Open waters and home to Maine

On the 4th of July in Newport harbor, the fireworks were canceled early in the day, but then the weather cleared so it would have been perfect. A little sailboat moored next to us had a “will you marry me?” moment on their bow. They partied with friends for the evening and around 1 am they had a drunk-fiancée-overboard moment that ended fine. The bride-to-be safely swam to the ladder. Always excitement in busy harbors and that will be a memorable “what was your engagement moment like” story.

Newport Harbor July 4, God’s fireworks

Up at sunrise on Monday 7/5 to head north, hoping to catch the favorable winds and especially the current through the Cape Cod canal. A bit choppy initially as we came into Buzzard’s Bay, the old sailing ground for the Bensley family, with many wonderful memories. Cuttyhunk and Martha’s Vineyard were visible nearby. We were glad we waited for a calmer sea before heading out.

The Cape Cod Canal, a man-made waterway connecting Buzzard’s Bay at it’s south entrance to Cape Cod bay at the north, is a 7 mile canal with 3 bridges (CC Railroad, the Bourne and Sagamore) and walk/bikeways on either side. Osprey nests dotted the top of poles and the osprey watched us pass as they kept guard of their nests. We didn’t seen any tankers or freighters this passage but many recreation boats zipping through in both directions.

CC railroad bridge at the southern end of the canal
Detail on the railroad bridge
Bourne bridge

Cape Cod Bay was calmer, quieter and pleasant in the warmth of the partly cloudy day. We searched expectantly for whales without success. A few butterflies rested on the boat – always fascinating to see them so many miles away from shore. Dean at the helm, songs blaring in the background as we sang along, and progress on my knitting projects.

Traveled 92 miles total over 12 hours, a long day for us. We tucked into Scituate Harbor at 6 pm, a bit tired from all the rocking, sun glare and wind, and settled in for a rolly night on the mooring as the wind persisted and our boat gently danced and groaned on the mooring in the wind and current. The wind calmed after midnight and everything settled for a quiet night.

Red sky at night, sailors delight

Scituate is a beautiful town, home to many memories for me as my mom’s family had a summer home here early in my childhood, and I still have relatives in the area. Summer sailing lessons are in full swing here, and we had Optis and 420s zipping by us as they weaved in and out of the moored boats, catching sound bites of the chatter of the kids on the boats. What fun, more messing around on boats and exposing the next generation. As they gain confidence, they come closer and closer to us, sometimes close enough to reach out and touch.

Boat names. I love looking at boat names and wondering about the stories behind them. Such a wide variety, from “I Wanted To” to “Annie Girl” to “Arrived.” In Newport, on the mega-yachts-only dock, there were three mega-yachts in a row named “Defiance,” “Resilience” and “Brilliance.” Makes you wonder? I would love to someday hear the stories behind the naming of certain boats. We love to tell how Clare is named after my adventuresome and beautiful mother-in-love, which allows us to launch into stories about their travels on the water. Of course, there are always the boat names that you cringe over when they are hailing over the VHF radio, “This is Hunny Bunny…”

“Don’t Tell Mom”
“Hey Boo Boo”

We’ve been on trawler Clare for a little over a month, and will have traveled around 600 miles to bring her from midpoint on the Erie Canal NY to southern Maine, Kittery Point. The Canadian border hasn’t opened to recreational travelers as yet, so we are feeling good about our decision to take a gap year and bring her “home” to enjoy in Maine this summer. We certainly could have done the trip quicker, but we greatly enjoyed our slow-down-and-explore times with Sue, Clare, and John Karp. And I am always grateful for Dean’s cautiousness with weather layovers.

We stayed a day in Scituate, again waiting for a weather window as thunderstorms, wind, and waves were swirling around the area. Dean helped a boat who was singlehandedly trying to pick up a mooring, which is a challenge from the tall deck while being swayed by wind gusts. Challenging enough when there are two of us! Boaters helping boaters is a wonderful kindness.

Boat chores, reading, kayaking, then a lovely walk to the Scituate Lighthouse in the heat and humidity. Scituate harbor is busy with working fishing boats of all sizes plus two small yacht clubs and many recreational boaters. A quick swim – the water is getting colder as we head north – then a gorgeous sunset.

Scituate lighthouse

Another sunrise start for us and the steady stream of fishing boats heading out. The day started off with gorgeous colors and a lovely flat sea.

We had another full day, covering 65 miles, but the passage couldn’t have been any smoother considering the open sea.

As we were heading to Gloucester harbor, about a mile out from shore, we heard a “PAN-PAN” on the VHF radio, a distress call from a boat that was apparently on fire. Coast guard got the exact location, and boats in the area circled near to the boat to assist. The boat’s fire suppression system was activated to control the fire, and the captain said all 40 passengers were safe with their life preserves on. We could see all the action from a distance, and were impressed by the calmness and control of the captain. We’ve heard several PAN-PAN calls on this trip, including someone jumping or falling from a bridge, a boat without anyone in it, and a person falling overboard. Praying that all were safe…

Monitoring the VHF radio is a basic safety procedure with rules and codes all boaters need to know. PANPAN, originally from the French “panne” meaning “breakdown), is the international standard urgency signal that someone aboard a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle uses to declare that they have a situation that is urgent, but for the time being, does not pose an immediate danger to anyone’s life or to the vessel itself. This is distinct from a Mayday call (distress signal), which means that there is imminent danger to life or to the continued viability of the vessel itself. Mayday originates from venez m’aider, “come help me.” Radioing “pan-pan” informs potential rescuers (including emergency services and other craft in the area) that an urgent problem exists, whereas “mayday” calls on them to drop all other activities and immediately begin a rescue.

We also hear lots of Sécurité, sécurité, sécurité – a procedure phrase used that warns the crew that the following message is important safety information. The most common use of this is by coast guard stations before the broadcast of navigational warnings and meteorological information. All good to know.

A favorite passage of ours is through the Annisquam canal. It is a tidal estuary connecting Gloucester harbor in Massachusetts bay and Annisquam harbor in Ipswich Bay, at the beginning of the large Gulf of Maine. Very picturesque with houses along the channel with beautiful gardens and boats, floating houses on moorings, and osprey nests in the tidal marshes. Interesting, it is 4-5 miles long with narrow and shallow portions, and the current on the two ends is opposite, which is unusual. It can be a very busy narrow passage with boat traffic on a summery weekend, and we enjoyed the relative quiet and calm as we passed through.

The Gloucester “bascule” lift bridge at the start of the Annisquam canal
A floating house in the tidal marsh on Annisquam – would you summer there?
everybody needs a ship’s bow as part of their house
More sailing camp! Love the colors!
Cormorant, drying his wings with the tidal marsh

We could see Plum Island, then Isle of Shoals – more familiar cruising ground for us. We looked for whales without success, and saw few boaters until we got closer to Portsmouth. We went into Little Harbor (New Castle/Rye) to refill our fuel tanks, then headed into Portsmouth Harbor.

Such a straight path a motor boat can hold, unlike a sailboat. We are slow but we are efficient!

Our mooring in Back Channel had been unused so far this summer and the back/forth changes in current with the tides had caused the mooring line to be wrapped snugly around the mooring ball, secured even with fishing line and hooks. Dean lassoed the ball, hoisted it out of the water, then wrestled with it from the dinghy. Slimy work but he got it untangled, cut the fish hook off (and disposed of properly), we secured the boat, and considered ourselves “home.” We got off the boat just ahead of more rain and thunderstorms.

Ethan picked me up from the boat on his way home from work so I could grab our car to load gear, all while racing ahead of the thunderstorms. Thanks, Ethan!

The remnants of tropical storm Elsa gave our area torrential rains with some flooding over the next several days, and we were thankful for Clare to be in a protected channel and for us to be home. Our house felt so spacious after living on 36’ for over a month.

While home, we visited with our sons and their wives, celebrated their 32nd (!) birthdays, visited Clare, sisters Chris and Sue and others as well as walks with friends, outside dinners, and even a breakfast gathering – as much as we could fit in during a week. Sort of whipped the yard and gardens into a semblance of control. We even went to church, first time in person in ~18 months! Appreciated our friends Jack and Kim’s interim preaching and music ministry at a small yet vibrant and growing church in Cape Neddick. It was nice to worship in person, although we have greatly appreciated online services during the COVID pandemic.

Celebrated birthdays
Met new goats at the E&L homestead
Thrilled that our bluebirds were still in our yard and raising another bunch of babies
catching a few of the summer perennials emerging – they are loving the rain and should burst into flowers when the sun emerges
fungi are loving the damp and warmth – Indian pipes
A quick afternoon hike on trails near Morgan Hill, New London NH area with Dean, Sue, K and Chris

Then the hustle and bustle of packing up and reprovisioning began again, along with making plans for our next stage of travel. We are greatly looking forward to the rest of the summer on the water in Maine in Casco and Penobscot bays, with all the coastal beauty, and hoping the weather stabilizes for all.

Thanks again for following our travels and reading the blog. We pray all are well and enjoying the bounty of these precious summer months.

By the grace of God we go,

~ Karen and Dean

Categories: 2021, family, home, Maine, Uncategorized


  1. Such beautiful pictures and account!


  2. You’ve been busy! Time to get back on the boat to relax a bit! Enjoy cruising magical Maine! See you in August!😘😘


  3. You have been busy while you have been home. Missed you at church, but glad you went and saw Jack & Kim Sunday.
    Thanks again for the phone. My Dad is learning a little more each day.


  4. Love the pictures, and the tales.


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