We sailed off the hook from Dutch Harbor pretty hungry to devour the Western Narragansett one anchor-full at a time.
It’s always so satisfying sailing off the anchor. It’s so quiet and gentle and it’s true that doing so gets me (James) absolutely starving for adventure!
We weighed anchor early in the fog and reached all the way to Wickford, Rhode Island, with the freshening breeze. We put the hook down in the first gap we could find in the city mooring field. We dressed the boat ship-shape like we always do and set about figuring out how to navigate our way to the Wickford Marine Consignment store.
(By far the only reason for a sailor to go to a bum-fuck town like Wickford.)
Not 15 minutes after finishing the engine, we heard the familiar cop-horn sound of the local aquatic chesty authority figure, der Harbormaster.
This fucking guy!
I (Dena) had been doing some research into the anchoring rules of Wickford. We skipped it when we came through the area before, and I couldn’t remember why (other than it being a super-short sailing day from Dutch Harbor).
Turns out, the mooring field we anchored in wasn’t supposed to be a mooring field. The Army Corp of Engineers (ACE) had notified the town in the 1990s…seriously…that they were in violation by filling what should be a turning basin into a mooring field. Of course, ACE has no ability to fine or tax or otherwise punish, so their only recourse is to refuse to dredge the area again until it’s clear. And shoaling isn’t a huge problem there. The town placidly claimed that they would not put new mooring balls in, but that they wouldn’t kick any out if properly permitted.
Well, that meant to me that there should be gaps in the mooring field, and there were! We’d done our surgical anchoring and were swinging gently a safe distance from all the other boats.
But the interesting part was that I read all of that in a story about something else altogether. A woman had been living aboard her boat for quite some time on a mooring there and, one spring, without warning, she was told that she wouldn’t be allowed to go back to her mooring. She still had her boat, but was effectively homeless with nowhere to put it. A local marina owner coached her on anchoring alongside the mooring field, where they couldn’t kick her out, but Der Harbormaster proceeded to ticket her on a daily basis for anchoring in a mooring field, to the tune of $500 per day!
Now plenty of people had opinions about her, ranging from “raging alcoholic” to “can’t drink on the meds she takes” to “just another person trying to get by in this brutal world”. All we knew was that her boat was still anchored there, not far from us at all.
So when dude putt-putts up next to us, we greet him with the cheerfulness of the righteous. That devolved, of course, to the other forms of righteousness one experiences when overwhelming force is brought to bear against one’s peaceful exercise of simple rights.
No, we didn’t yell. I mean, maybe a little, but only enough to be heard boat-to-boat.
The legal argument didn’t work. The bad-for-tourism argument didn’t work.
What else can we do?! I (James again) told them that we would definitely remove that part of the guide calling Wickford a “…quaint and friendly little town”. Naw, we’ll leave “quaint” in there since the very word makes me want to retch, but the “friendly” has got to go!
Suddenly, the issue was where to go. Anchoring is allowed (gag) outside the breakwaters, but the wind was exactly wrong for a good night’s rest out there. Greenwich Bay was a ways off, but we could make it by dark.
I (Dena) took the helm and decided to shake the dust of that town. The wind had come up hard, but we reefed for it and took a close reach around a huge Navy blot on the coastline, then ran downwind to the Greenwich Bay entrance. Though against the current, the wind powered us on through to the beach off Goddard State Park.
Where we spent several days swimming and enjoying ourselves. It’s a party place and so not exactly the most restful locale, but enjoyable in the main. On the downside, we learned about a new type of vessel: a small party barge driven by a jet ski docked in a special slot at the back. It’s so fucking disgusting that we just had to mention it, not for its utility but for its name. It’s called “The Shuttle Craft”… Bastards!
The wake and churn was so incredibly busy in front of Goddard Park that we spent most of our time in East Greenwich off the boat, and really, that was okay. We had provisioning to do and other stuff to load up so we didn’t do a whole lot of Plastic Destroyer dissing.
Once again we sailed off the hook from East Greenwich and brought all point of sail to bear to Prudence Island, all the way around the island, and into Potter Cove where we shagged a mooring for a few more days.
Normally we don’t really trust other people’s moorings but this one was overbuilt with brand new hardware on it and we figured we weren’t going to stay through any inclement weather and it’s free, so, why not.
We did some island adventuring…
…And some much needed hull cleaning.
…And had an almost perfect time of it for 3 perfect days.
At this point we were well into the Eastern Passage of the Narragansett Bay and pointing the boat at Newport to get our mainsail worked on by the local Quantum Sails loft.
Because of the intense slatting of the main in the light winds and rollers between Cape May, NJ, and Block Island, RI, our mainsail was in need of some repairs to some of the luff slugs. We restitched the two that worked completely loose, and that was fine for the short term, but we wanted to get it fixed and done by the pros. Also, really, we wanted to check out the Quantum loft in Newport!
…and yes, it was cool!
…And so was Newport, Rhode Island!
We anchored on a Friday between Ida Lewis Rock (which has a yacht club perched atop its crags) and Newport proper. We motored in, turned about, and stuck it right where we felt safe: on the edge of the anchorage area in a nice big gap.
The harbormaster wants folks to check in and get an anchorage assignment, but we gave him the salty side-eye and did what we wanted. This time, we got two harbormaster boats buzzing around us…and a set of friendly waves once they’d confirmed we didn’t suck at picking our own spot. That’s right, Wickford! Fuck off!
Not only were the Quantum Sails people very cool to us, they fixed our mainsail to perfection with a less-than-24-hour turnaround in high summer! Wow!!!
Because of our clear sight-lines, we had the best seat in the house for the next while. We got a lot of great photos of the schooners plying the turkey trade, the sweet little wooden sailboats blazing along, and a Norwegian traditional ship that made the local papers.
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