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Ballard Sailor

Nantucket

Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.

When I left you last, we were on our way to Nantucket from Falmouth on a hot, still and hazy day. Nantucket is a medium sized Island some distance out into the ocean, about 20 miles south of the elbow of Cape Cod. Boats must traverse through tide rip after tide rip as the strong tidal currents flow around the various shoals and islands. The transit out to Nantucket reminded me a lot of the transit down the Delaware Bay with its’ strong currents and choppy waves seemingly coming from all directions at once - but without the bugs, cold weather and ocean swell rolling in against the current that the friendly Delaware Bay offered us. Eventually we arrived at the Island and found our way into the harbor while a fleet of old wood sailboats were heading out to race off the entrance. A beautiful harbor entrance for two tired sailors.


As we pulled in we found a massive mooring field with so many balls it looked like you could walk across the bay on them. Problem was they couldn’t have been more than 1/2 full - that’s a lot of empty mooring balls! Since picking up a rental mooring or docking at the marina is well out of our tax bracket we planned to find a spot to anchor in the back corner and relax for an evening before exploring town the next day. The problem is the currents in the bay. All the advice we had received was that anchoring in the harbor was tough. We were told that the crab grass is all over the place and is a very strong thick grass that will easily clog up your anchor. We were also told that the large bay with its’ small harbor entrance has some very strong currents that are often against the wind direction. This condition can cause what sailors know as anchor sailing. With the wind pushing the boat above water one direction and the Keel getting pushed along by the current in another direction the boat seemingly tacks along on its’ own with the opposing forces. In an extreme example of this the boat can spin over the anchor line, foul it on the keel or rudder and pull the anchor out of the bottom. In a really extreme example of this the anchor line can get fouled on your prop and you can end up with some serious damage. Yet we are going to anchor anyway. We figure with our little boat we can find some shallow place without much crab grass and far from the entrance where the currents are strongest. We motor over to the far edge of the mooring field and find just such a place, edge of the bay, a nice clear spot to drop the anchor without any grass and plenty of swinging room. It suckered us in and we set the anchor. I should have taken my own advice and set a stern anchor, but I didn’t, as the anchorage looked so good - more on this later...


We ended up with a very relaxing evening, caught up on a few things, walked MacIntosh on the beach and generally took it easy on the anchor. The next morning we got ourselves together and dinghy’d over to the marina to find the crew of Mercy and see what they were up to for the day. Bryant, Mercy and crew had rented scooters and were scooting all over the island at a rapid pace so Jennifer and I took a nice slow walking tour of town, through the near residential neighborhoods and out to the light house near the entrance to the harbor. Brant Point Lighthouse started life in the 1700’s and actually is America’s 2nd oldest lighthouse station in the country (following the Boston light, 1716). Originally it was nothing more than a lantern hung between two posts, the station has had 9 different structures over the years. There are even unsubstantiated claims of the lighthouse station being used for years earlier than this by ship owners keeping a bonfire going at night to lead ships into the harbor, pre 1700, which would make it the oldest lighthouse location in the country. Needless to say the spot has a long history of leading mariners to safety, such a simple item, a light, saving so many lives for so many years.


After our walk to the lighthouse we made it back through the gauntlet of American consumerism to our dinghy tied to Mercy’s transom and headed back out to Libra, sitting perfectly on her anchor, for an afternoon snack. About an hour later Bryant, Bob & Jill showed up for cocktails and a few hours later we were talked into coming back to town for dinner, Bryant knew of a place that let in dogs.


So off we went again in the dinghy and had a great dinner by the wharf in a place that did, indeed, let in dogs, as long as you sat in the corner of the deck and the dogs sat near the edge - better than nothing! During our long boisterous dinner a strong squall rolled through with some solid puffs that had us thinking of Libra on her anchor, but our dinner was winding down and we were off within half an hour and into our dinghy heading out to Libra in the dark.


The winds were down, it was only a quick squall, but it was dark and as we reached the spot Libra was anchored we couldn’t find her. Are we in the right spot? Things look different in the dark. Yep, we were in the right spot, the boats we were anchored between were there, just no Libra, Crap! Jennifer called Bryant to have him check with the harbor master on the VHF as I turned the dinghy downwind and motored along looking for our boat. Not more than 300 yards away we found her, anchor line out off her bow and her keel sitting in the sand, aground, but upright, just helping out the anchor. We climbed aboard and fired up the motor and turned on the depth sounder. 2.9’ and we touch at 3.2’, so we are aground. We then pull in the anchor which comes in surprisingly easily and we find it is fully fouled with crab grass, no chance of it holding. Back to cockpit and I start turning the boat towards deeper water and we begin rocking her back and forth with the throttle on about half way in forward. The tide was coming in, but we wanted to continue working to get her off the bottom and back into deeper water - it was late. Inch by inch she moved forward as we rocked her back and forth, wiggling her forward with the rudder and keel. No more than 10 minutes later we were off of the sand and out into the deeper water. As it was late and our chances of finding a clear spot to drop the anchor were limited we picked up a private mooring ball for the night - expecting to leave and re-anchor early in the morning. I wonder what would have happened if I had set that stern anchor I thought about - What a night!


Up with the sun after our adventurous night we dropped the mooring and reset the anchor in a nice clear spot and immediately began sailing over the anchor and had it across our keel, nice. We cleared it once and then it began sailing over it again so we shortened the scope and I headed ashore to walk the dog - it was time to leave Nantucket. I looked over the boat and couldn’t find any damage from bumping into other boats on her way to the beach and then motored around the two boats between where we were anchored and where we found her. Nothing on those boats either, GOOD! Libra had drifted slowly through the moorings to her stopping point - at least one thing went well! When we returned it was up anchor and we motored out of the harbor with the early morning fisherman, past Brant Point and out into Nantucket Sound with the rising sun behind us we set sail for somewhere else.
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East Coast Cruise for 2012

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