Friday, August 17, 2012

Running on Empty

A tropospheric fuel spill pushed us past Sakonnet Point
We made it back from Cape Cod with diesel to spare. So no worries, despite the fuel gauge sitting at one quarter for an inordinately long time, making me suspect it was telling me what I wanted to hear rather than the truth.

When we left Providence two weeks ago, I had convinced myself that the diesel tank wasn't half empty; it was half full. I know better than to leave port without having gorged on water and fuel, but knowing isn't doing. Besides, there would be opportunity to replenish along the way. Think of all those boats in Cape Cod, where do they buy diesel? She's a sailboat, yes?

Let me tell you about Quissett . . .
We called in all the wrong places. Vineyard Haven sells the stuff, but not at Lake Tashmoo where we hung out for almost two weeks. The image of pedaling yellow jugs uphill on a bicycle wasn't appealing. I never got around to it and I didn't have the heart to make Anita saddle up -- as if. Quissett and Cuttyhunk were dry, in terms of diesel at least.

Quissett Harbor was lovely, except that -- from my point of view -- the boatyard's owner was a first-class jerk. Ask me about trying to take on diesel in Quissett sometime when you want to get me all excited and hear a long, boring diatribe. I ended up telling him that I wouldn't dream of inconveniencing him in any way and I would make other arrangements, somewhere, somehow, someday. Actually I would have preferred to swim across Buzzards Bay, towing Sweet Pea rather than have any further interaction. He'll certainly never have the inconvenience of spending any more of my money. So there. 

Oops, I seem to be rehearsing that diatribe. Perhaps you've called at Quisset, met this guy, and he's now one of your best friends? Oh dear. Well, he's still a jerk.

The perfect storm fueled a perfect reach
So we set off for Providence at two knots, determined to sail most of the way, even if it got dark. The distance was 50 miles and I thought it best to save however much was actually in the tank for final approach or for dodging rocky, current-ridden points, of which there were many.

Within an hour we were flying along on a beam reach, riding the edge of a squall line and thinking the monsoon had surely come. NOAA weather was warning about flash floods from the intense downpour of a slowly-moving storm. As it tracked east the sky brightened and the wind moderated and clocked, staying on the beam as we made a hard right turn and headed north up the Sakonnet River. These things never happen, but this one time they did.

Up the Sakonnet River as the storm eases us along
A second storm came along in the middle of the night, with big winds on the nose and lightning like the Oyster Bay fireworks finale. By then the first storm had blown us to Potter Cove where I picked up that USCG mooring about which I had previously complained. It proved more than adequate despite shrieking gusts, making my plague-of-moorings sentiment an undeserved rant. But, we were still surrounded by fields of empty moorings. So there.

Uh oh, two grumps in one post. This is not a good sign.

Now we're tied to Port Edgewood's dock with deliciously full tanks, having sailed from Cuttyhunk, using only a drop or two of precious fuel. That lying fuel gauge was so wrong. It should have said one third all that time. We had ten gallons in the tank, more than enough to motor all the way.

Had I known, we would have left Cuttyhunk at our leisure rather than at first light. The storm would have hit while we were anchored off the beach in poor holding at the start of a falling tide. After we managed to kedge off, the wind would have been against us all the way. There's a lesson here, somewhere. She's a sailboat, yes?

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