Tuesday, August 03, 2010

July 11, 2010 - Block Island, Rhode Island

One of our favorite places in the world is Block Island, a small island about twenty miles from Newport. So when our friends Bucky and Mary invited us to join them for their yacht club's annual cruise out to Block, we cleared our calendar (which admittedly, wasn't very hard).

On Friday morning Sten fired up Mata'irea's main engine and ran it for a few minutes while we tidied up and got ready to set sail from Newport Harbor. We dropped the mooring lines and began to motor out of the mooring field. As we came alongside the boat in front of us, the engine hiccuped. And then it died. This has never happened to us before. And of course it would happen in a very crowded mooring field rather than in a big empty anchorage.

Our worst case scenario in this situation was drifting down into another boat and causing it damage (we carry boat insurance but with a very high deductible to keep our annual fee down). Sten called out for me to ready the anchor. I wasn't sure the breaker was on, and didn't want to get up to the bow to find that the windlass didn't have any power. So I climbed down the companionway ladder to make sure it was on. By the time I got back on deck Sten had recalled that we had another means to propel ourselves (other than the main engine) and we rolled out the jib and sailed out of the mooring field in a 3 knot breeze.

I steered us out into the Bay while Sten worked on the engine down below. As we rounded Fort Adams I called out that it was looking a bit smoky up ahead. By the time Sten found the problem and restarted the engine we had reached the Narrows and had been enveloped in a fog bank. The next three hours were anything but relaxing as we used the radar to dodge lobster pots and stay out of the way of other sailboats, sport fishing boats, ferries and a ship.

As we approached Block Island the fog began to clear. Inside the salt pond we found plenty of space to drop the hook. We anchored, lunched, and then Sten took off to fish for Striped Bass. While he was off fishing, Bucky and Mary popped by and invited me to join them on another club member's boat. I had a fun afternoon meeting lots of new people.

When we arrived at Block I shot off emails to Bill and Merrill, the two brave guys who joined Mata'irea's crew for our first offshore passage, which turned into a very exciting trip when we ran into a storm north of Bermuda. During that trip, before things went awry, I spent a memorable nightwatch listening to Bill and Merrill's tales of their idyllic life out on Block Island. My emails to them Friday afternoon resulted in a dinner invite and an offer of a mooring ball. It is kind of great to show up someplace and be so well looked after.

Bill drives the Oldport Launch here in the Great Salt Pond. On Saturday morning, a few hours after Sten got up to go fishing, I awoke to the sound of a voice outside singing our names. Bill came back around a few minutes later and joined me for a cup of coffee and a long chat while he waited for his next call for a pickup. While the rain drizzled down we caught up on three and a half years of good living. Sten eventually made it back to the boat for a late breakfast and then he was off again to fish some more, this time with a full compliment of snorkeling gear.

That evening Bill picked us up and brought us over to his place for dinner with some of his friends and neighbors from the island. The dinner guests included another Rhode Island couple who had just completed a circumnavigation with their children. It was very interesting to compare notes about how the whole reentry process is going for each of us.

After dinner we made our way to Captain Nick's, where we listened to the band and watched a parade of bachelorette parties weave their way through the crowd with a whole range of embarrassing accessories. On the way home Sten announced that he could see us spending the fall out here, which sounded pretty good to me.

On Sunday morning Sten finally came back from a fishing trip with fish. After days of catching and releasing keeper sizer Stripers, he brought home . . . scup. I clearly need to be more specific when asking him to bring home fish for dinner.

Once he had cleaned the small and bony fish, we headed to the beach with Bucky and Mary. The rollers were really coming in and we had a wonderful time body surfing. The water was beautiful and neither of us wanted to come back to the boat. But we were starting to get pink and it was time to get out of the sun.

In three days we barely scratched the surface of this wonderful island. We'll definitely be back before the leaves turn.

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