Sunday, August 23, 2015

Monthly engine check

After our trip to Block Island, it was time to open up the hatches and check the engines for fluid levels and anything else that might need attention. We know a lot of people don't bother with this but ours are older engines and deserve a little extra attention.  Besides, we were brought up that way and old habits are difficult to break.

Once we down there, we checked the oil level on each engine. The port engine was down a little less than a quart so, under Frances' careful supervision, we added the needed oil.

Then we crawled down between the rear of the engines to check the transmissions. Both looked OK but we added a cup or so to the starboard transmission. Might as well get it right up to the "full" mark on the dipstick.

The V-Drives also live in a nice bath of SAE-30 oil and both of them looked fine.

Then, again as Frances supervised, we checked the belts; two on each engine. The starboard belts were OK but the alternator belt on the starboard engine had a little too much play so we hauled out the wrenches and tightened that belt up a little. Nothing bad here, just good maintenance.

On Sunday, we cleaned the bridge enclosure windows, never a fun task. We washed both sides of each panel and then applied a little Plexus, polishing with a soft, clean cloth.

While we were doing this, a dockmate arrived with his new (to him) boat, which he and a fellow dockmate had driven from Maine the day before.  Very nice boat: a Cruisers 37 Express.

It was a tight fit into our section of the marina, but she finally slid in between the pilings. Great to see old friends with a new boat on our dock. We hope they really enjoy it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Docking at Payne's on Block Island

Of all the places we go on our boat, Payne's Dock on Block Island is our favorite.

Payne's is a little different from your run-of-the-mill marina because they don't take reservations and they have a very limited number of floating docks. In fact, most of the time you will be rafted up to other boats against a pier and frankly, that's the best part for us.

Yes, you often have to climb over other people's boats to get on and off but in all the years we've been going to Payne's, we have never met anything but great people even as we have walked across their cockpits or made our way across their decks..

There always seem to be a welcome and a helping hand whether we're tied up to grand dad's big boat with all of the grandchildren or an avid fisherman with 20 fishing rods mounted and ready to go.

We also really enjoy watching the Payne's team (the majority of whom have been there for many years) disassemble what could be a raft of six or seven boats to let one boat get out. This is a no-drama activity; everyone works together and there is never a scratch left on anyone's boat. All the captain of the exiting boat has to do is pay attention and listen for instructions.

On our visit to Payne's this year, we recorded some of what Frances calls, "The boat Ballet." We hope you enjoy watching real pros at work.

Thanks to Cliff, Sands and the Payne's crew for getting us in and out over the years. You know we'll be back next year.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The 2015 Catfish Tournament

Each year, we attend the Connecticut River Catfish Tournament that is held at Portland Riverside Marina, the place where we keep our boat during the winter. This year was the 20th anniversary of the tournament and we think we have only missed two in all of those years.

We shoot video of the awards ceremony and post it on YouTube and on the marina's website. The Gouin family, who own the marina and originally came up with the idea for this event, are all old friends and we're glad to be able to be part of it.

Portland's First Selectwoman, Susan Bransfield, always attends and this year, took it upon herself to create an official town proclamation honoring Ken Gouin and his late wife, Elsie. Ken, who wants nothing to do with cameras, speeches and presentations was forced to stand there and accept the proclamation. To watch him take the praise was priceless.

All the fish that are caught are eventually released but in the meantime are kept in a highly engineered rowboat filled with circulating river water.

Barry Gouin with one of the fish. Barry doesn't fish but is good at displaying a big one.

 There's a big picnic in the afternoon so those sides of beef have to cook for quite a while.

At noon on Sunday, the official end-of-fishing is marked by the firing of a cannon. This has to be loudest ceremonial cannon we've ever heard. We tried to photograph it up close one year and came away stone-deaf for the rest of the afternoon.

It's really nice to see the little fishermen (and fisherwomen) get their awards. Often they don't know what to say but that doesn't matter.

This is a really nice family event that makes us smile every time we look at these pictures and video. Nothing fancy, no dress code and no RSVP. Just show up and enjoy seeing your friends and neighbors. 

Check out the video, if you like. It's only 12 minutes long but gives and idea how a small community on the Connecticut river lives.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Block Island

We left Norwich on August 5, right on time, and had a very nice cruise to BI in bright sunshine and seas that were exactly what we would have wanted. The boat ran flawlessly and seems to have consumed less fuel on this 45 mile trip than last year. We guess that the work we put into the starboard engine over the winter paid off.

Our crew, once again this year, included Pooka, the Boat Cat. He puked a little on the way over but was full of fun once we got there.

"It doesn't get much better than this"
That's what you see on many of the t-shirts worn by boaters at Block and we couldn't agree more. We've probably been there 25 times over the last 30+ years and the island - at least New Harbor - never seems to get old. 

 4.5 miles from New Harbor inlet

Frances called Payne's before we left, as she always does, and we got the usual "come on over" in response. We arrived at Payne's flagpole and this year, rather than waiting for someone to finally notice us floating around, we were almost immediately directed to go "around back." While we'd usually rather be at one of the front docks, this year, looking out over the mooring field and "The Oar" was perfect. 

We were tied to an older 37 ft. Carver and we got to know its owners, who were very nice people and who, due to health problems, may very well be at the end of their boating experience. We did enjoy talking to them and they even pronounced us "good neighbors" as we were leaving.

As the days passed, more boats rafted up next to us. At one point, there were seven boats and we met just about everyone. Kids and dogs were everywhere and Frances, who could make friends with the devil, was in her element.

At one point, we were walking the docks just before sundown and came across a 1950 steel ex-military tug that is now operated by the Sea Scouts from Elizabeth, NJ. Of course, Frances had to strike up a conversation with one of the young crew members.

As the sun went down, we were glad to have the spot we did.

The Payne family has made many improvements over the years. The bar, Mahogany Shoals (The bar you've been practicing for), is bigger and they have added a dockside restaurant that we found to be quite good and not all that expensive.

One morning, we walked over to Old Harbor and bought a pound of very expensive raw shrimp. That evening, Frances turned those shrimp and some other simple ingredients into a delicious dinner.

Here's Frances' recipe:

¾ lb. uncooked shrimp
1 Medium Vidalia or Purple Onion, sliced in thin rings
1 shallot sliced however…
7 cloves garlic, smashed, ground or chopped. (Yes, 7)
1 large farm fresh tomato (skinned and quartered)
1- ½ Tablespoons Pesto (I used Classico jarred)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
I chopped up 1/3 small yellow squash, but they did not add to flavor. Maybe red pepper would work?

De-vein the shrimp (Run under cold water while doing it. Works great)
Start pan with oil on low to cook garlic, then squash or red pepper, then onions
Cover until all are tender
Add tomato and pesto
Add shrimp and cook until pink
 Sprinkle Asiago cheese or Pecorino-Romano over dish
 Serve over pasta, or have bread to sop up sauce (or just lick the bowl)

Editor's note: This made enough so that we could enjoy it again two nights later and yes, it was just as good. 

The available dock space was filled quickly by Friday night and the Payne's crew began doing their magic - rafting boats in what seemed like almost impossible places. When a boater wanted to leave, even if his boat was up against the dock blocked by four or five other boats, the crew went to work and got him out without ever touching another boat. All that is required is following directions, something we found out when it was time for us to leave. 

Cliff Payne, the boss, took charge of getting us out of the the raft up we were in and past a 50 footer and its tender that was docked almost right in front of us. As we moved forward, Cliff didn't get off in time and opted to take a ride back to his gas dock on the front of our boat. Frances and Cliff discussed cloud formations as we went around.

Old Harbor has become a little too successful 
As many of you who read this blog know, Payne's and the other two private marinas are in New Harbor. It was formed when they cut a channel through the beach to Block Island Sound many years ago. Across the island on its eastern shore is Old Harbor and in one form or another, its been the island's main harbor for a couple of hundred years.
About ten years ago, the state of Rhode Island's tourism office began an ad campaign promoting the state's beaches and Block Island as a summer destination. That advertising, which has increased in quality and quantity over the years, began to develop a lot more visitor traffic. More ferries were added (now from New London, Point Judith and New Bedford). Today, large ferries arrive regularly every day during the summer and deposit up to 1,000 tourists each.

This year and the past few years, we've found it less than pleasant to visit Old Harbor because the sidewalks are crowded way beyond capacity and every shop and restaurant are packed. Some folks even bring their cars that fill streets that are narrow and with limited parking.

If the beach is the big draw, visitors soon find that even that short walk can be difficult with strollers and coolers.

We don't mean to be cranky about this. We don't own property on Block Island but we do like to visit by boat and we do spend considerable money while we're there. We now avoid Old Harbor as much as we can because it is exactly what we don't want to experience during our brief vacation.

Maybe it's time for Block Island to ease up on the advertising a little.

We shot lots of video on this cruise, unfortunately much more than we can post. It takes a long time to transcode and then edit this material so our blog is a little later than usual.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Time to get some fuel

No work this beautiful August weekend. Sure, we had to do some packing and planning but other than that our biggest adventures was to take the boat out and fill it with gas.

We did spend an hour or so fabricating a little booster seat for our forward-facing cam. It was less than stable before and with the front bridge window rolled down, didn't have a really clear view. Our home-made bent aluminum bracket seemed to fix that.

While we were working the bracket, we noticed that the seagulls had targeted our brand new white hatch cover. It has only been on there for a week. We scraped off the fish guts but it is now stained, probably forever. Difficult to see in this photo but the bird shit is definitely there. Amazing how accurate those birds are.

On Sunday, we woke up the engines and went to the fuel dock for some gas. Our gauge showed 1/4 full and that turned out to be fairly close. We took 144.6 gallons in our 205 gallon tank. With that done, we're ready to spend a week at Payne's on Block Island. We leave on Wednesday at 9 am sharp. OK, maybe a little after that but we'll get there weather permitting.