The Big Sailing Trip Part VI
This is the last installment of the story of the big sailing trip. To read from the beginning, start here.
Wednesday July 3, 2019
We arrived at Block Island in the morning. We entered through the channel on the west side into the Great Salt Pond. The pond is a giant anchorage where boats can anchor there for free while the boaters are staying on Block Island. We set our anchor in the northwest corner of the anchorage near the recreational shellfishing area. We waited to make sure that we weren’t dragging our anchor.
That’s the thing that you have to be careful with when you’re anchoring—making sure that you’re going to stay put. We’ve had other boats drag and hit our boat while we were on Block Island in the past, and it's a feeling that leaves you feeling very out of control of the situation. We are basically at the mercy of every other boater around us, and they are at ours. Block is extremely popular over 4th of July weekend, so around us are all manner of boaters and varying skillsets. We laid out all of our anchor chain, and the weight of the chain combined with the claw of the anchor dug into the mud kept us in place. There was another boat anchored near us and by the end of the weekend they had maybe 4 other boats rafted to their boat on that one anchor--which made me anxious.
We took another group photo at another landmark, arrival in Block Island, Rhode Island.
Once we were sure we were in our spot we left the boat and headed onto the island. Deb had packed up her gear, she was missing home and planned to take the ferry back to the mainland, an Uber back to her car at the airport and then drive home to Norwich, Vermont.
We learned that Block Island would be shooting off their fireworks tonight, and then a parade would be held on the island the next day for the 4th. The taxi drivers on the island are all locals looking to make a few extra bucks. They charge a fixed price and they take passengers all over the island, and we usually get tips from the drivers about cool things that are happening on the island. Ours told us that she was going to be in the parade dressed as a pirate. “My costume is great,” she said. “I look like Johnny Dep’s pirate girlfriend.” We laughed as she drove us into the main part of town, over by Old Harbor.
We ate lunch at the National Hotel, and walked Deb to the ferry. Me, Sean and Todd browsed in the shops for a bit, grabbed some ice cream from Aldos, and made our way back to the boat.
Once we got back to the boat we went to Fiji. Let me explain. We bought an inflatable raft, and it says Fiji on it. We decided it would be our private island, so we inflated Fiji when we got back and went for a swim to wash off the heat of the island. “We’re not in North Carolina anymore” I called out to Sean after I jumped in and felt the chill of New England ocean penetrate right to my bones. The last time we all got into the water off the boat was just off the coast of North Carolina, where the water was much warmer than New England water. I climbed up onto Fiji and sipped my rum punch.
And then Aldo came by. Earlier we went to Aldo’s bakery to get an ice cream. But Aldo also has a boat, and people who work for the bakery drive the boat all the way through the anchorage and sell pastries and other foods to the boats. In the afternoon they sell desserts, shrimp cocktails and oysters. In the morning they sell coffee and morning pastries. Their chocolate eclairs are amazing, after I have them I dream about them.
We snacked and watched a movie until the fireworks launched from shore. We sat on the roof of the boat and watched in awed silence. I reflected on the trip as I looked over at Todd and Sean. Every day of this trip we put our lives in each other's hands and I was so grateful to these amazing people I have in my life. Wish Deb could have been there to see them too.
Thursday July 4, 2019
“Let’s go ashore and rent mopeds,” Todd suggested. We ate breakfast, tidied up the boat from our last passage from Atlantic City, and went ashore to rent mopeds. We each rented one and I joked that we were the Heck’s Angels. This was my first time ever driving a moped, so the guy at the moped shop had to teach me how to ride. I felt shaky as I eased the throttle up to speed and he ran beside me.
Eventually I got the hang of it and we headed over to my favorite spot on Block Island, Mohegan Bluffs. This is a beach that is way below some high cliffs. To get to the actual beach you’d have to walk down a steep set of stairs, then scale down the rocks at the bottom of the stairs to get to the sand. The beach faces the south, and the waves that travel all the way up the Atlantic to get to the island are powerful from traveling all those miles. We met up with our friends Dennis and Tabitha on the beach and made plans to meet up later.
We traveled all the way up the stairs back to our bikes. The heat of the day was peaking, and sweat poured down my face as I tried to find the key to my moped and we got back on to explore the rest of the island.
We took a leisurely ride all the way to the north tip of the island. We rode past farms, historic houses, modern houses, rolling hills, pastures, big shady trees. We rode back to town to get another ice cream from Aldo’s.
Todd decided to go to the supermarket to get fixins for that night’s dinner with Dennis and Tabitha, while Sean and I headed over to the most popular bar on the island, Ballard’s.
Ballard’s is a massive beach bar, and because of it’s proximity to the ferry it’s a very popular spot for day trippers. When we walked in it was wall to wall bodies dancing to the DJ at the barn sized inside bar. Then outside the beach was wall to wall bodies lounging on the beach chairs. Women in bikinis and shirtless men where everywhere we looked. We waited a very long time for our overpriced drinks at the bar and walked the beach. Thong bathing suits, apparently, are a thing this year. There were so many women sporting thongs. I offered to fade into the woodwork while Sean, single, would go have a flirt. But I think it was overwhelming. Where do you start in a place like that with so many drunk people in bathing suits everywhere you looked.
We finished our drinks and left Ballard’s just as the police were showing up—state and local. We overheard one say “OK, where’s the guy?” and to this day I do not know what they were looking for. We headed back to the boat and met up with Dennis and Tabitha on the dock. We stepped into the launch and stepped onto our boat.
It was Dennis and Tabitha’s first time seeing our new boat, and it was fun to show it off. I hopped in the shower to wash off the sweat and dust, while everyone else jumped in for a swim. When I got dressed I saw Dennis and Tab eating oysters off the edge of Fiji, and then an old friend showed up in a kayak with his new wife.
I went to high school with John. He was actually my best friend’s boyfriend. We were 15 when Sue started dating John. Her parents didn’t want her going on her own on dates yet, so I went with them. The three of us palled around all summer and into the fall. Eventually Sue and John broke up. John and I are friends on Facebook and we get to see each other’s boating adventures. It was fun to catch up with him, meet his new wife, and of course show off my new boat.
They were honeymooning on Block Island, after just getting married last week. Then their friends from another nearby boat came to pick them up for dinner. Then Todd threw some steaks and chicken on the grill, we sat around the table in the cockpit, ate and laughed.
We had to get our mopeds back by 8 PM. We got ashore at 7:45. Dennis and Tabitha got into a cab and Sean, Todd and I boarded our hogs and headed back to town. I had gotten more comfortable with driving the moped, but there was that one sharp corner by the National Hotel that literally almost killed me.
Sean had explained earlier how to take corners. You slow down when you approach, speed up a little in the corner, and keep your eyes on where you want to end up after the corner. I had successfully done that sequence every corner I took, until this last one.
I am not sure what happened. I went to slow, or too fast, or something. But I ended up not turning at all because I felt like I was going to fall over. I ended up going straight across the street and crossing the path of a white van. I was terrified thinking I would end up colliding with the grill of the van. I stopped on the other side of the street to collect my thoughts, and the driver of the van just sat and stared at me. He was in a position where I had no room to move to get back on course. But he just sat there and stared at me. Finally I convinced him to move so I could get back on my side of the street. Adrenaline tingled in my hands and legs as I inched my way back to the moped stand. Sean saw the whole thing and asked me what happened, and I was a bit too freaked out to explain what happened.
We returned the bikes, met up with Dennis and Tab and headed to the beach bar behind the Surf Hotel. This is a new spot, and it was a peaceful little bar right on the beach where we killed time until we headed over to Club Soda to see a band.
We learned that the launch would stop running at 10:45 but the band wasn’t going to start until 10. We hung out and only managed to hear a few songs before our taxi arrived. We all piled in and headed back to the boat to sleep.
Friday July 5, 2019
We had a bit of breakfast and saw Dennis and Tab off the boat. We woke to fog and waited a bit for it to lift. It didn't lift. In fact it got even thicker.
We pulled up our anchor and made our way out of the Great Salt Pond. The fog was still so thick that we only had about 1/8 of a mile visibility around the boat. Sean and I sat out on the bow and kept watch while Todd watched the radar screen for oncoming boats. We rode that way all the way to the mainland. The sun shone from above but the fog around us on the surface of the water still remained thick. It was creepy to see the boats near us barely come into view and then slip away again into the thick fog. This is what the fog looked like for the entire trip from Block Island to the mainland.
It finally lifted when we got to the Jamestown Bridge, we put up the sails and rode the wind and the tide all the way up the bay to Greenwich Bay, where we took the sails down and motored our way to our mooring. Todd dropped me off at the dock where I picked up the dive boat while he and Sean picked up the mooring lines and got us tied up.
In total we traveled 1,213 miles end to end.
added on 08.26.19