Tag Archives: Block Island Sound

Fog to Friends in Fairhaven!

Block Island, RI to Fairhaven, MA

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.

Minerva’s Pizza House

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.

New Bedford Ferries

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.

Public boat launch near ARSBC

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.

Fleet of boats at Blue Harvest

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.

Canada Geese – our amusement

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.

On Waters Street

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.

Old Fire Department
Old Town Jail circa 1858
Fairhaven High School

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.

Block Island Bliss!

Montauk, NY to Block Island, RI

Block Island, RI – Thursday, 6/24

Since we did not have a long way to go today, we were in no hurry to head out of Montauk.  Our destination was Block Island, RI (aka BI), just 18 miles away, so Denise went for a run.  First she ran the road to and down Star Island, passing the entrance to Gurney’s Star Island Resort, the Montauk Yacht Club, and the USCG Station Montauk entrance. She then ran down to the harbor, then back around a neighborhood not far from the boat. It was mostly flat and she enjoyed seeing all the sights from the land.

We left Snug Harbor Inn & Marina at 10:30, shoving off from this warm and friendly place.  We enjoyed our time here and we are glad we made the decision to pay for the marina in order to experience this unique place.

We left the harbor with clear skies and a slight wind; it was a really pretty day to be on the water.  As we exited we could see the RVs all parked on the beach at the County RV Beach Park, noting that we must share this with our RV-ing family members as a pretty cool place to spend a night or two.

We cruised northeast (mostly east) finally passing Montauk Point with a very visible radar antennae and then the lighthouse on the point.

Shortly after 11:00 we crossed the state line, entering Rhode Island and saying good bye to the state of New York; where we spent nearly a full month.  Block Island Sound was lovely and we could see the Rhode Island mainland in the distance, and the windmills on the Atlantic Ocean side.  As we got closer to BI, Denise also noticed other “sticks” that were on the BI Sound side and asked Mark what he thought it was.  Soon we could clearly make out the masts of hundreds of sailboats. We were coming to BI at the end of “Race Week” and there were hundreds of sailboats who had just started the day’s race. It was very cool and made for some great pictures.

Captain Mark managed to negotiate around the different class races and got us to the channel and eventually through the inlet.  We entered through the breakwater noticing the USCG Station Block Island to our right, along with an interesting driftwood sculpture.  We entered “New Harbor” and the Great Salt Pond, locating the fairway between all the moorings so we could move to the anchorage area.  We had already identified a spot based on inputs from others, just off Breezy Point and not far from “Dinghy Beach”.

We set our anchor between several other power boats, then ate lunch right away. We wanted to be able to see as much of the island as possible today, so we called for the town launch who immediately came out to take us into New Harbor. Once on land, we found Aldo’s for renting a moped (recommended to us by cruising friends).  They took us on their shuttle to Old Harbor (less than 2 miles away) where we rented mopeds for a 2-hour increment.  Off we went to tour wherever we could on this beautiful island.

First we went to see the South Lighthouse and the Mohegan Bluffs, stopping along the way to see some of the sights and click pictures.

Then we drove back through Old Harbor, took the road that paralleled the ocean, and eventually passed Dinghy Beach and Fred Benson Beach.

We continued all the way to the north end of Block Island where the Lighthouse, Settlers Rock, and the National Refuge were located. Here the beach is incredibly rocky and all vehicles are not allowed past a certain point.  To walk out to the lighthouse was about a half-mile hike and Denise’s right foot was really hurting, so we did not tackle the rock-strewn shore. Plus, it was not open to go to the top, nor was the interpretive trail on Sachem Pond.  So, we just looked around and took a bunch of pictures. It was such a beautiful day and so clear that we could actually see the shoreline of mainland Rhode Island.

Settlers Rock
Block Island National Refuge sign

We then needed to connect with Loopers Laurie & Kevin (“Laurie Jean II”). We had been in communication with this couple through our Looper network (AGLCA.org) as they are currently living (part-time) on BI and are unofficial “Harbor Hosts”.  Since we have never been here, we thought it would be good to have local knowledge, and they are the ones who provided us with the suggestions of where to anchor and where to rent mopeds.

Now it was time for a face-to-face meet up.  We took the scooter to meet Laurie (who works at the BI Rental Car place) and made plans for a meet up after she got off work.  She suggested that in the meantime we take the moped for a quick pass out to the airport.  We did just that and found a really quaint airport that has flights from Block Island to the mainland, as well as parts of Cape Cod.

We then drove all the way back to Old Harbor to return the moped as our time was coming to an end.  We still had to walk back to meet up with Laurie & Kevin; more than a mile away.  But we had we had plenty of time, so we did some souvenir shopping along the tourist traps of Old Harbor.  (Yes, we got another magnet). We then headed back to New Harbor passing a typical B&B/Inn found along the island, the firehouse, and the New Shoreham Police Dept.

The Barington Inn
BI Firehouse
New Shoreham Police Dept.

Just up the road from there we stopped at a place that rents Kayaks and is home of the Block Island Maritime Institute; a marine research facility.  We spoke with one of the workers and he told us about some of the research they do on the fish in the area.  We sat on their Adirondack chairs overlooking New Harbor for a bit of a respite, and then it was time to meet our new friends.

At 5:00 we made our way back to meet Laurie who needed a little more time. So we made plans for a rendezvous on the Adirondacks at the Narragansett Hotel, just up the street.  The chairs overlook the entire New Harbor and is a favorite spot of theirs.  We headed there first, and she and Kevin eventually caught up with us. For a good hour we shared a bottle of wine and great conversation getting to know one another, talking about our mutual Great Loop experiences. 

We then went down the hill to Dead Eye Dicks for dinner.  Because of race week, the place was packed and we were told it would be a 1 to 1.5 hour wait for a table.  We optioned for seats at the bar where we were able to order our meals, and had a great time together. Come to find out we have many Looper friends in common and laughed about how could it be that we had not yet met before, especially since they are (now) from Punta Gorda, FL.

In the meantime the very nice weather turned very cool and the skies went from sunny and beautiful to overcast; rain was coming and we hoped to get back to boat before it hit.  We said good-bye to Laurie & Kevin and thanked them for their great hospitality.  We hope to connect with them again in the winter when they are back in FL, and if we head to the FL West Coast on another Island Office adventure.

We quickly walked back to the launch, arriving just as it started to drizzle, and by the time we got back on the boat, it was raining.  It did stop for a while and we were able to capture a nice sunset, but it continued to rain off and on throughout the night.

Block Island, RI – Friday, 6/25

When Denise woke up it was cold in the boat and she didn’t want to get up.  Finally, she forced herself out of the warm covers and turned on the generator to get the heat going; Mark slept in.  Fixing coffee she observed that she could barely see the other boats in the Great Salt Pond; we were fogged in big time!  The area around BI Sound is known for its vicious weather and fog, but usually the Great Salt Pond is an area of clarity when everywhere else deals with the fog.

We spent the morning working on cataloging pictures over the last 4 days; there were well over 400 of them so this took a long time, and we did not finish before lunch.  In the meantime the fog lifted a bit, but not sufficiently or in time for the last day of sailboat racing; all races were cancelled.  So when we called for the launch to take us in to shore, we had to wait almost 20 minutes as all the sailors were packing it in and trying to get to the ferry or to their stay at local establishments. The single launch was very busy and the second launch doesn’t start running until the weekend.

Finally, the launch came and took us back to the New Harbor waterfront. We walked up the hill to The Oars Restaurant, where Mark had wanted to come since reading about the place. Now, we know why everyone recommends it: it is a very fun place, with lots of outdoor picnic tables, corn row and other games on the lawn and a killer view overlooking the harbor. Inside, the fun continues with thousands of oars that hang from the ceiling and on the walls (and thus their name). There are plain ones and colorful ones, and they come from all over the world.  There are so many all over the place that it makes the entire place a piece of art.

Due to the fog and drizzly weather we did not want to sit outside, and there was a wait for inside tables.  But we secured a spot in the bar area, which proved to be lots of fun.  We had a good lunch and enjoyed watching the sailors from the race teams.  We spent some time talking with one of the race committee members who was from Chicago, and took in the atmosphere of the celebrations, clothing, and stories the sailors shared. This brought back lots of fun memories for Mark and his days of racing J-boats when we lived in Southern California.

After lunch and hanging out in the bar for a while, we took the launch back to the boat.  Mark did some work on the dinghy based on input from Louie, the launch driver, and got it running again.  He took it out for a test drive and all seemed to be working ok, however he has already been in contact with the Yamaha service for it to be looked at when we get back to the mainland.  We need a reliable dinghy engine in Maine and need to ensure we can count on the one we have.

In the afternoon, we finished cataloging the pictures through Montauk and began writing the next blog update.  We talked with family and friends who know they can call us no matter where we are (and in BI the cell coverage is pretty good).  We watched more boats come in for the weekend, including a 3-way raft up that anchored right behind us.  Although it didn’t rain, the moisture in the air was high and fog lingered around the edges of the harbor.

We had been on the fence about leaving; really wanting more time in this very cool place.  Our schedule allowed for it, but the weather was not going to cooperate.  We had a choice: we could leave in the morning, knowing we would most likely face a lot of fog, or stay.  If we stayed we would be here more than 5 days as the wind was going to be strong and 4‘- 6‘ (average) seas were forecasted on BI Sound. Also if we stayed we would need to purchase water for the boat, or pay exorbitant dock fees at a marina.

This was a no-brainer decision.  With radar and AIS, we would rather deal with fog then get beat up in 6’ seas.  Also, with the dinghy engine questionable, and a quick fix on the shower sump pump, Mark thought it would be prudent to bypass Cape Cod (Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth) and head directly into Fairhaven where we will have access to needed resources to fix both these items correctly.  We went to bed with this decision in place and grateful for finally getting to enjoy a fun time at Block Island.

Here are some other pictures of Block Island: