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.

 

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:

 

Visiting Bristol by Boat

Before my feet touch the floor in the morning, I begin wondering what the day ahead of me has in store. Most days I’m pretty accurate. Start with coffee or maybe a protein shake, prepare for a 10 o’clock meeting, blah, blah, go back to bed.

I had big hopes for this day though. After spending the previous day preparing the boat to be underway, (attached the main sail, filled the fuel tanks, etc.) my goal was to spend the night in a secluded cove somewhere. The daily grind had been wearing on both Karen and I, and the thought of waking up to the sunrise surrounded by water was exactly what the doctor ordered.

So with the cooler packed and the sunscreen applied, we drove over to the boat yard. Mother nature —a cruel temptress— sent drizzle and low-lying clouds to dampen our plans. A quick check of the weather revealed that the forecast had changed from the night before, and was now dreary at best.

“Alright, let’s leave the cooler and just go for a ride around Newport,” I said.

The short drive around our neighboring port only whetted my desire to stay away from land. It didn’t hurt that the sun was now peaking its head out from under the clouds.

“You know what?” I asked, glancing at Karen.

“Raise the sails?” she responded in an unsurprised tone.

“Yeah, just for a little while.”

The next thing I knew, we were eating PB&Js and the Pell Bridge was disappearing in our wake at 5.2 knots. We were heading north towards Potter Cove. My only regret was leaving that damn cooler in the car. “Rookie mistake,” I thought to myself.

It was 7 long months but the sails once climbed to the top of the mast.
It was 7 long months but the sails once again climbed to the top of the mast.

A little panning on the GPS showed that Bristol, RI was not much further than our intended destination. With winds growing to near 20 knots, we both agreed it might be nice to tie up to a mooring for the night. We opted to stay at the Herreshoff Marine Museum because, well, it was the only place I had heard of.

We checked in at the Herreshoff Museum, which is, I would learn, a Disney World of sorts for boat lovers. It’s namesake, Nathaniel “Nat” Herreshoff was and still is known as one of the greatest boat designers, having penned the designs for half a dozen America’s Cup contending yachts. His talent has earned him the nickname the Wizard of Bristol, which is an accolade in and of itself.

A short stroll from the museum down Hope Street and you’ll fall under the town’s spell. Colonial homes line the shaded streets; many homeowners sat perched on their porches enjoying the sunny Sunday evening. Karen and I followed our stomachs past immaculately maintained parks, schools and local shops. From a small post office to family-owned bakeries, the allure of small town America was present in Bristol.

Donning salt-covered Sperrys and sunglasses, we didn’t fit the bill at the many upscale restaurants in town, that is until we found a small bustling corner shop named Papa Joe’s Wrap Shack. It was filled with young people wearing t-shirts and it served food, so it fit our requirements.

The Wrap Shack is a must-try eatery in town.
The Wrap Shack is a must-try eatery in town.

A quick scan of the menu revealed specialties like a meatball hero wrap, a fish and chip wrap and all sorts of strange foods that you would never think to stick inside a rollup. We decided to share a fried calamari and lasagna wrap, which I’ll admit, now that I’m no longer starving, sounds like a questionable decision. Not for the faint of heart, or those on Atkins, the pasta and squid-filled sandwiches were downright delicious. The unique flavor combinations are a must-try for all those who visit Bristol by boat. On a quest to burn off the mini-mountains of calories we continued down Hope Street (the main road in town) and people watched.

The demographic seemed especially eclectic; with older yachtsman with tan-weathered skin and saltwater-filled veins living amongst young families with children. Grown kids ourselves, we cancelled out our walk with ice cream from A Daily Scoop. The girl behind the counter was new, and fulfilled every child’s unspoken dream by serving way too much. Watching youngsters struggle to eat their cones, then try to scale the walls when the sugar rush hit was amusing from a far.

Now completely full, we retreated back to the boat for the remainder of the evening, resting up for what the weatherman had promised would be a “beautiful” Memorial Day.

It came as a surprise to awake to the sound of rain pattering on the hatch above. We decided to wait out the rain, or so we hoped, at a local breakfast joint called the Sip and Dip (think home town coffee and donut shop). We charged up, literally Karen brought her cellphone charger, enjoyed a hot cup of coffee before coming to the conclusion that the weather was not going to change. Our two-hour return under power would be a wet anticlimactic end to our short adventure.

From the weather to our destination, this past weekend’s adventure is not what we had planned but that’s one of the great things about boating. One minute you’re searching for nothing more than an escape and the next you’re discovering legendary yacht designs and that you really can put lasagna in a wrap. You just have to be willing to cast off.

A Virtual Stroll Around the Miami Boat Show

While a polar vortex swirled and a wicked-winter storm blanketed New England in ice and snow, I escaped to the sunshine state to thaw out and visit the Miami Boat Show. The warm air welcomed me like an old friend and my fixed-winter-scowl quickly melted away. Strutting on the docks in a pair of Sperrys reminded me that boating season, as it always seems to do, will in fact return in a few months. Enjoy a virtual stroll around the show here: