Spring into Action

Easton's Beach

The shells we scavenged at the beach in early spring had lovely ice formations inside.

 We had begun to despair, some of us, that spring would ever arrive.  As the season advanced into what should have been balmier temps and calmer weather, the onslaught of winter in New England raged on unabated.  “Remember how we thought last winter was bad?” the guys at work kept saying.  “It wasn’t nothing compared to this.”  It was bad enough I suppose, for them—no one finds getting up and driving to work in 15 degrees pleasant, especially with all the snow we had this year—but for us who need good weather to commision boats before a fixed deadline it was even worse.  What if it didn’t warm up enough to pull down the canopy until two or three days before moving-out date, when the marina’s seasonal rates skyrocket?  There would be no time for all the projects I had lined up that require electricity, or room to spread out.  Paint wouldn’t dry, caulking wouldn’t set, and we’d have to head out to the mooring field with the boat still in shambles.  It was an excruciating thought.


Preparing to paint Sightsailer for the coming season.

The same would apply for my summer job at Sightsailing of Newport, where there were three boats to get ready for summer, all of which need sanding and painting and re-bedding of various parts.  It was still very wintry when I left Morgan Marine in Bristol, the shiny orange mold that had been my winter project almost ready for use, and not a little chilly the next week as work began on Sightsailer, grinding, sanding, and unbolting hardware with gloves, coats and hats pulled low.

Giant Corn Syrup Bubbles

Common ingredients and a few scraps provide endless fun in the sun.

Slowly though, but most reluctantly, winter has been releasing it’s grip.  In one violent deluge last week that left basements flooded all over the state, the snow was all washed away, and temperatures began spending more time on the proper side of freezing.  It’s still not spring in earnest, mind you—we still have a fire morning and evening, but one can go outside for a few hours in the middle of the day without fear of frostbite.  With the arrival of long-awaited warmer weather,  the ususal flurry of spring activity has gone into hyperdrive.  Where at the shipyard ours were usually the only cars around, it’s now hard to find an open space to park, and the sound of sanders, grinders, polishers and all manner of hoists and boatlifts fills the air that so recently was filled with driving snow.

Lavac Installation

Big changes for little Ganymede

We’ve gone into hyperdrive on Ganymede, as well, trying to install a new head and holding tank before having to move to the anchorage; trying to dig out from the clutter of winter.

In a concession to everyone’s need for more space, we rented a storage unit, and have begun ferrying boxes out, two at a time, which is all that will fit in the car.  “This box isn’t full,”  I said, opening the lid of one to find only a few items in the bottom.  “We should put more stuff in it.”

“We can’t.  We don’t have any more things that fit in that category.”

Cate-what?  This was news to me, and we’ve been married since the Dark Ages.  My wife explained this new side of her patiently:  “This isn’t new.  The purpose of boxes is not to pack them brim-full; it’s to segregate unlike things.”

“Isn’t that an inefficient use of space?”

“If all you want is to use the smallest amout of room, then we can just shovel everything into a pile in a corner of the shed.  But I want to be able to find everything again.”

Storage Unit Boxes

It looks so empty until we consider putting it all back in the boat again.

Sharp as a tack, me, I saw her point and bought more boxes.  We’ve filled nine big ones so far, and the boat doesn’t feel any emptier, though she says we have loads of locker space freed up for the overflow of everyday things that would otherwise go on the cabin sole.

One bit of clutter we don’t have to worry about is firewood.  I had thought, looking at the giant pile of wood I laid in at the beginning of winter, that we’d be disposing of or trying to store a third of it in boxes at the end of winter.  But no, we ran out of wood before we ran out of winter, and all that’s left of the half-cord I was so proud of is heaps of sawdust on the side deck.

Garlic Sprouts

Even without a green thumb and a sever lack of sunshine, garlic has been, by far, the most gratifying plant to grow.

Tentatively we experimented with the charcoal I use for the barbecue, and found it to burn most excellently in our woodstove, and moreover to last better than our normal firewood, since there were still hot ashes in the morning when I went to re-light.  I secured a couple of armloads of kindling from my old friends at the Coronet shed, and now, however long it takes for spring to warm up, we’ll still have cozy mornings and evenings in between busy days of preparing for the summer season.  And it will be most welcome when it comes.

The Perfect Cruising Boat

Irwin 27'

Our first boat, a 1967 Irwin 27′, was far from perfect, yet served us well and taught us much.

Every so often, an aspiring seafarer will log into an internet sailing forum and ask, “Exactly what is the perfect cruising boat?”  Unless they’re ‘Trolls’ looking for mischief, they usually receive a giant heap of contradictory and subjective answers, since everybody has a different idea based on various levels of experience, competence, and mostly, preference.  Almost every make and model of boat is held forth by someone or other, and the waters only get muddier with each reply.

Rigging Acrobatics

Be sure, a child will use every inch of space she can get into.

Even more elusive is defining the perfect family boat, which in addition to everything else has to be roomy enough for all the kids.  Most of the cruisers we encountered on our travels who also had children had chosen catamarans—biggish ones in the forty+ foot range.  There were some on monohulls, but usually pretty big ones—by our 31-foot standards.

The Perfect Cruising Boat

Photo by Green Brett as Ganymede returned to Newport this fall.

The perfect cruising boat, if you ask me, is of course our very own Ganymede.  Strong, simple, easily handled—there’s nowhere that boats have gone that Danielle and I would hesitate to take her, given the chance.  But there’s the thing of it—she’s the perfect cruising boat for two, but not so suited for five.  Not that she’s let us down; we’ve sailed 12,000 miles in her with our three children aboard, but the tightness of quarters is becoming less than ideal.

Old Coronet Rigging

Big old gaffer blocks

What the aspiring seafarers really want is a formula; a rule to help sift through the bewildering array of options so they can optimize their boat search.  I have come up with such a formula—one born in the crucible of nearly five years aboard in a broad range of places and situations.  Here it is: You need about thirty feet for the first two people and six feet further for each additional person.  So our ideal family cruising boat would be about fifty feet long.

Cruising Cat

Most families we have met cruise on a catamaran.

This might have seemed laughable twenty or thirty years ago when folks generally cruised on smaller boats, but nowadays 48-foot catamarans are commonplace, 64-foot monsters like the Sundeer are seen here and there, and middle-of-the-road cruisers measure in at forty-odd feet.

Dawns Early Light

Dawn, time to for a watch below.

Of course, hitting on a fifty-foot length was only the first step.  Long night watches at sea are the perfect time to let your mind wander, and during our last cruise Danielle and I did a lot of mental sketching.  The perfect family boat would of course be full-keeled, just like Ganymede, with a plumb bow and a rudder hung on a square transom.  With a displacement of about 40,000 lbs, she’d be a bit much for a tiller to handle, so there would be bronze worm-gear steering.  A solid bulwark all around, about eighteen iches high would be far better for keeping things aboard than lifelines, and without the frightful ugliness of netting.

80' Schooner Aquidneck

A small gaff headed schooner would carry much sail area that would be easily manageable at sea.

Naturally, she would be rigged as a schooner—any boat over thirty-five feet should have a second mast to spread the sail area out—and even more naturally she would be gaff-headed: Bermudian rigs require so much mast height, rig tension, winches, expense and complication that they make so sense for a cruising boat.  With 350 square feet of sail on the main and 250 on the foresail, each could still be easily hoisted by one person without resorting to winches.  The spars would be aluminum and the standing rigging synthetic: I’ve said before that now we have Vectran and Dynex Dux, there’s no excuse for using wire rope anywhere on a boat.

Propeller Cut-out

Having no inboard engine, Ben filled in the cut-out for the propeller before hanging the rudder.

In a concession to modern times and marinas that bill by the foot, the bowsprit would be easily retractable, with bobstay and shrouds tightened by cascading tackles for ease and convenience in setting up.  A heavy hull with the beam carried well forward for seaworthyness and inside volume would be too large for an outboard engine, so there would have to be one inside.  There is nothing worse, though, than cutting out the back end of the keel so you can drag a huge prop through the water: I would seriously look into a diesel-electric setup, with one engine powering two folding propellers, one each side of the keel, or two smaller diesels, maybe 20-ish HP each.  Either way, the engine room, placed aft under a 10X8 foot pilothouse, would be hermetically sealed from the rest of the boat.  Any through-hulls would be placed there, to minimize the risk of sinking, and there would be another collision bulkhead forward, dividing an ample sail/chain/tool/utility locker from the living area of the boat, just like Ganymede has.

Hard Working Kids

Joyfully hard at work.

We sketched it out one day on graph paper, just to see if everything we wanted could be made to fit.  It helps to have built one boat already and know just how big things really need to be, and how much headroom is desirable, and what width of door it’s nice to have.  It took a couple of tries, but we managed it in the end: one master cabin, three smaller ones, two heads, table for six, galley, woodstove, full-sized chart table, plenty of locker space: the ultimate family cruising boat, Zartman style, and with room to carry the children into their teens.

Sea Ice Forming

This winter we have found that dreams grow spectacularly in sea ice.

“Could we?” we wondered, thinking of the breathtaking huge-ness that project would involve; thinking of the astronomical cost of time and materials, not to mention a veritable Gordian Knot of logistics.  Lots of things had come together most fortuitously to allow us to build Ganymede.  A rent-free place to build her; an evening job that allowed mornings to be devoted to boatbuilding, an almost manic motivation to get back to seafaring as quickly as possible.  It seems highly unlikely that all the necessary circumstances could come together a second time for a far more ambitious project.

Daffodils in Snow

Like the hardy and persistent daffodil promising the coming of the next season, we press on toward….well, you never know.

Still, Ganymede started with a crazy idea, an idea that seemed foolish and unlikely and even impossible at times, yet here we are.  Most likely this vague schooner thing will forever remain in my mental filing cabinet as something I’d like to do someday, just like sailing the Northeast Passage over the coast of Siberia, or digging a cave-house into the side of a hill, or adapting carbide miner’s lamps to replace the kerosene lighting on Ganymede.  Most likely, but you never know.  You simply never know.

Building Boats Again

What do sailors do when they come ashore? Build boats, of course.

7' fiberglass rowing dinghy

Fairing Ganymede's Cabintop

Fairing among friends.

When Ganymede launched, three years after construction began, and six long years after we had moved ashore to start the boatbuilding process, I had felt like never building a boat ever again.  After all, I had built 15 or so dinghies, as well as the molds for them all, and used up several 55 gallon drums of polyester resin in putting decks, cabin, bulkheads and rudder on Ganymede.  My memory of that time is mostly of endless grinding, sanding, itching, and sanding some more.  There was also lots of sticky stuff, and plenty of terrible smell.  Everything related to boatbuilding, from melting lead for ballast to browsing catalogs for parts and equipment, had lost its lustre.  It was time to go cruising, and it felt great to not have to get into acetone any more, or mix paint or apply varnish.

2014 02 10 Vanquish 002I hadn’t really wanted to get back into boatbuilding when we returned to Rhode Island for the winter, but it seems that one of the main things going on here in the winter is boatbuilding and repair, and all my friends who were in a position to recommend jobs are boatbuilders as well.  Well, it had been a while, anyway, since I had bathed in acetone, so I took a place at a fiberglass shop that builds the Vanquish speedboats—high-end semi-custom 26-foot runabouts.

2015 01 27 Vanquish 011My particular job was to be building a plug for a redesigned deck mold.  For my readers who aren’t conversant in fiberglass-ish, a plug is a full-sized prototype of the object you want to make, from which molds are made to make the final product in.  Sounds complicated, and it rather is.  First we made a sacrificial deck to modify, and I spent a few days laboriously cutting various bits of it away with a sawzall.  Then we had to build the new interior into it with MDF—a cheap sort or pressed board that works easily and doesn’t warp or move.  For several weeks we built shapes—settees, consoles, bulkheads—screwed them, glued them and installed them.  After that we either chiselled them back out for newly-invented modifications, or after spending several days making nice fillets all around with Bondo, had to put in an addition that completely covered the fillets anyway, and had to be filleted in turn.

Woggs Plug

A mother/daughter fairing team for the Woggs plug.

It was just like old times dinghy building, really: fairing compound on, sand off, apply again, but on a much larger scale.  Before the plug was ready for primer, we had mostly sanded off, by hand, fifteen gallons of fairing putty.  The shop, usually pretty messy anyway, was thick with MDF dust, Bondo dust, and curled bits of spent sandpaper.  I had hoped to learn perhaps a few labor-saving tricks that I hadn’t known when I was working on my own, but it looks like the only shortcut to plug-building is to make everything very carefully so as not to have to fair it too much.

Mold Waxing

Daddy’s little helper waxing away

It was a big day, yesterday, when the plug was finally deemed ready for the last coat of primer.  None of us had fingerprints left—the pads of our fingers had all been sanded off.  It looked pretty sleek, gleaming black and looking miraculously perfect.  It looked done, in fact, and in a way it is.  All we have to do now, all we’ll do for the next two weeks or so, is to sand some more, around and around with ever finer grits of paper, till the whole shebang is mirror smooth and ready to wax.  It seems strange that only a few days after all these months of labor are poured into this thing, as soon as the mold comes off it, in fact, we’re going to have to cut it up and toss it in the dumpster.  In a way I’m glad, since we’re pretty sick of the old thing by now, but at the same time it seems a shame to toss it out after all that work.  And unless I miss my guess, the person who’s worked on it the most, the person who was hired specifically to help with this, will be the one who has to chop it up.

Ah well, it’ll be just like old times, and after a four-year break from it all, it’s not so bad to be building boats again.



No Metric Equivalent

Water temperature is measured according to whether on not Mommy swam.

Water temperature is measured according to whether on not Mommy swam.

Three kids tuckered out at mid-day measures some successful play.

Three kids tuckered out at mid-day measures some successful play.

I saw one time, at a museum in Virginia, a curious watch with only ten hours marked on the dial.  It turned out to be a rare relic of a little-known attempt by French horologists to measure time in metric.  It was hubris, perhaps, that made them think they could also cram time into their newly-invented system of measure: the French had, with varying degrees of success, managed to measure a couple of things in centimeters and kilograms, and were raring to convert the whole world to their way of thought.

Sometimes, the stage of the tide can be known by distinct color changes in the water.

Sometimes, the stage of the tide can be known by distinct color changes in the water.

There was one problem, though: while arbitrary values like length and weight can be measured by means of any standardized unit, the passage of time has to be measured with a system compatible to the rotation of the earth—in short, the measure of a circle cannot, to this day, be sensibly forced into a framework limited to tens and hundreds and thousandths.


Apparently, it's not noon. Yarr-harr-harr!

Apparently, it’s not noon. Yarr-harr-harr!

There have been several other notable things which have proved un-adaptable to Metric—marine and air navigation proved impossible with it, and are still conducted in Nautical miles.  The incredibly lame UTM grid with which the Metric System seeks to replace Latitude and Longitude only works at the Equator—everywhere else there is too much distortion to conduct any sort of cartography using it.

We measure wave heights by how challenging the surf-landing.

We measure wave heights by how challenging the surf-landing.

If only the earth were a cylinder it would work splendidly.  It has been the spherical nature of the earth, in fact, that has been the downfall of the Metric system since they day it was thought up.  Originally the Meter was supposed to be one-forty-thousandth (a number not evenly divisible into 100, by the way, destroying the entire purpose of it from the start) of the distance from the Equator to the pole.

For kids, years are less important than stages, imagine this guy with a six foot wingspan!  How he will soar.

For kids, years are less important than stages, imagine this guy with a six foot wingspan! How he will soar.

What the scientists tasked with cooking up an alternate system of measure forgot, or perhaps never knew (being as we have seen weak on spherical geometry), was that the earth is an oblate speroid—it is slightly flattened at the poles, therefore their base distance was not also a quarter of the way around the equator, like it was meant to be.

Occasionally, officials measure importance by how many stamps they use.

Occasionally, officials measure importance by how many stamps they use.

It took some time to discover this, since astronomy requires a working knowledge of spherical geometry (on which they were weak, remember), and by the time someone pointed that out, the newly-minted metersticks and ten-centimeter rulers were already in stores.  What followed was not a return to the sensible system that had been and continues to be in use to this day—nor even a tuning up of it, or re-checking to make sure it measured up: no, instead their new standard length, the Meter, went through a series of definitions, each of which proved inadequate and was discarded until relatively recent times, when it was finally fixed as a distance requiring some serious scientific equipment and controlled laboratory conditions to figure out.

Good measuring makes good cakes, this one was for the anniversary of launching Ganymede in 2009.

Good measuring makes good cakes, this one was for the anniversary of launching Ganymede in 2009.

And perhaps that is the problem with the whole system: it purports to greater accuracy than Nature herself allows.  So what if the old-fashioned yard is based on the length of a certain monarch’s arm?  And so what if the distance around the equator isn’t exactly divisible by yards of that length?

How fast can you scull, Dad?  Faster than you can swim.

“How fast can you scull, Dad?” “Faster than you can swim.”

One goes into marine navigation knowing that; knowing, moreover, that the Equator in his calculations is an average value, fluctuating with tides and oblique spots in the gravitational field.  The navigator knows, also, that a day is not exactly 24 hours long, and instead of attempting to cram nature into a rigid scheme that might be simple if it worked, he adjusts and corrects and learns to live with and love the tiny variations that help to keep him on his toes.  And given good conditions and decent instruments, an even mediocre navigator can get along quite well.

Just imagine counting music in 100's...

Just imagine counting music in 100′s…

But here the specious cry: “So what if the Metric system is limited and based on unscientifical principles?  The WHOLE WORLD is using it exept for us!”  I might have believed that last statement once, but it turns out that the more foreign countries I visit, the more places I find still using gallons and fathoms and inches.  The only country in Central America (and we’ve been to them all by now) that uses the Metric System almost exclusively is Costa Rica, and they’re the one least worth a visit.

Ten ton cutter

Ten ton cutter, I can’t say enough about her.

Even so, your boat is measured in feet upon check-in and –out.  Surprisingly, even in Quebec City, the heart of French Canada and almost more French than France itself, they asked me to translate my boat length from meters back to feet so they could assign a marina slip.

Fathoms of ever useful potwarp.

Fathoms of ever useful potwarp.

Of course, in the other portions of Canada we visited on our recent cruise, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, the Metric System is a faraway notion that doesn’t enter into day-to-day life.  I was scolded in Lunenburg for trying to buy shock cord in anything other than feet; a man in Newfoundland told me he needed “just a few more fathoms of fencing”.  Firewood is measured in cords, fishing boats are measured in feet; fish hauls in pounds, codfishing depths told off in fathoms.

The best charts measure in degrees and fathoms.

Can you fathom navigation any other way?

In fact, fathoms are so much alive in the business of navigating that old charts are far more in demand than the shiny new government issues with depths in meters.  More than once we set a new-edition chart aside in favor of an older one, which wrinkled, rubbed and stained as it might have been, still had very accurate soundings where the metric charts had only a blocked-out area and a note “area not surveyed to modern standards.”

Much of boat design is measuring the value of every space and how it is to be used.

Much of boat design is measuring the value of every space and how it is to be used.

It seemed incomprehensible that people at the supposed cutting edge of science couldn’t pull off with fancy metric echo sounders what John Cabot and Captain Cook and Henry Hudson did, and very accurately at that, with lead weights on a string.  Their unwillingness to print a sounding that might be a few centimeters shy of spot on has made them create a far greater hazard to navigation by not having any soundings at all, and we stood off from more than one bay we might have gone into if they’d left the old-fashioned soundings in place.

Light Air, an ideal wind force and more than a light breeze is more than could be wished for.

Light Air, an ideal wind force and more than a light breeze is more than could be wished for.

But not all their charts are metric, and all their tidal current calculations are done in knots, as well as the windspeeds in the marine forecast.  They’re like a popular British sailing magazine I read from time to time, where they give boat lengths in feet, followed in parentheses by the length in metres.

Ganymede was built a dram at a time.

Ganymede was built a dram at a time.

Having been told they should convert, they give a nod to the metric system, but the measurements that matter are still done in standard.  That’s as it should be, and I expect one day the meter and liter and kilo and UTM grid will end up where they belong, as curious museum displays alongside the failed metric watch.

Immeasurable joy.

Immeasurable joy.

Now What? How to Become Landlubbers Again

Ooops, isn't this the way to open my mail?

Ooops, isn’t this the way to open my mail?

The worst thing for me about taking a break from cruising is having to find a job.  Not the job itself, mind you—just the looking for one.  It seems the most depressing thing on earth to fill out endless reams of applications, wondering, fearing, hoping the phone will ring and dreading it won’t.  I expect it’s the same for all cruisers who are re-integrating.  There’s always a sort of dazedness to coming back on shore, with the million things that need immediate attention.  Address changes to cancel (“Ah, the notorious Zartmans!” said the man at the post office the first time we went in), marina paperwork to fill out, library cards to see to—the list goes on.

Ah, what merry times in the Maritimes.

Ah, what merry times in the Maritimes.

It helped a little, this time, that we were not arriving somewhere entirely new, but returning to familiar ground in Newport, RI, where we’d spent a whole year before sailing off to the Canadian Maritimes.  The network of in situ acquaintances proved invaluable to settling in quicker, and, as is usual, to finding a job.  Even in this age of LinkedIn and Monster and Craigslist, the best way to hook up with work is still to know someone who knows someone who’s hiring.

Ganymede is all settled and snug, come what may.

Ganymede is all settled and snug, come what may.

It was good, though, that it took a couple of weeks to get something steady.  There was a lot of work to do to settle in: rigging and sails to send down and fold for the winter; ground tackle to rinse, dry and stow; a shrink-wrap canopy to build.  It snowed the day we moved Ganymede to her proper winter slip, and I spent some very cold days doing temporary work at the boatyards.  But before too long (ah, the leisure of the unemployed!)  Ganymede was all snug for the winter, with canopy built and lots more room down below with all our overflow now stored on deck.  Not that that helps for long, since it seems a rule that no matter how much room you have it can quickly get overtaken with clutter.  Of course, the kids have had to live so long with no room for extra things, unable to accumulate treasures as freely as children like to, that now I think they’re accumulating extra, just because they can.

In the fulness of time, and perhaps just a little before, my vast network of friends and well-wishers paid off, and I was invited to work at Goetz Composites in Bristol.  My task was to help finish a boat re-fit, and I spent a pleasant (if often chilly) four weeks installing lights and plumbing and other small things on an 80-foot carbon-fiber ex-raceboat.  Before that project came to an end, a full-time project came along, also in Bristol (lots of boatbuilding going on in that town), making a prototype interior for a re-designed speedboat.  Work starts early (6:30 AM!), but the building in which I get to spend my days making patterns out of MDF (a kind of glorified cardboard) is well heated, and life is inevitably settling into a pattern.

When looking at this just listen for the rustle of grasses followed by a hoodling roar

When looking at this just listen for the rustle of grasses followed by a hoodling roar

Now I’ll tell you the surprising part: contrary to most people’s idea of cruising, which is one of endless leisure under coconut trees with a fistful of cool beverage, this full-time job with a daily commute and seemingly endless errands is a lot less work than full-time cruising with the kids has ever been.  Sure, there’s cruisers who do the shady relaxing thing, but they usually don’t have children, nor do their boats move very often.  We’ve known cruisers whose only ambition is to lounge about in their underwear and browse the internet—you can do that with almost any Central American cellphone SIM card—and we find that completely acceptable.  Cruising should be done at your speed and in your own style, whatever that may be.  But our style is of necessity less relaxing—we have places to go and see,  and the children don’t allow for leisurely lounging.  Cruising for us is more like in one of Masefield’s Bo’sun’s Yarns:

“Them’s the works o’ the Lord you sees in steam ‘n’ sailing ships,-

Rocks ‘n’ fogs ‘n’ shatterin’ seas ‘n’ breakers right ahead,

‘N’ work o’ nights ‘n’ work o’ days enough to strike you dead.”

Ben will never forget waking up from a brief nap after our most exhausting first family over-nighter to discover the kids savagely painted from head to toe--anything to allow immediate rest, I had thought at the time.

Ben will never forget waking up from a brief nap after our most exhausting first family over-nighter to discover the kids savagely painted from head to toe–anything to allow immediate rest, I had thought at the time.

For a couple with small children this is especially true, since arriving in port after a long, stormy multi-day does not mean you can collapse into bed and sleep to your heart’s content.  Usually the first concern is to get a decent meal into the children, and tidy up the inevitable chaos belowdecks.  Then however unrested you are, they’ve had far too much rest and are generally crawling up the bulkheads and bouncing off the deckhead, and so must be taken ashore at the first possible moment.  Even a week in port, even tied up wharfside, translates to endless work, since usually there’s ship’s stores to round up, lessons to keep up with, and the nonstop cleaning that living in tiny spaces necessitates.

Lovin' the grill in the backyard.

Lovin’ the grill in the backyard.

So we’re taking our leisure, now that we’ve become landlubbers again.  There’s no heaving up the anchor pre-dawn, no all-night watches, no concern for the weather—we simply don’t care what it does, since it’s consequences are so slight when you’re not trying to go anywhere by sea.  It’s nice to take a walk whenever we please, to do laundry at will, and to have all the running water we can use ready to hand.  Still, in spite of all the benefits and lesure we’re enjoying,  there’s a slight sense of regret—not that we’re not cruising just now, since winter cruising only happens in places we’ve no interest in, but that we’re not planning anything else.  The overwhelming factor of landlubbing is it’s permanence—even folk who seem to flit from city to city and job to job spend several years in each place—and looking ahead to a long stretch of not going anywhere is the scariest thing we’ve encountered for years.  I have no idea how we’ll adapt to shoreside life, or whether we’ll be able to stand it in the long run, but for now we’re finding it pretty restful.  If it’ll last remains to be seen.

Not A Day Too Soon

1 Sailing through New YorkAs we had struggled up the St Lawrence River and down the canal systems toward the Hudson river, discussion of what to do afterwards had been largely put off.  There was too much to think about in the rush to not get stuck in Quebec for the winter.   The original plan—that is, the plan we’d vaguely sketched while in Newfoundland after giving up on an Atlantic crossing, was to carry on to the Bahamas from New York city.  Subject, of course, to funds and motivation.  But at the mouth of the Hudson, instead of carrying on with a fair tide through the Verazzano Narrows toward Sandy Hook and the Jersey Shore, we had turned without even a longing glance into the East River, where our last blog post left us anchored in the lee of City Island, with Newport, RI fairly in the crosshairs.

2 Autumn SquirrelThe truth is, and this had dawned on us but gradually, we were ready for a break; we were ready to go home.  The chunk of cruising we had bit off when we decided to go counter-clockwise around Newfoundland had been pretty big; the season already getting on when by rounding Cape Race we had set the plan in stone.  The race to get south from the Straits of Belle Isle ahead of bad weather had been exhausting, and the thought of cruising the US east coast again had little appeal.  I had said to Danielle, half-jokingly: “Do you really feel like working the ICW and sketchy fall weather all the way to the Bahamas just so we can pay their government $300 for the privilege of squeezing into overcrowed anchorages where everyone will drag on top of us and we have to buy water and there’s not much in the way of supplies?”

3 Saugerties Love Knot

No matter how we tie ourselves up in knots, we don’t seem to stop growing.

Of course, there’s much that’s pleasant in the Bahamas in spite of that; the bigger downside was that we would have to get back to Newport by late April in order to work during the sailing season, and it’s a long way from the Abacos to New England during the uncertain weather of early spring.  And had that been the only consideration we might still have gone.  We had known deep down when we sailed toward Nova Scotia in the spring that this cruise would be our last big Hurrah; that our little family was well into outgrowing the boat, and our cruising days were numbered.  There is simply not enough room for the children and their necessary things on our 31-foot boat, even when kept to the barest minimum.

4 Tree Climbing

It’s a beautifully rugged life.

By now we were below the minimum, and had been for a while.  Everyone needed shoes, from Damaris who was wearing twice-handed-down slippers with holes up forward to Danielle who was stretching out her only pair of three-year-old flats by packing the soles with newspaper.  Everyone needed coats and dresses and socks as well.  One of Danielle’s relations had complained that in every Facebook picture the girls were wearing the same clothes.  Back in Harrington Harbor I had put on my best shoregoing rig, and thought I was looking pretty dapper when my wife pointed out that my trousers had bottom paint on them, the shirt cuffs were ragged, the waiscoat sagged, and my jacket zipper was too corroded to zip.  In short, the family needed many things that our bare-bones cruising budget couldn’t supply—not if it was also to see us to the Bahamas for winter and back by spring.

5 Sailing into Long Island Sound

Looking back while moving forward.

It was, again, the sum of a dozen little things that made us set our sails toward home.  We saw each one not as a problem to overcome, but as a guiding circumstance, like channel markers showing the right way to go.  The final circumstance, that put the cap on our decision while we waited for the tide in Nyack, was the weather.  It was a fair forecast for crossing Long Island Sound, a not-so-good one for getting south along the Jersey shore.  And even in the sheltered waters of the sound the following wind proved to be almost too much—twice we were whooshed under double-reefed main and staysail into safe havens—Huntington harbor first, then several days later when that gale had abated, into Branford.  We had wanted to stay longer in the Sound, to visit with friends in Branford, to cruise up the Mystic River, to explore the Thimble Islands.  But the relentless fall weather in general and a frightful forecast kept nipping at our heels, and we took advantage of a perfect window—it would prove the last good one for weeks—to get around Point Judith into the familiar waters of Narragansett Bay.

6 Sailing into Newport Harbor

Thanks, Mark Pilsbury, for looking out across the harbor at just the right moment, it’s great to have friends who love the water.

Though not unexpected, since there’s almost always wind in the Bay, it was a nice treat to come back into Newport harbor under sail.  Six months earlier we had groped our way out in the thickest fog, and now the pale November sun gleamed bravely, lighting us back in with a beatific light.  It was almost as though the weather was rewarding our labors, and the dogged perseverance we’d had to show to get to this point.  Though we’d not set out to do so, our 3,000+ mile summer cruise had turned into a complete circumnavigation of New England, and though there’s others who’ve done that, we stand among the few who’ve gone about counterclockwise, with a detour around Newfoundland as a bonus.

7 boat full of kids

Happy reunion of the admiralty.

There were a few other rewards.  Thanks to the miracle of cellphone texting, we were expected back, and as Ganymede passed jauntily under full sail by the boat shed where I’d worked last winter, the boys there fired off a signal cannon for us.  It was most earsplitting and satisfying, even if we’d gotten a little past before they got the fuse to light.  Then at the end of the harbor, sails bundled hurriedly in the rising wind, we were met by our old neighbor Green Brett, out in his dinghy to help push Ganymede backwards into the tightest spot she’s ever been wiggled, the last slip left in the marina where everyone was seeking shelter from the coming gale.  Our summer cruise was over, and not a day too soon.

All in a Rush in New York


Ganymede gets lowered gently, twenty or so feet per lock

Locking down in the Champlain Canal

They say that one can get used to almost anything, if done often enough.  I wasn’t so sure of that when we got up at first light to start locking up into the Champlain Canal; however many locks we transit—and we had come through a good deal of them by now—getting safely into the lock chamber is always a bit tense.  A speed which feels agonizingly slow when approaching the lock becomes incredibly fast when the muddy wall of the lock is flying past several inches away and the closed gates at the far end seem to be rushing up like a freight train.  And if Ganymede is slow to gather forward way with her 8-hp outboard engine, she’s even more reluctant to take it off again: her ten tons have a lot of momentum for the little engine to deal with in reverse.  Add to this the turbulence encoutered if water’s already pouring into the chamber or there’s an adjacent dam sucking water over the spillway, or if the wind is helpfully blowing from astern, and an entrance can get squirrely really fast.

One of the dams that the Champlain Canal locks help to bypass

Water over the dam

We were grateful that there were no other boats sharing the chambers with us as we locked up the first four or five locks; there was the entire length of the chamber to slow down in before we had to snag the lines that hung down from the edge.  The children, who unlike us had managed to get used to locks, didn’t bother to leave their games down below to come out and see as we went up each one.  It was not long before the locks began to go down again rather than up, meaning that Ganymede was over the hump—she had floated to a higher elevation than ever before, over a hundred feet above sea level, and was on her way back down.

There was a huge dredging project undeway in the canal system, with dozens of barges and tugs moving around, and scores more anchored off the channel or even halfway in it, in the skinny bits.  Some of the buoys had been removed and it wasn’t always obvious where deep enough water would be.  Often we would pass just two feet away from an anchored barge to avoid shallow water beyond it.  That was all very well when everything was plain to see, but on the second morning of the transit a fog rolled thickly in to spice things up, and we found ourselves playing chicken with several smallish tugs and barges in the gloom.  I almost laughed when after a close encounter with a barge-mounted crane that was coming up the wrong side of the fairway the driver stuck her head out the window to ask how much foggier it was ahead.  Here again a radar would have only been a tease, since the maze of anchored barges to be woven amongst would have painted a target clear athwart the channel in some places, making a passage through look impossible.  It was another thing we did not get used to, though it had happened often in days before and was destined to again, this groping about in grey dampness straining our eyes for buoys and landmarks and other ships.

One lock upstream of the Hudson River, northbound boats have a choice.

A fork in the waterway.

Still, in spite of the drawbacks and difficulties, it was a splendid canal, bordered almost it’s whole length by trees in full autumn splendor, with always something interesting to look at—when it was clear.  We emerged from the canal on a Saturday afternoon, tied up to a bulkhead in Troy to rest and celebrate (Jamaican food was about all we could find, but it does very nicely), and continued down the Hudson River on Monday.

TiconderogaThe Hudson River!  What a gloriously historic waterway, winding among high forested hills full of legends, tales and the folklore of early America.  As Ganymede passed by the Catskill mountains, the girls imagined they could hear Rip Van Winkle’s Dutchmen bowling among them; the guns of Fort Ticonderoga could well have blown us out of the water had we been an enemy ship of yesteryear.

Stepping the MastFinding a marina that was still open we tied up to re-step the mast and (oh glory!) go to the first real grocery store since Quebec City.  We were now back in tidal waters, so our daily runs were regulated by them, and twice we found ourselves battling terrible chop and even four-foot square waves as the tide and the prevailing southerly winds conspired to mischief.  There was rarely a morning without rain or thick fog, but on the whole we made very good time down the river, and got to see a great deal of lovely scenery.

NyackOur last stop in the river was at Nyack, NY, where we anchored to get some Chinese food and wait for a fair tide.  You can get all the way to New York City and through the East River with one tide if you leave Nyack just at slack water.  Of course slack water happened at that most sleepy hour of three AM, but that meant there would be less traffic to battle as we shiveringly pulled on all our layers and got going under a canopy of bright stars.

New York HarborThere is no way to get lost between the Tappan Zee and George Washington bridges, even in the dark, so I sent Danielle below to get more sleep while I hunched, shivering, over the tiller.  We arrived at New York Harbor just when all the ferries were beginning to run, and for a couple of hours endured a purgatory of wakes and close encounters with vessels of all sizes—but mostly big—before  we turned the corner into the East River where the ferries were more occasional than perpetual.  We had caught the tide just right, and whooshed through Hell Gate into Long Island Sound with plenty of daylight.  Although it was early still, the rising wind made us grateful enough to anchor in the lee of City Island and have a run ashore, congratulating ourselves on a very successful week.  All locks, canals and narrow waterways had been got past, New York Harbor was left astern, and now only 120 miles of Long Island Sound separated us and a winter home in Newport.


Another Place on the List


Fog is LiftingOur last day in Canadian waters began with a bang; a series of bangs actually, as the first grey light of dawn was hailed by duck hunters firing shotguns into the mist.  How they could see what they were shooting at in the thick fog was beyond me: I could barely see as far as Ganymede’s bows.  After a quick peek outside I went back to bed.  There was no hurry today, no need to go blundering about in the mist and get mistaken for a big duck and shot.  We were less than five miles from the border, and could afford the untold luxury of a late start.  Even the crackling of gunfire, sounding sometimes pretty close by, did not diminish from the pleasure of lying in bed staring at the deckhead.  After all, it would take something considerably heavier than birdshot to put a dent in Ganymede’s sturdy hull.

Border BuoyIt was midmorning before the fog lifted enough to allow us to get well underway, and then, perversely, it socked back in thick as flannel.  Antigone kept watch from the bows while I steered carefully plotted compass courses from one buoy to the next.  I’m often asked whether I don’t think I’d like to have a radar for these sort of fog events, but the fact is, in this portion of the river a radar would have been little help.  The buoys were mostly the light-duty plastic spar sort, and would have given as little radar return as the low marshy land bordering the river.  I don’t deny that radar has its uses, but it would have been a mere tease here, where a careful compass course and keen lookout were the order of the day.

It was less than two hours after we got underway that the fog lifted, and then a worse evil was made manifest: speedboaters, taking advantage of the last fine weather before winter, came out in droves as soon as the visibility improved.  Soon the quiet river became a crashing maelstrom as phalanxes of Sea Rays and all their ilk charged senselessly here and there as fast as ever they could.  It was unimaginably vexing, and in no time we were wishing again for thick fog as heartily as we had wished it gone before.

Rouse's PointThings mellowed out at the border crossing, where all boats were required to stop and clear customs.  We had been relishing, after clearing customs ourselves, finding a good, old fashined, American grocery store: one full of all the good things we’d been longing for since, well, since leaving Cape Cod six months before.  Our last grocery shopping had been done way back in Quebec City, hundreds of miles away, and we had absolutely nothing fresh or pleasant left to eat.  But our welcome back to the US was to be more meager than that.  At Rouse’s Point, the border crossing, there was nothing but a dollar store stocked with canned food and a few loaves of bread.  The only restaurant in town had almost anything you could want, as long as you wanted it fried.

Burlington, VermontThe lateness of the season didn’t help;  with the closing of the Chambly Canal, most of the marinas along the shores of the lake were closing as well, along with their associated restaurants, convenience stores and fuel docks.  Even at Burlington, Vermont, where we arrived after sitting out two days of strong contrary winds and rain in a lonely northern bight of the lake, the only grocery store we could find was a hyper-expensive market aimed at people with food issues and big wallets.  Almost everything was “organic” or “artisan”, which are just two gimmicks to charge more money for bad food.  We bought what we could stand to from the sinner’s rack (the one labeled loudly “Inorganic”), and hurried home to make a few more miles of southing before nightfall.

Lake Champlain ReflectionsOne decided advantage of cruising at end-of-season is that any available wharf space is fair game, and moorings galore sit empty, waiting to be used.  It’s convenient, especially in a narrow waterway where anchoring may not be an option.  It was certainly not an option once the lake narrowed to a river with very shallow banks, and the brightly colored trees closed in, stooping far enough over the water to have touched Ganymede’s spreaders—if her mast had been up.  It was just after that point, where it seemed like the river could get no shallower nor narrower, that we arrived in Whitehall, yet another off-season ghost town, and made fast to a conveninent floating dock in the lengthening shadows.

Whitehall, NYThis was another milestone: here was the first lock of the Champlain Canal, a twelve-lock system that joins the Hudson River to Lake Champlain.  A quick walk ashore among forlorn three-storey brick buildings, some of them caving in at the sides, revealed no supplies of any kind.  With barge traffic no longer of huge commercial importance, many of the small towns along the canal have fallen on hard times.  Still, we found it a pity that we had not more time to spend exploring that and other quiet towns along the wateway, nor to poke about Lake Champlain, which though resplendent in glorious fall colors as we went by, would also be a grand place to spend a few weeks in the height of summer.

Lake ChamplainBut time, as it had been for over a month now, was still pressing, and as we left Lake Champlain behind we added it to the list of places to which we’d love one day to return.  That list is almost as long as that of the places we’ve been, since almost each one has had something pleasant and lovely to anchor fond memories to. Neither of those lists, however, is as big as the list of places we’s still like to go—a list that only gets longer the further we cruise and realize how much more of the world there is still to see.

Over The Hump


Mast Tabernacle

A sturdy tabernacle made for an easy lowering.

“No worries,” I had been telling everyone for the last month—everyone who had pointed out that to go through the Chambly Canal the mast would have to come down—“It’s mounted on a tabernacle; we can get it down at anchor, if we have to.”

Little known to us, we WOULD have to lower it at anchor—the two marinas in Sorel-Tracy, when we got up in the chilly dawn, appeared to be closed down.  One of them was obviously getting dredged, and not a mast or a boat was to be seen over the breakwaters of the other one.  There would not be a crane available if we wanted it.  It was time to put our money where our mouths were.  I hate that feeling.

Stowing Mast Rigging

Nothing like a good hearty halyard for breakfast.

With fingers that didn’t want to bend in the cold, I set about unshackling mast hoops, unreeving halyards, and de-rigging the sail.  To save time, we just bundled the sail against the gaff without undoing the lacing and set it all on the side deck.  Then came the tricky part.  In the absence of several long 2x6s to make a sheer-legs out of, I had to use the boom as a crane.  It’s a heavy one, built of thick fiberglass, and manhandling it out parallel to the bowsprit was no joke.

Boom Crane

Raise one to lower the other.

Then came the ticklish business of hoisting it vertical with the jaws braced on deck against the forehatch coaming.  It took both of us, one heaving on a tackle and the other one steadying with guy ropes, but soon it was up and stayed down tight, like a mini-mast of it’s own.  Unreeving the deadeye lanyards was the matter of only a few minutes, and with out hearts in our throats lest a container ship should make a wake at an inconvenient time,  we pulled the locking pin on the tabernacle and lowered gingerly away.

Mast Lowering

Steady there, no wakes please.

It was astonishing how very smoothly it went down, landing gently on the stuffed sail we had lashed to the boom gallows in case of accidents, and more astonishing was that just three hours after beginning to de-rig, the mast was safely down and stowed and we were heaving up the anchor for an early start up the Richelieu River.  As we chugged back toward the channel the first container ship of the day passed by, it’s wake fifteen minutes too late to cause the mischief it might have done.  It was the last container ship as well for us, since the river and the locks of the Chambly Canal are too small for commercial vessels.

Richelieu River

So funny to see the dinghy and the masthead at the same time.

As Ganymede slipped along the Richelieu River between banks alive with fall colors, we were still afraid of being too late.  The last people we’d talked to, in Quebec City, hadn’t known when the canals were to close, and finding the marinas in Sorel-Tracy inoperative had not been a good sign.  It was not until we arrived at the St. Ours lock at around noon that our fears were allayed.  They were open, all right, but glad to be almost done for the year.  And there was no time for us to dawdle, since the coast guard was already pulling out buoys in anticipation of closing after the weekend.

Chambly Canal

Hand cranked!

It was strange, after all that day-and-night pushing, to find a place to anchor, and to sleep All Night.  Something in us wanted to carry on; to get to and though the canals before some last-minute glitch could come and ruin everything at the eleventh hour.  But nothing did, and in spite of all the time we wasted sleeping we still got to the Chambly Canal early next morning.  It was ticklish, navigating the final bit across a small, shoal-fraught lake from which the buoys had been removed, but by watching the antics of a trawler ahead as it wrongly guessed several times which way to go, and plotting careful compass courses, we got through unscathed and squeezed into the first lock behind the hapless trawler.

Lock Line Handler

Truly an able-bodied seaman.

The Chambly Canal, that connects the Richelieu River in Canada to Lake Champlain in the US, is the quaintest canal I’ve ever seen.  The lock gates, made of squared timbers, are hand-operated by lock-people turning wrought-iron cranks.  Considering all the staff that that requires, the sixty dollars or so that it costs to get through twelve locks comes pretty cheap.  Though they’ve been through the mighty Panama Canal as well as several other lock systems here and there, the girls were still agog to see the water rising in the chambers; the view opening up as the damp lock walls seemed to grow shorter.

Canal Barge Ganymede

It’s a funny thing, not being ready to sail at any moment.

It was a long day, but full of interest.  In between sets of locks the canal, which seemed scarcely wide enough for Ganymede, wound along beside the ancient towpath, which was near enough to almost reach out and touch the joggers and bicyclists who use it now.  I thought about trying to shy a bag of garbage toward one of the bins that stood here and there, but decided I might get in trouble for littering if I missed.  Still, we were That Close.

Fort LennoxThere were still a few hours of daylight when we got through the final lock, and after spending our last Canadian dollars on a final fill of their lovely Ethanol-free gasoline, we hurried off up the river toward the US border.  We could have crossed that evening, but after finding out what a hassle it would be to clear customs after-hours, we opted to anchor by Fort Lennox, just a few miles on the Canada side of the border, and have a run on shore instead.

Autumn Walk

A last walk on Canadian soil.

Like most forts built by their enemies, the British had sacked Fort Lennox shortly after it was built, after which it was fought over a few other times by several other parties.  In the dreamy, peaceful evening, as we wandered through raspberry thickets growing next to a wide moat, it was hard to imagine the roar of cannons, the yell of battle, the smell of gunsmoke.  Everything was so still and quiet, and it all mirrored how we felt.  After the dreadful rush, the struggle with wind and tide, the uncertainty of whether we’d make it though or not, we were feeling like a lazy autumn afternoon.  The hard work was done, the hump was got over; it would be all downhill from here.  With a happy sigh we rowed back to Ganymede, ate the last of our fresh food from Quebec, and settled in for a last night of sleep in Canadian waters.

Almost There: Home Stretch on the Unrelenting River


Cap a l'Aigle waterfall

Something so wonderfully mysterious about falling leaves and falling water.

The charts we bought in Newfoundland for the St Lawrence River have a neat feature: a letter inside a little diamond leads you to a table in the margin that tells you what the current will be doing just there at each stage of the tide.  It was hopelessly confusing for me to figure out, but Danielle seemed to think it made sense, and told me at what times we had to cross over each diamond to catch a favorable current.  Some of the diamonds weren’t even a mile apart, but the difference in current was significant.  What it boiled down to was that when we left Cap A L’Aiguille at the beginning of the flood, we could check our progress against the diamonds and know whether we’d made good enough way to carry on or whether we needed to stop and wait for the next tide.  This next portion of river, between Cap A L’aiguille and Quebec City has the strongest tides, and there would be no going against a seven-knot flow.  Also a wind opposing the tide would make for an inconceivably horrible chop.  A lot of things could go wrong, but if things went right, we could really make tracks.

Cap a l'Aigle Tides

I shouldn’t like to push a dock cart up this ramp at low tide.

The marina had closed for the season and was deserted, and we enjoyed a few hours of quietness and rest alongside one of the piers that hadn’t been pulled out yet.  The girls found a splendid waterfall to explore, and we felt pretty good when we left in the early afternoon to squeeze into the narrow passage between Isle Au Coudres and the mainland.  We had thought to stop in there and wait out a predicted gale, but it proved unsheltered and full of traffic.  What’s more, the current was screaming through at better than five knots, and there was still a lot of tide to go.  We pressed on and were glad we did, since the weather was good and Ganymede did over ten knots on the GPS all afternoon.  As if that weren’t good enough, a breeze came up from astern and we set some sails and really made good time, arriving with some consternation at a narrow, poorly-lit passage north of Isle du Orleans just after dark.  We could have done without the wind as we arrived, since it got up pretty hard and we had plenty of other things to think about as Ganyemede rolled and bounced her way between and even over shoals that would dry at low tide.

Quebec Port

Bustling port and beautiful bay.

It was but indifferent shelter that we found inside that narrow channel, and when we dropped the anchor it was obviously among rocks, but we were too tired to care.  As long as Ganymede didn’t drag as the current swept past I didn’t mind how much she rolled nor how much noise the anchor made.  At dawn, still groggy but with enough tide left to make it to Quebec City, we hove up the anchor and sailed past the bustle of that enormous port city. With the gale still on our minds, we motored into the Quebec Yacht Club for fuel just as the tide was about to turn, and finding that wharfage would not be as outrageous as we had feared, decided to stay until the storm blew over.

Quebec Yacht Club

There’s nothing more restful than a good breakwall.

I’ve found, from time to time, that paying a little extra per foot for a nicer marina can be well worthwhile over a cut-rate place.  Our stay cost us $76, which is excessive, but factoring in the clean and spacious restrooms, the very inexpensive laundry, nice grounds for the kids to play on, and best of all being safe and comfortable while a really-truly nasty gale blew by outside, it was well worth it.  We couldn’t afford that every night nor yet every week, but once in a while it doesn’t hurt too badly.  By the time we left next evening, we and our clothes were clean, the decks and hull had gotten a much-needed scrubbing, I had tuned up the outboard engine, and a local had given me a ride to a splendid grocery store.

Departing QuebecIt was evening when we left Quebec—the tide has no regard for day or night, and by now there was more night than daylight anyway.  The river, however, is extremely well-buoyed, and also has many sets of range markers to help you along.  In the northern part of Quebec there had been hardly any buoys at at all, since there’s so much ice to damage them, and we’d gotten used to looking for range markers to guide us through the narrow island passages.  It was luxury, then, to have both buoys and ranges, and it passed the time to tick each buoy off the chart as Ganymede, aided by the tide, shot past.

Racing St. Lawrence Shipping

Got a kick racing the ship to the bridges; we won, but they didn’t know it.

A little more disconcerting were the ships—giant tankers and container ships that plowed along fast enough to sneak up on you from behind if you forgot to look for five minutes.  One moment you would be alone with your thoughts in the dark, and the next a giant wall of steel would go sliding past fifty or a hundred feet away.  It wasn’t too bad—as long as we kept the starboard side of the channel they all would see our lights easily and go around—but once or twice two would pass in opposite directions just where we also were, and things would get squeezy, to say nothing of the violence of mixing wakes that could toss all of Ganymede’s ten tons aside like a toy.

Trois Rivieres

With a sunset like this we even felt warmer.

It was a long slog to Trois Rivieres, especially after the tide petered out and there was no more flood: nothing but a two-knot river current flowing against, a current that opposed us for another grinding thirty miles beyond Trois Rivieres, cutting our five knots though the water down to three over the ground.  That last night in the river—the second one since leaving Quebec City—was the chilliest yet, but mercifully it was devoid of both wind and ship traffic, and at three AM, bone-chilled and weary but triumphant, we turned out of the channel, dropped the anchor, lit a fire and collapsed into bed.  We were not out of the woods yet—there was still the mast to lower and stow, fifty miles to make up the Richelieu River, and all the locks to get through before we would be in the US again, but we were through the hardest part; no more opposing current, no more ship traffic, no more need to run at night.  It had been, as we’d suspected, the hardest, coldest, and most tiring push of our lives, but it was done and our sleep the rest of that night was the best we’d had in weeks.