Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's not always sunny on A-dock

When the crew assembled on the dock for weighty discussions on Saturday afternoon, the sun had disappeared behind the cloud cover. Amazingly, this is one of the very few weekends that we didn't have bright sun, but that didn't curb the conversation one bit.

Frank and Barbara distributed bluefish fillets that they had caught earlier in the day and Dierdre amazed us with the tale of how she had caught and released a 3-ft. sand shark. There's nothing like the look on a fisherman's face after catching - or even trying - to catch some fish.

Sue had a birthday on Friday and although we couldn't attend, we understand it was quite an affair. There were flowers, of course...

... which we all enjoyed along with munchies and even a cocktail or three.

Tim and Jodi joined us, which is always nice and their daughter Maggie modeled her PFD although she was still engrossed in a TV show aboard her grandparents boat when this picture was taken.

Bob, in the foreground, was happy. We think we just caught him during a thoughtful moment. 

We were also joined by another A-dock regular, an Anhinga, who perched on the piling above us, wishing we were serving fish rather than cheese and crackers. By the way, Wikipedia tells us that the Anhinga is also known as the Snakebird, Darter, American Darter or Water Turkey. Just trying to add some facts to this blog, folks. Take note.  There may be a test during a future cocktail hour.

Moving on to things more boat related, we've always been bothered by how sloppy the 50-ft. curled water hose looked on our deck. Through the marvel of Google search, we found a nice solution to storing the hose.

Now it's entirely hidden up under the gunwale and can be pulled out easily.  You too can have something like this.  It's the invention of Rollins Marine Solutions, LLC.  This firm is very close by and even does dockside consulting.  Ask us and we'll give you their address.

Mid next week, we're off to Greenport where we'll swim at Crescent Beach and enjoy the world's most expensive burgers served by beautiful, partially clothed young women visiting Shelter Island to work for the summer. Listen. Someone has to do it!

The 15th annual Catfish Tournament

As many of you know, since 1986 we've been winter-storing our boat (and the two before it) at Portland Riverside Marina. Fifteen years ago, we came up with an event that would attract people to the river, perhaps add some new customers at the marina and above all, be fun. Ken and Elsie Gouin, who own the marina, and Karen Cecil who is now the manager, put together the Connecticut River Catfish Tournament and it has been going strong now for 15 years.

Bill has been the emcee for all of those years (except for one, when we were stuck on Block Island due to the weather) but that only means that I introduce and thank everyone who helps put the event together and then turn the mic over to Portland's First Selectman, Susan Bransfield, and Elsie Gouin, who together award the prize money to the three kids and three adults who have caught the heaviest catfish.

Entering the marina, one first notices the water grotto created by Ken (without a water diversion permit). He says that it simply serves to discourage the beavers who, before the grotto, delighted in creating a dam on this stream and eventually flooding the area.  The beavers are gone now, replaced by a single concrete fisherman.

The end of the tournament is a day-long event and everyone is fed. The Side O' Beef had been cooking since 4 AM.  Notice the engineering that makes the spit rotate. Yum!

Since this is an environmentally-friendly event, each qualifying fish that is caught over the weekend leading up to the final day is weighed and then kept in a rowboat fitted with a pump to constantly circulate river water.  The kids are fascinated by seeing the nasty looking fish up close.

At noon, the National Anthem is played and a black powder cannon is shot off, marking the official end of the tournament. This year's event drew 130 fishermen young and old, which set a record.  The crowd gathers in a building known as "the cannery" waiting for the prize money to be awarded. The top five kids also receive fishing rods.

The winning youngsters are announced first.

And then the top three adult fishermen. The first and second place prize this year went to two guys who drove their outboard-powered 23-ft. boat to Portland all the way from Niantic.  They bested all the locals and they weren't about to share just how they pulled off this 1-2 win.

There's also a raffle with a wide array of prizes that Karen gets from area sponsors. It is amazing how well organized this event is without ever compromising the fun.

Once the prizes have been awarded, it's time to release the catfish back into the river and the kids just love this part! The setup to do this includes sections of plastic pipe that have been cut in half to make a sluceway.  The kids take their fish from the rowboat and push it down the water-filled pipes so the fish slide down back into the river.

Just after the last fish was released, the sky opened up and it began to rain really hard.  No matter. The beer was cold, the Side O' Beef was almost ready and everyone went inside to trade fish stories.

It is such a great event. It's a little different from the pristine shores of Shelter Island or sitting quietly on Coast Guard beach on Block Island but it's still a wonderful part of our boating experience.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cuties visit A-dock

It seems that everyone on A-dock who was there this weekend really enjoyed visits by Sienna, age 5, granddaughter of Joanne and John Tardibuono and Karis, age almost 4, granddaughter of Bob and Dianne Caisse.  Both of these young ladies were visiting for the first time and were under the supervision (if that's the right word) of their respective grandmothers.  Grandkids are nothing new to the residents of A-dock (we'd guess that more than half of our boating neighbors are grandparents) but it is still fun to have two very nice young ladies come down and spend some time with us.

Sienna began by watching her grandfather install a new radar antenna. At least she got to sit in the captain's chair.

After spending the day running their grandmothers fairly hard, it was time for A-dock's famous cocktail hour and the girls fit right in, minus the cocktails, but plus a lot of attention.

 Milo, the official A-dock dog watched everything and bothered nobody.

Granddad Bob Caisse had his inflatable in the water so it was a perfect time for a sundown cruise. Everyone donned their PFDs and off they went. Bob steers and both grandmothers keep a proper lookout.

And off they went.  They didn't stay out long or go very fast but they (including the grandmothers) loved it.

On this lazy mid-summer weekend, we got a few other thing done. We changed the oil pressure sending unit on the starboard engine. This thing was difficult to get to but with the help of a long pair of slip-joint pliers, we finally got the old one to break loose. Wow, now we have real oil pressure readings!

We also installed new mounting brackets for the cockpit ladder...

...and finally changed the name on the bottom of our old inflatable.

The summer is only half over.  Lots of places to go and people to meet are left ahead.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

13 miles out

There is something about Block Island that always gets to us. Maybe it's the isolation of being on an island; maybe it's the great folks we always meet when we're there; maybe it's Payne's Dock and the way that however crowded, there always seems to be room for us. Whatever it is, it is our favorite boating destination.


We left Norwich on July 23 and spent the weekend with boating friends Dick and Pattie and Ron and Lou Ann at Snug Harbor Marina in Montauk. It rained during our trip over with visibility at about 1 mile so we had a chance to use the GSP/Chartplotter and the radar to navigate and dodge the lobster pots. By the time we got into Lake Montauk, the rain had stopped and after receiving some rather confused directions from a dock attendant by radio at Snug Harbor Marina, we found our slip way in, against a bulkhead. Our boat buddies had arrived well before us and were assigned a nice floating dock not far from their two boats.

Being with friends at Montauk was fun and we got to explore a little and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together on Saturday evening.

After breakfast on Sunday, we fired up the engines and untied the lines to begin the next leg of our cruise to Block Island. We attempted to turn right out of our slip into the fairway but with a stiff wind on out starboard side and the bulkhead right up against the port side, found it almost impossible to do.  Luckily, our friend Dick and someone else on the dock gave us a hand by taking a turn or two around one of the pilings with our bow line.  That enabled us to turn and back down the fairway, which we did without any trouble.

The ride from Montauk to Block Island was in bright sun and almost unlimited visibility.  The seas were mixed, from flat-smooth to bumpy, but fun every bit of the way. We had established a GPS route from Montauk to BI that we followed, just for practice.

We motored through the inlet at Block Island's Great Salt Pond and down the channel to Payne's, where we were greeted by Sands, Cliff Payne's son, who told us that space was available but that we'd have to wait until a few other boats left. That was fine and we spent the next 20 minutes doing the little boat dance to stay in place, avoid other traffic and stay out of the nearby mooring field. Finally, we were told to "just back in between those two boats." This is always the fun part but we did a very professional job of it and before we knew it, we were tied up alongside a 32 ft. SeaRay Sundancer.

Soon after we docked, a beautiful 40-ft.,1956 Chris Craft Sea Skiff docked not far from us. Over the next few days, we got to know its owner, Paul, and his wife and learned that this beautiful boat had been owned by Paul's father and was now being maintained with the help of Paul's son. Three generations on one Chris Craft!

Our five days on Block Island passed much too quickly. One afternoon, we used our inflatable to head over to the beach, were we went swimming in almost perfect conditions. One evening, we walked down the dock to photograph the sunset and ended up also taking photos of some visitors.  They returned the favor.

The old girl looked pretty good at the dock and was very comfortable to live aboard for the five days we were there.

We left on Friday and took this picture as we went out through the channel at Coast Guard Beach.

We had a very nice trip back home. The weather was again spectacular and once in Fisher's Island Sound, we pushed the throttles forward and before we knew it, we were entering the New London channel. Most of the cruise was done at about 10 MPH, since we were in no hurry and wanted to save on gas when we could. But, once in a while, it's good to go a little faster just to make sure that everything is working correctly and we averaged 15-16 MPH up the Thames, while Frances was at the helm.

The boat performed almost perfectly for the entire trip. We say "almost" because at one point after arriving in Montauk, while idling around the docks, the starboard engine stalled and couldn't be re-started from the bridge. This happened to us once before and we noticed that the engine could be re-started from the lower steering station. Time to replace the ignition switches on the fly bridge. 31 years is a long time for anything electrical. We note this only because others with older Silvertons like ours who read this blog may have the same problem.

Our total mileage for the week was just over 135 miles and for the last 13 miles, Frances drove the boat all the way back up the Thames River.  We've decided that she will learn how to run the boat over the remaining weeks of this summer.

By Sunday back in Norwich, all the laundry was done, the boat washed and the interior cleaned. Now our only problem is to decide where we'll go next!  Jamestown is looking good.