Newport, Stonington, Fishers Island, and home – 9/15 to 9/20

Newport has such a rich sailing heritage, and we were excited to be taking Pegu Club there to be a small part of it.  We had hoped to sail from Bristol, but while it was gorgeous on Monday there wasn’t a speck of wind.  We thought about waiting for one more day so that we could actually sail there, but the wind forecast for later in the week was looking a little sketchy so we decided it would be better to get 13 nautical miles closer to home.

With the outboard humming along (thank goodness we had the professionals take care of it at the beginning of the season), we set off for Newport.  We could hear on the radio that there was some Naval activity going on, so as we got closer we kept our eyes open to see what kind of boat t.v. we might have.  We saw this big guy docked at the Navy base:

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Based on the VHF broadcasts, it sounded like a navy vessel would be going under the Newport bridge.  I joked that it would be just our luck for us to be going under it at the same time, especially given that it was only our second time under a bridge.  Well, the joke was on us. We ended up slowing waaaayyy down so as to give this bad guy plenty of space as he went under the bridge:

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It probably wasn’t necessary, but we weren’t sure how close we could get.  The last thing we wanted was to get hailed on the radio and told to move away.

Eventually it was our turn:

Approaching the Newport Bridge.
Approaching the Newport Bridge.
Under the Newport Bridge.
Under the Newport Bridge.

As we were crossing we had two tugboats pulling a John Cleese on us (from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail endless running scene where Cleese is storming the castle).  We always call it that when a boat is chasing us down, and we make the sound effects – yes, we’re nerds.  Anyway, I could see there were two tugboats steaming along in our direction, but they didn’t pass us until we were just through.  I’m not sure if they did that on purpose, but I’m glad they did because they throw off a decent wake.

You can just see a bit of the bridge on the top right corner.
You can just see a bit of the bridge on the top right corner.

Newport harbor has a very large number of moorings that don’t seem to be numerically organized in any way, so after we received our mooring assignment on the VHF we (unsurprisingly) had trouble finding it.  Fortunately the launch tender came by so I hailed him on the radio and he led us to our ball before speeding off again.

This was the first time during our vacation that we were picking up a mooring with very little wind, but I didn’t really think about that fact until after Jeff picked up the stick.  Pegu Club weighs 6,000 pounds and carries some substantial momentum.  Unfortunately, that momentum was propelling her right towards the 47 foot sailboat in front of us.  Oops.  Typically it wouldn’t be an issue because the boats all point in the same direction, but when the wind is very light they can be a bit helter-skelter.  The mooring ball that this boat was on was actually next to us, but the boat had chosen to swing towards our bow at just that moment, and at 47 feet it took up a lot of space.  Jeff made good use of the boat hook and fended us off (first time we’ve had to do that!), so no harm no foul.  Fortunately the owners of the other boat weren’t there to watch.  Lesson learned: ALWAYS think about how much wind there is when we’re getting ready to pick up a mooring, and adjust accordingly.

Although Newport’s harbor is quite large, we were pleased to see that we were moored pretty close to the Maritime Center.  This is a fantastic facility that opened in 2012.  It offers transient boaters restrooms, showers, laundry, wifi, plenty of outlets for charging, ice, water, and free dingy dockage.  It’s open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and it really is a wonderful resource.  We used it several times during our stay and give it two thumbs up.

The next morning when we woke up, Jeff went out to the cockpit and immediately whispered for me to come up.  Near the boat was a gigantic school of (we found out later) bluefish.  The water was filled with them, and their fins were sticking up in the air like tiny sharks. We had never seen anything like it, and I was able to catch some of it on our iPad:

I also made a short video of the fish swimming by the boat.  Jeff was wishing that he had a net.  We’ll definitely have fishing equipment when we go cruising.  Free dinner, you know.

After starting off the morning with great boat t.v., we spent the rest of the day poking around Newport, going to Stop & Shop and the liquor store, doing laundry, etc.  We wanted to go to the Museum of Yachting which was supposed to be located on Fort Adams.  However, after taking the dink across the harbor to go check it out, we discovered it was no longer there and there was no indication of where it had relocated.

Instead, we dinked back across the harbor and went to IYRS – the International Yacht Restoration School.  IYRS offers programs in Boatbuilding and Restoration; Marine Systems; and  Composites Technology.  The students in their boatbuilding and restoration program learn all about wooden boatbuilding through hands-on instruction, and visitors can watch them at work.  It was pretty cool to see.  The Coronet, a 131 foot wooden schooner from the 1880’s, is also being restored on the IYRS campus, and the public is free to watch that process.  We really enjoyed going to IYRS.  It was something “off the beaten path” in Newport that we hadn’t done before, and we would definitely go again.

Working on the Coronet's planking.
Working on the Coronet’s planking.

The next day we were planning on doing the Cliff Walk and checking out a mansion that we hadn’t seen before, but after we finished eating dinner a quick check of the weather revealed that we should head back to Stonington instead.  We had 33 nm ahead of us (our longest trip ever), and with a conservative estimate of 3nm per hour and 13 hours of sunlight at best, we needed to go when we had the best winds so we could motorsail if needed to make it in before dark.  Wednesday looked decent, but Thursday’s winds were going to be too light and Friday was going to be right on the nose.  Waiting until Saturday was going to be cutting it kind of close, schedule-wise, so we reluctantly got ready to leave a day early.

On Wednesday we were up before the sun and sat in the cockpit ready to go as soon as it was light enough to see something – 6:20 a.m..  We had a nice northeast wind early and sailed with the outboard at low throttle.  Between that and the current, we flew down to Pt. Judith at over 4 knots.

Jeff just off of Pt. Judith.
Jeff just off of Pt. Judith.

Rounding the bend the winds died as expected (the north wind always dies around here), so we kept the sails up but basically motored for the next hour and a half.  We saw a giant cruise ship heading into Newport and dodged a few trawlers here and there.  The wind picked up from the WSW earlier than expected, and we had made good progress by then so we decided to turn off the outboard for a while and sail.  Aaah.  Two hours of bliss.  Unfortunately the wind shifted a bit so that we weren’t able to keep our heading without eventually having to tack.  It wouldn’t have been a problem if it was earlier in the season (longer days), but we decided to play it safe and go as the crow flies.  The outboard was fired up again for the rest of the trip.  We arrived at Dodsons in Stonington at 3:50 p.m. much more quickly than we had thought.  We were tired but satisfied with another milestone completed.

We spent the remainder of our vacation simply chilling out on the boat – two nights in Stonington, a short sail to Fishers Island for an overnight (which was going to be two nights until Sunday’s forecast showed rain), and then back to Pine Island Marina.  We had fun chatting  about our trip with the friends we’ve made at the marina – they had noticed that Pegu Club was gone for two weeks – and eventually made our way back to our land home.

Overall, the trip was fabulous.  We learned a few things and pushed our boundaries a bit.  Nothing broke and we didn’t run aground.  Jeff was a trouper for spending two weeks on a 24 foot boat – not easy when you’re 6’4″ – and but I do think that this trip has led us to realize that the next boat truly needs a minimum of 6’3″ HR, preferably more, especially given that we’re going to live on it.  It’s a good thing we have a while to research – and save up!