Goin’ Down to Innsmouth: Sails out of Innsmouth and home.

Final day of vacation, well not counting the day of travel coming home. And this was the heart of the vacation plan, a day long sail on a schooner. Specifically the Ardelle. I got up early, got showered and ready, and headed out. She sets sail promptly at 8, and I was NOT going to be late. The Ardelle had a crew of three, one of whom spotted my Innsmouth shirt and commented. The rest of the passengers were all sailing enthusiasts, some of whom had helped build or work the Ardelle. She's a modern ship, but built as close to the original fishing schooners used in the area as they could. I think I was only person on board who'd never sailed on sailing craft this size, (my sail boat experience is being on little 4-5 person boats), and I hadn't been out to sea on anything smaller than a cruise ship since I was a kid. Not that anyone gave me grief about being the new fish, was a very friendly bunch, crew and passengers both.

We headed away from the dock under engine, but as soon as we were out in the harbor they hoisted sail. Well one sail was hoisted by myself and another passenger. He'd done it before, and was in better shape than me. but I still managed it. Wasn't til later than I realized that it gets harder the higher the sail goes, as you're pulling more weight, not just fatigued from the effort. Really glad the sails were modern synthetics, not old fashioned canvas. Probably would make a good exercise plan...if you had the room.

So, I was on a schooner heading out around Cape Ann under sail. Sea was pretty calm, enough wind to move along nicely, and some swells to make it interesting, but not test my sea legs severely. Still don't get seasick, go me. The weather started off kind of brisk and cloudy, which felt great to me. So how did it feel to be under sail ? It was....it was amazing. Nothing quite like how it feels to go on the wind. I got lightly teased about how I was pretty much glued to the bow of the ship, just looking out with a big ol grin on my face. Pretty sure I wouldn't make the best figurehead, but who cares. Seriously, if you like water or ships, find yourself some kind of sailing tour like this and go. It's better then taking a cruise, at least in the short term.

The crew was very friendly, and relaxed. They took the ship seriously, and even when they were joking and telling stories you knew they were paying attention to everything going on. And since most of the passengers had been around the Cape Ann area, even if the crew was busy, someone was pointing out various lighthouses and islands, and history. Oh, amusement. Using the head on this ship was....tricky. Basically you pump in sea water to flush with, but there's a valve and a pump and...where you go. And the directions, while perfectly plain and descriptive, did require a few stalled attempts before I got it. It's not rocket science, but it does require some coordination and it's not like using the toilet at home. *laugh* Definitely RTFM (Read The Flushing Manual)

We stopped off in Rockport for about a half an hour. Got some snacks. Then we sailed up north to a little artist colony who's name I'm blanking on. Just stayed long enough for some of the locals to see the ship, and to get some pictures, then back out. By then the wind had died down enough that we had to go by motor. Which felt a little different, and obviously was louder. But still was a blast. Talked sailing and how he teaches sailing with the captain, basically letting the newest crewperson man the helm, without hovering, because you can't learn how these ships feel any other way, but making sure that if something goes wrong, they know they're not hung out to dry. Talked Lovecraft with one of the crew, who was the captain's daughter (No jokes please), and had just gotten back from refitting a sailing vessel in Singapore, and was working on a grant proposal to convert an old motored fishing vessel into a small research ship. Otherwise everyone mostly talked boats and ships and what to do when a fog bank rolls in when you're in a one person kayak and your forgot your compass. (short answer, don't forget your compass). Answered some questions about living in Texas, found out the unofficial state motto of Rhode Island is 'I know a guy', and had multiple people make subtle suggestions that I'd probably like living in the area better than in landlocked Dallas/Fort Worth. Very tempting thoughts there.

We then sailed down the Annisquam river, which separates Cape Ann from the rest of Massachusetts, making it actually an island. Lots of people on the water, in anything from kayaks to big motor yachts. Pretty sure we were the coolest though. *grin* Eventually we made out out of the river and into the western harbor, then sailed back to her dock. Definitely was the high point of the trip. Will seriously be going back to sail again on the Ardelle. I cannot praise this highly enough. I'm grinning now as I'm thinking about it.

Once we docked I headed back to my car. I had some vague plans to do more tourist stuff, but honestly I was pretty beat. Oh, and the clouds had broken about the time we went from sail to motor, so it got warmish. So I ended up getting some drive through and heading back to hotel. I meant to go back down to the beach, but there was a fair crowd, and I was pretty socialed out. So I spent the evening reading/listening to audiobooks, futzing around online, and playing chess. Sadly we didn't have much wind, and what we had blew the wrong way, so it was still pretty warm. Had trouble getting to sleep, as this was the first night the ocean was pretty quiet. Did go to sleep eventually...then it was morning, and I had to go home. Drove back to Boston, drove in a different way just to see more of the area. Checked in my car, (got lost trying to figure out where to check in). Took the shuttle to the terminal, got all checked in and my hair fondled by the TSA. Flight home was pretty average, and got back to my car pretty quick. Did not enjoy going back to 100 degrees. But it was nice to be home, in my own bed. Even if I had to go back to my white noise generator ocean sounds, instead of the real thing.

So, to wrap up. I had a blast. I definitely wished I had more time to explore, but I made plenty of mental (and actual) notes for the next Innsmouth visit. So many museums and points of interest in that part alone. I'm glad I stayed by the sea, even if I didn't end up swimming, there really is nothing like sleeping to the sound of waves. So yes, Virginia there is an Innsmouth, and it's pretty damn cool place. Iä Iä Dagon Fhtagn!

Goin’ Down to Innsmouth: The Other Innsmouth(s)

So yes, I said the 'Other Innsmouth'. For those not in the know, HPL based his description of Innsmouth on Gloucester, as well as the nearby port of Newburyport. I wasn't originally planning on going to Newburyport, but as I said, I had a random desire to drive so I went ahead and did it. Drove through various towns in Essex, if I'd had more time and more of a plan I'd have stopped at various museums I passed, along with various cool old buildings. Next time (and yes there will be a next time) I'll have to make more stops.

Got to Newburyport, and I got an odd vibe. Not bad, but definitely more touristy and 'hipsterish' than Innsmouth Prime. Drove around a bit, stopped to find some lunch and a bookstore, found the bookstore but nothing lunchy. Pulled out the Shining Trapezohedron and tried to find a place that didn't charge $20 for a basic cheeseburger. I was not successful. I widened the search and found a place on the way back that looked tasty, didn't use ingredients that I had to google, and was reasonably priced. So I turned back around and found the Choate Bridge Pub. Your basic local place. Got a burger than was perfectly cooked and tasty, fries were good, and the service was great. Definitely worth the driving. Then I decided to go visit yet another Innsmouth...

In the story 'Shadow Over Innsmouth', HPL doesn't say exactly where the town is, but he gives a lot of clues. There's a river, it's near Newburyport and Rowley, it's past Plum Island by some amount, and there's marshland. And I've spent more than a little time on Google Maps trying to puzzle out a location. And as luck would have it, I'm just a smallish drive from the location. So I decide to see if I can get there. So I drive down winding roads, and some nice views of the water...and my GPS says it's right ahead...and there's a sign saying 'No thru traffic, private' and a security guard/suit. Now it could just be a private community, or Innsmouth could have some secrets it wants to keep, even from a cultist like me. So I decided discretion is the better part of valor, so I turned around and drove a bit away to a public beach. Could see part of the community, but not much. Was a really nice view of the water, I will neither confirm or deny the presence of shapes in the water. Also, keeping the location to my self. First Oath of Dagon all that jazz *wink*

From there I headed down to Manchester-by-the-Sea for another bookstore that came well recommended. I also met a very friendly dog and his family. Gave pets, then said something about 'Ok, your Mom has places to go' and she came back with 'Oh no, we go on his schedule'. So more petting was had. *laugh* From the bookstore I headed back to the hotel, and had a quiet night of book, snacks, and early to bed. I had to be up early next day to go sailing.

Goin’ Down to Innsmouth: Books, books, and books

When last I went to Innsmouth, I had just gone through the tour of the Sargent House. The rain had let up, so I headed back towards Main Street. I stopped at two stores, first an antique place with lots of books. Lots of books and knickknacks and stuff, in little to no order. So I spent a lot of time shuffling around, skimming titles on spines hoping I'd catch a keyword or author name or something. Was fun, if a little crazy. The books were randomly placed, nothing by subject. I'm sure I missed some treasures because my booksenses were overwhelmed by the chaos. Picked up a couple of books and some antique postcards. Then I went further down the block and visited Dogtown Book Shop. Wow. Bookshelves groaning with books, piles of books on the floor. Books everywhere. Unlike the antique shop, they were organized. But the shop itself was a maze of shelves and nooks and stuff. Some logically, as all the histories were next to each other. Some made sense as 'well yes, after mysteries you could stick sci-fi/fantasy/horror all together...in the back of the shop...with the least light'. And some were just...best example, The erotica section was further into the back than scifi and friends, and behind part of the wall that jutted out. So pretty much you had to know where it was, or were willing to venture deep into the book-abyss to stumble upon it. Was a lot of fun to browse (the store in general, I only gave the erotica a passing glance), but I was more than a little claustrophobic and terrified I'd knock over a stack of books and start an apocalypse. Found some good books, again pretty sure I missed stuff, possibly a gateway to The Library on Celaeno. Definitely liked the hours on the door 'x to x, unless the proprietor feels otherwise.'

There was more to see and do in town, but I felt a weird urge to take a road trip. So I hopped in the rental, set the GPS and went cross Essex county to...the Other Innsmouth.