In a rented car we left Vermont in the rear view mirror and drove back to Brewer Cove Marina in Barrington, RI. We would be departing on August 26th but prior to that, fun was to be had with both of Cath’s brothers, spouses and some of the family.
It was time to leave Barrington and the upper reaches of Narragansett Bay. We did not know that we would be returning to the area in just over a week in order to escape a storm. Prior to our return we managed to enjoy the continuing sunny and hot weather. Heading down Sakonnet River we once again stopped at Third Beach. The Sakonnet River is a tidal straight that flows approximately 14 miles from Mount Hope Bay to Rhode Island Sound. It is a beautiful body of water especially so on the sparsely populated eastern shore. Third Beach is a perfect anchorage for the prevailing winds. It is adjacent to Sachuest Point a National Wildlife Refuge. Several paths circle the point.
Leaving Third Beach we had an easy three hour run to Cuttyhunk in brilliant sunshine and temps in the 80’s. This was a one night stop but we managed to get in some good kayaking. It has been argued that Cuttyhunk had the first settlement in New England. In 1602 a small outpost was established for several weeks to harvest sassafras. Sassafras has many culinary, medicinal, and aromatic uses and has been cultivated for centuries. Cuttyhunk also has an old Coast Guard station that was deactivated in 1964 but has apartments that can be rented out from the Coast Guard.
It was now time to move on to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. As we always do in the hurricane season we closely track the depressions and tropical storms that form off the west coast of Africa. There were nine named storms as of early September but all had been either pushed out to sea or made landfall way down south. So it looked for the coming two weeks.
This was our second trip to the Vineyard on Big Smile. Two years ago we took a slip in Oak Bluff but this year we had reservations for a slip in Vineyard Haven and after that a mooring in Edgartown. Vineyard Haven is not as quaint or touristy but the small marina was nice and besides we were really there to have fun with my cousin and her family. They have been coming to the Vineyard for decades and once again they treated us to dinner at their house and took us around to see the sights and a spectacular beach. Our marina reservation was for three days only and so we all hopped on board and motored over to our mooring reservation in Edgartown harbor.
Unfortunately our plans had to change. We had reservations for four days in Edgartown and then we were supposed to leave for a week in Nantucket. A Tropical Storm/Hurricane named Hermine decided to work its way up the coast. Hermine made landfall in Florida, the first since Wilma in 2005. It looked like it would cross the panhandle and blow out to sea. It decided however to track up the coast and the closer it got the more concerned we became. Edgartown, to their credit, offered refunds for those wishing to leave. They actually suggested we leave and that mirrored our own decision. So after only two nights on the mooring we left.
To escape the predicted track of Hermine we decided to seek refuge in East Greenwich Harbor way up Narragansett Bay. This turned out to be a great choice and we spent three nights on the hook without incident. We did move to the other side of the large harbor on day three as the winds had clocked and the bay became very choppy. Only three boats joined us but I could see numerous others on our AIS that had taken refuge.
If you live on a boat you learn to have a plan A, B, and C. In this case the plan change included our friends Pete and Kathy joining us in Newport instead of Nantucket. Newport is a fantastic town with great amenities for cruisers. Several years ago they refurbished an old warehouse and turned it into a large boating lounge complete with showers, bathrooms, reading area with tables and free wifi, all accessible from the adjacent free dinghy dock.
I picked Pete and Kathy up at the dock and they boarded Big Smile for the first time. One night in Newport Harbor and it was off to Block Island.
Block Island Southeast Light is considered one of the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses built in the 19th century. It was completed in 1874 and deactivated in 1990. In 1993, the 2000 ton structure was moved to escape the eroding cliffs.
After a great 4 days Pete and Kath hopped on the Block Island ferry and returned to Point Judith. We headed off to visit the north fork of Long Island and Cath’s college roommate and her husband. We spent one night anchored in Cutchogue Harbor as it was where their marina was located. Rick and Sandy gave us a tour of their piece of the boating world including our first trip around Shinnecock Bay and thru the famous Shinnecock Canal.
We wanted to visit Shelter Island as neither of us had ever been there. Deciding to stay in Greenport for a couple of days proved fortuitous as we ended up signing a slip contract for the summer 2017 season at Brewer Stirling Harbor Marina. We had already decided to come back north from Florida and spend one more season cruising lower New England. The marina was getting ready to rebuild a large section of bulkhead and add new floating docks and they had availability so we signed up.
Greenport, it turns out, has a very funky downtown with many bars, restaurants, and shops. Stirling Harbor also has a very nice restaurant that is run by a friend of Sandy’s. Rick and Sandy joined us for dinner our last night in Greenport.
While walking around the waterfront we came upon a Nordhavn trawler we know very well. This trawler, named Jenny, is the reason why Big Smile has its name. It was very surprising to see Jenny again as we had seen her in Baltimore 2 or 3 years ago.
We had one more stop before beginning our long trip south. Orient and Orient Point are the last two towns on the north fork. There is a nice anchorage behind Long Beach and we spent two beautiful days at anchor. Long Beach is a state park and in 1980 was designated a National Natural Landmark. It offers some fantastic kayaking and we spent many hours exploring the salt marshes.
It was time to head west towards NY City. We would need only one stop between Orient and Sandy Hook and we chose Northport. It was a nasty, rainy and foggy ride down Long Island Sound but we pulled into Northport Bay and dropped the hook near town. The skies cleared and we ended up with a gorgeous sunset.
Next stop Sandy Hook. Unbeknownst to us President Obama was speaking at the UN on the day we were transiting the East River. Anyone that has taken a boat thru the East River knows to time the tides. We left Northport at 5:45AM with the goal of hitting Hell Gate at 2:15 PM. At around noon we received a Coast Guard report over the vhf announcing that the East River would be shut down at approximately 2:30 to allow for the President to arrive at the Wall Street Heliport from the UN and take off. Having heard that, we increased speed, (and fuel burn) and managed to get to lower Manhattan by 2:15 and miss the shutdown. As we cruised under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge we heard the approach of Marine Corps, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and the president’s helicopter, Marine One. It was a cool sight.
Sandy Hook is only about fifteen miles from the tip of Manhattan and we anchored in time to kayak ashore and walk around to the north end.
We decided not to do an overnite to Cape May but instead stop in Atlantic City. The cruise down the Jersey coast was very smooth. We purchased, this year, a folding stationary bike which works very well at anchor and cruising in smooth seas. We both were able to get a half hour of riding time while the auto pilot did its thing.
The state run, Farley Marina, in Atlantic City is very nice. Unfortunately it is attached to the Golden Nugget Casino. The interior looks like it hasn’t been redecorated in three decades. We walked in to find a casual place to eat dinner but the place stunk so of cigarettes that we left and ate on board.
Revel Casino still closed as of September, 2016. Built in 2011 at a cost of 2.4 billion, yes billion, it sold in bankruptcy in 2015 for $82 million. Somebody took a beating. It is the tallest structure in Atlantic City and the second tallest building in NJ.
I dislike Atlantic City and was happy to spend just one night. Cape May on the other hand is a fun place with a beautiful stretch of beach and gorgeous Victorian homes. Our two nights there were very enjoyable.
The trip up Delaware Bay can be very tough. We exited the Cape May Canal at 7:45AM. It was going to be a long, twelve hour slog up to and thru the C&D Canal. The wind was brisk in lower Delaware Bay but by noon it backed down and the sun came out. There is little to see on the bay and only the Salem Nuclear Plant caught my eye. Actor Bruce Willis worked at the plant as a security guard before pursuing an acting career. Go figure.
One of the Chesapeake stops we made on the way to Baltimore was near Lankford Bay up the Chester River. Back in 1989 we purchased a classic 1966 Morgan 34 from a gentleman at Lankford Bay. We had not been back since.
I was finally able to fly our drone and got some nice video and aerial shots.
Another quaint Chesapeake town that we had not been to in years is Chestertown. Located on the Chester River approximately 20 miles up from the bay it is the seat of the oldest eastern shore county, Kent County. Chestertown was put at its present location on the Chester River in 1706. The weather didn’t cooperate as it remained overcast and rainy for most of our two days but we enjoyed walking the village and will return some day.
On to Baltimore to visit Tara and see her new apartment. She moved there last spring but we had not had a chance to come south. Andrew was taking a train up from DC to join us on board for the weekend. We chose Baltimore Marine Center at HarborView as it was only blocks from Tara’s apartment in Federal Hill. The Baltimore waterfront, as we found out, is very accessible via a walkway along the water around the entire harbor. Tara actually takes a free water taxi across the harbor to Fells Point where she works.
Parents are expected to take their kids out to dinner and this weekend was no exception. We started off at the famous wing spot, Kislings Tavern in Fells Point.
Tara’s office is located right on the waterfront in Fells Point. It is a restored warehouse structure with exposed wood beams and lots of charm. Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, does incredible work globally.
Cath and I had a cat for years and even had him/her on board for a season. Tara took Puddy a couple of years ago and Puddy has transitioned well from her apartment in Philadelphia to her new digs in Baltimore. We are happy Tara has Puddy.
We happened to be visiting the weekend of the Fells Point Oyster festival. We spent much of the day Sunday walking around the city and the festival. We even launched our dinghy and toured the harbor, docking it at a marina in Canton, next to Fells Point.
It was a great three day weekend. Baltimore has a lot going on and the Inner Harbor redevelopment was cited as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world” by the Urban Land Institute.
It was time to push on and at about this time I began to notice another hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, skirting the coast of South America. On October 1 Matthew made a 90 degree turn to the north and within three days it was pummeling Haiti. Our path was southbound as we headed towards Florida. The forecasted tracks were all over the place with the spaghetti model tracks looking like blades of grass in the wind. It did not look good no matter what the track. We were on a collision course if we continued south. Big Smile was due for some maintenance work which we had planned for Florida. Instead I contacted Atlantic Yacht Basin (AYB) to inquire if they could take us on short notice and perform the work. They said they could do it and complete all the work by Thanksgiving. AYB would also provide a near perfect hurricane hole. So three days after leaving Baltimore we locked thru the Great Bridge VA lock and pulled into Atlantic Yacht Basins covered boat shed.
We left Saturday the 8th and Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina on the same day. North and South Carolina bore the brunt of this powerful hurricane. We made it back to Vermont in one day just ahead of the rain. We will return right after Thanksgiving and continue our cruise south to Longboat Key Florida. In the meantime we have been enjoying the beautiful Vermont foliage and even towed Big Smile’s old dinghy to Lake Bomoseen.
That’s it till we get back on board.