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.

The Truth about Boat Trips

Most vacations begin with a few clicks of a mouse. Find a flight, hotel, punch in your credit card number, agonize over the tough choices, like choosing between a couple’s massage or a tee time, pack an extra pair of pants and a bathing suit, maybe a shirt with some flowers on it and you’re on your way! The details will work themselves out as the excitement for your trip begins to boil.

Preparing for a weeklong vacation aboard the Karen Marie was not as simple.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain


 

Most vacations begin with a few clicks of a mouse. Find a flight, hotel, punch in your credit card number, agonize over the tough choices, like choosing between a couple’s massage or a tee time, pack an extra pair of pants and a bathing suit, maybe a shirt with some flowers on it and you’re on your way! The details will work themselves out as the excitement for your trip begins to boil.

Preparing for a weeklong vacation aboard the Karen Marie was not as simple. Try to imagine preparing and packing all the food and drinks you’ll need for a week, your fuel, water, clothes, and sheets. Then there is the need to get the boat ready. There are tanks to fill, rigging to inspect, cleaning, obtaining spare parts and more. Last, but certainly not least, you need to plan your route and watch the weather like a hawk stalking prey.

To prepare for our time aboard, I began making to-do lists. I had grocery lists, engine part lists, lists of things to get from West Marine. I even had a list telling me what other lists I needed to make! It was maddening.

One task on one such list stood out like a cardinal on a snowy day: Replace the mainsail halyard. This would require me to pull Karen to the top of the mast, a chore that we both dreaded. It took some serious negotiations but Karen finally agreed (read: relented) to be pulled to the top. Borrowing a bosun’s chair from our friends at Clark Boat Yard, Karen climbed into the harness and got clipped in. If ever she was going to contemplate getting rid of the boat, or me … or both, this was the time.

I cranked on our mast’s old bronze winches, pulling her up the 35-foot mast a few inches at a time until my shoulders screamed uncle. While catching my breath, I channeled my inner Lombardi and coached Karen to the top. Despite her bravery, the new halyard wouldn’t fit through the masthead. The new line was softer, and expanded when pushed through the tight space, making it impossible to pass through the pulley at the top. Frustrated and tired, our efforts were in vain. Thankfully, we were able to replace the halyard on attempt number two.

“We’re going to need a vacation from this vacation,” said Karen while catching her breath after climbing the mast.

IMG_6176

She wasn’t wrong. Boat trips are unlike any others. They require long hours of planning. But when you cast off, and all that preparation is in your wake, that stress is replaced with something else, something that makes this crazy hobby worth it: the pride in knowing that you and your boat are prepared for the adventures ahead.

And that to-do list, now it only reads: explore, dream, discover.

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.

IMG_5019

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.

IMG_4970 IMG_4931

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.

 

In Pictures: 20th-Annual Leukemia Cup Regatta

This past weekend, I took a slight hiatus from working on the boat to attend the local Leukemia Cup Regatta, a race that drew sailboats from all over the state for fun sailing and fundraising. Towering 12-meter yachts with professional crews swapped wakes with family-run daysailers, all paying a registration fee that went towards blood-cancer research.

As crews tacked back and forth, plying the waters of Narragansett Bay, it seemed as though every sailor had a smile on their face, perhaps none more so than former America’s Cup champion and Chairman of the Leukemia Cup Regatta, Gary Jobson (whom you might recognize as the longtime-America’s Cup commentator on NBC.)

Jobson signed on as the organization’s honorary chairman in 1993 with the stipulation that he would only hold the position for three years. Well, twenty-two years and 372 regattas later Jobson is still at the helm, and the only change he’s made is dropping the word “honorary” from his title.

“The curve ball in this whole operations was 10 years into the position, in 2003, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma and I can report that it was a very tough 2-year battle with stem cell transplants,” says Jobson.

That cruel twist of fate left him with a better understanding of blood cancer, its treatments and cures.  “All the research that was being done thanks to the regattas, I ended up being the recipient. Sometimes when you try to help other people out, like myself and the folks at this regatta have done; the biggest recipient in the end might just be you.”

For more information about the Leukemia Cup Regatta and how you can help, please visit lls.org

Please enjoy a sampling of photos of this life-saving organization.

Discover Jamestown (in 22 photos)

Our home port of Jamestown, Rhode Island, is just a few minutes across the bay (or over the bridge) from its flashier and more famous Newport neighbor. Despite the proximity, these two destinations run at totally different decibels. With 5,400 permanent residents, Jamestown is a bit slower and a whole lot quieter, which is how the locals here like it.

It’s the type of town where everyone still gets morning coffee from a quaint bakery instead of a drive-through window and picks up supplies for a weekend project from the local hardware store. There are no supercenters. Dining options are limited to a half-dozen restaurants on Narragansett Avenue, but there’s enough variety to last all summer.

Transient slip space can be scarce in the high season, so plan ahead. If you want your mooring with a serene view and launch service and near one of the world’s best lobster rolls, I recommend Dutch Harbor Boat Yard on the island’s west side. Protected moorings at Clark Boat Yard or Jamestown Boat Yard (on the east side) are also excellent options. With a location that is close to destinations like Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Cuttyhunk and Nantucket, this is a smart jumping-off point — assuming  you ever decide to leave.

Enjoy a virtual stroll through the town that we call home: