28 July - Long Island to Rhode Island and Cape Cod

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Tue 7 Aug 2018 19:59

41:28.75N  071:19.75W

Port Jefferson is an easy day sail from Port Washington, particularly with a fresh southerly breeze and a favourable tide.  We cut along at a good speed, despite a weedy bottom and some quite gusty conditions.  The north shore of Long Island is notable for its fine beaches and punctuated with large country houses.  We were a little too far offshore to see into Oyster Bay or the other enticing inlets, so we will try to revisit them on the way back from Maine later in the year… except that the Connecticut shoreline looks quite tempting too!


Just relaxing at Port Jefferson

We arrived in Port Jefferson around 3pm and went ashore in the launch run by the moorings company.  It’s a holiday town with a busy ferry port, a history of shipbuilding and a large power station sporting the largest stars and stripes I’ve seen yet. The beach in the harbour is part shingle, the first time we’ve seen that since leaving Stokes Bay. We enjoyed drinks and dinner ashore at Danburys, a ‘characterful’ hotel, restaurant, bar and marina on the waterfront and had a good wander around the neat, ordered streets, but I can’t think of a particularly strong reason to return – other than as a good harbour.


The British obsession with dogs is trivial alongside the Americans.  Not sure if the bakery is for Danish pastries or dog biscuits…

We had a very early start on Tuesday to cover the 120 miles to Newport, Rhode Island before dark.  Fortunately, after weeks of impossibly light winds, we have found a spell of decent breeze from the south; this combined with flat seas in the lee of Long Island and a decent east-running tide pushed us along nicely, weathering some sharp squalls but generally enjoying some decent sunshine too. Off the eastern end of Long Island we came across plenty of ferry traffic  running across from the Connecticut shore and some motor boats with only a limited understanding of the ‘Rule of the Road’. 


Race Rock Light, Long Island Sound

As we closed Fishers Island and the northern shores, so the long sandy beaches were punctuated with rocky outcrops – a flatter version of the coast of Devon and Cornwall in many respects.  Tidal streams reached around three knots off Race Rock Light and the water swirled around in a gentler version of the Alderney Race as it fought its way into the Atlantic past some significant shoals.  Most of the maritime traffic consisted of superyachts heading east or west, with the odd tug and barge carrying mainly gravel and building sand.  Apparently Long Island was the ‘quarry’ that built New York.

As we rounded Point Judith and headed north into Rhode Island Sound, I started the generator to charge the batteries.  For some weeks, we’ve been nursing it along due to a leak in the primary coolant which I have not been able to trace because the soundproof box which encloses the generator is badly corroded.  On this occasion, rather than stabilising once the thing was running, the coolant continued to disappear and after a few minutes of trying to keep it topped up, I realised that the ‘pinhole’ leak – wherever it was – had deteriorated badly.  I shut it down and joined the girls on deck as they focused on the navigation and collision avoidance.


Some of the ‘Gilded Age’ mansions on the foreshore at Newport, Rhode island

The entry into Newport, Rhode Island is impressive.  It reminds me a bit of Kinsale, but the shoreline is lower and the mansions are much, much bigger!  On the northern shore, they are almost impossibly large, but there isn’t much time to stare at them because of the density of marine traffic – sports fishermen returning from a day offshore, superyachts pushing through the middle of everything, serious racing yachts beating to windward, racing dinghies and their safety boats, clusters of Optimists being chaperoned through the fleet by a couple of RIBs.   


Harbour Court, the New York Yacht Club clubhouse at Newport, RI

Newport is the Cowes (and Hamble and Lymington) of North America and a fascinating place.  Yachting has been a major component of life here for more than a hundred years, but early settlers came to escape religious persecution from the authoritarian Church of England.  Serious money arrived with the New York Yacht Club and a group of very wealthy industrialists who would escape from Manhattan for a few weeks here to their spectacular mansions overlooking the Sound.  The US Navy has had a significant presence here since the Revolutionary War, but the warships have now consolidated in Norfolk VA and all that remains is the famous War College, an Officer training school and various research establishments.  The Navy’s waterfront facilities at Portsmouth RI were taken over by a consortium led by the legendary American yachtsman Ted Hood and turned into a boatyard centre of excellence and it was here that we went on Wednesday to pursue the generator defect.

I rang three Cummins/Onan agents in Rhode Island that morning, but the only people to get back to me were the Hinckley Yacht Services team. Hinckley yachts are the US equivalents of Oysters and amongst the most elegant, well built and highly varnished of any boats around.  They are also fast and hold their secondhand value extremely well; I was keen to try to buy one a few years ago when we first started looking for Escapade, but the admin ‘faff’ and the distances involved were a disincentive when there is so much choice in the European market.  So it was nice to finally form a relationship with Hinckleys.

They have a marina where you can stay without charges if they are working on your boat – even if you need to wait for parts.  The hourly labour rate is not cheap, but the free marina berth very quickly compensates for that and the quality of workmanship is outstanding.  They managed to cut away the soundproof panels without damaging them and we found a knackered heat exchanger (no surprise as the panel had not been removed for 20 years) and a small hole in the salt water exhaust.  The replacement heat exchanger arrived the following day, but our engineer was not available until Monday so we prepared to spend the weekend at the yard.

Friday was Lizzie’s birthday.  Our original plan for the second week of her stay had involved visiting the eastern end of Long Island (The Hamptons and Shelter island) Block Island and maybe even Martha’s Vineyard in Escapade, but the generator repair was the priority and limited the sailing.  So we hired a car instead and drove to the bottom end of Cape Cod.   We stopped in the former whaling port of New Bedford on the way there, to look at the fishing boats and look round the town which is gradually gentrifying itself and trying to diversify as a tourist destination. 


The southern end of Cape Cod

Despite heavy traffic crossing the bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, we hit the beaches on the southeastern corner of the Cape between Falmouth and Woods Hole around lunchtime.  It was pretty much as we imagined it: fine long beaches backed by sand dunes, clapperboard houses on stilts on the flatter ground but generally a more rocky and higher shoreline than further west.  It’s a gentler version of Cornwall or the West of Scotland – plenty of sheltered inlets, promontories with fine views, smart homes hidden in the trees and a maritime climate supporting some lush, semi-tropical vegetation. You have to pay to get onto some of the beaches, but not all of them.  The US equivalent of the Hydrographic and Met Offices has a research station at Wood’s Hole, a pretty little fishing village which is a ferryport for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  We had lunch – Lobster Rolls and sauvignon blanc – overlooking the busy harbour, watching boats of every description come and go.  A walk on the long sandy beach in a warm southerly breeze in bright sunshine followed, accompanied by flock of small plover-like birds foraging along the water’s edge; the water was warm enough to swim (we didn’t) but noticeably colder than the Chesapeake.


Birthday Girl and Proud Mum testing the temperature at Cape Cod

Later in the afternoon we crossed the Cape to the ‘historic’ town of Sandwich.  Here there is a fine boardwalk over the marshes out to the beach, but sadly no ice cream shops within walking range (even European walking!) so after another brisk stroll we moved on to the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal where the menu at the Shipwreck Ice Cream parlour hit the spot and we got to recce the canal ahead of a planned transit in the next week or so.


Protecting the dunes on Cape Cod

That evening, Anna and Matt drove from Manhattan through a wet and windy night to join us for the weekend.



I’m keen to identify these busy little chaps… can you help?