One night on the Gulf of Maine is not an ocean crossing, but we did experience the rhythm of standing watch and the pleasure of a dawn landfall. A fresh cup of coffee along with the early-morning sights and aromas of the Cape Cod Canal are somehow extra special after a night at sea and definitely beat rushing into some harbor at dusk, which is sometimes the drawback of short hopping. In fact, we were in such a comfortable groove that we maintained displacement speed down Buzzards Bay, sightseeing along the Elizabeth Islands, until we pulled into Cuttyhunk. Bonus: As one of the first boats of the day to pick up a mooring, we got a prime perch for watching that happy harbor and for swimming and taking the dinghy ashore for hiking and dinner.
It was a well-rested team that headed westerly the next day, intent on a fast 45-nautical-mile leg to Fisher's Island Sound so we could beat the effects of a building easterly wind. Shanghai Baby would have done it in less than two hours no problem, except that we exercised another boat-speed trick. Somewhere way off Newport we stopped dead and shut the engines right down so we could check the fluids, take a breather, and what the heck, jump overboard. Early in my boating career, I learned to value heaving-to, a maneuver in which you oppose a boat's sails so that she drifts slowly, the wind keeping her on a steady heading with minimal rolling. But in our go-go age, even sailors have forgotten that stopping is an option. If and when Andrea and I do get a bigger boat, we'll have a sea anchor aboard so we have some control over how she lies adrift, be it to make a repair or just for rest.
While not at all expected, the oddball fog bank we later sped into just outside the Sound seemed almost fortuitous. While we couldn't have chosen a spot with more buoys, ledges, and boats to crawl amongst, Shanghai Baby's electronics and flying-bridge vantage point worked well, and I don't think fog will ever seem as scary to Andrea ever again. Not that we were into heroics, opting as we did to grab a mooring just inside the Stonington breakwater where we made lunch and watched the fog burned off.
But it was shortly after we got underway again, when a failed saltwater pump impeller caused the starboard engine to overheat, that I wondered if a higher power wasn't in charge of this voyage's educational curriculum. We decided to carry on, figuring that if the Island Pilot did okay on one engine (one thing I hadn't tried back in Camden), we'd limp the last 30 miles to Essex, where the repair would be easier at Trane's dock. In fact, the boat did just fine on a single screw, and we were able to pick up a mooring in Saybrook's North Cove without fuss, then fuel up in Old Lyme the next morning, and finally dock in Essex on schedule. The advantages of an "extra engine" were obvious, but I wonder now how much we might have cut our 190-gallon diesel consumption if we'd used just one Volvo Penta for the Gulf crossing.
That experiment will have to wait, but I'm more optimistic than ever that more conjugal passages will follow. Running fast or slow, morning or night, even staying put when staying put made sense, Shanghai Baby helped both Rich and I show Andrea some of the ways a good boat can be a safe and comfortable home afloat. Nowadays I sometimes even catch her reading the magazine's boat tests or prowling through the brokerage ads. Goal attained!
For more information on Island Pilot, including contact information, click here.
This article originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.