Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alive with pleasure

We ended up spending three nights in Newport, Rhode Island, anchored between Goat Island and the eastern approach to the Claiborne Pell Bridge (map). We squeezed in between two enormous sailboats, including a sailing cat that was 76' long and 30' wide; I estimated the mast height at close to 90'. We were quite comfortable, and it was much easier than hunting for a spot in the harbor south of the Goat Island connector.

Sunset over Jamestown and Rose Island from our deck.

I had figured on a fairly short stay in Newport. We had stopped in Odyssey in 2009, and on that visit we unloaded the scooters and did the Ocean Loop Drive, passing many of the stately mansions, Fort Adams, Brenton Point, the downtown wharf areas and most of the other must-see spots in town. On this visit we wanted to have a more relaxing time on the waterfront and maybe enjoy a meal or two.

Approaching Newport. Pell bridge, with Rose Island at center. Newport harbor is to far right. I don't know whose house that is on an island by itself to the left.

I remember thinking at the time how nice it was going to be to dock right near the wharves and just stroll off the boat into downtown, but this was before I ever lifted a cruising guide. Thus I had no concept of just how expensive docks are in this part of the world; nothing in Newport is less than $4.50 per foot, plus power, and many docks are more than that -- the one closest to the shops and restaurants is $5.50 per foot. That's $250-$300 per night to dock Vector, and for that stately sum no one makes our bed or changes the towels.

Ironically, we paid nothing at all to be here in the bus, parking for the night behind the Walmart a mile from downtown, where we truly could have walked had we chosen to do so. The good news here is that Newport is a cruiser-friendly town and free dinghy tie-ups abound, including one on the aforementioned $5.50/ft wharf with a six-hour limit, and the municipal dock good for all day. This latter dock is just a block from the transit center.

The Castle Hill Inn, formerly the estate of Alexander Agassiz, with perhaps two weddings in progress.

Arriving, as we did, just before sundown on Sunday, we did not even splash the tender until Monday. Still, we got to see quite a bit, as the approach from the sea provides a very different perspective on Newport's many mansions, and a weekend arrival meant we cruised right through the wedding photographs of perhaps a half dozen newlywed couples.

Castle Hill Light, still a working navigation aid. You can see a bride posing to the left.

Monday afternoon we went ashore, tendering under the Goat Island connector, past the Newport Harbor Light and the hideous 60's-era Hyatt hotel on the island, and landing at Bowen's Wharf. We strolled the town a bit, had a beer at an open-air cafe overlooking Thames Street watching the hordes of tourists go by, and had a nice dinner at The Moorings restaurant overlooking one of the marinas.

The historic Newport Harbor Light, looking like a piece of decor for the ugly Hyatt behind it.

At the end of the day I had figured to be done, but the tide tables called for a very early departure Tuesday, or else an arrival past dinner time, and we decided it was easier all around to just stay put another day, and maybe run some errands, in the town with a cigarette named after it.

Tuesday, then, we tendered back ashore to the municipal dock, backpacks in hand, and boarded a city bus for the trip out to the very same Walmart we had stayed at six years ago. One of the things we miss the most about life on the bus was extremely easy access to provisions, and on the boat we've adjusted our price expectations up considerably. When we can get to a big-box store, we load up, and this time we came back with enough nuts, drink mix, razors, tissues, and other sundry items to fill both packs and another large bag. As usual, we were the only out-of-towners on the bus.

While we were out, the wind had picked up, whipping the seas into a frenzy, and we had quite the challenge disembarking the tender and getting all the provisions aboard without sending any to a watery demise. By dinner time, though, things had calmed down a bit, and we braved another damp tender ride. This time we landed at the much closer Elm Street pier for a pleasant walk through the historic district to the Perro Salado Mexican restaurant, in a house dating to the 17th century.

The ride back from dinner was in nearly flat calm conditions, and we decked the tender in anticipation of an early departure this morning with the tide. Since we arrived in Newport from the south, via the Narragansett Bay East Passage, we opted to leave to the north, keeping Conanicut and Prudence islands to port, and Aquidneck, officially "Rhode Island" (the state itself is technically the "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations") to starboard.

Hog Island Shoal Light.

We set a course for Fall River, Massachusetts, on the Taunton River, across Mount Hope Bay. We'd been through Fall River on Odyssey, and I had no particular reason to return in the boat, but it was a sensible interim stop to time the tide change to head south into the Sakonnet River, which will take us back to Rhode Island Sound. I had figured to anchor either in Battleship Cove, near the USS Massachusetts, or else on Borden Flat, west of the lighthouse. Perhaps we would tender in for dinner, or to visit the historic warships.

Naval War College.

It was a very picturesque cruise, passing Rose Island with its lighthouse, the Naval War College in Newport just after crossing under the Pell bridge, and historic Jamestown on Conanicut Island. We had plenty of lighthouses, several bridges, more homes preserved from centuries past, and even a glimpse of Providence in the distance.

Mount Hope Bridge, with powerplant cooling towers in the background.

About halfway through, it occurred to me that we were not going as fast as we should be, given a favorable current. We've been noticing more and more growth on the hull, which had been fairly clean when I last worked on it in June in the Bahamas. But two months in the more nutrient-rich brackish waters of the Chesapeake, New York, and New England has taken its toll, and we've been saying for a couple of weeks now that we need to find a diver to clean the bottom.

That's a service that one typically finds at a marina. As we were heading inland toward Fall River it dawned on us that we'll probably not see a marina for less than $3 per foot anywhere in our cruising plans for the next month or two, other than right here, in Fall River. Thus we are now docked at the $2.50/ft Borden Light Marina, across the channel from the eponymous lighthouse (map).

Borden Flat Light.

Once this realization dawned, I called ahead to the marina and asked if they had any divers to recommend who could come out this afternoon. They called one for us and told us he could be available late this afternoon and had quoted a price that, while higher than what we've paid thus far, seemed fair to us for this part of the country. Once we had the commitment for the diver, we booked a slip.

Approaching Fall River. Marina is on the right; battleship beyond the bridge.

When we had figured to anchor, it did not matter that we would arrive ahead of slack, but docking the boat is a different story. With a half hour to kill before slack, we continued upriver past the marina, under the bridge and up to Battleship Cove on a mini harbor tour before returning to the marina to dock. It was a tight slip, just inches away from an Albin 43, but we slid in bow-first without drama.

USS Massachusetts.

And so today turned into something of a work day. As long as we had the bow over a dock, we spooled out the first hundred feet of anchor chain and I re-painted the 50' and 100' marks, which were so badly faded that Louise was sometimes missing them go by. I also hit the anchor hammer-lock with a coat of cold galvanizing spray and touched up the anchor itself in a few places.

Vector has developed a "mustache" -- a brownish stain on the lower sections of the bow, corresponding to the water pattern of the "bow wave," an artifact of the tannin-laced waters of the Chesapeake and the ICW. As long as we had good access to the bow from the low floating docks, I attacked the mustache with a long-handled scrub brush and undiluted lemon juice. While not gone entirely, it is much less noticeable now.

I also did some maintenance on the anchor roller, easily reached while standing on the dock, and worked on a problem with the flybridge chart plotter. Additionally, I added some drain holes to our portable boarding steps, which had become somewhat waterlogged. I did, however, manage to find some time for a dip in the marina's pool.

The diver started at 4:30 and did not wrap up until past 6:30, by which time we were ready for dinner. We wandered over to the joint right in the marina, the Tipsy Seagull, seeing as we had gotten a couple of free drink coupons from the marina when we checked in. Considering it was a Wednesday, the place was hopping, with a decent one-man live music act playing our kind of music (and, mind you, this was a younger crowd). It was bar food, but the burgers were good and the draft beer cold. Thus it is that we've been here a full day and have not left the marina.

Louise enjoying dinner and drinks at the Tipsy Seagull.

Tide dictates that we shove off right at 11am tomorrow. If I get really ambitious, I might march over to the battleship and spend an hour before we leave. I have no desire to see Lizzie Borden's house (now a bed and breakfast). The shoals here and the lighthouse that guards them are named for the elder Bordens, not the infamous daughter.

Sunset from the docks.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!