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Ballard Sailor

New England Part 3

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Next stop was the Merrimack River with itsí twin towns of Newburyport and Salsbury, a Blaisdell stronghold, my wife's maiden name. We reached along the beach before striking the sails for the motor up the river. Bruce, who owned the 8 meter I sailed on, has a brother named Lloyd who had invited us to his dock up near Amesbury - a free place to tie up! Weíre on it, so up the river we went, through the first lift bridge, winding past the islands and rocks to the next bridge we needed open, a Swing Bridge. But this one was under construction with workers all over the place, it didnít look good. Once close, though, we hailed a worker and soon they had the bridge swinging open, but not a full opening, just enough for us to fit, and thankfully the current was just starting to Ebb so we had no problems sneaking through the tight opening. Past the construction site and around the corner we passed a beautiful red building on the beach and began to see a sign hanging on it, Lowellís Boat Shop. Wait a minute, Iíve heard of this place! Itís the shop that designed and built the fishing Dory and has been family owned since itsí creation in the early 1600ís. The longest running family owned boat building business in the country and one that had a hand in helping Cod create the new world. I had no idea we would be passing it and was very excited.


Still within site of the boat shop we saw someone waving from a dock on the shore. It was Lloyd waving us in. He had been driving along the river and noticed a blue sailboat that didnít belong on the river. Like sailors everywhere Lloyd knows the local boats and Libra wasnít one of them so he figured it must have been us and headed to his dock. Situated right next to the local boat ramp, which made for unending amounts of entertainment, and up against the shore with 5í of water at a 0 tide - Perfect for Libra. As Lloyd showed us around he explained that when he bought the property it came with two deeds, one for the house and one for the property up front along the water that was listed as a very old local ferry. Rumor has it that it was another one of George Washingtonís ferry crossing points we had been seeing since we left the Chesapeake months before. Crazy history in this area.




So with an empty dock space we asked Lloyd if he would let us leave Libra tied up for the weekend so we could visit Jenniferís parents in North Conway and see the Cabin we had rebuilt in spring of 2011. When we left the cabin we had it framed, roofed and enclosed and really wanted to see the completed product. With a Yes from Lloyd we called Jenniferís dad who then drove down the next morning for us to fill up his trunk and head up into the white mountains. As we left town and hit the freeway we realized this will be our first night off Libra since April 14th, WOW! We went straight to the cabin, actually in Madison, NH and were absolutely amazed at how good it looked. When we started the project it was a rotting shamble barely able to hold itself up and now itís an incredible modern cabin in the woods that I would love to spend the winter in. We were shocked and speechless and so happy we had been part of getting the project off the ground. We spent the weekend at the cabin, resting, showering, kayaking the local pond and sitting around a fire in the woods before returning back to Libra Monday morning. What a trip and a beautiful cabin to boot.


Once at Lloydís we packed Libra quickly and shot off the dock to catch the last of the ebb down the river. We left so quickly that we didnít notice our new stow away complete with a gear bag. Somehow Jenniferís dad Curt had jumped aboard and we didnít notice Ďtil it was too late to head back. Oh well, guess heíll spend the week with us and see what he thinks of this cruising lifestyle ;-) We set sail and turned up the coast for the reach along the beach to the state with the smallest coastline on the East Coast, New Hampshire. But as things go, the reaching didnít happen, once again, and close hauled was all we could manage, which put us on a straight line to the Isles of Shoals. Part Maine, part New Hampshire and without good anchorage the Islands are short distance offshore and the best you can do is find an empty mooring ball and hook up. Being Monday we figured our luck would be good and sure enough there was a ton of empty mooring balls that yacht clubs had set up for weekend excursions. Since there was 4 or so empty balls with Prouts Neck Yacht Club written on them we picked up one and started to look around. To Port was Star Island, an old hotel/resort that is now owned by some religious group and by nightfall really began to frighten us. But before nightfall Jennifer and Curt had a chance to explore Smuttynose Island off to our Starboard while I walked MacIntosh on a nearby small island that dogs are allowed on. Quickly Mac found a tennis ball and a Chocolate Lab and they were off to the water swimming, playing and running Ďtil they couldnít walk any more.


Soon we returned to Libra for dinner and as night set in the real fright started happening. On the religious compound everyone had retired inside for the night and the outside lights never turned off. We kept waiting for them to turn off but they didnít and we began speculating that they kept the grass around the compound lit up at night so they could see the members trying to make a break for it across the lawn to the cruisers out in the bay. Donít drink the cool aide on this island. The next day we headed North into a river with a name that I really canít figure out how to pronounce for a nightís mooring at the Portsmouth Yacht Club. Our Mooring at the Isle of Shoals was in Maine, and the Islands we walked on were in Maine so we had to go somewhere in New Hampshire, we couldnít skip a state, so Portsmouth Yacht Club was it. Funny part was, though, their club moorings were on the Maine side of the river! So we had to go into the clubhouse, just to set foot in the state.


We hailed the club launch for the long ride across the river to the clubhouse and no sooner had we walked into the clubhouse that we learned tonight was their weeknight racing, and we had crew aboard, letís race Libra! A quick phone call to the organizers and we had a rating, 207, kinda harsh I think for a C&C 27, as a No Flying Sails rating, but who cares, itís for fun right. We took a quick walk and then got out to the boat and motored out to the starting line and rigged for racing - well we put the sails up. There seemed just enough wind to really get Libra going with the 150 but apparently it was more than many around us were used to as we saw a number of reefs and rolled in jibs but we had a blast. Problem was we didnít know the course. We started well and rounded the weather mark ahead of mid fleet and immediately headed downwind and began poling out the jib. If any one of us had taken a moment to look around we would have known what to do but we didnít and once we got our heads out of the boat we noticed the rest of our class was reaching off to a jibe mark. Crap, weíre heading the wrong way! We dropped the sail through and got back on track but had lost a few boats with our serious lack of a keener (that person that is always keen on knowing the instructions). Oh well, itís for fun right? Well, Jennifer hadnít raced in so long and I got a ration of you know what for not asking anyone what the course was before the race - who was it that said women arenít competitive? So we had a great time out racing Libra on a very long course and as the wind crapped out at sunset we finished, not last but close, and headed back to our mooring, grabbed some food for dinner and dinghyíd over to the YC to use their BBQ and meet some of the other sailors. The deck was filled with the normal ruckus weeknight racing crowd and hours later everyone was packing up as we waved goodbye and motored back across the state line to our new racing machine, Libra, at her mooring.
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East Coast Cruise for 2012

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