41:28N 71:19W Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island. Now this really is the capital of American Yachting.
We arrived on Saturday 13th September after a couple of days sailing round the corner including visiting Sandwhich and traversing the Cape Cod Canal. We dropped anchor in front of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club at the fourth attempt. On the first attempt we hooked the high voltage seabed electricity cable, risking a blackout either of “ September”, the whole of Newport, or both. Then it took three further attempts to find a bit of space. The anchorage was heaving not least because the Newport Boat Show was in full swing. We met up with Peter and Christine, friends from the Maine Rally. A wet and blowy evening at the club was interrupted by a request from a neighbouring (over-anxious) yacht for us to re- anchor. Out we went in the club launch for another go! Two more attempts and then finally settled we returned, not a little bedraggled, to our supper table! Is this a record for anchoring inefficiency?
Newport was fun. The show was good and we saw most of Newport in the longish walks there and back. But “September” had a grandstand view of the traffic in the harbour. Stunning 12 meter yachts, presumably on charter, came and went; an international Admirals conference guarded by armed patrol boats who charged around the waterway trying to maintain an exclusion zone around Goat Island ( A posse of International Admirals on Goat Island – you couldn’t make it up); complete indifference from the jaded crews on the boats leaving the show site on Monday morning; much shouting both on the radio and face to face! “Turn to port immediately or you will be arrested, your boat will be impounded and you will be fined $10,000 dollars” and “if you do not move over now, we will forcibly move you!” Tremendous. And then in the middle of all that the Queen Mary 2 arrived and she also merited an exclusion zone! Through it all the ferries and the tripper boats ploughed backwards and forwards. Then a yacht race finished out at sea and what seemed like hundreds of competitors poured into Newport Harbor. Then a US Naval vessel arrived and of course… another exclusion zone. More shouting. Suddenly, in the middle of mayhem, a calm, steady, British voice took possession of the airwaves and issued instructions to race competitors. The whole of Newport paused for breath – who was that masked man? Enter Dr Robin Wallace (cousin of David Garvie) whom we had met back home two years previously. Robin is a yacht racing aficionado, member of the New York Yacht Club and the Doyen of its Race Committee. Robin Wallace means something in Newport!
Robin visited us briefly on “September” between protest meetings, appeals, yard arm measurements, “ loss of face” reliefs and keel haulings. Another, and some would say dangerous, world for us cruising folk. But more was to come. Robin invited us to join him and Carol Barrow for supper at the Newport Branch of the New York Yacht Club. Carol had been introduced to us by Robin as “a senior American judge”. I assume he meant in relation to racing but perhaps not. I never had the courage to ask. Certainly she has the long distance gaze which is the mark of both sailor and Judge! Amongst other talents Robin is a raconteur and authority on the history of the New York Yacht Club. Fascinating stuff. A wonderful view over the harbour from the terrace of this landmark building, excellent supper and great company. Perhaps we could get used to the High Life?
Back to reality and a main engine service, electronics problems and a visit from a local dive company to sort out the mini barnacles impeding the impellor ( boat speed measurement thingy below the water not the aforementioned generator problem) and we were on our way south trying to catch up on the schedule which was now in a critical condition . Racing sailors are not the only ones who have to watch the clock but when we cruisers get it wrong there are no Face Saving Reliefs, or whatever they’re called.