Great Salt Pond in Block Island - Rhode Island

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 5 Jul 2010 23:56
Block Island is a popular summer target for young and old alike, especially with July 4th approaching.  Walking along the old harbour front with some friends we'd last met at Cape May we agreed there was a certain resemblance to the town of Amity featured in the film Jaws as lily-white skinned holiday makers from New York and the surrounding areas could be seen pouring off the fast ferries from the mainland. Ironically we'd heard on the news that very morning that the first Great White Shark of the season had been spotted in Connecticut waters not far from here. So no romantic night swims off the beach for us as Connecticut isn't that far away. Besides the water temperature here is rarther chilly!
Ferries coming & going                                                                  Dunes surrounding the Old Harbour                                               They got more crowded than this..............
It's no surprise that New England USA is just like - old England UK, and rather like the Channel Islands given the amount of rock strewn around the shoreline. Further south in the Chesapeake if you were to go aground you would hit soft mud. You might be stuck for a few hours but unlikely to sustain any real damage except to your pride. Here you hit hard rock!! Granite mainly, so we need to be especially vigilant from now on. Tides also play a greater part in passage planning, not so much for the range of tide (height) but for the flow through Long Island Sound. It's no exaggeration to say that distress calls to the Coastguard are almost as common here as radio checks to the Coastguard are back in the UK. Boats have all the equipment they are required to have by law but that doesn't guarantee safety. It will be a challenging few months.
Block Island is very pretty with sporadic housing dotted around the rolling hills and pastures. The population increases many-fold in the summer months and the locals have a wish to keep things just as they are and avoid heavy development that would spoil the character of the small island.  It would also be impossible for the number of cruising boats to be here if it weren't for the creation of a large harbour in what was once a salt pond - hence the name. Many years ago a passage was blasted through the rock to make Salt Pond accessible from Long Island Sound. The old harbour has very little space to accommodate the number of boats anchored or moored here and the island has just 2 months to extract the maximum amount of dollars from its visitors before the fall weather arrives which sees cruisers heading south again or for the local boats to be lifted out for the cold winter conditions.
Rocky coasts.............                                                                   Rolling green pastures............                                                          and lush colourful gardens
We decided to walk to one of the two old lighthouses on the island with friends Bob & Vicky, a round trip of 6 miles through lush green countryside past beautiful detached houses. It was a fascinating look at what Block Island has to offer, although finding the lighthouse under refurbishment and closed was a disappointment. So we sat down outside to eat sandwiches kindly supplied by Vicky whilst chatting to other visitors. It was here that Nikki innocently re-enacted her own version of Alfred Hitchcock's film 'The Birds' when she unfortunately almost stumbled on a small seagull chick wandering in the sand dunes close-by. We had already taken pictures of three chicks behind the wheels of a cherry picker being used for the lighthouse restoration. It's rare to see seagull young as they are usually far out on hatcheries (if that's the correct terminology) offshore. There was no harm intended as she was only seeking to take a photograph of the north end of the island from a high viewpoint but one of the parent seagulls (and they are very good sized gulls on Block Island) thought otherwise and like a Stuka dive bomber swooped down, threatening to lift the poor Admiral off her feet which raised a scream of terror regrettably not heard by Skip sitting just a few yards away on the other side of the lighthouse. He was still tucking into his banana and peanut butter sandwich. He was reported as being somewhat unsympathetic to her plight, presumably being judged so by his reaction when relayed the story which caused much mirth, whilst choking on the last morsels of sandwich and rolling around on the ground in hapless laughter. Had it been a pterodactyl perhaps more sympathy would have been forthcoming before arranging a search of local known dinosaur nests for the missing Admiral. At least the gull hadn't left a calling card for goodness sake - but apparently she "felt it's wind" so to speak.
After 2 miles there it is ..........                                                         the lighthouse                                                                                not the prettiest chicks in the world!
Our long walk ended on the beach by the old harbour where we wondered along negotiating our way around scantily clad young ladies sporting the latest in swimwear. It was down right distracting for the two males in our group. However, on the quay, we finally discovered the type of fish we had caught on the way north as we showed some fisherman the pictures we had taken. They were Bluefish we were told - so that solved that riddle at last. We had seen Bluefish fillets in the fish store back in Cape May and thought they'd looked similar so now we knew.
Fish filleting lesson..............                                                             Traditional seaside hotel .......................                                            Sunset over the anchorage.
At Old Harbour we took some liquid refreshment and ordered some 'stuffies', a local clam delicacy. A visit to the bakery and grocery brought the day to an end. We judged Block Island to be a very nice first stop in New England waters. Unfortunately, dropping Bob & Vicky back to their lovely yacht in our dinghy they found a Cormorant had been (and still was) using their upper rigging spreader bars as an observation platform for its fish hunting activities. Unfortunately it had covered their decks and pristine canvas work with processed fish from it's previous intake throughout the day. We sympathised, whilst inwardly praying that we would not find the same mess on Ajaya. We didn't. Next morning our friends were busy pressure washing their decks and canvas work before leaving the anchorage for pastures new. We stayed as we have a dangling fitting from the masthead that can only be attributed to our Cape May bridge exploits. Ho Hum !
So much like home.......................... no wonder ..............its New England........................