Reconnecting in Connecticut
We’ve made some really good friends along the way while cruising and a couple of them happen to be from Connecticut, so we were thrilled at the change to reconnect with our friends from Cutting Class and spend a little quality time around their neck of the woods. When we pulled into the anchorage in Stonington, Dan and Marcia were there to greet us as we pulled up to the dinghy dock, scooped us up and took us to their home in nearby Mystic for catching up, laundry and a yummy dinner. Apparently we have “reciprocal privileges” at their house! Stonington is a lovely area and we took a little walk around town after dinner before returning to Eleanor Q.
We said our goodbyes and got back on the boat thinking we would head to Newport the next day… but we have been in this area before and not spent much time. What was the big hurry? So in the morning, we changed our plans and decided to head right around the corner to Watch Hill and see what it was all about. Hey, if Taylor Swift bought a house there, then it had to be okay, right? Maybe we’d stop in and say hi to her during our stay. We mosied the 3 miles up a very winding and skinny inlet to Watch Hill. Although it was only three miles, somewhere in that short route we had crossed into Rhode Island. It took us half of the afternoon to figure that out… it was when I saw a t-shirt in a shop that said “Watch Hill, Rhode Island.” Duh. I said, “So, we crossed into Rhode Island today?” Frank said, “Guess so!” You know, Garmin Blue Charts doesn’t really show state lines!
Side note: one of the things that really does change as you go north… VHF radio etiquette. It starts in NJ – that’s where we heard the first F-bomb dropped at a fellow boater. It got progressively worse in NY and in CT – and approaching RI, it’s really a doozie. We heard an unbelievable exchange of name calling between a couple of captains – all on VHF 16, the emergency and hailing channel. Someone finally broke in and said, “There is no civility in New England any more.” The Coast Guard kept coming on reminding folks that it is a hailing and emergency channel only… but they don’t know who’s on the radio or where they are, so nothing they can do to enforce that – even the guy that called another guy a “homo.” No lie. And even FRANK commented on it… and he worked in the fishing and casino businesses in NJ, so that’s coming from him, if you know what I mean. Some of it you have to laugh at, but really people, JUST CHILL! People squawk at each other a bit in other locales, but not quite so, uhm, colorfully as this section of New England. Okay, side note done.
Anyway, back to Watch Hill. It was an interesting place to visit… a busy, upscale shore town – but very scenic and a nice stopover for a night.
We went back in that evening looking for dinner in a pretty crowded town. We stuck our heads in the Olympia Tea Room Restaurant. I don’t know why it is called that – there is nothing about the place that resembles a tea room. The place was packed, but two seats at the bar opened – our preferred seating, anyway. GREAT food and where we met Frances. She was an endearing soul sitting by herself, and we struck up a conversation. (I know – shocking.) She is a Rhode Island native and she gave us a great tip on a good restaurant in Newport. She told us which nights she goes there and sits at the bar, and that we should ask for “Uncle Joe” when we go. Would we run into Frances again in Newport? You’ll have to wait and find out! So cute that Frances. I enjoyed saying, “Frances, meet Francis!” (Frank, you know.)
We were carefully instructed that the last launch would be at sunset… so we made sure we were back shortly before, but Donna the launch driver said, “You’re going to need to wait a few minutes. I have sundown duty.” No problem, Donna. Sunset duty means setting off that proverbial canon and lowering the flag. There was a small “bang,” and I said to Frank, “That’s a pretty wimpy can—-” and before I could finish, the real canon was fired. When I regained my hearing, I shouted to Frank, “Oh! They have a real canon!” The flag was lowered, properly folded and stored all while anyone anywhere close by stood in quiet respect. How nice. We like this New England tradition. Call me old fashioned! See, there is plenty of civility in New England.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Connecticut… oh yeah, and in the first little bit of Rhode Island, too. Please tell Taylor we’ll catch her next time.
(Hey Fred, were there enough pictures of me this time?)
Long Island Sound of Music
If you ever watch Jeopardy, then you’ll understand that the title of this blog would fall under the category “Before and After”. The clue would be something like, “Movie set on the 110 mile tidal estuary with Connecticut to the north, and Long Island to the south where the Von Trapp Family children pick Edelweiss and are taught their Do Re Mis by a problem like Maria.” “What is ‘Long Island Sound of Music’ Alex?!” (If you don’t know The Sound of Music, none of that made sense to you – move on.) Well, it seemed fitting because there was music intertwined heavily through this part of the trip!
We pulled out of Pt. Washington, looked to our left to wave goodbye to the city in the distance, then turned hard to starboard and headed east on the Long Island Sound.
Our next stop was Pt. Jefferson… the next logical stop when you’re headed that direction. We’ve never paid “Pt. Jeff” any mind… just used her and discarded her. It is a very nice, secure, protected place to anchor and that’s what we’ve done – anchored, stayed on the boat, gotten up the next morning and run without so much as a “how do you do.” And yet we’d heard people talk about what a delightful little town it is. It was time to stop dissin’ Pt. Jeff and go see what was happening there. We knew we’d be tucked in for two nights because weather was moving in, but the afternoon we arrived was beautiful! So we took off in the dinghy and went to Pt. Jeff. What we found was a vibrant little shore town with restaurants, shops and live music. We’ll remember the live music – some in a good way and some not so much.
The bad live music: Okay, we’re not even sure where this was coming from, but somewhere there was outdoor karoke that could be heard for blocks. And some unfortunate soul who had clearly had a few adult beverages too many was belting out (VERY badly) Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”. You can hear it, can’t you? I mean, people for blocks were cracking up at this guy, and I’m sure he had no idea just exactly how far his voice was being amplified. We passed a very cool looking older dude who was shaking his head – and we shook ours back – to which he responded, ‘Hey, at least he’s trying!” Good point, my man.
The good live music: We landed at an outdoor bar to sip a brew and listen to a guy singing and playing acoustic guitar.
This man had a challenging assignment: perform music that would appeal to ALL the age groups in the audience which ran the gamut. When we tell you this guy could play/sing songs from every decade since the ’50s, that is no joke. That’s impressive and he was good. And when he had two sides of the audience facing off about which decade to cover next, he killed two birds with one stone: He sang a song that was a hit in the 60s and then redone by Pearl Jam in 2000, and it is the world’s most depressing song ever. Okay, I won’t make you guess at this one: “Last Kiss” was made a hit in 1964 by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – then the Pearl Jam success. For some reason, Frank knows every word to that song. Every single one.
“Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.…”
Uplifting, right? Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to this guy sing.
The best kind of live music: Frank playing guitar in the cockpit. Except that he had this depressing song stuck in his head now, so he of course had to pull a guitar tab up for it and (since he knows EVERY word) I listened to the tragic story of the car wreck and his baby going to heaven for quite a while. Apparently, birds like sad love songs, because they started showing up. Now, when we were last in this same anchorage, Frank made friends with the swans. He named them what he names all animals that need a name: Bubba. (Ask my great niece who now calls Frank “Uncle Bubba” after a lengthy discourse about everything being named Bubba.) So how many years has it been since we’ve been in this spot? And guess who comes up to the side of the boat… Mr. and Mrs. Bubba! They heard Frank was back in town and knew that meant good eatin’!!
When he tired of hand feeding the Bubbas and getting his finger nibbled on, he went back to the guitar. Seagulls gathered.
The next day was supposed to be a washout, but when we woke up, we looked at the radar map and discovered we had a couple of hours of dryness, so we explored a different dinghy dock that dropped us in the less touristy town of Setauket. After about a 5 block walk to Main St., we explored the store fronts and restaurants.
And even better, we found a barber shop!!! (Sorely needed if you ask me.) It was the classic, throw back barber shop – and Frank got a mighty fine hair cut there!
Afterwards, a quick trip to a local deli for lunch and then – oops – we didn’t quite make it back before the precipitation. Hey, that’s what foul weather gear is for. We got a little soggy on the walk/ride back, but no big deal.
We were back on the boat for the rest of the day enjoying the down time after our hectic travels so far. A day of reading, cards and a little dinner on the boat in the middle of a rainy, peaceful anchorage is quite delightful. I actually really like those days peppered into our other experiences. We did get a little break in the clouds later!
Next day we were back out on the Sound heading to Shelter Island – one of our favorite places. We have friends there who we met on our first visit – we have the same make of boat which automatically makes us cousins. We always look forward to meeting up with them. One of the things we MOST enjoy is playing music together, as our friend is an outstanding guitarist and all around musician and likes to rock out. We have a blast playing classic rock, folk and a little country together and were able to have two jam sessions at their house while we were in town.
And Shelter Island Yacht Club is a beautiful place to hang out! Oh, did I mention we are back in the land of the canon? The yacht clubs from NY north seem to share the tradition of setting off a canon at 8:00am and sunset – and also observing “colors” which is the lowering of the flag at day’s end while everyone stands quietly at attention. It is actually a very cool tradition that is observed all over NY and New England.
And our friends were very generous to let us use their second vehicle to get around the island a bit, so we took advantage and did some grocery shopping and – went to a concert!! Yay – more music! The last time we were in Shelter Island, I was able to convince Frank to come with me to the Perlman Music Camp. Itzak Perlamn and his wife started this camp for gifted young musicians. Only the finest up and comers get into this camp and they offer frequent concerts throughout the program. Last time was a special concert that Mr. Perlman performed in as well – that was unique! This time we saw a “Works in Progress” concert – performances by a number of the campers. Most of them could go pro now. UN. BE. LIEVABLE. We will be interested to see how their careers take off! The setting is basically a tent that holds about 200 people with a stage up front, so the sound of crickets and cicadas is part of the accompaniment, too.
It is truly special. Great concert.
On a completely separate side note – we were happy to find that Frank’s #1 Choice for best milkshake can retain its titile… The Islander Cafe – hands down.
One morning we decided to take the short walk from the dinghy dock to the Greenport Ferry and have breakfast in that cool little town. Love the ferry ride. Found “Crazy Beans” for breakfast again – just as tasty as last time – then expected a typically pleasant and uneventful 15 minute ferry ride back. Instead, we got a really crappy ride – literally. Look what they loaded onto the ferry with us.
Now understand, this ferry is SMALL! It does take vehicles, but not many – maybe 20? And the pedestrians or bicyclists just stand around the cars – not like there is an inside cabin to sit in – it’s very bare bones. So when we saw this trailer full of cows being loaded on, it made us wonder: should we wait for the next ferry? And the cows were NOT HAPPY about being rolled onto a boat which agitated them greatly. They truly were trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Now here’s the difference between Frank and I, ’cause you might remember, we’re different in some ways… he walks TO the trailer and I walk away from the trailer.
You know what happens to those who peek their heads up to the trailer air holes to see what’s going on in there? They get an earful of shit, that’s what! (Okay, maybe a whole earful is an exaggeration, but he did scrape cow dung out of his ear.) There were several bicyclists boarded who were told to stay at the stern of the boat. After we explained to them where the stern was, they parked themsleves as told – which happened to be right behind the cow trailer. Yes, they went to their assigned spot dutifully – or should I say – doodie-fully. Yup, they got the brunt of the flying cow pies when the bovine beauties freaked out. You know who was also bummed? The guy in the Porsche convertible parked right next to them. You want to see a top go up on a car quick? I “hoofed” it to the bow of the boat so as to avoid any more of the flying feces. That was the stinkiest ferry ride I imagine any of us has experienced… so literally, it was a crappy ride. But it sure made for a good story around town that day! You know, one of my favorite songs is “If I Had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett…
“If I had a boat, I’d go out on the ocean… and if I had a pony, I’d ride it on my boat. And we would altogether go out on the ocean, me upon my pony on my boat.”
Just change “pony” to “cow” and that was sort of our day. Kind of a stretch on the musical reference? Fine.
So for now I’ll just say, “So long. Farewell. Auf wiedersehn, adieu.” Thank you Long Island Sound of Music.
New York State of Mind: De Planes! De Planes!
We’re definintely in a New York state of mind as we have been cruising through the state for the last week. Of course, that started with the Big Apple last Friday after stopping in Sandy Hook for a brief rest following our overnight trip up the Jersey shore. We have blogged about going through New York before, so I’ll just hit some highlights, mostly through photos, because the views NEVER get old! This was our fourth time through the city and it was still thrilling. We’re transiting waterways so you think boats, right? What’s the deal with “De Planes” subtitle? Well, ALL types of watercraft, commercial and personal, fill the waters around NYC, but we seem to have interesting encounters with aircraft on these trips!! We see planes coming in to land at LaGuardia… MULTITUDES of helicopters coming in to the business helipads… the SKIES are full of traffic as we transit the area. You’ll see….
So as we approached The Battery where you have to choose if you’re going up the Hudson River or the East River, Frank reminded me that this is where Sully Sullenberger landed USAirways Flight 1549 back in 2009.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Sully,” it is VERY interesting. Okay, moving on…
So a LOT of visual stimulation happens in this next part (because there hasn’t been enough already)…
I was fascinated by these strange looking towers! I sent the picture to my family and I don’t remember the EXACT quote, but my sister Christine thought they looked like hugging Gumbies, I believe it was. I had to find out… they were designed by SHoP Architects who also designed the Barclay Center… and they are apartments. The 2-story sky bridge houses a – get this – LAP POOL. No thank you.
Okay, so I’ll post a flashback from our last transit going the other direction in 2014. That was when we passed port to port under a bridge with an NYPD helipcopter – that startled the %&#! out of us! Yup, he flew under the bridge. Hard to forget that one.
So when you think that can’t be topped, Frank looks up and I hear something like, “What the hell am I’m looking at?” DE PLANE! DE PLANE! That’s the same bridge where we saw the police helicopter! (Bonus for getting the classic TV show reference…)
Yes, THIS time through we got to pass starboard to starboard with a sea plane! And 3 minutes later, we had another one!! Note to self… stay out of the middle of the East River.
And then there’s all size and nature of water vessels to dart around. Large cargo ships are anchored here and there…
No picture could possibly tell the story of how busy the waterways are. At one point a small herd of 10 jet skis whizzed by going top speed! That’s a little crazy if you ask me. (Frank thought that looked fun…we’re different that way.)
So it was another exciting, memorable and successful trip through New York City. On the other side of the city is Pt. Washington (Long Island) – a very cruiser welcoming harbor! We have stopped there before and it did not disappoint this time, either. We had a couple orders of business there….
First order of business…. okay, anybody notice something important missing in this picture?
At one point I went to take a picture over our stern, framed with Old Glory, when I realized “GASP” where’s our flag? Our offshore trip wasn’t bouncy enough to lose the flag… except for the 20 minutes that we turned around into the wind to await sunrise – and then we bounced real good! Apparently our flag gave up the ghost in that part of the trip… drats. That was a nice flag pole.
We had an extra oversized flag aboard… rigged a broom handle that fit nicely into the holder… this will do in a pinch, but we’re going to need to look for a more stable answer.
And of course, ice cream (or in this case, Italian Ice) is in order.
We found a new favorite for dinner… Finn MacCool’s. First – it’s Irish so what’s not to love. Good advice from a local… the further up Main St. you walk, the food gets better and cheaper. Good tip!
Next day we walked town and, upon advice from a friend, went to check out the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club… beautiful!
We walked BACK to Finn MacCool’s with nice folks we have met in our past cruising whose travels we’ve followed ever since! Good to see you, S/V Ullr!! (Yes, that spelling is correct.)
And so, after a very restful and fun stay in Pt. Washington, we said goodnight and prepared for our next leg… on to Pt. Jefferson – hopefully without meeting any aircraft on Long Island Sound along the way.
The Best Laid Plans… Sailing North
Do you know that famous literary quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?” Since we have no mice aboard that I know of, I’ll alter it to say, “The best laid plans of sailors often get revised.” Such was the case for us last week when we set off for our cruise to New England. After watching and waiting for a weather window, we left on August 1st at 6:11am. (My best time of day – note the sarcasm).
Truth be told, we both were a little verklempt as we pulled away from the dock. We have been having such a good time in Annapolis, we kind of wondered if we had made the right decision to take off for a while. Frank uses an expression from his former fishing days to describe a moment like this: “You don’t leave fish to find fish.” But Eleanor Q has been sitting there staring at us, pleading to go out for more than a day sail or an overnight trip. “Let’s GO,” we could hear her saying. And she’s right. So off we went.
Plan A was to travel most of the day up the bay, proceed on through the C&D canal and anchor up on the Delaware side at Reedy Island. The next day we would transit down the Delaware Bay, up the NJ coast, through NYC and into Pt. Washington, all without stopping. We’ve done it once before – it does knock a big chunk off of the trip early and we wanted to get to Long Island Sound rather quickly. That second part would take about 1.5 days straight. We were set. Right? Day 1 executed as planned.
Day 2 we headed down the Delaware and made it to Cape May in record time with favorable current. We rounded the tip of NJ in sunshine and a nice breeze, threw up the sails (unfurled them, not upchucked them), turned off the engine and stared at Frank’s home town, admiring the beach-goers, the light house and Cape May in all its glory.
Yeah, 6am – not my best time of day…
We were just about to set up the coast on this beautiful day when we thought, “Hey, let’s take a quick peek at the radar map.” Good plan.
Okay, bad plan. Ah crap. Really? But it’s sunny and we’re sailing. It’s perfect (we whined, admittedly). We, of course, are the blue dot. Now, not that we haven’t been in thunderstorms on the boat before, and she can handle it… but there were more up the coast as well. When given a choice, do we really want to be in the ocean, overnight in thunderstorms? No, not really. There are very few “bail out” points on the NJ coast, but Cape May is certainly one of them, so we turned on the engine, took down the sails and made a hard turn to port and into the Cape May Inlet to settle in for the night. Sigh. The best laid plans… As it turned out, Plan B turned out to be a better plan in the long run. We had been running pretty ragged getting everything ready to go, so a decent night’s sleep and a better frame of mind to do our first overnighter in a couple of years was not a bad thing. Plan B was better than Plan A. Based on our NEW plan and timing the currents in NY, we didn’t have to leave until 11am the next morning. There is not much of an anchorage available in Cape May right now due to dredging equipment taking up a good portion of that space, but we found a little spot right beside the Coast Guard station, and right beside a piling with an osprey nest…
That osprey made a serious “thud” when he landed… and didn’t look like he knew how to get off. We finally scared him enough with our incessant picture taking that he landed with a splash all splayed out in the water. Kids. He finally gathered himself and managed to take off out of the drink.
Day 3 we set off for the 25-30 hour trip up the coast and through New York. That was truly one of the best pure sailing days we’ve had – definitely in the top 3. Perfect beam reach and sunny skies. Then we noticed this big, dark area forming in the sky in the distance. One again, the trusty radar map revealed another set of classic summer storms popping up all over, but still a ways away.
We had time to make a call… bail in Atlantic City? Bail in Barnegat – an inlet that has been rumored to have shoaled up pretty badly? Shout out to my friend Hank for helping to get us some intel on Barnegat. In the end, we decided that we can’t run away from EVERY chance of thunderstorms or we’ll never get there! So we kept going and had EXCELLENT storm karma. We watched storms all around us, but other than 30 seconds of rain around Sandy Point, we got nuthin’. Nada. Zippo. Yippee. When we lost our wind in the evening, we turned the engine back on and had a blissfully uneventful overnight motor up the coast taking 3.5 hour watches. Got to Sandy Hook ahead of schedule, so pulled into the anchorage by – well why not – the Coast Guard station to take a 4 hour break to wait for favorable currents through NYC and to take a well deserved nap. All was well. We did not have to go to Plan C. (Shout out to cruiser friends, Loretta and Jim, who aptly named their boat “Plan Sea.” I get it!)
Here is a collage of the sights going up the Jersey coast…passing by Atlantic City, sunset over land, the night time lights of Seaside Heights, then dawn close to Sandy Hook, the storms darting around us, and then a little bit of sunrise just as we were pulling in to anchor for a few hours.
And one last poetic picture with which to end this episode…. (I had to use proper grammar there so the grammar police wouldn’t strike – aka my sisters)…
Yup – sailing past Atlantic City and his old office from many years ago. Poetic, don’t you think?
Think I’ll stop writing for now and crack open a beer – excellent plan. Next post: NYC, baby!