Friday, September 23, 2005

Miss Her Already

West Charlton.

Well the deed is done. I had a delightful sail from Port Henry to Orwell with the wind at the port stern quarter. As the day went on the air became clearer and clearer. Spectacular September weather.

Unfortunately it didn't last forever. Around noon I arrived at Orwell. Libby was waiting for me. We secured Tarwathie on a mooring. Packed our things and left. Now we're "home" in our own house, and I wish I were back on the boat.

Naturally I forgot something from the boat. This time it is the recharging cord for the cell phone. I'll have to buy a new one. With high gas prices it would cost too much to drive back to Vermont.

Sigh. I wonder how many other compelling reasons to visit the boat I'll think of in the coming week.

Next week I fly to Fairbanks Alaska to visit my son David and his family. I'll bring our dog Pup on a one way trip to his new home with Dave.

To my readers. Unless I'm specially inspired in Alaska, the next blog article may not come until October 7. So long for now.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

These Old Bones

Port Henry, N44 03 W73 27

(09/22/05)There are limits to what these old bones want to do. Today it was my goal to sail from Paradise Bay to Chipman Point. The problem was that Chipman Point is due south and the winds were 25-30 knots from the south. That meant hard work beating upwind.

I had a lot of fun doing it. I kept having to reduce sail as the winds picked up heavier and heavier. I reefed the main and I swapped the Yankee jib for the staysail jib. I almost took a second reef in the main, but then the wind eased a bit.

It was fine until I passed under the Champlain Bridge. South of the bridge the lake gets really narrow. I needed a tack once every 3 minutes. I kept that up for an hour until I flipped the page on the chart book to see that the lake was even narrower up ahead. Around two o'clock I figured that I was still a hundred or more tacks away from my goal. I needed a break. My old bones were complaining.

To make a long story short, I did an about face, and retreated a half hour back to Port Henry. I'll spend the night here. Tomorrow the winds are from the Northwest and it will be a lot easier to reach my goal.

One casualty today -- I lost my hat. I attempted a man overboard drill and circled back looking for it, but I didn't find it. Darn.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Farewell to Champlain

Paradise Bay, N44 12 W73 24

(09/21/05) Today began the trip southward. I'm sailing alone from Burlington to Orwell. On 9/24 we'll leave the boat at Chipman Point Marina for two weeks. In those two weeks, I'll go to Fairbanks and back. We'll return to the boat on October 5 or 6, and unstep the mast. On the weekend of October 8,9 I'll take her back down through the Champlain canal to Albany (Pete Vonie take note).

One should never say never. However, it his highly likely that today marks the last time I'll see most of Lake Champlain, at least from the water. It was a fine farewell day, sunny, clear, warm and breezy. Tarwathie took the west wind in her teeth and surged south at up to 7.2 knots. Realizing that this may be the last time I see and experience my favorite places on Champlain inspired the following. It is *not* poetry.

Farewell Lake Champlain, my beloved haunt.
Thirty years have I sailed her, Thirty years have we loved.

Bye to Burlington, you first enchanted me.
Your charm has outgrown me. My emotions are mixed.

Most of all I'll miss Valcour, with her bays and your trails.
No other place ever offered such solace to the soul.
If I were land bound and could live anywhere, Valcour would be the place.

Good riddance Ferris Rock.
Nevermore will you alarm me as I navigate carelessly.

Farewell favorite landmarks.

  • Clinton County Community College sits high above Valcour.
  • A radar dome sits high behind Saint Albans.
  • Colchester reef is prominent with its odd concrete block.
  • The Presvalt's condos contrast white on a dark shore.
  • Blodgett's lawn facing westward is delightfully placed.
  • The Four Brothers Islands are unmistakable mid lake.
  • I'll miss the island that looks like a bull from afar.
  • Lake Champlain Ferries plotting forth and back.
  • Split Rock point delimits the wide and narrow parts of the lake.
  • Diamond Island mid channel now hosts squatters debris.
  • Fort Ticonderoga peers down threatening with her cannons.

Farewell beloved mountains.

  • Mansfield the great one lifts our hearts high.
  • Camel's Hump summit, I've known you five times.
  • Abrams with best views in Vermont, Pup and I slept there.
  • Whiteface, famed from Olympics, I loved singling you out.
  • Mount Lyons, stands alone and majestic, Malone on her backside.

Adieu Porter Bay where duck hunting season starts at five AM three meters from my anchored boat.

Bye Burton Island.
We have many fond memories of vacations on your shores.

Farewell fickle North Country winds.
Thanks to you, sailing on Champlain was never boring.

So long Sloop Cove whose beauty steals my heart every time I behold her.

Goodbye Willsboro boat launch with the world's cleanest outhouse.

Ahoy Porter Bay, my traditional start stop place.
Your waterfront is peopled by most interesting souls.
Your North Country culture is fondly remembered.

So long Champlain Bridge.
You gave me many brief glimpses of beloved waters.

Ahoy Champlain Ferries.
I loved riding onboard. I loved sailing beside you.

Allouete and adieu to our French Quebec neighbors.
This place wouldn't be the same without you.

Essex. Oh Essex. Oh Essex.
How charming you are.

Hats off to the vessel Nomad.
Your memorial I'll never forget.

Bye Otter Creek.
Your peaceful meanders I'll not forget.

Fare thee well the souls of Arnold and McDonough your war exploits inspire.

Farewell Champlain.
As I wander the world, half my heart will always be with you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

First Migratory Boats

Shelburne Bay, N44 25 W73 15
(09/19/05) All day long I noticed sailboats heading south with their masts down. That means that the Canadian sailors are beginning
the migration south for the winter. That’s two weeks earlier than the geese pass here migrating north.

We met another cruising couple this morning. Erik and Julia were walking near the pier and stopped to admire our boat. They had
cruised in the Caribbean, the Azores, Scandinavia, Europe and the Faeroes. Erik was Danish. They had a lot of very interesting
stories to tell. Julia went onboard Tarwathie to have a look.

Not much wind today. We headed north toward Burlington mostly sailing at 2 knots but sometimes motoring. I re-rigged the second
anchor rode. We tried hoisting our spinnaker for the first time ever. It has a sock for dousing, something I never had before on
any boat. The sock makes it somewhat safer because one can get the sail down even in too strong winds. I guess someday we’ll try
the spinnaker when there’s real wind at our backs.

Tonight is particularly nice evening at anchor. It’s warmer than usual for this time of year. The air is very still and we can
hear noises from far away. Often the joy of the cruising life comes in the early morning and at dusk when one’s surroundings are so
still and so pretty. Also, we always seem to have something interesting to watch. In Cape May it was the shrimp boats, in Port
Henry it’s the fishermen. In Burlington it’s the setting sun.

The weather forecast for tonight sounds dubious, so we have a hopefully secure anchorage.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wrong Forecast

Port Henry City Dock
(09/18/05)Today was supposed to be cold, rainy, and windless. I already called Pete and Fred and cancelled the guy's day because of
the forecast. My son John however decided to take the chance and come anyhow with Nick, our grandson. It turned out to be a great
day. No rain, and 15-20 knots of wind.

John and Nick had a great time. Neither one of them had been on Tartathie before when the wind was blowing. John loved it when he
could heel her over to put the rail under water. Nick is less experienced in sailing, and he wasn't so confident at the start.
Within an hour or so though Nick was having fun too.

We sailed 10 miles up the lake then anchored in Cole Bay for lunch. Then we sailed back with the wind behind us. It was fun on
all points of sail. Thank you John and Nick for coming.

The city (village?) of Port Henry is interesting. Most such places in New York's North Country are dying or dead. Port Henry
though seems to have a spirit that keeps it more alive than its siblings. I'm curious to see how it might look in another 20 years.

The Port Henry waterfront is also interesting. There's a boat launch ramp, a fishing pier, a beach and a campground. We're tied
up near the pier and we enjoy watching all the people come and go. Especially around sunset, there's a good size crowd of people
who come to fish, most of them with kids. There doesn't seem to be many fish caught, but everyone appears to have fun.

Other people just come to sit in their cars for a while a look out on the lake and the views. The mountains are kind of spectacular
here and the lake looks great. The campground is full of camping trailers.

There's even a little diner at the site. It doesn't even have a sign identifying what it is. But men in cars, and in boats come in
to eat breakfast or lunch.

All in all, this place seems like a great workingman's entertainment spot.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Lazy Hazy Days

Port Henry NY
(09/16/05) It has been mostly still and scattered showers and will continue like that for several days. Yesterday we took a very liesurly power cruise down the creek and across the lake to Partridge Bay. In the cool fall weather its nice to sail in still conditions. Sounds carry very far. I'm reminded of a cruise I took with Sten-Orjan on Lake Maelaren years ago.

The water in Partrige Bay is emerald green with algae. It's carried there by the waters of Dead Creek. North and south of here the water is clear.

Partrige Bay is very small, only big enough for two or three boats. It's ringed by steep cliffs. There's a big nest near the shore, perhaps an eagle or a big hawk or an osprey. Last night I went up on deck at midnight. It was totally still, misty, lit by a bright moon and unusually warm. I listened to an owl calling.

Today we're in Port Henry to shop for groceries, then we're going to visit the fort at Crown Point.

I got a nice email from Craig and Patty, two sailors we met in Vergennes. Ones meets fine pepole when boating.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Day Sail

Vergennes City Dock, N44 10 W73 15
(09/14/05) Today old friends, Rollie and Rosemary Faulkner, joined us for a day sail. Our relationship with the Faulkner’s goes all the way back to when Rollie handled the adoptions for our first two children, John and Jenny.

I was steeled for winds perhaps more frisky than wanted for a day sail. The forecast said 25 knots. On the other hand we began and ended the day with a leisurely cruise on Otter Creek. The Faulkners had vacationed before on a canal boat in England. This was a bit like that. It was very enjoyable I thought.

Before we came to the lake I reefed both the yankee jib and the mainsail. I also warned everyone to be ready for rough weather when we emerged from the creek. When we actually got to the lake, the wind was almost nil. Wrong weather report again.

Never fear. At this time of year, Lake Champlain doesn’t stay still for long. Within a half hour a 20-knot breeze came along and Tarwathie was heeling 30 degrees. Rollie was surprised to see the rail dip under the water. It turned out to be a really fine day -- warm and breezy. The Faulkners seemed to be natural sailors and we all had fun.

We lunched near the Maritime Museum dock where there were replicas of 18th century vessels.

Libby and Rollie both took delight in pushing Tarwathie to see how fast she could go and how far she could heel over. Several times I had to tell them to ease off because they were taking us too close to shore. It was great fun.

About 15:30 we re-entered the creek. The two-hour cruise back to Vergennes was the perfect cap to the day. We were all thoroughly relaxed by the time we got back.

My next focus is trying to organize a guy’s day sailing for this weekend. It would be great if we get the weather to have this much fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Avast! Astern! Aground :(

Vergennes City Dock, N44 10 W73 15
(09/12/05) As we arrived in Vergennes at the end of Otter Creek, we were greeted with two delightful sights. First there was a large modern city dock with a big sailboat tied up to it. Second was the sight of the waterfalls ¼ mile ahead. A man at the dock said the depth there was 8 feet. We scrambled to put out fenders, and lines, and to snap a picture of the falls. Alas, while all this scrambling was going on we drifted right past the navigable portion of the creek and into the shoals. We were aground. The bottom
wasn't soft so we couldn't back out.

Well it took almost an hour of hard work but we successfully kedged our way afloat again. Thank God Tarwathie is a full-keeled boat that can withstand groundings without damage more than some scrape marks on the bottom of the keel.

For the benefit of those who don't know what kedging is, I'll explain. You put the anchor and a hundred or more feet of chain into the dinghy. Then you row out 100 feet away and drop the anchor. Then you row back to the boat and use the windlass to pull on up about one inch of chain per 30-inch stroke of
the handle, so the mechanical advantage is about 30 to 1.

In this case, it took us three tries, the last try kedging with two anchors 45 degrees apart, but eventually we got Tarwathie afloat again. We had to drag her 60 feet by kedging. That took 720 strokes with the windlass handle, therein is the hard work part.

Anyhow we provided good entertainment for several Vergennes locals who were eating their lunches on picnic tables nearby. Watching other people work greatly increases the pleasure of eating.

I have a nice picture of the pool below the waterfall. I'll post it on the blog. When you see it, just picture us aground smack in the middle of that pool.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Vergennes Public Library

Last night we stayed in Kingsland Bay instead of Porter Bay because of wind conditions. I've never been in Kingsland Bay before. It's beautiful. There is a Vermont state park there. In the park is a large victorian mansion with a beautiful green lawn that goes down to the water. Park visitors sit on the lawn and picnic. It's just like being Mr. Rockerfeller at his estate. I recommend it.

Today we motored up Otter Creek to the city of Vergennes. Although Tarwathie is a boat for open ocean and although we love lakes, we have had an especially nice time on rivers and creeks and canals. There was the Indian River in Florida. Onancook creek Virginia. The C&D canal between the Chesapeake and Deleware. The Cape May canal, the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal. All were very enjoyable. Otter Creek is also very enjoyable. Lovely nature. We saw herons, eagles, turles, and Libby said she saw an otter.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

September Weather

Burlington, VT
(09/10/05) I need to learn to swear in French. Last night, just after we went to bed at anchor, I heard some voices too loud and too close. I got up and peeked outside. There was a sailboat only 15 feet away pointing right at us. There were four people on deck jabbering in French. I suspect that they were saying, "Look out, there's a boat in front of us." I would have gone up on deck and yelled at them but I was inhibited by two things. I was naked and I can't curse in French. In any case, they backed off and went elsewhere to anchor.

In an earlier blog I bragged about our best single day, 127 nautical miles. Yesteday we sailed 2 miles north, decided that there was too little wind to do anything, and sailed 2 miles south to return to where we started. Round trip time about 7 hours. It was definitely a low stress day. The weather was so nice it was nice to nap and to read outdoors. The scenery was spectacular.

Libby and Jenny wanted to do art shows in Burlington on Saturday, so we're back again. It's a picture perfect day here. Temperature about 70F (21C), scattered clouds, mild breeze. It feels fall-like.

Looking Ahead

Willsboro Bay, N44 24 W 73 24
(09/09/05) Wednesday we sailed down to Burlington. Once again we had to beat upwind the whole way. Murphy's law applies to lake
sailing. The random swings in wind direction go against you 80% of the time. In ocean sailing the rules are different. The winds
are predictable and the passages are planned to have the wind from behind almost all the time.

At Burlington we went over to the broken mooring and I dove with mask, snorkel and fins to try to find the chain. No luck. We'll
have to get a scuba tank.

We rented a mooring at Burlington again. I hate paying the $16 mooring fee there. It really seems like an excessive amount and a
waste of money. Trouble is, the only safe anchorages near Burlington are inconvenient for cars, so arranging a pickup is difficult.

I surfed the web and talked to travel agents trying to get a ticket to Fairbanks. The mission is to take our dog Pup up to Dave
and Cathy in Fairbanks. Alaska would be a great home for him. Alas, nothing seems affordable or practical. One can't have too
many airlines or too many stops when carrying a live animal. I'll keep searching. Meanwhile, are there any friends in the Capital
District who would like to give Pup a new home? He's a wonderful dog.

Yesterday we sailed to Willsboro Bay to spend the night. There was a front coming through after supper and I feared rough weather
so I put out two anchors. The front came, and we rode it out fine, but this morning the two anchor lines were twisted around each
other. That made it a lot of work to get them up and untwisted. Before doing that again, I'll have to use my head to figure how
to prevent them from entangling. Perhaps increasing the angle between them. In the extreme, 180 degrees, they shouldn't tangle at

Today is perfect weather yet again. Nearly cloudless, temperature 65 degrees, water temperature 70 degrees, light winds. We'll
poke around the lake some more searching for places we haven't been. We have a date to meet Jenny in Burlington noon Saturday.

The news we hear on the radio about New Orleans is distressing. I hope we can find some way to volunteer to relive the suffering of those people. Governments, especially the US government, seem to react too slowly and too much to all probles.

Porter Bay

Lake Champlain
(09/10/05) I'm sure you've heard the line about hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror. I have to tell you an old story about Porter Bay that relates to the moments of terror part.

It was around 1980 and I was sailing with my father, Walt Novinger, and my oldest son John. We were sailing south on Lake Champlain with a north wind behind us. We had the mainsail, a genoa job and the spinnaker up. The wind had increased until it was far too strong for the spinnaker. Nevertheless, I was afraid to try to take it down. There was too much risk of losing control. My plan was to sail us into Porter Bay. There we could sail behind a headland that would shelter us from the wind and take down the sails in peace.

We stormed into Porter Bay at a breakneck speed. I had the helm. Walt would douse the jib and spinnaker. My dad would bag the spinnaker. I rounded behind the headland, and down came the sails. So far so good, but we weren't in to the bay far enough to avoid wind eddies. Start a 30-second timer.

Suddenly a powerful wind eddy, blew at us from the south; a 180-degree shift. It was blowing us right toward the rocks on shore! Worse, the wind had filled the spinnaker in my dad's arms. It filled with wind pulling harder and harder until I feared that it would lift him right off the deck. I had no steerage control

The solution was to use the outboard motor to turn us around. I started it but it stalled immediately. I looked back and I could see that the fuel line had broken. The rubber hose was cracked open just where it fit onto the nipple on the motor. Fortunately, this happened once before so I knew just what to do. I grabbed my trusty Mora knife from my belt. (I always wore a knife on the boat). I cut off the last inch of rubber hose, threw it away, plugged the remaining hose back onto the fuel nipple, started the engine, and spun us around 180 degrees, just missing the rocks by feet. At the same time, the rogue wind stopped and we were left in still air and blissful quiet. I realized that the others never realized all that was happening. End the 30-second timer.

That night I related the story of what really happened. We all laughed and visualized my dad disappearing into the sky holding on to that spinnaker. We called him Super Chicken III, a reference to a NFL Super Bowl mascot.

They say that emotional moments are burned firmly into our memory so that we remember them vividly. In this case it is very true. Today as Libby and I headed for Porter Bay I could relive every second of that day in my mind.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Great Weekend

Valcour Island, N44 38 W73 26
(09/04/05) Well, it was a great weekend. Gerry and Phyllis Allen met us on Saturday and sailed with us the whole day. Not much
wind in the morning, but in the afternoon the wind blew hard enough for Gerry to get a taste. Gerry is like me. He likes heavy
weather sailing. I'm going to try a guys-only sail sometime in the next two weeks, and shoot for a 30-knot wind day. Any
volunteers besides Gerry? After sailing the Allens treated us to dinner at Anthony's, a restaurant in Plattsburg. Thank you so
much Gerry and Phyllis.

At the marina I met the proprietress. She said that she and her husband lived aboard a 32 foot O'day sailboat in Florida for
several years. They thought it would cost too much to send it north when they moved to NY, so they sold it. Now she says, they
kick themselves wishing that they hadn't sold their boat.

Today, we picked up our daughter Jennifer and her boyfriend Christian and sailed with them. We've been imposing on them for
several weeks, and this was the first day that both of them could sail with us. The morning was very brisk sailing. Gerry Allen
would have loved it. In the afternoon it quieted down a bit. Anyhow, we all had fun.

Christian regaled us with tales of his years in the US Coast Guard. He sailed on the ship that rescued the helicopter pilots in the
Perfect Storm. However, Christian had not been on a sailboat for many years so he had fun.

We sought an anchorage on Valcour Island. This is still Labor Day weekend so Valcour is very crowded. We tried a bay that is not
a recommended anchorage but seemed to have a lot of boats there. It was crazy, the water was too deep for secure anchorages,
nevertheless there were maybe 100 sailboats there. We tried anchoring but the anchor dragged when we tested it, so we decided that
the whole place was unsafe and left.

Need I mention that almost all the 100 boats were French Canadian? My son Dave commented on last week's blog with a lot of more
blunt comments about the "Bequers" than I care to write in the blog. I agree with him but I've conditioned myself over the years to
tone down my language in written communications, especially email. Things have a way of sounding stronger than you intend when
written in email. These blogs I view as a series of email letters to my friends.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Sloop Cove, Valcour Island, NY, N44 37 W73 24
(09/02/05) I've been a naughty boy. Haven't written a blog in a few days.

We stayed at Jennifer's house on-shore four days. One of those days I drove to Albany and back. The day after we were supposed to
leave but the weather forecast said that the remnants of hurricane Katrina would pass through Wednesday night with gusts to 45
knots. 45 knots is no problem when sailing Tarwathie but at anchor it makes for a sleepless night. I chickened out and elected to
spend one more night ashore.

Thursday we headed north for Burton Island to meet with my son John and his family on Burton Island. Burton Island is a Vermont
state park with campgrounds. We have vacationed many times on Burton Island before. Sometimes with the kids and grandkids and one
time with John and Mary Ann Undrill. I had allowed 36 hours to get to Burton Island from Burlington but the winds were very
favorable and we made it in only 6 hours. It was a lovely sail.

When we got to Burton Island we heard some bad news by phone. John in the national guard and some of the men in his unit are going
to New Orleans for Katrina relief and John has to work to cover their absence. Our Labor day weekend plans are cancelled. Oh

On the other hand, the cancellation allowed us to make a date with other dear old friends Gerry and Phyllis Allen. Gerry and I were
roommates in college. Gerry and Phyllis have sailed with us many times before, but not yet on Tarwathie. We'll sail with them

Thursday night we met a couple who worked on Burton Island, Steve and Sue. It just so happens that they also bought a sailboat this
year in Florida and sailed it north about the same time we did. The difference between them and us was that they had no prior
sailing experience at all. The four of us had a grand time swapping sailing stories around a campfire last night.

Today we sailed back south again to Valcour Island in order to be near where we'll meet Gerry and Phyllis. The winds were very much
against us in the morning making it slow going. The wind kept decreasing, tempting me and other skippers to put up more sail.
Then the wind would increase suddenly to a fierce 30 knots, making me glad I didn't put up the more sail.

The news coming in from New Orleans and Mississippi is horrific. The big difference between disasters and suffering in the USA
compared to suffering in other countries is the news stories. Hearing so many stories and so many details about what it happening
there makes it seem much more real. Libby suggested that maybe we should spend this winter volunteering for disaster relief rather
than playing in the Caribbean. Perhaps so.