Someone once said that Block Island was "one of the last ten greatest places on earth" and while we wouldn't go that far, it is still a place that we look forward to visiting every summer. This year's cruise was slow due to a mystery problem with our starboard engine that only permitted us a speed of about 10 mph. That, coupled with a stiff southwest wind that whipped up some nice big swells, kept us steering a lot as we climbed up one side of them and surfed down the other. We broke one of our favorite table lamps and rearranged some furniture but there was never any doubt that we'd get there, and we did.
Once again, we tied up at Payne's Dock, which to us is just the perfect spot. It's on the island's western side in the Great Salt Pond or New Harbor. If you love boats and the ocean as much as we do, this is the place to be.
Lots of people dismiss Payne's because you can't make a reservation or because it's expensive or because everyone is rafted together. The lack of a reservation doesn't mean much since we have never been turned away. It is more expensive than many mainland marinas ($4.00 per ft. plus $20.00 a day for electricity) but it's about the same as the other two marinas in New Harbor. Compare that to a hotel or cottage rental and it's cheap. Finally, rafting up against a pier is half the fun. We've met great people that way every time we have been at Payne's and that was our experience again this year.
If there's a downside for boaters like us, it's the fact that Block Island's tourism advertising has been so successful. Big ferries from Point Judith and New London land on the other side of the island at Old Harbor, which is the Island's shopping area. Ferries disgorge a thousand or more passengers each very frequently and there is hardly enough sidewalk or roadway to accommodate them. The motor scooters don't help either.
Not to sound to high-minded, we always walk across the island to Old Harbor and mix with the tourists. This year, we bought some t-shirts and had a very good lunch at the Mohegan Cafe. Even though the street was crowded, Frances can shop with the best of them.
We also like to get off the boat and walk. One day, we took a walk to the beach and on the way rediscovered the parts of Block Island that we really love.
This house was once a Block Island weather station. Further down the road and up a little nature walk and you can see how beautiful this part of the island really is.
On another day, we walked over to Block Island Boat Basin, the marina next to Payne's. Not much special about it but the flowers in the field next to it were worth stopping and admiring.
You can see the mooring field in the background. It's very popular and we know people who complain about not being able to find a mooring.
Here's the deal. When you come into New Harbor, call the Harbormaster on Channel 12. Don't just cruise through the mooring field looking for an open one. The green moorings are rentals and the others are either private or owned by the town of New Shoreham (Block Island's legal name). The Harbormaster will find you either a temporary mooring or one you can rent ($46 per day) if one is available and will direct you to it.
Block Island Boat Basin also has a dingy dock that always seems to be crowded.
There's also a nice little beach between Payne's and Boat Basin that is one hell of a lot easier to use provided you don't mind getting your feet wet.
Pooka, our boat cat, survived the journey with only a couple of minor bouts with seasickness. Once at BI, he explored the cockpit regularly and found Payne's very restful.
One of the things we really enjoy about Payne's is what Frances calls the "Boat Ballet." This is when the crew moves one boat out from a number of others that are all tied together. This year, there were several good "ballets" and we recorded them on video. We've been part of these movements a number of times over the years and when you're at the helm of the boat being moved, you have to listen carefully to the crew's instructions. "Bump the right engine" means do it right now. It's amazing how they can squeeze a boat out into the harbor without a scratch.