An Extended Stay In Robinhood Cove, Maine

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James & Dena aboard their new home S/V Cetacea

September 3 – 22, 2018

     One of the many bonuses we found after purchasing Exit was the extensive library that was left aboard.  A book entitled A Cruising Guide To The Maine Coast summed up Robinhood Cove with the following observation:  You won’t have much company of the human kind, but the mosquitoes might throw you a party.

      Not only humorous, we found this to be an astonishingly astute statement.

     The main part of the bay, approximately a half mile in diameter, was occupied by dozens of unoccupied boats tied to mooring balls, just off Derektor Robinhood Marina.  To the south, Robinhood Cove narrowed to not much more than a thousand feet wide, but extended for more than three additional miles.

     It was along this stretch that we found Dena and James at anchor aboard Nomad.  We dropped anchor slightly farther south of them, the only boats there except for a small power boat and another sailboat, both unoccupied and sitting on mooring balls.

     There was certainly cause for celebration.

     Dena and James had just committed to buying a Baba 30 and had already started the process of finalizing the purchase.  In addition, James had previously corresponded extensively with a guy in California, named Ed, who had been following their blog Sovereign Nations for quite some time.  Ed was convinced he wanted to buy Nomad, and was currently flying over to take a look at her there in Robinhood Cove. 

     If they successfully made both deals happen (buying a new boat and selling theirs simultaneously), it would be pulling the proverbial rabbit out of a hat.  We had written this same scenario off as virtually impossible when we were still looking at boats eighteen months ago, leading us to buy a boat well beyond our initial capabilities… a decision which we have not regretted for a moment.

     While we chilled out, awaiting the final thumbs up that they could begin moving aboard their new sailboat, currently named Island Moon, we enjoyed the tranquility of near complete isolation, with the exception of the regular traffic of seals passing by.

     Much less social than the numerous dolphins we had grown used to seeing further south along the East Coast and in the Bahamas, the seals always kept their distance from us.  For the most part, the solitary head of a seal, possibly glancing over at us as it passed by, was the extent of our contact.  Occasionally, a splash in the distance would reveal to us the presence of one leaping part way out of the water as it hunted through a school of fish.  

     Overall, we ranked the dolphins as far cooler… but we still always greeted the seal with a “hello” and a smile.

     Once Dena and James solidified the purchase of their new boat, they were able to begin the arduous task of moving their belongings from one boat to the other by dinghy.  Though, in the end, one load was all our dinghy was needed for, we made certain to provide maximum assistance in the boat-warming party department.

     One day, we made the mistake of procrastinating our storm preparations on Exit when a weather advisory for potential gale force winds was issued.  The first blast of wind hit us while we were still securing things on deck. 

     Trapped between the opposing forces of a two knot current pulling in one direction and thirty knots of wind pushing in another, Exit momentarily listed precariously to one side as she struggled to find a balancing point.

     One of the stern rail-mounted solar panels, which had not yet been lowered and secured, swiveled upward as it was caught by the gust, causing its support strut (a $5.00 Walmart extendable squeegee) to slip out.  A loud bang emanated from astern as the panel swung back down against the stern rail.

    Looking back from amidship, it took me a few seconds to process what had happened.  Then I saw the squeegee bobbing on the surface of the water, drifting quickly away from us.

     For some unknown reason, our dinghy was still in the water, with the engine still mounted, tied off to the transom (normally we would at least stow the engine in case the dinghy flipped or we needed to sink it during a storm).  In this case, it was fortuitous.

     I quickly gained Kris’ no-contest-consent more than approval (she is typically much better at distinguishing between rationally improvised quick responses and poorly thought out, foolish, knee-jerk reactions) before hopping in the dinghy to retrieve a $5.00 squeegee in rough waves and twenty five to thirty knot winds… hmmmm. 

     With the precious squeegee recovered, we hunkered down and waited out the rest of the wind in the security and comfort of the cabin below, knowing our Rocna anchor would hold fast and hoping our rusty and decrepit chain would hold (James had staunchly insisted that we need to replace it sooner rather than later).  

     Fortunately, Robinhood Cove provided enough protection that we never saw winds higher than the initial onslaught that hit us right at the beginning.

    We thought we had come out completely unscathed until we realized that we had foolishly left the aluminum bench for our dinghy on Nomad’s deck when we helped Dena and James move to their new sailboat.

     A search of Nomad quickly confirmed that the bench was indeed light enough to be lifted up and carried by the winds we had experienced earlier.  A more lengthy dinghy-based search and recovery mission along the shoreline for more a mile in both directions proved fruitless, confirming only that, if aluminum dinghy benches even do float, ours never made it to shore.

     After the storm, we became even more determined to get out anchor chain sorted out.

     It had confounded us for months.  

    The quantity of rust the chain was shedding on the deck both created an absolute mess as well as stained the aluminum, on deck as well as running down the side of the hull where a rust streak marked the location of the deck drain.  

     Some of the wear points in the chain links were substantial.  It had now gotten to a point that, when setting or bringing up anchor, the chain was beginning to chronically jump out of the gypsy track (both a safety as well as equipment damage concern).  

     James had described the condition of the chain as a critical safety issue.

     The challenge: as a French built boat, Exit was equipped with a windlass set up for 12mm chain.

     The problems:

  1. 12mm anchor chain is unbelievably difficult to get in the States.
  2. Goiot discontinued our windlass model years ago and has no current parts or information support.
  3. We haven’t been able to find a replacement gypsy allowing us to switch over to half inch chain.
  4. Obviously, we can’t be at anchor while we replace the chain.

     The variables:  There is 145 feet of spare G4 chain in the bow locker that was lashed to the secondary anchor.  It appears to have never been used.  The Lyman-Morse Boatyard, who maintained Exit for fifteen years, has a record of Exit receiving half inch chain in 2015.

     The theory:  The chain skipping is potentially due to a worn chain as well as some wear to the gypsy itself.  Half inch chain is closer to 13mm than to 12mm.  Hopefully, the potential wear in the gypsy will accommodate the slightly over-sized chain.

    With more time than money, we committed to pursuing the potential option of a free resolution to the ongoing chain dilemma.  

     After digging some of the unused (and previously untouched by us) chain out of the locker and fitting it to the gypsy, we concluded: it was possible that maybe we could unconvincingly verify that the half inch chain might feasibly work in the current windlass gypsy.

     A few days paying to be on a nearby mooring ball gave us the ability to experiment.

     We pulled the entire new chain up on deck, measured and marked it, and did a few additional experiments to try to bolster our confidence that the chain fit on the windlass correctly.  Definitely G4 chain… stamped right on the links.  Seemed to be 1/2″ diameter… seemed to have never been in the water.  Seemed to fit the windlass gypsy better than the old chain.

     We were ecstatic to learn that the extra 165 feet of line already spliced to the end of the chain was actually unused 5/8″ yacht-braid (a quite expensive line designed specifically so it could be run through the gypsy just like a chain.

     Three hundred ten feet, or nearly one hundred meters, of anchor rode… sweet… as long as it works.

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Marking the new anchor rode in five meter increments

     Our first hurdle appeared as we tried to disconnect our Rocna anchor from the existing chain.  Not only were both screws on our $75 Lewmar swivel completely seized in place, but they were also completely stripped.  The only way the swivel was going to come off was with a hacksaw.

     I suspected it could take me thirty hours to completely saw through two stainless steel pins larger than half inch diameter.  Surprisingly, it took less than thirty minutes.

     We had already foreseen the predictable calamity of, after having just cut free the chain, watching our precious unsecured anchor slide off the bow roller, splash into the water, and promptly sink to fifty feet.  We had already taken precautions.

     James and Dena, who came by to lend assistance with connecting the new chain to the anchor, laughed when they saw the anchor, secured not only with two separate lines to the bow roller and deck, but also attached to a spare halyard hung from the top of the mast… possibly overkill.

     As for the now useless swivel, we were stuck.  We couldn’t find the same swivel anywhere in the area, and were told alternatives would cost hundreds of dollars.  

     Using a shackle in place of the swivel was an option.  Both methods have their proponents and critics.  Ask a group of surly sailors:  when connecting an anchor to chain…swivel or shackle?   Then stand back and watch the entertainment begin.

    After locating a shackle, already aboard, that James and Dena assured us was more than sufficient strength, James helped get everything attached properly.  It was agreed that, for the long term, it would be best if we used a slightly different bow shackle; however, everything was golden for the immediate future.  

     Rather than use Loctite, which would be a bitch to break free in the future, we followed our Sailing Gurus’ recommendation to mouse the threaded pin with stainless steel wire, preventing any possibility of it inadvertently backing out, but still allowing us to get it off easily when it came time to switch to a different shackle.

     Before getting off the mooring ball, we lowered the anchor where we were, as a test run.  Though the chain jumped slightly on the way out before the anchor hit bottom fifty feet below, it worked like a dream on the way back up.  Our confidence began to grow that we had actually found a solution which had been on the boat the entire time.

     We returned to our original anchor spot and dropped the hook.  This time it seemed to work even more smoothly as the chain was paid out.

     Woohoo!  We were now brimming with enthusiasm.  Our rusty chain was secured in the bow locker (where it would stay until we were 100% sure we didn’t need to use it as an emergency fallback) which meant that our rust stain woes were nearing an end  pending one final removal process of the current stains.  We had a brand new G4 anchor chain that was twenty five feet longer than before.  We had an extra one hundred sixty five feet of unused 5/8″ yacht-braid attached to the end of that chain which had been confirmed was perfectly safe to deploy if needed (which also ran through the gypsy).  Our gypsy seemed absolutely content running with the half inch chain.  And, to top it all off, we still had two thousand dollars in our bank account that would have been spent otherwise… gotta like that.

     True, at some point we would need to acquire additional chain for our secondary anchor.  But, at least it wasn’t an emergency (we had never had the need for a second anchor during our first year aboard Exit); and it appeared that half inch chain was now an option as well.  Happy days!

      Shortly afterwards, we received word from Dena that Ed was going to pull the trigger on Nomad… he was buying the boat immediately.  They had pulled off the impossible – successfully buying and selling two boats, in the same location, in less than one week’s time! 

     True magic… no sleight of hand, no safety wires… our heroes.

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     There was undoubtably cause for big celebration, which the four of us undertook in fine form.

     Other than Derektor Robinhood Marina (and a restaurant above the marina office), there were no facilities for miles.  Fortunately, since the boat Dena and James were buying was on a marina mooring ball, they had access to the marina showers and courtesy car, which meant plenty of opportunities for provisioning.

     When they rented a car for a few days, we tagged along for a much appreciated one day road trip, an excursion to explore Portland and Boston.  We may be seeing a pattern developing… a reunion with Dena and James mandates a bit of Road Trippin’.  Lobster rolls in Beantown… yum!  But what’s with all the mayo?!

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We also had plenty of time to explore farther up into Robinhood Cove by dinghy, which slowly transformed into more of a creek and eventually a marsh.

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     The last project we felt compelled to do prior to a haul-out, which was now becoming imminent, was an attempt to clean our dodger and bimini covers.  

     Though very durable, a year on the water had begun to take its’ toll on the Sunbrella material.  The bright white had slowly morphed to a dull and dingy gray, eventually starting to show the black specks and dark stains of the relentless assault from the elements.   Now, even shades of green were becoming visible in places… algae.

     Without fully removing either the bimini or dodger cover, we spent the better part of two days carefully applying and rinsing a bleach/water mix, trying to minimize dripping on the teak or aluminum (generally a no-no on both).   Though we were dubious that anything short of a complete removal of the covers from the frames, followed by an aggressive cleaning off the boat, would have satisfactory results, we decided to give it a try.  

     During the process, Kris saw a post on one of the cruising forums, asking for advice on cleaning bimini covers.  Kris replied with a summary of what we were doing and how it seemed to be working.

     Forty eight hours later, with the bimini and dodger covers fully dry, we were stunned at how clean they looked, almost new even.  It had turned out far better than we had imagined possible.

     Later that evening, while we reveled in the cockpit drinking sundowners, beaming with pride and basking under the cover of our now gloriously clean dodger and bimini covers, Kris read a followup post on the cruisers network which lamented…

     … Just had to replace my bimini and dodger covers.  The bleach ate through all the threads.    

     Kris closed the laptop and we made another toast.  You can’t win ‘em all but some successes taste extra sweet.

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