Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scituate, Massachusetts

After traveling a lot, it’s nice to settle in for a few days, and that’s what we did in Scituate. This is a great stop for us because my brother, Frannie, owns the launch service here, and got us a mooring. We stayed for a week and never had to use the dinghy. Scituate is a great little town with lots of amenities (supermarket, boat stores, banks, restaurants, movie theater, book store, etc.) within walking distance. If you are cruising and need a great stopover, try Scituate. Call Cedar Point Launch on channel 16 or 09, and they can arrange for a transient mooring.

Plymouth, Massachusetts: A Fitting Stop on a Sailing Journey

Our first stop after exiting the Cape Cod Canal was Plymouth, where the Pilgrims also saw fit to put in after their long sail. Actually, we anchored in Duxbury, right next store, but why quibble over a half-mile. The fishing fleet is fully engaged here, and we threaded quite the maze of lobster pots and lobster boats (yummy crustaceans) when we entered the Plymouth Channel. The next morning we also saw these rather oddly shaped fishing boats. They say that people come to resemble their pets, and I guess that fishing boats come to resemble the their prey; the long bow sprits are used for harpooning swordfish (and also tuna, which don’t have long protuberances, but we’re quibbling again).

A Welcome at the Cape Cod Canal

There's nothing like seeing familiar faces. That’s why it was so nice for my sister, Linda, and her children, Lauren, Hannah, and Matt, to see us through the Cape Cod Canal. We spent the previous two nights at a cozy anchorage in Onset, right next to the canal. On the morning of our transit, Linda and the kids were on the shore with signs saying AHOY MR MAC WELCOME ANNE AND CHRIS. It was terrific, and nearly made me cry.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Block Island: Try It, You’ll Like It!

According to the guide books, Great Salt Pond on Block Island hosts nearly 2,000 boats on summer holiday weekends. Probably due to the poor weather southern New England has been enduring so far this summer, there was plenty of room to anchor. We spent several days exploring the island and still didn’t see it all. The first day was cool and blustery, but after that is was gorgeous: warm and sunny. If you visit, seek out the Greenways that meander through open lands and forests; they’re a bit hard to find (only some have granite markers to indicate trail heads), but well worth the effort. We saw all kinds of birds, and startled a deer at one spot. I thought this welcoming beach path was apropos of our arrival in New England, Anne’s home region!

Long Island Sound

If you want to know where the Manhattan rich have their country homes, look no further than Long Island, and we weren’t even near the Hamptons! The northern shore at the western end of Long Island was dotted with big (and I mean big) beautiful mansions that overlook the sound. We spent a couple of days making our way down the sound, stopping first at Port Washington in Manhassett Bay (pictured below), then in Port Jefferson Harbor. These were both on Long Island - we didn't get over to the NY-CN-RI side of the sound, so we'll save that for a future trip. We intended to spend the third night at Oriental Point, on the eastern end of Long Island, but we arrived there in the early afternoon, the weather was beautiful, and Plum Gut spit us out at nine knots, so we hoisted the sails and kept going; Block Island beckoned! A plus was that we got to see a submarine, escorted by a Coast Guard cutter, exiting the sound and heading south into the Atlantic Ocean. Pretty cool.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gulf Stream, Northern Edition: The East River

To get from New York Harbor to Long Island Sound, you traverse the East River. It’s rather like an amusement park ride. First, you have to time your travel so you’re going down the Hudson River on the ebb (outgoing) tide, then up the East River on the flood (incoming) tide. Check; tide and current tables work well here. Then you avoid playing bumper cars with the multitude of ferries plying the rivers, because the tides are of course timed to coincide with the weekday morning rush hour. Check; credit Chris’ avoidance skills here. Then up the East River. The water pushes through here quickly (see the eddies and roils in the water here), especially at the narrow portion named Hell Gate (not a name to inspire confidence in the neophyte river traveler), and we hit 10.1 knots briefly as we man-handled the boat through the eddies and rips that wanted to turn us every which way. All in all, it was pretty painless, although the East River isn’t nearly as picturesque as the Hudson.

Manhattan Statuary

Manhattan has an eclectic array of art work, as you can see from these pieces:

tree roots at Trinity Church,

the 15th century King of Poland in Central Park,

and of course, Hello Kitty near the Museum of Modern Art (where else?).


We did a whirlwind tour of Manhattan while we were here. An all-day pass on the subway costs only $8.50, so we hopped on and off all day, and walked everywhere in between. We hit Times Square, Chinatown, Little Italy (with waiters such as this one below practically pulling you in off of the street for a delicious yet inexpensive lunch), Wall Street and the financial district, South Street Seaport, Grand Central Station (beautiful, with a terrific open market inside), the Public Library, and Bryant Park. We ended the day with a show at the Stand-Up Comedy Club only a few blocks from the boat basin. We were tired but happy when we got back to the boat, which is all anyone can ask for.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Central Park

Central Park was terrific. It’s a beautiful park with a variety of ecosystems (ponds, forests, fields, and a reservoir) and intended uses (ball parks, open grassy areas, paved and unpaved paths, bridle trails), and sometimes on the little paths you don’t even know you’re in the middle of a huge city. It was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead , who also designed some of the public parks in Boston, with which Anne is familiar, as she walked every day by the Fenway (not the ball park) during college. We spent a day and a half wandering through the park, and still didn’t see it all. The weather was a bit rainy the first day, but we had an umbrella. The second day, the weather was picture perfect: sunny and warm. We picked up some fresh focaccia, garlic- and pepper-stuffed olives, marinated giant white beans, cheese, and beautifully sweet strawberries and had a picnic. It was great to see all the people out enjoying nature, which can be hard to find in other Manhattan neighborhoods.

American Museum of Natural History

It’s curious that most practitioners of biology, the study of life (bio=life, logy=study), are fascinated by all things dead. In fact, in Biology 101, the first equipment you are required to purchase for lab class is a dissecting kit. Go figure. Anyway, for dead stuff, the American Museum of Natural History is great. They’ve got bones of dinosaurs (like this T. rex) and Ice Age mammals, stuffed modern mammals, ancient hominid artifacts, and more. We enjoyed the non-dead stuff, too.

Manhattan, Here We Come!

We now know what it feels like to be a little, little fish in a big, big pond. Coming into New York Harbor was quite a rush, adrenaline-wise. There were ships, there were barges, there were ferries, ferries, ferries, all over the place, and all big enough to squash us handily. Needless to say, we kept well out of their way, even while being distracted by sites such as the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. It’s one thing to see these things on-screen or in a picture, and quite another to sail by Lady Liberty in your own boat-we both had tears in our eyes. After running the gauntlet, we made our way up the Hudson River to the 79th Street Boat Basin. We’d been trying to get a mooring there for a few days, but they were booked due to the upcoming 4th of July holiday. So we anchored outside the mooring field and used the boat basin facilities-dinghy dock, showers, laundry, free ice-for the incredible price of $25 per day. Not bad for accommodations in Manhattan. The boat basin is in a pretty river-side park, about a fifteen-minute walk to the Museum of Natural History and Central Park, and only ten minutes to a subway stop. You can see the view from our boat below. Of course, we could have paid up to $6 PER FOOT (boat length) PER DAY for other, fancier, marinas in the city, but who wants to spend time at the marina when you’ve got Manhattan laid out before you?!

Signs of Home

There are certain things that instantly remind you of home. These are especially welcome when you’ve been away for a long time. So you can imagine Anne’s nostalgia when we came upon a display of Drakes snack foods in a market in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey (not yet New England, but we're getting there!). You don’t get Drakes in the south. Yodels, Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, and Funny Bones. I love them all, but limited myself to a box of Funny Bones. I savored one with a cup of tea that evening. Chris just doesn’t appreciate them in the same way, but that just leaves more for me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey

We arrived in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, after an overnight trip from Cape May, and got our first taste of big-city ship and boat traffic. Offshore wasn’t bad; there were a few large ships, and they were easy to keep track of. But coming around Sandy Hook we came head-on to the outgoing fishing boats, both commercial and recreational, and played dodge until we were halfway down the bay. Atlantic Highlands has a nice breakwater that we anchored behind, and a dinghy dock at the town marina. We walked along the nice waterside trail, did some provisioning, used wi-fi at the library, and waited out some thunderstorms. All in all, it was a quiet visit, as we rested up for our next destination, New York City, which we could see across the bay.

Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May is a bay length and a world away from Salem, New Jersey. Cape May is one of the oldest beach resorts in this area, and it’s full of beautiful Victorian homes, many of which are available as vacation rentals or B&Bs. There are also old hotels and inns that are throwbacks to earlier times. We stayed here several days, exploring the town by foot, and the creeks behind the town by dinghy.

We treated ourselves to dinner at The Lobster House, near the commercial docks. Lots of large (~80’) fishing boats berth here, and we were told that this is a big scallop-harvesting area, so we had scallops at dinner—delicious. Also timely, because the day we left Cape May, we heard an announcement on the NOAA weather radio that the scallop season was to be closed, so we got them in the nick of time.

If you were relocating to Cape May and looking to buy a home, there’s quite a variety of styles, which made sightseeing really interesting. There were the

formal Victorian houses,

eclectic waterside houses,

close-to-nature marsh houses, and, of course,

roughing it on a pole.