After too many summers envying our friends’ boats, buying a series of Boston Whalers that were fun but not that yacht my husband envisioned and shopping at too many boat shows, we finally got lucky — when we discovered a neglected 2003 36-foot Sabre Flybridge named Lucky Charm. As luck would have it, she had survived Hurricane Sandy in the water at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City.
It was love at first sight for me and more luck for her during our inspection. We were in the salon when we heard a loud cracking noise. We looked out to see a 48-Foot Grand Banks scraping across our bow sprit. We rushed to the bow to find that Lucky (we removed the Charm, so she’d just be plain Lucky) remained unscathed, but the mega yacht had crushed her mahogany railings on our anchor.
We soon learned that buying a boat was a longer process than buying a home: survey, sea trial, Coast Guard registration, sailing resumes, insurance, three Maine to New Jersey road trips and transferring a boat load of money. We had her hauled, washed, bottom-painted, buffed and serviced in preparation for our 440-mile voyage to Maine. The previous owner had lost interest in the boat, but fortunately the marina had exercised the engines with a few trips each season. The plumbing had been ignored, but I’ll get to that in a bit. A training day with a USCG captain was $350 well spent. Being sailors, we were in the deep-end learning to operate a yacht with twin diesel engines, a generator, dual helms with radar, autopilot, GPS, shore power, air conditioning and a head with fancy vacu flush.
On a hot July day, we finally set sail. I know it’s a power boat but I’m a traditionalist, so pardon the nautical idiom. We cruised from Sandy Hook into New York Harbor, with magnificent views of One World Trade Center as we approached Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City. We found our island berth that first night aboard Lucky to be very comfy. The custom sheets fit perfectly, even if you can’t make the bed without banging your head. And the air conditioning was awesome, but something we’ll rarely use in Maine.
Day 2, we awoke early and crossed the harbor, heading up the East River. Our Sabre’s twin diesels passed the test in the strong current, as we cruised under the Brooklyn Bride and through aptly named Hells Gate. We continued into Long Island Sound, which was as a calm as a pond. Capt. Greg had an eye on our radar and was watching the thunderstorms in our wake, so we skipped Port Jefferson and traveled the full 135 miles to the tip of Long Island. Fog rolled in during our Montauk approach, a reminder that you must always have your GPS coordinates and chart handy.
The Montauk Yacht Club dockhands directed us to an impossibly tight slip. The wind was howling and Lucky blew down two slips, so Capt. Greg asked to back her in there. The dockhands scrambled, and we had our first successful, albeit stressful, dockage. Montauk Yacht Club is pretty posh in boaters’ terms: pool, spa, showers, bikes and a shuttle into town. The next day was foggy and stormy, so we hunkered down and explored Montauk.
On Day 4, our passage to Block Island brought big seas, but Lucky charged valiantly, and we docked at Rhode Island’s famed Champlin’s Marina, where a flotilla of boats are anchored, moored, rafted and double parked. Champlin’s fleet of 12 blue-shirted dockhands can wedge boats in like no marina we’ve ever witnessed. They efficiently secure boats, flemish lines and fetch ice from dawn until well after dusk. The Oar was our scenic dinner spot, a 10-minute walk from the docks. We returned to Champlin’s. Tunes and cocktails flowed about the docks, and the rooftop deck rocked with a live band.
Our GPS, which worked beautifully on sunny days, registered no fix the next foggy morning. Thankfully, Capt.
Greg had downloaded the Navionics app to his iPhone, so that and old-fashioned charts and our compass provided bearings for our 22-mile journey to Newport. A sailing regatta lined the entry to Newport Harbor, our welcome to the yachting capital of the world. Following a second gulp of 200 gallons of diesel at Newport Yachting Center, we docked at the lovely Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina.
After a refreshing walk and provisioning in Newport, we returned to the dock to find our yachting neighbors talking about the stink emanating from our boat. Turns out that when we macerated out at sea, we pumped our tank dry. After years of little use, the boat had dreadful “dry tank” stink. Our neighbors were more than happy to help us pour bleach into our waste tank and flush down plenty of blue deodorizer. Within a few hours we smelled fresh and were drinking margaritas with our new dock friends. Dinner at Clarks Cook House surrounded by America’s Cup memorabilia was the perfect end to the day’s boating adventures.
Day 6, we awakened with strong coffee and equally bold sunshine and departed Newport Harbor. A heat wave had brought seas so calm that the sun sparkled off the water as we cruised 26 miles to Menemsha, on the western flank of Martha’s Vineyard. Menemsha is a spectacular setting with an oceanfront beach and bustling town docks and fish markets. Being a municipal dock, you must call the harbormaster at 7 a.m. for a precious stern-in, pile-on slip, which Capt. Greg secured on his 63rd dial at 7:10 that morning (by 7:15 a.m. they sell out). After a refreshing swim, we savored cocktails, local steamers, and chowder and watched the most brilliant orange sunset from our flybridge …feeling very lucky.
Day 7, we had a gorgeous sail into Buzzards Bay and on to the meandering Red Brook Harbor of Cataumet. At Kingman Yacht Center, a friendly dockhand greeted us with a welcome bag that included a guidebook and instructions — nice touch. We spent the 98-degree day cleaning every nook and lazarette of our new baby. Later on we cleaned up and treated ourselves to a dinner of chowder and baked stuffed clams at the popular Chart Room, steps from the dock.
Our cast off on Day 8 was delayed upon discovering transmission oil on the engine room floor and more macerator issues. My husband may not feel lucky to have become so intimate with all of Lucky’s greasy gunky parts. After the repairs, we cruised up Cape Cod Canal into Massachusetts Bay. A perfect picnic anchorage and a swim made the time fly by until the ideal tide arrived to tackle the Annisquam River. Bridges opened for our 20-Foot tall flybridge with a VHF shout out on Channel 13. Cruising past Gloucester, we noted the atrocious wind turbines now dominating the sky of this historic fishing village. That blows, I thought.
The Annisquam River is tight and twisty, with sand bars jutting out and small boats dodging around the channel. Our mooring in Lobster Cove was lovely, except that Capt. Greg had discovered more transmission oil leaking. A refreshing swim off the stern provided distraction, along with cocktails on the fly and a delicious dinner at the Market Restaurant, just a few strokes away by dinghy.
The next morning, we cruised 20 miles to Isle of Shoals off Portsmouth. On a mooring amid Star Island, Smuttynose, and Appledore, we enjoyed the last of our provisions in a delightful 80-degree breeze. Our final stop over was the four-diamond Wentworth by the Sea in Newcastle — the high-brow marina has a swimming pool, showers, WiFi and several restaurants, from a casual dockside cafe to the upscale Salt Kitchen.
Our Day 10 goal had been to reach the Kennebunk River, but our new-to-us boat required transmission attention, so we nosed into the swift current of Portsmouth Harbor past Kittery and Portsmouth and under three bridges. This Piscataqua River rips, so we timed our six-mile trip for peak high tide — even at slack there’s no slacking on this second-fastest-flowing river in the country.
Our resting place and repair spot was Great Bay Marine. Greg was relieved to learn that the transmission leak was just a matter of properly seating the dipstick. I refrained from dipstick name calling. That evening’s sunset with a bonus double rainbow was outstanding, confirming that we were very lucky indeed.
Heather Burke is an award winning travel writer from Kennebunkport Maine. She and her husband Greg enjoy skiing in winter and sailing in summer.