Once again, Steve Blecher's 53' J-160 Javelin takes a tried and true, mostly Dartmouth grad, crew on a cruise. The Crew:
Steve (Dartmouth '64) boat Javelin, home port Westbrook, CT
Rick Van Mell ('63), boat Vanishing Animal, home port San Francisco Bay
Mel Converse ('60), boat Whim, home port Galesville, MD, Chesapeake Bay
Paul Wharton (Duke '64), boat Solitude, home port Mamaroneck, NY,
Brian Klinger ('62), boat Special K, home port Portsmouth, NH.
This year's Plan hits almost all of the highlights of cruising grounds south of Cape Cod. Here's a link to
The Plan, and the Shopping List, but you'll just have to read on to see what happened when the wind hit the plan! .
Pictures (will probably be) by Mel Converse, Paul Wharton, and Rick Van Mell, and are grouped between days. There may even be a few movie clips too.
The table below summarizes daily runs and the date is a link to that day's log. Elasped time is generally time under way and has sometimes been adjusted for lunch stops. Cells with a darker background color represent changes from the original Plan.
Rick touched down at JFK 20 minutes early after an uneventful flight from San Francisco. By the 3:45 scheduled arrival time, Rick was in Mel's car and they were headed for I-95. While Google give the driving time to Westbrook, CT as 2 hours, Steve advised that it was going to be more like 3 hours in New York traffic. Right he was as they arrived at 6:45 where Brian was already aboard and waiting.
After "hellos" and stowing gear, the three headed for The Boom restaurant and dinner. A pleasant enough dinner had its humorous bit as Brian asked for, "Scotch, neat, straight up." When asked if he wanted it in a martini glass, he said, "Fine." A few minutes later, the waitress returned and asked, "Would you like an olive in your martini?" Brian repeated that it was Scotch, and no olive wanted. She returned with drinks for the table, with Brian's drink frothy with salt on the rim of a martini glass. Brian asked her to try again and a plain glass would be fine. It turned out that she had emptied the scotch bottle and now had to go find a new one. Rick observed her once again put ice into a cocktail shaker, pour in the Scotch, shake and strain into a tumbler. So Brian settled for a colder and slightly diluted "neat, straight up" Scotch.
After dinner the crew pulled out the shopping list and checked off the items Steve had already put aboard and the spices in the condiments locker. With all in order for an early morning shopping trip, the crew turned in by 2230.
Early morning coffee and oatmeal were cleared away by 0745 as Rick & Brian headed off with the shopping list to the Super Stop & Shop in next door Clinton, CT as Mel refilled the water tanks and started taking off sail covers. Steve and Paul arrived about 0900 with goodies and the dinghy to be blown up and stowed. By 1000 most all was stowed and Javelin headed for the fuel dock to top off and add some ice.
Under way at 1034, Javelin eased away from the dock and down the Westbrook channel under bright sun and light winds. At cruisng speed of 8 knots she headed east along the north side of Long Sand Shoal. About 7 miles along the route to Mystic we passed the east end of Long Sand Shoal and set sail as the breeze filled in.
Javelin gracefully accelerated to 6 knots in only slightly more wind. Then as wind increased she eased up to almost 8 knots under perfect sailing conditions. The cruise was off to a great start. We were enjoying the ride so much that we sailed past North Dumpling island at the entrance to Fishers Island Sound that we sailed past the first opportunity to turn north into the Mystic River and lowered sail about a mile down the road.
Using the routine Rick-to-Steve call outs of new courses, we worked our way into and up the Mystic River. Of course there was no lack of navigation power aboard. In addition to the ship's new Simrad chartplotter and
GPS, plus the ship's computer with it's own Navtech software, there were two iPads, 4 smartphones and Paul's hand-held Garmin GPS to keep us on track. What with a WiFi app that allowed those with iPads to see, and change, the main Simrad chartpoltter, there was no end of fun and laughs.
We were aiming for the 1440 opening of the Mystic Drawbridge and were easily on track when the railroad bridge, half a mile before the drawbridge, abruptly closed in front of us. We did a loop and tied to the dock at the Brewer's Mystic yard as the time on the bridge counted down from "20 minutes to opening." With 7 minutes to go, a passenger train zipped by going east, and with 3 minutes to go another sped past headed west. With just six minutes left we finally squeezed through the opening bridge and arrived in time to make the 1440 opening.
A few radio calls and we were tied to the dock at Mystic Seaport. The Seaport is a rebuilt example of the 1840 - 1880 period when Mystic was a shipbuilding center of the east coast. Great whaling ships slid from ways all along the Sound,including the Charles Morgan in 1841. That same ship is being restored at Mystic to her original condition and the hull will be relaunched in late July. Steve was met by fellow New York Yacht Club member Chris Freeman, head of fund raising for Mystic Seaport. He was arranging for us to get a grand tour of the restoration effort on Thursday morning.
With dock lines secure and all checked in, we toured the Seaport for the rest of the afternoon. Delights like small boat collections of both power and sail were interspersed with a cooperage shop, a print shop, rope walk (for making rope), and a blacksmith shop. All along the waterfront there were sloops, schooners, and the larger whaler Joseph Conrad. The schooner L.A. Dunton has a main boom that was longer than Javelin, and her gaff was hoisted by a double throat halyard and a 3-block continuous peak halyard. All in very good condition, but most being well over 100 years old.
Dinner was at the Latitude 41 restaurant. Back aboard as the sun set a little before 9, Brian and Rick tuned up the guitar and sang a few rounds of sea song as Steve, Mel and Paul occasionaly chimed in. Early to bunks shortly after 2200.
No need to get up early ... but early it was. By 0630 Rick was doing an egg breakfast so we would be ready for the arrival of Chris Cox to give us a grand tour of the Morgan. Chris is the retired Executive Vice President of the Seaport and now assisting with fundraising. In addition, he was the main driver of the Amistad ship building which was featured in the movie by the same name which told the story of slaving and the legal challenges to the status of escaped slaves.
Chris arrived right on time at 0745 and after coming aboard for a cup of Mel's famous coffe and about 45 minutes of sea stories, we headed for the restoration shed. In addition to the general galleries of ship construction and repair, down on the work floor the rudder of the Morgan was getting a new bronze strap at the bottom.
We walked around the hull, noting how she will shortly be moved sideways onto rails in the concrete that lead to a lift platform that would lower her into the water. All along the way we were introduced to the men who have been rebuilding her for over 3 years. On her starboard side, the planks just above and below the waterline were 4" thick and 20 feet long. Years of whales rubbing against her sides had worn the planks requiring replacement. These were the outer planks. Inside the 6" frames were another set of 3" planks! The port side didn't have the extra thick planks because whales were always worked on the starboard side.
Then up on deck to walk from stem to stern, passing the "try works" where whale blubber was rendered to extract the oil which ran lamps the world over in the 1840's. Down a deck, headroom was about 5' 8" and we all bent to the exploration of cabins, storerooms, and looked down into the hold.
We finished up our tour at the extensive model of what Mystic looked like in about 1850. Half a dozen shipyards lined the banks of the river and the town ringed the remaining space. In the course of just 40 years over 100 boats were built. And then, just as quickly, Mystic faded as steel replaced wood and New Bedford and New London had access to more inland wood and deeper water. All in all a very special treat, and we thanked Chris profusely and acknowledged the skill and pride of everyone we met.
All this before we depart downriver ourselves at 1025. Shades of Maine: mists of fog drifted over Fisher's Island Sound as we cleared the river. It didn't last long and at 1204 we passed Watch Hill into Rhode Island Sound, killed the engine and set sail. It was a beat to Pt. Judith, 16 miles to the east, but the breeze was to Javelin's liking and we were soon doing 7 to 8 knots through the water and up to 9 knots over the bottom with a favorable current. Today was alternating between haze, sun and then more haze. By the time we eased off at Pt. Judith at 1458 it was a delight to be at the helm and feel the power. Javelin reponded to puffs and a wave to race along occasionally touching 10 knots.
Castle Hill is the aptly-named light marking the entrance to Newport. Stone mansions and acres of manicured grass stood watch over the East Passage into Narragansett Bay. It was 1630 when we dropped sail and headed in to Brenton Cove for our mooring (# 719) right off the dock with New York Yacht Club's Harbor Court clubhouse towering high on the hill. A short libation and nibbles aboard and up we went for a fine dinner. We paused on the dock as the sunset gun was fired and the colors lowered before returning to Javelin and an early turn in.
In the beginning there was The Plan. Then reality hit it. Yesterday afternoon's weather reports had the first tropical storm of the season, Andrea, racing north from Florida in just two days, plus a broad, wet cold front marching steadily east from the Ohio Valley. The prognosis was rain all day Friday, and overnight into Saturday morning. The planned "zero dark thirty" departure for a 70 mile slog to Edgartown didn't sound like a great way to spend a rainy Friday. Steve extended our NYYC stay for a day, cancelled our mooring in Edgartown, and added a night at Jamestown, across from Newport on Conanicut Island at the mouth of Narragansett Bay.
Heavy rain rattled the deck around 0400, and continued in fits and starts right on through a pancake breakfast. Lots of reading and log writing, a Chow Mein lunch, and right on into the afternoon the relaxing continued.
Our Mystic Seaport welcome packet included two short DVDs on the Charles Morgan, so we thought we'd look at them. A good half hour was taken up trying to get the ship's stereo system to turn on so we could pipe the audio through it as we have many times before. Despite the best efforts of Rick, Steve and Brian we could not get the stereo to power up, so we settled for just the audio off the ship's computer.
Brian had also brought along a DVD of the 1958 movie Windjammer, about a cruise of the Norwegian sail training ship Christian Radich. Filmed in "Cinemiracle" with 3 cameras and featuring a square rigger, you'd think this would be a hit. But, what was impressive in 1958 looked like lots of over-acting with poor quality sound compared to the professionally-mastered LP records we remembered. When was the last time you had a movie with a 15 minute intermission in the middle of it? Paul declared he couldn't handle the second half without a libation and since it was 1658, we declared the sun to be over the yardarm and gave him (and the rest of the crew) their choice of beverage.
Dinner was Paul's chili served up to the whine of wind in the rigging and a rough tattoo of rain pounding on deck. Perhaps to drown it out, with dishes done, we pulled out the guitar and Rick and Brian took turns working our way through the oldies but goodies in our song books. Steve lead the way to slumber time followed by the rest of the crew by 2130.
During the night the rain eased off and the wind shifted north and piped up over 20 knots. After enjoying great shelter from the easterlies at the foot of NYYC, we were now open to over a mile of open water through the mooring field. As waves built, Javelin's flat stern was slapped by each passing wave giving Rick & Paul a drum-beat feeling in the aft cabins.
A late, 0800, breakfast of cereal and fruit started the morning, Then we settled in waiting for an expected wind shift to the west and lighter winds for a daysail around Narragansett Bay. Jimmy Buffet through Paul's
iPod extension speaker passed the time.
Captain Bligh Blecher hardly waited. With the wind just under 20 knots, under a cloudy sky, he called for hands on deck, complete with life jackets, to go for a pleasure sail. Granted, there were now hints of breaks between the clouds -- after all, is was a late 0942. So Paul & Brian dropped the mooring, we powered just past the mooring field, and by 0952 the engine was off and we were under sail.
We squeezed past the rocks at Rose Island and eased off headed north under the Newport Harbor Bridge. Slowly but surely the clouds thinned, bright blue and crisp sun speckled the water. Javelin romped along at over nine knots as we stayed west of Prudence Island. Rick had planned a tour of the little bays and potential anchorages along the west shore of Narragansett Bay, but Steve wanted to turn east around the top of Prudence. So east we turned and eased off to run back downwind.
A round of ham sandwiches constituted lunch as we headed downwind. But Mother Nature had her own tricks to play. Though by now we had a bright blue sky, the wind shifted to the south and we were once again beating back toward where we started the day. The southerly increased into the 20 knot range and we were again touching an occasional nine knots. Once back south of the bridge, we were going to head into the Eastern Passage, past Newport, to explore a deep bay.
But the breeze piped up into the 25 knot range and Rick called for a fast ease and a run back into the harbor. We hit over ten knots as we flew past the little brown house sitting on The Dumpling at the harbor mouth. Brian, Mel and Paul took turns driving as we raced back and forth on one mile legs between Jamestown and Ft. Adams. Each hit 10 knots, with Paul getting the black jelly bean by hitting 10.4 knots. Having had lots of fun, we dropped sails and headed for a slip at Conanicut Marina in Jamestown, across the harbor from Newport.
Hank and Rebecca Jonas, and Hank's cousin Scott, joined us for nibbles and libations. Then we went over to see the new On Rush, a 43' East Bay power boat. As one would expect from Hank, it was fitted with all manner of toys which Hank demonstrated to the crew. Rebecca had done an outstanding job of picking the decor and decorations and the ship had both a very efficient look and a warm and inviting feel.
Dinner was pan seared steak, potatoes and salad. The evening wrapped with much guitar playing and singing. We declared if the cruise would only last a full three weeks, we might get back in some semblance of "Yachtsmen" shape.
Despite a bright and beautiful morning, with French Toast and Kielbasa, Steve was once again concerned with the weather gods. The Monday forecast was for showers and thunderstorms to start by Monday afternoon, and get more wide-spread on Tuesday. His call was to start working our way back west so we could be a back at Westbrook by Monday afternoon. If the weather improved, we could do day-sails from there.
We departed Narragansett Bay at 0848, and had sails up and engine off in less than ten minutes. We enjoyed a northwest wind toward the mouth of the harbor, which would have been great for reaching Block Island or even all the way to Shelter Island. However, as we rounded the Dumpling the wind switched to the west - so it was hard on the wind for Pt. Judith. Though we were soon making 8 knots close hauled, a nasty big swell was running in from the south making for an uneasy ride. A few miles ahead we saw a ketch apparently also close hauled on starboard tack,but pointing 50 degrees farther left. It wasn't long before we too got headed as the wind shifted into the southwest and we had a major beat on our hands.
We held south for almost exactly two hours, then tacked west. Two more hours brought us to the beach about 10 miles west of Pt. Judith and about 7 miles east of Watch Hill. Heading west the swell was less noticeable and began to flatten out. The wind went lighter too, and, with the start of the ebb from Long Island Sound, we were reduced to about 4 knots over the bottom. Our valiant crew fought our way past the Watch Hill light, then declared victory and turned on the engine.
After some discussion, we aimed for West Harbor on Fishers Island. This is a deep indent on the north side of the island and well protected from winds from the west to south to east, even if it was open to northerly winds. In the tradition of Maine cruising, Paul & Brian, our anchor detail, dropped the hook at 1611. Paul's big frozen lasagana was already heating up in the oven.
A little libation and a good dinner set up the crew to observe the sunset. It was a good example of the photographer's "million dollar light." Lots of clicks and a little editing appear below. We all agreed that starting a two hour movie at almost 2100 would see few, if any, at the finale, so we all turned in early.
A glassy sea and the lightest zephyr of wind greeted a hazy sun. With our early bedtime came an even earlier rise and shine. The crew was having breakfast before 0700. The anchor detail hoisted and washed down immediately after breakfast, and Javelin was under way at 0732 - the earliest of the cruise.
By 0840, thin strattus shrouded the sun to the east, and darker skies loomed ahead as we headed west. The morning flood had us racing over the bottom at over 10 knots for a while, then an easy 9.4 as we closed on the Long Sand East waypoint. The sail cover went on too.
Once in the slip, we deflated the dinghy - not used this trip. A few sprinkles dappled the water as we worked. Rick jumped in Mel's car and they headed west to Clinton to pick up some fish for dinner. We had planned to get some at Edgartown, but never got there. Paul jumped in Brian's car and they headed east to West Marine to pick up some chafing gear, toilet paper and small screws to secure the connection between the chartplotter and the ship's computer. A few more light sprinkles fell before all were back on board.
By the time the talapia was sizzling in the pan, the rain had started in earnest. By bedtime, after "Heat" with Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer, torrents of rain pelted the boat and the wind howled in the rigging. The forecast for a flood watch seemed like a good idea. It was good to be tied to the dock.
A lazy eggs breakfast. Fog, little wind. So Steve calls all hands when a breath of air stirs. By 0955 we were off the dock, standing radar watch, and hoisting sail at 1017. What wind there was peaked about 1100 and by 1142 boat speed was under 4 knots. The sun shone overhead, but visibility on the water was still about a quarter mile. We tacked to port at 1144. Boat speed 1.88 knots. Talk of breadfruit trees didn't persuade Steve to consider a faster mode of travel. Speed up to 2.03 knots.
"Good time to make lunch," says Steve. "It's cooler here than at the dock," says Steve. Boat heading 030 (north-northeast, pointed at Westbrook), speed 2.08, course over ground 345 (north by west - away from Westbrook), speed 1.45 knots in the wrong direction. So we had lunch. Engine on at 1225. Back in our slip at 1355. Though it was now clear, there was no wind, cumulus were building on shore, and the flies were starting to bite. Good time for air conditioning and relaxing!
1626: Black clouds to the west announce rain with a thunderous clap. Just enough time to stow the cockpit cushions.
Brian treated the crew to dinner ashore at the Water's Edge Resort & Spa overlooking the Sound. Steve was our driver, Paul made the reservation and all donned ship shirts for the occasion. Good food and a nice time. But, as we were returning once again in the 2030 time frame, no one figured we could last the 3 hours for "Goodfellows." A little reading and lights out.
The low hum of wind in the rigging started in the black of night. By dawn the racing clouds confirmed that a strong west - northwester had moved in. The forecast called for up to 15 - 20 knots, but some gusts seemed higher. After breakfast Steve declared we were going sailing.
Casting off at 0818, we powered out the channel and set the main with a double reef just seaward of little Duck Island. Close hauled, we bore away to a course of west making 8 knots through the water with plenty of spray flying across the foredeck. We bashed our way west almost to Faulkner Island, 8 miles from Westbrook.
A few particularly strong gusts coaxed us to tack and run for home. Even with a double reefed main and working jib, Javelin sliced along over 9 knots. Then the fun began as we worked to time the puffs and seas to surf on the waves. Routinely, we were around 10.5 knots. At 0934 we hit 11.7 knots. At 0945 it was 12.0 - a mighty cheer went up from the crew. When a series of waves had us going ten, with a following wave and a puff coming together, it was time to bear away and try for speed. 0954 recorded 12.4 knots. Then, in one big blast, 12.7 knots at 1005.
At 1030 we were back in our slip, relaxing from our 16 mile early morning sail!
Tomorrow being everyone's departure, part of the rest of today is dedicated to cleaning up odds and ends and updating the log. The door to the head in the main cabin didn't want to latch easily, so Rick took off the strike, filed it down and reset it so it now closes smoothly.
"Reality" certainly hit The Plan. Being rained out twice scratched several locations off the list and scrambled the meal plan too. But, as usual, we had just as much fun and enjoyed the alternatives. Two of Steve's highly ranked meals, Spaghetti & Meatballs and 5 Bean Soup will round out the day.