Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Luna Rossa (Ranger Tug)

One if by land, two if by sea. Our latest travels have taken advantage of both. The loss of our sailboat, Orinoco, allowed us to rethink what we wanted from a boat. With so many opportunities to satisfy my lust for ocean sailing and Sarah's aversion to that endeavor, we bought Luna Rossa, a 27' Ranger Tug. With a beam of 8'6" the boat is the largest that can be legally towed over the roads without a special permit. The decision to switch from sail to power was a logical one for us. After a review of  Orinoco's log we found that fully 30% of the time we operated the sailboat under power alone and another 15 - 20% of the time we were assisting the sails with the motor. Additionally, being able to drive the boat to our desired cruising destination means that we no longer need to spend nearly a week getting there along a course we had traveled many times before. Other considerations that tipped the scales for the tug were a very shallow draft that lets us explore places unavailable to a sailboat, Luna Rosa could be parked under the lean to of the barn saving us the cost of a mooring or slip. Finally, being out of the water and under protection when not in use reduces wear and tear and the increased effort to maintain the boat that stays in the water all season.

Sarah and I provisioned Luna Rossa for a few days cruising the midcoast of Maine. After a relaxed five hour drive we arrived at the boat launch on Westport Island just a few miles south of Dave Lieser's house on the Sheepscot river. Dave and I were crewmates a few years ago on a trip from Mexico to French Polynesia. The few weeks we spent together provided many stories we enjoy retelling. This has led to more trips together which of course created more adventure stories and so it goes on.

As soon as we arrived at the boat ramp, we experienced typical Maine hospitality in the persona of Bob Mungeon. He jumped in to help us launch the boat and gave us pointers about the local current and tides that proved invaluable. He then offered us the use of his mooring that is conveniently located in the charming waterfront town of Wiscasset. While I was prepared to anchor, the ability to hang on a mooring is always appreciated since it relieves that bit of anxiety attendant to questions about the security of the holding ground when lying to an anchor.
Wiscasset Waterfront

We visited with Dave and his beautiful companion, Suzie, at Dave's house then moved the boat to Bob's mooring that was just a fishing line cast from Le Garage restaurant on the Wiscasset waterfront. The menu was quite diverse, but the inclusion of Finan Haddie on the entre list made my choice easy. The cold smoked haddock was served in a beure-blanc sauce with potato and hard boiled egg then served over toast, comfort food at its best. After dinner we said goodnight to Dave and Suzie, walked to the yacht club dock where we left our dinghy and climbed in for what should have been a 60 second ride back to Luna Rosa. Immediatly on leaving the dock I realized we had made a classic mistake when we left the boat. We had failed to put on our anchor light.  With no moon to help us locate our boat in the crowded mooring field we were forced to drive the dinghy in a crisscross search pattern until, nearly an hour later, we finally located our boat.

The next day we explored the town of Wiscasset. Formely a major shipping port used to export logs and seafood, the Wiscasset town center is now an attractive tourist destination. It was easy to loose track of time visiting the many art galleries and antique stores that line the streets leading from the harbor. Later, we took Luna Rossa down the Back River below the boat launch on Westport Island before returning to meet Dave and Suzie at their house where we were joined at dinner by Bud and his wife Susan. Bud and I helped Dave sail his boat to the Bahamas two years ago and I looked forward to renewing our acquaintance and meeting his wife. We enjoyed great food and conversation, a lot of which involved stories about sailing. Dave arranged for us to tie Luna Rossa to his neighbor's dock for the night, eliminating the chance for a repeat performance of the previous evening's blunder.
Antique shops abound

Charming 18th century houses 

In the morning we delighted in a leisurely cruise down the Sheepscot on the east side of Westport Island and headed for Boothbay Harbor. Nearly every Aid to Navigation had a nest inhabited by a pair of Osprey and their fledglings. Sarah and I decided to pamper ourselves by taking a slip at the Tugboat Inn and Marina. Being in a slip allowed us to come and go from the boat at our whim and browse the many attractions in this picturesque harbor. We were saddened to see that a venerable waterfront attraction, the candle pin bowling alley had closed.

Osprey in their nest on an ATON

Sailors of the future learning to sail in Boothbay harbor

We took advantage of calm winds and settled seas to travel to Eastern Egg rock, a trip of about 20 miles from Boothbay. The attraction at Eastern Egg rock is the colony of Puffins that breed on the island. Eastern Egg Rock is only one of two islands of the Maine coast where these oddly colorful and mysterious birds can still be found. Nearly forced into extinction due to pilfering of their eggs, increased gull populations and hunting in the 19th century, the birds were reintroduced in the early 1970's and now are proliferating. These birds only breed where they were hatched. They spend the summer breeding and raising their young. In late summer they depart for the open North Atlantic. True palegic birds, the young do not return to land for several years, when they are mature enough to breed. The puffins were still on the island and in the surrounding water in great numbers. There were also thousands of Arctic Terns flying about. We circled the island for about an hour enjoying the spectacle of these intriquing birds.
We passed south of the light house on Pemaquid Point on our way to Eastern Egg Rock

It was challenging capturing pictures of the puffins,  they are shy birds and they
don't stay still for long. This required using a telephoto lens which is quite difficult
to control on a boat  being tossed by the waves. 

We left the puffins and returned to Boothbay. That evening we dined at Ports of Italy, a fine establishment we visit whenever we are in Boothbay.
Ports of Italy
Boothbay Harbor, one of many colorful Inns

While at Dave's, Bud and Susan invited us to dinner at their home on Wesport Island where Bud had arranged for us to tie up to a friend's mooring. Bud and Susan proudly gave us a tour of the attractive home they designed and recently built. I was especially intrigued about the hydronic radiant heating system they had installed since I was strongly considering such a system for the remodeling of our house.
Preparing appetizer on Luna Rossa to share with Bud and Susan

In the morning, Sarah attended a yoga class that Susan leads on the island. I enjoyed an extra cup of coffee and the solitude of the morning while watching the osprey and eagles that thrive here. A light fog crept in adding just the right ambiance of subdued light that is so alluring to artists all along the Maine coast.
Westport Island Morning Fog

When Sarah returned from yoga and the fog lifted, we crossed the broad expanse of the Sheepscot to Isle of Springs. We anchored in Clam Cove at Sawyer Island and rowed across the narrow channel to the dock on Isle of Springs. Just a mile or so in diameter and lacking automobiles, the island is crisscrossed with footpaths and trails for hand carts. Just a few paces up a gentle slope from the town dock we visited the post office/library. On this Saturday afternoon, the door was open wide and no one was to be seen.  A sign on the door requests the last person out to please turn of the lights.
Isle of Springs Post Office / Library
"Last one out, please turn off the light"
We walked the island's trails and gleaned the few remaining red raspberries we found along the way. Near the end of a trail that turned us back toward the dock we came upon the single room museum/gallery. Like the post office, their was no one inside, but the door was open and a sign invited us to browse and enjoy the arts and crafts created by some of the island's residents. In one corner of the room we found a small history book of the island. It lists the date each cottage was built along with the names of each of the owners since. It was no surprise to see that the majority of the properties are still owned by descendants of the original builders.

Isle of Springs Museum

Following our visit to Isle of Springs we returned to Boothbay. During the cruise both Sarah and I smelled an odor coming into the boat for which we could find no explanation. It wasn't until we were on a mooring that I remembered we had smelled that odor on a boat we had helped deliver a year earlier. The smell was boiling sulfuric acid from an overheated battery. I opened the hatch to the battery comopartment in the cockpit and discovered one of the four marine batteries hissing and spewing hot acid. While it's difficult to know for certain the cause, I believe one of the plates inside the battery had shorted out causing it to overheat. The four batteries are divided into three 'banks', each dedicated for a certain purpose. One battery is for the engine starter, another for the bow and stern thrusters, the remaining two batteries are 'house' batteries that provided power for the lights, electronics and all other electrical needs of the boat. It was one of the house batteries that overheated. Since these two batteries are wired in parallel it is possible to disconnect one leaving the other to supply those components dependent upon the house bank, albeit with only half the reserve power. However, after taking the malfunctioning and offensive battery out of the circuit, the starter battery could not start the engine. Despite running the generator, confirming that the remaining batteries were fully charged and checking for loose connections the engine would not start. Fortunately we have towing insurance and arranged for the towing service to bring us back to the boat launch on Westport Island the next morning.

The tow service arrived as schedule early the next morning. We set tow lines and headed back across the Sheepscot then turned north up the Back River. I noted the strong current of the ebb tide that was against us as we crossed the river. I could see the navigation buoys being tugged by the current creating a wake in the stream. However, I wasn't prepared for the raging torrent that was lower Hell Gate. The current was doing at least 6 - 8 knots in some places and it was only by virtue of our skilled pilot that we could have safely navigated this treacherous part of the river.

The news of our disabled boat being towed on the river must have spread quickly among the inhabitants of Westport because when we arrived at the boat ramp Bud was waiting to lend a hand getting our powerless motor vessel onto her trailer. We had hoped to escape that unwanted attention, prefering to tell the story in our own time. We should have known Bud would hear about our plight since he is the Harbor Master for Westport Island. We remain ever grateful for his help and genuine concern.

With Luna Rossa safely secured to the trailer we pointed the truck back to I-95 and had her safely tucked under the lean to by early evening.

Stay tuned.