Saturday, October 1, 2011

Part 2 of Our New England Trip

First, an apology.  Upon review of my last post, I realized that somehow the dates got mixed up.  The actual Newport Boat Show dates were Thursday, September 15 - Sunday, September 18th.  Sorry for any confusion.  I probably should do my posts earlier in the day when I'm more on the ball.

Now that we're past the apologies, it's on to the rest of our incredible trip.

Monday morning (September 19th) dawned clear and sunny.  We woke to an eerily quiet dock, especially after the show's hustle and bustle.  Eager to get underway and off to our next adventure, we walked around the dock, looking for the guys who were supposed to help us get away from the dock.  Since no one was in sight, I decided to do a load of laundry (even doing laundry on Serenity is not a bad thing).  We readied Serenity for our departure, which means laying down just about everything that could fall over.  After a quick breakfast, we began to see some (and hear) some activity.  It appeared that our fellow boaters were just as eager as we were to get away, so soon everyone began to help each other with lines, cleats and everything else boat-departure related.

Tom and I got lucky.   The folks on the North Pacific 39 to our port side had a long day ahead of them and couldn't leave until we did.  Within 15 minutes of a quick chat, they were helping us with our lines and off we went.  In fact, we left so quickly that the laundry wasn't yet done.  No problem for Serenity - we switched on the wonderful Northern Lights generator and viola! laundry done while underway!  So on a sunny Monday, we were heading out of Newport Harbor before 9 am, heading for our next adventure on Block Island.
We had the most beautiful day for cruising!  Little wind, following seas and abundant sunshine.  Luckily for us, fog was not a factor today and we could soon see Block Island in the distance.  Happily ensconced on the flybridge with my pillows and a good book, I settled in for a 2 1/2 hour run.
It wasn't long before I noticed that although our ride was very smooth, passing boats seemed to be disappearing into unusually deep troughs and I could see the occasional underside of passing sailboats.  We had lots of company on the water today, so I had plenty to look at.  Tom finally (and reluctantly) told me that the ground swells on the beam that we were experiencing were between 5 and 8 ft.  No big deal for our Serenity, but giving the other boats quite a tossing about.

All too soon Block Island was in sight.  It's quite amazing the way it sits on the water.  It looks like a giant blob with a little knob on one end.  As we rounded the point and entered the Great Salt Pond, I was able to get my first glimpse of the island I had wanted to visit for so long.  Last summer I waited too long to make a reservation resulting in a change of plans.  Since we were no longer in high season, we had our pick of slips at Champlain's Marina.  Since Hurricane Irene wreaked her havoc on the island last month, the marina was pretty much closed up for the season.  Serenity was one of only 6 boats in the marina and the only one with people aboard.
It was kind of nice to have this quiet after the excitement of the past 4 days.  Or so I thought.  We hadn't secured Serenity into her slip when a bouncy woman popped into view calling to us that she saw us in the Newport Show.  What a small world!  With just a few people in the marina on tiny Block Island, what were the chances we'd run into someone we had met, albeit briefly?  Not only did we meet her, but she reminded us that her husband toured Serenity for nearly an hour and was crazy about her (they're sailors).

We were now secured in our slip, I put our "stuff" back into place and was ready to explore the island.  Up the hill I went to the dockmaster's office to check in and get information.  Within an hour, I was on my way for a walk into town.  Though I was told it was only 1 3/4 miles into town, it sure seemed longer.  I started out wearing a fleece and soon wished I was wearing a tank top.  True to my crummy sense of direction, I was soon lost.  What saved me from panic is the fact that the island is only 6 miles long and 3 miles wide, so how lost could I be?  Pretty lost it turned out.  Luckily I saw a man working in his shed and stopped to ask for directions.  He was one surprised man, let me tell you!  I did get to see some incredible scenery though.  I later found out that there are 365 fresh water ponds of all sizes on the island.  I passed some beautiful ones during my walk.
Some of the scenes I passed seemed to be out of a painting.  In fact, the pond scene above reminded me of a print we had bought for For Us and made me feel a bit nostalgic for our old friend.  Much of the scenery is like the Scottish moors I've ready about in books.  Lots of heather, brambles and big open spaces.  The only thing missing was sheep grazing on the hillsides.  I finally began to see signs of civilization and stopped once again in a grocery store to ask where town was.

I began to feel as if Block Island was indeed a welcoming place, especially for those of us arriving by boat..

After some quick looking around, I headed back to Serenity and Tom.  But not before booking a taxi for a tour the next day and on second thought, a ride to dinner that night.  I had no sooner finished speaking to Jim of Mig's Rig, when who should pull up behind me - calling to me, but Jim.  He extended his arm out of his window so I could get his card.  With business settled during my walk, I felt I deserved my waiting cocktail.  Sure enough, as I came down the hill to the marina (nice view, huh)?

there waited the captain on Serenity.  Though he tried to look casual, I could see that he was anxiously looking to see how many shopping bags I carried.  Lucky for him, I knew the walk back would be even longer than the walk there, so I refrained from making any purchases.  Oh, I forgot to mention that as I was approaching the marina, my new friend Jim pulled alongside me and invited me to hop in for the remainder of the trip.  Though it was less than a mile, it was quite welcome by then.  Serenity was the most welcome sight at that moment.  I knew a comfy chair and cold drink awaited me.
The next morning was a bit overcast, but nonetheless perfect for our tour.  True to his word, Jim was there waiting for us at the appointed time.  We hopped into his van, anticipating a lovely morning.  Jim has been on the island for nearly 10 years - he was very well acquainted with all the points of interest.  At one point during our tour, he pulled over and suggested that we walk to a view that he couldn't get to with the van.   Despite the captain's sore ankle, we left the van and made our way through a narrow passageway through dense bamboo (bamboo is growing rampant on the island to the distaste of most of the islanders).  All they need now is a bunch of pandas!  At the end of the path, we were treated to the most breathtaking sight of the ocean.  In fact, the scene made me feel as if I was in San Francisco in Half Moon Bay overlooking the Pacific!  What an incredibly beautiful sight we beheld!
 Hard to believe that this scenery is there every day while I'm sitting at my desk.....
BTW, I think this is where I finally got the camera setting re-adjusted.
One more stop included Block Island's lighthouse which curiously could only be reached on foot since it was part of a wildlife preserve.  Not even a 4 wheel drive vehicle could get to it.  Though we didn't attempt that walk, several people were making their way over to the lighthouse.

You can see some bicycles in the foreground.  One of the best ways to get around on the island is by either bike or moped.  The cabs are quite expensive.

After our tour ended, Jim dropped us off in town since it was too early for the lunch we planned.  It was nice to just relax with the captain.  We decided to wait with a Bloody Mary at the National Hotel, a big old hotel on the main drag in town overlooking the harbor and ocean beyond.  Quite civilized I might say.  We had lunch in the Oar Restaurant which has some of the best New England clam chowder I've ever tasted.  I made an exception about "no butter, no cream, no fat, blah blah blah" - glad I did!
We had 2 wonderful dinners while visiting the island - our first was supposed to be at the Spring House Inn, but since they were only serving pizza that night (we had been dropped off there by Jim and quickly called him back to get us out of there) we tried our choice for the next night.  We had an exceptional dinner at the Hotel Mannisis - the food had an undertone of Indian cooking - that was fantastic - even the captain enjoyed his dinner.  We did go back to the Spring House in the following night and had another wonderful dinner.  We even had them make us a pizza to take back to the boat.

All too soon it was almost Wednesday morning, September 21 and time for us to visit our last port of call - Clinton Harbor in Clinton, CT.  It would be a long crossing - about 6 hours, so we decided to turn in early.  Not so fast........ Tom and I decided to enjoy a brandy on our back porch.  It was cool and clear - the perfect evening for a brandy and a fitting end to 2 lovely days as Block Islanders.

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