Taking the Tiller: Off to a Good Start

In associate editor Kitty Martin's latest blog report, the Tartan gets a new name, and the journey begins.

July 17, 2007

We set July 2 as the day to begin the cruise that would bring our new boat home from Milford, Connecticut, to Padanaram harbor in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. I went to the grocery store to provision, then Charlie and I went to West Marine for some important items. Our biggest purchase was a new Mercury outboard for the inflatable dinghy, which we got for free because Charlie’s cousin Peter, who just bought a used 44-foot Alden as an investment project, deemed it not fancy enough for his refined tastes. One man’s trash . . .

Anyhoo, Charlie’s sister, Julie, her husband, Brian (the other owners), Charlie, and I, all hit the road around 1. Familial commitments would prohibit Julie and Brian from joining us on the maiden voyage, but they hadn’t even seen their new purchase, so they were game for making the ride and sitting on the boat for a short while.
Our new boat came with the name Decibell. Yes, that’s the correct spelling. With no offense to the previous owners-sorry, but none of us even remotely liked that name-and with complete disregard for superstition, the four of us were in complete agreement that the Tartan needed to be rechristened.

Naming a boat is a big decision, especially when that decision has to be made by four people. After much back and forth, we pretty much had nothing, until I showed Julie the engine and told her it was an Atomic 4. “That’s it”! she cried, in a true eureka-style moment. “That’s what we’ll call the boat, “The Atomic 4!”


She even thought up Sparky for the dinghy. Man, talk about being on a roll.

Charlie’s developed a logo, and we plan on getting shirts and hats made. And-here’s the kicker-an artist friend of ours, long ago agreed to paint the name on our boat when we finally got one. The time has come, Dave.
Around 5, Captain Bligh-er-Captain Fluffy (depends on his mood) and I bid farewell to Jules and Bri so we could make our goal of reaching Branford, Connecticut, about 11 nautical miles to the east, before dark.

I wish I could turn now to tales of high-seas adventure, pirates, sea monsters, something, but we had the most beautiful, early summer, late-day sail. It was sunny and warm, we had the tide with us, and the wind was perfect. Even though neither of us had ever plied those waters before, the conditions were such that it made reading the chart and plotting our course just plain fun, like one of those rare assignments you had back in school that you actually enjoyed doing.


Since I’m used to being a passenger as opposed to deciding to play a more active role, this was the first time I’d ever used a chart to navigate. Sure, I’ve referred to them numerous times during the editing process here at CW, but this was the first time I’d ever use one “in action.” It’s really pretty simple. The charts are extremely detailed and accurate, and using them to plot a course is a linear process based on common sense. I like that.

Fluffy was spot-on with all his marks, too. He’d estimate when he thought we’d hit a marker, and he was practically to the minute, every time.

One of our purchases at West Marine that morning was Duncan and Ware’s A Cruising Guide to the New England Coast, which I definitely recommend keeping on board. We used it throughout the trip. The book said that the entrance to the harbor in Branford must be made under power (except by the smallest of boats) and not to attempt it at night. Excellent advice. We cruised right into the thick of things just to check out the other boats, but we didn’t want to pay for a slip. Besides, it looked like a full house.


We chose to anchor out between Big Mermaid and Lamphier Cove, an area with good holding in mud and rock and a depth of about seven feet, and it was just as the guide promised. This was my first experience as the person who actually had to drop the anchor. And Bligh (sadly Fluffy was suddenly nowhere to be found) told me (a little late, in my opinion) that I had to watch out that the anchor didn’t slip back and under the boat.

Well, luckily, Bligh knows his stuff, and with a little maneuvering on both our parts, and a little “shouting” of directions on his part, we had everything nicey-nice in no time.

With the day’s work done, now it was time for a sunset dinner of gourmet sandwiches, pretzels, and unshelled peanuts (they make a mess) in the cockpit. Fluffy reappeared just in time to pop a cold beer, and I opted for red wine.


We were even treated to some pre Fourth of July fireworks on shore, courtesy of some locals.

Stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on how we learned the true gender of The Atomic 4.


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