Monday, August 05, 2013

To Newport (during the Folk Festival)

[Kyle]The next weekend was the Newport Folk Festival. Sotito was keen to go and invited Maryanne and me to come along. Since the winds were forecast to be favorable both ways, we decided instead to take Begonia down and meet up with them. That way, they’d have more room for their other visitors and they wouldn’t have to modify their plans to accommodate my commute to work.

We had intended to have dinner ashore in Bristol the night before setting off, but then the sky opened up and none of us felt like a wet, miserable dinghy ride across the harbor. Instead, we stayed aboard and had dinner at one of the best restaurants in the area: Sotito.

We went home during a break in the rain, but it resumed soon afterward and we spent the rest of the night sleeping fitfully, listening to the rain pelt the cabin top, and hoping it would be done by morning.

It wasn’t. We stalled around a bit with inside jobs, but the rain kept coming. It was hard to get motivated. The wind was just perfect, though. We reminded ourselves that we were offshore sailors, dammit. We had all of the gear, so we put it on and went out for a sail in the rain.

It was great! We left early hoping Sotito would leave well after us so they could pass us along the way. We would each then be able to get photos of the other boat underway. In fact, we left even earlier than planned and the wind was great. We decided to use the extra time to go to Newport the long way. Instead of the 11-mile direct route, when we left Bristol, we tacked up the Providence River, rounded the northern end of Prudence Island, sailed down the West Passage into Rhode Island Sound Then we re-entered Newport from sea. Our route ended up being about 35 miles, almost all of it fun, fast sailing.

Along route we kept tabs on one another by texting screen shots back and forth of our respective positions on our navigation apps. Today's technology really is amazing. It took all of the ambiguity out of just saying we were in such and such channel kinda by this buoy or the other.

As Begonia reached Rhode Island Sound, it was looking like it was going to be a pretty close race to see who would get to Newport first. We seemed to have a slight advantage, so we planned to tack up the channel until intercepting Sotito, take photos, and then turn downwind to follow them in.

When we got into the wind shadow of Conanicut Island, we slowed way down. A storm came overhead and gave us one last, windless dumping. We spotted Sotito in the distance racing into Newport at the leading edge of the rain.

When we entered Newport Harbor, it was clearing up. We searched for a place to anchor, but the harbor was pretty full for the festival. All of the boats in the main anchorage had out two anchors to limit their swing and allow more boats to fit in and enjoy the festival.

If we were staying longer, we would have gone to the trouble, but two anchors is at least four times the work both to deploy and to retrieve. Maryanne called around and eventually found someone who had an available mooring for a boat of Begonia’s size.

{Maryanne: Safely at a mooring and with marginal weather, it was time to set to work on the engines - both engines needed an exhaust elbow replaced - it was NOT a fun job. Poor Kyle got stuck into the tight workspace and got on with it... I read a book, made some comfort food, and encouraged him temporarily put his tools down and to poke his head out in time to see the amazing sunset.}

Critical engine work makes it hard to enjoy the surroundings

Since the weather was still pretty gloomy, our engine work had run late, and it had been a long day, we called it a night. In the morning, Andy and Robin picked us up in Sotito’s dinghy for the trip to their boat. Robin’s son Chris was also there, along with a couple of his friends and we were to meet up ashore later with her young grandson, Connor.

We all piled into a launch and headed ashore. We split up, Maryanne, Robin and my first stop was a waterfront bar that was in a building where the big commercial fishing boats used to unload their catch. We knew this because Robin had worked on one of the big boats and they used to unload their catch in this very warehouse. She had lots of good memories about it and was able to describe how different it had all been back then and which things they kept the same.

A trip ashore with Robin, and drinks at the Aquidneck Lobster Co.

At the bar, there was an intriguing looking glass jug with a bunch of pineapple floating in it. Maryanne asked the bartender and he said it was vodka. We all wanted a taste, but it seemed a bit early for vodka, so he offered to give us a little taster shot to go with the ordinary beers we ordered as time-passers. The vodka was good, but we all agreed it was a bit strong to be getting a full-sized glass of it.

We finished our beers and headed out for a late lunch. I stopped to use the restroom on the way out, and when I emerged, nobody I recognized was in sight. I figured they must be making use of the facilities as well. I waited seven minutes and was still all by myself. I figured they must’ve thought I went ahead and left, so I went to try to catch up with them. By then, I was feeling much tipsier than I should have been after only 1¼ drinks. I staggered into the tourist crowds in a fog feeling somewhat anxious. The shorts I was wearing didn’t have good pockets, so Maryanne was carrying my phone and my wallet.

The only thing I had going for me was that Robin had pointed out the lunch place as we walked by it before so I knew where they were going. I went in and there was no sign of them. Uh, oh.

I went back outside and there they were. They had been in the office at the warehouse, seen me the whole time and decided to follow me when I wandered off. Sheesh!

We had a quick lunch of clam chowder. Wow! So far, the best New England clam chowder I’ve ever had in my life was from Fisherman’s Grotto in Monterey, California. Yes, California. That stuff is amazing! I have been all up and down the east coast since then. I’ve had lots of good chowdah, but none of them has been close. This stuff – the stuff at The Black Pearl in Newport – is really close. It’s been so long since I’ve been to The Fisherman’s Grotto that I can’t definitively say which is better, but they’re really close. I’ll have to go back to Monterey to check. At any rate, the chowdah at The Black Pearl is definitely worth a hundred-mile detour to get. We got a hot quart to eat then and there and a frozen one to take home for later. Nobody should leave The Black Pearl without at least two take-home quarts.

Excellent chowder at the renowned (and ancient) Black Pearl - yummy!

With full bellies and our heads clearing rapidly, we decided to spend the nice day wandering around the town while Robin went to collect her grandson. Along the way, I actually shopped for things: A nice shirt and two pair of trousers made out of lightweight, quick drying cruiser-friendly fabric.

{Maryanne: During our tour of Thames street (pronounced Thaimes, a strong 'th' and an aimes), I was especially taken by a pair of entrepreneurial young ladies selling Lemonade - just SO American, I love it. I also managed to pick up a whole bunch of new books to devour from the beautiful Maritime Center - a great resource for visiting boaters with showers, laundry, etc}

No sooner had I bought the pants, than I lost the shirt. I knew I shouldn’t shop. That was the most expensive thing. Maryanne conducted a heroic phone search and was able to get reunited with it three days later. Time to head back to Sotito.

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon swimming and talking. At one point, Andy got restless, so I joined him in the dinghy to go check out the Folk Festival. It wasn’t the festival, per se that was entertaining, but the enormous collection of overloaded, rafted up boats anchored nearby, their decks covered with people dancing and having fun. On the way back, we saw a guy crossing the main channel on a paddleboard, going right through the boat traffic. What was he thinking?

Dinner came with a show. Sotito was right at the edge of the main traffic lane, so all of the pretty boats in the harbor came right past us while we ate, talked and watched the sun go down.

Sailboats and Sunsets - The best of Newport

It was a few hours later that it came time for us to go home. Robin was going to take us and then pick us up in the morning when Andy suggested we just take the dinghy ourselves and bring it back in the morning. Sotito’s dinghy is a RIB with a 60hp motor (i.e. their dinghy is more powerful than our 2 main boat engines combined). We were home in no time.

We were up early for Sunday breakfast at the Fisherman’s Church Institute. The institute was designed to serve seafarers of all kinds. They have showers, laundry, rooms and a kitchen that serves a full breakfast on Sunday. Well, They used to serve a full breakfast. We didn’t know that. The full breakfast of the past has been pared down to a pick-up-your-order-at-the-counter breakfast, which is eaten in the main dining room. It wasn’t the experience we were hoping for, but it was a good, cheap breakfast. Also we took the time to explore the facilities. The 'church' part is a beautifully painted room, very peaceful, an there is also a fantastic library (and even accommodation available).

After breakfast it was time to get launches to our respective boats in order to get off of the moorings by checkout time. Sotito takes less to get going and she was gone by the time we unzipped Begonia’s sail cover.

We tacked through the Newport Bridge before we were becalmed at the big ship anchorage. The lull was short-lived, though, and we were soon headed north in a building wind.

Great skies and great sailing home.

Bristol appeared much too quickly. I was tempted to pass by and enjoy fine sailing to a new place, but I needed to be up for work in the wee hours, so we pulled down the sails and we anchored in our old spot. The nice weather of the day before left and it started to rain again. Perhaps we stopped at the right time after all. Once again, and perhaps not surprisingly, Sotito beat us home.

1 comment:

Mommy Dearest said...

The seagull story...oh, the seagull story. Loved catching up, but that did me in, I'll admit. Knowing you, I realize just how difficult it must have been to be prepared to put that poor creature out of its misery. I can't quite imagine you having to do it and am relieved he flew away. The rest of these posts have gulped down most of my evening hours, and I'm now out of wine and ready to rest. Thank you for catching up! Sending much love.