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"Crossing the Bridge to Maine"


Thursday night in May of 2001 and the delivery of my beloved "Carpe Diem" (my Mariner 32 Ketch) from Long Island's Port Jefferson to her new owner in Maine, is only a few hours away.  An unpredictably wet spring this year doesn't seem to let up, so that chances for an uneventful trip would still be likely.

After a very late meal and storing of supplies were accomplished, I, along with a crew of three friends (John Hurt (Baltimore, Md.)  Matt Cherry (Stamford, Ct.) and Todd Dunn (Bass Harbor, Me.) finally untie the lines at 0100 hrs leaving the gleaming lights of Port Jefferson behind us and head for the breakwater leading into Long Island Sound.  Only 100 yards from the breakwater I notice the wave height in the harbor has built significantly, a sure sign of unpleasant conditions outside in the Sound.  The slightest mishap in this pitch black, rainy and very windy night in the narrow channel leading to LIS, could put the boat at risk of ending up on the breakwater and that’s a risk I was not about to take.  A mooring ball in the harbor, offers us the luxury of catching a good night's sleep while the rain and the wind are building steadily.

Friday at dawn, and as we head into LIS surprised we were not of the conditions out there.  With total disregard of sailing rhetoric, the decision to embark on Friday for a cruise, proved futile.  Winds were packing it in at close to 20+ knots with very square patterned waves and of course "on the nose".  Yes, we were on a very well built boat that has gone through much worse in the past, but the conditions would've most definitely taken a toll on all of us and that would only be the first day.  The closest port of refuge (Mt.Sinai Harbor) was chosen as a "wait and see" layover until conditions moderated a little.  We spent all day and night in Mt. Sinai, relaxing, exchanging stories and keeping an eye on the weather forecasts.

Saturday 0100 hrs, high tide and the green light goes on after observing the Sound from the barrier beach of Mt.Sinai Harbor.  Winds are still from the East but moderated down to 10-15 knots.  We are riding the tide out of LIS under breezy conditions and very comfortable seas.

The plan was to power through LI Sound and get away into the open Block Island Sound, with the hope that winds would be from a more favorable direction to take us fore into Buzzards Bay.  Dawn, 8nm from Plum Gut with the seas building rapidly against an outgoing tide and opposing wind. The seas have now grown to 6-8 feet with an occasional 10-12 footer thrown in to make things interesting.  The crew somewhat comfortable in their bunks, except my friend John who was held prisoner in the v-berth bunk.  He would "fly" from his bunk every time "Carpe Diem" fell into a trough and hit the underdecks with malice. Situation rectified with John clipping his harness onto the mizzen shrouds and catching a nap sitting-up in the cockpit.  The boat is pounding into the square waves hard.  I cannot help myself, thinking of clogged fuel lines due to the sediments being in orbit thorough all this pounding.  The fuel tank is full and the filters changed prior to the trip but still, all I want to do is get out of Long Island Sound.  The reliable Perkins 4-107 doesn't let us down and we finally reach the end of LIS. The infamous Plum Gut welcomes us with flat seas and sunshine.

Todd  Dunn at the wheel through Plum Gut.

Saturday is spent crossing Block Island Sound, and entering Buzzards Bay. The large Ocean swells are now very distinct but the wind seems to always veer onto our nose. The sun is bright the air crisp and the trusty Simrad WP5000 autopilot takes us into Cuttyhunk Harbor by sunset.  A hot tasty meal of hamburgers on the gas grill, Dinty Moore Beef Stew and chili, hit the spot immediately. An event that would have dire consequences the morning after as the services of the "Head" would cease to exist. A "Headless" "Carpe Diem" is waiting patiently on her mooring ball overnight for the remaining of the trip. A good night's sleep, the mooring lines are dropped in the water and off we go

Sunday morning, we depart at 0600 hrs giving our selves enough time to catch the tide into and through the Cape Cod Canal. Once out of Cuttyhunk Harbor the dreaded sound of a dying clogged engine came in harmony with the serene conditions in Buzzards Bay. The beating we took the night before in LIS and my fears of a dying engine materialized.  Sails were raised and since the wind was from the East, "Carpe Diem" made slow but steady progress towards the Canal. Since transiting the Canal without power is prohibited, contacting the local Boat US towing was inevitable. Great service and money well spend as the operator arranged for a pick up of new fuel filters upon arrival at Onset, Mass.  We took on about 25 gallons of fuel, fuel filters were changed and the fuel system bled by John under the directions of Todd and "Carpe Diem" was again under way at 1300hrs towards her new home.

John Hurt while "Carpe Diem" crosses Cape Cod Bay.

Sunday early evening, we cross the Boston traffic lines at about 2000 hrs and with a slight breeze on the beam we head towards Portland, Me., our final destination.  Two On/ Two Off hour watches were holding good for us and Todd and I head below for a nap, while John and Matt stand their watch.  No more than 5 minutes into my well deserved sleep, "FLARES ON THE HORIZON" shouts John.  We point the boat Westerly towards the sightings and immediately contact the USCG.  A few more flares were sighted during our progress to the original sightings and the reports were again transmitted to the USCG. We keep in constant contact with the USCG and three hours later find our selves in “pea soup” fog.  By that time two USCG cutters were within a mile from us (so we were told by them since "Carpe Diem" does not have radar and the fog was so thick we could hardly see the bow of the boat).  After awhile I request permission from the USCG to carry on to Portland.  Permission was granted at approximately 0200 hrs (Monday) and "Carpe Diem" points her bow one more time towards Maine, under power in a windless and very foggy night.  The absence of a radar and the presence of the dreaded Maine fog, kept us in total "watch form".  "Securite`'' calls were sent out every 1/2 hour to inform others of our position and course.  Todd and Matt are standing watch while I was awakened by a loud voice : "FIRE....FIRE IN THE ENGINE ROOM".  I ask Todd what the problem was as I stare vividly at the smoke coming out of the engine room door.  The fumes of antifreeze were a sure sign of overheating rather than fire which was comforting to say the least, at that time and place.  Within seconds the source of the overheat was pinpointed to the alternator belt, giving way.  I quickly reach for the spare parts locker where the spare belt lived.  Loosening the alternator, installing the new belt and retightening it, only took a few minutes.  I spent the next 15 minutes searching about the boat looking for Mr. Murphy, who undoubtedly sneaked aboard, prior to departure from Port Jefferson.  "Carpe Diem" once again was under way and I was longing for a few hours of good sleep by now.  Our presence in this pea-soup fog however kept my adrenaline pumping and standing watch until our arrival in Portland, Me. was a matter of course.

Bill Kranidis and John Hurt - Standing watch in the Gulf of Maine

Monday morning, the Gulf of Maine was a beautiful place to be in late May.  One hundred yards visibility in fog, long lasting ocean swells gently rolling under the hull, only a few hours until I presented "Carpe Diem" over to her new owner and John and I looking at each other's “icicle clad” unshaven faces, in harmony declare : "Nah.... it better be the Caribbean next time" :-)

Fair winds,
Bill Kranidis