Fairhaven, MA – Saturday, 6/26
Timing is everything and today we were going to thread the needle between a foggy morning and a windy afternoon on Buzzards Bay. If we left too early we would have fog most of the way, and if we left too late we would have a rough time on Buzzards Bay. We chose fog and left our anchorage at Block Island just before 9:00, on a journey that would normally take 2.5 hours.
We watched several sail boats leave and heard their Sécurité calls over the VHF as they departed the breakwater, and then they disappeared into the white abyss. So we had no illusions about what we were going to face, and we were grateful for our experience of navigating in Maine fog; at least here there were not lobster pots all over the place to also dodge.
We spun up the radar, and left the breakwater relying on our AIS (automatic identification system) for others to see us, and our chart plotter to see others that have it. And of course we put our good senses to the test, always looking around and listening for other boats. Radar picks up all objects, but it is hard to discern if it is a boat, buoy or bird sometimes. Many more recreational boats are using AIS today, and all commercial boats use it. But the small boater and some fisherman do not use it and that makes them hard to spot until we are right on top of them. We did see two sailboats along the way, both of whom showed up on AIS and for that we were grateful as we didn’t physically see them until we came close to them as we passed.
We started out slowly, barely cruising at 10 kts. There was little wind so the water was more of a rolling swell that was coming from the east as we headed north. But the slow rolling of the boat made it a bit uncomfortable and after the first hour Captain Mark suggested we speed up a bit, which we did. Denise was happy as it made for a smoother ride, even though we had to be all the more alert.
By the time we left Block Island Sound and entered the Rhode Island Sound we were doing 18 kts and had brief periods where the fog would give greater visibility, but not enough to relax. Finally, we entered Buzzards Bay with the Elizabeth Islands to our right, and followed the western-most channel around Smith Neck to our port. Soon we passed Ft. Rodman at Clark’s point and the fog was getting lighter; we could finally see enough to shut off radar. We entered the Fort Phoenix Reach and followed the buoys marking the channel through the Hurricane Barrier.
This is the 3rd time we have visited this area: first in 2017 only to get fuel at Sea Fuels, and in 2019 on our way home for an overnight stay at Popes Island Marina after being in Boston. This time we had reservations at the Acushnet River Safe Boating Club (ARSBC); our destination for the next week. However, we first needed to get fuel and pulled into Sea Fuels to fill up our tanks.
After fueling, we crossed the New Bedford Harbor passing the Popes Island Marina and turned onto the Acushnet River and immediately in front of us was the ARSBC. Previous to our arrival we received communication assigning us to a side-tie on D dock, but there were no markings to identify which dock was D dock, and there is no one who monitors the VHF of this private club. We pulled alongside what we thought was D dock, but later learned that we had tied to C dock. There was another boat on what we discovered was D dock, and they were supposed to have been gone. But we were told we were ok to stay where we were for now, but will have to move the boat sometime before the Fourth of July festivities began next weekend.
We settled the boat and were so happy to finally be out of the fog and back on “mainland” territory. It took us 3.5 hours in tedious conditions, but we were now safe and happy to be tied to a dock. We were greeted by one of the boat club members and given a tour of the facilities, a key to the clubhouse, internet password and other information. We were very tired and chose to relax the rest of the day. Mark did put some water on the boat and did a light hosing off of the salt. But we were spent and didn’t want to do too much.
As forecasted the winds from the south picked up in the afternoon and created a chop in the harbor. The waves slapping against the hull were quite loud, and the boat rolled a bit. We were very happy we had left BI early and didn’t have to deal with the horrible conditions we knew were now out in the Sounds.
In the afternoon we met a few locals and based on input from them, we chose Minerva’s for a take-out dinner. It is a pizzeria located about ¼ of a mile away, but are also known for their fish n chips which we decided to give a try. It was good, but a little too much breading for our tastes. However, their portions were enormous and once the breading was removed, there was fresh white flakey fish that was delicious and we were happy.
There were many things we were grateful for today, of most importance was safe passage. Another was that we never encountered any big ships that normally make their way through Block Island and Road Island Sounds. Another was that the wind kept the seas at a comfortable 1’ with some 2’ swells that were tolerable. Lastly, that the trip to Fairhaven was only 50 miles not 150!
Fairhaven, MA – Sunday, 6/27 through Friday, 7/2
This was an uneventful week from a cruising standpoint as we have not moved the boat out of Fairhaven, and will not until 7/5 or 7/6. So here is a summary recap of our week:
On Sunday (6/27) we walked to mass and visited a new church; St. Joseph’s in Fairhaven.
We spent most of the day working on things around the boat, and getting to know some of the locals who spend all their weekends on their boats in the summer. The wind continued to blow quite a bit and created havoc for boaters who were returning from their weekend adventures. The trawler in the slip across the dock from us had difficulty with the wind as they were trying to back into their slip. They were returning from a trip and, got twisted sideways, and the back of their flybridge caught the bow and anchor of our boat. Mark was not on the boat at the time and Denise was, but was below and didn’t know they were coming in until they hit us. She immediately got out and helped them to get turned around and dock successfully. Fortunately, there was not even a scratch on our Island Office, but their boat now has a bend in the support pole on their flybridge. Afterwards they were relieved that our boat was not damaged and told us about their awful trip across Buzzards Bay as they were returning from Martha’s Vineyard. We knew we had made the right call yesterday.
One thing we have learned over the years of cruising is that out of the generosity of other boaters comes new friendships. On our first day we got to know Penny and Brian (“Penny Wise”) who were the most generous of all.
On Monday, (6/27) Brian was very helpful in taking Mark in his pickup truck to the service location (Rick’s Outboard) for the dinghy engine. He knows the people there and we felt confident they would do good work. Brian is one of the TowBoatUS drivers and we respect his opinion. Rick’s Outboard expected to have it back to us on Friday, as requested.
We were also offered the use of Penny’s car. The only stipulation was that we had to take her to work each morning for 7:00 am and pick her up at 4:00 each afternoon. So on Tuesday and Wednesday we did just that and used the car for several errands.
Our first errand was that we had to drive 20 miles north to Onset and Point Independence Yacht Club (where we are going after Fairhaven) to retrieve the motor for the shower sump pump; the package was waiting for us and we had a chance to see where we will be docking when we arrive.
Over the two days we were able to run several other errands including going to three different Walmart locations (no Chlorine tablets or oil), a grocery store, a laundromat to do some laundry, and tending to a few personal needs: Mark got a haircut and Denise a pedicure. We even found a Panera to grab lunch one day, and went to nearby Kyler’s Seafood for some fresh fish which we had on Wednesday night for dinner. Kyler’s is a local seafood processor and retailer in New Bedford and they get fresh fish, scallops, shrimp, mussels, etc. from the local fishing boats in the New Bedford-Fairhaven area. This harbor has the largest fishing fleet in the USA and they line the shores of both of these towns.
On Thursday (7/1) morning we knew we had to move the boat to “D” dock and made plans to do so early before the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms and wind kicked in. Meanwhile, we had learned that since this club is home to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and is home port for the TowBoatUS boat, disabled boats are towed in here until they can be later moved for service, or get fixed. So, when we went to move the boat we discovered a new sailboat had been pulled in overnight. However, they were smaller than the previous boat and we could still fit on the front part of D dock.
During the move we also wanted to turn the boat so now the bow would face towards the marina and land, and the stern out towards the harbor. The main reason for doing this was that when the afternoon wind blew, the waves it kicked up would hit the stern of the boat and allow for quieter quarters and better sleep. The other reason was to prepare for the Independence Day festivities to take place; fireworks are scheduled for Saturday 7/3 in the harbor and sitting in our cockpit we will have ring-side seats.
Finally, the rain came today to break the 90° heat that has plagued the area. It has been so hot we have had the AC running as if we were in FL. Unfortunately, the rain did not stop throughout the day, night, and into Friday.
On Friday (7/2), the rain continued all day, but didn’t hamper our efforts to get a few things done. Mark was able to get our new D-dock friend Anthony (“Wilco”) to take him to retrieve the dinghy engine, now repaired. When they returned Brian and another boater (Pat) were on the dock and able to help Mark lift the engine and put it on the dinghy with ease. Denise was grateful that she didn’t have to help with this particular task.
Throughout the week we worked on all kinds of other things; replacing the shower sump pump motor, work for clients, e-mails, travel plans for 2 fall trips and our itinerary for Maine. We have also been intrigued by the activities in and around the harbor. Here are a few:
There are several ferry boats taking passengers from New Bedford to Cape Cod destinations and they move at a good clip. However, they are nowhere near as speedy as the ferries in NYC.
The ARSBC is right next door to the Fairhaven public boat ramp. This means we have had front row seats to watch the locals launch their boats to go fish, or just enjoy a day on the water. It has been amusing to say the least, but not nearly as those we watch on YouTube’s “79th Street Ramp”. In fact, we have yet to see any real disasters occur.
We also watched the big fishing boats coming in and out of the harbor, specifically the fleet of boats that are part of “Blue Harvest Fisheries”; a large fishing, processor and distributor located right near the marina. They sell to the consumer (via grocery product) and wholesale to the restaurant and hospitality industries. They also have a fleet of boats in Newport News, VA. You can read more about the company here.
But the thing that has given us the most amusement is the flock of Canada geese that flutters between the boat ramp, the marina next door, and Crow Island – the private island in the middle of the harbor. The total number is close to 25, and sometimes they all travel together and sometimes they travel in 2 or 3 groups. We try to figure out why they move from one place to the next on what seems to be a whim. Then for no reason at all, they turn around and go back to where they came back from. It really is a hoot to watch.
In addition to Kyler’s and Minerva’s we enjoyed dining one night at Elizabeth’s, a restaurant that has terrific food, and is reasonably priced, especially for the freshness and quality. We even splurged that night and shared a piece of Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake that was delicious.
During the week Denise was able to get in a few runs and walks. For most of the week it was quite hot, reminding her of what it is like to run back in Winter Park. Along the way she shot some pictures of the area around Fairhaven, including many of the buildings that have such beautiful architectural features. One day she ran out towards the hurricane breakwater and Fort Phoenix and the dike that provides a flood barrier from Buzzards Bay. Another day she went out towards the western end of town near the High School and the Josh Slocum and John Cooke memorials. Here’s some pictures taken along the way.
The weather does not look too great for the Independence Day activities as it is forecasted to rain all weekend. Our next post will cover what ends up happening and what we end up doing. One thing is for sure…we will be staying put in Fairhaven for a few more days.