FIRST PASSAGE • Every July we turn our attention to the world of small cruisers and daysailers and this year we have three compelling small boat cruising stories for you plus a roundup of some of the new and interesting smaller boats that are available on the market.
BWS is always about good boats, the cruising life and safe offshore seamanship. And, often that mix translates into boats in the 35 foot and up size range. Certainly, most folks who are moving aboard and cruising for a time are doing so in such boats. But as we put together this month’s section I found myself drifting back down amnesia lane to a passage I made with my Dad and his friend Bob when I was 15. Dad was the new owner of a Tartan 27 and was determined to sail the boat from southern New England where it was normally moored to the wild coast of Maine, some 200 miles away. Time was an issue so it was decided that we would make the trip straight, which would mean two nights at sea in our little cruiser. We departed Vineyard Sound on a lovely July morning and motor-sailed through Wood’s Hole with a favorable tide and then reached smartly up Buzzard’s Bay as the afternoon sea breeze filled in. We were lucky enough to catch the flood tide through the Cape Cod Canal and popped out into Cape Cod Bay just as night fell. Our destination was Boothbay, so our course took us north but, to be on the cautious side, we set a cours e along the coast so we could find shelter if need be. All night we sailed north on a light westerly. We had the Provincetown light winking at us for a long time and then the lume of Boston filed the sky to the west. It seemed to take hours to pass the city. Off Boston, we encountered ships entering and leaving the harbor. Who knows if they ever saw us? We certainly saw them. We picked up the lighthouse at Cape Ann before dawn and by the time the sun was high and warm we were past the cape and on course across the Gulf of Maine bound for Boothbay.
After 24 hours at sea, I fell into the rhythm of the passage. I had slept a bit overnight and had a good nap in the morning while off watch. I was having my first offshore experience and loving it. The wind stayed mild and steady all day and then failed after sunset so we had to motorsail through the night and the motion of the prop through the cold Maine water stirred the plankton and illuminated the wake behind us with an eerie phosphorescence. Later, after the moon had risen and was high in the sky right to the south of us, the yellow moonbeams and band of moonlight on the quiet surface of the sea seemed to join our bright plankton-lit wake to form a continuous trail from us to the moon itself. At dawn we had the brilliant light on Cuckold’s Island off Boothbay in sight and we knew we were almost there. We had been out of sight of land since leaving Cape Ann, so it was truly exciting to see the land appear over the horizon and to get that whiff of earth and kelp and pine trees that I came to know as the scent of Maine cruising. That was my first landfall and I will never forget it. We made this 200 mile passage in two days in our 27 foot pocket cruiser, which reminds me again that it is the experience not the size of your boat that matters. Enjoy the small boat cruising yarns in this issue and fair winds.