Sunday, July 20, 2008
More Island Exploring
[Kyle]This weekend, with a long weekend to explore by boat, we took a sailing tour of most of the rest of the islands in Hingham and Boston Harbor. Many of the islands are rocky islets or unsuitable for landing due to shoals and other hazards; so we spent the first day weaving a course between them and enjoying the view from the boat.
As on most weekends the harbor was filled with boaters of all types doing essentially the same thing; it really is a nice place to be out in a boat for the weekend and in spite of the fact that Boston has many non-boating related activities (which we'll get to), it is difficult to see all the boats on the water and not feel that you want to join in. If I didn't have a boat, I'd certainly want to buy one so I could experience it!
We started with the islands of Hingham bay (near our marina), which were mostly small and rocky, covered with coniferous trees with a feel of Maine about them, and then headed out into the bay to see the more rugged Brewster Islands (one of which is home to Boston Light), and then out to the more remote Graves Island (home to its larger, but less glamorous cousin, Graves Light. The Graves has been worn by erosion down to a series of menacing looking granite (teeth for destroying boats) - it's unmanned lighthouse a lonely sentinel to protect boaters from its shores.
We then sailed North to the smooth rock mounds of Nahant bay on the North side of the harbor. From there we turned back South and headed closer to our "home waters", rounding Georges Island in the company of many other inbound boats and eventually anchoring for the night off Lovells Island in sight of Peddocks, Gallop and Georges Islands. The channel we were on the edge of, until very recently represented the only safe deep water route into Boston Harbor. Quite narrow, it is a strategic location to fortify and historically has been filled with mines, and surrounded by guns.
As regular readers know, my favorite way to anchor is under sail; on Lovells we managed to do this while heading dead down wind at its steep shore. Since the bottom slopes up so quickly the band of depth suitable for anchoring is very narrow and lies close to the shore - and the wind was blowing directly on shore so we only had one chance to set our anchor and prevent us being blown ashore (or starting the engine in a hurry); This required careful coordination between Maryanne on the bow, and myself at the helm. At about three boat lengths from shore, when both of our eyes started getting pretty big at the approaching beach, we turned the boat upwind and let the sail slow us and start backing us up. As soon as we stopped moving forward Maryanne dropped the anchor and the boat started backing up quickly - quickly enough to set the anchor as Maryanne halted the chain at the required scope. It was still a little disconcerting to be so close to shore but after a couple of gusty storms passed we were sure we were pretty safe and slept well for the evening; except for the three things the guidebook warns of: loud party boats, the fog signal from the nearby beacon, and the air traffic flying in and out of Logan airport - but all died off in the middle of the night and we did sleep well.
The next morning we decided to leave Footprint anchored and set off in the dinghy to Lovells Island to explore. Currently a favorite camping spot, it is littered with fortifications, serving Boston from the Spanish-American War (1898+), through to WWII. Most survive on the island only as heavily overgrown foundations, but there is an impressive battery which has stone steps running up and down along a length of possibly 1000'. We clambered over them all and enjoyed the harbor views from the tops.
We returned to the boat for Lunch and then rowed across the narrow (Called "the Narrows" - and luckily quiet) channel to Georges Island. Unlike its sleepy cousin across the channel, Georges Island was teeming with people (volleyball playing, picnicking families - seemingly used by Bostonians like any land locked park in the city). Comprising almost the entire island is Fort Warren, built in 1833, and active from 1850s through WWII. Unlike the military structures on the other islands, Fort Warren was in good structural condition and is the most impressive of all the structures we had seen. We spent hours wandering around the inner and outer grounds along long rows of gun batteries and through room after room, detouring via dark stairways and passageways, never totally sure where each may lead us.
To give an idea of the size of the place, the inner grounds were approximately the size of a large stadium (think football or concert), yet had the tranquil and grand feeling of any ivy league university. Huge oak trees line some of the paths that lead through the courtyard. It really was splendid. The forecast was for a possible storm and it materialized as we were exploring some of the cavernous rooms. We took shelter along with a few others and watched the wind and rain whistle into the doorway and echo its way through the corridors. By the time the storm was finally over it seemed we had the fort to ourselves. Eventually we, like the other visitors, left the island, but we rowed ourselves back to Footprint for dinner and a good nights sleep (hopefully - that may depend on that fog horn!).