A skirmish at Battleship Cove

Ananda's blog
Keith and Stella Myerson
Fri 24 Jun 2011 18:33

41:27.69N 70:35.66W

The wind and rain howled around us and we were soon soaked to the skin.  As it blew stronger, the anchor chain became horizontal and Ananda’s bow sheared wildly from side to side, straining harder on the chain.  Fearful of the anchor dragging, I started the engine and motored into the gale to take off some of the tension.

We were anchored at Fall River and had just enjoyed a day spent exploring the warships at Battleship Cove, the world’s largest naval ship exhibition.  For the last 20 minutes we had watched a large black cloud approaching, but all remained uncannily still.  It was as we climbed into our dinghy that a local man on a nearby yacht called over to us with the worrying news. 

“50 to 60 knot winds, arriving in the next 10 minutes.  Best to get somewhere safe, maybe on land.  And you’d better move real fast!”

 What?  60 knots?  We could scarcely believe what we were hearing.

The outboard sprang into life and we sped over to ‘Ananda’ and winched the dinghy out of the water as quickly as we could.  Within a minute the storm was upon us.

Above the noise of the storm, we could hear the wail of sirens from police and ambulance vehicles in the nearby town as they responded to the emergency ashore.  Stellie took over the helm as I went forward to release more scope.  But the winch motor was overpowered by the wind, and I could not stop the chain paying out. Now we overlapped a yacht on a mooring behind us, and we fought to stop the two boats colliding as they careered about in the still mounting wind.  Though it was hard to remain standing on deck in the gusts, Stellie managed to place some fenders alongside, which helped enormously. 

After what seemed an eternity but was probably less than an hour, the wind subsided as quickly as it had come.  Much relieved, we motored over to the other side of the river and re-anchored. Fortunately our neighbour’s boat was unharmed, though Ananda’s topsides sustained a blow from her anchor.

After that, we paid more attention to the ‘hazardous conditions’ part of the weather forecasts.

But all in all, the east coast of the USA is an amazing cruising ground.  Rhode Island was interesting; historic Newport calls itself the yachting capital of the world.  For many years, the America’s Cup was based here, giving the claim considerable merit.  It’s certainly a hive of yachting activity despite harsh winters and a short sailing season.  There’s a real buzz ashore as the J-Class yachts Ranger and Valsheda prepare for a regatta, each with around 20 uniformed crew.  The grey-haired owners look preoccupied on their mobiles; fashionable WAGS parade on the quayside.


Croissant American style - about twice the size of its French cousin.



As a summer retreat for the exceptionally wealthy, the island was populated with wonderful ‘cottages’, enormous mansions not unlike English stately homes, now preserved and open to Joe public.  Here an elderly lady sporting a ring with the biggest diamond Stellie has ever seen professed to be a major benefactor of the Preservation Society of Newport.


Stellie at home in The Breakers, a 70 room summer mansion built for shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt II.  The Great Gatsby was filmed here.







We enjoyed cycling everywhere and our British ‘fold-up’ bikes attracted much attention.

The sheltered waters around Rhode Island extend over 40 miles inland, a sailor’s paradise.  At Melville, we made arrangements to have our boat slipped later this summer at an attractive rural boatyard.  An ancient railway diner shuttles between here and Newport.


“No Stella, the brake’s on the other side…”




Further north in a lovely anchorage off Bristol, we were astonished by a new arrival – a seaplane landed next to Ananda.  The pilot then motored slowly around the bay, visiting a couple of marinas until he found one with piles low enough for him to tie alongside without clipping his wings.  Curiously, no-one seemed to pay him much attention or indeed offered to run him ashore!



As a breakfast treat, we went for the much recommended Hope Diner.  It was traditional diner, just like those that you see in every road movie.  A cast of old boys argued about a player in their local baseball team, the Red Sox.

‘They oughta ask for the money back – ya know, lemon law…..’

‘Aw, cummon… ‘

We sat patiently listening to the banter until, prompted by the old boys, the waitress who was busying herself behind the bar grudgingly appeared to serve the newcomers.

‘How d’ya like your eggs?’

I wracked my brain for the answer.  It’s in those old movies – what was the line? Of course!

‘Sunny side up.’

She seemed satisfied with my answer and the meal duly appeared.  The home-baked strawberry muffins were just splendid!

Bristol was also the home of the lendary America’s cup designer Nat Herreschoff; his shipyard is now a museum.


Hanging from the ceiling at the Herreschoff museum, this modern-looking catamaran complete with circular cockpit was designed and built over 100 years ago.





Further north still, we anchored in Battleship Cove, Fall River, under the bows of USS Massachusetts.  This WW2 battleship was part of an amazing naval collection that included the destroyer Kennedy , the submarine Lionfish and an East German missile corvette Hiddensee.  Visitors are free to wonder through every nook and cranny of these impressive vessels.


Shell shocked.


Big Mamie, the 681 foot WW2 battleship Massachusetts, complete with nine 16 inch guns protected by 18 inch thick armour plating.  With a crew of 2,230 men, she saw action in both the Mediterranean and Pacific.



At Block Island, we were lucky enough to arrive while a 3 day music festival was being held.  Acts, some from quite far afield, performed outdoors for the early evening and then later onstage indoors.  And it was all free, including fresh popcorn!


A stitch in time – patching our ancient mainsail in Block Island



Martha’s Vineyard is a charming island, both tasteful and timeless.  No wonder it’s the playground of presidents.  The Kennedy’s came over regularly from nearby Hyannis on the south of Cape Cod.  It’s where Edward Kennedy took a wrong turn at a bridge at Chappaquiddick with disastrous consequences for both Mary Jo Kopechne and his subsequent career.  The Clintons and Obamas are regular visitors.  Carly Simon is a resident; James Taylor has since moved though his family are still here.  His brother, Livingstone, does a concert in a Church in Edgartown every summer.

At Oak Bluffs in the mid 19th Century, religious revivalists and travelling preachers would gather and set up camp in the seaside wilderness.  Their tents were gradually replaced by wooden cottages, gaily painted and highly decorated, the so called gingerbread cottages.  They built a huge tented tabernacle, now a permanent open structure.  Though the religious fervour may have mostly departed, some towns on the island still remain ‘dry’ - people eating in some restaurants must bring their own wine.


Gingerbread cottages at Oak Bluffs





Hard to leave Martha’s Vineyard, but its time to head north.  Next stop, Naushon island…