We've spent three years cruising to the Bahamas on Pegu Club, our Bristol 29.9. Time to switch it up a bit and head to Southern California for the winter, tent camping our way across the United States.
It always takes me awhile to settle in at the beginning of the sailing season. I suppose it’s only natural with a six month offseason, but I still don’t like it. We’re always rusty, forgetting to do the little things, which contributes to a heightened sense of nervousness on my part. Will there be an issue with the engine? Does that powerboat see us? That kind of thing. Add in the fact that now we’re in a slip, and it hasn’t been the most stress-free start to the season.
After a while I always relax. We get into a groove with the boat, I only notice the powerboats that are aiming right at us, and I don’t even think twice about Thumper. This past weekend I took a giant step towards getting into my groove when we took Pegu Club on our first trip to Stonington for the season. It was finally going to be sunny and warm for Saturday AND Sunday, and the weatherman called for 10-15 knot winds. Well, at least they got the sun and temperature right. The wind? Not so much. Continue reading “Settling in for the season.”→
One of the things we’ve been looking forward to about having a bigger boat is the ability to host guests more comfortably and easily. Since we’ve been back from vacation, that’s exactly what we’ve done.
During the weekend of July 23rd and 24th we hosted our friends Vanessa and Kurt for the first time. They had been on Little Bristol a few times and had seen Pegu Club over the winter, but this was going to be their first visit with her all put back together.
The weekend called for sunny skies and breezy on Saturday with winds from the northwest overnight, then less windy on Sunday. Northwest winds meant that our traditional standby anchorage of West Harbor on Fishers Island was out (too exposed), so Jeff and I had decided that we would anchor out at Ram Island by Noank. It would be our first time there, but it looked nice and it was well-protected from the wind.
One of the many things that I love about Vanessa is that she truly enjoys spoiling us with homemade food when she sees us – whether it’s our house, their house, or the boat. It doesn’t matter. True to form, she and Kurt arrived on Saturday morning with a cooler full of scrumptious meals and snacks. We sailed out towards Fishers Island with plans to sail along the coastline, round Latimer Light, and head back towards Ram Island.
A brisk breeze pushed us from behind as we went down Fishers Island sailing with just the genoa out. I noticed the wind gauge and the whitecaps, but it wasn’t particularly pronounced sailing downwind. Once we got ready to turn around towards Ram Island, however – whoa Nelly!
As we drove down to Shenny on Friday, July 8th we were psyched. We were finally taking Pegu Club on vacation for 11 days! Traditionally we take vacation after Labor Day when school is back in session and everything is much quieter. Work changes meant that wouldn’t be possible this year, however, so a vacation in July was going to be something new for us.
The initial plan was to sail Pegu Club to Martha’s Vineyard, but since I really don’t like going to crowded places we decided Martha’s in July wasn’t such a great idea. We decided instead that we would go wherever the wind blew us. The hope was to get a lot of sailing in so we could continue to get comfortable with Pegu Club. The only firm plans we had were for the first weekend, when we were going to Stonington with two other couples from Shenny.
Jeff was able to get Thursday and Friday of Memorial Day weekend off from work, and with a sunny forecast we decided to head to Block Island. I think three seasons in a row means that we can officially call it our “annual trip” to Block. Despite sailing there the two previous seasons, we had yet to travel non-stop from Groton. Both times we had stopped in Stonington, so this was going to be a first. Not our longest trip – that was Newport to Stonington last fall – but a first nevertheless.
The plan was to get to the marina Thursday morning so we could leave by 11:00 a.m., giving us plenty of time to arrive before dark. Jeff rowed us out to our mooring (the dinghy outboard is still being uncooperative), and we started to get settled in. I was in the cabin unpacking when I heard Jeff say, “There’s a raccoon in the lazarette.” Jeff is prone to saying random silly things, so initially I thought he was joking. “No. I’m serious. There’s a raccoon in the lazarette.” Well this was a new one. Continue reading “Memorial Day Weekend – Back on the Block, Part 1”→
It felt like it would never arrive, but we finally found ourselves on Friday night loading up Pegu Club to begin our two weeks of vacation. The initial itinerary was to sail to Block Island on Saturday, Jamestown, RI on Tuesday, Warwick on Thursday, Bristol on Friday, Battleship Cove on Sunday, Newport on Tuesday, Stonington on Saturday, and back to Groton on Sunday. We expected to have to make adjustments to accommodate for weather conditions, but we didn’t expect to change things up right away. Nevertheless, a look at the forecast showed 30 mph gusts and 3-4 foot seas for Block Island Sound on Saturday so we decided to make Stonington our first stop instead.
Saturday morning we made a last minute run to Target for a few items we had forgotten, loaded the dinghy motor onto the stern rail and finally headed out. Two weeks of living on a boat! Yay! We caught the current and flew towards Stonington until the wind died, leaving us to motor for the last half hour. Little did we know this would be a sign of things to come. Still, we made it to Stonington in 2 1/2 hours – Pegu Club was flying!
We’ve been to Stonington a few times this year so I did some pre-vacation research looking for a few off the beaten path things to check out. The Velvet Mill, an old factory that houses a variety of artists studios and a nanobrewery, sounded like just the ticket. It was only a mile from the marina and although it was HOT and HUMID, the walk was entertaining, capped off by sighting an old classic Jaguar.
By the time we made it to Beer’d Jeff was welcoming the free beer flight. Unfortunately there wasn’t any air conditioning in any of the studios (only fans blowing hot and humid air), and frankly after having a cool dry summer I was starting to get overheated so after browsing in some of the other studios we trekked back to the boat where it’s always quite a bit cooler. Besides, grilled chicken drumsticks, cocktails, and a pretty sunset awaited – not to mention Block Island the next day!
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.
Low to mid-80’s, low humidity. My dad has a name for this kind of weather – “Chamber of Commerce weather.” After a long, cold winter and a very cold (and seemingly never-ending) spring, we’ve had a summer full of Chamber of Commerce weather and this past weekend was no exception. Fortunately it was going to last through Monday, so I took yesterday off and Jeff and I decided to sail to Stonington and spend the night.
Last season Stonington was the first sail where we stayed overnight away from our marina. We enjoyed it so much (well, except for the part where the outboard started sounding like it was going to stall out just as we were entering busy Stonington harbor which is filled with super-fancy boats – i.e. really expensive), that we returned two more times before the end of the season. We wanted to go last weekend but it was cloudy, showering, and zero wind so we simply hung out on the boat and did boat chores. This weekend was looking substantially better, so we were psyched.
Departure day on Sunday was looking good, timing wise, because the ebb current was going to be kicking in around noon. During our second sail last year we found ourselves at a standstill despite the fact that it was windy and we were “sailing.” It was at that point that we learned that with a 3 1/2 foot draft on our boat, the tides weren’t as important for us as the currents, particularly in Fishers Island Sound. Since then we never go for a sail without first checking to see if the current is flooding or ebbing. The currents in Fishers Island Sound can frequently run 3-4 knots so it makes a big difference, especially in our heavy (6,000 pounds) 24′ boat.
While the day started out with very light winds (under 5 knots gets us nowhere fast), the breeze finally starting puffing enough that we decided to cast off the mooring line and head out. The perigee full moon was giving the current an extra boost, and before we knew it we were flying towards Stonington at over 5 knots, despite winds of only about 6 knots. Gotta love it when the current works with us instead of against us!
After approximately 1 1/2 hours the wind had dropped to well below 5 knots, and even though the current was still allowing us to make some headway, the sails were starting to slap around. When we hit the area that we jokingly call the “mini-Race”, the turbulent waters combined with virtually no wind pushed us around enough that we decided to call it a day, fired up the outboard and motored the rest of the way. We picked up the mooring line at Dodson’s Boatyard less than 3 hours after we had left Groton. A personal best for us, and all due to the screaming-fast current.
Note: we weren’t this close to the lighthouse – we sail very conservatively and give everything a wide berth. I used the zoom on the camera.
We got lucky in that Dodson’s had assigned us a mooring that was about as close to the dinghy dock as you could get. This was fortunate because Sunday morning the dink outboard was repeatedly stalling at low speed, so we had left it behind in the car (it’s highly likely that we simply need to clean the carb). Since Jeff would be rowing the dink, a close-in mooring assignment was fabulous. After we flaked the sail and got everything ship shape, we were sitting in the cockpit enjoying a drink when we began to hear a fife and drum corps playing at the Dog Watch Cafe (Dodson’s bar and restaurant). Unbeknownst to us it was the bicentennial of the Battle of Stonington, so we had some fun listening to a variety of songs while sitting in the boat, including a rip-roaring version of “Blow the Man Down.”
After a trip to the Dog Watch for its version of Bermuda punch, a great sunset, tri tip on the grill and spanish rice on the Origo for dinner, and some general relaxing while watching the full moon rise, we were off to bed by cruiser’s midnight (9:00 p.m.) for a solid night’s sleep.