Thursday, 31 October 2013

Return to Rhode Island ….. October 2013

01 – 15 Oct:  Newport, Rhode Island to Havre de Grace, Maryland – 39 32N 76 04W

PA010058Hanging Around in Newport

It is always such a good feeling to return to somewhere we have been before.  We already know where to anchor, where the dinghy dock, laundry, supermarket etc are; familiarity is such a wonderful feeling, but one we seldom get to experience living the nomadic life we do.

We had returned to Newport on Rhode Island to collect our new headsail that we had ordered from Quantum Sails before we went north to Maine.  It was ready for us and they delivered and fitted it promptly, we had increased the size slightly but it was perfect, a job well done.  Every time there was a lull in the wind at anchor skipper seemed to roll it out, just to admire it – he was itching to try it out!

From Newport we were planning to head south around the outside of Long Island and do a two night passage down to the entrance of Delaware Bay then up the Delaware River, through the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal and finally into Chesapeake Bay.   The weather however, had other plans, we weren’t going anywhere.

So - Back Onto the Bikes 

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We found a safe spot to lock our bikes so kept them ashore for the duration of our stay.   One warm sunny afternoon we cycled around to Fort Adams, built around 1824 it is the largest coastal fort in the USA and sits defending the entrance into Newport.  The road to the fort was bordered by small farms, it was just like being on an English country lane: stone walls separated the paddocks, cows grazed, pigs rolled around in their pens, autumn leaves tumbled – just beautiful, all very rural and just minutes from Newport town.


PA080015We carried on from the Fort, through the surrounding State Park then followed the road around the coast out to Brenton Point State Park at the bottom left tip of Rhode Island. 

From there we just kept going along Ocean Avenue which fringes Rhode Island Sound, we passed modest homes, seaside cottages and magnificent mansions all sharing the same wonderful views over the Sound.  

It was an excellent afternoons bike ride, followed by Quahog Fritters (just had to order them as we had no idea what they were!!) and a relaxing drink at The Lobster Shed, a great spot we found in Newport’s converted warehouse waterfront area.  And to enlighten those of you, who – like us have never heard of a quahog, it is a shellfish found around these parts and was very tasty!

Mansions, Mansions …. and even more MansionsPA070003

In the late 1890’s Newport became THE place for the incredibly rich to build “summer cottages”.  Yes, the photos are not actually of mansions, these are all just cottages. 

Known as the “Gilded Age” the absolute wealthiest of America’s society built these incredibly opulent mansions, mainly along the cliff edge on Bellevue Avenue.   Each owner went to great lengths to have the latest inventions installed (electricity for the newer ones!!) and it really goes without saying that they simply wanted to outdo the neighbours.

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We purchased the Preservation Society 5 Property Pass for $31.50pp and took a few days exploring these decedent properties.  4 had audio tours which were entertaining and informative, they told the stories of the owners and staff and enabled us to gain a real insight into this age of extreme wealth for a select few.  They also told stories of which properties had, over the years, been used as movie sets – remember Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby, the ballroom scenes were filmed at the Elms.  

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Still Waiting for the WeatherPA070002

Although we were getting rather settled and sunny weather in Newport, offshore a tropical depression was loitering, sending gale force winds and huge seas onto the Delaware Coast south of us. 

In the end we decided to head back through Long Island Sound and New York, day sailing to cover some miles, whilst giving the weather and seas time to settle before we headed out into the North Atlantic for what would then be only one night at sea to the Delaware Bay.


Our good intentions of leaving at first light got scuppered when our anchor chain had not only a lobster pot wrapped round it but an old rusty anchor hooked through it as well.  We eventually managed to untangle ourselves and dropped them back into the deep for the next poor cruiser to hook onto! 

We headed out into lively seas and had a fast and furious ride for the first few hours, conditions improved slightly the further we got into Long Island Sound.  We had a mammoth day, logging over 70 miles to Joshua Cove and anchoring just on dusk.   Next day the seas were slightly more agreeable and we made it to Port Washington on dusk, anchored in a deserted bay and watched the lights of New York twinkle in the distance as darkness fell.


PA140038In A New York Minute

The tides were right for another early departure: with up to 4 knots of current through the East River, you sure want to get the tides right.  We flew through at speeds of over 10 knots, passed Manhattan in a flash and next thing we knew the Statue of Liberty had come back into view after our 3 1/2 month excursion north.

But we were soon past it and carried the current all the way out through the channel and into the Atlantic. 


Finally Into the Chesapeake

We were met with an extremely messy sea state and winds too fickle to hold the sails so we motored south until late in the evening when we finally filled the sails.  With a full moon to light our way and temperatures not quite down to freezing it wasn’t a bad overnight sail.  We carried on into Delaware Bay and motored up the Delaware River in  calm conditions and warmer climes, finally pulling over to the rivers edge and anchoring at sunset, just 10 miles short of the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal

Working the tides meant yet another early start as we headed through the D&C Canal, by late morning we had, at last, reached Chesapeake Bay.  We headed across the shallows to Havre de Grace, a small riverside town where we had arranged to haul out and antifoul. 

Time To Turn Balvenie into a Two Storey Condo


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Martha’s – The Vineyard with No Wine ….. Sep 2013

23 – 30 Sep: Saquish Neck to Cuttyhunk Pond – 41 25N  70 55W

Back through the Cape Cod CanalP7310087

The time had come to leave Boston, we dropped our mooring ball and headed out of Boston Harbour.  We had had a great time but September was coming to a close, leaves were starting to fall, geese and whales were migrating south – and we needed to follow their time tested instincts!  With winds of 15 –20 knots from behind we had a steady sail south,  the sun was out and it was almost warm. 

We rounded the headland that leads to Plymouth Harbour, but Plymouth is several miles up a channel so we dropped anchor late afternoon at Saquish Neck, just inside the headland off a beautiful long sandy beach.   On a warm sunny day a shore excursion along the beach would have been compulsory the following morning before departure, but with cooler temperatures it just didn’t seem so appealing.

We left late morning to time our arrival at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal with slack water and then the ebbing tide and current with us, all the way through and down Buzzards Bay.  The forecast light winds never eventuated so we motored all day.  

P9260008We listened to the first of the days Americas Cup racing while underway, another loss to Team New Zealand, the cup’s return to New Zealand was slipping from our grasp.  The 2nd race started just as we closed in on Woods Hole and Hadley Harbour, with severe currents and rocks aplenty we decided that negotiating the narrow and shallow harbour entrance while concentrating on Americas Cup racing was not good seamanship.  So we motored around in circles in clear water, listening as yet another win went Oracles way, they had transformed their boat and now seemed unbeatable.  P9260015

We safely entered Hadley Harbour in sombre moods, the dreams and hopes of our tiny nation now rested on the last “winner takes all” race, it was more than we could take.   We picked up a free mooring, skipper poured us a couple of stiff drinks, we toasted Team New Zealand’s  mammoth effort so far and sat back and soaked up the truly lovely surroundings.    

Naushon Island is one of many islands in this area privately owned by the very wealthy Forbes Family.  They are very generous in providing free moorings in this superb land locked tiny harbour, cows and horses grazed in the waterfront paddocks, evening birdsong accompanied our sundowners - it was a wonderful rural farmyard scene, seldom one we get to enjoy from the boat.

P9260006The Vineyard

Next morning we left at slack water, negotiated the short cut at Woods Hole (probably quite an interesting half mile stretch with howling winds over springtides, a little like running a grade 5 rapid I expect), but we had benign conditions so just encountered a few whirlpools and soon we were spat out into Vineyard Sound.  Then it was just a short hop across to Vineyard Haven on the very affluent and popular “summer home’’ island of  Martha’s Vineyard, nicknamed “The Vineyard”.  P9260011

There were strong northerlies forecast so we really needed to slot behind the breakwater so we could stay in Vineyard Haven.  There was absolutely nowhere to anchor but we saw a vacant town mooring, however we weren’t able to raise the Harbour Master to confirm we could take it so tied up anyway – hoping for the best.  Shortly afterwards the Harbour Master headed in our direction and we awaited the news of possible eviction, but no, it was Welcome to Vineyard Haven – yes you are fine here – and no, there’s no charge weekdays now that it’s off season.  Excellent, what a great welcome.P9260016 

That afternoon we listened to the final race in the 34th Americas Cup, hopes were extremely high when we won the start and led at the first mark, but Oracle passed us upwind and they never looked back, our boys could do no more – they had done us extremely proud but the Americas Cup was not to be New Zealand’s Cup.  It was such a disappointing outcome after the huge lead Team New Zealand had amassed, but, as we tried to convince ourselves, it was just a boat race, life would go on without the Americas Cup.

Next day we took our bikes ashore and cycled along the coastal cycle path to Oak Bluffs.  Originally settled as a summer retreat for a church movement over 200 holiday cottages were built and many are still standing, all very cute, colourful and rather whimsical.  Nowadays Oak Bluffs is a busy summer harbour fringed with waterside restaurants. P9260014

We kept pedalling on to Edgartown, the main town and by far the most upmarket.  Hidden away down one of the tree lined driveways is the property where the Obamas spent their summer vacation – following in the footsteps of the Clintons.  We stopped in a harbourside restaurant for lunch, enjoying the sun which was finally bursting out from behind the clouds.  Then we took the inland cycle path back to Vineyard Haven, such a great way to explore the island and get some exercise.

P9280023What’s in a Name?

Martha’s Vineyard was first discovered by Europeans in the early 1600’s.  There was a large Indian population already there and although unfortunately their number diminished hugely with the arrival of white mans diseases they stayed and integrated well with the new arrivals.  They were accepted by the Europeans, given equal education and were proud to have the first Native American accepted into Harvard University. P9280025

But why is it called a Vineyard?, well I’ve Googled and Wikipediaed it and still don’t know.  Martha was the grandmothers and daughters name of the man who discovered the island but I can see no record of any vineyards until the 20th century.  The irony is that most of the island is “dry”, liquor can not be purchased in any stores, there are few bars (none in Vineyard Haven), alcohol must be accompanied by food.   Good way to keep away the summertime partiers!

Next day we were going to explore the more rugged western end of the island and visit Menemsha the tiny harbour village where “Jaws” was filmed.  The weather decided otherwise, we had seen all of the Vineyard we were going to.


 The New England Sailing Season is Ending

P9280017With clear skies again we took the chance to move along to Cuttyhunk Island, the forecast was good for a couple more days so we headed out into Vineyard Sound, raised the sails and had a pleasant downwind trip in light winds the 20 miles westwards to Cuttyhunk, the furthermost west of the Elizabeth Islands.

Cuttyhunk had been on our list of places to visit since meeting the New Zealand yacht Cuttyhunk  back in the Canary Islands in 2011.  We shared several anchorages through the Caribbean with Irene and Chris onboard Cuttyhunk and finally farewelled them in Grenada as they headed for the Panama Canal , Pacific and back to New Zealand.  

We edged our way slowly in through the shallow channel and arrived into Cuttyhunk Pond, another wonderfully protected landlocked harbour.P9280028  It’s not big in there but the entrepreneurial locals have installed around 60 moorings buoys which go for $45 each a night in summer, great income for this tiny community.  They did leave a small space for anchoring as well and we slotted in there happily.  We were there for really the last weekend of the summer cruising season for the locals, on Saturday night there would have been 30 boats, Sunday just 2 of us remained. 

We enjoyed a walk ashore through this sleepy little settlement on Saturday afternoon, it was pretty much closed, but to be honest it didn’t look like there was normally much to be open!!  The guidebook talks of an excellent grocery, must have been camouflaged as someone’s house, but the Raw Bar Oyster Shack was open for an hour so we did what you must do on Cuttyhunk – buy some oysters. 


Cuttyhunk Oysters, buy on the dock or they deliver – just had to try some


Sunday provided more sunshine, we just couldn’t leave this beautiful sheltered spot. We sat back and watched as a procession of boats emptied out of the anchorage, heading in all directions back to their home ports, probably to be winterized for another year.  P9280038

We had another walk ashore, found a lovely small sandy beach to enjoy a picnic lunch and had a lazy day. This will be our last remote island getaway until we reach the Caribbean again, we were in no hurry to leave.

As the Sunday afternoon ferry sat at the wharf, golf cart after golf cart made the trip down, dropping bags, boxes and chilly bins – many of the summer home owners were shutting up for the season too.  The golf carts all got lined up nearby, left exposed to the elements until spring arrives we guess.


the cute Harbourmasters Office at Cuttyhunk Wharf

P9280022Back to Rhode Island 

Monday morning we left our little island paradise.  There was a great weather window to head 200 miles south to the Delaware River and into the Chesapeake but we had our new headsail waiting for us in Newport, Rhode Island so it was westbound for Balvenie

Shortly after clearing the island we had our closet ever visit by a whale, it was enormous, easily the length of Balvenie, it rose out of the water just metres off our port beam – we both just gasped in awe, a totally magnificent sight, one that will never be forgotten.

Time To Return to One of our Favourites – Newport

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Boston – Time for a Tea Party ….. September 2013

17 – 23 Sep 2013:  Boston – 42 21N 71 02W


Bikes At Last!!

We had decided to take a mooring buoy at the Boston Waterboat Marina during our stay in Boston.  The location was magnificent, just 100 metres off Long Wharf, the hub of all waterfront activity in Boston, it couldn’t have been better.  But a central location can also have its downsides; plenty of activity with ferries, water taxis and sightseeing cruises but this is not New York, its not that busy and things quieten down at night.  However, lurking deep below the surface, hidden from view is the ”T”, Boston's underground commuter rail network and we were right on top of the Blue Line, never before have we laid in bed listening to the rumble of trains under Balvenie!!! P9190051

Our first Boston excursion was to go north about 20 miles to Salem.  Most tourists take the convenient ferry from Long Wharf to wander round this historical maritime town and soak up  its rich seafaring history, others go to follow the Witch Trail and see one of the few places in America where several women were put to death in 1692 accused of witchcraft,  – however not us, no history or witch hunts for us,  we went to pick up our new bikes from Walmart!! 

We caught two buses to get to Walmart, picked up and assembled our new folding bikes (the same bikes that couldn’t be delivered to Rockland for us), had time to grab takeaway coffees – Dunkin Donuts do lattes and they aren’t too bad in an emergency! – then went and awaited the next bus, our gleaming new bikes were eventually placed on the bus bike rack, the bus ride was free because the machine wasn’t excepting notes, and back to Boston we went.  Mission accomplished. P9190050

Our first cycle ride was from the bus station to the marina, luckily there is a green belt that runs along this waterfront area so we managed to stay “off road” and out of harms way.   We made it back to the local bar with 15 minutes to spare before the next round of Americas Cup Racing. 

Biking Round Boston

We spent the next 4 days exploring all of what Boston has to offer, there is plenty to see and the weather was superb.  We spent one day cycling the Freedom Trail, it is a self guided tour that covers sites involved in the commencement of the American Revolution.  P9190048

For those of you like me, with a poor memory of history, here’s a snapshot.  Boston was settled by the English around 1630.  Eventually the early settlers got somewhat tired of being told what to do and with whom they could trade with by the British.  There was an uprising which resulted in the 1770 Boston Massacre, England winning and colonists even more disgruntled.  Then in 1773 the Brits put a tax on tea, the settlers were not happy and raided three British ships full of tea that were sitting in the harbour – overboard went all the tea and that little event was called The Boston Tea Party!  More friction ensued and soon thereafter groups formed to revolt against the British, local man Paul Revere appeared as the leader of the Colonial Militia and on April 18 1775 the American Revolution began. 

The rest is history


We visited Shipyard Park and toured the USS Constitution, fondly known as “Old Ironsides” because when she was built in 1797 she was so strong that cannonballs just bounced off her, the British didn’t know what they were up against.  Over 400 men sailed her at a time, now that would have been rather snug!

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P9200080Also docked nearby was the USS Cassin Young, a destroyer from the 2nd World War and the adjacent Naval Museum was also worth the visit.  We came back city side and pedalled the streets of ”Little Italy” in the North End, the Italians arrived in the early 20th century and have created a fabulous area overflowing with trattorias, cafes, pizzerias, bakeries, gelatos bars – ah, all those wonderful Italian foodie things that smell and taste oh so wonderful.     

Nearby is Faneuil Hall  a public marketplace since colonial times this area is now the place to go for outdoor dining and hanging around.  Along with adjacent Quincy Market & North and South Market buildings this pedestrian area was buzzing with outdoor street performers, market stalls & food vendors and had a very lively feel and great vibe each time we passed through.


Venturing Further AfieldP9200075

Maximizing our new little bikes we cycled a few miles out to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  This is an outstanding private collection of the Stewart Gardners’ , this couple started collecting pieces of art during extensive worldwide travels in the late 1800’s.  After her husbands passing Isabella designed a magnificent Italian inspired 4 storey home ”Fenway Court” and spent years collecting more pieces to furnish the rooms with the view of it becoming a museum.  She stipulated that everything must always be displayed as she had laid it out.  It is an amazing collection and the building and central courtyard are simply beautiful, the private artwork collection exceptional.  

P9210083We stopped for a look inside Cheers, the basement bar made famous in the 1980s sitcom series.  Avid fans were queuing outside waiting for tables so we just had a wee peak and carried on.  We cycled through the upmarket areas of Newbury and Boylston Streets, past row upon row of beautiful Boston Brownstones, meticulously cared for, flower boxes adding colour and street side trees just starting to go golden, a very pleasant area. 

 Made it into Harvard …well for a visit!P9210085

Another day we packed a picnic lunch and took the river front cycle route all the way out to Cambridge and onto Harvard

Cambridge is a very normal town but it was buzzing with thousands of elite students, the creme de la creme, preparing for years of study ahead at this top university.   Harvard Village was a cute and compact place, statues of famous Harvard graduates adorned every available spot.  And there are many famous graduates as Harvard is Americas first university, opened way back in 1636.

On our way back to town we passed Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox Baseball Team.  We had originally planned to go to one of the home games one evening but sadly our early evening moods were somewhat gloomy after watching Team Zealand’s huge lead dwindle away, day by day, in the Americas Cup Racing.


Those That Will Never Be Forgotten

One day we found The New England Holocaust Memorial.  6 towers form an outdoor corridor of granite and glass, commemorating the 6 million Jews killed in the six main concentration camps during the six years, 1939-1945.

Inscribed along the pathway between the towers are factual statements about the Holocaust, and inside the glass walls are quotes from witnesses to the massacre.  Also etched on the glass are thousands of numbers representing the numbers tattooed on the prisoners.

This is an outstanding memorial, so simple and subtle but so effective , such a poignant reminder of the atrocities carried out resulting in over 6 million lives so tragically  lost.

We also found a small discreet memorial for US Servicemen and women killed in action in Afghanistan, hundreds of tags hung as a reminder of the lives so needlessly lost.P9220004

Will we ever learn from history?

 Boston You’re Just Beautiful

We filled our days in this wonderful city effortlessly, we quickly got to know all the bike friendly streets, found the local markets, best Italian bakery, supped on excellent lattes and visited all (well several!) of the Irish Pubs. 

The Irish first came in the mid 18th century and there is still a thriving community these days.  Unlike the Italians who all seem to be gathered in Little Italy, the Irish just seem to have a corner each all over town, and on that corner is a great atmospheric Irish pub.

We loved Boston, a beautiful city overflowing with history and culture, certainly a favourite for both of us.  New England had exceeded our high expectations, by far the most enjoyable area of the USA we have ever visited.  Might just have to return one day and spend more time.

P9180042Not Forgetting the Americas Cup

Our attention daily was however totally focused on the Americas Cup Yacht Racing every afternoon at 4.15pm, and we made sure we were perched in front of the big screen in plenty of time for the action.   As the days passed we sat in disbelief and watched Team New Zealand’s 8-1 lead diminish to 8-6.  Two races had been cancelled whilst underway and another while still in the starting sequence, Team New Zealand had been leading in all three races, luck was certainly not with us and Oracle were getting stronger every day. 

We had a window to carry on heading south.  Watching the live coverage daily of the Cup slipping away, with only one race needed to win it, was more than we could take. Maybe we would have better luck if we couldn’t watch it.

Maybe Not