Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Last cruise of the year

For us, that's the 60-mile trip from Norwich, Conn., down the Thames River to New London, west on Long Island Sound to Old Saybrook and then up the long Connecticut River to Portland Riverside Marina, were we have stored our boats since 1987.

The photo shown above was taken by our friend Ed, who was kind enough to leave his warm office to get some shots of us in the cold as we passed. We rarely leave the bridge windows down but today, it was really necessary.

Ed and his wife are the proud new owners of a 1988 40 ft. Silverton and we hope to see a lot of them next summer.

Our trip was uneventful, as it should be. Pooka, our boat cat, loves the boat but doesn't like cruising. Frances makes up a nice bed for him in a closet and he tolerates the boat being underway quite well.

When we turned north into the Connecticut River, the cold wind hit us on the nose. Frances knows how to dress for the cold but I (Bill) selected a big winter jacket and a ski hat. Some have said that I looked like the Pillsbury Dougboy, but it did kept me warm.

Below is some video of the last turn in the Sound into Old Saybrook. Nothing special, but we'll enjoy watching it during the winter.

Frances took some good pictures as we went up the river. The Hadlyme Ferry pulled out of its slip right in front of us. One more day and the ferry goes in for the winter. See you next year, when maybe you'll have the courtesy to sound your horn before entering the channel.

 The East Haddam Swing Bridge is always our half-way mark. Frances took pictures as we passed under with at least three feet to spare.

In the no-wake zone above the bridge, we slowed down and consumed some deli sandwiches. No sense in starving the crew.

This last cruise of the year gave us a chance to check out the Polar View chart software on our little Acer notebook. Our boat is just too old to spend the money on an expensive chart-over-radar display.
Like others, we've been marginalized by fuel prices and the cost of slips. We'd like to cruise safely and take advantage of electronic chart displays but not at the cost of those multiple screen display we see on on newer boats.

 For now, this is a good solution for us. Laugh if you like.

The Acer has more than enough processing power to update the charts as we move and the quality of the chart display was amazingly good. The Acer has a much larger screen size than our Standard Horizon GPS and the Polar View software seems to update more often. It is also a lot easier to chart routes and establish waypoints with Polar View, which we even can do at home on our workstation and then transfer to the Acer as a simple comma-delimited .csv file.

Where does the Acer get GPS info? We use a simple USB GPS puck receiver that we slip under the bottom of the enclosure. It just hangs there and works perfectly. On this cruise, it acquired the satellite signs as soon as we plugged it in and never dropped out all day. In contrast, our Standard Horizon chartplotter with an external marine GPS antenna takes up to 90 seconds to get enough satellite signs to show our position and from time to time while underway, will lose and reacquire the satellites.

That's it for Summer 2013. We'll continue our blog through the winter but maybe not so often. We'll miss the friends we have made in Norwich, but only until next summer.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gas up and pack up

We're leaving our summer marina in Norwich, Conn on Tuesday and it's Sunday as we write the next-to-last blog post that gets filed under "Summer 2013." Next week's post will describe our trip from Norwich to Portland, Conn.

I think it's fair to say that we have quite a lot of stuff to take off the boat. Frances has been living on the boat for the past five months and things accumulate. France hit the local package store for some empty boxes and she busied herself packing up the food and liquids that will go to Bill's house.

We've learned from years of doing this to just leave everything else where it is. The cold weather won't hurt the dishes, pot. pans, books and cooking utensils so all that stays.

We think we mentioned this before, but Frances washes our bedding and then uses a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of vacuum bags. She throws in some dryer sheets and we end up with little cubes that contain all of our sheets, pillows, etc. This really works great. In fact, we store all of those little cubes on the boat during the winter.

We also found a way to mount our video camera facing aft, which is sometimes a more interesting view. We found Ram Mount parts and we bought three pieces ($34.00) that would enable us to mount to the 1" rail that runs across the back of our bridge and give us the ability to aim the camera at almost any angle and then tilt the mount back when the aft window was zipped down.

Unfortunately, on the mount's maiden voyage to the fuel dock on Sunday, we had the cam pointed too far downward. At least we know where to point it in the future.

We selected just a little of the video, from the time we approached our slip until we shut the engines off. Kinda boring but at least you can see us hit the piling.

Speaking of the fuel dock, we originally intended to get fuel on Saturday, but the wind was blowing like stink at the marina so we decided to go early on Sunday morning instead. On Sunday morning, after some coffee and just one section of The New York Times, we fired up the old Chryslers and motored over to get some gas.

We knew it was going to be a lot but the amount we took on surprised even us. 177 gallons and our capacity is just 210 gallons so for a boat, this was close to being empty. Even our shaky gas gauge was hanging on "empty." I'm sure we made J.P.Morgan Chase happy when we charged more than $800 for fuel.

We get a 10 cents per gallon discount at our marina as members of SeaTow and with this last fill-up of the year, the discounts really helped cover the cost of our SeaTow membership.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Just about ready to go

This photo was taken on Sunday morning from our dock. Here close to the water, the leaves haven't really begun to show any color but further north, the colors are brilliant this year.

Next week would normally be the week we'd leave for Portland Riverside Marina, where we store the boat for the winter. But, work commitments this year will keep us here in Norwich for an extra week.

We like to make this approximately 60-mile trip mid-week, when there is a minimum of traffic and fall sailboat races on the Connecticut River.

When we arrived in Saturday, our friends Bob and Diane were out sailing. Bob and Diane are experienced power boat owners but during the summer, Bob bought an old 26-ft. sailboat and since then, he has had a lot of fun sailing it. When they came back, we just had to shoot some video.

This weekend, there really wasn't much for us to do. We packed up some more stuff to take home and puttered around the boat. On Saturday night, Frances served lobster and it was excellent. We know we live within driving distance of the docks where we could purchase lobsters right off the boat, but a local supermarket steamed two for us. With some melted butter (we know, be still, our fat little hearts) they were a perfect dinner for an cool, almost-last weekend on the boat.

On Sunday, we went to Wal Mart for the three gallons of motor oil, 12 gallons of antifreeze and the oil filters that we'll need to winterize the boat once we get up river. For you boaters out there, our two old Chrysler engines take four quarts of oil each and we've installed remote oil filers that take more than a quart each. That leaves us with a little extra, but it's nice to have on board.

After our shopping trip, we played with Lena, our dockmate's nine month old black lab.  When we first met her in the late spring, she was just a little tiny black puppy who was afraid of everything. Over the summer, she has grown into a beautiful, friendly young lady. You can't walk anywhere near her without stopping to talk to her, which she loves. If you get really close, she'll give you a kiss with what must be a foot long tongue. She loves her owner's boat and can get on and off by herself. She can also catch a toy tossed into the air and get up to about 50 miles per hour galloping down the dock.

We'll miss Lena and all of our boating friends over the winter.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Time to start the load out

"Load in" is a term used by circus folks meaning unloading the train and trucks and setting up the circus in an arena. As you can imagine, "load out" is the opposite. Since we've provided publicity for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus here in Southern New England for the past 18 years, we've adopted load in and load out as part of our regular vocabulary.

This weekend on Act Three was the the beginning of load out for all the stuff that has to be taken off the boat for the winter. Like many other boaters, we went through winters when we took everything off the boat. We learned that all that hauling just wasn't necessary. Now we remove anything that would be damaged by freezing and that, of course, includes all the liquids. We leave our inflatable on the back and Frances takes all of our bedding and puts it in vacuum bags. She sucks the air out of the bags with a vacuum cleaner and they become little cubes that can stay on the boat. Vacuum bags are one of the best winter storage things that Frances has come up with.

The numbers of those on our dock who have started to leave for winter storage is increasing.  This weekend, our friends Ron and Sue left with their boat, "Obsession." As you can see from the video, they had all the help they needed.

While all of this work was going on, Pooka, our boat cat, relaxed and watched. Frances and Pooka lived on the boat all summer as they did the summer before. Pooka was a little spooked when he first arrived last spring but he has since relaxed and now enjoys his summer home. Everyone knows him and the little kids on the dock often visit him, which he loves. (Pooka loves attention from anyone.) He can even climb the ladder up to the fly bridge, which he does during his patrols of the deck.

Soon he's going to have to go back to his winter home at Frances' house and while that may take him a few days to become accustomed to, he'll be just fine.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Autumn is definitely here

While Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day, there weren't many people on our dock. Fall activities such as inland fishing trips and car races drew away many of our boating friends although, like us, there were still a few people enjoying the rapidly ending boating season.

We couldn't resist climbing the hill above the marina and shooting some video of our dock and the city beyond. The leaves are just beginning to turn.

We concerned ourselves with really important stuff, like cleaning the plastic windows on our bridge enclosure. We used Plexus Spray Cleaner, which was recommended to us by Defender Marine. Like all marine stuff it isn't cheap at $20 for a 13 oz. spray can but if you have cleaned the heavy dirt and salt from windows first, it does polish them beautifully.

We also wanted to fix an issue with the home-made camera mount on our upper helm. We just couldn't get our camera tight enough and we decided to try a rubber washer between the mount and the camera tripod socket. No good. All the washers we had were too thick. Frances came up with the idea of using a small piece of black plastic matting with a hole punched in the middle to expose the mounting screw. She even had a hole punch on board. Worked perfectly. Amazing what the Admiral can come up with!

Around dinner time, we saw a lot of pizza arriving for our remaining dockmates but Frances always prefers to cook and she really enjoys doing it.  This isn't a great picture but it shows Frances in her favorite spot on the boat: the galley.

We promised each other that over the winter, we were going to get rid of that hideous OEM copper thing on the wall. Frances has some good ideas of what should replace it.

While cocktail hour progressed, we noticed the collection of little characters that adorn the space over our lower helm.

There are a couple of crows on bird houses, two figurines given to us by our friend Ellen, a lighthouse and although you can't see it, a special badge awarded to Frances a few years ago for "guarding" the dock so effectively. Everything up there has a story and we really like the way they look and how they remind us of all the fun we have had on this boat.

By Sunday morning, it was cold and rainy but we still enjoyed a very good breakfast and the Sunday New York Times. We had wanted to wash the boat but that wasn't going to happen today.