been freed - transplanted to a new world, and I guess I have.  The warm breeze, the song of the birds, the stars and clouds.  It is a different world, and I like it. 

Leaving the Ice is always a very intense time.  The good memories of the season, the upcoming freedoms, hopes and dreams and the saying goodbye to friends all make for a wild time.  136 days on the Ice this time around.  Some amazing places, some wonderful people and some wild experiences.  It is too hard to put it all into words, into thoughts.  But I slept like a dream, those first nights feeling like I was barely breathing in the night air as if I didn't need as much oxygen as I needed down south.  My body is starting to recover from the south and I am enjoying freedoms not had in four and half months.  Released from waking up at 6:30 every morning, from three meals a day at specific times, from set recreational ski/run loops, from a set schedule of work, from a set group of people.  Onwards.  After a week in Australia visiting friends and family, I am now home!  Here are a few of my favorites from the season.  Thanks for reading!  (Coming up this summer is a NOLS Alaska mountaineering course with Naval Academy students.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Antarctic Airmen Down

For those of you who haven't heard, there was a small plane lost in Antartica last week.  The downed plane was a Twin Otter operated by Ken Borak Air (KBA), a Canadian company that does much of the contract flying near both poles and also does much of the near fixed wing support for McMurdo scientists.  This particular Twin Otter was supporting a nearby Italian base and was flying from the South Pole Station to the Italian base, a little north of McMurdo.

Showing up for work one day last week, we were told an aircraft was overdue and that an ELT (emergency locator transmitter) had been activated but no other communications had been heard.  This was an ominous sign as ELTs are activated by the force of an impact or at the least a hard landing.  And so the wait began...

One hundred knot winds and overcast skies kept the search and rescue (SAR) crews from locating the aircraft.  Still, one plane circled for 7 hours hoping to make contact with the three person Canadian crew of the Twin Otter.  Eventually a few aganizing days later the plane was sighted and it was assumed unsurvivable, apparently having flown into the mountain in a left bank, I believe.  A few days after that, the SAR team made it to the aircraft after having been dropped off on a ridge above the Otter, descended the few hundred meters over crevasses terrain at 13,000 feet.  They were prepared for a recovery mission, but because of the impact they could not get tot the cockpit.  Instead they were able to get the cockpit voice recorder and some personal belongings to bring home to family members of the deceased - a pilot, a co-pilot and a flight mechanic.  (A full accident investigation is now underway and it seems weather will be the primary cause.)

It was a strange time to be at McMurdo.  With a thousand people, there is enough disconnect where things continue without missing a beat.  But then there are there are those that haven't slept for 30 hours because they've been preparing for a search and rescue.  Then there are the others who when asked how they are doing, answer with tears after having communicated with the search parties over the radio all day.  And then there is me, feeling helpless in McMurdo.

Last night, there was an outside memorial service for the fallen aircrew.  I had never been to a memorial service for downed airmen and as a pilot myself, it was particularly moving.  A few words and prayers were said, followed bByatt minute of silence, followed by taps, which I had been asked to play.  I kept my little pocket trumpet inside my down jacket to keep it warm, and broke the silence with the horn blowing the sounds of farewell towards McMurdo Sound.

A few minites later, there was a fly-by.  First by a DC-3 Baslar and then by a Twin Otter, both aircraft of KBA and both in service here at McMurdo, flown by flig crews who surely knew the crew that perished.  After a few extra minutes of silence, the sight and sound of those aircraft spaced maybe 30 seconds apart, flying low and in honor of their fallen comrades, was something to behold.  I have never been so moved by an aircraft and all that it was flying for.  All that were there watched them pass over the Sound and then the service was completed.  Attendees were. To to mill about outside as it was windy and cold intrue Antarctic fashion, but I had to linger to watch the planes head towards the mountains, and then slowly make their way back to the Pegasus white ice runway, near 10 miles away, almost as if they didn't want to come if they didn't want to leave the amazing world their friends were lost in. Nearing the end of this summer season on the Ice, I contemplated the wonders of this continent, of flying, and the brotherhood that is forged by the two.

A few folks came up to me afterwards to thank me for my contribution - such a simple gesture on their part, but so appreciated by me.  If there was nothing I could have done to save the crew, at the very least I could honor them.  For this I was very thankful.  Many prayers sent to the crew's families.
Here is the poem, High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee, written in 1941that was printed on the service program:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

The memorial service at the South Pole (From the KBA website).
For bios and pics of the men who died: