Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A weekend at Mystic Seaport

After returning from Block Island at the end of August (and solving the annoying problem with our starboard engine), we wanted to take one more short cruise. Given the price of gas, it would be a relatively short one. We decided to visit Mystic Seaport, a place we've been by boat and car a number of times. However, instead of anchoring in the Mystic River, this time we'd tie up at the seaport dock. Good choice.

On Saturday morning (September 15), we gulped down 111 gallons of gas and set off down the river running the boat faster than we normally do, just to make sure that damn starboard engine was up to the task. It was and we were in New London harbor in 55 minutes, record time for us.  Then it was east into Fischer's Island Sound for the four or five miles to the entrance to the Mystic River.

We know that many of our boating friends who read this blog know the Mystic River but for those who don't, it requires some explanation. The river extends about four miles from the sound to just past Mystic Village, a tourist mecca that is almost always crowded.  The Seaport, a museum-like compound devoted to boat restoration and sailing ships is just north of "downtown" Mystic.

The Mystic River is one long no-wake zone through what must be hundreds of acres of mooring  fields. The shoreline is lined with marinas, in some places so close that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the next one begins.  To make navigating the river extra fun, there are also two bridges: an AMTRAK railroad bridge and the so-called Mystic Highway Bridge. The railroad bridge is normally open, closing only when a train passes. The "highway" bridge, which is right in the center of Mystic village, opens only 40 minutes past the hour. Or so we thought.

We entered the river at 2:00 PM and slowed behind two sailboats. When they finally turned off into their moorings, we sped up a little and watched the time pass. It was going to be close.

We motored up to the bridge at 2:30 PM and jockeyed back and forth in the wind waiting for the bridge to open. When it didn't we called the bridge tender on VHF 13 and asked what was going on. "Not opening'" we were told.  Apparently he required an advance reservation.

So, we had an hour to wait in a very crowded channel and eventually turned around.  Right below the bridge, we found Seaport Marine that had a sign offering "hourly or daily tie-ups."  We called them on the radio and were told that they were closed and having a season's end party but, luckily for us, agreed to let us tie up free for an hour. We did and gave $20 to the lady who took our lines. Money well spent, in our opinion.

The dockmaster at Mystic Seaport was waiting for us.  No need for a radio; we just heard someone yell "Act Three!" and in no time, we were tied up.  Nothing fancy, but enough for us and one of the best views in Mystic.

After setting up the boat (Flowers on the table, etc.) we settled down for a beautiful sunset and our traditional cocktails. The seaports wasn't crowded but once the patrons left, we were left inside, free to wander around. Pretty cool, in our estimation.

For this trip, we decided to stay an extra night (which was free) and go home on Monday afternoon.  That extra day made all the difference since it gave us time to tour many of the Seaport's fascinating exhibits. No restaurants for us.  Frances has developed her on-board cooking skills in our small galley to the point where our food is much better than anything we'd find on shore. The best part is she loves doing it.

Please note the cool LED strip lighting that runs around above the counter tops. Just another winter project that turned out to be very useful.

Pooka, our galley supervisor was on duty, as usual.

The mystery of the stinking ice cubes
Some time after our arrival, we noticed a funny odor that seemed to come from the freezer section of our fridge. On Sunday, we decided to find out where it was coming from and in doing that, completely unloaded everything from the freezer and the fridge (and there was a lot of stuff in there). Nothing was spoiled but believe it or not, our ice cubes smelled really bad.  We checked the head and the bilge. Nothing, but those cubes appeared to be the source.

After some careful thought, we discovered what had happened. On our arrival, we found that our water hose wasn't long enough to reached the dockside faucet. No problem, the Seaport staff loaned us a nice length of new looking hose. We hooked it up and turned on the water. One of the first things that Frances did was fill our ice cube trays from the sink.  Apparently, the loaner hose from the Seaport contained some nasty stuff and that stuff flushed out of the hose and into our ice cubes. Whatever it was didn't last long because the water in our head and the kitchen sink didn't smell after that.

One guess it that it was a long dead and decayed mouse or maybe a tiny snake. Whatever it was, it smelled really bad but didn't change the flavor of Bill's favorite vodka and orange juice one bit.

We enjoyed watching this cat boat. It belongs to Seaport and a young Captain takes small groups out sailing in the harbor.  While we're not sailboat people, we were amazed at how skillful the young sailor was at getting this beautiful boat to sail very smartly with very little wind.  He also docked it perfectly every time, better than we could dock Act Three with two engines and a lot of help.

On the way home on Monday, we didn't have any issue with the Mystic Highway bridge.  We called him on VHF 13 and asked if he was going to open at 12:40 pm and he answered simply, "yes!" There were several boats coming upriver that were also waiting for the bridge.

There really isn't much outgoing traffic on a Monday afternoon in September on the Mystic River. We idled down past all of those moorings and marinas and were soon soon heading back out into Fischer's Island Sound.

We also shot some video of our visit to Mystic and we've included it here.  It gives you an idea of how beautiful the weather was and what a great spot this is to visit when the summer crowds have gone.