Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Visit to Newport

We were invited to a very elegant wedding in Newport at the end of August. We're normally scruffy boaters, but for this occasion, we dragged out our best duds and headed out in the old station wagon.

Newport is a busy place in the summer but Frances was able to book us a room at the Pineapple Inn. It doesn't look like much but it turned out to be very nice, run by great people and only cost us a little more than $500 for the weekend. Oh, Frances made that reservation last winter so if you plan to visit and not spend the entire budget on a hotel, book early.

On Saturday, we (Frances' brother Fred and his wife, Kathy and Frances' sister Tina and her guy Dan) took a tour of the island, which was well worth doing. Our driver gave us a complete history of Newport that actually seemed pretty accurate and part of the tour included a stop at Fort Adams, where we got a good look at the harbor.

Our tour also included admission to two mansions and we selected The Breakers and Marble House on Bellevue Avenue. The Breakers (the most popular tourist destination in Rhode Island) is really overwhelming in size, especially considering that Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who built it, considered it a "summer cottage" and rarely spent much of his summers there.

One can only imagine sometime in the late 1800s when the butler called the staff together with the dreaded news that the boss was coming that weekend and will be giving a party for 200. Staff must have been busy especially considering that the vacuum cleaner wasn't invented until 30+ years later.

 As you'd expect, The Breakers "back yard" afforded a really great view.

 Next stop on our tour was Marble House, the summer "cottage" of William K. Vanderbilt. Built entirely of imported Italian marble (at a cost of $11 million in 1892), this place simply staggers the imagination. We guess it's worth noting that there was no income tax back in those days.

Needless to say, Marble House has a lot of stained glass windows and they are really breathtaking. These mansions aren't what we'd call exactly "homey" but they served their purpose, which was to impress a lot of other rich people, we'd guess.

Anyhow, seeing these two mansions was time well spent for us. It's always fun to see how these really wealthy people lived, even if they used these huge places for only a few days out of each summer.

On Sunday morning we took a hike along the Cliff Walk. We couldn't have asked for better weather but after a mile or so of the Cliff Walk, we certainly could have asked for better shoes. There were lots of rocky sections where we were only a few feet from the edge. Amazingly, there were no fences or the constant warning signs that we are used to here in Connecticut. It was nice to see people with their kids enjoying it all.

We shot just a small amount of video. Many of the people who follow this blog have been to Newport numerous times so the video is really just for us to look at next winter after clearing the snow from our driveway.

It was a fun weekend!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Taylor Made

If you have more than a casual interest in boating, it's likely that you've heard of Taylor Made marine products. If you own anything but a high end yacht, it's likely that you own a Taylor Made product. We have several and that small hatch shown above is one of them.

We've gotten past the "fix that right now" stage of boat ownership to the "let's fix that before it breaks" mode and that's what we did this weekend. Case in point: one of the two small Taylor Made hatches, this one over our guest berths. It didn't leak and never has but it also didn't open. Time to get out the tools and take it apart.

But first, let's get this out of the way: No criticism of how the Taylor Made hatch was made. For its time, 36 years ago, it was probably a fine and inexpensive hatch and many thousands of Silverton boats came equipped with them, ours included.

To open the old hatch, we disconnected the two sliding struts from inside. The gasket around the hatch was in amazingly good condition but the struts were frozen. The two latches, one missing its knob, were also removed. Don't think these things were supposed to squeak when turned, but both of ours did.

With all the hardware removed and the hatch glass cleaned, we hit the local Ace Hardware for some new 8-32 stainless bolts and matching stop nuts and washers. We also bought some large neoprene washers, which we trimmed to fit.

The struts required a little more work. Penetrating oil eventually got them working and a lot of intense work with steel wool burnished off most of the corrosion. The missing knob was replaced with a wing nut that no one will ever notice. Better yet, it works, just like the missing knob did.

With all of the parts laid out on the deck and all of our tools in place for reassembly, a really spectacular thunderstorm blew in, forcing us back inside.

Once the weather cleared, we finished installing the parts and enjoyed being able to open and close that hatch easily.

But, at least for us, opening those hatches will be rare. In warm weather, our air conditioning makes the boat very comfortable. Underway, in most conditions, running with those hatches open invites hull spray or even water into the boat. Maybe the occasional guest in that berth may want to open that hatch and if so, they can.

At least now, the damn hatch opens and closes as it should.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Block Island Cruise - 2016

 We left for Block Island on Thursday, July 21 (after waiting out one of those pesky "Small Craft Advisories") and came back a week later. It was a short week for us, since once we faded into BI vacation mode, the days simply slid by. We met lot of nice people, many friendly dogs and as always, had an experience that makes owning a boat really worthwhile. Should we add that we love Payne's Dock?

It was warm on the island while we were there but with a nice wind from the west, we never once used the air conditioning on the boat. Our fly bridge became our new living room, where we could watch the many boats come and go.  Frances insisted on cooking and we had many memorable meals, including a few breakfasts powered by Payne's famous killer donuts.

On Friday, we walked across the island to Old Harbor, where the ferries come in. One of the many ferries had just unloaded, and we were literally pushed off the sidewalk by the crowds. We retreated without exploring any of the Old Harbor shops but did some food shopping at the Block Island Market.

It's too bad that Block Island's tourism efforts have been so successful that the big ferries that arrive every couple of hours each disgorge 1,000 or so anxious people looking for the beach or food or a Moped to rent. Needless to say, Old Harbor is nice once the last ferry leaves in the evening.

We treated ourselves to lunch at Dead Eye Dick's one weekday and found it very nice. Earlier we had tried to get into The Oar at Block Island Boat Basin but were told (slightly after 1 pm) that there was a 90 minute wait for a table. No restaurent, in our view, is worth a 90 minute wait.

On another day, between ferry arrivals, we went to lunch at the old Surf Hotel. We've walked by this place at the corner of Dodge and Water Street for years and it was always closed and shuttered. Now it's not only open but has a very nice dining porch looking right over the beach. The food was good and the prices reasonable, so much so that we invited our boating friends Lou and Jane to join us there for dinner several days later.

From our vantage point at Payne's we were able to watch an amazing variety of boats come and go. Many of them were high-dollar cruisers but others were just people like us who were happy to chat, (and we all know how much Frances likes to chat, don't we?). A coastal cruise ship docked one day and its guests took a tour of the island on a waiting school bus.

No blog entry would be complete without mention of Pooka, our boat cat. He made the 45 mile cruise with only two pukes but once at Payne's, was in his element.

He gets a better view by climbing up the steps to the bridge and is happy to get a good snooze up there. But once we're sitting in the cockpit, he simply has to come out a join the party. He lets us know when he wants to come down and, of course, we always help him.

One afternoon, we took a walk though a nature path just off Beach Avenue. Frances spotted birds and we marveled at how beautiful the undeveloped parts of the island are.

On our way back, we shot pictures of some of the mansions that look out over New Harbor. This area can be really cold and windy during the winter but it certainly is beautiful in the middle of the summer.

We also visited the Block Island Marine Institute where a docent showed the kids live sea creatures that they could actually hold, albeit gently. The kid on the right is Frances.

Particularly around Payne's, it's obvious that others love Block Island as much as we do.

How can you not like this place when Payne's has this unique sign to identify where the men's room is?

 All in all, a great cruise and one that we'll remember as fondly as all the other times we have been here.

We put together some video, which we'll really enjoy watching again next winter after operating our snowblower.