Tuesday (9/7) – Essex, CT
As soon as it was light and we ate a quick breakfast, we left the Acushnet River Safe Boating Club (ARSBC), rounding Crow Island and leaving the New Bedford-Fairhaven harbor behind. We made it through the hurricane barrier, passed the Butler Flats Lighthouse and Fort Rodman and cruised into Buzzards Bay. Unlike 2 days ago, it was a beautiful day on the water.
Because of our stopover in Fairhaven, we no longer needed an interim stop in Stonington before reaching our desired destination of Essex, CT. This is a place we have wanted to go to for a while now, and with a beautiful day like today we should have no issues in getting there. Of course we still had to cross the Rhode Island Sound, the Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound; all three are open bodies of water that are notorious for being unruly in certain conditions. Denise’s main goal was to get past the Narragansett without having to go up it to outrun a hurricane. In our last two adventures coming back from Maine (2017 & 2019), we ended up in Wickford, RI for extended periods of time which lengthened the journey home. Today we are hoping to break that pattern.
Given the open water and so few boats in our way, we were able to cruise at 20 knots on a course heading mostly south, making our way through Buzzards Bay. We slowly turned southwest and scooted through the channel at Dumpling Rocks spotting the beautiful Round Hill Mansion on to our right.
Afterwards we turned on a more west-southwest course, crossing the state line into Rhode Island and saying good-bye to Massachusetts. We were now in the Rhode Island Sound and started to feel the swells coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. These however, were not the predicted swells from the remnants of Hurricane Larry, expected to be felt on the eastern seaboard on Thursday. As we approached the Sakonnet River, just east of Newport, things got a little bumpy but tolerable. Still, a bit too bouncy for picture taking.
As we approached Newport and the Narragansett Bay, things got a little more bouncy and uncomfortable, but nowhere near as bad as Sunday on Buzzards Bay. We kept going, knowing that we only 15 miles to cross the Bay. Finally, just before 9:00 am we approached Point Judith and its beautiful lighthouse.
It was in this area that we could also see the outline of Block Island to our left. However, with our distance from it and the direction of the sun, we were not able to get a good picture. We had 17 miles to go before we would hit our next milestone, Watch Hill and the Fisher Island Sound. Remarkably, things settled down as we entered the Block Island Sound and continued to improve as we headed west. Finally, we could see Watch Hill and the landmark Ocean House Resort to our right, and Fishers Island to our left.
We entered state of Connecticut and skirted the NY state line to our left as we made our way through Fishers Island Sound. We continued west until just before New London, CT where we pulled into the Shennecossett Yacht Club (SYC) for a fuel stop. Captain Mark had shopped this and determined that if we got fuel here we should not need any more until we got to Cape May, NJ. The channel into SYC is easy to spot because the UConn Marine Sciences center sits out on Avery Point and you can see it for a few miles.
After we finished with the fuel up, we headed back out the channel and into the Fishers Island Sound until it ends by merging into the Long Island Sound. We cruised close to the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound, passing the landmarks of Seaside Sanatorium – a Connecticut State Park, and Dominion Millstone Power Station.
After another hour of calm seas and easy cruising, we turned right into the Connecticut River. The breakwater is marked by the very visible Saybrook Breakwater Light, and followed by the Lynde Point Light. Over the years we have seen boats with a Saybrook hailing port, but did not know exactly where that was. We now could see the nice houses that surrounded the entrance here to the river.
We continued north up the River, going under the Old Lyme Draw Bridge and the I-95 Bridge, and passing several marinas along the way.
Eventually, we came to the town of Essex on the western shore, but we were headed 2 more miles up the river to a mooring in nearby Hamburg Cove for the evening. We entered the cove and picked up one of the “rental” moorings. It was a beautiful cove surrounded by lovely houses and was very well protected.
We had traveled 84 miles arriving at 12:30 pm and happy to have made such great progress. It was a beautiful day on the water and if we had not wanted to visit Essex, we would have stayed on the calm waters of Long Island Sound as far as possible. However, we had reservations for dinner at the Griswold Inn and definitely had to visit this much talked-about town.
The Griswold Inn goes back to the American Revolution and has a rich history, including its use in movies, TV shows and books, which you can read about here. But it is the connection (perhaps in name only) to it by one of our business associates (Bob Griswold), that really made us want to come. Bob’s ancestry dates back to Windsor, CT in 1638 when “Edward”, came over from England with his half-brother, Matthew. Edward was a solicitor for the colony and later moved to Killingworth, CT; named for his English hometown Kenelworth. Killingworth is now Clinton, CT. Matthew moved to Old Lyme area and one of his descendants later became governor of the colony, and later established the town of Griswold near Jewett City. However, Bob is not sure if the Inn was ever owned by a Griswold from his direct heritage, but he certainly came from the ancestry.
As the afternoon wore on it got hotter on the boat, and the well-protected cove offered no breeze for relief. It also got a little buggy, and we were contemplating turning on the generator to run the ac. We also learned the mooring ball rental was not $25 but $40. As we considered the distance from the town and how we will have to take our dinghy back from dinner in the dark, we started to wonder if we made the right call in choosing this location. After a few phone call inquiries, we located an available mooring at the Essex Yacht Club (EYC) back in town, and left Hamburg Cove to move the 2 miles back into the Connecticut River.
Once at the EYC, we were directed to mooring about 200 yards from shore, and were informed the launch service would end at 6:00 pm. We would have to use our dinghy to come and go for our town visit and post-dinner transportation back to the mooring. That was fine with us, so we launched the dinghy, went to the dockmaster’s office at EYC and checked in. Here are some pictures of this lovely yacht club.
After checking in with the dockmaster and getting the requisite information, we walked the quarter mile into the downtown area. It was later than we would have wanted and because of that we missed visiting the Connecticut River Museum which closes at 4:00 pm. However, we still discovered a lovely town with buildings from the late 1700’s and 1800’; many still lived in by local residents. We walked around for a bit and went into a few of the stores that were still remaining open (most closed at 5:00 pm), and then went to the inn for our 6:00 pm reservation.
We were a little early, but they were able to accommodate us so we got seated right away. The dining room is filled with some very old original paintings of all things nautical, and because of this it is dimly lit. However, it was so fascinating to eat around all the rich history, and to learn a little bit more about the inn. Along with the guest rooms upstairs, there is the dining room, an outdoor eating area, and a bar (called the Tap Room) with its own rich history. It is truly an interesting place to visit and we were glad we came.
After dinner we walked by a few other marinas, and the small ferry (think boat launch) that takes people the 100 yards away to Essex Island, where there is also a marina and a restaurant. Here we saw the beautiful classic yacht “Annie Laurie”.
We then went to the public dock and the museum for a nice view of the moored boats in the harbor, including ours – in the middle of all those sailboats.
Finally, we headed back to EYC and launched the dinghy to head back to the boat. And that’s when the dinghy engine stopped, as if it had run out of gas. We were 100 yards from our boat and after several attempts to restart it, began troubleshooting the problem. We had gas, but it seemed the engine was not getting it. There were no leaks in the line, but no fuel either. Finally, as the sun was getting lower in the sky, we broke out the oars and rowed the remaining way to our Island Office, then stowed the dinghy for the night. We were resigned to the fact that we will have to solve this issue when we are back in a marina and have some daylight.
All of this played out while we watched the sailing club send out launches to rescue their sailboats that got stranded when the wind died, wondering if they could also rescue us. And about the same time we watched as another classic yacht (“Black Knight”) pulled up to the dock at EYC. It was a beauty and nice sight to stare at until the sun completely set on our adventure in Essex.