It’s known as the Sailing Capital of the World, America’s First Resort and the City by the Sea; for the last two years I have simply called it: home. Since moving here from Long Island to begin my journey with Yachting magazine I have walked the cobblestone streets with flocks of tourists, slurped clam chowder at it’s many seafood spots, and frequented its many salty pubs. What I hadn’t done, at least until the other weekend, was visit by boat.
It’s known as the Sailing Capital of the World, America’s First Resort and the City by the Sea; for the last two years I have simply called it: home. Since moving here from Long Island to begin my journey with Yachting magazine, I have walked the cobblestone streets with flocks of tourists, slurped clam chowder at its many seafood spots and frequented the many salty pubs. I thought I knew Newport pretty well but the one thing I haven’t done, at least until the other weekend, was visit by boat.
Just a ten minute trip from Jamestown, we cruised past Fort Adams, a garrison originally built in 1799 and revamped in 1841, and were met by perhaps the most eclectic fleet of yachts found in the United States. Schooners under a full wardrobe of sails silently swept by monstrous megayachts, and families in rubber dinghies dodged rust-laden fishing vessels. Simply put, it was a boat nut’s dream.
The Karen Marie anchored in one of the more quiet (a relative term) corners of the harbor, in the shadow of the New York Yacht Club’s summer location, Harbour Court. Long hours of yacht watching ensued, as did multiple dinghy rides around the harbor, which yielded some of the amazing sights I hope you enjoy below.
With the Karen Marie now resting on the hard and the first season of sailing in my wake, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder, “where the heck has the time gone?” It feels like only the other day I was stumbling around the deck trying to raise the mainsail. OK, maybe that did happen the other day, but you know what I mean.
We splashed the Karen Marie just before the 4th of July and 13 weeks later she was back on stands at Clark Boat Yard. During the time in-between there were some days with no wind for sailing and others where strong gusts sent Karen and I crawling back to the mooring with our tails between our legs. Then there were times it took half a dozen tries until we were even able to tie up to the mooring. There were failed attempts at docking, fuel leaks, banged heads, stubbed toes, cut arms, a pair of hospital trips and enough curse words to make even the saltiest sailor blush. Downpours, thunderstorms and fog often filled our forecast. We faced a number of fights and a few well-deserved near mutinies. Prone to stalling, our dinghy outboard almost ended up in Davie Jones’ locker more times than I care to admit. There were leaks, sleepless nights, and a war of attrition with a mooring ball.
I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
When I share those stories with friends, I have been asked a reasonable question: Why do you put yourself through that?
It’s difficult to explain to non-boaters the thrill that comes when your sails are trimmed just right and the starboard rail of your little Rhodes kisses the water, slicing through waves at six knots; the peacefulness of watching the sunrise illuminate the sleepy town of Wickford from your cockpit or the pride that fills you as glide into Block Island’s Great Salt Pond. Moments like that make all the previous trials and tribulations worth it.
This past season may have been short but it sure was sweet.
Exhausted from the long first day of boat ownership, I made my way to the forward berth to get some much-needed sleep. I sleep well on boats, always have. Maybe it’s the gentle rocking motion or the sound of the water lapping against the hull, but I was out like a light.
That was until I felt a single, solitary, cold wet drip land bull’s-eye right between my eyes. This little droplet may as well have been a bucket of water. Startled and in a new surrounding I jumped up, filled with a sense of urgency that I needed to get something, an extra bilge pump, a bucket or life raft perhaps. Thankfully, before I called in the Coast Guard, I was able to realize that the leak from the forward window was actually quite small, just poorly placed.
I stuffed it with paper towels and lay right up next to the gunall to avoid the drip. Now wide-awake I was still steaming about how my first day (and night) was panning out.
After dozing off for another few hours, I noticed the first light began to peer through my paper towel stuffed port light. Needing to stretch my legs and realign my back, I made my way out the companionway as my eyes adjusted to the light. Peering out across the flat-as-glass harbor to the Newport skyline, which was illuminated in a fiery orange tint was a sight I will not soon forget. It was a million dollar view. I kicked myself at the time for forgetting my camera in the melee but it is probably just as well. That sunrise was exactly the fresh start I needed. Sitting on the starboard rail with my feet dangling off the side, I finally let myself laugh at about the previous day. It’s funny how something as simple as watching the sunrise is all it takes to make everything right with the world (at least for a while).