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.
After passing through the Cape Cod Canal and anchoring in the harbor at Onset, Mass., we were off to an early start to make our trip to Newport. There is some back and forth about which is the bigger sailing/boating center: Newport or Annapolis. At great risk, that will be commented on later.
We arrived in Newport right at the start of the Labor Day Weekend. We generally try to avoid the popular places on holidays, but we needed to get moving towards NJ and the wind forecast was the major driver in our choice of destination, plus we really wanted to see Newport! So holiday or not, we decided to go for it. It was a fun weekend with lots of boat “eye candy” to observe. It also turned into quite a social weekend with other cruisers.
First of all, Newport Harbor is HUGE! And even before getting completely into the harbor, we started to get a flavor of Newport from the boats in the area and the mansions on the shore. Newport was a big hangout for the Vanderbilts and other families of that ilk and there are a number of historic mansions that are open for public tours. Although we did not do any of the tours, we did pass them as we came in to the harbor.
Another major landmark at the entrance to the harbor is Fort Adams. The fort is now a state park that hosts the famous Newport Jazz Festival among many other major festivals. But the fort has an interesting history. The first version was built in 1799 and was used during the War of 1812. After that war, it was decided that a newer and larger fort was needed and the “new and improved” Fort Adams was built (completed) in 1857. The fort served in five major wars: Mexican-American, the Civil War, Spanish-American, WWI and WWII – but it never fired an angry shot.
I found it particularly interesting (because of our affiliation to Annapolis) that, during the Civil War, the War Department was concerned about the political sympathies of Marylanders, so the Naval Academy was relocated to Fort Adams from Annapolis for a period of time until after the war. In 1976 the fort was declared a National Historic Landmark and in 2012 the park was the official venue for the America’s Cup World Series. We passed the fort a number of times. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
We spent a good part of the weekend just walking all over town and seeing the sights. Here are a few of our stops along the way . . .
We made a visit to the International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS). There are all types of old wooden boats throughout the facility that are being worked on, but the MAJOR project housed at the school is the restoration of the old wooden sailing schooner Coronet. The Coronet was originally built in 1885. At 131 feet, it is one of the oldest and largest schooner yachts in the world. She had an auspicious career as a transatlantic racer and global cruiser. In 1905, a religious organization called “The Kingdom” purchased the ship for $10,000 and took it around the world on prayer missions. The Kingdom owned the boat until 1995 when the IYRS acquired her and began a complete restoration of the vessel. Walking around the “bones” and looking at every article that was taken out of the boat, carefully cataloged and hung nearby is breathtaking. I can’t even imagine how many years this project will take, but we’ll be interested to see the final product when it’s finished!
We continued our walk around town hitting one or two shops. Frank was on a mission to get a better wet suit option for colder temperatures (following our trip to Maine!). Here he is trying on a hooded wetsuit vest . . . I felt compelled to snap a shot. I know . . . nice of me.
Then we walked around the docks and boat yards. Oh my goodness . . . the boats, the size of the boats, the size of the boat lifts!
On Sunday there was a Wooden Boat Regatta. The festivities began with a boat parade around the harbor. We had a front row seat for it in our cockpit!
Also on the agenda for Sunday . . . the ever dreaded trip to the laundry. Ugh. But wait! There is a pretty new Mariners Facility in Newport right off of one of the piers . . . it is the lower level of an old church and it has brand new laundry/shower/lounge facilities. It was SPOTLESS. And more amazing than that, it was EMPTY!!!!! Oh yeah, baby – had the whole laundry to myself! I was so excited, I had to take a picture.
In our travels to the pier, we ran into another couple who we had met twice and had drinks with once in Maine!! Also that morning, we heard a dinghy approach the boat and a voice call out, “Ahoy Eleanor Q!” It was a man from a boat that we hear on the “nets” on the radio every morning. He recognized our boat name from the net and thought he’d stop and say hello! Long story short, a cocktail party was born for that evening and our new friends from Exuberant and Kabria joined us and shared snacks, beverages and good company!
So after a pleasant couple of days in cloudy Newport, we planned our getaway for Monday morning. We arose at one of those hours that I don’t particularly care for and set off for our next port . . . but not so fast. As we pulled out of the harbor and said goodbye to Fort Adams, we noticed light gray smoke mixed in the engine exhaust. That is never a good thing. We slowed down and pondered our next move. Do we keep going? Do we turn around? We let the engine run for a while longer and Frank did some initial trouble shooting. After weighing the options, the smart decision was to return to Newport. There are few places that have more services for boaters in the world . . . so why would we not figure out the problem there. So back we went past Fort Adams (again) and dropped the anchor. I think Fort Adams was smirking. Argh! The captain/chief engineer set to doing some more troubleshooting. We thought we found the problem . . . and thought we had solved it, but by the time that was accomplished, it was too late to catch the favorable current that day. Okay – let’s stay put and enjoy a quiet afternoon on the boat, which we did.
The next morning – again at an obscene time of day – we set off again. We passed the very smug Fort Adams, waved goodbye and went on our way . . . for a minute . . . when the smoke reappeared. NOOOOOO!!!! We turned around, flipped the bird at Fort Adams (which I now think was laughing at us), and came back to anchor again.( Okay, I didn’t really flip it the bird, but I thought about it.) Certain we were going to need a mechanic, we left messages all over the place and waited for the return calls to come. Meanwhile, the trusty captain/chief engineer went at it again. And God bless him, he found the rest of the problem in fairly short order and we were off!! We looked at Fort Adams with mistrust and bid it goodbye a final time. Just for spite, the fog set in right about at that moment. I think the fort had something to do with it.
For those who might be saying, “Yeah, but what was the problem????” … let’s just say that the air filter looked like it came out of a coal mine in West Virginia and I could have made a lovely salad with the stuff that came out of the engine strainer. The engine was being deprived of air and water and it was not very pleased about it. We had checked the strainers not long before, but we must have made a wrong turn and driven through a swamp at some point along the way. Anyway, all was well.
And for those who want to know, and I hate to say it because we love Annapolis and that has been our home port . . . but as far as which city is the sailing capital? Newport is Annapolis on steroids. Don’t hate me, Annapolis.
We had changed our minds about our next stop several times due to conditions. We wanted to end up at Fishers Island, but severe storms were coming through the area. We kept a close check on the radar map as we traveled and opted to stop in Point Judith, RI instead. We beat the storms there and got ourselves anchored and settled. A little while later, who comes on the radio but our new friends from Kabria! They were on their way to Block Island when they diverted due to the same storm system . . . and ended up in Port Judith right next to us! It was nice for each of us to know we had a watchful neighbor in place before the system came through. Although it wasn’t quite as bad as predicted, the storm still packed a bit of a punch and left behind about 4 inches of rain that evening. At one point the lightning was getting pretty intense and the winds were picking up when Frank donned the dreaded yellow foul weather gear. The yellow stuff (as I mentioned in a previous post) means things have the potential to get ugly.
Although we have great confidence in our anchor, if the wind really starts to howl, there is the potential for needing to go up top to start the engine and take some pressure off of the anchor. He just wanted to be ready. And it was the first time that he said, “Ems, put your rubber sole shoes on and don’t touch anything metal.” Comforting words to say the least. Although boats are designed to be able to handle a lightning strike, you really don’t want to find out. It was then that I really thought about the fact that we’re sitting in the middle of a body of water with a 57′ mast sticking straight up. (Kind of made me think of the time I was sitting in a pedicure chair in the front window of a salon during a thunderstorm with foils in my hair and my feet soaking in a electric jet tub. I only wished I had brought a golf club with me to hold up at that moment. But I digress.) As a precaution, we also unplugged all of our electronics. Happily, the storm came and went with a bunch of noise but without incident otherwise. I did email one of my sisters during this episode while I was feeling a little nervous, saying, “There aren’t enough potato chips for this . . . “
And then we had the calm AFTER the storm . . . an eventful day was over, we were safe, and all was well.