Newport or Bust!
After being waylaid in Nantucket for an extra day due to fog and drizzle, we were ready to move on. Our ultimate goal was to get to Newport, but that would be a 60+ mile day. What’s the hurry? We need to enjoy our time in these parts. We chose to do a 30 mile hop over to Martha’s Vineyard which meant we didn’t have to leave at the crack of dawn. Good thing, because at the crack of dawn it was foggy again, but the forecast promised that it would burn off quickly. Happily, it did (we thought) and we set off. The series of pictures below shows the progression of the trip: clear passing the light at the exit of Nantucket Harbor, then some fog, then pretty limited visibility for quite a while! We have radar and that’s exactly what it’s for. We saw lots of fog last summer in Maine and, compared to that, this was child’s play. We’ve been unbelievably blessed with great weather for just about this whole month. The last picture is the bright sun shining on the lighthouse at the entrance to Edgartown Harbor on Martha’s Vineyard. We figured we’d stay for a couple of days before marching on to Newport.
Not much to say about our stay there. We arrived in the early afternoon, anchored, hopped off the boat and went into town. When we were in Edgartown last summer it was July, hot and crowded. We were looking forward to giving it another chance post-Labor Day. And this was the Tuesday after Labor Day. The weather was pleasant, the crowds were gone . . . this looked promising. And then we discovered that everybody who works on the island was burnt out. Okay, we’re familiar with seasonal business and end of season burn out from the years in Atlantic City, but even if you FEEL that way, a professional tries not to show it. Yeah, right. Servers and bartenders everywhere had no desire left to be kind to tourists. They were just done . . . and so were we. So instead of sticking around for another day of indifference, we decided to move on up the sound to wonderful Newport. Boaters’ paradise. Nautical Mecca. But first we had to get there.
So it should have been a sweet ride up the sound. The forecast was for quite a bit of wind, and that there was, and not downwind. What does all of that mean? We got slapped around a bit that day! If you’re not familiar with the term “fetch” (not as in what you say to Fido) it means, “a) an area where ocean waves are being generated by the wind; b) the length of such an area. There was a fair sized fetch meaning fair sized seas. Interesting that fetch rhymes with “retch.” Happily, we did not, but it crossed my mind once or twice. We could have bailed and stopped at a closer location, but we really wanted to end up in Newport and so resisted the urge. About six grueling hours later, we were in Newport. In my head I rate the comfort level of days as to “how would family members like being on the boat today?” As I told one of my sisters, NO ONE would have liked being on the boat that day. But . . . we were there, safe and exhausted.
Last year we were in Newport over Labor Day Weekend and in not such great weather – and still loved the place. We also got wise to the good anchorage there. Now we were going to see Newport in all its glory. Newport is a good sized town and there are blocks and blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and pubs. There are museums and historic mansions. There’s tons to see and do. Go there if you ever have a chance.
Day 1 – Walked and walked and walked. Frank had a mission: we had determined an appropriate belated birthday present for me: a GoPro camera. Online, he had scoped out local retailers and we were going shopping. Long story short, after many miles and three stores, we finally got the camera and necessary accessories. A new toy! Scouted out the Midtown Oyster Bar for lunch and met Timmy, our MVP bartender for this trip. It would not be our last visit to Timmy.
Day 2 – Laundry Day and “time alone” day. Yes, we all need to have a little time alone, so Newport provides the perfect opportunity for us to go our separate ways for a while. I was stationed in the Boater’s Lounge laundry (GREAT facility for cruisers) with the plan to go actually walk IN some shops while the clothes were spinning around. Frank’s plan was to rent a scooter and see some other parts of town. Earlier he had asked me if I wanted to tour with him on the scooter. I pretty quickly answered a resounding no! I confess, I’m not a fan of open road two-wheel transportation. I did ride on a motorcycle with him a couple of times and lived to tell about it, but I was pretty much praying to come back in one piece the whole time I was riding. Yeah, I’m a chicken. Cut me some slack, I’m living on a boat, okay? So back to Newport – an hour after we’ve split up, Frank calls me and says, “I’m riding this scooter around and this is a GREAT way to see the place – it’s beautiful! Do you want me to come back and get you? You really gotta see this.” How nice was that? So I grabbed the last articles out of the dryers, we threw the finished laundry in the dinghy and off we went. I got over my nervousness pretty quickly and he was right . . . it was spectacular. And I managed to talk Frank into stopping for a tour of one of the mansions. A mansion tour is “something you should do” while you’re in Newport – at least that’s what people have told us. Ours was a self-guided tour that should take about an hour. Yup – we did it in 28 minutes.
It so happened that the scooter rental place was right beside the Oyster Bar, so of course we had to stop and visit with Timmy. It would be rude not to.
Day 3: Woke up to a foggy day in Newport. We weren’t going anywhere so we didn’t care, but there were a number of regattas planned for the day. It cleared up enough to watch some stunning boats go by on their way to compete. We went in to town and THIS time, we went our separate ways for a while. I did girl things like go in shops and look at clothes and flip flops and then went to the International Yacht Restoration School. We visited there last year and I wanted to see what progress they had made on restoring the 151 foot “Coronet” – the oldest wooden yacht still even a little bit in existence. It is being rebuilt/restored at the school – a project that will go on for years and years.
Frank went to boat yards. A couple of hours later, we met back up at – uhm, er – the Oyster Bar to hang out with Timmy on our last day in town. Yes, we’re in a rut considering how many cool places there are in Newport to explore. But the Oyster Bar was just that good.
Newport is way up on our list of favorite stops. Great town! And if you go there, please say hello to Timmy.
Summering in the Sounds – Part 2 – Hyannis and Nantucket
Our next stop was Hyannis, Massachussetts. Yup, THAT Hyannis. Home turf of the Kennedy family. The Kennedy compound. THAT Hyannis. It hadn’t even occurred to us to go there until some friends in this area said, “Oh, you should stop at Hyannis. It’s lovely!”
Well, why not?
So to Hyannis we went. It was a nice day trip from Cuttyhunk. I had lots of nice details about the trip when I started this post – except somehow the draft of this post evaporated into the blogosphere and I don’t think I can recreate it . . . so let’s just get to Hyannis itself, shall we?
We got a non-resident membership to the Eastport Yacht Club in Annapolis that has paid us back in so many ways in reciprocal privileges at other yacht clubs along the way, and Hyannis was one of those. We reserved a mooring ball at the Hyannis Yacht Club. I must confess, I was a little intimidated walking into the club to check in . . . it’s Hyannis for crying out loud. What we found was a very pleasant, welcoming place. A nice young man checked us in and then gave us a tour of the club. We enjoyed the facilities while we were there very much. Here’s what we discovered about Hyannis: there are the very high priced neighborhoods, yes, but when you walk into town, it looks like any fun, shore town you would find up and down the coast. It has tour boat companies hawking their trips. It has ice cream and tee-shirt shops. It was a classic shore town in the summer. We enjoyed walking around and quickly immersed ourselves in the Kennedy history so prevalent in the area. We visited the Kennedy memorial and the Kennedy Museum. Frank is currently on his second book about the Kennedy family dynasty and their rise to power. The museum was relatively small but had a great collection of family photos.
That night we celebrated my birthday at the Hyannis Yacht Club restaurant. We had a table overlooking the harbor. What a cool place have to have a special dinner.
The next day Frank was determined to see the Kennedy Compound. We had a rough idea of where it was, but weren’t sure exactly how far it was. Well, we started walking and more than two miles later, we found it! There isn’t one house that makes it impressive; don’t get me wrong – the “main” house is pretty big and sits right on the water. What is impressive is that, over time, they bought houses for the children and grandchildren, so there is now a COLLECTION of houses on many acres of land sitting right on a point in Hyannis, thus the term “compound.” Once we achieved our goal of personally eyeballing the compound, we started the long hike back on the warm, sunny day. If you’re out cruising, we recommend Hyannis. Cool spot.
Our next stop was a place on my personal “Bucket List.” For a very long time, I have wanted to go to Nantucket. It was on my list last year and we didn’t quite make it. Matter of fact, Frank heard about the fact that we skipped Nantucket for the whole rest of the year. I had two places on my “must see’ list and Nantucket was one of them. And we missed it. He had a mild interest in going to Nantucket last year, but this year he had a MAJOR interest in going just to shut me up!! Guess what? It ended up being on of his favorite stops yet. (Is it rude to say I told you so?)
We found ourselves there over Labor Day weekend. Although it was busy, it still was nowhere near the crowded feeling that you get in Ocean City, NJ during Labor Day weekend! What an amazingly beautiful place with an interesting history. High end? Upper crust? Expensive? Well . . . yes, it is those things. But beyond that, it is gorgeous and charming and interesting. Plus, it’s an island. Anywhere that you have to take a boat or a plane to get to is of great interest to me.
Here are a couple of tidbits about Nantucket and its history:
– It is slightly less than 50 square miles and it’s nickname is “Little Gray Lady of the Sea,” describing how the island appears from the ocean when shrouded in fog.
– The year yound population is about 10,000 which grows to 50,000 during the summer months.
– Native Americans first inhabited the island, and other native Americans would come visit the island seasonally. They had the idea of summering in Nantucket first.
– Europeans started showing up in the mid 1600s.
– Whaling became the major industry from the late 1600s to the mid 1800s and the island flourished.
– In 1846, when whaling was already in decline, Nantucket had “The Great Fire of 1846.” This left many residents homeless and really brought the first golden era of Nantucket to an end. Many people moved away from the island and it was a struggling settlement for the next 100 years.
– In the 1950s, several mainland developers started thinking, “Hey – there are a bunch of pre-Civil war structures sitting on this island pretty well untouched. Let’s buy up the property on the island, restore the old buidlings, build some new places that look old, make it seem exclusive and entice people from the mainland with means to build summer homes here.” Lo and behold, it worked and now Nantucket is a getaway for many people including a number of celebrities.
There is an endless stream of fast ferries that bring tourists to the island from surrounding areas. The downtown area close to the harbor is really quite large with many blocks of cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks with beautiful shops and galleries and restaurants and inns one after another. We enjoyed walking and walking through the town. We also went to a highly recommended place: the Cisco Brewery. Yes, Nantucket brews it’s own beer. At the brewery, they have an open air facility where you can enjoy their products, munch on samplings from a variety of food trucks and listen to some great live music. We enjoyed the brewery scene one afternoon and heard some good bluegrass.
Although we had planned to rent bikes to explore the island on the many bike trails it offers, we decided to use my Hertz points to rent a car to explore instead. We were thrilled to be offered a free upgrade to a convertible! For a whopping $8 plus gas, we toured the whole island in a Mustang convertible. Excellent! It was nice to see some of the outlying neighborhoods and to view the many beaches. What an amazingly beautiful place. It really does feel like you’ve landed in Ireland or Scotland. Here are some of the sights and scenes we captured . . .
We had planned to leave on Monday of the holiday weekend, but when we woke up that morning, the weather was quite dismal and wet. We COULD have left, but neither one of us was inspired to face that weather out in the sound, so we chose not to. Now, you’ve probably all heard the refernce to the limerick, “There once was a man in Nantucket . . . ” right? It is a ribald rhyme to say the least, or at least one version of it is. We report in to a Ham radio net most mornings to report our location or float plan. The net controller that day is a man who we have become friendly with who helped with the installation of the single side band radio on the boat. When Frank reported our postion that morning, he responded by saying, “There once was a man from Nantucket . . . ” which made me laugh a lot since he is usually pretty business-like on the radio. I couldn’t help myself but to send him an email later, with my own spin on the rhyme, to inform him that we had chosen not to leave. It went:
“There once was a man in Nantucket
Checked the current and thought he would buck it.
When it came time to go
There was rain and some blow,
So he and his mate said, “Ah f*&% it!”
Moral of the story, we stayed in Nantucket an extra day. By mid-afternoon, it had cleared and was gorgeous for another day of exploring the town.
Tuesday arrived and we really couldn’t postpone leaving any more. You can go bankrupt staying in Nantucket for any extended period of time, but gosh it’s pretty!
So we said a relucatant goodbye to one of our new favorite places and moved on up the sound in search of our next stop, Newport, RI.
SHORT STORY: Ems’ Excellent Day – The Transformation of a Mountain Girl
I grew up in West Virginia. Not a lot of sailing there. But we did live a block from the Kanawha River and I learned early on that I felt more settled sitting by the flowing water watching the barges go by. I rode my bike along the banks of the river for countless hours growing up. I suppose I was more drawn to the water than I recognized.
By 2006, my sailing experience was limited to a couple of day sails. In a “previous life,” my in-laws had a sailboat that they kept not far from where we lived in Ocean City, NJ. On those rare occasions that we would go out, it consisted of my father-in-law yelling orders at my husband in an exasperated tone. And every time a nice puff of wind would fill the sails and the boat would start to really sail and, therefore, heel just a bit, my mother-in-law would panic and scream “Make it stop!! Make it stop!” And before the day was done my husband would toss his cookies. So my sailing experience was pretty limited and unenjoyable.
When Frank and I began seeing each other, he suggested our first major vacation should be chartering a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands – just the two of us. Talk about taking some seriously inexperienced crew!! It was a running joke that he was a water boy and I was mountain girl. And yet, that first vacation together was the clincher for me – in spite of the rough conditions we hit on that trip, I was hooked on sailing.
The first time I laid eyes on Annapolis was when I went there for my first sailing class – without Frank. As we started talking about making sailing a more serious part of our life, he needed me to know for sure that I loved it because I loved it, not because HE loved it. He needed to feel confident that I would consider moving onto a sailboat with him because I wanted to as much as he did. He was quite wise in asserting that, if I went cruising with him for an extended period of time without being there for myself, I would end up hating it and resenting him. That was some pretty smart thinking. What we didn’t know was that he was creating a monster. I think a good monster, but I just haven’t been able to get enough of this learning to be a good sailor stuff.
Fast forward to this spring. We have 4000+ miles under our belts. I’ve taken my fair share of shifts at the helm every day that we’re out. I’ve done hours overnight while he’s slept. I’ve been at this for a while now. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I don’t feel that I’m about to lose my lunch when I know I’m going to be docking the boat. I even started having the occasional dream where I’m taking the boat out by myself. I’m not looking to push him overboard or anything so don’t read too much into that statement. I’m just enjoying feeling more capable all the time. So last month when we planned to take the boat in for a bottom paint job, we had to plan the logistics of taking the boat to the marina. The place was about a 30 minute car ride from our slip in Annapolis but about a 2.5 hour boat trip down the bay to the West River. Just like when you take your car in for service, you have to figure out the logistics of dropping it off, right? So when I asked Frank how we were going to manage this, he said, “Well, you push me off of the dock (in the boat) and I’ll drive the boat over alone and you drive the car over and meet me.” So just to be funny (sort of) I said, “How about if you push ME off of the dock and I’ll take the boat over.” And to my surprise he said, “Okay.” I wasn’t quite expecting that! Later that night I brought it up again. He said he was in full support if I wanted to take the boat, but we talked through whether I was really ready for a solo trip. The plan we ended up with was a better one – still a big step for me, but a smarter one. Frank would take the boat over, but I would bring it back. For me to try to dock by myself at a marina I knew nothing about and had never seen didn’t seem to make the most sense for my maiden solo trip; HOWEVER, pulling the boat OUT of that marina, going the 2.5 hours back up the bay and into Back Creek and into the slip I’m familiar with by myself . . . now that seemed more plausible.
STILL . . . it was a plan for me to drive the boat alone!! Gulp! I was pretty excited over the prospect and Frank was excited for me and very encouraging of it. (I think some of our friends were shocked that he’d let me out of his sight in our precious Eleanor Q!) He had complete confidence. We planned this for weeks! As the day approached, I’d wake up thinking about it, sometimes in a bit of a cold sweat. But there was no turning back now. Come on – what’s the big deal. I was going to motor, not sail. I’ve been behind the wheel for that trip before when we had visited the West River. I’ve navigated up the bay from various points many times. I had docked the boat the last three times that we came in without incident and without coaching. There wasn’t ANYTHING in that day that I hadn’t done before . . . I just hadn’t done it without Frank standing there.
So the day came. We got up and left New Jersey, drove the three hours to Annapolis area and went to the marina where the boat was waiting in a slip for us. It was a large slip with lots of space behind it. I could quickly see that backing out of it would be no problem. So we readied the boat, took most of the lines off, talked about a couple of logistics, and Frank threw off the last line and waved goodbye to me! And started taking pictures of my big day.
And so, Ems’ excellent day began. There were just enough challenges to make it interesting, but nothing to make it too unnerving . . . the weather was calm and beautiful, I had a route on the chart plotter to follow, I was aware of the tanker coming up the bay and kept an eye on his progress on the AIS to know how to stay out of his way. There were enough other boats out that day to navigate around. It was Friday afternoon in the summer in Annapolis – there are going to be boats – but it was still early enough in the day that traffic was not too bad. I texted Frank quickly (and safely) to let him know when I was getting close. It was so strange not to have someone there to ask, “Hey, what do you think that boat over there is doing? Or, “Do I need to change course for that fishing boat?” No one there to bounce that stuff off of . . . just me to figure it out and deal with it.
I had put music on from the iPod during the trip, but I found myself replaying the same track over and over for the last ten minutes as I was about to pull into the dock . . . Three Little Birds . . . the soothing Reggae song that says, “Don’t worry .. “bout a thing . . . ’cause every little thing’s … gonna be alright.” I seriously just kept singing that over and over. I had docked before, but I had to get the boat very close to the port side finger pier and bring her pretty much to a dead stop so Frank could throw a line on. And that’s just what I did. Slipped her right in there pretty! (And for those who know our boat, I DID NOT use the bow thruster!)
To some life long nautical people, that trip probably sounds like a no-brainer day. To this mountain girl who remembers the moment we were shopping for the boat and I stepped behind the wheel and thought, “That looks like a really long way to the tip of the bow . . . how do you ever get comfortable handling this thing,” I know how far I’ve come. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. If I were a girl scout, I would have earned some kind of badge for the day.
How cool is it when we can still find moments in life that push us outside of our comfort zone and we can feel like we really did master something we never thought we could? This was a big step for me, and it wasn’t just in my dreams. A most excellent day, indeed.
Summering in the Sounds – A Sound Decision (Part 1)
Last summer we spent a good deal of our time in Maine. We loved Maine. We’re thrilled we went to Maine. We have good friends that went to Maine this summer and are having a ball. But last summer in Maine was like eternal spring or early fall. We were in long pants more than shorts. The weather was sketchy a good 40% of the time. Even the Mainers were saying it wasn’t the best of years from a weather perspective. Our strategy for this summer: focus more on New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
And so far it’s been a great strategy! Pure summer. Delightful warmth. Eternal sunshine. 78 every day, 62 every night (plus or minus or a few degrees). Seriously – I can’t remember experiencing a stretch of weather this consistently nice. If you live in California, you’re used to this. Those of us on the east coast – not so much.
We’ve hit some great locations in the last couple of weeks: Shelter Island, NY (a favorite), Block Island, RI (we gave it another chance), Cuttyhunk, MA, Hyannis, MA and Nantucket. We’ve traveled on the Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound, Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound. It’s been a “sound” decision to be sure. We’ll cover the first three in this post.
If you’ve been following this blog, you might remember that we cultivated a very nice friendship with another Gozzard in Shelter Island. (Well, the owners, not the boat itself.) We have stayed in touch with them and visited several times throughout the year. They welcomed us back to Shelter Island again, and we had a ball being together. Here’s some of the fun we had while we were there:
For those of you out there who might watch the Food Network from time to time, there is a show called, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I catch it on occasion. Last year I saw an episode, and Ina Garten – aka the Barefoot Contessa – shared that the best bolognese sauce she ever ate was from the Vine Street Cafe in Shelter Island. I read that they had a market where you could buy said sauce. So while we had the wheels, we went to the middle of the island to hunt. Sure enough – there was the Cafe – which was closed. BUT – there was a sign pointing around the back of the building to the Market. It was closed. BUT! There was, what appeared to be, one of the chefs walking by in his whites. He assured me that he could rustle someone up to open the market for us if we would pay by credit card and not cash. No problem!! And so, I got my hands on two containers of fresh bolognese sauce. I thought it was very tasty, indeed. I kind of forgot (or chose to for the moment) that Frank really doesn’t care for bolognese sauce no matter how good it is. So please don’t tell the chef at the cafe that I may be thinning out the second container of meat sauce with some extra tomatoes for Frank. Shhh. It’s just between us, okay?
Our last trip to Shelter Island included Frank joining our friend as crew in a Herreshoff doughdish race at the Yacht Club. The two of them won that race last season! Could they repeat??
After a year under our belt, I knew there were a few experiences that I missed out on last year that I didn’t want to let slip by this time around. One of those was on Shelter Island: I wanted to attend a concert at the performance tent at the Perlman Music Program. My fellow music geek friends from college will particularly appreciate this part as well as the other music geek friends I’ve made along the way. In 1993, Itzhak Perlman (world renowned violinist) and his wife, Toby, founded a program called “The Perlman Music Program.” It was initially a two-week summer camp in East Hampton, NY. Since then the program has expanded in time and reach, but its permanent home is a 28-acre property on Shelter Island. The goal is to offer unparalleled musical training to young string players of rare and special talent. It is led by a world-class faculty starting with Mr. Perlman himself. Their mission is to develop the future leaders of classical music within a nurturing and supportive community. Last year I missed the chance to see one of the concerts at the
camp. Not this year! I gave Frank the chance to do something on his own that evening, but he was interested in checking it out with me. And so we gathered in the “Performance Tent” that seats about 300 people. It is much more of a permanent tent-like structure that is somewhat open air, but permanent enough to support pieces that are necessary to have great acoustics. The camp had ended the week before – this concert was a thank you to the community of Shelter Island and was free to the public. And so, on a beautiful summer evening, we enjoyed 90 minutes of chamber music presented by a combination of students, faculty and alumni of the program. Mr. Perlman himself performed on two of the pieces. Special guest performers that evening were the accompanying cicadas and tree frogs. It was a very special evening. If you’re interested in learning more about the Perlman Music Program, go to http://www.perlmanmusicprogram.org.
After four great days, we reluctantly moved on to Block Island. Yeah, I kind of dissed Block Island last year. We were there close to 4th of July and it was crowded and noisy . . . and the weather wasn’t great . . . and we liked some things about it but didn’t feel the need to race back. But as the winds would have it, it really was the perfect location for our next stop along the way. So . . . we stopped again. This time we were smart and anchored instead of taking a mooring ball in the crowded field. The anchoring there is good and plentiful and it was quite delightful being on the edge of the mooring field. We only stayed one night, but enjoyed our afternoon taking a nice, long walk. The further away you get from the main harbor’s mayhem, the prettier the island gets. Block Island . . . you’re not so bad after all.
As we plotted our next stop, the winds and the currents had a big influence. We had thought we’d go straight to Martha’s Vineyard from Block Island, but alas, the timing of the currents was not in our favor. The current in Vineyard Sound can run around 2.5 knots against you . . . there is no point to do that to yourself. That’s going nowhere fast and it’s not much fun. So we adjusted our plan to head to Cuttyhunk – a stop we had made last year. It was a “middle of the pack” stop for us . . . . a beautiful place that is worth seeing once, but not a whole lot to come back to time after time. But the location was perfect. Here’s what made it perfect – we figured out that we could intersect with our buddies on Magnolia there!!! Excellent! They had set off for Maine this summer and were now on their return trip – and here was an opportunity for our paths to cross. We all arrived in the early afternoon and spent the day catching up, walking, eating, sipping and laughing. Good to be back together again!
We left Cuttyhunk the next morning to head to Hyannis. And once again, the day was warm and the night was chilly. And you know what the chilly nights in these parts means? It means that we’re sleeping “soundly.”