Monthly Archives: September 2016

“The wind is in from Africa” Joni Mitchell

In March or April of every season, we begin thinking about what our strategy for hurricane season (roughly from June to November) will be.  In 2014 and 2015, we secured and left Elizabeth Jean respectively in a hurricane hole, or south of the hurricane zone.   Rather than stay with Elizabeth Jean through the tropical summer our first two years out, we flew north.

Our strategy this season, in contrast, was to sail to more temperate areas north of the most intense hurricane zone.  Hurricanes, however, can stray north as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated in 2012.  Therefore, part of our daily weather briefing includes information on potential tropical systems as they form off Africa’s coast.  There the differences between the hot, dry Sahara Desert in north Africa and the cooler, wetter, and forested coastal environment in west Africa form the African Easterly Jet, a band of strong high altitude winds.  The Jet is unstable and undulates in a north-south direction, often forming a north to south trough, or wave, that moves westward off the West African Coast. When these waves of air have enough moisture, lift, and instability, they form thunderstorms, sometimes becoming correlated with a center of air circulation. This circulation may form a tropical cyclone as the areas of disturbed weather move westward across the Atlantic.


For more about hurricane formation see


Hurricane Hermine dominated our weather watch for the latter part of August.  On August 18, the National Hurricane Center designated the system while still off Africa as an Investigative Area (or an Invest for short) and given a number.  In ten days, the system had crossed the Atlantic and had become a Tropical Depression (TD).  Named Hermine on August 31, she became a hurricane a day later and reached land on September 2.  After first landfall, the system moved north along the Atlantic Coast.  We didn’t start moving south from Maine until September 6.


We are now keeping a close eye on Hurricane Matthew, which began off Africa’s coast as Invest 97L.



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Maine: “[A] place . . . built just to enjoy” Will Rogers


Following our evening transit through the Cape Cod Canal and our moonlit passage up the northern New England coast, we arrived at York Harbor, Maine’s most southern port of call.  In addition to the plentiful enjoyment for which the state is built, Maine represented our completion of what the cruising community knows as the Big U (the shape formed by connecting vertical lines up or down both the East and West coast’s with the lower horizontal of the Panama Canal Transit.  While in Maine we visited with an abundance of friends and family in York, Falmouth, Bridgton, Topsham, Naples and Bethel who helped us celebrate our three year and more than 8,000 nautical mile voyage.  Elizabeth Jean is taking us south to warmer winter waters.



For a wealth of information about the Big U see:



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“The bared and bended arm of Massachusetts” Henry David Thoreau

To navigate Cape Cod we elected to transit the Cape Cod Canal’s 7 mile cut connecting Buzzard and Cape Cod bays, rather than journey 135 miles around the entire “bended” arm.  Both Miles Standish and George Washington are reported to have had interest in connecting the two bays.  However, canal construction did not begin until 1909.  Since its opening in 1914, the canal has grown from 100 feet wide and 15 feet deep to 540 feet wide and 32 feet deep. We had planned to spend the night at Onset on the canal’s southwest side and to ride the morning flood tide into Cape Cod Bay. We arrived at Onset with two hours of sunlight and an hour and half of the evening flood tide left.  A rising full moon and predicted calm weather enticed us to immediately ride the tide through the canal and make a night passage further up the coast. A five knot current briskly ushered us from Buzzard Bay through the canal. Under the full moon, a thickening cluster of lobster pots winked at Elizabeth Jean on Cape Cod Bay’s calm waters as Perkins, our faithful diesel engine, hummed us up Massachusetts’ coast to New Hampshire and Maine.


The Canal’s Bourne Bridge; the Railroad bridge is in the distance.  Photo credit: Army Corps of Engineers.


The albatross-eye view of the Cape Cod Canal looking from the from Cape Cod Bay at the photograph’s bottom.


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“It’s what you do with what you remember” Professor Labaree

Great teachers never stop teaching. With age, moreover, they add wisdom to knowledge. Benjamin Labaree, the founder of the Williams-College Mystic Seaport Program, shared his alchemical thoughts on spinning memory into action the last time I visited with him at the Seaport in 2007. At that time, I asked him to check my thirty year old recollection of a mid-October swim  in the Gulf Stream behind the Westward, a sailing research vessel, when I was his student. Was it possible, my query continued, that later that night under the glare of deck lights we pulled an enormous tuna (soon to be cooked and served) off the longlines we had set for our shark tagging research? “Yes,” the professor replied to my questions before adding the day’s lesson on what really mattered–memory infused action.

In Mystic again, this time with Elizabeth Jean, we steeped ourselves in the Seaport’s distinct tribute to our nation’s maritime memories and in the process reinvigorated our push north.


The Joseph Conrad, in the foreground, and the whaling vessel, Charles W Morgan, are the Seaport’s largest exhibits.  The Seaport recently completed refitting the Morgan for sea.  In 1977 a sepia toned poster of the two vessels caught Eric’s eye in snow bound Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The poster announced a new interdisciplinary Williams program intertwining maritime history, literature, science and policy at Mystic Seaport.  Eric eagerly shipped aboard the new venture.


Eric’s class mate, Susan Stucke Funk, and her husband Jim hosted Elizabeth Jean by providing their mooring ball in the Mystic River.  Susan is now the Seaport’s Executive Vice President.  Many thanks to the Funks for their welcoming hospitality.


Artists from the Salt Marsh Opera performed on the Seaport Green.  We were impressed by the duos acting as they sang a number of love songs.  They announced at the end of the performance that they were engaged to be married.

For more on the Williams-Mystic Program and the Morgan see respectively:

Restoring an Icon — The Charles W. Morgan


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“[A]s large a lump of earth as my heart can really take in.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Oyster stakes gave way to a scattering of lobster pot buoys as Elizabeth Jean gamboled up Long Island Sound from New York to Connecticut.  A menu entrée offering “New England Tempura,” (turned out to be a traditional fried seafood platter) and an al fresco shore-side restaurant presenting an abundance of lobster dishes (Newburg, risotto, and tacos) provided culinary evidence of Elizabeth Jean’s transition to New England shores, the coastal fringe of Hawthorne’s heart filling “lump of earth.”   We shared these regional culinary reference points respectively with Patti and Dick Broad (Eric’s friend from his Princeton youth) and Jonathan (Eric’s first cousin) and his wife Kit.  A tour of Jonathan’s “Boat House” project and a side trip up the Connecticut River to historic Essex rounded out our reintroduction to Connecticut and entry to New England waters.


The Mary E welcomes the Elizabeth Jean to Essex.  The Connective River Museum operates the 1906 vintage schooner, which has served as a cargo ship, U.S. mail carrier, sword fishing vessel, and private yacht.


By the time of the American Revolution, Essex was already a shipbuilding center.


Captain Sullivan, prepares to test drive the Turtle.  The world’s first submersible with a documented record of combat.  The original  Turtle was built in Old Saybrook down river from Essex.  The Turtle made several unsuccessful attempts to attach explosives to British warships in 1776.


The Gump-like Captain Sullivan photo bombs the British landing at Essex during the War of 1812.  Within a 24 hour period, the British destroyed 27 ships.  Captain Sullivan escaped unharmed.


Dick and Patti met us in Essex and we drove to Old Saybrook (home of the Turtle’s shipyard) for dinner.


Jonathan and Kit aboard Elizabeth Jean.  We later visited Niantic harbor to see Jonathan’s construction project.  His client asked for a house that looked like a ship and Jonathan delivered a land-side structure whose elegance rivals the QEII.  Lobster and seafood dinners in Noank at the mouth of the Mystic River capped a memorable visit

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“He came into my life” Zelda Laschever

Mamaroneck, in addition to being near Eulalie’s high school sailing waters, is a 10 minute drive from Rye, New York.  Rye is home to Eric’s third brother, Jack and his family–wife Sonali, Benjamin, and Tara.  Time and we unwound as we became their neighbors for a relaxed couple of weeks during which we visited, went to the theater to see Ben and Tara in Oink (a musical version of the Three Pigs), and entertained them on Elizabeth Jean.  On our final evening together, we cozied up on the living room couch and watched a video of Jack and Sonali’s wedding reception.  There in high definition resolution were my brother Dave and I in turn toasting the newlyweds.  The crowd later raised the couple on chairs for a wild traditional Jewish hora, a somehow fitting cross cultural addition to the Catholic wedding service and stunning Indian wedding regalia worn by the bride and her family.  My mother’s voice caught my ear.  The roving photographer had been documenting the event, soliciting comments from the happy crowd.  Among the happiest, our parents.  With well traveled words, Muz recounted how Pog came into her life: a blind date on her twenty-first birthday.  As if blarney-stone kissed, she waxed on about my father–his kindness, patience, strength and humour.  Well trained by the years, he waited, patiently bemused.  At my mother’s pause, he looked at her,  “Are you free later tonight?”  If voices could wink, his would have.  Then, they were again gone as the photographer moved on.  If for a moment my parents and their warmth and love had re-entered our lives so too had we again rejoined both of our families’ lives as we journeyed up the East Coast.


Tara takes the helm.


Captain Benjamin.

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