Monday, July 30, 2007

Mystic Conecticut to Newport, Rhode Island

We’re in Newport, Rhode Island with about 30 other anchored vessels among more than 400 moored vessels. Our sail from Mystic was very nice, with smooth Atlantic waters and south winds, 10-15kts. As we approached Newport, there were many sailors out racing their single purpose sailboats. From 20 feet to over a hundred feet, they were tacking back and forth on beam reaches, going as fast as they could (which was pretty fast for some of these racing vessels). Our anchorage is right next to the channel going from the harbor to Narragansett Bay, giving us a great view of all the boats heading in and out of the harbor. The action is non-stop and very interesting. Most boats sail between all the moored and anchored boats on their way out, like it’s a point of pride to sail as much as possible, or maybe it’s just the challenge of weaving between all the boats under sail power alone that makes it fun for them. As I type this, a 70 footer going 9kts just cleared our anchor chain by 10 feet, making me wonder how deep it’s keel is. The channel leading out of the harbor is just behind our stern, and the 70 footer could have been in the channel, but no, he’s weaving between all of the anchored boats on his way out into the bay, giving everyone on board a good ride I guess.

Newport is awesome! You can see every type and size of boat imaginable. The town has plenty of shops and huge mansions. The harbor is large and well protected, with a designated area for anchoring, which is rare in these parts. Lately we’ve had to snuggle into a mooring area and anchor as close as possible to get out of navigable channels, and hope that no one chases us off. We can’t afford to get a mooring every night at 45 to 60 dollars a night, and slip spaces cost about $4 a foot, so that’s out too. So it is a pleasant surprise to find this designated anchorage with no time limits. There are also 3 different free town dinghy docks, so we can “park” near whichever shops we need to visit (post office, laundry, grocery store), similar to finding a convenient parking space for your car.

We did tour the Nautilus submarine in Groton, as I reported in the last blog. It was eye opening to be inside a nuclear sub and see the spaces which over a hundred men lived in while at sea for months at a time. We wouldn’t be able to sleep in the tight bunks without getting claustrophobia. The sub museum was very interesting with tons of exhibits like working periscopes to peer through, missiles, torpedoes, and a full scale replica of the first submarine built.

The next day we sailed the short hop over to Mystic and squeezed into the mooring by using both anchors. It worked out fine, and we spent a day touring the old Mystic Seaport, which is maintained as the town looked during the 1800’s with shipyards and big whaling schooners. We got a lesson in celestial navigation in the planetarium and watched a short movie with footage of whaling at the turn of the century. The following day we set sail for Newport, and you already know the rest of the story.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New London, CT

The Nautilus submarine sits across the Thames River from our current anchorage at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. The rain yesterday prevented us from using the dinghy to cross the river and see the first nuclear powered sub, but today is beautiful so we’ll head over to a public boat ramp and then get a taxi to the sub museum and take a tour inside the Nautilus.

The Coast Guard cadets are sailing around the river in small 4 man sailboats, accompainied by roving inflatable boats to help them if they get in trouble. But winds are light and the sailing is pretty benign. Yesterday, however, the rain and gusty winds repeatedly knocked down the 2 man sailboats they were practicing in. There were about 40 boats and we watched about 12 knockdowns. It was a good show from the comfort of our fully enclosed cockpit.

Last Saturday we sailed across Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson to Clinton, CT. We had a nice anchorage behind the breakwater extending out from both sides of Duck Island. The next morning we sailed for New London, and followed our friend Jay’s directions to this anchorage at the Coast Guard Academy. It’s a nice quiet spot interrupted by distant bugle and drum marching practice, revilie in the morning and taps at sunset. We try to get Rachel to blow her conch in answer to the bugle at sunset but she thinks she’ll get in trouble.

Our next stop will be Mystic tomorrow where we’ll spend a couple of days, and then Newport, Rhode Island after that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Todd and Denise Roy, Moriches, Long Island

Yesterday, our friend Todd Roy drove over to Port Jefferson to get us for a day of fun. We dropped Whitefoot off with his wife Denise at their home in Moriches, Long Island, and then drove to the airport for a flight in his Cessna 210. And what a flight it was! Todd flew us over the eastern harbors of Long Island, then across the sound to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Cape Cod, out over the sound to Naragansat and Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, and back to Long Island. It was a 2 hour flight traveling at 150-180kts in his retractable gear 210. It would take us a month to cover the territory in Stardust. We took photos of all the harbors we may visit and generally got a perfect overhead view of some of the places we intend to visit in the coming months. Afterwards we joined Denise for some pool-side fun in their heated pool. Denise was taking care of her niece and nephew (and Whitefoot) so all of us had a great swim, and Todd showed me some tricks to equalizing my ears. He’s an accomplished diver and spear fisherman (just a couple of his many talents). Todd and Denise fixed a scrumptious feast of steak, ribs, veggies, wine and beer. Kathy, Rachel, and I all agreed that their custom self-designed home was the best we had ever seen. Thanks Todd and Denise, for a fantastic day!

Wilton, CT

After seeing were Kathy grew up we drove the short 15 minutes to Wilton to visit my old house and high school.

Stamford Connecticut

These are photos of Kathy's house in Stamford. She lived here during her junior high school years.

Kings Point

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kings Point, Stamford and Wilton Connecticut

In between Manhasset Bay and Oyster Bay we took a short detour back to Kings Point .Merchant Marine Academy where Jim Sr. matriculated. He graduated with the class of ’49 after 2 years in school and 2 years at sea (but with schoolwork added to shipboard duties). They probably “learned” him a thing or two about the sea that he didn’t already know from his prior schooling in small boats with his brothers in St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf around Panama City.

We tried to schedule a tour via phone, but after one Captain said “no- it’s indoc and we don’t give tours during indoc”, I finally got the secretary of the Commandant who said she didn’t see why not and transferred me to the Waterfront since we would be arriving by boat. (Indoc turned out to be shorthand for indoctrination of the new plebes- freshmen). I told Waterfront that we had permission from the Commandant’s office for a visit so they were very helpful.

The day’s head of Waterfront was a senior named Allie Davis who helped tie us to the inside dock next to the 150’ training vessel, the Kings Pointer. She then gave us a wonderful tour of the campus where we saw the plebes being marched here and there and getting chewed out by the drill sergeants for things we couldn’t ascertain. Allie was very knowledgeable about the school, the campus, and also the inside tidbits to make us laugh. She had just returned from sea where she literally went around the world in 88 days. She didn’t like pulling into Hawaii at 10pm and leaving the next morning at 4am. After an hour and a half she had to go back to work, and left us to wander around some more, and then hang out under a huge shade tree on a picnic table next to the water. The visibility was excellent, and the New York skyline stood out in sharp contrast against the sky. A very beautiful campus, and we can see why Dad loved it so much. I mean a guy who grew up on the water and was then in this beautiful school to learn more about boats and the sea? He must have been in hog heaven.

Allie’s boss (I can’t tell rank by the shoulder boards) offered to let us stay for the night which was very nice, but we wanted to get back to Port Washington to see if our navigation chips had come in (they had). As we sailed back my phone rang and it was one of the Captains I had left messages with about our desire for a tour. He told me that it was indoc week and no tours were permitted. I thanked him and hung up. It’s not who you know, it’s how you treat the secretaries.

Yesterday we sailed from Oyster Bay across to Stamford Harbor, CT. Well, we tried to sail but the wind died and we motored most of the way. I counted 140 sailboats out on the water on this pretty Saturday. We picked up a mooring ($40/night) and a rental car, and spent today (Sunday) visiting Kathy’s junior high school area and home in Stamford. We ate in a little diner she used to go to with her family. The current owner of her old home, Mr. Leon Katz, saw us taking pictures from the road and came out to give us a tour of his flower garden in the backyard which he has put 35 years of work into. We took pictures of Kathy’s school, and rode around town listening to Kathy say “I remember that store…that one is new…I don’t remember this area…we used to sled on that hill….” I was waiting for “I got my first kiss on that corner” but it wasn’t to be.

Then we drove 15 minutes out the Merritt Parkway to my hometown of 1970, Wilton, where I graduated from high school. How about them apples? Kathy and I both lived in Connecticut towns 15 minutes apart before we met in Colorado. We drove around town, and Kathy and Rachel got to hear me say “I remember that store…that one is new…yadda yadda”. We visited my old house and took pictures from the street. We saw the neighbor’s driveway where I first slid down a snow covered hill with skis and the straight-a-way where I crashed my Mustang due to bald tires in the rain. We took pictures of my old high school and checked out the brand new Astroturf on the soccer field.

We surprised my cousin Carl Nelson and his wife Lisa who live in a beautiful ridgetop home in the woods of north Wilton. Rachel played in their pool with Ruthy and Greg and a couple of neighbor kids while we adults got caught up on each others lives. It was a special visit for us; definitely the highlight of the day and one of those great events which happen spur of the moment, due to living and traveling on a boat with no schedule other than a rough idea and the whims of the weather.

Tomorrow morning I’ll return the rental car and bike back to the boat (about a half-hour ride). Kathy and Rachel will swim in the yacht club pool while I’m gone, and then we’ll sail back across the Sound to Port Jefferson.

When Rachel kissed me goodnight, she told me what a wonderful day she had. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oyster Bay

Where is Oyster Bay? Well, the nearest town is Huntington, Long Island, directly across Long Island Sound from Stamford, CT. There are probably 200 sailboats in this bay, which is pretty typical of all the other well protected bays along Long Island, and have many yacht clubs along the shores; some of these clubs are over 100 years old! Huge homes (some can rightly be called castles) with perfectly manicured sloping lawns down to the water overlook these harbors and cost around 25 million we are told. Some of the moored sailboats around us cost about a million dollars.

So here we are, anchored in one of the “backyards” of a mansion, and, as usual, for free! Try to pull up into the backyard of a strangers’ mansion with your rv and try that. The weather and temperature are perfect. The water is smooth except for the occasional wake from a passing fisherman, out for bluefish. We are listening to NPR on the radio, having just finished one of my favorite breakfasts, granola and yogurt with honey (not a favorite like eggs benedict is a favorite, but it’s pretty good). Kathy just finished her stretches and exercises on the poop deck and is about to have a math lesson with Rachel (math is her one subject for the summer). The word for this morning is contentment.

Tonight we’ll have Bluefish for dinner. I caught one last night right at dusk. It’s fun to catch them- here’s how. First you cast a treble hook into a boiling mass of Menhaden (they boil when the underlying Bluefish go for them), which are small 8” baitfish, and then repeatedly jerk the rod to snag one. Then you let it swim around, waiting for a Bluefish to strike it. I like this kind of fishing because it is an active style as opposed to just throwing a baited hook in the water and waiting for something to happen.

We’ll head 10 miles across the sound to Stamford, CT in a while. There, we’ll rent a car and visit Kathy’s old stomping grounds, as well as mine in Wilton, CT. Afterwards we’ll sail back across the sound to Port Jefferson to meet up with friends Todd and Denise Roy who live in Moriches.

The anchorage in Liberty Park was perfect (protected from waves and weather, and free). We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on one day. The next day we took a bus to a water taxi to the subway on Manhattan Island, to a short walk to the Empire State Building. The view from the top was spectacular in the clear cool air. We brushed shoulders with thousands of people in Time Square. You can tell the locals from the tourists on the streets. Tourists stumble around staring upwards at the tall buildings while the locals weave expertly around the tourists. In the subways, the locals plow through the gates with passes while tourists stand off to the side watching other tourists to figure out how to buy tickets and find the right subway. Heavily armed police were in all the subway terminals as well as all over the city. We watched an approaching policeman on horseback cause a slew of street vendors selling purses and trinkets to throw their wares in a blanket straight into a waiting box on a dolly and take off down the street. One vendor hid behind a van in the street as the policeman rode by on the sidewalk, and then returned to his original sales post.

Returning to our water taxi took us past Ground Zero where the building of the Memorial Tower is underway. It was hard for us to imagine the Twin Towers standing in this spot. Many of the surrounding buildings were in stages of repair and we could see the blackened fronts of some of them. We didn’t have much to say as we stared at the site.

We carefully analyzed all information to pick the correct departure time to head up the East River to get the push from the strong current which resulted in a speed over ground of 9kts as opposed to 5kts if the current had been against us. So we “flew” past the skyscrapers under the Brooklyn Bridge, through the swirls of Hell Gate and on past Rikers Island into the Long Island Sound for a 3 hour trek to Manhasset Bay. There, we stocked up on groceries, I changed the oil on the generator and propulsion engines, and we bought more navigation chips for the chartplotter to take us all the way to Canada (or however far north we get). Yesterday we gibed downwind 15 miles to Oyster Bay. We can see the reason for all the yacht clubs and numerous sailing vessels. Long Island Sound has all the room for easy sailing and navigation, and smooth water compared to the ocean. You don’t even want to run aground around here though, because the bottom is rock, not sand. So I’m maintaining a deeper amount of water under the keel and taking the “long way around” instead of the shortcuts allowed in sandy areas, or especially in the clear waters of the Bahamas where what you see is what you get.

Our slow cell phone internet connection won’t allow photos, so they’ll have to wait for an internet café. All is well with us, and, we hope, with you too.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Statue of Liberty

Rachel’s friend McKenna from Taos is on board with us for a couple of days. We just entered a small harbor at the feet of the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July! The largest fireworks display in the US is on at 9pm tonight and we have front row seats on board Stardust. We couldn’t have planned it any better. It’s a little rainy, but most of it has gone by, and we’re hoping for good weather for the fireworks show.