Block Island to Newport- Rhode Island

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sun 11 Jul 2010 23:26
We stayed for the July 4th firework display at (choc a) Block Island which was held on the evening of July 3rd. Some of the many hundreds of boating visitors anchored around us created their own version of fun by anchoring good sized cruising yachts on thin pieces of rope with just a few links of chain next to the anchor. The result being that in the 20 knot breezes their ground tackle just didn't hold and off they dragged in the direction of the next anchored boat downwind of them. This situation wasn't helped by multiple numbers of boats, both power & sail rafting together and using just the one anchor and rope. On one occasion a dragging anchor with two rafted 35 foot yachts attached fouled the anchor of a largish powerboat with nobody onboard which in turn started to drag through the anchorage. The USA's joint answer to the UK's Seastart - Towboat USA and Seatow were summoned to assist, along with 'Baywatch', a local Block Island rescue alternative (minus the bikinis) and of course the harbourmaster with his blue flashing light. It was a close race between the first two but Seatow literally barged Towboat USA out of the way just as they arrived at the stricken powerboat. Much fist shaking followed with the two yachts rafted together still trying to sort their one anchor out from the tangle with the powerboat's chain. Like tangled wrestlers, the Harbourmaster told them to separate and sort themselves out, which of course they didn't and the whole fiasco lasted for over an hour as they motored round the crowded anchorage lashed together to the consternation of the mass of anchored boats who feared they may be the next victims. These antics proved on the whole much better entertainment than the Block Island fireworks which were, to be honest just a little on the disappointing side. Maybe we expect too much, but then we do see a lot of displays on our travels.
Our nearest neighbour wasn't far away, one of many hundreds enjoying Block Island's July 4th festivities                                       Off to help sort the dragging boats out - culprits in centre
A walk back into the Old Harbour area resulted in the quest for a good ice cream. This is a rare treat for us although in the excessive heat of late we feel inclined to up our quota a little. We visited three ice cream establishments each offering a vast array of mind-boggling flavours, eventually favouring the outlet that claimed to be Block Island's oldest ice cream seller. With the enormous choice available the part of Phil's brain that deals in matters of decision making began to itself overheat and it just about managed to blurt out 'Snickers flavour - medium cone' before shutting down completely leaving Nikki to chose the seating arrangements once outside. A medium USA cone equates roughly to a monster cone in the UK and in the 95 degree heat the thing melted faster than Phil's tongue could deal with the flow which eventually so undermined the cone strength that finally one small lick completely broke the cone in half sending the top with it's precious cargo hurtling towards the ground. Unusually quick reflexes obviously triggered by the price paid for the ice-cream averted disaster with the top of the cone becoming wedged between the table and Phil's T shirt. Had this happened 55 years previous spontaneous screaming and crying would have assaulted the eardrums but these days just a slight quivering of the lips could be seen if you looked hard as Nikki hastily mopped up with tissues and dumped the remains of the cone into a plastic tub for the poor boy to finish off with a small plastic spoon.
Nothing like a good ol' fashioned cornet to help make a skipper's day out!                  and it was twice that size at the beginning
We needed to retrieve our dangling light fitting from the masthead which had flopped over on the way from Cape May. Skip was hoisted up the mast, having been careful not to unduly annoy or upset the 'Admiral' in any way in the previous day or so leading up to the hoisting as lingering leftover nasty thoughts could distract those delicate hands to slip off the winch and its a long way down from up there, although the view from what we now know to be about 57 feet high is rather good!  All went reasonably well, although being up there two hours yelling to each other through the cheap walkie-talkies we'd brought had its frustrations. A jammed spinnaker halyard on which we were raising and lowering the bucket of tools also raised some concerns that all the in-mast halyards had jammed including the two that Skip was hoisted aloft on. But all was well and the project was achieved successfully. The light fitting is now sitting erect on top of the mast once again.
The cylindrical tri-white light fitting dangling from the mast by it's electrical wire       &   'Skip' clinging on for grim death at the top effecting the repair
The sunsets were nice though.....
So off to Newport, Rhode Island - the yachting capital of the northern USA where the famous transatlantic yacht races end.
It's about 24 miles from Salt Pond Block Island to Newport R.I and it seemed that all boats leaving Block Island after the July 4th celebrations seemed to be heading back to Newport. This included so many large powerfully fast motoryachts that cut a swathe through the slower yachts sending huge amounts of wash from both directions and leaving us bucking around in a maelstrom of rough water. This happened all the way across and in the end with our sails slating constantly we furled them and continued under motor akin to being stuffed into a huge commercial washing machine.
Arriving in Newport on a holiday weekend was not good for our heart rates either. Yacht racing in the entrance, those powerboats blasting through regardless sending everybody flying, day charter boats with hundreds of punters crammed on deck and to cap it all we were beaten to the fuel dock by an old motorboat that arrived way after we had called to come alongside. He had his comeuppance though as we were moored hanging off the end of the dock and he was unable to exit until we'd finished ourselves. Then we couldn't get near the pump-out facility as a sports fishing boat was taking on 1500 gal of diesel, writing a check out for $5,000. We took on 53 gals and humbly motored off with our waste tank still full. We called the mobile pump-out launch which came out to where we were anchored and sucked the ghastly stuff out of the holding tank. In some places they are called them 'honey pot' boats. YUK!
Entering Newport - cream teas on the lawn. Beauty and wealth combined - we felt relatively 'poor' in this top sailing centre, ducks here - just geese racing for some bread
Newport is a yachtsman's dream. The harbour is full of beautiful old sailing boats and ex racing yachts that are used for day charter work to pay for their keep. Many are on moorings and are quite beautiful to behold.
All are part of Newport's proud history of yachting. Ashore in the nearly 100 degree temperatures whilst we went in search of a supermarket we passed the Tennis Hall of Fame where yesteryear 'stars' give guest appearances on the show court. Lots of people walking around in tennis kit - many with their best 'serve and volley' days long behind them, including the one featured in the pic below!
Just missing the racket - anyone for tennis?                                Well we are in New England..........                                                 ...looks like New Surrey to us
For once we bought too much to carry back in the intense heat (the hottest day recorded for many years in this area) so the store called a local cab and a few minutes later a car complete with an elderly native American Indian complete with a bandana tied into his lovely long grey hair driving the car. He was very friendly though and kept his tomahawk well hidden from the 'Admiral's' gaze. Well, all taxi drivers keep something under the front seat for personal protection don't they?
We are anchored out in Brenton Cove. The big expensive stuff is moored just off the main town where many of the superyachts we have seen in the Bahamas are in port. It's the place to be and be seen in. We have to be good with our anchoring though, as the harbourmaster towed away a 'dragger' this afternoon which had started to mate with the boat behind it. They take no prisoners here! To add to the excitement they think nothing of sailing the old veterans right through the anchorage to give their fare-paying passengers a good beak at the riff raff in the cheap seats.
Our Newport neighbour a smaller sister of Ajaya and a local sightseeing gaff cutter which then took us rather closely as well before sailing on
Today has been soooo very hot!  Very little breeze to take the edge off the temperature and with water surrounding the boat almost painfully cold to the touch we have declined to take a cooling dip in order to avoid instant hyperthermia. As we progress towards Maine waters the water temperature will dramatically fall into the 50's. You don't go to Maine for the swimming - that's for sure! Tomorrow we head towards the Cape Cod Canal with Onset being the overnight stop.