Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The journey south begins


Months have passed since we left Shelburne and many of the miles sailed are so familiar to both Hannah, her crew and browsers of these pages. Waiting for weather windows, returning to Belfast etc and for that reason I'll probably condense much of the journey. We did return to Belfast, had a great time, met up with all our friends  and were fortunate enough to be tied up across the jetty  from Phil and Teri AND Steve and Susan thanks to Kathy, the Harbour Master. Time spent in chatting, future plans and visits to S&S house, a sensible 16'x14' they've been steadily building over the last few months. 
We also scrubbed off one fine, cold Maine morning as the sea smoke rose and the early risers gathered to chat.But time passed  quickly and we needed to getting south before it got too late and so we set out with Robin and Jac. With a fair forecast we opted to head straight for P'town and arrived the following evening, leaving the following morning for a long beat down to the canal entrance. Although we had a favourable tide going through, the 7 mile canal the western end, being more open to the wind ,saw us both reduced to a couple of knots as a chop built up. 
 That night we anchored in Marion and the following day, courtesy the Harbour Master we picked up a couple of mooring buoys as he remembered us from our last visit.

With the winds forecast to blow from the west for a while we headed south across Buzzards Bay toward Martha's Vineyard for a first time visit. Lumpy sea and a stiff breeze made spotting the entrance buoy into Woods Hole difficult and despite the seeming array of electronics we now have, the tension slips from my shoulders when I hear Bee say, as she always does in the end,  “Got it”  as she found the buoy. Nothing like a visual! That night we anchored in a sheltered bay before going through Woods Hole and onto MV itself. Woods Hole is a narrow passage between islands where the current is fast, rocks and shallows lie either side of the channel and the local ferries take no prisoners. That said we still feel that the Letete Passage Narrows, in the Passamaquady Bay, is top of the list for broiling water!
Martha's Vineyard is an interesting place, tad too obsessed with wooden boats for our tastes but we met up with Dennis, a guy we'd met in the Caribbean a few years back. He'd got the HM to agree to us using mooring buoys in the harbour and Julie, his wife, took time out to show us the island so all in all we had a good time. Like us, Dennis was heading south though in his case he was heading direct and we were coastal hopping. Eventually the forecast eased a little and gave us enough of a window to head off. Not for long though as the wind began to fade as we approached the end of the sound. Carry on or stop...as ever once the decision had been taken to stop at Block Island (some 4 hours away) we found the wind gradually picking up. But being so close to an anchorage, the possibility of a drink and warm bed for the night had us pressing on when common sense suggested we'd be much better heading on to New York. But sometimes we need to learn the hard way (still) and it wasn't until we'd beat up the coast to the harbour entrance that what we knew all along (lee shore, narrow entrance, unlit buoys etc!) brought us to our senses and we turned away from the nights shelter and headed out to sea. What followed was a night, albeit cold, of wonderful sailing as we sped along close to the south shore of Long Island getting the benefits a good breeze but little if any wave action. 

The following evening we entered New York with light airs but a  glorious sunset and settled behind Coney Island for a few days rest. The sail down had left me with a nagging pain in my groin and as Robin had suffered a double hernia in Labrador that was very much on my mind...certainly the symptoms seemed similar. Trussed up(me that is) we set out on the next stage to Cape May for yet another overnighter. At least where we were the winds were lighter and the waves smaller – the forecast for Georges Bank (much further out to sea) had winds of 45knots and 25' seas!!! Into Cape May, battling a nasty cross current that had us pointing NE but heading NW before letting us slide behind the shelter of the breakwater. The anchorage had 5 or so boats already at anchor and we found a spot amongst them. Over the next few days the wind blew hard and we were thankful to be at anchor and sheltered. Then we were off on the final leg  and before long we were vying for space with naval ships,
hovercraft and sundry fishing boats....and then into Scotts Creek to be met by a smiling Cary and news that a Docs appointment was sorted. A week or so later we heard the awful news of our friend Dennis  and his trip south. Caught in the Gulf Stream by a front that stalled, they were rolled by huge waves. His friend of 30+years was swept over the side and held by the rigging and masts that had been smashed off. Willy was struggling to keep his face clear of the water as Dennis and Amanda, Willy's daughter, tried to clear the rigging. Willy pleaded with them to cut the life-line that was securing him to the boat, reluctantly they did so but, unable to hold onto him in the seas, could only watch as he was swept away. For 3 days they pumped and patched in an effort to keep the boat afloat and then were able to jury-rig a mast  and “sail” south. Took a further 9 days before they were picked up by ship about 200 miles from Bermuda. And then a week or so ago we heard of the murder in Guatemala of a Canadian guy we had met here a couple of years previously... Each of the cases shocked us  enormously and still do.

So after discussing with the surgeon about this hernia I decided to go ahead and have the op. The price  I'd been given seemed to be much the same as having it done privately in the UK (NHS would have possibly meant a long wait as it would probably have been seen as elective rather than urgent) and I dutifully turned up, having paid the surgeon , $500 before hand. At the hospital I went through to reception but before answering any questions I wanted to know that the info I'd been given on pricing was accurate as I didn't want any financial shocks. The price was $2172.50 plus $351 for the anaesthetist. So I get the op and have been recovering for the last few weeks. Luckily Jac & Robin was able to fill me in and the side effects(a little to graphically from Jac); swelling, bruising etc and for the most part it has been fine.  Now of course the hospital has seen fit to add bits to the, as far as we're concerned, settled bill. Interestingly the hospital cost of the operation was $8690 but because we had no insurance  and had to pay up front the cost was reduced to $2172.50 or 25% of the cost! Why? Who knows but it would seem the villains in the US health care are the hospitals and insurance companies. But weeks on from the op. the surgeon seems happy with the progress and is comfortable with us heading off before the entire recovery period is over on the proviso I take it easy so we have set a date for the first week of Jan.

Christmas draws near, the healing continues, temperatures continue to fall though nothing as bad as much of Europe seems to be getting, We have clearance to head off in the first week of January. It'll be a cool trip south..

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