Saturday, August 3, 2002
In 2002, I parted company from my regular travelling companion and also stepped away from St. Barts Sailing, which had provided sailing companionship since I moved to New York. I searched for, and found, some new sailing friends at The Sailing Club, a New Jersey-based organization of sailors who do several charter trips each year
This story describes my first trip with the group, a long weekend out of Mystic, Connecticut.
I drove up Friday after work and was probably the last arrival, as many participants had taken the day off. It was pouring rain when I arrived, and I wandered around the docks at the unfamiliar marina for a few minutes searching out my assigned boat. I was fortunately to run into my crewmates just returning from dinner.
I loaded on my gear and discovered that I’d been graciously assigned the aft cabin — very comfortable! But then, we were just four on a 38-foot Hunter.
Once settled, I made myself a gin and tonic from supplies I’d brought and toasted my companions — Skipper Tom, Mate Mark, and Crew Judy. Drink in hand, the tone relaxed, I felt compelled to admit my apprehension about the weekend.
“I’ve never met a Hunter I liked,” I said, looking around the well appointed cabin.
The others laughed, and Judy said, “You sound like Tom, he called it a ‘cheap boat.'”
I was tremendously relieved to know my criticism was taken in the spirit intended, by a like minded sailor.
Saturday, August 3, 2002
We set out in the morning, after checking out the boats and a skipper’s meeting, to Point Judith. The boats rafted for a party. Some sizeable wakes moving through the harbor disrupted festivities a few times and were a harbinger of what was to come. One boat separated from the raft as the party was winding down.
I was awakened in the dark of the night by more, and more severe, rocking. The rafted boats were banging against one another. One boat’s toe rail caught under its neighbor’s, rigging threatened to tangle–it was a bad situation. Some fruitless effort was made to adjust the lines, but as another massive wake rolled through, the skippers conceded to the fishing fleet that was causing them. The raft broke apart and we all re-anchored separately. Crewmate Mark and I sat on the side deck trying to fend off our neighbor, discussing other midnight re-anchorings we’d been involved in.
Sunday, August 4, 2002
From Pt. Judith we sailed up into Buzzards Bay where the thick fog was rather disconcerting. Unbeknownst to me, my friends Roger, Fred, and Paul were sailing Roger’s boat, T.S. Ferry, in the same waters at the same time, making for the Cape Cod Canal. Not that we could have spotted one another in the fog.
After a great day of sailing, we took moorings at New Bedford Yacht Club and went ashore for dinner.
Monday, August 5, 2002
We faced stiff breezes leaving Buzzards Bay, so we set out with a double reefed main. By mid-morning it had lightened, so we decided to take out one reef. To our surprise and annoyance, the mainsail snagged in the process and before we could react it had ripped half way across.
We finished the run to Newport under just the jib, making as much as 7 knots anyway, but eventually having to resort to the iron jenny.
Newport offered a fascinating collection of classic yachts, and small boats to watch and admire. Once all four boats were safely docked we enjoyed cocktails, snacks, and stories of the day, including our adventure. Then the crews found their way to various restaurants for dinner.
The town was lively with visitors, and we strolled far down the main drag to a restaurant Tom remembered enjoying in the past. It turned out to be delightfully continental and far enough along to be off the tourist track. We laughed when we found the crew of one of the other boats already seated when we arrived.
I was personally pleased to find my crewmates, like myself, more interested in a quality dining experience than quantity. Walking back to the boat we made a few stops for souvenirs and ice cream.
Tuesday, August 6, 2002
Our last day would be a very long from from Newport back to Mystic. I took the helm at Point Judith and drove us all the way to Watch Hill on a screaming reach under just the jib. It was spectacular. Mark took over as we entered Fisher’s Island Sound and fought the current the rest of the way to the Mystic River.
Little did I know this was only a warm-up for the sailing I’d be doing in the same water a few weeks in the future. Not to mention the start of many years sailing with The Sailing Club.