Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 17, 2010 - Newport, Rhode Island

In all the miles we've done these past three and a half years there is one challenge we hadn't had to face: fog. We've been talking about heading up to Maine later this summer to do some cruising "Down East," but one concern we have about it is getting caught in the fog. The other worry is getting our propeller caught up in the lines that attach buoys to lobster pots.

We've never encountered fog while sailing Mata'irea. And we've certainly never had to deal with the triple-whammy of making a landfall at night through waters strewn with lobster pots in the middle of a fog bank. But wouldn't you know it, as soon as I climbed back into the cockpit after posting my last blog post the fog closed in. Within seconds visibility was down to a few meters. It was almost like the sea didn't want to let us go quite so easily.

The wind slacked off and we slowed down to around 4 knots, but we hesitated to turn on the engine for fear of catching a lobster pot in our propeller. So we ghosted into the Narrows past a series of red buoys, each named for the tone it makes. The Whistle was the first to loom up out of the fog. As we approached Brenton Reef, we heard the Gong striking off our starboard side. And then as we approached Castle Hill, the Bell began ringing in front of us. Between the distinctive buoys and the radar overlay on our chart plotter, we knew exactly where we were. And so we were surprisingly relaxed about the situation. Suddenly an August cruise in Maine seemed much less daunting.

Sailing past Fort Adams we hailed Sten's mom, who had come out to witness our 1am arrival, on the radio. "Mata'irea to Mata'irea Shore Party. Do you copy?" Suzy could hear us, but couldn't see Mata'irea's lights. We were only a quarter mile off the rocks, but we coudn't see her headlamp either. As we rounded the tip of Fort Adams we heard a voice very close to us shout "turn right, turn right." It was another sailboat, lost in the fog.

We continued on to the fuel dock at Goat Island where a Customs officer was waiting to clear us in and Suzy was waiting to catch our docklines. Once we were legal, Suzy dug into the tote bags she had brought aboard and proceeded to put the "party" in "shore party." We drank champagne and feasted on roast chicken, the first pea pods of the season and strawberry shortcake. Around 3am we called it a night even though all of us were buzzing with energy.

Four hours later we were woken by the news crew from the local NBC affiliate. Sten's sister, Ingrid "Dee Dee Myers" Levin, had sent out a short press release about our return to a few of the local media outlets. WJAR scooped the competition (if there was any) by sending a cameraman down to the dock as soon as it was light out.

Between the fact that we'd just finished a 12 day passage and the party the night before, neither we nor Mata'irea were ready for our close-ups. So I threw on some eyeliner and lip gloss and shoved the dirty dishes in the oven and the laundry in the bathtub while Sten tidied the cockpit. We walked up to the parking lot and found Conrad from WJAR preparing to interview us.

Things started ramping up pretty quickly after that. Goat Island Marina wanted their fuel dock back so we untied and motored over Alofsin Pier at Fort Adams. As we were tying up Conrad arrived. We spent the next hour and a half with Conrad talking about our trip. As we spoke with Conrad, the fog slowly burned off.

As Conrad was leaving, Sten's Uncle John and Aunt Carlotta arrived for brunch along with Suzy. It was such a pleasure to show John and Carlotta around our home. Over more champagne and croissants John shared wonderful stories with us about his 11 or 12 Bermuda Races and his long partnership in a Concordia.

After we cleaned up we headed over to Suzy's house to see if our cat still remembered us. Lenore was a little uncertain about who we were, but at least she didn't run in fear at the sight of us or the sounds of our voices. Soon Ingrid was home from work and there was more reuning (I really think that should be a word) to done. We took long, hot showers and changed into long pants and fuzzy jackets before heading over to Jamestown for dinner at John and Carlotta's house.

It felt like we'd been celebrating non-stop since we arrived in Newport. And the party continued at John and Carlotta's home where they were hosting the crew of s/v Zest, an entry in the Newport to Bermuda Race. The company and conversation were entertaining, and the food was delicious. Carlotta laid out a beautiful spread of chicken mirabella, huge bowls of fresh salad greens and brown rice, and blueberry compote and ice cream for desert.

Over dinner Sten and I shared our recent Gulf Stream experience. Another major topic of conversation was the recent rescue of Abby Sunderland, a young single-hander whose boat was dismasted in the Indian Ocean. It seems that everyone we've met since we stepped foot on land has asked us what we think about her situation, which is just kind of funny since we haven't had any media access in two weeks and so we know less about what happened than most of the folks asking us our opinions.

We were having a wonderful time with John and Carlotta and the crew of Zest but we were fading fast. And so we said our goodnights, swung by Alofsin to make sure Mata'irea was okay, and then we headed home to Suzy's for our first sleep on shore in 6 months.

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