Cruising to Cranston

Besides a half a day at the Convention Center last winter, Providence, the biggest city in the smallest state has eluded me. When planning for the trip, Edgewood Yacht Club in Cranston piqued my interest because of its close, 3-mile proximity to the city and its many attractions, ranging from Italian restaurants to museums and shows.

So at 0700 the Karen Marie left East Greenwich and headed farther north. Slowly navigating out the narrow channel and into the bay, we found ourselves completely alone, a stark and almost eerie contrast to our often-overcrowded home water off Newport. Light and shifty winds made sailing difficult. Constant sail trimming and wheel turning had us making a knot and a half of speed, and that was only when Karen and I blew into the sails at same time!

After 30 minutes of staring at the same house on the coast, I felt that sufficient time had passed to meet the requirements of “the old college try.” We doused the sails and motored on. Lighthouses and mansions passed just beyond our lifelines, providing hours of entertainment. Before we knew it, the Providence skyline had appeared before our bow . A few unanswered calls from the VHF and cell phone to Edgewood went unanswered, which had us looking out for a plan B but as we approached the mooring field, a very excited launch operator waved us down and greeted us.

Lighthouses dot the rocky shores of Narragansett Bay.
Lighthouses dot the rocky shores of Narragansett Bay.

Taking the dinghy to shore to check in, we immediate got the impression that Edgewood Yacht Club doesn’t get many transient visitors. For example, where I come from, people can often be heard greeting one another by saying: “How’s it going?” “Good, you?” “Good thanks.” And then both parties go on with their day. Greet someone in Edgewood with that same greeting, and you better be prepared to hear exactly how “it” is going.

Asking the dockmaster for a couple bags of ice at most marinas is met with a nod towards the ice chest and the quick exchange of $7. The dockmaster here listened, genuinely interested about where we came from, why we decided to stop here, and where we were headed next before relinquishing a bag of the cold stuff. This level of friendliness was a surprise, but a welcome one.

It would only take a short trek into town to realize why guests here get looked at like green Martians; the only attraction seemed to be its proximity to the capital city. The temperature at this point had risen to a hot and sticky 90-degrees, which had Karen and myself exploring the air-conditioned aisles of convenience stores instead of hunting down any real points of interest. We decided to leave Providence for another (cooler) day. Maybe in the fall.

We opted instead to join my parents, who were in Cranston with us, on a dinghy ride. Loaded down with the four of us, a 55 lb black lab and a cooler filled with drinks had the 8 hp Yamaha working harder than usual to push us towards the city. Puttering past a major shipping port called Waterson Terminal Service was an impressive part of the ride. Mountains of coal and salt towered above us as foreign container ships filled with cars and other goods casted shadows over the Providence River. After exploring the shore of this facility, we decided to turn back to the marina.

Now, a good sailor knows to always pay attention to the wind direction and speed. Whoops. We quickly learned that we blissfully had our backs to a building south wind that now hit our raft like a right hook. My parent’s lab, Zoe went from sitting up on the bow, tail wagging at a mile a minute to hiding her head between the bench seat and the portable gas tank. Karen and my mom, acting as unwilling human shields, took the brunt of the salt-spray.

My parent's usually peppy puppy was glad to return dockside after a rough ride in the raft.
My parent’s usually peppy puppy was glad to return dockside after a rough ride in the dinghy.

Some much needed showers, and a few glasses of wine warmed everyone up and we all enjoyed dinner on my parent’s boat. Three games of cards, and a couple hours of smack talk capped off an otherwise pleasant and relaxing evening.

If you’re looking for a quiet marina, hidden in the shadows of bustling city, where friendly folks make even the most cynical guests feel right at home, I highly recommend a visit to Edgewood Yacht Club. Be sure to tell them Dan sent you.

Going Ashore in East Greenwich

The mooring line dropped to the water below, the engine hummed and our bow was pointed north up Narragansett Bay like it has many times before. But this time it felt special, maybe it was the relief of knowing that all the trip preparation was finally in our wake. This was day one of a week-long sailing vacation and our longest trip aboard the Karen Marie to date.

Hurricane Arthur rudely positioned itself off the coast of Rhode Island, forcing us north into the protected waters of the Bay. Stiff 20-30 knot winds made for a sporty trip to East Greenwich, a small and historic port about 20 miles away.

Raising only the mainsail sent us skipping along to our destination at 5-6 knots, so we opted to stick with this arrangement. (Raising the jib would put us at risk for becoming overpowered, especially with the occasional gusts above 30-knots.) During one particularly breezy stretch of the bay, Karen and I decided to reef the mainsail, (a practice where a portion of the sail is lowered and wrapped up, thus reducing the boat’ sail area and speed but increasing control). Our plan worked too well and we were reduced to two measly knots. We raised our sail back up minutes later.

In total, it took about 5 hours for us to reach the forest-lined East Greenwich Bay, where fleets of dinghy sailors swarmed us like pestering mosquitos. We ducked and dodged our way through the narrow channel until we found an open mooring at the East Greenwich Yacht Club. Our location boasted views of numerous marinas to our right and the 480-acre Goddard State Park to our left, where you could occasionally spot horseback riders trotting along the shore.

After settling in, we took a quad-burning walk up a steep hill to the center of town. It was hard not to fall in love with this place immediately. It was quaint and charming yet lively at the same time. Restaurants, bars, boutiques and the always-important ice cream shop lined clean and quiet streets.

With temperatures in the 90’s, we cut our walk short, opting instead to swim in the cool clear water before an alfresco dinner of chicken, rice and grilled carrots. Besides the carrots, which somehow ended up being both under and overcooked at the same time, it was a great meal. With just a bit of room left in our stomachs, we ventured to an Irish pub that we passed earlier called Fat Bellys. A bar with a name that funny is hard to pass up. We toasted to a good start of the vacation and talked about our hopes for the rest of trip.

Only a short car ride away from our home port; as Karen and I walked through quiet streets back to the boat, we both felt like we were in some far off place, a world apart from the daily grind we left behind. I guess the worth of nautical adventures can’t be measured in miles traveled.

Unplugged and Recharging

Gonna put the the world away for a minute 

Pretend I don’t live in it 

Sunshine gonna wash my blues away

Zac Brown


I would like to take a few minutes to talk about nomophobia – an epidemic that studies show affect 2 out of 3 Americans. Nomophobia is the fear of being without your cell phone. And for full discretion, I suffer from this disorder (the first step is acknowledging you have a problem, right?). From the time I wake up until my head returns to the pillow at night, I carry my phone with me. I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (follow me @dharding89!). I read emails and texts from my cell throughout the day, and plug headphones into it while working out.

The other day I saw the dark side of this addiction. Karen and I were enjoying dinner at a local Irish bar and listening to an awesome and authentic Irish band. I glanced over at the tables around us where 5 people, all about our age, sat with their heads in their laps, staring down at small cellphone screens.

Good God, what has this world come to that a bustling bar with live music isn’t enough to entertain us?” I pondered over a pint of Smithwick’s.

There is one place where I can find sanctuary from my cellphone addiction, and that is on the water. The peacefulness drives me to turn off the phone and unplug from the 24/7 world around me. Listening to waves gently lapping against a hull as a boat gently rocks from side to side and watching the sun paint the sky with shades of orange and red, is better than any email or YouTube video. It’s a place where I can get lost in a book or in my own meandering mind.

It was on one such peaceful night, capped off with cheap red wine and some board game that Karen forced on me that I glanced over at the boats around us where, couples sat quietly talking, untethered from the digital world, proving what I have long suspected: The cure for nomophobia is saltwater.

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Peacefulness at Potter’s Cover

With an empty schedule and a full cooler, the Karen Marie was once again headed up Narragansett Bay, leaving the real world in her wake. This weekend’s destination of choice was Potter’s Cove, a small-protected harbor on the north end of Prudence Island, not far from Bristol. With no wind to speak of, Karen and I were motoring at a leisurely pace.

It was flat calm, sunny and there was little boat traffic. For weeks I had been meaning to do some man overboard drills with Karen and now seemed as good a time as any. A large inflatable tube would be playing the role of the MOB (who would presumably be me). Just to see what would happen without any prior instruction, I took the large tube and chucked it off the back of the boat. Quick to action, Karen turned the boat deliberately and applied a liberal amount of throttle. Bearing down on the poor tube at 5 knots, I winced before going below deck to dust off my PFD. “Death by my own boat would be a cruel way to go,” I thought.

Alas, like anything in life it took practice but Karen had improved greatly, performing crisp figure eights and pulling alongside the tube, no worse for wear. Having endured more than a dozen strange looks from people wondering why I kept throwing a tube and Karen kept going after it, we continued on to the cove.

I didn’t know too much about Potter’s Cove before hand, except that a colleague described it as: a peaceful peace of water with a good bottom for anchoring. Arriving at lunchtime, the small harbor was abuzz with activity. Powerboat raft-ups were plentiful with groups of 6 or more vessels strung together. Small craft pulling excited children on tubes zig-zagged in front of us. Today would mark our first time anchoring, and this was not the audience we were hoping for.

Finding a spot in the back of the harbor, Karen directed the boat into the wind and I dropped the anchor. Letting out 25-ish feet of line, I quickly tied it off and waited. Much to my pleasant surprise, the anchor took hold immediately.

A natural-born skeptic, I sat on the bow for the next half-hour, watching the boat swing, ready to pounce should the anchor start to drag. I fired up an anchoring app, cleverly named, Anchor! Should the boat drift outside of its pre-determined geo-fence, my phone would automatically call Karen’s phone and sound an alarm. It took a bit of fiddling to determine an the best geo-fence range, but eventually we figured it out. Running both phones around the clock quickly drained their batteries, which provided the opportunity to test two of our other toys, a portable solar charger and a Powerpak Xtreme portable charger from Newtrent. The solar charger was extremely reliable but was slow to charge our phones. The Powerpak, charged our devices swiftly but was not the most user-friendly device. In tandem however they were great portable power sources.

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A dinghy ride and subsequent walk through the island revealed, well, not much of anything. Karen and I hiked for miles only to find forest-lined gravel roads and the occasional quaint home. There was no Starbucks. There were no restaurants or movie theatres, and that’s exactly how the 100 year-round residents here seem to like it. Prudence Island is only accessible by boat –there is a car ferry that runs from Bristol. Research, after our visit, revealed that there are three small shops, a couple farms, and a schoolhouse, which was built in 1896 and is still open for kindergarten through fourth grade. It had 9 students last year.

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We would have to leave those attractions for our next visit.

An al fresco dinner of steak and asparagus capped off our evening of leisure and exploration. After a full day of sun, I was looking forward to a peaceful night’s sleep. My neighbors on the raft up to the north were not on the same plan. Boozy ballads ranging from What does the fox say?, to the always popular Macharana echoed across the otherwise tranquil harbor. And with all due respect to Billy Ray and his Achy Breaky Heart, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about firing a few rounds of flares at the rowdy-raftup.

Watching them stumble around in a hangover haze the next morning made my morning coffee taste that much sweeter. After downing a shortstack of pancakes, Karen and I began the slow sail back to Jamestown.

There are many ways to rate a destination.  Some measure the worth of a place by the number of 5-star accommodations or restaurants, in which case Prudence Island would not be for you. If natural beauty, unspoiled by modern amenities and quiet (damn you crews of SeaDuction and Feeling Nauti) are more your speed, you too might enjoy a brief escape to Potter’s Cove.

 

4 Reasons to Love Woodworking

Tightly tucked into the corner of a snow-covered boat yard, the Karen Marie rests idly on a set of rusted blue stands, her canvas cover shielding her from the elements.  Unlike last winter, the past few cold-New England months were not filled with a frantic boat project. There were no masts to build but alas, I am learning that there is always work to be done on a boat.

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The better of the two doors, it could still use some TLC to return it to its former glory.

My focus is now shifting to the interior of my 1961 Rhodes Chesapeake, which is beginning to show her age.  She needs her old wooden roofline torn down and replaced, a fresh coat of paint, new upholstery and just some plain old TLC. The brightwork that years ago must have glistened is now gray and worn, setting the mood for our small living space. Looking to get a jump on its restoration, I brought my wooden companionway staircase and one of two wooden doors home for sanding and refinishing. On a few of the warmer days I set out with my orbital sander to remove layers  (and a lot of them!) of old varnish from their cedar skin.

Though sanding and wood working in general is considered a laborious chore (and in some ways it is) and often left for boat yards to handle, I rather enjoy it and here’s why:

  1. You get out of it what you put in: Few things in life are fairer than woodworking. If you take your time sanding and ensure that all the layers of old varnish are removed while continuously going over your work with a finer and finer grit paper, ensuring no sanding marks are left behind, when you’re finished, you will have something that really shines. Cut corners, leave scuffmarks or neglect the hard to reach places (read: underside of companionway steps) and it will show.
  2. It gives you an excuse to buy new toys: My toolbox sometimes looks the lost and found at the airport. I have three screwdrivers, of all different brands, two wire strippers of different colors, an assortment of zip ties, hose clamps and an bevy of paintbrushes that would make da Vinci jealous. But where my tool collection thrives is with my sanding equipment. I am the proud owner of a new belt sander, orbital sander and multiple sanding blocks for hand sanding. I have sandpaper of every grit and color. (In fact, I’ve been told I should head down to the beach with paper and glue to save money.) I have battled many hard to reach edges in my young restoration career. I’ve sanded the underside of handrails and a detailed steering wheel until I was certain I’d permanently rubbed off my fingerprints (thankfully, I still have all 10).  That all changed when I acquired a Dremel Multi-Max MM40, with a sanding attachment. This bad boy saved me approximately 4 hours of work on just the door and staircase project alone by reaching the tight corners.

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    A new power tool is a beautiful thing.
  3. Time to unplug: Sanding a flat door is not what you would call intellectually stimulating. In fact, some would say it’s mindless work, and I would have to agree, but in the instant gratification world we live in, where email alerts, Facebook and ESPN Gameday updates too often consume our personal time, I find it almost therapeutic to sit in my back yard or garage, unplug and work on something with my hands.
  4. Something to be proud of: My parents instilled in me, at a young age, the value of doing things yourself. Whether it was remodeling a bathroom, building a deck or simply fixing your own flat tire, the pride in doing something yourself was not lost on me, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I had built the wooden mast for my boat and sailed her that I truly appreciated the value in building something on your own that you could be proud of.  The same sense of pride was there when I painted the boat, varnished her topsides and I know one day when I’m hiding from a rainstorm in the cabin, I’ll be proud of this project too.

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    Karen uses a piece of 80-grit to sand the corners of the door, while occasionally giving me a death stare while I happily sand away with my new Dremel tool.

Happy Sanding!

A Wheel Pain in the A$$

With Christmas and the New Year fast approaching, I would be taking a break from mast construction to spend time with my family on Long Island. Not wanting to completely lose momentum, I brought home my wooden cabin doors, cockpit bench seats and the wheel, all of which had layers of varnish that were peeling like a Irishman after a sunny-summer day.

Armed with my orbital sander and some 80-grit sandpaper, I tore through the neglected layers of varnish on the doors and seats with relative ease. Applying a fresh piece of paper to the sander, I was ready to tackle the wheel. Peering at the myriad rounded edges and small decorative crevices caused a cold sweat to condense on my brow. After 10 minutes of staring at the wheel, I realized I was destined to sand the wheel by hand.

Setting up shop in my parent’s basement, I clamped the wheel to the old workbench, took one last breathe of debris-free air and dug in. Zone focused with ample amounts of elbow grease, I worked the paper back and forth on one of the mast’s handles. When I had exhausted both an entire sheet of paper and my right arm I had managed to…barely scratch the surface. I cursed the previous owner and each of the seemingly hundreds of coats of varnish he slathered onto my cockpit’s centerpiece.

I found myself at a proverbial crossroads. Do I condemn myself to a weekend muttering to myself in my parent’s basement while restoring this wheel or do I pry open my wallet and buy a new one? To be perfectly honest the latter sounded pretty darn good but I ultimately convinced myself (more muttering alone in a basement) that doing so would be a sin in the eyes of purist boat restorers.

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I instead spent my money on shares in 3M and dozens of packages of paper and went to work. Thankfully, I would not be left to sand off my fingertips alone as Karen soon joined me this endeavor. Though it was a monotonous and laborious 16-hour undertaking, we eventually had the wheel stripped down to bare teak. Thankfully for all involved underneath all the weathered varnish was a beautiful-original wooden wheel.

My old man would help me varnish the wheel and cockpit doors and when they were finished to a high-polished shine they were like works of art. Admiring the finished product, I couldn’t help but hope that with time, elbow grease, and the occasional tear (rising stock in 3M wouldn’t hurt either) the Karen Marie’s hidden beauty would also appear.

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