October 25, 2008
We had thoroughly enjoyed the visit from Martha, visiting Cape Cod, the islands, and Newport but now it was time to head further south (well, technically, it would be west at first). Before departing Newport on Saturday (Oct 18th) we wandered through the Seafood Festival being held at the wharf adjacent to ours. Despite the bitter north wind whistling between the buildings, the event was well attended with a good variety of fare available but overall it was small affair compared to the Shrimp Festival we had attended in Fernandina Beach in the spring. Still, it made a nice send-off from Newport.
We motored further north into Narragansett Bay, under the suspension bridge that had been visible from our marina slip and was so attractively lit at night, and eventually around the north end of Conanicut Island which separates the East and West Passages into the Bay. We could then sail downwind on just the jib to our anchorage on the west side of Conanicut Island, in the north end of the cove of Dutch Island Harbor. During our passage south from Boston, we had noticed that one of the shrouds (guy wires that support the mast) had begun to unravel from its top. This is not a good thing… especially when all the shrouds were new in March. At least this was one of three shrouds on the starboard side and only went half-way up the mast, and we had put our spare halyard (rope that runs over a pulley at the top of the mast and is used to hoist sails, etc.) in a supporting position. We had decided not to worry about it during Martha’s visit but were being careful not to put too much pressure on the sails. We initiated calls to find out what could be done about replacing the shroud, which we hoped would be covered by a warranty, and getting a gratis check of how all the others looked. In the meantime, we decided to try to limit ourselves to one sail at a time unless the wind was on the port side (in which case that shroud would have been relatively slack anyway.) As it turned out, over the next few days the winds were strong enough and in suitable directions that we were able to get good speeds sailing on just the jib most of the time.
We stayed in our anchorage for a couple of nights to get things on the boat back into two person mode (i.e., loading stuff back into the fore-cabin) and to wait out some particularly gusty north winds. On Monday, with a good north breeze we sailed south out of the Bay, around Point Judith, and about 30 miles west to Watch Hill, the westernmost town on the Rhode Island coast. After cautiously motoring along a narrow channel in the shallow bay between Stonington, CT and Watch Hill we had a lovely anchorage just on the north side of a sandy bar that separated us from the eastern end of Long Island Sound. The evening was actually very calm and we enjoyed listening to the waves rolling ashore on the other side of the sand bar.
We had discussed visiting Mystic, CT, specifically Mystic Seaport Museum, a simulated 19th century working port and sea-faring village with a variety of interesting boats including a tall ship and others being restored and preserved. However, our cruising guide was not encouraging about places to anchor that would be close enough to dinghy into town and the prices for marina slips were surprisingly high. We were also in the mood to keep going west and south so we decided to save Mystic for another trip. In the glassy conditions of Tuesday we motored 55 miles westwards, close to the north shore of Long Island Sound and anchored in "The Gulf" north of Charles Island and near Milford Harbor. As forecast, the north winds picked up again resulting in a rather noisy and bouncy night.
On our way north in July, we had sailed straight from Lewes, Delaware to Block Island, RI, on the ocean (south) side of Long Island. This time we were going to take the "inside passage" and stay in Long Island Sound until we passed through New York City on the East River. Having not been in Long Island Sound before, we were interested in the new potential ports of call and were slightly lulled into thinking that sea conditions would not get too bad. Thus, it was rather foolishly that we headed out on Wednesday morning with the dinghy still in tow, as it had been since Martha’s Vineyard. With north and NW winds of 20 – 25 knots and gusts up to 30 knots forecast, we set our sights on crossing the sound and getting to a sheltered anchorage in Oyster Bay on Long Island by early afternoon. We did reach our target but several hours later than expected…via a detour to Bridgeport, CT.
We were rather pleased with ourselves when we left our anchorage at Charles Island without having to start the engine. After hauling up the anchor, we were steadily blown out of "The Gulf" under "bare poles" (no sails) and then pulled out the jib for a swift ride down the Sound. The choppy waves were at least the forecast 2 – 4 ft height and there were frequent 30 knot gusts but we were making good progress and all seemed well until there was an odd noise from the stern and we looked back to see the dinghy still attached but upside-down. The good news was that the outboard motor was on its mount on Tregoning and not on the dinghy (of course, it might have weighed it down enough not to flip over but a submerged outboard is not a happy engine). Also the oars were well enough secured to the top of the dinghy tubes to survive being towed under the water. Remarkably, the only loss/damage was the wooden seat (needed for rowing) was gone by the time we turned the dinghy over. We apologize for leaving it in the Sound.
It was too rough and windy to deal with the dinghy in open water so we started the engine and prepared to head for the closest shelter. This was Bridgeport about 10 miles due north of us. It took a huge effort to furl up the jib and in doing so the jib sheets (lines) became tangled into a massive knot that took about 10 minutes to untie once we were sheltered. But we did get the jib in and slowly motored against the wind and waves into the shelter of Bridgeport harbor. In the lee of a large power plant we dropped an anchor and flipped the dinghy over, hoisted it up on deck, untangled the jib sheets, and secured the mainsail with extra sail-ties. We were thankful that loss of the seat was the worst damage from the event and that we had coped with everything all right but we could not quite believe that we had been stupid enough to try towing the dinghy under those conditions. Another lesson learned on the shake-down cruise!
From Bridgeport the crossing to Oyster Bay was fairly straightforward. We used just a partial jib and flew across the Sound. As we headed southwest, it was exciting to realize that one of the towers starting to appear on the western horizon was the unmistakable shape of the Empire State Building, a good 30 – 35 miles away.
We anchored in Oyster Bay Harbor and after studying the weather forecast and tidal currents in the East River decided that we would be staying there for several nights. This was our first visit to Long Island and the following day we relaunched the dinghy and motored it to the town dock from where we explored the small town. We took our bikes into town on Friday and rode out to the grocery store as well as mailing our absentee ballots. This was my first Presidential election and we wanted to be sure that our ballots arrived in plenty of time for election day.
Many of the large houses that we passed on our way into Oyster Bay were probably summer or weekend homes for New York City dwellers and the stores in town reflected this along with the change in appearance of pedestrians between Thursday and Friday. For example, we were told that Billy Joel has a house across the bay from where we were anchored. The citizens of Oyster Bay are particularly proud of their link to Theodore Roosevelt who had a house on the adjacent Sagamore Hill (now open to the public). There is the attractive waterside Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park with a "stone chronology" of his life (an annotated collection of stones and bricks from places in his life), a large statue of him on one of the main streets, and on Saturday was to be a parade to celebrate the 150 anniversary of his birth. We had hoped to go the to parade but, as forecast, strong winds and a threat of rain encouraged us to stay on the boat at the anchorage. Saturday night was predicted to be particularly wet and windy although with the wind from the south, it was at least warmer than it had been with the north winds. We planned to leave on Sunday, spend the night at the west end of the Sound and then go through the East River to stay on the Hudson River on Monday.