Thursday, August 1, 2013

To Boldly Go Where No Cruising Boat Has Gone Before, Much.

A long time ago, when this writer was in his late teens and his co-conspirator was in his early thirties, we were anchored in Gosport Harbor, in the midst of delivering Bufflehead, our family's Morgan 30, back to Marblehead, MA.  We went way way up inside the harbor, almost to the breakwater between Cedar Island and Smuttynose, taking a mooring or dropping a hook (I don't remember which) in what looks on the chart like a six foot spot.  Most cruising sailboats have a draft of five feet or more, and most skippers are (quite rightly) cautious about testing the limits of that.  Any water that is colored blue on a detailed chart is typically viewed as not navigable.  So there we were, in a sweet little spot that looked like it should be off limits to a boat our size.  People on other boats were looking at us enviously, questioningly, as if to say "could we go there?"  We thought of posting a sign on our transom: "If you can read this, you're aground."

And in fact, over the course of more than 45 years of cruising on Bufflehead, this is a scenario that has played out over and over. We go to a harbor, or saltwater creek, or cove, and then go to the part where no one else is, where everyone else assumes they can't go.  The bible of New England cruising is Duncan and Ware's Cruising Guide to the New England Coast.  Now in its Twelfth Edition, it's has gone from it's original two authors, to five.  It doesn't contain any overt assumptions about draft, but it seems to assume a bare minimum of four feet.  The preface also admits that the authors don't share everything they know.  Some secret getaways are just too valuable.

But we flatter ourselves to think we are interesting guys and that, when it comes to cruising, we are pretty good at it, in ways that maybe Duncan and Ware were not interested in.  So we have embarked on this project to get some of our practices, traditions and itineraries written down, so that other people can profit by them, or at least get a chuckle.


  1. Great Blog! I hope to contribute, though as a 6 footer (draft) I can never go where Antonie and Nameless Uncle go, but I do occasionally push my luck on depth. (My skills in fiberglass keel repair are well honed.) A lot of my favorite spots have adequate depth, but require traversing a shallow bar at high tide to get there. Obviously one has to wait out the next high tide to leave. Caution! Beware the full moon tide! one of my worst grounding happened 500 yards from my home mooring on a minus 1.8 foot tide when I didn't bother to check the tide tables.

    1. Well howdy, surfguitar. It's always time for a little Dick Dale. We'll definitely be writing up some of the finer points of reading the the tide, as well as the joys of going "over the bar" at high tide to get to a really tasty anchorage.

      If you are a person who has access to apps while at sea, wolfram alpha has an excellent tidal graphing app, with both visual and numerical data. Today, for instance, I was able to use the app to determine that I could get out of my cove even near low tide as it was +1.8 above MLW.

  2. i think i'd like to try bufflehead soup sometime.