8 September 2018

A life on the Ocean Wave!

We set off with Brec and Alan to go sailing a week ago now and it was one of the hottest days of the year. There was little wind when we set off around 3 o'clock in the afternoon from Bridgeport to sail to Port Jefferson on Long Island. We motor sailed and Alan helmed all the way.

We turned right inside the entrance and picked up a mooring just as the sun was setting. There were only two other boats in this anchorage, but a couple of paddle boarders were chilling on their boards.

Brec had complained that his engine, after awhile, lost revolutions. He thought perhaps it might be that the prop was encrusted with barnacles and so leapt over the side to scrape them off.

We just chilled in the cockpit and enjoyed the sunset! Brec made a good job of cleaning the prop, then showered on deck using the new shower his brother John had given him. Alan cooked supper and we tired Teddies were soon in bed after listening to much chat and discussion from the humans.

The next day was another lovely hot one with clear blue skies. We motor sailed again, only this time the autopilot steered the boat while our BBF kept watch. After an hour the engine again lost revs, so this time Alan suggested plan B, put into the nearest decent harbour and go through the immediate action on the engine to really find and fix the fault. Brec did say that perhaps it was the exhaust elbow which had not been changed in 14 odd years and a mechanic had recommended that it be changed every five to seven years!

Apart from the fact that the engine had less revs it would have been another lovely motor sail, were it not for the damn blood sucking flies. Their bite left nasty itching red lumps on the skin. Alan spent the whole voyage swatting any that came in range. He established a new record on OTTER for flies killed on a short passage of 58! Even now there are places on his body that itches still!

We put into Pilots Point Marina, not a cheap place but it had everything we might need. Brec set to work soon after we had filled up with diesel.

First we checked the fuel line to the electric fuel pump and found that the pump did not work, only the mechanical pump on the engine was feeding fuel from the keel tank. That would do it. Brec took it off and we would need to find a new one in the morning.

Since his lovely daughter lived nearby he invited her and her husband to come and have dinner with us. Laura chose a Burger Bar near the Marina. What the boys did not appreciate was that there were two entrances to the marina and they now went out the furthest one from the restaurant! They walked about a kilometer and then Brec phoned Laura who came and got us. Chris, Laura's husband arrived at the restaurant as we arrived.

Alan told us that the burgers and fries were a lot better standard than your average McDonalds, but then so were the prices! It was a very pleasant way to end a long day.

The next morning, Sandy who was on her way to Cape Cod, interrupted her journey to help the boys find an automotive shop that had a similar electric fuel pump. We found what we needed at the first place Brec had sourced using his phone, which was lucky. Sandy dropped them back at the marina and then they set to work.

By lunch time we were ready to set off again, in the hope we would have no more problems with the engine.

We set off for Fishers Island in perfect sunshine. The wind was again light so we motor sailed arriving just as the sun was setting.

All sails were taken in as we entered the bay, but then Alan noticed that water was no longer coming out of the exhaust. The engine was quickly turned off and the main hoisted again and so the boys put the anchor out under sail alone, with Alan at the helm. Alan was reminded that he had done this before in Colon, the entrance to the Panama Canal, during his circumnavigation. Brec said it was his way of making Alan happy as he knew he like to do things the hard way.

This time Brec thought it was clearly the exhaust elbow which we must change at some stage. Before having a meal Brec started the engine again and this time water was coming out of the exhaust. As  he felt the anchor was dragging the boys upped anchor and set it again under engine this time.

A peaceful night was had by all now.

The next morning we set off at dawn and motored round the island, through Wickerpisset Passage. From there the wind was favourable and we were able to hoist sail and get the Monitor to steer us. Alan again kept watch while Brec fiddled and tinkered on his boat as all single handed sailors tend to do, knowing he had someone reliable at the helm. The Monitor!!

We had a lovely and most enjoyable sail all the way to Block Island with no flies! Clearly this was a popular place on Labour Day weekend, for the various marinas were full and the anchorage was filling up quickly. It was almost wall to wall boats by the time we had found, Brec's friend, Pepper on his boat, a Pearson 38.6 called Floating Ecstasy. He was not alone as he had a lovely little King Charles Spaniel, called Chloe, as a companion.

We moored next to him so did not have to set our own anchor.

After Brec and Pepper had caught up on their news and Alan had had a chance to get to know Pepper the boys set to work to change the exhaust elbow.

At one stage it literally took their combined effort to get the parts together. Then Brec went for another swim and scrubbed the hull once more, before showering. Alan, was too self conscious to shower on deck where so many people could observe his ablutions, so he had a strip wash with a bucket inside the boat. 

Pepper took them all ashore in his dinghy for a meal. It is Brec's tradition that he must have a Guinness on the veranda of the National Hotel on Block Island. This is because this was the last thing he did here before setting off on his circumnavigation, on the understanding that those that saw him off, would return for another Guinness when he got back!

After a drink and some "Steamers" as Brec calls these small soft shelled clams, they left to have a fish and chip meal in another place. All agreed that they were the best they had tasted in a long time.

On the walk back Alan spotted a Santa creeping up the step of the National Hotel! You can just see him at the top of the stairs, if you look closely. It was not until the next afternoon that Alan understood why!!

Finding our boats in the dark was not easy now as there was little to go on. Each of the tiny pin pricks of light in the above poor picture, represents a boat at anchor!!

The next morning we noticed a very cool young lady on a paddle board with her dog. Between her feet she had a mug of coffee and every so often she would take a sip as she paddled God knows where!

It being a Sunday, Alan made Pancakes for breakfast. Note that Brec saws off the handle of things, not to save weight as we know they do on some racing yachts, but to get them in his lockers!! He runs a clean and tidy ship.

Pepper was invited over for breakfast and the humans just chilled for a bit chatting and setting the world to rights.

Maggie, a friend of Pepper's friend came by to say hello!

And we were even more pleased when she cam below to see us.

We then went ashore and the humans hired bikes to get round the island. Here you can see how crowded the anchorage is.

Brec brought his sketch book and made drawings of places of interest. Alan, Pepper and Chloe took an inside look at this light house, but found $10 a bit much to go up it.

Here you can just make out a wind farm. Alan says every thing is bigger and better in America, but not wind farms, it seems. Only five windmills and this was America's first.

Chloe also wanted to see over the fence! Dog owners have a lot to put up with, don't you think?

The map shows the island. The boats are anchored in the New Harbour and we now left Brec to his sketching with Pepper and Chloe and rode off round the island.

Our first stop  was an historic cemetery. Such places are full of history and tragic tales of yore.

As in this case, graves of two small children.

Here we wondered what happened to the wife?

Our next stop was at a Veterans Memorial.

We have to say the Americans don't do things by halves and have a sense of history!

Once again from this small hill top you can see how crowded the anchorage is.

At a place called Champlin's Marina we stopped for a coffee and Blueberry Muffin. It was now that we learned of the significance of seeing a Santa the night before!

The many yachties and boat owners that come here in the year never come at Christmas, so they decided to celebrate Christmas on their boats during the Labour Day Weekend. All boats were decorated in some fashion or other for Christmas, as the pictures show, and there is a competition for the best dressed boat.

The boys had agreed to meet at the bike hire place, where by the way, a lady from Berlin had rented them their bikes! Pepper and Chloe had returned earlier to their boat, so we now got on the water taxi to take us back.

It's not a quick ride as it picks up and drops people all over the place. Once back we just had short stop to drop off some shopping and then it was back in Pepper's dinghy to go ashore for a meal.

The closest restaurant to the dinghy dock had a 45 minute wait for a table. The boys did not fancy a walk into town, but found that the Block Island Cookie Company, run by a vivacious lady called Lauri McTeague would open up again to make up Burgers with "the Works" as she put it. As she had run out of buns they were on Texas Toast! Either way they were delicious and were followed up with ice cream which we enjoyed around a gas fire pit, made to look like coal! Here we learned that Lauri has been 25 years on the island and is also a teacher at the local primary school.

The next morning at around 10 o'clock we set off with lots of other boats to sail to Mystic. It was a long convoy getting out of the anchorage, but once clear we motor sailed, now with full revs all the way.

Brec's friend Christine had kindly arranged for us to stay at Mason's Island Yacht Club. So we moored on the jetty, cleaned up the boat and went ashore for much needed showers.

Now Alan discovered that his right eye was blood shot. Clearly he had a burst blood vessel, it did not hurt, but gave him an odd look! Maybe he was just getting ready for Halloween!

Brec had arranged for us to have dinner with Christine in Mystic and Al a yachtie moored on the other side of the jetty, took us in, in his pickup. We all rode in the back.

While waiting at the railway station for Christine to arrive, as we had wifi access to the internet the humans downloaded the Uber App. More on that later.

The flag pole in the centre of Mystic at night.

We had a lovely reunion with Christine and enjoyed a nice meal in one of the better places in town. The only downside as far as Alan was concerned, was that the air conditioning was making the place too cold. He had to sit with his jacket on! The humans sat and chatted until they discovered that they were the last in the restaurant to leave!

Now the Uber App came into its own, for it was used to get back to the marina. We were all impressed with how well it worked.

The next morning we were a little late getting started, but the Club manager a very nice man called Phil allowed us to stay on the jetty till after we had breakfasted. Uber was used again to get us to Kitchen Little, the restaurant where we were meeting another fine lady we had first met three years ago.

Suzanne had not changed at all since we had last met. The restaurant had every type of breakfast egg dish you could wish for. Alan, however, whinged about the fact that every dish came with a cheese topping. And the Americans wonder why they are overweight!! We could have stayed chatting to Suzanne all day, but needs must when the devil drives and the humans all had other things to do. Suzanne kindly drove us back to the yacht club before the parting of the ways.

We moved the boat to a mooring then rowed ashore for our next date!

A lunch date with Christine, on the left and her friend Karen. The time just flew by in the company of these friendly, chatty and very independent women. Karen, also being an artist had lots of things in common and to discuss with Brec. They feasted on oysters and various salads and all agreed a fine lunch was had and in good company.

We sailors and Bears now went to Mystic Sea Port which is a sailing museum. We slipped in the back way without paying and came across the workshop where they are restoring the Mayflower II built originally in England between 1955-57. Then they thought they had built a boat which would last 200 years, but by the look of the work, very little of the original boat will remain.

After stopping at the entrance to now pay the fee we had just time enough to look at two more ships.

The Joseph Conrad was used now as a dormitory ship and one of Alan's lady friends remembers staying on her as a girl guide in the 50s!

We discovered that the female volunteer aboard her actually came from Bremerhaven, so they had a chat about that town since we had also just been there with Christopher.

The Charles Morgan the last Whaling Ship was the other ship we toured. This ship was fully sea worthy and had last voyaged around Long Island Sound in 2014. Music was being played as we came aboard. That and the smell of tar and hemp helped us imagine how it must have been all those years ago.

A trip to the heads ashore we found the humans had placed a bench so that little folk could also stand and pee!

With another Uber ride back to the Yacht Club, this time the driver was originally from Düsseldorf and had come here after spending 10 years in South Africa, some 25 years ago! It all just goes to show how small the world really is.

We now had the pleasure of participating in the Yacht Club's Sunset Ceremony. Phil the manager fired the gun and Brec slowly hauled down the Stars and Stripes Ensign.

Together they folded it the proper way.

Brec has the ability to turn even a solemn  occasion into one of fun and laughter!

We set off at dawn in initial calm seas so motor sailed, towing the dinghy, all the way to the Thimble Islands where we picked up another mooring. As it had been another hot day, Brec went for a swim, but because of Alan's red eye, he thought better of it.

A shower on deck was had, however.

Brec cooked the evening meal and the humans sat chatting until quite late in the evening. The night was not so peaceful as the wind turned and when the tide turned we pitched a little up to the mooring bouy. At least twice in the night Brec was up to adjust the mooring so we could all sleep peacefully.

The sea and wind was against us for the last sail to Bridgeport. Brec was a little concerned about Alan's eye so Sandy arranged for him to see their Optometrist and Eye Surgeon in Milford. 

The humans set some sail to give the boat more drive and headed a little off the wind, so the boat could drive better through the waves, but the motor was used to assist the passage. 

They moored up at the town dock in Milford and Alan walked ashore to the doctor. He was seen immediately and after a thorough check was told that it was a cosmetic fault that would go away in a couple of weeks. What caused it, could not be determined at this stage. Nor would the eye deter them from climbing Mount Katahdin next week.

After lunch of tuna salad sandwiches, no voyage on OTTER is complete without a meal of tuna, we set off for Bridgeport and home.

Alan said it was a lovely voyage, he was allowed to helm all the difficult stages, picking up buoys, sailing anchors in, coming alongside other yachts and jetties. The hot days at sea reminded him of sailing in the tropics, all in all it was a wonderful tonic for his soul, and for which he is grateful.

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