Friday, August 16, 2013

Passage to the Chesapeake, Part I

[Kyle]We left Bristol way too early in the morning. I had not had nearly enough sleep, but I knew we had a long day ahead of us and we would need every minute of daylight we could get.

Our first planned stop was at Block Island. The planned distance was only 32 nautical miles, but the wind was against us, so I knew we would have to tack the whole way. The currents were against us for the first part of the day so we had to get moving and keep moving.

Apart from the fact that our progress was painfully slow in the down river direction, it was a beautiful day for sailing. It was warm and sunny and we had long enough between tacks to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Even though it’s not ideal, a tacking day is good for working out the kinks of our coordination and refining our routine.

Since it was early at the start, most of our company was fishermen. We tacked through a large group of clammers. They were using rakes on poles so much longer than their boats that they towed them behind. When the rakes were on the bottom, the men dug through the mud by working the t-handle on the other end in a manner that was somewhere between suggestive and obscene. I know they’re hard working men doing real, honest work but, c’mon. Get a room! We tried not to blush as we went by. They seemed to enjoy goading us.

It was afternoon, a full tide cycle, before we finally passed under the Newport bridge amid hundreds of other sailboats. The now favorable current drastically reduced our tack per mile ratio and we were out in the open waters of Rhode Island Sound in short order.

Without land in the way, we now were able to make hour-long tacks. We went out to where land was just a sliver on the horizon and then tacked when we figured we would be able to lay a direct course to the northern tip of Block Island. It worked for a few minutes, and then the wind gradually bent us back toward Newport. We tacked again and it started to die off.

It was getting late in the day and we were running out of time for this. We started one engine and then the other to add speed. Pretty soon, the wind was gone completely. It was smooth enough that we were able to stow the sails neatly as we raced to make it before sunset.

Sunrise at Bristol, Sunset (and no wind) approaching Block Island

We didn’t quite make it. We got to the harbor entrance early enough to be able to spot any errant pot floats, (we snagged one earlier), but it was dark by the time we actually made it into the harbor, and our spotlight was put to good use.

Salt Pond was wall-to-wall boats. We idled around the anchorage forever before we finally settled on a spot that was a little close to our comfort to set the anchor. We put out plenty of scope (chain to depth ratio), backed down between boats to make sure we were holding and then pulled up as much chain as we dared to give everyone enough room to swing. The wind was light. So we weren’t too worried about our home breaking free. In the end, we had travelled through 76 nautical miles of water to get here.

Since we’re on all chain, we swing less in light winds than rope rode boats. On a wind shift, we noticed the stern of the boat behind us was only half a boat length away. We hoped he wouldn’t make us move. We were very tired, it was very late and we needed to go to bed.

By morning, way before I had enough sleep, I could hear it: Aldo’s was calling. I emerged to find fog so thick that I could only see the boat nearest us. Through the fog came the call, “Andiamo!” The last time we were here, the guy called out “An-dia-MO!” (let’s go) This guy sounded like he was yelling “Paaasta Bowl!”, until he was right next to us. It was actually, “AAAA-ndiam-OOOO!” Perhaps the different guys all have a different way of saying it. It seems like the most Italian way to do it would be, “andi-AAAA-M-O!”

Aldo's bakery delivery service - Yummy (they do lunch, which includes a raw bar, later in the day too!)

Anyway, we didn’t have to make breakfast. We got two very sticky sticky buns, two yogurt parfaits and a big cup of rough coffee. We tried our best to come to life, but we were too tired. We managed only to get the dinghy into lifeboat mode before we were back in bed.

We emerged in the afternoon to finish the last of tidying up from our passage and simultaneously preparing for the next one. We got an unexpected bit of entertainment when we noticed the Coast Guard going over to the biggest mega yacht in the harbor. They were anchored well into the nearby no anchoring zone, which had been designated to protect shellfish beds. They had been in the middle of the harbor in deep water when we arrived the night before. After much observation, we surmised that they must have dragged anchor and reset it there to keep from running aground. They were swinging freely, so they weren’t stranded, but they were also staying put, so it seemed their props might have been damaged.

This giant boat (and its toys) did (we assume) drag anchor and find itself in a no anchorage area - luckily all before sunset

After a while, we noticed another large yacht near their old location being given a lot of attention. They attempted to set a spare anchor while being backed down by a towing service. It was unsuccessful, so they were towed off. We assume there must have been some damage by the bigger boat as they dragged through, perhaps fouling their props on the smaller boat’s chain (yes, we totally decided to make up our own story to fit the events we happened to witness).

It rained heavily most of the day, which made it easier to stay in and not feel guilty about not making the long trip from our anchorage way in the back to shore. In truth, the wind forecast required that we get another super-early start for the three-day ocean crossing. Going ashore would be pushing it and we knew we would need our rest.

1 comment:

Larry said...

You folks are amazing sailors. We have followed your adventures since the launch of Footprint the same month as our OFFWEGO Gemini #971. Stop by if you plan to head up the Potomac.