Monday dawned every bit as gorgeous as the weatherman predicted. While the timing wasn’t good for a favorable current home, the forecast was for 12-13 knots of wind so we figured that would offset the current nicely.
One of the things that I particularly enjoy about Dodson’s are the Amtrak trains that regularly go by. They are far enough away to not be too loud, but close enough to watch. I have an affinity for trains, and when we’re at Dodson’s I’m a bit like Doug the dog from the movie, “Up” except that instead of “Squirrel!” it’s “Train!”.
Once I had my fill of trains we took a walk through the borough. Stonington Borough is quintessentially New England. Cute and historical houses, independent shops, a mural that cracks me up every time I see it. There’s something about the lobster in the middle, soaking in a pot with a smile on his face and drinking champagne.
But I think our favorite part of Stonington is the ability to purchase the best scallops on the planet – Bomster scallops. I didn’t particularly care for scallops until I tried these – half-dollar sized, sweet, delectable. When the Bomsters catch these deep sea scallops, they shuck them on the boat, rinse them in sea water, and then flash deep freeze them. No ice crystals, no fresh water, no chemicals. They are simply amazing. Every time we eat them I comment on how much I’ll miss them when we finally cast off the lines and sail away. My co-workers even have a standing order for whenever we’re in Stonington, having tried them when I brought some back from previous trips.
The Bomsters deliver their scallops to restaurants from New England to the mid-Atlantic region, but we are spoiled in that we can easily buy them at Stonington Seafood Harvesters whenever we’d like. Stonington Seafood Harvesters sells their scallops right from the dock using a self-serve honor system. Yes, that’s correct. It’s the honor system. The scallops and other assorted seafood are in freezer cases at the front of the building. There’s a hand-written sign with the prices, a calculator, a credit card machine, and a slot to put the credit card receipt or money in. Take want you want, add it up, swipe the card, enter the cost, sign the slip, put it in the slot. It’s a real treasure, and one that we don’t take for granted.
After we had purchased four packages (one for us and three for co-workers), we continued walking back to Dodson’s and came upon a potato-selling stand in front of someone’s house. “Just Dug” potatoes, $3, and again, a small jar for the honor system. Of course we bought some. I love Stonington!
Back on the boat at Dodson’s, we prepared to cast off the mooring line and head back to Groton. We fired up the outboard, Jeff let the line go, we started to motor away and within five seconds – dead silence. Crap. The prop was tangled in the mooring line.
This was the first time this had happened to us, and my first instinct was to try to steer towards another mooring ball so we wouldn’t bump into any of the mega-fancy boats around us. After about 5 seconds I realized that it wasn’t a concern. If we were tangled in the line, we weren’t going anywhere. Dodson’s has two pickup sticks on their moorings so we used the boat hook to catch the second one and hooked it onto the cleat just to be extra careful. Then Jeff hopped into the dink to try to untangle us.
Jeff made some progress but eventually we decided we needed to radio Dodson’s. Every staff member there is so professional and friendly, and soon one of the launch drivers came out to help. We chatted while he tried to untangle the line, discovering that he was leaving in ten days to enter Old Dominion as a freshman electrical engineering major, and he had sold his Boston Whaler to help pay for school (“It was a sad day.”) He was able to untangle most of the line, but the thinner line leading from the stick was jammed between the prop and the shaft, so he radioed his boss. As we waited he said this happened all of the time, and just two days ago somebody had sucked the line deep into an inboard engine. Ouch.
After the boss worked on the line for a while, he finally determined that the prop would need to come off. He asked if we had any tools, and fortunately we have an entire toolbag filled with them and plenty of spare cotter pins. This helped us to feel a bit less like a couple of doofuses. So with everyone pitching in (the soon-to-be ODU freshman keeping the workboat in place, Jeff handing tools to the boss, me trying to keep the outboard lifted up just a bit higher, and the boss working on the prop), we were eventually free.
The whole thing had taken over an hour and when I asked what we owed for this fine service we were told “No charge.” I’m telling you, this place is amazing. Needless to say we tipped them both VERY well!
Normally when something like this happens (and it always involves the stupid outboard), we don’t sail for the rest of the day because we’re a bit stressed out. In this case we had no choice since we needed to get back to Groton, so we took about 30 minutes to regroup and then headed out again. During the interim we did what we always do after this type of “adventure”: we talk about what happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. We decided that I need to give the outboard more throttle when Jeff unhooks us, and Jeff needs to hold onto the line for a second and then try to toss it away from the boat vs. simply dropping it.
With that new strategy in place and my heart in my throat, we dropped the line and motored away without incident. As we left the harbor we exchanged hearty waves with the the soon-to-be ODU freshman who had gone back to driving the launch boat, and we passed the breakwater feeling ready for a good sail.
And what a sail it was! The best one of the season. The winds were around 7 knots out of the SE but were forecast to pick up to 12 knots. We hung a right towards Groton and settled in on a broad reach. After about a half hour the winds picked up as promised to 12-14 knots, and even though there was a strong current against us we were still making 3 knots. Our course was going to eventually turn slightly to the NW at which point we were going to try to sail wing and wing using the preventer we had made, but as we got to that point the winds shifted to the south so we were still between a beam reach and a broad reach. Pegu Club was FLYING! She’s such a great boat – you could tell she was so happy in those winds – and so were we.
Ultimately, it was what we call a “set it and forget it” sail the whole way back. No tacking, no jibing, just a bit of trimming the sails every once in a while. It was amazing. We’ve never experienced that coming back from Stonington before because usually the prevailing winds are SW so it ends up being a tack fest. Not this time. Poseidon made it up to us after our inauspicious beginning that day.
Coming into Pine Island Marina the winds died down as if on cue, and we commented on how if we hadn’t been delayed leaving Stonington the conditions wouldn’t have been nearly as perfect for our return sail. This was one time where it really worked out for the best.