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Madcap Sailing
Long Island Bays
27/09/2007/2:11 pm, Manhasset Bay

After a pleasant afternoon sail from Port Jefferson, we made our way into Oyster Bay on the north side of Long Island - which is on the south side of Long Island Sound - which is enough to confuse anyone who might be directionally challenged.

It is a large bay with several yacht clubs and the usual assortment of huge mansions that we have come to expect along these shores. Our guidebook told us to not even think about landing on Centre Island since the folks there are less than welcoming so we just gazed at the estates as we cruised by. It had been our intention to anchor in the cove between the town of Oyster Bay and the bluffs of Cove Neck, but Strathspey radioed us to say they had been asked to move from there and were relocated over at the far end of the big bay. We headed in that direction too, around the many, many boats on moorings and the poles marking oyster beds, to drop the anchor near them and out of the way of the rowing sculls moving swiftly back and forth in the area. It was fun to see those sculls with their eager rowers since both our boys were rowers in high school and we have warm (well - sometimes it was quite cool at 4am) memories of watching them practice and race on the Ottawa River.

Our Strathspey friends, Mary and Blair, came over to join us for nibblies and drinks to celebrate our 100 days - that is how long it has been since we pulled away from Trident Yacht Club - between Gananoque and Kingston, ON. We enjoyed a wonderful evening of sharing memories of the past and plans for the future.

We didn't go ashore here except to get fuel and a chart in the morning, but it begs another visit because of the oysters to be enjoyed, and all the Teddy Roosevelt history and memorabilia around. Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt's summer home is here, and according to a friendly kayaker who drifted by, there are still many Roosevelts summering in the area.

I was happy to chat with the fellow at the Oyster Bay Marine Centre since I had been getting caught up in trying to plan precisely when and how to make the passage through the East River to New York City. He told me not to worry about it. "You go a little faster or you go a little slower" depending on which way the tide is flowing. It was like taking a deep breath and letting the fretfulness slide away, and was just what I needed. Of course we plan as best we can; if we plan well, the passage will be easier, but an hour or two this side or that of a tide change will not really matter in the long run.

It felt good to get moving on the Sound again toward Manhasset Bay. The thermometer in our cabin read 78 and it was much hotter out in the sun. That Ombrelle 45 sunscreen is getting smeared on liberally!

We motorsailed for about 4 hours, and headed into Manhasset Bay to the mooring balls maintained by the town of Port Washington. As Jim says, "This town has balls!" What's more, it welcomes transient boaters to use them free for two nights. It's always a nice treat to see how a village or town can create a happy atmosphere among its visitors. A launch service is also provided - for $8.00 per person round trip - for those who don't want to or cannot use their dinghies. People go ashore to eat, drink and browse through the shops. I'm sure a few dollars are dropped into the local coffers, and everyone feels good about it. We paid a visit to the West Marine store (an easy walk from the Town Dock), and though we didn't find the wifi antenna we are looking for, we enjoyed a nice chat with Joel, the manager. That evolved into a funny moment later on as Jim and I were seated on a bench along the main street with our laptops on our laps. A car cruised by and the driver - Joel - stopped to chat some more. It seemed amusing to be so far from home and still have a familiar face come driving by.

We made one last check of the charts and books and headed for bed to dream of wild rides through Hell Gate on our way to NYC the next day.

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Crossing Long Island Sound
Beth - warm and bright again
25/09/2007/9:51 am, Port Jefferson, NY

Our plan leaving Newport had included a stop in Mystic, Connecticut. Jim and I visited there a couple of years ago and really enjoyed touring the Seaport. It seemed like a good idea to sail in there and see it again, but economic issues changed that plan. The place Mary had found to stay, because it had mooring balls and seemed like the most affordable, charged $1.50 per foot - for a mooring ball! They decided they could make a car trip later on, and we had been there before so after a VHF radio conference, we all agreed to take a pass on Mystic and continue on our way further down the Sound.

The Connecticut River looked inviting so we headed through the breakwater - along with a dozen other boats - under the bascule railroad bridge and under the I-95 to the narrow passage behind Calves Island. It was crammed with moorings, but with the assistance of a couple of folks sitting on their boat, we located a spot with just enough room and dropped the hook. We sat with 3 feet under the keel at low tide and enough swing room to allow us to rest reasonably comfortably - with the anchor alarm set, of course! A glass of wine, chicken grilled on the BBQ and a tasty salad topped the evening off nicely.

We left next morning at the civilized hour of 8, and then had to circle for about 40 minutes waiting for the railroad bridge to open. A fellow in a motorboat came roaring up behind us to say he was collecting his mooring fee and we were pleased to be able to tell him we had anchored! According to Strathspey, the fee was $35.00. It keeps going up as we travel onward.

Our 43 nautical mile trip down and across Long Island Sound to Port Jefferson was a long unchallenging day. There are very few lobster buoys around now. The sun shone brightly, the wind was on our nose and the water was calm. We had the mainsail up just to make us feel like a sailboat and the engine roared away. I spent much of the day in the cabin writing and reading, and Jim spent his day on the foredeck with his remote autopilot control in one hand and his book in the other. We arrived in Port Jefferson on the north shore of Long Island in time to circle around the harbour and then anchor just north of the mooring field. After we gazed at the lovely pink sunset on one side, and the almost full moon rising on the other, the BBQ chef (Jim) grilled up some sausages on the BBQ that hangs off our cockpit railing. Together with the couscous and salad produced by the galley chef (Beth) they made for another fine dinner accompanied by smooth jazz on Sirius Satellite Radio. The wake behind the Bridgeport ferry was not smooth, and we rocked wildly for 20 seconds or so every time it passed.

There was lots of action about 4am when a brightly lit tug was maneuvering barges loaded with gravel within a short distance of our anchorage. It seemed like right next-door because their voices woke me up. A short 4 hours later though, all was calm and still; no sign of tugs or barges and two beautiful white swans were begging for attention - or food? - at the side of the boat. What a contrast.

An early morning trip to the waterfront enabled us to connect to the internet and make these last 3 postings before heading off to Oyster Bay. We are contemplating getting an antenna for the boat so we can have better wifi access. It is sometimes frustrating to go days without being able to connect, although even as I say this, I recognize that this kind of contact is a relatively new phenomenon and I know how lucky we are.

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25/09/2007/5:45 pm | Margaret & Jim Uhrich
How exciting to read of your travels and to view the fabulous pictures. Sounds like you have had relatively smooth least no engine problems. Good.

Safe travel - we await more news.
25/09/2007/8:24 pm | Nancy Simpson
Lovely shot of the mute swan. Nancy
25/09/2007/8:25 pm | Nancy Simpson
Lovely shot of the mute swan. Nancy
25/09/2007/8:25 pm | Nancy Simpson
Lovely shot of the mute swan. Nancy
26/09/2007/11:42 am | Chace
Had the same experience two summers ago with the Port Jeff barges at night. At 4am... this barge towers over our sailboat, shines a blinding light through the porthole, and hails at deafening volume, "Cap'n, would you care to move?" Start of what turned out to be quite the firedrill!
Cape Cod Canal to Newport
Beth - on a bright and sunny day
22/09/2007/9:37 am, Newport, Rhode Island

We left Boston through the Narrows - mingling with ferries, tugs and pleasure boats and with air traffic taking off and landing over our heads. Our course was set for the Cape Cod Canal, the 15-mile shortcut that allowed us to bypass the long arm of Cape Cod and make our way into Long Island Sound. Unfortunately, the eastern entrance of the Cape Cod Canal has no anchoring space anymore so we had to go to the Sandwich Marina at the boat basin there. This was the first time in almost a month that Madcap has spent a night on a dock! Our last dockside mooring was in LaHave, Nova Scotia on August 23.

Sandwich left us with two impressions. The marina was clean and busy and well situated as a place from which to catch a favourable current through the canal, but we thought it took advantage of these travelers. The rate was the highest yet - $2.00 per foot plus $10.00 for hydro. They counted us as 40 feet which meant we paid a lot of money for a place with no laundry, no wifi available on the boat and no lounge area in which to connect ashore. On the other hand, Jim and I took a lovely walk through the town to discover several amusing signs to add to our photographic collection, and the home of Thornton Burgess - author of the Peter Rabbit books. The Burgess home was closed but we wandered through the sweet little garden and along the briar patch. No sign of Peter and his pals Jimmy Skunk or Reddy Fox but a terracotta cousin was nestled among the foliage. Some of the window signs in the village were "Wicked Goods" and "Painted Lady" - an inn offering "fire, food and froth". I thought that would be a good offering by any lady!! A nice twist on the often seen "Beware of Dog" was this one: "Be Aware of Dog" - same idea but a little bit softer. Sandwich's Sandwiches was closed too - or "Shut" as they call it here - so we didn't have the experience of enjoying a sandwich in Sandwich. Perhaps we'll have to go to England for that.

We left at 0800 hours and flew along at about 9.5 knots on the ebb current. There was very little wind so our engine was running at its usual 2600 rpms. After making our way across Buzzard's Bay, we headed for Newport where the mansions along the shoreline let us know we were getting close. One of our guidebooks (we're using the Maptech Embassy Guides and Dozier's Waterway Guides primarily for this part of the trip) told us that when we rounded the point into Newport Harbour, we would see vessels of every description from many countries and to pay close attention to our navigation lest our wandering eyes lead us into trouble. The book was right in the sense that a jaw-dropping array of ships was laid out before us. It was also right in its recommendation to head toward Brenton Cove for anchoring possibilities. What a delight to arrive in this fine and famous harbour and find ample anchor room. We dropped the hook just off the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, an easy dinghy distance to the busy waterfront.

With the log book quickly updated, we lowered the dinghy, attached the motor (which, by the way, we are daily grateful for downsizing), and headed ashore. There are two dinghy docks made available by the town and to reach them we cruised past and then in among gigantic luxury yachts. I never cease to chuckle at the difference between our little dinghy and their enormous size - and the fact that we both arrive at the same dock! Newport showed two faces to us - the hustle and bustle of the modern waterfront that was still busy in mid-September, and further back, the older streets and houses that we explored the next day. We met up with Blair and Mary at the Moorings to celebrate a couple of things. This was the place where they "did the deal" to purchase Strathspey, and it was 100 days since Blair moved on board and started keeping his log for this trip. We don't pass up many opportunities for celebrations and this was fun.

On the hot and sunny Saturday, Jim and I made a leisurely start, doing minor boat jobs and then heading ashore for groceries, flags, and books. We discovered the perfectly wonderful "Armchair Sailor" on Thames St. where we browsed through hundreds of nautical books, wishing we had many more dollars and bookshelves. We picked up a couple of new books - one can never have too many - and the Rhode Island and Connecticut flags. We like to buy and fly the provincial and state flags as we travel. Unfortunately, they are often hard to find and on several occasions we've found them just as we left the area. Groceries came next, and then it was back to the boat for a late lunch and stowing of our purchases.

We were torn between visiting the Yacht Museum, the interiors of some of the mansions along Bellevue Street, and walking along the Cliff Walk. The Cliff Walk won our attention so in the late afternoon we donned our runners, filled the water bottles, grabbed the camera and set off on the 3.5-mile walk along the edge of the cliff. This walk is a right-of-way across 64 properties and despite the mansion owners protests, was created to enable Rhode Islanders to "...freely exercise all the rights of fishery and the privileges of the shore..." Some of the property owners built high fences or planted thick hedges, but walkers still have ample opportunity to gaze at the magnificent "cottages". It boggles my mind to think that these mansions - having up to 70 rooms - were cottages where the owners came for the summer only. They are castles! We passed through the ornate iron gates and across the lawn of the Breakers - Cornelius Vanderbilt's estate, another beautiful one with gauzy white drapes blowing in the wind where a wedding reception appeared to be taking place, Rosecliff of Great Gatsby fame, the Astor's Beechwood mansion where interactive murder matinees set in the 1890's take place, and many other Gilded Age properties. Many of them are now open to the public for a fee, and I saw one sign that advertised candlelight and champagne tours. Others are privately owned and are probably still the summer homes of the rich and famous. What strange days those must have been, when people of such great wealth gathered here to party and frolic between Bellevue Street and the cliffs, while the rest of the people went about making their living along the harbour. With the clean up of the area around Bannister's Wharf, the wealthy are visiting on the harbour now too - in moveable mansions.

By the time we returned to the boat after walking a total of about 8 miles our feet were tired but our lungs were full of fresh air and our minds full of imagining. One day we'll return to see more of Newport, but after two nights, it was time to move along.

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