Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greenport: First cruise of the summer

We've been visiting Greenport's Mitchell Park Marina for years to see our good friend Ellen Creighton on or near her birthday.  This year, we missed it by a week due to bad weather but on June 16, we shoved off for the first cruise of the year.  This time, we had an extra crew member, Pooka, Frances' cat. We had no idea how this normally inside cat would take to six days on a boat but as it turned out, he did just fine. Pooka needs special medication twice a day and it saved Frances lots of money to bring him along.  Vets cost big bucks and when it comes to taking a pill, cats prefer their owners to apply the medication.

Our first stop was in Groton at the Shennecossett Yacht Club.  We pulled up to the club's gas dock and met Smokey, who was manning the pumps. Smokey is a club member who lives during the summer at the club on his 43 ft. Hattaras.  We chatted about boats while he pumped 156 gallons of 89 octane into the boat at $4.30 per gallon. Shennecossett will probably be our gas stop this summer since our marina is no longer able to sell fuel.

Smokey also pumped out our holding tank and then we headed out across the Sound.  We kept our speed at about 10 mph, having just spent almost $700 for fuel.

Four hours after leaving Norwich, we docked at Mitchell's only to find that we were the only boat there.  No problem. Ellen arrived and we had a great dinner, courtesy of Frances.

Friday morning dawned as foggy as we have ever seen it.  The visibility was down to 50 yards or so and even the Shelter Island Ferries were waiting for the next boat to come into sight before they left the Greenport's railroad dock.

Once the fog burned off on Friday, the weather was great, with nice warm days and cool nights. I think we used the air conditioning only twice, once we soon found that opening the windows and the front hatch kept us very comfortable. We checked out things on Front Street, did a little shopping and returned to the boat just in time for cocktail hour.

On Saturday, we had some new dockmates, all from Rhode Island.  Nice to see the place fill up.

Late Saturday afternoon, Frances began cooking dinner.  She and Ellen spent some time figuring out how the new cheese grater worked.

Meanwhile, Pooka joined us in the cockpit and soon found a nice place to sleep.

When dinner got going, Pooka wanted his too.

On Sunday evening, Ellen treated us to dinner at our favorite spot on the North Shore, Skippers.  It's on the North Road on the way to Orient Point so it's too far for us to walk.  Bill had his usual, the Fisherman's Platter (hold the scallops). In the 20+ years we have been going there, that dish has never changed. It is always great.

Monday was another great day and we took the ferry to Shelter Island and had lunch at the Chequit Inn.  We usually just stop there for a cold beer but today, the garden in front of the inn, shaded by a big tree, just looked too inviting. We had a great lunch and later walked down to Deering Harbor to check out the shops and, unfortunately, the two really big boats that were hogging this usually nice spot.

Eventually, we walked back down to the ferry and headed back to Greenport. Funny seeing Greenport harbor from a boat other than ours.

On Tuesday morning, we started the engines, Pooka assumed his cruising spot under the sofa, and we motored out in beautiful, but cool,  weather. The Sound was smooth and we increased our speed to cut the trip down to three hours.

Once back in the Thames River, we had to slow down to allow the young Coast Guard midshipmen to use up most of the channel learning how to sail.  We got a nice wave of thanks from them and Frances took the helm for the rest of the ride up to Norwich. Does she look like a captain or what?

Our next trip will be to Block Island but in the meantime, Frances wants some helm time to practice conning the boat in close quarters.  I think we'll find time to get that done, too.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A rainy weekend in Norwich

We're getting ready to head out to Greenport, Long Island at the end of next week and we had a few things to do to get ready.  We changed the spark plugs and wires on the port engine only to find that the plugs that were in there were perfectly fine but they weren't our plugs so now we have a maintenance history on the plugs and ignition cables on both engines.  We tinkered with the stuffing boxes to get that tiny drip that we like to see and generally put things away.  Others on the dock were doing much the same thing.  Here Lou puts a new bow line on his Four Winns while John helps by chatting on his cell phone.

We also brought down gas cans and added 20 gallons to our fuel tanks.  We hate doing this but the Marina at American Wharf's fuel dock is out of commission so we have to make sure we have enough fuel aboard to make it safely to another fuel dock down river.  Let's hope this is the last time we'll have to go through this.

Then it began to rain and we went into the cabin and, after blowing the cocktail horn at 5 PM, watched while Frances heated up her baked stuffed potatoes and Bill's fantastic new meatloaf.  Pooka was happy to watch and dinner was delicious.

When we are in Norwich, I (Bill) like to take a walk on Sunday mornings and this weekend, despite the cold, gray weather, I headed over to what at one time was Norwich's main shopping area.  The Woolworths 5 &10 and the movie theater are still there, although now re-purposed as sites for social service agencies. Most of the shopping has shifted away from the old center city but there is still interesting architecture and if you look carefully, a hint of what this area must have been like 50 years ago.

The only life early on Sunday morning is the Dunkin Donuts where, I have to say, the coffee cake muffin is tasty fortification for a good long walk.

There are lots of vacant buildings but many of them aren't in bad shape and some have been rehabilitated into apartments for the growing oriental population, which has migrated to the area to work in the nearby casinos.

Round the corner and you encounter the Central Baptist Church, a massive building in brick with some brownstone foundations that must have been expanded several times as the congregation grew. The architecture is quite a combination of styles and I keep promising myself that some day, I'll stop in and ask about it.

Just to the right is an architectural gem, Norwich City Hall. The city fathers have done everything possible to maintain this building without altering its original Italianate detail.  The inside is just as impressive with lots of dark wood and huge windows.  It's no wonder that people who love old buildings come from all over to see it. Yep, even the clock works.

Note the angle of the street. It really is that steep. All of the neighborhoods in Norwich that surround the harbor are that steep or even steeper.

This Sunday, my walk included a look at a building that exhibits (in my opinion) some of the most unfortunate architecture ever foisted upon a New England seaport.  The Mercantile Exchange.

This is a view of this enormous building from its Main Street side. It is flanked by many charming, although vacant, buildings that go back to the mid-1800s when this truly was "Main Street."  From the harbor, this building appears even more offensive, simply overpowering everything around it.  Note the glass wall in the center. That alone should have added five years to the architect's prison sentence.

This pile was built by (I believe) by the State of Connecticut, perhaps five years ago. The building has been perfectly maintained but is now, and always has been, vacant.  Since I obviously don't have all the facts surrounding the Mercantile Exchange, I'll refrain from commenting any further.

On my way back to the marina, I passed the new Transportation Center, which is being built about as close possible to the nicely restored Thayer's Marine building.  Why they decided to put this erector-set building's entrance on a one-way street is beyond me.

Once back at the marina, I had to stop at what I'll call the "floating cottage," for lack of a better name.  This absolutely beautiful little building was built with exquisite detail by the marina's former owner. It's also empty and has always been so.  I think it's for sale although I've never asked what the asking price is. Note that it also has it's own dock box.

Finally, at the marina's inoperable gas dock, we come upon a boat that is the marine equivalent of the Mercantile Exchange.

This boat is probably about 100 ft. long and (again, in my opinion) exhibits many mistakes yacht designers make: A completely generic looking design with too many fussy windows, all the same size; an arch with unnecessary detail scribed into it supporting a huge satellite antenna that looks silly on a boat this size. We hope the energy from the two 6 ft. rotating radar antennas mounted on that weenie arch don't do a brain scan on those sitting up there just below them.

Topsides we have an open fly bridge (useful for seeing the bow of the boat, which is probably difficult from the wheel house) topped with a white fabric roof.  Then, just to make a bad design worse, a little shelter is built into the aft deck that is made of tan fabric held up by stainless supports that look like they came right out of the West Marine catalog.

Note the mandatory water toy that is docked in front. I kinda like the styling of that.

End of walk and end of my rant on why architects and boat designers should be watched very closely.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

This weekend reminded us...

...why we own a boat.

Almost all of our dockmates were back and the hoses, electric lines, dock boxes and inflatables were in place.  What a great weekend when we get to see everyone again.

We should mention that not everyone was there.  Our friends John and Joanne were home cleaning up after a tornado that swept though southern Massachusetts earlier this week. It came very close to their house. Luckily, their home wasn't leveled but they had many trees down.  John is one of the few people that we'd trust driving our boat and we hope that he and Joanne, our favorite Yoga instructor, are OK and will be back on the dock soon.

This weekend we had a visitor, who may just become a new crew member for the summer.  Pooka, Frances' cat, joined us and actually took to the boat quite well.  Pookah needs twice-daily medication so it made sense to bring him along.  He's a beautiful, friendly, orange and white cat and we think we'll soon see if he gets sea-sick.  Our guess is that he won't.  Here he is putting the finishing touches on his litter box. That wire you see isn't connected to Pooka.  It's just an extension cord for a lamp.  We'll get him to pose more carefully next time.

 Frances once again produced a great breakfast. There were smiles around the table.

Meanwhile,  our friend Rob was checking out those who got up early.

Frances was out there to greet him. Note this year's flower arrangement behind the boat.

 This was a big weekend in Norwich with the visit of reproductions of Christopher Columbus' boats, the Nina and Pinta.  The entry fee was to us, a little steep, but lots of people came to the marina for a look.  These two boats will be in Norwich until next week and while they have lots of sails, we suspect that there is a big diesel engine in both of them.

Of course, we had to take pictures of them.

Amid all this early season fun, things at are our marina aren't all that great. It looks as though the place has been sold and as of this weekend, the gas dock is no longer operating. The pump-out boat is also out of commission so we guess that all of us are stuck. More to come on this, we hope. This marina has  a
lot to offer.  Let's hope that whoever buys it, realizes that.