Monday, September 16, 2013

No Reservations: Cruising Narragansett Bay to Long Island Sound

     One of the best features of sailing with no reservations is that you can take your time. While sailing  Simple Life along the north/south route of the eastern seaboard we anchor nearly all the time unless there are free docks or town moorings available.

     A week ago when we left our home port of Pawtuxet Cove in Narragansett Bay our first overnight anchorage was at the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge off Sand Hill Cove in Narragansett, RI. As we made our final approach through the eastern entrance into the harbor a squall blew through with strong winds that lasted throughout the night. The massive boulders that encompass the granite breakwall at Simple Life's stern made for a less than restful night's sleep. At dawn the following day the wind had subsided necessitating a motoring day to an anchorage at Ram Island in Fischer's Island Sound near Mystic, CT. The anchorage with its shoreline deposited with eroded boulders from the recession of glaciers offered scenic beauty quite different than upper Narragansett Bay's marshes and pastoral panoramas. It also offered ample protection from most wind and wave directions with the exception of easterlies.

Simple Life with staysail and main in the Race
     There was no shortage of wind the next day when we set sail west toward Essex on the Connecticut River. Winds gusted in excess of 20 knots from the southwest. Of course this was the direction we were traveling. Currents were favorable but, since we had to tack back and forth up Long Island Sound the tacks brought us into the fringes of the notorious Race. Wave size and wave periods increased dramatically when we encountered depths of over 130 of water in the Race with cresting seas breaking over the bow and subsequently rolling over the dodger and bimini. That evening after negotiating the Connecticut River entrance and safely anchoring in Hamburg Cove near Essex reflecting on the experience over cocktails was great fun. Why does it seem that every nasty incident related to sailing seems like fun when it's over?


The Griswold Inn, Essex
     The motoring trip to the town of Essex was a short distance from Hamburg Cove.  Essex was recently declared one of America's great small towns. Even though its location is six miles up the Connecticut River it looks much like any seaside village in New England. Joe and I wandered around town stopping in various antique shops and strolling along the historic waterfront checking on the locals crabbing on the town dock. The most popular attraction in town is the Griswold Inn also known as The Gris. It seems that it is a local hangout as well as popular among tourists. It was Sunday afternoon and a jazz quartet was entertaining the brunch crowd. Later in the afternoon a singer-songwriter's talents filled the Tap Room with listeners.
Michele enjoying afternoon music 


     When it was time to dinghy back to Simple Life for the evening we took notice of the strong current in the river. It can run at over 1.5 knots at its peak. It's definitely not the place to jump off the boat for a swim. That evening we witnessed the current's fury first hand as a young man who'd been out with friends for a daysail jumped from the boat and within seconds was swept a few hundred yards away. It was dark and after trying to swim unsuccessfully against the current a nearby yacht club launch spotted the shaken boy and plucked him from the water. It seemed that disaster was diverted and we settled in for the night.


Saybrook Breakwater Light
     I'd researched the Essex/Old Saybrook area and discovered that Katherine Hepburn spent summers at her family's large waterfront home at Fenwick on Long Island Sound. The home located on Long Island Sound was easy to spot as we sailed out of the river and headed west around the Saybrook Lighthouse. It was sold and remodeled after Hepburn's death in 2003 and was recently listed for a mere 30 million dollars!
Katherine Hepburn's home at Fenwick


Execution Rocks near the entrance to Port Washington, NY
     We headed across the Sound toward our intended nights' anchorage at Port Jefferson, NY. There were no obvious amenities for cruisers so we planned to anchor only one night with a morning departure for Port Washington, NY. We'd heard numerous cruisers checking in on the Cruisheimer's Net on the SSB radio and assumed that Port Washington offered  more amenities for cruising sailors. The city offers free moorings for 48 hours and free pump outs. There's a Stop and Shop across the street from the dinghy dock and a West Marine within a couple of blocks. We also found a laundromat on Shore Road across from the West Marine. You know you're a cruiser when your day is complete after finding all these shoreside conveniences.
How can you make a cruiser's day? Put a grocery store across
from the dingy dock!

     This evening Simple Life is anchored in Little Neck Bay in Queens near the Throgs Neck Bridge. The anchor will be up at dawn and we'll be motoring down the East River heading for Hell Gate at slack tide...I'll bet that sounds like a great way to start the morning. Any sentence with the word "hell" in it makes me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head. But, after Hell Gate who knows...we might head out to sea or we may turn up the Hudson River and check out NYC for a couple of days.