September 2012 - Massachusetts to Chesapeake

1 September 2012   Provincetown to Hadley Harbour, Massachusetts 
We set off early again heading south-west towards the Cape Cod Canal.  The 10-15 knot wind was from the north, so I poled out the genoa to starboard and we have a lovely sail downwind.  As we approached the entrance to the canal,  a nice school of dolphin joined us and played in the bow wave.  We dropped our sails just outside the red approach buoy to the Canal – it’s forbidden to sail through the eight mile canal.  

The Cape Cod Canal is very pretty.  The shoreline is obviously well tended with houses interspersed with public camp sites and the odd fishing pier.  I read that Striped Bass use the canal for their migrations and the fishing is supposed to be fantastic.

We timed the tides just right and went through with the start of the ebb flow which gave us an extra push.  At times we were doing eleven knots over the ground with a 4½ knot current with us.  There are three bridges along the way – two fixed and a huge, impressive lifting bridge for a railway line.  

Dolphins join us just outside Cape Code Canal, Massachusetts

The Cape Cod Bay side of the canal is fairly quiet with only a few boats, but the Buzzards Bay side is heaving with yachts and power boats zipping around everywhere.  The wind was still 15-20 knots from the north-east, so we started sailing downwind towards Cuttyhunk Island.  I settled down reading my book and pondering how nice it was to sail downwind – we’d be able to sail straight into the harbour.  I suddenly realised that the outer harbour is totally exposed to the north-east, which is where the wind was coming from - duhhh…  

We had a quick panic and decided to head for Hadley Harbour, which the cruising guide says is stunning.  Unfortunately, it’s Labour Day weekend and everyone is out for their final sail of the season, so we didn’t hold up much hope of picking up one of their free moorings.  As anticipated, the inner harbour was packed, but we managed to get a pleasant anchoring spot in the outer harbour.  A bit rough at first, but then the wind and waves settled down as the sun went down.

2 September 2012   Hadley Harbour to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts 
We motored six miles across to Martha’s Vineyard.  There’s much more traffic than we’re used to, with ferries roaring around, sail boats and power boats wandering about and fishing trawlers coming back to port.  We managed to make it to Vineyard Haven without hitting another vessel and anchored outside the mooring field on the east side of the harbour.

It’s not the most peaceful anchorage in the world with ferries every 30 minutes and lots of power boat zooming about.  We had lunch, connected to the Internet and checked out what to do in Martha’s Vineyard.  We’d been told that it’s a “must see place”, but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to do.  Trip Advisor lists over fifty “attractions” and, to give you some idea of the shallowness of the place, the top twenty attractions include four beaches, three public libraries, an airfield, a shopping centre and a massage parlour...

We went for a walk around town which took all of ten minutes – its full of tourist shops, boutiques and ice cream shops  – yawn…  After picking up a map from the tourist information booth, we walked for a couple of miles to the West Chop Lighthouse which was very uninspiring, walking along a suburban road with no access to the coast.  You can tell that we weren't particularly enamoured by the place.

We had a quiet (if bouncy) night in.

3 September 2012   Martha’s Vineyard to Block Island,  Rhode Island  
We were up early and running away from the anchorage.   The wind was behind us as we headed west down Vineyard Sound, so I poled out the jib and we did okay for a while, until the wind dropped.  We had a strong two knot current against us, so we turned on the engine for a couple of hours to make some head way.  On the way, I caught two nice, 5lb blue fish.

Once we cleared the sound, the wind picked up from the south and we had a lovely reach for five hours in bright sunshine.  As we approached the reef to the north of Block Island, the current was against us and our speed over the ground dropped to two knots, so we turned the engine on again and motored into the over-falls caused by the wind against tide.  Once we were to the west of the reef, the water magically settled down and we had a lovely reach towards the harbour.  

Dawn in Block Island, Connecticut

There was a small yacht that had tried to cut the corner and sail over the reef, but was caught in the steep six foot waves with a two knot current against them.  They didn’t have enough sail out and we felt sorry as we watched them bouncing around in the over-falls for half an hour, making no headway at all.

The Great Salt Pond in Block Island is a wonderful anchorage – totally surrounded by land with only a narrow man-made channel to get in and out.  All the best places are obviously covered with moorings, but we anchored in eight metres in a lovely spot amongst other cruising boats. 

4 September 2012   Block Island,  Rhode Island  
It was a miserable day - windy and raining.  On the plus side, we had a good wireless network connection, so we spent the day surfing the internet.  We've had a media player on board for nearly eighteen months, with over 500 movies, but we have no satisfactory way of watching the films. I've decided that we’re going to get a projector, which I hope will enable us to watch films on a 50 inch pull-down projector screen.  

I spent most of the day looking into projectors and screens.  It’s a bit frustrating because the cheaper projectors (with LED lamps) have a fixed “throw ratio” which means that to achieve a reasonable 50 inch diagonal image, they have to be place in a particular position.  Unfortunately, most of them have a throw ratio that places the projector between the dining table and our lounge chairs which is useless.  I didn’t get anywhere and gave up in frustration. 

Lighthouse which was moved from the cliff edge, Block Island, Connecticut

Glenys spent some time checking out places that we can visit towards New York.  There’s a New York Yankees baseball game on the 16th that we could go to, which will be good fun.

Bob & Laura from “Thai Hot” came over for a beer or two.

5 September 2012   Block Island, Rhode Island  
It was another miserable day, so we had another day of chilling out – I’ve finally decided on a projector and worked out where the screen will go and the projector is to be mounted.  I’ve ordered a ceiling mounting for the projector to be delivered to Port Washington, but I’ll wait until we go to New York before buying the projector.  There’s a really big electronics shop where I’ll be able to look at the projector and screen before we buy it.

The weather stayed rotten into the evening, so we watched a film on my laptop – I’m looking forward to getting a 50 inch screen…

6 September 2012   Block Island,  Rhode Island  
The cold front finally went over and it was a lovely day today.  I woke up at seven o’clock with the urge to do my 2011/12 tax return.  I’m glad that I did because a £1,000 tax refund is coming my way.

After my administrative success, we went ashore and walked over to the old harbour.  It’s very touristy, but despite the hundreds of people walking around, we found it very difficult to buy a sandwich because it’s after Labour Day and everything is closing down.  I overheard a conversation between two shop workers who are going to be laid off in a weeks’ time and they don’t know if they’ll be able to get another job until next season.  It must be tough living on a small island with only 600 people who live there all year round and being very reliant on the short tourist season.

Armed with two bagels and a Danish pastry, we walked out to the southern lighthouse, which is interesting.  When the lighthouse was built in 1874, three hundred feet of land lay between it and edge of Mohegan Bluffs and the ocean. Over the next hundred years the bluff eroded to within seventy-five feet of the light.  In 1993, the whole building was jacked up and a rail system placed underneath to move it further inland.  It took nineteen days to move the lighthouse to a new location, three hundred feet from the bluff.  It had to be moved in a zigzag pattern, so no one part of the light would receive too much stress.

After a quick lunch on a park bench, we walked to the east side of the island where there are some fantastic paths in wooded areas.  Our hike ended back at the harbour after walking 8 or so miles.  We collapsed for a couple of hours and then went to “Eye Candy” for a beer or four.

7 September 2012   Block Island to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut  
We woke to a misty morning, but the patchy fog that I’d seen last night appeared to have gone away.  The first hour after leaving the anchorage was pleasant with a ten knot wind, but the wind soon dropped forcing us to turn on the engine.  Half an hour later, we ran into thick fog just as we were crossing the shipping lane coming out of Long Island Sound.  

Glenys blowing our pathetic foghorn, Mystic, Connecticut

We heard the deep “OOOOOOMMM!” of a large ship’s fog horn dead ahead of us.  I turned on the radar and picked up a large ship a mile ahead of us and tracked it for a few minutes to confirm that it was crossing in front of us.  It’s very eerie, staring into a white wall of fog, straining to hear where the fog horn is coming from.  

The fog cleared for a little while, but came back with a vengeance as we were approaching the coast.  We had a stressful hour negotiating the narrow Watchhill Passage, dodging fishing boats and buoys.  Glenys dug out our little fog horn which sounded pathetic, but at least warned other boats that we were around.  Eventually as we approached Mystic River, the fog lifted and we had clear visibility as we zigzagged up the narrow dredged channel up the river.

There are two bridges on the way up to Mystic Seaport and both were closed making us wait for fifteen minutes at each.  One of them is a huge swing bridge for the railway line which was interesting as we hadn’t come across one of these so far.  We made it to Mystic Seaport just before lunch and tied up alongside the dock.

For some reason, the Mystic Seaport Museum gives foreign flagged vessels a free night docking and free entrance to the museum.  This has got to be the best deal on the whole east coast of the USA.  Normally they charge $4.50 per foot, which would have cost us a staggering $190 per night.  

The museum is fantastic. They have re-created a 19th-century coastal village with historic ships, a working preservation shipyard and formal exhibit galleries.  There’s so much to see and do here.  In the ”village” there are various buildings set out with equipment that would have been used in the 1800s – the ones that caught my attention was the huge rope making shop, the rigging shop, the sail loft, the printing shop and barrel making shop.  In addition, there are demonstrations of old techniques – want to know how a whale was harpooned or a rope made?  There are members of staff in many of the areas, who are very helpful and informative.  This is not to mention the numerous historical ships that have been preserved or are in a state of restoration. This is a MUST see place –

In the evening, we wandered into Mystic town, which was heaving with tourists.  We ended up in a Mexican restaurant and ate far too much – remind me never to buy a combo plate again.