Back on the Block, part 2

Friday saw us tossing off the mooring line at 7:00 a.m.  It was chilly but sunny, and the forecast called for light winds out of the southwest until 9:00 a.m. or so when they would begin to steadily build, along with the seas.  Having learned what “building seas” meant during our first trip to Block, our goal was to be in the Great Salt Pond before it started blowing over 20.

What followed was a lovely sail – our best one yet to Block.  19 NM, 5 hours.  We motored for a few hours, and then, true to the forecast’s word, we were able to to turn off the outboard and sail the entire rest of the way.  And I mean the entire way.  We were feeling great: sunny, 59 degrees on the water, 12-15 knots of wind, a beam reach the entire way.

Jeff at the helm.
Seems like we're always dodging a trawler or two out on Block Island Sound.
Seems like we’re always dodging a trawler or two out on Block Island Sound.

I started thinking about how some of my co-workers had told me that they used to sail into the Great Salt Pond.  Filled with confidence, I suggested to Jeff that we give it a go.  We figured that it was early on a Friday so the channel wasn’t going to be crowded, the winds were perfect – why not?  So we did.  We did turn on the outboard before we entered the channel, keeping it in neutral, just in case things got out of hand, but we didn’t put it in forward until we turned into the wind to drop the sails.  It was awesome! I felt very salty, and I proudly told the Harbormaster that we had sailed into the Pond when she showed up a few minutes later to collect our mooring fee.  I’m sure she was thinking, “Newb” the whole time, but I didn’t care.  I was PSYCHED.

Stonington to Block Island

Our timing was perfect because shortly after we dropped the sails the wind really started picking up.  We provided some Boat TV comedic entertainment for the few boats in the mooring field by needing three tries to pick up the mooring line, but eventually we were settled in.  We had a relaxing afternoon on the boat watching other boats arrive, cooked up some Bomster scallops and pasta for dinner, and were in bed by cruiser’s midnight.

I woke up around 4:30 a.m. to a HOWLING wind – steady 20+ knots with gusts to 25-30 knots – and I started fretting about the holding on the mooring ball, wondering whether we would drag.  I woke up Jeff, declaring “You know, the prudent mariner would be prepared in a situation like this.”  He wisely didn’t argue and we proceeded to break down the mega bed and get dressed in our foulies.  As we sat down in the cabin, Jeff looked at me and calmly said, “So just what exactly is your plan?”  I burst out laughing as I suddenly realized how ridiculous I was being.  There were many bigger boats around.  Heck, people are even allowed to raft on the mooring balls.  There was no way our 24′, 6,000 pound Pegu Club was going to drag.  So we grabbed our sleeping bags and went back to sleep for a few more hours.  Jeff is obviously a very tolerant husband.

Saturday had a small craft advisory and the rest of the weekend wasn’t looking a whole lot better.  However, when we got back to the boat Saturday afternoon after spending some time in town, we noticed that several more sailboats had arrived during the day.  That made us both feel a bit better, because we had started to wonder whether we were the only idiots that had decided to sail to Block that weekend.

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, doing a bit of hiking at Rodman’s Hollow, and generally trying not to get blown away by the wind.

Stone walls are everywhere.
Stone walls are everywhere.
More stone walls.
More stone walls.
We haven't eaten here yet, but we will.
We haven’t eaten here yet, but we will.
Rodman's Hollow.
Rodman’s Hollow.
Surf Hotel.
National Hotel – note the flag on top flying straight out from the wind.
A beach on the way into town.
A beach on the way into town.

Sunday night we checked the next day’s forecast, and it looked like we were going to have to put on our big boy and big girl pants.  There was a small craft advisory that was to be lifted at 11:00 p.m., then the winds would die down a bit until mid-morning when they were supposed to steadily increase.  We went to bed at cruiser’s midnight, and then I was up from real midnight until 3:00 a.m. listening to the wind howl.  Why wasn’t it dying down?  When the alarm went off at 5:30 the wind had settled down some, but I was still pretty nervous.  I knew the boat could handle it.  I just wasn’t sure that my skills were up for it.  I kept thinking about a sign we saw in a shop that weekend, “A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.”   I tried to make that my mantra.  In the meantime, if Jeff was nervous, he sure wasn’t showing it.

We decided to put in a reef before leaving (reef early, reef often as the saying goes), which was a first for us.  We had practiced reefing once, but had never done it for real.  Then we decided to raise the sails while we were at the mooring ball, figuring it would be easier than trying to do it when we left the Pond.  This was also a rare thing for us, but it really turned out to be much easier for Jeff (who normally raises the sails) and I think we’ll be doing it from now on.  I took a deep breath, and off we went.

Upon leaving the Pond it was clear that Pegu Club was in her element.  We were doing over 5 knots with a reef, and she felt great.  I instantly relaxed and started getting into the groove.  About an hour later the wind had decreased so we shook out the reef.  An hour after that we were becalmed.  Where was our wind?  Now I was annoyed.  Here I had spent half the night awake worrying about it, then I was having a blast, and now it was gone?  Doh!

We motored through Watch Hill Passage and then proceeded to have the weirdest sail wind-wise back to Groton.  The wind would pick up to about 12 knots, we’d have a great sail for 5 or 10 minutes, then it would die.  We could see the wind up ahead on the water, so we’d motor up to it, it would pick up to 12 knots again, we’d have a great sail for 5 minutes, then it would die.  Repeat multiple times.  I said to Jeff that I can’t wait for the day that we’re out cruising someplace with consistent winds.

Happy Kimberly.
Happy Kimberly despite holding on tight after being waked by a stinkpot.
This guy was taking full advantage of the intermittent wind.
This guy was taking full advantage of the intermittent wind.

24.94 NM and 7 hours and 15 minutes later, we were back on our mooring in Pine Island.

Block to  Groton

Overall we had a great trip.  We experienced a few firsts – sailing into the Great Salt Pond, gusts pushing 30 knots on the mooring ball, sailing with a reef and shaking it out – and I had a newfound confidence and a firm resolve to sail this season in all sorts of wind conditions.

6 thoughts on “Back on the Block, part 2

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