Sunday, June 25, 2017

Location Map April 13 to June 24, 2017

St. Augustine, Florida to Bristol, Rhode Island and on our way to Maine.

Blithewold Mansion and Garden

Yesterday morning it poured rain, but by noon it was breaking up, and after lunch we decided to walk to Blithewold to visit the mansion and gardens. We had a pleasant stroll down High Street with views like this and many cheery "Hellos" from the locals. The town is getting ready for the Fourth of July, which is a BIG deal here, and flags and bunting are everywhere.

The English manor style of this 45-room mansion certainly appealed to us and we found some of the same details we had used in our little English cottage.

This is the back of the house. The view down across the lawn and out to the river is gorgeous, and the cool breezes coming into the house are magical. We sat on the back porch a while just enjoyed the cool air after our walk through the gardens. Thirty three acres is a lot of ground to cover.
That dogwood tree on the left was absolutely covered with flowers. What a sight!

A view toward the well.
The sunken garden near the living room.

On the way to the vegetable garden.
This 90' tall Giant Sequoia is only 106 years old.

I wash my blog had smellovision so I could share the scent of this gardenia with you. It was heavenly.
The vegetable garden had a few blueberry plants,
lots of lettuce, tomatoes, peas, and herbs.

The water garden had not only water lilies, but lots of frogs to serenade us.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Herreshoff Marine Museum

Our primary goal in stopping at Bristol, Rhode Island was to visit the Herreshoff Marine Museum. Within an hour and a half of taking a mooring we had eaten lunch, showered, and called for the launch. Even in these blustery conditions Mike, the launch pilot, did a great job coming alongside and whisking us safely to shore.

The museum celebrates the genius of the Herreshoff family's yacht building history, and the quest for the Americas Cup.

There are plenty of actual old Herreshoff yachts on display; some you can even board.

The traditional paneled cabins are gorgeous, but the galleys were a bit sparse. And they were positioned up forward where the motion had to be rough!

Being an old sign painter, I had to admire the perfect execution of this gold leaf name on Thania. But what else would you expect in Bristol?

Radar Exercise

After a pleasant four hour sail from Block Island yesterday, we anchored in Dutch Harbor near Jamestown. This morning we awoke to fog, but it gradually lifted as we drank coffee and ate breakfast. By the time we were ready to go at 9:30, there was no fog, but being in these potentially foggy New England waters, we thought we should brush up on our radar skills.

I know we're supposed to have our radar on while underway, but mostly we don't. So we cranked it up, did a split screen, and tuned it for gain. Then I stayed at the nav station and told the Captain about potential targets. In these fog free conditions, we were able to visually confirm all targets and boost our confidence for this foggy area.

Above you see a target circled in pink on both screens, and below
you see the actual target (a little lighthouse) beyond the bridge. Our exercise worked on several boats and channel markers too.

And now we are in Bristol, Rhode Island on a mooring. We took a mooring because it's breezy, and the harbor is large, and our dinghy is wet in these conditions. With a mooring, you get free launch rides to shore.

It's times like this that I'm glad we don't have an anemometer; but it's blowing at least 20 kts because the wind is howling in the rigging, the boat is bucking like a wild bronco, and the water is whooshing through the bow thruster making an awful racket down below.

From no wind and fog to over 20 kts in the mooring field. Ain't cruising great?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Block Island

Only thirteen miles south of its parent state of Rhode Island, Block Island is a world away. This small fishing island was transformed into a summer playground when the use of steam ships made the passage quick and easy. In the late 1800s hotels and resorts sprouted up, and summer homes were built. And the rest is history.

The winter population is about 1000 hardy souls; the summer population sometimes swells to 20,000! Things like the Trysail Sailing Club's Race Week (happening now) contribute to that, but day trippers add up too.
Despite all this the island retains a slow pace and charming views abound. The old buildings are beautiful and fronted with blooming flowers. And the rolling land is covered with wild roses and honeysuckle, so it even smells pretty.

However, with the ferry boats disgorging hundreds of passengers every hour, it gets a little crazy in town. There are literally thousands of bicycles to rent and biking the seven mile long island is an easy and popular pastime. 

Fishing is still done here; both day charters and commercial lobstering. We spent some time inspecting these lobster traps. It's good to know exactly what you're dodging.
Block Island used to use diesel powered generators for its energy, but recently five wind generators were erected at a cost of $300 million. And now the wind farm is another tourist attraction! Not only good for the environment, but good for the island's income.

You can read more about it here:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fishers Island, The Race, and Block Island

Having left Old Lyme in the afternoon, we wanted to find a nearby anchorage for the night, so we chose Fishers Island.

We had a pleasant 20 nm sail there, and got the anchor down around 6:30pm. After dinner we calculated the current for the next leg of our trip.

There is a narrow, shallow opening between the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound called "The Race". It has a well deserved reputation for strong currents and steep waves. This happens not only because of the tidal action, but also because there is a ridge along the seafloor that causes upwelling right at the narrowest section.

We determined that slack water would be at 9:45, and then the current would be ebbing, so we left the anchorage about 9:00 and motored out. The conditions were perfect with calm seas and almost no wind. The Race is a hot spot for catching striped bass, so there were lots of fishing boats out there too.

At 9:45 we easily motored across in very calm conditions. It was almost a non-event.

Eventually the wind filled in and we had a pleasant sail to Block Island. As we got closer to the island it was obvious that a race was starting near the harbor entrance. I'd heard that it was race week here because our sailmaker, Pete McCormick, posted about it on Facebook. Luckily, by the time we approached the channel, the boats had headed off to their marks.

You can read more about the race here.

We put the sails away and motored into the insanity that is Block Island. It's hard to explain exactly what goes on here, but hundreds of boats, high winds, and poor holding cause lots of boats to drag. Throw in some fog, impatient summer boaters, and the sheer popularity of the place, and it gets even crazier. And this week, of couse, there are even more boats and people because of the race. Gotta love Block Island.

We plan to go into town tomorrow morning when the wind is lighter. Good night from Block Island.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Drive Saver Replaced

In our last post we told you about being towed into the Connecticut River. We are happy to report that the Drive Saver has been replaced!

After telling the tech the age (we figure 27 years) of our Drive Saver he was amazed that it had lasted that long. He told us they should be changed every 10 years.

So we got the new one ordered early Monday morning, spent the day being tourists with the crew of BentaƱa, and made a run to Walmart. (Don't judge, cruisers can find nearly everything they need at Walmart.)

The part arrived around noon today, the Captain installed it, we had lunch, and got on our way to Fishers Island. We should arrive about 6pm.

Technical stuff: We have a Hurth transmission with a V-drive, and the Drive Saver is part #404 A. Below is the 27 year old part.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Essex Gam

About a week ago we realized how close we were to Essex, Ct, so we decided to attend the Seven Seas Cruising Association's Essex Gam. I called and let them know we'd  arriving Friday afternoon, and early Friday morning we left Milford, Ct. confident that we'd arrive in time for the Friday Night cocktail party.

Unfortunately about 9:30am we heard a bang and engine reved up a tiny bit.  We hadn't hit anything, and we hadn't gotten tangled up with a lobster pot buoy, so what could it be? The Captain quickly opened the engine compartment and saw that the rubber drive shaft dampner had broken.

This rubber donut helps to dampen vibration from the propeller and shaft and also serves as a sacrificial link between the propeller and the engine. If you get tangled in a line, or strike something with the prop, this rubber thing will break before you damage your transmission or engine. But now we were beating into the wind, so it would take a lot longer to get to Essex.

We don't have an unlimited towing policy, so we just kept sailing and by 4pm we were about even with the end of Long Sand Shoal, so I finally called Tow Boat US and Tim came out to get us. The whole thing was super easy and totally stress-free, but this is NOT how we intended to arrive at the Connecticut River!

Tim took us to a mooring at the Old Lyme Marina that I had arranged over the phone. This yard is very familiar with sailboats, and Aldens in particular, so we felt comfortable going here. Funny thing is, when we were looking for boats in April of 2013, we came to this very marina and looked at "Pilgrim", another Alden 44, but ended up buying our Alden 44 in California.

Needless to say, we didn't make it to the cocktail party, but early Saturday morning we drove our dinghy two miles upriver to the Essex Yacht Club and joined the gam.

We thoroughly enjoyed the seminars and camaraderie at the gam. Of particular note was the weather guru, Chris Parker, who gave two educational talks on weather. And the demonstration on liferaft deployment was fun.

The Captain particularly enjoyed talking with Leutenant Michelle, a USCG helicopter pilot with only 600 hours, but SIX successful rescues. (Pilots always find lots to talk about.) And we both enjoyed meeting all the other SSCA members. We had a great weekend and we'll work on the mechanical issue tomorrow.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Three States, Hell Gate, and Seven Bridges

After consulting the cruising guide and calculating the current through the East River, we determined that the time to get going this morning would be 8:30. So we had breakfast in New Jersey and got underway at 8:20, promising Lady Liberty we'd see her again in a few months.
We entered the East River at 8:45 and gawked at all the tall buildings while maneuvering around the heavy ferry traffic.
The first bridge we went under was the famous old Brooklyn Bridge. We would eventually go under six more bridges before entering Long Island Sound.
By the time we got to the narrowest part of the river, we were doing 9 kts and the ferry traffic had abated. Now we only had to deal with the infamous Hell Gate; that swirly area where the Harlem River joins the East River. The swift current sometimes causes breaking waves in here, but it actually wasn't so bad!

The rest of the trip was very nice and relaxing. We had lunch in New York as we sailed past Greenwich.

Our afternoon was a straight run up to Milford where we anchored for the night, so we are having dinner in Connecticut.

Three states, Hell Gate, and seven bridges; it was quite day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cruising Guides

After our post about the C&D Canal, a reader asked us, "How do you find these places?" The answer is: Cruising Guides!

Cruising guidebooks instantly give you "local knowledge" of an area by providing routes, suggested anchorages, marinas, restaurants, and things to see on shore. They have mileage charts for route planning, charlets to clarify confusing harbors, lists of amenities and phone numbers of marinas, and advice on tides and currents.

These large spiral bound books are available through marine supply stores, book stores, Amazon, and other places. The retail cost is usually $40 to $60. I have purchased only two of them in all our travels because I find them for free at cruiser's book exchanges; you know, those stacks of books, usually in laundry rooms, where well-read paperbacks have been left for sharing.

I found two ICW guides in Florida just before we headed north. I found a set of Chesapeake charts in Norfolk and a Chesapeake guide in Drayden. And when I'm done with them I will put them back in some cruiser's book exchange for the next person to use for free.

This Sea of Cortez guide is one I won't be giving away. The quality is far superior to the others, there are no ads, and who knows, we just may go back there again some time.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cape May, New Jersey

From this morning's sunrise, to the locals we've met, to the charming Victorian homes in town, we have found Cape May to be quite colorful.
This little town has a quaint, laid back quality to it that makes it really easy to like. Most of the houses are surrounded by flowers, the porches sport wicker furniture for lounging, bicycles and pedestrians are everywhere, and the fresh sea breeze keeps it all cool.
We had no idea how cute Cape May is and we'll definitely have to come back this way some time.