Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mystic Seaport, Here We Come!

Monday dawned a bit overcast but with enough sunshine to do our engine check with confidence.  Our planned departure was around 8, when the line handlers came on duty.  Once Tom looked at the weather, we hurried up our pre-departure routine and got in "let's leave the dock now" mode.  Luckily, the boat behind us was up early and its owner was able to help me with the lines.  By 7:45, we were off the dock and pointed for Mystic.

The weather forecast didn't lie.  We were about an hour into our trip when rain caught up with us.  On went the slickers since the captain doesn't believe in steering from the pilot house.  It was kind of nice to drink coffee in the rain.  Think of it,  how often do you get to do something so routine in the rain?  Thankfully it didn't bring the downpours, thunder and lightening other areas were having.  Once the first railroad bridge was in sight, the rain tapered off to a mere drizzle and eventually stopped.

Speaking of the railroad bridge, everyone we spoke to as well as the boating guide assured us that the railroad  bridge was ALWAYS open and only closed for the occasional Amtrak train.  As we made our  way up the channel towards the seaport, Tom pointed out that the bridge appeared to be - you guessed it - CLOSED.  

Problem since the channel is too narrow to do much in; water outside the channel is not enough for Serenity at low tide and guess what?  It was low tide of course!  We circled around, and finally got the bridge tender to acknowledge us.  All he said was that the bridge would be opening shortly.  Easy for him to say while we continued to circle with our eyes glued to the channel markers.  The Amtrak train finally arrived - late.  Once the bridge opened, we made for the bascule bridge which by the way, only opened 20 minutes before each hour.

We had about 10 minutes to scoot through the opening or have to wait another hour.  With throttles blazing (at 8 knots), we sailed under the bridge.  Pretty neat to see all the traffic lined up on either side of the bridge.  The seaport was now in sight and my excitement level growing.

As we approached our assigned slip, I realized that for the next 4 days, we would be right smack in the center of the seaport.  All I had to do was jump off the boat and decide which way to go to see the exhibits I had been reading about for the last few months.  As soon as we secured the lines, off I went to explore.

Within an hour, I had scouted out the things I thought we should see - and made an extended visit to the museum store where I proceeded to get whatever wasn't nailed down for Tucker.  Poor Tom - his eyes popped when he saw me stagger back to the boat with all sorts of bags attached to my arms.  As long as it was all for Tuck, he didn't have much to say.  In the old days BT (before Tucker), he would have had plenty to say about my shopping sprees.

We were lucky enough to get a slip next to the sailboat dock.  Actually, they were catboats which I know all about now.  Not just any catboats at that.  These were designed and built by Herreshoff, an accomplished New England resident who mastered the art of catboat design.    They "point" well into the wind and can be easily handled by 1 person.  All day long, museum guests could sign up for boat rides up and down the channel.  It was a quiet activity, so we were never disturbed.  At the end of the day, the tied up catboats made for a beautiful view from our back porch.

In fact, we never tired of the view from our back porch.  The changing light made everything seem new at various times of the day.  In the evenings, Tom and I would sit up on the flybridge with a brandy and just look at the stars we see so little of living so close to NYC.

 One evening we were treated to a fireworks display and on another evening, we witnessed the most spectacular thunder and lightening storm we had ever seen.  Luckily for us, it was off in the distance, so we got the "show" without the effects.  We had the seaport to ourselves once it closed at 6 pm; what a great experience.

For those of you who haven't yet visited the seaport, I highly recommend a visit.   There is something for everyone.  I scoped out the places I will visit when Tucker is old enough to join us.  My favorite,
Build-a-Boat, could only be visited in the company of a child.  I did climb aboard the old whaling ships and watched a man overboard demonstration.  In those days, if you went overboard, the future was not too bright.  Another exhibit not to be missed is Voyages of the Sea.  Voyages from ancient times to the present on all types of ships and boats were discussed in text and in old photos.

On a warm and sunny afternoon, we enjoyed lunch at Spouter's Tavern, a tree-shaded waterfront oasis configured to be reminiscent of the past, in the middle of the seaport.  In spite of its obvious tourist attraction, the food was very good.  The servers came from a variety of countries - ours came from Bulgaria.  Everyone had a smile and something nice to say.  It was tempting to while away the hours there, but yours truly cannot sit still when there are places to go and things to see.  The one activity I refused to pursue was the horse and carriage ride.  Three beautiful white horses took turns pulling a carriage around the seaport.  I checked they had water in their bucket at the boarding location.  I hated the sound of the bell that heralded the horses arrival.  Of course I feel the same about the carriage horses of Central Park.  I carry a card in my wallet to report abuse if observed.  Don't get me started on that topic though.

On another gorgeous day, Tom and I visited the Mystic Aquarium.

 I was like an excited child for 3 wonderful hours visiting every exhibit except the birds (terrified of birds).  The aquarium was very crowded, but easy to get around.  The whale exhibit was my favorite.  The white beluga whales took my breath away.  Don't these photos look like they came from a book????

The penguins were adorable, but very lazy.  We saw a sea lion show that was so cute.  Did you know that one difference between a sea lion and a seal is their ears?  The seal has holes on each side of its head while sea lions have ear flaps.  Really - I actually got to see the flaps during the show!  But I digress...

We had some wonderful dinners ashore and equally wonderful dinners al fresco on our flybridge.  On our last day in Mystic, Tom and I took a sail in a catboat.  The captain pointed out that the passing launch was piloted by a gentleman who had a Kadey Krogen 42 - actually the one we noticed on our way to our slip.  In order to get this photo of Serenity, I hopped into the launch that went from one side of the seaport to the other and struck up a conversation with the pilot.  Next thing we knew, I had invited him to dinner aboard later that evening.  As it often turns out when Krogen owners get together, we know some of the same folks and have been to the same marinas.  This gentleman lives aboard his  Krogen Calypso, during summers in Mystic and winters aboard in Stuart, FL where our first boat For Us, spent the winter of 2010.  We had the nicest evening and promised to have dinner this winter when we're in FL.

Friday morning dawned a bit overcast, but a perfect day for cruising nonetheless.  We cast off our lines for Saybrook, CT in time for the 9:40 bascule bridge opening and were on our way.  A gorgeous replica of an old whaling ship followed us to the bridge.

We no sooner cleared the bridge and guess what we saw on our approach to the railroad bridge?  You guessed it - the swing bridge was not swung.  This time there was no Amtrak train in sight!  When we called for an opening, the very bored sounding bridge tender told us it would be a few minutes.  I wasn't sure of what a few minutes means in Connecticut, but I was sure it was more minutes than in NY!  While we waited, we noticed that a sailboat who kept trying to rudely overtake us had ventured out of the tight channel and had run aground.  See what happens when one tries to mess with Serenity?

We arrived in Saybrook in bright sunshine after a very pleasant cruise (let's face it, every cruise aboard Serenity is pleasant, as long as she is behaving herself).  We were assigned the same slip we occupied when we arrived last weekend and felt right at home.  We chatted with some of our dock neighbors, had cocktails and dinner aboard and complimented ourselves on making the wonderful (though irrational) decision to become boaters.

We awoke to the patter of rain and Serenity's gentle rolling on Saturday morning, but hey, no complaints.  Our week had been gorgeous - plenty of sunshine, clear blue skies, gentle breezes - and we were on vacation to enjoy it, not stuck in our offices.  I was kind of glad for the rain; otherwise, it might have been a long time til I could get to this blog.  It's been long enough, right?  Right now, I'm sitting on the luxurious pilot house settee (first time I've been up here for more than a minute, passing through), listening to our Sirius satellite radio and enjoying the breezes from the half open pilot house doors.  I was on my way into town for a book when the bellman told me that someone had just dropped off a brand new book.  Never heard of the author, but so what?  I think it's a mystery.  What better day to engulf myself in a mystery?  Later on today, it's cocktails aboard, then dinner in town.  Not a bad life at all if I do say so myself.  This passing family of swans added to my delight.

Tomorrow we'll be heading for home as soon as the line handlers come on duty at 8 am.  Though I'll miss these idyllic days on our precious Serenity, other precious things await us at home - darling Tucker,  our little pussy cat Zoe and sweet Wiggles.  I've been lucky enough to find the most people to watch over our house and animals - how else can one go away?

Though the prospect of returning to what will be another hectic week at work doesn't thrill me, it makes the time aboard more delicious!

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