Sunday, August 30, 2009

Old Lyme Marina on the Connecticut River

We have so many memories of the Connecticut River. We can recall so many wonderful and magical times here, and we also had one of our worst boating experiences on this waterway. That event, though, has softened into a recollection worthy of a good telling. On our first visit we failed to consider the current, and with a strong ebb against us, we could only make 2 knots or so getting up river. Live and learn.

In our old boat, a 34 foot Hunter, we braved the shallows to enter Hamburg Cove, and were pulled off aground by a little runabout who saved the day. Hamburg Cove is all filled with moorings and it is the practice to pick one up, and switch moorings if the rightful owner shows up. For the less stalwart, you may pay for a mooring (and you probably gain the assurance that it has been serviced). We doubt whether First Edition's 44 feet and radar arch would swing easily at Hamburg, so this romantic spot will henceforth be thought of but not visited by us. It really is worth a visit if you are less than 40'.

We also had a slip here at the Essex Island Marina in years past, again on In Recess, the Hunter. I think this was our first visit as well, when we bucked the current the whole ride up. We planned to depart the marina at 6:00 in the morning to get the current right, but we failed to consider the swiftness of the tide while exiting our slip. We were directly across from a line of large power boats, and at least two of them were roused by a love tap from our bow pulpit. I recall that I did an admirable job of pushing us off multiple gas-guzzlers, and I can still see one blue-haired woman screaming at us "Get off, get off" (like we had a choice).

With Hurricane Danny threatening the Sound, we decided the Connecticut River should be inland enough, and Old Lyme in particulr seemed to provide good protection. We took a mooring at the Old Lyme Marina for $35 an night (launch service would have been an additional $12!). It rained cats and dogs for almost two days, and Danny did not generate enough wind to even turn the blades on Arnie, the wind generator. So we were lucky, and made a good choice.

A word of caution though. Upon entering the creek at Old Lyme, you will come across an obstruction buoy. Unless you leave this well to port you will run aground, which we managed to do. Fortunately we were on a rising tide, and the bottom appears to be soupy, so we quickly got off. So, when visiting this Marina, ride very close to, or through, the mooring field. There is a grocery store and a few restaurants within walking distance, but not much else.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Giants Neck, Connecticut and Running from Danny

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Danny continues to be mysterious, and may or may not hit New England (where is New England anyhow? where does it start?). So, we have decided to head North and West, and have a reservation at Old Lyme Marina on the Connecticut River, which is off of the Long Island Sound. There is a bunch of current running in this river, and we have experienced it both ways, with us and against us, and unquestionably, we opt for the former.

So we have staged ourselves to be able to hit at slack before the flood, and have chosen Giants Neck for our resting spot for the evening prior. The books say there is not a lot of protection here, but with little winds predicted we thought we would give it a try.

Giants Neck is one of those few spots on the Sound that are reminiscent of Maine but without the lobster pots. There is good land protection from the northeast through east, but there is a bit of a fetch from the Sound. I'd go here again in settled weather, particularly if you want to wait for the current at the Connecticut River, about 5 miles away.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to Block

After a few days at Sag, we headed back to Block, solo, to fulfill some shopping requirements. We had intended to rent bikes, but at $20 a piece for 4 hours, and one knee acting up, I suggested we walk it and avail outselves of those $5/$11 cabs if necessary. I almost bought a new bedspread for First Edition and I am already sorry I passed it up. While here Tropical Storm Danny developed and may hit New England, so our visit will be cut short as we seek more protection. If only I had more sea glass to pass the time...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sea Glass Creations

While waiting for the seas to settle down from Hurricane Bill, I decided to tackle my planned sea glass project, a lampshade for our cockpit. Years ago Peter stumbled across the idea of hanging a small shade over our Davis Mega light, hung in the cockpit for mood lighting and dinner ambience. It has added an elegant touch, and attracted many comments. And then Sojourner took it to a higher plane...

An acrylic drinking glass with a hole cut out of the top, covered with sea glass results in a glorious addition to any boat, and a totally excellent use of the sea glass we collected mostly at Black Point in the Exumas and in the Dominican Republic.

First, sift through your sea glass and find pieces that are slightly rounded to gain the most surface adhesion on your shade (or whatever else you create, I am thinking votive glass holder for my next project). Assemble the pieces by color. Find a bowl slightly larger than your shade, line with paper towels, and lay shade into it to disable any rolling about. Have the Captain mix up a bunch of clear, fast drying epoxy. I applied same to each piece of sea glass with an artist's paint brush (discarded after completion of the project). Apply pieces of sea glass, decently covered with epoxy, in a random pattern. Allow to dry before turning glass to begin the next "row". Run your Davis light through the hole and sit around waiting for nightfall. It is glorious! Well, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

West Neck Harbor

Running from Hurricane Bill, we determined that West Neck would be a good place to be and fortunately Sojourner agreed to become the local knowledge so strongly recommended to enter this harbor. Last year, Rick and Linda visited here to sit out a blow and despite hitting bottom upon leaving, fearlessly led the way. It is actually quite easy to enter if you stay smack-dab in the middle of the channel (the green is actually on land!). We found that heading for the flagpole ashore ahead kept us on a good course, we saw nothing less than 9 feet of water at high tide.

Once inside (where you can only stay for 48 hours, and there was a police boat jotting down boat names), there is a designated anchorage area. There also is a creek that would have totally excellent protection and would require a high tide entry. We decided to stay in the outer harbor, as the highest winds were forecast at 21 knots, no biggie.

This is a pretty place. Lousy joints while here prohibited my exploration, but Peter walked the beach on our behalf and confirmed that there is nothing here.

We hosted Rick and Linda for dinner while awaiting Bill. He was a total non-event. Dinner was yummy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sag Harbor

About an hour's slow sail away from Shelter you will find Sag Harbor, where good anchorage can be found outside of the breakwater. A public dinghy dock is available, and in walking distance are many stores, a laundromat and dry cleaner, groceries, post office, just about anything to suit your fancy. And although the residents are just that, you can find some high fashions moderately priced. It was fun to shop for clothes without being at Walmart. I got a great hat to replace the one that went on its own journey at Coecles.

We enjoyed cocktail hour on Our Turn, a beauty of a 50-ish foot Island Packet owned by Claire and Paul. The shot above shows just how creative cruisers can get with Happy Hour.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coecles Harbor on Shelter Island

Come here. There is a tiny little entrance that used to be very scary and the current rips. In a few spots you will see 6 1/2 feet near high tide. Once you are inside, hang a left to the anchorage, which can hold many, many boats, or turn right to pick up a mooring if you intend to eat at the Ram's Head Inn. Peter describes the food there as "Hungarian" (which is meant to be perjorative, although that is his ancestry). From my memory, the food is very good in a romantic setting.

Coecles is lovely, particularly during the week. Except for the random jellyfish, swimming is excellent. Sneak your dink off at the Ram's Head landing and walk across the road to the small beach where you can harvest very pretty scallop (perhaps cockle?) shells. A channel with 6 feet at low tide will take you into the Marina, which we understand will let you take on water and use their very clean laundromat, gratis.

Or, you have a fairly long dink ride from the anchorage, landing your dink at the marina, for a nice walk into town. Very good market and excellent gourmet pizza.

It is advertised that you can only anchor here for 48 hours. We were here for 3 nights and did not see anyone policing the anchorage. We enjoyed cocktails with Claire and Paul on Our Turn and Barb and Mike on Elan, along with Linda and Rick on Sojourner.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Block Island, Always Room for One More

We had a four hour motor from Newport to Block Island, one of my favorite haunts. When we had planned to retire, I had always thought we should start our future relaxed life by anchoring out here for a month. Well, a lightning strike got in the way of that plan, and this is actually the first time we have been back since we began our cruising life.

Arriving at 2:00 on a Friday afternoon, we found very little room to anchor. There are a few 50 foot deep spots in the anchorage that are surrounded by 30 feet of water, so it can be tempting. But it seems you can never get enough scope out to be comfortable. We found our friends on Sojourner who welcomed us to anchor almost on top of them, but we eventually found a decent spot and had to set the anchor 3 times before it would hold. Not a secure feeling. We proceeded to watch about 30 or more so boats over the evening come in and force their resting spot. It is crazy. Fortunately winds did not exceed 10 knots or change direction during our stay. So if you can avoid it, don't come here and expect an easy time of it on the weekend. The moorings get snatched up very early in the morning.

There are many great things about Block. It still resembles the working man's Martha's Vineyard, and I like that. The $5 cab ride that will take you anywhere on Block is now $11, but you can walk it if you have good legs and stamina. Scooters and bikes are available for rental, and you should do it at least once. Some highlights:
1. good, reasonable shopping for unusual gifts.
2. very cool bar, The Oar, with $2 drafts.
3. a couple of decent and expensive inns for fancy dinners.
4. a seafood market where you can buy culls, lobsters that may have given up a claw in a fight, sold at a discount.
5. Block Island corn on the cob (After 25 years of coming here, I found out that this very fresh and unusual corn sold in green mesh bags tumbling out of apple baskets is not actually from Block. Disappointing.)
6. Everything Aldo. In addition to owning most of the town's retail establishments, Aldo has an on-water bakery. A skiff scouts the mooring and anchorage field twice a day, selling bad baked goods. But it is worth it just for the fun.
7. Frozen Del's Lemonade.
8. Farmer's Market on Saturday.

We joined Linda and Rick on Sojourner for cocktails, requesting permission to invite our anchored neighbors Barb and Mike on Elan (SSCA commodores), and meeting Dave and Laura on Jack Rabbit, anchored next to Sojourner and interesting in buying a 44 Hylas. We gave them an extensive tour of First Edition.

I will now remember Block as the first place I took my first Actonel, resulting in incredible heart burn (complicated by the 3 Margaritas consumed the evening prior), and today, my methotrexate. Age does not become me.

I hope some day to get my granddaughter here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


We spent 9 days at anchor at Newport, with a visit from Beth and Charley, a car ride to Boston to visit friends Chuck and Kristin, and an emergency appointment to my rheumotologist in NJ. After that visit I am now fully recharged on nasty drugs but able to walk and get on and off the dinghy, and finally ready to accept a new life on a cancer drug, sans alcohol.

We had great weather for Beth and we introduced her to two of our favorite watering holes, The Black Pearl (for excellent chili) and The Clarke Cooke House ($15 cosmo's and very fine cuisine). If you visit Newport, save your sheckles, bring some nice clothes, and visit this restaurant. It is nothing but awesome. We also toured The Vanderbilt Mansion, (note Charley sprinkling the lawn)and the next day Peter and Beth and Charley toured Newport's synagogue, the oldest standing in the US.

Parking in Newport is ridiculous, but we found the world's best bargain. If you buy an all day bus ticket (which we rode to the mansion), get a receipt from the driver and present it to the parking attendant at the Visitor's Center. Instead of paying $40 a day, you will pay $2. You can buy fresh seafood on the dock, but will have a very long walk (consider a cab) to groceries. (You can also buy an acceptable imitation of an Awful, Awful, a NJ extra thick milkshake that was the concoction of Grunings, a small restaurant chain since closed.) JT Chandlery, a former favorite, has closed.

We rented a car to go to see Chuck and Kristin in Boston to consume a bottle of Dom and 25 year old Macallan, both retirement gifts to Peter that we have been lugging around for this very purpose. Driving to Boston is worse than any place we know, perhaps with the exception of the Dominican Republic.

From Newport, we head to Block Island, my former favorite destination that on last visit was a tourist trap. We'll see.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dutch Island Harbor

We had a foggy ride up to the Narragansett Bay, with visibility about two miles so none of the drama from the day prior's trip. We decided to take the East Passage to anchor out at Dutch Island Harbor before travelling to Newport. We picked a spot outside of the mooring field and took a walk into town to do some provisioning. There is a public dock where you can land your dink.

This walk seems like more than a 1/2 mile that the guide books say it is, but hey, that may just be me. The market is great and there is a laundromat next door.


I get it now. This disease hurts. Over the last several days I have discovered what all those people were whining about on the RA chat sites: constant pain that moves from one joint to another, improving in one, starting anew somewhere else. Each morning I open my eyes, afraid to move, because I never know what won't. I cannot walk without a limp because of my knee. And, I cannot walk at all for long distances.

I am one of them now. A whiner. OK, I got that off of my chest.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Duck Island Roads to West Harbor on Fishers Island

We had a pleasant ride to Duck Island Road on the Connecticut side where we anchored for the evening. This is a place to park as you are passing through; it looks like you can walk a dog on the island but that would be the only reason to leave the boat. The holding here is good, and there were about 20 boats at anchor with lots of room for more. The next morning we had hoped to skip out early to get to Point Judith Harbor of Refuge, a good 45 miles or so. We awoke at 6 am to pea soup. (You might be able to see the boat anchored right next to us if your look closely at the picture above.) After waiting for about 4 hours, we decided things were improving and it appeared the sun was about to burn the fog off.

Well, that didn't happen. We do have radar, but the day prior it decided to turn itself off and we got an error reading "no data source". Once we got into port we "rebooted" the chartplotter and all was well. I don't like random things like this happening. There is usually a reason. So, all day I waited for it to go on strike again. That didn't happen either.

As we approached Fishers Island, the fog began to break up. This picture is actually the mast of a sailboat underway very close to us as we approached the anchorage.

Fishers Island is very private and hoity toity. We landed the dink at the head of the harbor and walked into town (take a right for the short walk)to pick up a few items at the market. Very nice and very pricey. At least for cruisers.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sweet Revenge at Port Jefferson

Yesterday we had a pleasant motor from Manhasset to Port Jeff, and were shocked upon arrival to see hundreds of boats on moorings and at anchor behind Old Field Point. As we were hunting around for a spot, a sailboat pulled out and we began the process of setting Buster down, only to notice the power boat in front of us also moving, generating significant space for us. So, we motored a little closer to our chosen destination for the evening, only to see a sailboat named Grace but lacking same whipping through the mooring field, hell bent for leather, with an eye to our spot. He quickly dropped anchor, and after demonstrating to us that he was not holding, dragging all around, shut down the engine and claimed the territory regardless. We anchored behind him, knowing that the wind shift on the way would put us out of harm's way with him.

The next morning I awoke to prednisone withdrawal (gastro-intestinal consequences if you must know), and spent a lot of time in the cockpit doing nothing but watching the rainstorm, running to the head, and eventually, watching Grace try various methods to get herself off-aground. You may be able to note the tilt in this picture. Nothing worked other than waiting for the change of the tide, proving there is justice in the world.