Way back in our premier issue we did our first boat tour--the Monk 36. I saw the boat as a good mid-sized trawler, built in Nova Scotia with an aim towards value, honest construction, and reasonable appointments.
What intrigued me at the time was that each boat was delivered on her own bottom from Nova Scotia to North Sea Yachts in New Jersey. That struck me as a pretty robust yard-to-dealer delivery, and certainly spoke of the confidence they have in the boat and builder. I've since read The Perfect Storm, and now appreciate even more the reality of crossing waters that test so many boats and men.
Some months ago I asked North Sea Yachts' Norm Jacobs if I could tag along on one of these delivery trips. I wanted to see for myself, and besides, I'll find any excuse to go out on the water!
Between schedules and other commitments, it took some months to arrange, but it finally happened that I could accompany Hull #192 on its way to North Sea Yachts' new office in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
The logistics of this trip were a little beyond me at first, as I really didn't appreciate the distances involved, or how to make a one-way passage for three people to Canada's Maritime Province.
To make matters more interesting, it wouldn't just be the people, but lots of luggage-and liferaft, electronics, survival suits, sleeping bags, pillows, and several large cardboard boxes filled with charts, parts, and gear. Yeah, right, that'll all fit. Maybe if you guys bring a van...
But Norm Jacobs and Al Smith had been through this before, and were old hands at the routine, although my presence did add more stuff to the travel equation.
Norm explained that we would drive a rented car from New Jersey up to Maine. We would then ditch the car and travel by ferry to Nova Scotia, then rent another car for the trip to the yard. If all went smoothly, we would be aboard the Monk 36 in no time, heading back by way of Cape Cod, Buzzards Bay, Long Island Sound, New York City, and down the coast of New Jersey.
Sounded like a plan to me.
The Trip North
Ever notice the optimism of rental car companies? A full size car...who are you kidding? I can't imagine what Hertz considers a small car!
Crammed into the rented Mercury, filled to overflowing, we headed north on the major highways north. With the exception of America's continued fetish with road construction, the trip was uneventful enough, and gave me time to hear the latest about North Sea Yachts and the Monk project.
The trip also gave me an opportunity to absorb the crafty wit shared between Norm Jacobs and Al Smith, who obviously go back many years. They were like an old married couple, constantly correcting each other and making sarcastic little comments in an attempt to catch the other offguard. It was most entertaining.
I also began hearing about chowder. These two are obsessed with chowder. This place has great chowder, that place is only so-so.
"Look, there's a new restaurant, must have just opened up. Wonder what kind of chowder they make? Just wait until we get to Nova Scotia. You'll see they make great chowder."
As I was to soon find out, every meal except breakfast would include chowder of some kind, all to be enjoyed and rated in a continued search for the world's best.
The city of Portland, Maine, is a marvelous blend of old and restored. There are coffee houses and interesting shops along the waterfront, and it would have been great to stay here a couple of days to explore. But we had connections to make and so had no time to relax.
On the sidewalk outside the ferry terminal, our gear looked like a tribute to the Matterhorn, and it took several trips to get it all inside the terminal building. Norm took off to return the car, and we then sat down to wait for the ferry to arrive.
The Prince of Fundy Cruises' Scotia Prince was certainly more than I had expected. After years of living in the Pacific Northwest, I thought I knew all about ferries. Scotia Prince was more of a cruise ship than ferry, with cabins for all, a 3,600 sq. ft. casino, gift shop, and several restaurants. When she lifted her hinged bow to reveal the lower decks, cars, buses and trucks were swallowed without a trace. It was quite a sight.
The ship runs continuously between Portland and Yarmouth during the May/October season, with night passage from Portland, and a return day sail from Nova Scotia. It is about an eleven hour trip across the Gulf of Maine.
Several members of the staff (what a terrific summer job for college kids!) helped us carry our things aboard, leaving the three of us looking a bit silly walking up the boarding ramp, each carrying a bag in one arm, and a pillow under the other. Several children looked at us rather queerly. So, mister, what's in the duffel? Your toys?
I dropped my things off in my cabin, and we soon met in the restaurant for dinner. Al and Norm have made this trip so often that they were on a first-name basis with the restaurant manager, who proudly brought us our first course. You guessed it...chowder.
The night passage was only marginally uncomfortable, as the big ship rolled in heavy swells. A weather system was headed up the U.S. East Coast, and we were feeling its effects.
Nova Scotia is one of the first Canadian provinces, initially explored by John Cabot in 1497. Second smallest of Canada's provinces, it appears to be an island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Bay of Fundy (with the world's largest tidal range of 54 feet), and the Northumberland Strait.
However, Nova Scotia (which is Latin for New Scotland) is actually a peninsula narrowly connected to the New Brunswick mainland by a stretch of land 20 miles long.
The province is located close to one of the world's richest fishing grounds, the Grand Banks, and also one of the world's most dangerous fishing areas, Georges Bank. Generations of fishermen have worked these waters, including the poor souls lost during The Perfect Storm.
The boats on which these men spend countless days each year are rugged and seaworthy. The men who build them know the stakes.
Fishing is a way of life here, as is boat building. While industry has brought economic diversity to Nova Scotia, the maritime heritage is never far away. Nowhere in Nova Scotia are you more than 35 miles from the sea.
One of many famous fishing fleet harbors, Yarmouth is located on the southwestern end of Nova Scotia. It has a long history, dating back to early settlements in the 1700s. The town is now more of a historical site and tourist center, and it is the Nova Scotia gateway for ferries from both Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine. The Scotia Prince arrives here daily.
We watched from the aft deck of the ship as the shores of Nova Scotia appeared out of the morning mist. Early morning is always a special time aboard ship, even one with a busy casino.
The quiet coastline of Yarmouth became more defined as we entered the channel to the harbor at low tide, a rumbling emanating from deep within the ship as her machinery was used to keep Scotia Prince in the center of the channel.
It then seemed only minutes before the crew made fast the docklines and readied the ramps for disembarking passengers, cars, and buses. In an hour, they would reverse the process back to Portland.
Once through Canadian customs, we retrieved our next rental car. (We had a slight problem in Customs when a young inspector became miffed when we wouldn't let her unpack our liferaft. We didn't want an inflated raft in the middle of the Customs building, and, besides, we weren't exactly a scary lot, the three of us still clutching our pillows like teddy bears. After a minor delay, her supervisor rolled his eyes and let us pass.)
We loaded up the car, and Norm and Al gave me a short tour of Yarmouth.
On to the Monk!
We next drove south down the coast to Cape Sable Island. At some point we'd need to stock up with provisions, but all three of us were anxious to see the new boat, which had been launched a few days earlier, and now lay alongside fishing boats at the commercial docks in Clarks Harbour on Cape Sable Island.
The drive reminded me of New England, but without the people and traffic. And the occasional patches of fog only added to the charm.
Crossing over a short bridge, we arrived on Cape Sable Island, and soon arrived in Clarks Harbour. Norm Jacobs pointed out a few attractions, such as where we would stay that night, and where we would be eating our few meals...he hoped. I asked him to explain his remark.
It seems the weather isn't always cooperative in Nova Scotia, and both Norm and Al Smith have been stranded here for a week or more waiting for a decent weather window. Norm confided that eating at the same restaurant for twenty or more consecutive meals tends to take away from the local charm.
I got a kick out of seeing a tourism office in Clarks Harbour, which couldn't have more than a couple of hundred residents at most. It's a fishing village, and little else. There are a couple of boat yards in town, including Cape Island Yachts, builders of the Monk 36.
We drove down to the commercial docks, and I noticed that all the boats in the fishing fleet were of the same design, the only difference being color. Fiberglass hulls, plywood houses, flared bows. Rugged, seaworthy, and tough. No foolin' workboats. We don't need no stinkin' teak!
It was between seasons, so I was lucky to see any boats in the harbor at all, as they are usually out. Out on Georges Bank.
There were only two other boats at these docks, and, while they weren't the same design as the fishing boats, they didn't exactly stand out among the crowd either. The new Monk 36 was one, and looked positively at home among the working trawlers, although the fairness of the fiberglass was much better, and her deck house wasn't built of plywood. But she still fit the surroundings, rafted up alongside two fishing boats. Love that trawler look.
The other boat was the Canadian Coast Guard rescue vessel, Clarks Harbour. Described as a "Multi-Task High Endurance Lifeboat," Clarks Harbour is the epitome of a do-anything rescue boat, 52 feet long, and as serious a rescue vessel as anything on earth. Good thing, too, because she is asked to do the impossible on a regular basis...save lives in these waters.
The Arun Class rescue boat can make 18 knots with her twin Caterpillar 3408 V8 diesels, and the four-person crew remains ready to leave harbor on a moment's notice. (We got to see her again, but under rather different circumstances.)
We stood on the pier admiring the Monk, Hull #192. It was a brand new boat, the interior varnish not even fully cured. Rather than outfitting the boat in Nova Scotia, I was told North Sea Yachts waits until the trawler is sold before adding optional equipment. So this boat had just the basics: steering, single Cummins 210 hp diesel with controls in wheelhouse and flybridge, hot and cold fresh water, refrigerator and stove, and all required lights and safety equipment. Nothing else.
Having made this delivery trip down from Nova Scotia over the past number of years, Al and Norm have come up with a nifty way to deliver a basic boat without taking chances in waters prone to fog and other hazards. They've developed a removable mount for a Raytheon radar and Trimble GPS that temporarily, but securely, attaches to the boat, yet can later be removed without a trace once in New Jersey. A lot of unnecessary holes are eliminated. Pretty slick.
While we stood there discussing these things, a pickup truck arrived, and out jumped a young man who immediately waved to us. I was soon introduced to Terry Brown and some of his crew, the guys from Cape Island Yachts who built the boat.
Cape Island Yachts
We followed Terry's truck back to the yard, and I got a tour of the two-building facility that is Cape Island Yachts. They build one boat at a time, six or seven weeks apart. The handful of men who work here are exceedingly proud of the work that comes out of this boat yard, and the confidence and pride were obvious.
One building is the fiberglass shop, and holds the molds for the deck, as well as the two-part mold for the Ed Monk-designed hull. The other building is the main facility where the boat comes together as a trawler yacht.
Unlike large production yards, where a multitasking crew builds several boats at once, Cape Island Yachts is a small operation. I don't believe I saw ten men in all. A real team, albeit a small one.
Hull #193 had just been moved from the fiberglass shop into the main building, and the crew was busy fitting the deck to the hull. Several men stood on the fiberglass deck until the massive piece "popped" onto the hull flange. A man stood ready to begin screwing the deck to the hull, a two-axis process that ensures a good bound at this critical joint.
(I always thought screws were less secure than 5200 adhesive and stainless steel bolts at regular intervals, as is advertised by some builders.
I once owned a sailboat with the muchadvertised through-bolted hull/deck joint. If I wiggled far enough into any tight corner of the boat, I could just reach the nuts on those stainless steel bolts. Many would be loose or hand tight at best.
It was obviously not possible to get each nut properly torqued onto every stainless steel bolt. As I would soon be reminded, screws can be every bit as secure.)
Terry explained the crew would shortly take up their appointed assignments. One man would build the forward cabin, another would construct the aft cabin. A third would build the saloon, with others helping to install mechanical systems and plumbing. Another fellow made all the teak moldings in an area just behind the stern of the boat. Truly a team of individual craftsmen.
I was amazed to learn that the boat we would soon board for our trip south hadn't even been hosed off, let alone detailed, as water isn't available in the yard or at the commercial dock.
In fact, the Monk 36 had been fueled for its trip to New Jersey from a tank truck while still in the cradle at Terry's yard. From shop to splash without fanfare. A real no-nonsense yard. All detailing would take place in Point Pleasant.
We left Terry Brown and his band of merry men to get ourselves ready for departure. First we needed to buy provisions. Then we needed to check in at our night's lodging. But first we needed lunch...and more chowder.
The one restaurant in Clarks Harbour is Geneva's Restaurant, and it is within a mile or so of the yard. Actually, everything is within a mile or so from everywhere else in Clarks Harbour. Not exactly a big town.
Walking into the restaurant, the woman behind the counter shrieked in delight and gave both Norm and Al big kisses. Seems everyone knows everyone here, and Al and Norm are frequent customers at Geneva's. The owner gave us menus, along with three cups of marvelous chowder. Really fine chowder.
After lunch we headed out of town to get food for the trip. Not far from Clarks Harbour is a large, well-stocked supermarket, and we wandered the aisles in search of appropriate provisions.
As always, we bought way more food than we needed. Each of us also sneaked a couple of extra treats into the cart as we anticipated peaceful overnight watches on a moonlit ocean, running the boat from the flybridge while dolphins danced in the phosphorescence of our wake. Or so we hoped.
On the way back to the commercial docks, we stopped by Clarks Harbour Coast Guard station to see if we could get an update on the threatening weather. Norm and Al knew one of the men stationed here, Randy Bowers, and we found Randy steam cleaning some equipment behind a small building, dressed in the most brilliant foul weather gear I've ever seen. You almost needed sunglasses to look at him, the clothing was so bright.
Randy told us they hadn't yet downloaded the latest weather data, but promised to get us an update before we saw him at dinner. I learned that Randy stays at the same inn when he's on duty at the station. Small world. We left Randy to his steam chores, and headed back to the boat to unload bag after bag of water, food, drinks, and special treats.
The tidal range is rather extreme in Nova Scotia, and with low tide, we now had to climb down onto the roof of the closest trawler's wheelhouse to begin transferring the plastic bags. It was especially tedious because everything was slippery from the dampness in the air. Eventually we did get everything stowed aboard the Monk, and none of the bags (or us) fell into the water, despite several near-misses.
Our planned one night stay would see us lodged at Sheila Evans' inn, a bed and breakfast no longer in operation, except for special friends, and there are three-Randy Bowers, Al Smith, and Norm Jacobs. Sheila has had these three men stay at her B&B for years, and the tradition continues even though she is retired. It also gives her a special reason to cook or bake something special, and she was baking a carrot cake when we arrived at her door. She was pleased as punch to see us.
We visited awhile in Sheila's living room, but decided to go out to dinner before it got too late. Randy hadn't returned yet from the station, but we hoped to hook up with him after dinner.
Guess you know by now what we had for dinner at Geneva's. The owner traded jokes with Al to entertain us, and it seemed everyone in the restaurant was a friend at some level. Later, returning to Sheila's B&B, we learned there had been a distress call and Randy had left on Clarks Harbour before getting the weather update. Local television would have to suffice.
The forecast was ominous...and confusing. One thing was clear-a nasty weather system had gone up the U.S. East Coast, and had already done some damage. It was expected to curl clockwise over Maine, reaching Nova Scotia in a day or so.
What does that mean, in a day or so? Should we go now, and hope to make it across the Gulf of Maine before stormy weather arrived in Yarmouth? Should we wait? There was probably no way to avoid a bit of sloppy weather in any event, but if we hesitated now, the system would surely keep us holed up in Clarks Harbour for days.
Undecided, we set the alarm and went to bed, hoping Randy would return before dawn with better weather intel.
Au Revoir, Canada!
Early next morning, Sheila had breakfast all set for us, but Randy had still not returned. Happens a lot, she said, but what a shame to waste that carrot cake. Sheila wrapped up a healthy portion for us to take with us...if we were leaving.
The morning news included a homogenized forecast telling us nothing. Maybe yes, maybe no. How lucky do we feel?
Almost at the toss of a coin, we make the decision to go. I am convinced the worst of the system will arrive here after we've left, and stay behind us. I'm a hopelessly positive person, which in this case may be a fault.
Al and Norm are equally undecided, so we jointly venture into that gray area of "we can always turn back." The decision is made to leave. Bummer.
Breakfast done, our goodbyes to Sheila and her hospitality completed, we drive the rented car down to the boat through the pre-dawn blanket of mist. Sheila makes us promise to call her when we've made it across. It's part of the ritual. Cold dampness hangs heavily in the air despite the fact that summer still reigns.
Talk is mostly chit chatty stuff, the three of us hoping to bolster confidence by remaining mostly silent. The trawler's diesel is fired up, its short life of maybe one engine hour soon to pass through adolescence big time.
Come on, Bill, think about it. This is a brand new boat, hardly in the water three days, let alone run for more than a cursory few minutes around the harbor. Is this really a good idea to head out on a direct course to Cape Cod from Nova Scotia, some 250 miles of Gulf of Maine, skirting over top of infamous Georges Bank? It's butterfly time.
As if on cue, Terry Brown is there, saying goodbye to us, wishing us a safe crossing. He'll take care of getting the car back to the airport. As always.
Terry is relaxed, he knows the deal. Weather forecasts don't run his life, or anyone else in Clarks Harbour. If it were fishing season, all of these boats would be leaving. Hell, they'd already be out there. Today it is only us.
It's time to go, and we wave a silent farewell to Terry as we head out past the breakwater, past the empty pier where CCGS Clarks Harbour was peacefully moored yesterday. We are the only activity in the harbor, the ghostly silence of an early morning departure reducing our voices to a whisper.
Al Smith is at the inside helm in the saloon, the Cummins making 8.9 knots at 2,000 rpm. As the engine warms up, Al gradually brings her up to 2,200 rpm, and the Monk 36 is cranking at ten knots towards the open sea.
Bucking some residual tide and the southernmost edge of the weather system that now has gale warnings posted north and east of us, the Monk 36 heads westward towards Seal Island. The first leg of a 24-hour crossing to Cape Cod on a course of 260 degrees. True.
At first it begins with an occasional wave, just a couple of irregular wave patterns to make you notice the changing sea. Nothing big at first, just a touch. We are out of sight of Clarks Harbour now, Cape Sable Island only a distant smudge on the horizon. We can see the weather system in the sky, the clouds more defined with each passing hour. The course will have us pass below Seal Island, as we strike out into the Gulf of Maine.
Over the next couple of hours the seas increase, and the Monk is now taking them with more of a grunt. Still short of a snarl, but our progress puts us in a classic beam sea. The prediction remains at three to six feet in wave height, more or less what we have now, expected to continue. At least that's what we picked out of the obtuse forecast.
The Monk 36 handles the seas well, the pronounced knuckle that starts at her bow keeping things dry on deck, even if a bit jolty when each wave hits the hull. Steering is not difficult, the keel and large rudder a decided blessing. The ride is comfortable, but it becomes necessary to hold on at times. The boat has beefy handholds everywhere. Good thing.
As we pass Seal Island, things take on a more serious tone. The beam seas are on the high end of the predicted wave height, and we are forced to steer off course, tacking between having the seas on the starboard bow, and taking them on the stern quarter.
We also start changing watches every hour, as concentration is increasingly more intense from the effort of steering the boat. It isn't raining, but the windshield wipers are on, as it's important to see the waves before the ugly ones slam into us. We reduce engine speed, but still make enough positive headway that the hard chines at the stern help flatten the waves' tendency to roll us.
The cap over the anchor rode pipe comes loose without notice, and Al is soaked going out to reattach it when we finally see it dangling at the end of its short chain. Some spray has certainly gone into the anchor locker, but there's no time to worry about it now.
The helm person stands wedged against the cabin side for stability. Any form of helm seating is out of the question, except perhaps a through-bolted Stidd helm seat with seat belts. It's an effort to just stand at the helm, gripping the wheel tightly.
Some miles past Seal Island, I am driving the boat, really dancing with the waves, when I see a red ship in the distance, heading our way. Minutes later I realize it is Clarks Harbour, making her way with some difficulty towards us. She is towing a big, black fishing boat, eighty feet or more, and the rescue boat is corkscrewing from side to side from the towing effort in the beam seas. I can clearly see her white bottom and keel as she rolls past comfortable levels.
Al and Norm get up to see for themselves, braced as much as possible against the teak furniture. The Monk's offwatch crew is noticeably dazed now, a sort of glazed coma, helpless. Al calls Clarks Harbour on the handheld VHF, and asks to speak with Randy Bowers, who is in the pilothouse of the rescue craft. Randy explains they are heading back to Yarmouth with the distressed vessel, which lost its reduction gear while fishing off Georges Bank.
Al asks if any further forecasts are available, and Randy informs us that things will actually get worse before they gets better. He knows our travel plans, and we're told to expect worsening conditions for the rest of the day, with weakening seas sometime during the night.
Great, just what we needed to hear. At least we are consoled that this system has indeed gone north and to the east. Had we remained in Clarks Harbour, we'd be trapped for days. Days at Geneva's Restaurant, days at Sheila's B&B, days waiting for a break. So tell me again why we left this morning?
Clarks Harbour pulls abreast of us, two hundred yards off our port side. I am still at the helm, and I know I'm missing one heck of a photo opportunity, especially seeing the red 52- foot vessel taking this strain under tow. But it is impossible, of course, as it is all Al can do to remain standing with radio in hand. Letting the wheel go for even a second is unwise, so I remain where I am, unable to get to my camera bag back in the aft cabin, no doubt already on the cabin sole-along with everything else not bolted down.
I believe that we all face difficulty differently, yet the three stoic sailors aboard this Monk 36 are alike-tight lipped, grim faced, and silent. There is nothing to do but just be here.
The noise is increasingly unnerving, the approaching waves sound exactly like the roar of an approaching train. The boat lifts with each passing wave, often the tops of these waves are out of sight above us. Six feet in height? No way, José.
(Looking at my notes from this trip, my handwriting is childlike, a scrawly jumble of lines almost unrecognizable as words, let alone complete sentences. It is sobering.)
Randy is most assuredly correct in his weather assessment. It is getting rougher, the winds howling, the seas building massive freight train waves. The happiest camper among the three of us is the one at the wheel, as he can anticipate the impact when a big one overtakes us. The other two crew are much less prepared. Even a catnap is impossible in these conditions, as both hands are required to hold on.
At one point in the afternoon I am huddled on the saloon settee, trying to distract myself from reality. I am looking at the teak cabinet in the galley opposite me. In my wandering mental state, somehow this locker reminds me of a backpack. For camping and walking among the trees in a forest. Yeah, that's cool, like in the Adirondack Mountains, or maybe the Cascades. Yeah, right now, I could be backpacking in the woods. Birds singing, rabbits twitching their bunny noses. Maybe even a deer or two.
The mental chain is broken when we're hit by another big wave, and my eyes lose focus as my head slams into the saloon table. It hurts.
Later, I attempt to stretch out on the islandberth in the aft cabin, but the motion and noise are too much for me. Looking up at the overhead, I can see waves higher than the boat out the stern cabin's windows, and the noise is deafening. The sound of the propeller offsets the horrific rush of tons of water, but it is of little consolation when I'm lifted clear of the berth every few seconds, as I have nothing to hold on to.
I make my way back to the saloon, where I rejoin the two other grim-faced warriors. Anyone up for dinner? Sure glad we bought those treats...
Okay so things could be worse. I've already explained my positive attitude, my neverending need to make things look bright and cheery. Things could always be worse.
They get worse. It is later in the day now, and more than once I think of the situation we're in. A brand new boat, being tested much more than it ought to be. The hull is working, the furniture creaking as it turns and twists, but the basic systems do their job. Except for our radar, that is, which is a joke. It must need some professional tuning, since it didn't even pick up Clarks Harbour and her tow.
One glorious moment of the day occurs late in the afternoon. I am again at the helm on the downward leg of a tack, taking the vicious, cresting waves on our starboard quarter. One particularly mountainous rogue catches my eye, it is much bigger than the others, and I change rudder angle just enough to take it more on our stern. The wave arrives and we are suddenly lifted to its top. In a split second we are surfing on the front surface of this wave, many knots past hull speed, spray coming off both sides of the bow. It is marvelous and terrifying at the same time-like racing under spinnaker in a large maxiboat in the Southern Ocean. Except I'm here, in the middle of the Gulf of Maine, 120 miles from any land. It seems to go on forever.
The long, deep keel of the Monk 36 proves itself repeatedly, keeping us on the good side of control. I would not want to be out here without a keelboat.
Sometime during the night, the seas stop getting worse, stop growing. We are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot, but even the most cynical among us notices the shift from worse to just bad. It is thankfully happening at night, a time when it is most difficult to anticipate rough seas. (Sound is surprisingly helpful in anticipating approaching waves, and after many hours on the helm, the mind becomes tuned to the fury and rhythm of the sea, even at night.)
Running in the darkness with the occasionally-useful radar and the GPS is no longer strenuous, although we still change watches every hour. Sleep is still not an option, the off watch crew just able to lay still and think of happier times.
Dawn breaks on much calmer seas, enough for me to make a dry sandwich of bread and cheese before taking my turn at the helm at 0600.
Later that morning, Al Smith checks the bilges. He finds several inches of standing water, no doubt from the shaft log. Power to the bilge pump has been on, but, unfortunately, the pump's outlet seacock was never opened. Oops, must have burned out the pump. I use the manual pump located near the helm.
The morning sun finally comes out, and we find ourselves having a much more pleasant time of it. Approaching Cape Cod's Race Point, we even see other boats-all working fishing boats heading out for the day. None close enough to bond with, particularly, but it feels good just the same. Helps to put the previous day behind us.
Fog rolled in as we make our way through Cape Cod Bay, getting thicker as we near Sandwich. Using the radar and our ears (the radar is much more reliable now), we avoid several yachts exiting Cape Cod Canal, including one bozo in a motoryacht barreling down at us at high speed in the fog. He swerves at the last instant. Moron.
We gingerly pick our way into the harbor at Sandwich, Massachusetts, and tie up to the fuel dock at 11:30 AM, some 28 hours after leaving Nova Scotia. It has been quite a trip, and it is good to be here.
Al already arranged to clear U.S. Customs at Sandwich, and the officer arrives without delay. Forms, questions, the usual bureaucratic protocol.
Havin' Fun Now!
The rest of this delivery was going to be a piece of cake. Barring an earthquake or hurricane, it would be just plain fun...and more opportunity to locate the world's best chowder.
The Monk 36 had come through the ordeal unscathed. It turned out the water in the bilge had come in from the anchor locker, a result of the missing cap. The shaft log had not leaked a drop. Even the electric bilge pump somehow managed to sort itself out.
We took on fuel for the rest of the trip, and I calculated we'd used about 130/140 gallons during the crossing, about 5 gallons per hour, despite the seas. Al washed down the boat's exterior while Norm huddled at the saloon table with Mr. Customs Official, who declined to have his photograph taken. I walked around the docks and took some pictures.
Al Smith also found a telephone and called Sheila Evans back on Cape Sable Island. Word was quickly passed to everyone in Clarks Harbour that we were okay, the boat just fine. The family of friends could rest easy. We had made it across.
Continuing on our way through Cape Cod Canal and into Buzzards Bay, we had a chance to eat some real food, get some rest, and enjoy this New England playground from the flybridge. We passed all the famous playing fields of pleasure boating: Cuttyhunk, Martha's Vineyard, Woods Hole, Newport, Block Island. A completely glorious day of sunshine and cool weather...and sleep.
For much of the afternoon we also shadowed the U.S. Coast Guard's sailing ship, the Eagle, but never got closer enough to trade sea stories.
We stopped for the evening at Block Island, finding just enough space to tie up at Payne's Wharf. The dockboy who took our lines loudly asked where we'd come from, and everyone within earshot turned their heads when we answered. Several of them even got off their boats to get a better looksee at this trawler that had just made a straight shot from Nova Scotia.
Deadeye Dick's had some really fine chowder, but we were pretty beat, so it wasn't long before we were back at the boat for showers and bed. No carousing that night!
Next morning found us in a completely different mindset, fully rested and totally relaxed. We strolled over to the Oar Restaurant for breakfast-seems all those victuals we'd bought in Nova Scotia weren't as appealing as local fare, and the people-watching was much more entertaining anyway.
Walking back to the boat on such a splendid morning was paradise, and we meandered slowly along the sandy beach, not exactly ready to leave for home and civilization.
When we eventually left Block Island, several other boats left at the same time. Given Block's close proximity to so many other destinations, it wasn't long before all of us scattered across the calm, flat sea.
It was during this day that I got a chance to experience the Monk 36 in her element as a trawler yacht. Moving around the boat was easy, and the simplicity of the interior layout was appreciated now that normal living became an option again.
I made a mental note that the door and frame to the aft cabin wasn't wide enough for me to pass through without turning sideways, and it was annoying in an otherwise friendly interior. For privacy, there should still be a door, of course, but perhaps it could be made wider without needing such a restricting frame, opening more out of the way as someone passes through.
The Monk ran at 10 knots comfortably. Even without a bimini, the flybridge was a wonderful place to be as we passed Fisher's Island on a glassy Long Island Sound.
Reminiscing in the morning tranquility, Al Smith told us of similar seas aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer he'd served aboard. Seems the activity of the night bakers filled the ship with the smell of fresh bread and pastry, and the early morning deck watch would routinely steal a loaf or two of warm bread just out of the oven. Al's memory of the sensual experience was undiminished by the years.
Well, we didn't have warm, fresh bread onboard Hull #192, but we still had most of Sheila's carrot cake, which was almost as good.
Boat traffic increased as the Sound narrowed. Unlike the many SeaRay/Bayliner "white boats" that blasted past us in a big hurry of spray and passenger discomfort, the Monk 36 was more like the sailboats we passed. We were enjoying the journey.
Later, a one-foot chop came up, and I left the flybridge to see what the motion was like in the aft cabin. I lay down on the island bed for a brief moment-and woke up an hour later, wondering where I was. I guess the motion wasn't too bad.
On my way back up to the flybridge, I celebrated our journey with a piece of carrot cake, which was now disappearing whenever crew passed by.
The chop made it necessary to close the saloon doors, as spray was now running down the side decks. The interior became stuffy as a result, and it would not have been very comfortable running the boat from inside without air conditioning.
Flicking cake crumbs out of my beard, I headed up to the flybridge to rejoin Al and Norm in the fresh air.
Just as I stepped on the step leading up to the bridge, both Al and Norm suddenly turned around and stared directly at me-their expressions clearly asking, What did you just do?
They had felt an immediate change in the boat's behavior the moment I came into view.
Apparently we'd snagged a piece of plastic, or something, on the rudder. Al slowed the boat down, then ran it at full throttle in reverse for a half minute. Whatever it was fell off, and we proceeded on our way. I was aquitted of any involvement.
New York, Jersey, Then Home...
At 6:35 p.m. we saw the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center come up on the horizon. The Big Apple was close now, but we would be stopping before then for our last night of the trip.
We tied up at a floating dock at a restaurant in Manhasset, New York, and went ashore for our last evening dinner. I couldn't believe we actually had chowder again.
The trip was almost over now, and tomorrow the delivery would take us down New York's East River through New York City and past the Statue of Liberty. We'd be under the mighty Verrazano Bridge by mid-morning, and, with any luck, at North Sea Yachts' office by early afternoon. One more Monk 36 delivered on her own bottom. Thoroughly tested, and ready to be shown at the upcoming shows.
The passage down through New York City was uneventful, if you consider that a nonevent. It is always a treat to see New York by boat. Trucks and buses blow their smoke and blast their horns, pedestrians scurry around in all directions, yet you see it from eyes somewhat removed from the street scene. I highly recommend the experience from a trawler's bridge.
Running down the coast of New Jersey in pleasant sunny weather was also child's play, even with dozens of rented little fishing boats interferring with the steady line of ships entering New York Harbor.
We stayed well offshore as we passed Sandy Hook, and only came in toward land as we neared Manasquan Inlet, a windy bight that connects via a short canal into Barnegat Bay.
We tied up on the bulkhead in front of the North Sea Yachts' office at 1:30 PM, roughly 66 engine hours after leaving Clarks Harbour. An all-around fine trip, especially now that it was over. Deliveries are like that.
What I Think
My experience aboard the Monk 36 was everything I had hoped for, and a whole lot more. My biggest complaint with the boat is the passage into the aft cabin. I've already mentioned the narrow door and frame. The other nit for me is the fact that I know the passage can be made better by molding the steps up to the flybridge into the deck mold, making a better entry for your head. As it is now, I could only touch the second step down into the aft cabin with the heel of my foot, a situation that proved precarious in rough weather. I actually slipped twice during that crossing. Not good.
The rest of the boat makes it a fine seaboat. The deep keel, along with the stout, large rudder made running following seas a safe proposition, keeping the boat on track with no tendency towards broaching. The hull handles the rough stuff admirably. I can thoroughly recommend the Monk 36. I've been to sea in it and I know.
The boat is also living proof of the viability of a non-gizmo boat. Sure I would always have a radar and a GPS. But nothing else would really be missed.
A Good Trip Done
We encountered everything from upswell to downswell. From head seas to following seas to beam seas to quartering seas. From rough to calm, and everything in-between.
I brought along foul weather gear, but didn't need it. I may just have to retire my safety harness as well, as I keep proving that passagemaking by trawler is a dandy way to travel.
Do not mistake my comments-the Monk 36 is a semi-displacement cruising boat, not a bluewater boat to cross oceans. But it can take you where you want to go, and likely handle more than you can.
To be honest, the most significant thing I learned from this trip was really not about the boat. Sure, it proved to be a solid and safe trawler-but the Monk 36 is really more a story about people, and dedication. The folks behind this boat are not a multi-national corporation with diverse portfolio and impressive list of models.
Rather it is a story about real people building real boats, one at a time. The boats that leave Cape Sable Island are created by a dedicated group of boat people. People who love boats. People like you and me.
From Terry Brown and his crew at Cape Island Yachts, to the staff at Geneva's, to Sheila Evans and Randy Bowers, Al Smith and Norm Jacobs-they are a family of friends who care about each other. They share a community bond seldom seen these days-people really involved with the lives of each other. It was most refreshing. Stronger glue just isn't made.
You can take that to the bank. Here, have a piece of carrot cake, or at least try a little chowder...