Having left Oyster Bay, we intended to cross the Sound and spend a night in Greenwich, a supposedly beautiful, charming old American town. What we are finding here is that as most of the boats are relatively small day and weekend boats, there are few deep water moorings. Greenwich had a mooring field and also a couple of marinas, all of which were no use to use on account of the depth of the water. There was an anchorage listed off a small island, just outside the harbour, which when we arrived, turned out to be very exposed, very shallow and surrounded by vicious looking reefs, so leaving the boat there all day would have been a bit of a worry to say the least. I think, later in the season when there are more sailors out and there are other boats anchored, that it might be perfectly fine, but we weren't too happy leaving her on her own out there. So on to plan B....
Our next 'scheduled' stop was Port Jefferson, another place that had come highly recommended by a few people we had spoken to. The other bonus here was that the harbour was behind a sand bank, so sheltered from the sea, and also there seemed to be plenty of room to anchor, a free night at last!! The down side was that instead of a 5 mile sail which would take a couple of hours at the most, we had a 25 mile sail. When we arrived we found a great spot just outside the mooring field and dropped the hook - perfect, until the harbour master moved us on. Whilst he said he had no real issue with us anchoring there, the rules said not, and we had to either take a mooring (and no doubt pay through the nose again), or move to the other side of the ferry channel - we took the cheaper option. Once re-settled we set off to go and explore the town. We had decided that this would be a one night stay, unless there was anything there that we particularly wanted to stay and see, and having struggled to find somewhere to tie up the dinghy and then having been charged $10 for the privilege the matter was decided. The town, although pleasant and busy, was more of a 'working town' and had a very different vibe. Every business seemed to be a restaurant or bar, and there was really very little else in town. We tried and failed to find a shop to buy some food to supplement our now meagre provisions on board. As stopovers go this was not a favourite and we left early the next day for the 45 mile trek to Mystic, Connecticut, on the other side, and at the other end of the Sound.
After a long day's motoring, still no wind, we arrived in the beautiful Mystic River, winding our way past the small village of Noank and going up river to the town of Mystic. Our only option here was a marina, and at a rate of $3 per foot, per night we only booked 2 nights a total of $400 including taxes and electricity!!. It seems that when it comes to dockage fees, the marinas just simply think of a number. That said, we arrived on an evening when the sun was shining, so after a quick wash down, with the thankfully free water for us and the boat, we headed into town. As we had eaten brunch at 10am, instead of lunch, we were hungry early and decided to make like the Americans and eat an early dinner. Whenever we have been in restaurants here and have arrived at the English time of 8pm, everyone else has been on desert and coffee and the restaurants have been emptying. This time as we were eating at 7pm, the place was full and buzzing. We are going to try and change our eating habits, and try and miss lunch (or have a late breakfast),and eat dinner earlier, in a sort of 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' kind of way, so at least we won't be the only people eating in a restaurant at the late hour of 8.30pm! Also, as we are now in the state of Connecticut, rather than New York, the rules are different - we were having a glass of local fizz as an aperitif when we ordered our meal. We then tried to order a bottle of wine, but where told we couldn't' have the wine on the table until we had finished the fizz, as the restaurant enforced a one drink at a time on the table per customer rule! It turns out that under Connecticut law, you can sue the restaurant and the waitress who served you the drinks, if having had too much to drink you hurt yourself - crazy!
The supposedly famous and unique bridge in Mystic
Anyway, back to Mystic. The town is more recently famous for the the film Mystic Pizza - I have no idea what the film is like. I am told it is the usual rom-com scenario about a pizza waitress who has little luck with men, a bit same old, same old. Turns out the film wasn't even made there, nor was the restaurant even used in the film, but it is a big tourist attraction. Long before such films however, Mystic was a ship building area. The old Mystic Shipyard has been made into a working museum where they are restoring the last American wooden whaling boat, the Charles W Morgan. Previous restorations have been undertaken, but this will be the last, once finished the boat will be sailed once to Provincetown and back, and then settled for good in the shipyard here. All the work being undertaken on the restoration is being done with traditional tools and using traditional methods.
The Charles W Morgan, is famous not only for being the last wooden whaling boat still around, but also one of the most profitable and longest serving, with a career of over 80 years. We watched an interesting demonstration on how they actually caught the whales, which made you realise how much these men risked every time the boat went to sea. Once whales had been spotted, a smaller boat was launched in pursuit of the whale, the Charles W Morgan had 5 of these smaller boats, with a crew of about 5/6 men. The boat then chased the whale and harpooned it. Once harpooned, the whale was finally killed and dragged back to the mother ship. This was extremely dangerous as an injured whale would often try and dive down to the depths, to get away from their tormentors, pulling the boats down as well. in addition to that, injured whales also attracted sharks.
Once back to the mother ship the whale was brought on board in pieces, first the jaw was removed and lifted ashore, and then the blubber around the body was cut and unrolled in long strips, round and round the body, (rather like peeling an apple skin), and brought onboard. The stink must have been incredible as the bones and blubber were rendered (cooked down) on board as well! Strangely, it was often the case that the wives and children of the captain also lived on board.
Me in a whaling boat
As well as the restored boats, the museum is also home to a variety of old shops and businesses with original artefacts, which have been used to make up a seafarers village, such as a school, chemists, sail makers etc.
Another main attraction in Mystic is the the Olde Towne of Mistick, a re-creation of an 18th Century New England village, which is basically just a shopping area, but which was made more interesting this weekend by the food fair that was also on.
Whilst here we also visited another local institution, a lobster shack. There are lobster shacks all over this area, and they are generally know as 'Lobster in the Rough' shacks. They are all very basic. The one we went to, Ford's in Noank, is a small shack, with picnic tables outside. You need to bring your own wine and a jumper! This one is famous of it's lobster rolls. We had originally been recommended 'Abbotts' but a few questions in the town had confirmed that Abbots was just for tourists whereas Ford's was the one for the locals, and they put more meat in their lobster rolls. We arrived at Ford's tied up the dinghy and we given directions to the local shop which sold cold wine and beer and for an extra $3, would give you a bucket with ice and cups for your wine as well. Once suitably provisioned, we sat down to clam chowder and lobster rolls. We did however fall foul of the language barrier - John suggested ordering some chips to share with the lobster rolls, but we were told this was not necessary as they already came with chips. We didn't expect a roll and a packet of salted crisps!!! However, the food was delicious, really fresh and really cheap, a great idea and definitely one to go back to.
Apologies for the slightly rubbish photos (and the lack of them!) - I will do better next time, the ones I took didn't look all that great when I downloaded them!