Cruising Club of New England
Summer Cruise Week
August 1-8 2009
story and photos
by Maren Schober, First Mate
Debbie looks up at our mast.
"What is that naked lady on the flag?" she exclaims.
"That is our CCNE burgee," we explain. "All members have them. It is a mermaid."
"But why is she naked?"
"All mermaids are naked. That's how they are," I tell her.
"No, they are not. Ariel is a mermaid and she is not naked. I saw her in the Disney movie." We go round and round on this (including mention of Norman Rockwell and a statue in Copenhagen) with no resolution.
During our sail we are alert and looking around us to see who can be the first to spot something on the "I Spy" list.
"I see a schooner! I see a jet skiier! There's a kayacker over there... I see a helicopter. I see a babe in a bikini!" And so it goes with reports of sightings during the whole week. The only things on the list we do not see by the end of the week are a wooden dinghy, a swim raft in use, a fish jumping, a cormorant with a fish in its mouth, and sky writing (the planes towing the 'Duncan Donuts' flag don't count - just sky writing).
The wind and current are with us and we have a great sail to Point Judith in Rhode Island. Point Judith is a large fishing port and evidences of this are all around in sights and smells! Always people are fishing from the breakwater as we enter the harbor and today many people are swimming from the beach as well.
We easily find the inner anchoring field and join the other boats already anchored.
Dale and Cindy Baker, our fleet captains visit us by dinghy and give us a warm welcome including a gift of a CCNE welcome mat for our boat! Our adventures are about to begin with activities planned for every day.
A short time later Dale sails by us in a little dinghy with a sail on it.
"That looks like fun," Debbie observes.
Debbie and I go for a swim off our boat. We swim around the boat and it feels wonderful. We also use our swim noodles.
Before supper we share a glass of white wine together with hummus, guacamole and chips. It is our favorite appetizer and we fall on it with gusto.
After supper on board the Sea Cup, Debbie and I play some rounds of double solitaire before turning in to our bunks.
Sunday morning is Mimosa Morning! All club members dinghy over to the Sundance boat where mimosas are handed out by "Mimosa mamas" to everyone and glasses held high in toast to a great week ahead together. A special toast of gratitude is made for Al and Donna Feir who are cruising with us despite serious medical problems this past year. We relax and chat together before separating.
Al and I and Debbie do some "gunkholing" by exploring the little island near to us. We walk slowly and carefully picking our way over stones and shells as we walk around the island. Al and Debbie walk all the way around and I stop and turn back when the way is too difficult for me. It is so good to be out under the open sky and on the water!
At 1400 (2:00 pm) all club members group on the island for the Sink The Pirate Ship Contest. Dale Baker carefully lays out the ground rules of the game as Andy Baker, Commodore, bravely climbs into 'The Pirate Ship'. The pirate ship is a dinghy with Andy sitting in it, flying the 'skull and crossbones', and pulled behind another dinghy. Joe Kaplowe has kindly loaned his pirate hat to Andy for the occasion.
"Now, just two or three dinghies approach the "pirate ship" at a time loaded with water balloons. Dale has anchored two fenders in the water. The dinghies are to stay this side of a line between the fenders, while the 'Pirate Ship' will be on the other side. The object is to see who can come closest to landing their water balloons into the 'Pirate Ship', explains Dale.
We all just stand there on the shore thinking things like, "What?! Act like a fool in front of all these people and go out there in our dinghy to throw water balloons at the 'Pirate Ship'? Is he crazy? I'm not going to do that. That's silly. I'm going to stand here and watch everyone else make a fool of himself..."
Most of us hang back and watch as the first few dinghies venture out. The pirate ship glides by..."Now! There he is! Hit the boat!" Balloons fly through the air with most of them hitting the water. A few hit the ship.
"Oh, that looks easy. I can do that.." and a few more dinghies go out.
Water balloons start landing into the pirate ship. Water balloons start landing on Andy! "Boy, that looks like fun!" Now everyone seems to be going out in their dinghies all at once ignoring the rule of two or three at a time.
The game turns into a free for all! Water balloons are flying all over the place and plucked out of the water and thrown again. Members turn on each other and fire the balloons. Laughter is everywhere. In his excitement Al decides to load up his potato gun and fire off a potato! Boom! Up, up , up the potato goes and then down for the splash. Finally the fray ends when members become exhausted.
Who wins the game? Who has the highest score? Who has the most water balloon landings into the ship? Who even cares?! We have a blast. That is all that is important. Thank you, Dale and Andy, for this group game. It is fun and invigorating and loosens us all up.
Later on in the Sea Cup, Debbie and I play Battleship together and some card games before slipping into our sleeping bags.
"I can't understand it, " Debbie says. " I never go so sleep this early at home. I am sleeping so many hours!"
It is Monday as the CCNE boats motor on over to New Harbor on Block Island. The air is so light our planned sailboat race to Block Island is postponed until possibly the cruise to Newport.
As we are leaving Pt Judith, Al retells what happened one day years ago.
"We were out here sailing from Block Island to Pt Judith in thick fog. As we got close to Pt Judith, a young man in a motor boat saw us and came alongside.
'Which way is it to Block Island?' he asked Al.
'I will tell you the compass course,' Al answered.
'No, I don't know how to read my compass. Just point in the direction of Block Island."
'You would be better off to follow me back to Pt Judith,' Al replied.
'No thank you.'
With that he took off in the fog again. Unbelievably foolish and scary.
Inside New Harbor, Al finds good holding ground for our anchor at the far side of the harbor. It is nice and peaceful here.
Debbie and I decide to go for a swim until Debbie spots some jellyfish floating near our boat. We both decide not to swim with the jellyfish.
Soon we hear "Andiamo!" shouted across the harbor and Al explains to Debbie about the bakery boat and the delivery of home baked goods to the boats. We decide to buy some blueberry muffins from him and call him over.
"We don't have any muffins until morning. This is what we have now."
He uncovers the baked goods and there in the boat are dozens of delectable looking pastries, including chocolate covered eclairs, cakes, fudge, cookies, pies, turnovers,..etc. We are so surprised by this sight we are speechless and just shake our heads, no.
"I wish I had known what he had beforehand, " Debbie comments. "I would have liked to buy something."
Debbie and I play a game of Battleship on the graph paper. I decide to hide all my ships in horizontal lines. Debbie will never figure this out and find them I think to myself. Wrong! Debbie figures it out soon and the game is over in about 8 minutes! We also listen to some stories about Lake Woebegone by Garrison Keillor on the CD set I have. Garrison Keillor soon has us laughing about the "Church Ushering Competition".
Tuesday morning I cook up some eggs and toast (using our small camp toaster).
"I smell somthing burning!" Debbie says.
"Oh that is just the toast Maren is cooking," Al answers. "That's just the way it is on this toaster."
Tuesday is a lay day on Block Island. We all choose different things to do for the day. Since Debbie has never been to Block Island, I choose to have a taxi tour of the island. It is good for me too as I have not had a taxi tour in many years. Al takes on the task of refilling our water tank and replenishing our stores of chips, hummus, guacamole and potatos (for the cannon).
Block Island is so special because it is an island of great natural beauty. No "big box" stores here; just the local village (New Shoreham) with quaint shops by the sea. Today is very misty and the mist comes and goes. When we get to the view of the North End Lighthouse we can not see it at all. It is lost in the mist. Debbie and I stand by the sea wall and admire the waves crashing over the rocks and the sweeping views of the grassland and ponds.
I suddenly get a glimpse of the island labyrinth as the taxi drives by and I ask Dave our driver to stop so Debbie and I can take a look. We climb up a steep but short set of stone steps and walk up to the labyrinth. Both Debbie and I have had separate experiences with this at retreat centers. This labyrinth or maze of curving paths leading to a center and then back to the beginning is in the middle of an open field...land donated by a private homeowner. The area is marked off in an open meadow of grass and wildflowers. One walks the paths slowly and meditatively. It is a spiritual exercise ...an inner experience. Debbie and I do not have the time to walk the paths but we do sense the peace of the place as it hangs densely over the area. It is a place of quiet.
Reluctantly we leave this sacred ground and return to the taxi tour. I also ask to stop at St. Ann's By The Sea which is an Episcopal chapel along our route. This is another peace filled place...a special place to give a prayer of thanks to God.
When we reach the South End Lighthouse we are able to get out and walk around the grounds by the sea. We can actually see this Lighthouse although it is still misty. Both North and South End lighthouses are working lighthouses.
Dave drops us off on Main Street of Old Harbor about 12:45 p.m. Debbie and I climb the steps to the National Hotel and Restaurant and are grateful to be ushered to table overlooking Old Harbor. This is a busy harbor with boats and incoming ferryboats filled with passengers. The view of the sea and boats is awesome. Debbie orders a salmon sandwich on paneni bread and I order the fresh lobster roll.
Block Island is a very popular tourist destination and the main street is filled with people poking in and out of all the shops. After lunch Debbie browses among the shops as I head for the Spring House Hotel high on the hill overlooking the bright blue sea. Here I rest my body and mind and let the peace of this place settle in me. The hydrangea bushes in front of me have bright blue and pink blossoms. A para sailer drifts in and out of sight dangling high up over the water and pulled by a motor boat. People dine on the porch overlooking the water and lounge in the lawn chairs. Two little children, brother and sister, roll down the hill on the lawn and I remember how I used to love doing that. Summer bliss.
Debbie joins me later enthusiastically showing me her purchases..gifts for her parents and nieces. For herself...a birthday hat from the Hat Shop. Her third grade class will have fun wearing this hat on their birthdays.
Tonight our cruising club members dinghy to the shore where we have a planned "Appetizer Contest" on the beach. What to use for a table on the sand? Al and some others remove our dinghy's engine, then turn the dinghy upside down in the sand and a table cloth is spread over it. Presto! We have a table and cloth.
Our appetizer entry is a Mexican Layered Dip, prepared by Debbie. We line it up with all the other unique dishes. Asparagus wraps, crab cakes, mango prociutto wraps, cheeses and sauces are just some of the offerings. We slowly sample each one and then vote for our favorite. Debbie came to realise that the competition is a lot tougher than she had anticipated.
Suddenly there is a commotion where some people are standing in the shallow water. Mark Gorrell is jumping up and down in the water with a crab attached to his foot! He can not shake it off. Finally he breaks free from the crab amidst our cheers.
At the end of the party Joe Kaplow cimbs into his dinghy along with his three crew members, Pat, Fyad and Delores. A distance from the shore his outboard motor quits and they are adrift.
Al, Debbie and I scramble into our dinghy to try and help them. Alas, our own motor is reluctant to start! After numerous pulls on the cord, our motor starts up and we motor out to Joe and his crew. We are able to tow the group back to Joe's boat, the Carpe Diem. Thank You, God!
Al teaches Debbie how to play cribbage on our boat. Then Debbie announces she will sleep in the 'pit' - the cockpit. It is very windy and noisy that night and Debbie does not sleep well.
Today is Wednesday. This is the day for our race to Newport. I cook up some French Toast for breakfast and this toast does not burn!
Each morning our fleet captain announces the plan for the day and we have boat roll call. Today we have to state whether or not we will be racing with a dinghy in tow. "Race and towing", Joe Kaplow states, "with one half my crew in it!" Hmmm.....
On our way out the harbor we pass some men kite boarding. They stand upright on a small board and hold onto the control strings of a kite. The wind blows the kite and zoom! Off go the kite boarders. This is fun to watch.
Outside the harbor Debbie gets her first experience in sailboat racing...and she does not like it! At the start of the race things get tense with boats crowding the starting line and tempers are short. It is common for crew members to shout at each other. Once we cross the starting line the boats thin out and everything quiets down for the long race.
The wind is coming from behind our boats and our boats begin rolling side to side downwind the whole way. Poor Debbie becomes seasick and sits upright in the cockpit "comatose" the whole way as she puts it. It is a horrible feeling and there is nothing we can do to help her. She is somewhat comforted to learn later that other seasoned boaters were also seasick on this trip.
The good news is that the Sea Cup did very well in the race to Newport and came in 2nd place. Once the race is over and we change tacks and Debbie quickly feels better.
We tie up a friend's mooring in Breton Cove and Debbie and I are soon taking a swim off the boat.
After beating Debbie in another game of Battleship, we turn in for the night. Debbie has brought the game Balderdash with her and all three of us play that another night.
Looking down on us from on top of a steep cliff sits a spooky looking mansion. The wind is also moaning in the trees and the "voices" are very ghost like. I am reminded how I enjoy reading Victoria Holt's English mysteries, which take place in big mansions. I am reminded of favorite novels such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca.
Thursday is explore Newport Day and the Dinner Train ride. Debbie and I decide to walk part of the Cliff Walk and to tour a mansion. As I can not walk comfortably all the way up to the Cliff Walk, we first head to the Tourist Information Office for help with transportation info.
Along the way down the busy main street we stop in at the Seaman's Institute, which is a Christian haven, and outreach for seamen. I pause and ponder the framed motto on the wall...the one I have read before and the one that speaks to my heart. It is a quote from Psalm 107.
"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep."
We catch a trolley car ride up to the Cliff Walk and take half an hour to walk along the sea. What healing and refreshment this brings! Nature will always do that if we let it have its way with us. We need to take as much time as we can to be out in nature.
After our walk Debbie and I have a self-guided tour of the most famous of the mansions...the Breakers built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 1800's. We use a headphone set, which guides us through the massive luxurious rooms. We are amazed at the sculptured ceilings, ornate walls and floors not to mention the chandeliers and room furnishings.
There is a group of CCNE members doing the whole Cliff Walk today.
Jenny Atkins later tells me, "we all started out together, but soon just like they do in their sailboat, Bevan and Barb took off and left us in the dust. We never saw them again. Bev and Barb are hikers and are in training each day for mountain climbing in the Italian mountains."
This couple also takes the lead and leaves the rest of the sailing fleet behind in our races. They took first place in their 30' Nonsuch called the "Montrose" in the race to Newport.
After the tour of the Breakers, Debbie and I return to town on the trolley and find a restaurant on Bannisters Wharf for lunch. The remainder of the afternoon we browse in the wharf gift shops and then walk to the train station where we join the others at 5:30 for the Dinner Train ride along the Narragansett River.
This is a special treat for all of us. During the two hour train ride we are able to admire the beautiful views of the river along with the setting sun. Our dinners of fish, salmon and rack of baby back ribs are delicious. The baby back ribs are so long they practically hang off the plate. Al eats every one (except for the ones Debbie and I ate)! Debbie and I have the salmon dinner. On top of the salmon is a purple and white edible orchid. Those who do not eat the orchid put it in their hair and behind their ears instead.
Awards and presentations are made during the train ride and Mark Gorrell is presented with a Newport tee shirt with a large crab displayed on it. Remember Mark and his episode with the crab on Block Island? This is indeed a fitting souvenir for Mark. Al is presented with a wine bottle carrier for 2nd place in the sailboat race.
We take a launch ride back to our sailboat in Breton Cove and as we approach the mansion on the cliff Debbie imagines, "We got away from the castle today when we pretended to be peasants like everyone else. It was good to get away from the boredom of the palace."
Debbie and I sleep in the cockpit tonight. I am unsuccessful at falling asleep here for some reason and during the night drag my sleeping bag back down below to my bunk. Debbie wakes up Friday morning telling us she had a bad nightmare about jellyfish. "I was screaming in my dream and woke up all sweaty."
Friday we wake up to the groaning of the wind in the trees again and seagulls culling. A friendly lone duck comes out to our boat and we feed it some Cheerios. Soon we are all on our way to Wickford and after a couple of hours we arrive at Wickford Marina where we are assigned a slip for our boat.
Debbie and I walk to town, find a nice restaurant for lunch and then browse in and out of the shops along the picturesque main street. The old homes are charming and everywhere you look is a picture. We stop in at St. Paul's Episcopal Church and spot a beautiful stained glass window with a Clipper Ship design. Under the design are the familiar words, "They that go down to the sea in ships..."
All of the cruising members join at the Marina for a hamburger/hot dog picnic. Side dishes are contributed and we sit under umbrellas at the round tables. A hot tub is nearby and I sit on the edge of it for awhile dangling my feet in the hot bubbling and swirling water. This feels so good and relaxing. A beautiful sunset tops the evening. It is a perfect day.
Debbie suggests we visit each other's boats to see what they are like inside. We all like that idea and after the picnic we do visit the North Star, Weyrling and the Sea Deuce.
Saturday morning we say our good byes and make the long sail trip home to New London...an eight hour ride.
It has been a wonderful cruise week with many adventures and meeting new and old friends. We are so thankful to God for our good friends, new experiences and natural wonders we have seen. Once again I quote from Psalm 107:
"Who so is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."