Fri 27 Jul 2012
Anchored off Duck Island, Westbrook, CT
It was still blowing in the morning, but after forcing ourselves to just relax until 1100, we weighed the anchor and headed to the fuel dock at Payne's to top of our water tanks (2 of which were emptied accidentally due to my error). We got outside the channel by 1130 and had the wind on our nose, as expected. We also had large ocean swells coming from the SSW that were easily 6 or more feet high, but they came at such a long period that it wasn't too uncomfortable. Once in a while the roll we experienced would be ill-timed for the next swell and then we would "really" roll.
The current predictions by both Eldridge and our C-MAP chartplotter software are obviously not always very accurate, because where they predicted we would have about 0.5 knots of fair (beneficial) current, we obviously had none or even a slight foul current. We knew we could not go too long, however, before the current's help would become apparent.
There was rain on the CT shore mid-afternoon, but we had no bad weather at all. Once we got W of Montauk, the ocean swell started dying and then the wind did, too. Having read about the way the water reacts to its movement through The Race, we were not surprised, but still fascinated by the standing waves and swirls that we witnessed for almost a mile.
As we neared "The Race," we finally started seeing some significant benefit and at one point gained almost 4 knots over our standard motoring speed. Overall, we averaged just over 7 statute miles per hour, which was not too bad, so our 49 mile run took just about 7 hours. This is not necessarily a long day to some, but not getting anchored until 1830 is not our preference.
As soon as the anchor was set, we got out the fixings for the pizza that we had prepared in the morning. It didn't take long for the oven to heat and cook our flatbread pizza. Diane had made a salad for us, and with some nice wine, it was a tasty feast.
Thu 26 Jul 2012
Anchored in Great Salt Pond, Block Island, RI
[photo: dinghies at the edge of the pond near the beach access]
When the wind was howling through the wee hours, it occurred to both of us independently that maybe it would be best just to stay another day. We have done plenty of uncomfortable passages, and there was no urgent need to do another one right now. So, when light started filling the cabin at dawn, I finally verbalized the thought and Diane readily agreed. It will likely be cloudy all day and we will definitely have rain and strong winds in a while, but better here than "out there."
According to cruising guides and other cruisers, one of the attractions in the Great Salt Pond is Aldo, the Italian baker, who comes out in his red skiff named Andiamo to pedal his tasty offerings. There are several types of yummy pastries and even bacon and egg sandwiches available (until they run out, of course). I hailed him over to the boat around 0730 when he was in our section of the anchorage and bought a cinnamon roll and cheese Danish. It was not nearly as healthy a breakfast as our typical multi-grain cereal with fresh fruit, or even the weekly multi-grain toast with scrambled eggs, but it sure was a great special treat. Aldo comes around in the evening with Stromboli and other, too.
Today was one of the first days where we stayed on the boat and just relaxed with our books all day. It was overcast almost all day so the beach would not have been especially pleasant. After a brief happy hour, however, we decided to brave the choppy water and take the dinghy back to The Oar for supper. This time we had a fabulous meal , reprising the delicious clam chowder and trying their sushi. It was a bit pricy, but excellent. Diane raved that her shrimp tempura sushi roll was the tastiest sushi she had ever eaten. We finished up with their famous mudslide as our dessert beverage and enjoyed that, too.
While sipping on the mudslide, Diane started a conversation with the couple at the next table. They are boaters, too, but apparently the wife is not as enthusiastic about boating as her husband. When they found out we were cruising together for 4 months straight, she was shocked and he was envious.
The ride back to the Diva Di was downwind and quite dry and comfortable. We relaxed in the cockpit with Clyde for a long while and then it was time for bed.
With apologies to friends whose advice and info we have solicited, we have decided to make up our lost day by traveling to Westbrook for an overnight stop, then to Port Jefferson, then Manhasset Bay, and then through New York to Sandy Hook on Monday.
Wed 25 Jul 2012
Anchored in Great Salt Pond, Block Island, RI
[photo: view from top of bluff]
The last entry for yesterday's blog mentioned the dead calm after sunset. Well, the wind came back with authority and Duane was up checking the anchor and our position relative to the other boats. I wasn't the only one, as I saw several other captains on their foredecks with flashlights. It may have reached 20 knots for a while with a few higher gusts, but we stayed put on our 45 pound Delta anchor and all-chain rode.
The post-dawn sky was gorgeous, bright and clear, and blowing 10-15 knots with a crisp coolness that we (well, Duane) will soon miss as we head S. After a hearty breakfast to start the day, however, we noted that we had no water coming out of the faucet and worse, could not hear the pump running. This was not good. Last evening, we had switched tanks to one of our total of three when the current one had run out. We were a bit surprised it had run out, to be frank, but did not take any action at that time.
First, why was the pump not running? Touching it revealed it was really hot and I suspected (if we were lucky) it might just be off due to an internal thermal overload protection circuit. Even then, what made it so hot? There was nothing left to do but let it cool with the switch off, and 45 minutes later when the switch was turned on, the pump tried to run. So far, so good.
I opened the valve to the one tank we knew was full and when the faucet was opened, we had water as normal. Closing the faucet, the pump cycled on for about 2 seconds every 10 seconds. That was a major leak, but there was none near the pump. That's when I remembered we had used the stern shower, and when your hands are wet, it is not easy to get the valves turned all the way off. Sure enough, one was still cracked open. Once it was tightly closed, the pump stayed off and I buttoned everything back up.
Of course, we are now down to one-third of our tank water supply, so we will have to go back to the dock and pay the nominal $4 to top them off before we leave tomorrow. Aggravating as the episode was, it was only user error and not another systems failure to contend with. Having to await the opening of the fuel dock will not be a problem since the current will dictate that we leave near noon anyway.
Once the water pump problem was solved, we called to arrange for a taxi tour and pick-up at the dinghy dock near Crescent Beach. Polly was our driver/tour guide and her family goes back many hundreds of years on the island. It was a very interesting tour, and one filled with scenic beauty on this most gorgeous of days. In a few places, there were overlooks on the bluffs and the visibility was limited only by the curvature of the earth.
The downtown area is very charming and we can see why so many people take the various ferries here for the day and weeklong vacations. The airport is also nice, with a fairly new terminal, and a short hop from many places in the northeast.
After paying for the tour, we got back in the dinghy and got ourselves ready for a few hours on the beach. It was crowded, as expected, but we had a wonderful time there. The water was refreshingly cool for Duane after sitting in the blazing sun. Once chilled after being in the 68F water for a half hour and lying on his towel in wet trunks and shirt, it took a long while before he was hot again. Diane, very much enjoyed her time there, as expected.
We got back to Diva Di around supper time and pan-browned some turkey hot dogs, served with sauerkraut, and the leftover chicken jambalaya. It was surely tasty enough after a busy day.
Part of Duane's early day was spent perusing current tables and diagrams to determine when they could and could not easily make passages for the next week. The current in Long Island Sound, although only very strong in certain areas, is significant enough to influence our travel times. For the next few days, we should logically be starting to move no earlier than 1100 to 1300, getting later each successive day. That will be contrary to our preferred schedule of sailing in the morning and having from 1500 to the end of the day to unwind and/or explore ashore.
We will most likely get to our destination and relax aboard, and then decide if we want to go ashore in the morning or just bide our time until we move again. Since we will be, by practicality if not necessity, visiting many of the same ports we saw on the way north, we may elect to stay aboard. Only by following this blog will you know for sure!
[Early Thu morning news: The winds are howling and it will be a very uncomfortable passage W from here today, so we will use discretion and stay another day.]
Tue 24 Jul 2012
Anchored in Great Salt Pond, Block Island, RI
[photo: wall view from our table at "The Oar"]
Duane awoke just before dawn well rested, and the air was still cool enough to enjoy a hot coffee, despite the high humidity. The humidity was so high, in fact, that there was a light, but significant fog. There was a tense moment when I thought we had left our camera with Dan and Sharon, but after Diane awoke, she assured me that she had been very diligent about keeping our stuff together and ready to take with us.
Before we could leave, there was the small task of installing the snap-ring on the wheel shaft and then mounting the wheel. That went without a hitch and then when the dinghy was hoisted and strapped, we weighed the anchor and left at 0750. We knew the tidal current predictions and the wind forecast and sure enough we had both against us for a while. Then the current shifted from abeam, but the wind was "on the nose" the whole 28 miles. We had some large waves that were not comfortable, and we had to motor the whole way, but despite that we made it to the harbor in well under 5 hours.
Getting fuel, however, proved to be interesting as we hailed the first marina (one of only 2 selling fuel) and they said to come to the fuel dock. We said there wasn't enough room and he said to wait until those boats were finished fueling and then come in. We circled for 10 minutes and there was no one at either boat, and no fueling was happening, so we left. The other marina didn't answer the radio at all, so we came in ourselves, but at least we finally got fuel and topped off our tanks with water.
Feeling emboldened by our very satisfactory anchoring in Newport, I decided to see if there was room in the shallower anchorage and found a nice spot in 10 feet of water at high tide, meaning we would have 7 at low. This allowed us to only put out 70 feet of chain and still be very secure. The reason for the "emboldened" comment is that most of the good spots are taken up by private and rental moorings and what is left for anchoring is usually too deep or too shallow or has bad holding.
After resting on the boat for an hour to check our anchor holding, we got the dinghy down and headed due E to the pond side of a narrow strip of land by Crescent Beach. There were already 30-40 dinghies there, but there was plenty of room.
After a short stroll across the road, we were on medium brown sand that had the feel of fine dirt. The beach was pretty crowded, and one can only imagine what it is like on a weekend or holiday. Once we picked a little spot, Diane got into her chair and read, while Duane headed right for the surf. I have to say that of all the beaches where I have been in the water up to my waist or more, this had the finest, cleanest sand bottom of all. There were no shell fragments, no seaweed, no rocks, no sudden troughs; it was just pure, smooth sand. The water was cool for Duane (about 67F) and Diane would not even touch it, but there were many people enjoying it.
The sun was out but not overly strong and the wind served to keep you from getting too warm (letting you burn all the easier, of course). It was delightful except for the occasional green-head flies that would bite me. Diane proved again to be immune. We left after a few hours and moving against the wind-driven chop got us pretty wet. The stern shower was handy to get residual sand and all the salt off of us with some warm, soapy water and then change into dry clothes.
We got back in the dinghy for a longish ride across "the pond" to eat at the famous restaurant bar, The Oar. At the dinghy dock, we had to climb over other dinghies due to the crowd, but that's just the way it is. Our clam chowder was superb, and the burgers were pretty good. With the reasonable prices and terrific view, it was a very pleasant experience. They are known for their killer Mudslide drinks, but neither of us was in the mood for one tonight.
Back on Diva Di, the wind had shifted by 150 degrees, but we were still positioned well with the other boats. The sunset was pretty behind the cloud cover, and we hope the dead calm does not mean a warm night.
Mon 23 Jul 2012
Anchored in Newport, RI
[photo: our feast in Newport]
Today dawned mostly cloudy, but comfortable, if not somewhat humid. About 0930, we got ourselves ready and took the dinghy to the dock where Sharon picked us up. Stop number one was refilling the SCUBA tank, and then we had a nice, narrated car tour of Ocean Drive and the rest of the area. By 1230 we had just finished our errands at the grocery, liquor, auto, and hardware stores.
We knew we couldn't handle all the gear and purchases later that night, so we elected to make a trip to Diva Di to quickly stow the perishables and then come back for pickup to eat lunch. Well, in our haste to be efficient, we left both our cell phones in the car, so we had no way to call for pick up. We took Clyde in his soft carrier and his litter box (in a plastic bag) ashore anyway and carried them a few blocks until we came to the home of friends of theirs who called for us. It delayed lunch, but it gave us another thing to laugh about.
Clyde was certainly enjoying exploring their home and getting to romp in the beautiful garden. Their dog, Maggie, had been in Clyde's company many times back home, but usually on Clyde's turf; this was the reverse. There was absolutely no hissing or growling at all and other than the excitement of Maggie having a cat in her midst and following Clyde around everywhere, it was a very peaceful co-existence.
With the two pets safely isolated, however, we later split up for the ladies to go shopping downtown, while the guys went back to the hardware store and then to the War College Museum on the Navy base. Dan is a retired Captain with base privileges, of course. The museum was very interesting, and featured a lot of history of torpedo development, since much of that was done right here in Newport.
Next, we had a beer at the Officer's Club overlooking a large expanse of Narragansett Bay, and then we drove to nearby Melville where there are some of the top names in boat design, boat building, restoration, sail making, etc. While the boatyards we toured were still just boatyards, the size and cost of the yachts involved were quite different than most yards, to be sure. For any sailor, it was quite a neat experience.
Meeting back at their home, we started happy hour and prepped for the special dinner. Dan had bought 6 "bullet" lobsters at the local shack on "stinky corner" in the early afternoon and that was our main protein, with Dan having a steak for himself, instead. We had never heard of bullets before, but whereas a "cull" is a lobster missing a claw, a "bullet" is missing both claws. With them on sale for $4 each, compared to a fully-clawed lobster at $8.50, it was an easy decision to get the bullets.
The meal was wonderful: lobster, steak, corn on the cob, slaw, and wilted spinach with garlic, all enjoyed while dining outdoors in their beautiful garden patio. Some special wine complimented the meal and we gave thanks for the friendship and the rain which held off to allow us to enjoy it all outside.
Before long, it was time to pack up and go. We said our goodbyes and Dan took us back to the dinghy. Getting all the stuff aboard Diva Di proved successful since the winds and waves were diminished and it was time for an early bed, again.
Sun 22 Jul 2012
Anchored in Newport, RI
[photo: Diane (left) and Sharon on our bike ride through Bristol]
Diane stayed up later than Duane last night, but both slept wonderfully in the cool air. The day dawned mostly clear with gorgeous white "mare's tails" (cirrus clouds) in the bright blue sky. After a leisurely hour or so, Duane warmed up the engine and then changed the oil and filter. We both cleaned ourselves up and then took the bikes in the dinghy to the public dock. From there we rode the several blocks to Dan and Sharon's lovely home for a delicious brunch of egg casserole, bagels, and fresh fruit.
Next, we loaded our folded bikes into the rear compartment of their SUV and they stowed their "grown up" bikes on the tail rack. Dan drove N to Bristol where we used the very nice, and quite active, bike trail to ride about 10 miles roundtrip. It was all flat and easy enough, but on the way back the S wind was blowing rather strongly in our face. Their cute dog, Maggie, accompanied us in the padded milk crate attached to Dan's rear carrier.
Once back at their place, we came back to the dinghy with our bikes and got home to Diva Di. We stowed the bikes away for the rest of this visit. Tomorrow will be a few errands and then off Tue for Block Island.
After a little rest, we got dressed for dinner and went back in the dinghy, then walked to their home for cocktails. We then drove the short distance to a fantastic gourmet Mexican restaurant. Our collective belief is that you would likely never find most of the dishes served in Mexico, but they were definitely of that origin, with a delicious, gourmet flair.
Newport has much history, of course, and this restaurant was once the home of famous American naval hero, Stephen Decatur.
Back at Dan and Sharon's home, we had a nightcap along with our many varied conversations and then they dropped us off at the dinghy to get back to Diva Di and our long-abandoned cat, Clyde.