Hamburg Cove

When last we spoke, we were irritated by a bay full of mooring balls. Our solid anchor job improved our mood and we decided to take a day for stick-around type fun. Rather than leaving first thing the next morning, James went aloft in an attempt to stop the banging inside the mast.

The VHF antenna is at the top of the mast and its cable runs down a channel inside the mast, along with electrical wire for the anchor light. A couple more electrical wires (foredeck light and steaming light) begin under the spreaders. Some or all of these wires have come out of the channel and they bang around inside when the boat moves in certain ways. Not while sailing, but while motoring sometimes and definitely at anchor. He took apart the foredeck light, hoping to reach into the mast from there and pull the cables forward with a zip tie, but the hole was too small to work with, disappointing him. Putting that back together involved two screws and a gasket, all of which had to line up perfectly on a surface pointing down. Of course, dropping any of those bits would have been tragic, since they would almost certainly have bounced right off the boat.

He kicked that project’s ass.

We still didn’t want to leave, so we went sailing.

I know, sounds like we left. But I’m talking about dinghy sailing.

The dinghy – Tinker – is a Dyer. After all that work we did, she rows wonderfully and it was time to find out how she sails.

The answer, to our great pleasure, is wonderfully.

Tinker wouldn’t sail into the wind before and still doesn’t point too high, but now she moves along nicely and tacks with ease. I found that I like sitting on the bottom rather than on a seat so that I can steer more flexibly.

We took her into the Setauket River, tacking back and forth, making the most of the soft wind. We were headed to a small store that sells ice – always good to have a goal, right? The tide turned and the wind died before we got to their little dinghy dock, so I beached the boat and James walked the rest of the way (not far). I spent the time being amused and disturbed by the antics of two horseshoe crabs. They were attached – for sex? – but the big one seemed to want to get away. It weirds me out when animal sex doesn’t look consensual.

When he got back with the ice, we each had a nice cold cup of iced tea before heading back.

And we didn’t make it back for quite some time. For a good reason, though. The beach across the bay looked too inviting, so we sailed past our boat and beached her for the second time. In moments, I was swimming while James tromped over to a sign. If we were breaking a rule, he wanted to know.

I sat in the sun, soaking up the D, while James skipped rocks. We drank more tea and swam again.

Ah, the hard life.

I felt like shaking up my system, getting my blood pumping, so I decided to swim back to the boat and leave the dinghy sailing to James. I was surprised, somewhat, by his lack of discomfort with the idea, since I would have to cross the channel on the way. He, of course, was planning on sticking close enough that he could head off any boats that came too near.

Stretching out in a crawl woke me up and made my muscles tingle. Sailing is exercise like pilates is exercise. It’s more about balance and grace and core strength, not so much about using those big slabs of muscle attaching the limbs to the torso. I didn’t have goggles, so I stopped occasionally to check my heading and to keep an eye on where I was in relation to the channel, but even those pauses felt good. I made it all the way across without seeing a single boat come along, but I did have a lovely vision to watch when I took a moment.

James sailed zigzags and circles, tossing Tinker around the bay with abandon. I could see how cutting the weight in half had freed the dinghy up to sail more dramatically. The wind was steady and the waves small. Perfect dinghy sailing weather. They were pretty as a picture, passing in front of our big boat again and again. I wished in that moment that I had a waterproof camera, but you will have to simply imagine it…

That evening, Dena and I (James) sat around and drank iced tea and had a wonderful pasta.  The sunset on the mooring field was truly inspiring.  We watched a local oyster harvester working his way through the ebb.

We laughed until it wasn’t funny anymore about the local ferry being named after P.T. Barnum.  We can only assume he was from there or something.

Early to bed, early to rise, got us out of Port Jeff at 0730. We motored through windlessness until noon, when the breeze picked up from behind and we started a downwind run to The Thimbles. So called, I imagine, because they are very small, somewhat tall islands. For this area, they’re practically mountains. I’d read that they were like the San Juans (not true) or Maine and also that they weren’t for the faint of heart.

We’re not faint of heart!

When we approached, I realized that the channel was smaller than I’d pictured. As we have been getting used to, every good anchoring spot was marred by a mooring ball. These all looked to be private – installed by homeowners on the islands, probably. Neither of us liked the first option (between West Crib and East Crib), so we continued around Pot Island to the east side. On the way through the little channel, a woman came out of her house and yelled at us. “There’s a reef off that rock. You want to come closer this way!”

There’s faint of heart and there’s due caution. We threw the plan into the wind – wheee! – and motored right out of the Thimbles. Sails back up, we slid up the coast at 5-6 knots on a beam reach, shaking out reefs as we went. Only a few hours east, we downed sail and puttered into Duck Island Roads.

The Roads are protected by the Kelsey Point Breakwater to the west, the beach to the north, and by the Duck Island breakwaters to the south east. There are gaps in this coverage, but it looked good enough for a fairly calm night.

We rowed to the beach – beached the dinghy again! We’re going to owe her some paint on the bottom! – and walked to Boston Post Road. Had a great conversation with a local guy who was a total sweetheart and offered us a ride to the supermarket, which we declined. A huge meal later – salad and great bread, fried fish, shrimp, scallops, and clam strips, with french fries and cole slaw – we stumbled back to the dinghy with Talisker’s and without ice.

The sand bar we bumped on the way in had become a serious problem. I was rowing, so James hopped out of the dinghy into the surf and jiggled us over the half-foot-deep sand. Over and free, he jumped back in and we returned to our home, which rode proud and light on her bridle.

I put the bridle to good use as a bathing seat.

This morning, James sips his coffee and says to me, “I see Jesus and her two dogs, Jesus and Jesus. They’re right here by the boat, walking on water.” They were walking on the nearly-dry sand bar.

The fog kept visibility down around 1 nautical mile. Fishing boats appeared and disappeared suddenly, closer than comfortable, but it eased by the time we got out of protected waters and we had no need to turn on the radar. I’m rather excited to use it in fog – not excited enough to head out into fog for no reason, but still. It’s why we have it. The mist faded the horizon into a dingy band around the world. New London on a weekend sounded less and less inviting as I researched pricing. For a floating dock with all the amenities, we’re looking at $100 a night and a torn-up old fixed dock (not even a nice strong fixed dock) would be $75. The municipal moorings are $35, but we had hoped for water to wash the boat down. We could get stuck because some rain is scheduled to come through and, at those prices, we’d bust the budget in no time.

Another option caught my eye. Flipping through the cruising guide, the Connecticut River sounded intriguing. Protected anchorages, decent current. Up at the end of my paper chart, there’s a place called Hamburg Cove. The cruising guide says pick up a private mooring – it’s not considered rude as long as you move if the owner shows up. Or pick up a $20 marina mooring.

Free rocks.

And it’s fresh water. So we could spend the busy weekend in an out of the way river, with fresh water for washing the boat and our bodies, and a free mooring? I love changing my plans.

We rounded the Saybrook Breakwater Light around noon and started up the river.

The railroad bridge is a bascule type, but it is up unless a train is coming. It was up when I first saw it, but it had time to lower, let two trains go by, and rise again before we got to it. Very cool.

This river stuff is lovely. I’m liking Connecticut in a lot of ways. It’s still too full for me – too many people, though the density is suburban – but the feeling is good.

We’re in Hamburg Cove now, clean and desalted. The water is a perfect temperature for swimming on a warm day and tomorrow we’ll clean the boat and, maybe, get some paint on the bits we’ve banged up so far. Maybe do a little caulking on the cockpit coamings. Shrug. Who knows? We’ll chill out here in no-internet land until Monday. We’ll head to New London and grab a spot on the town dock – 4 hour maximum, but no one monitors those things on weekdays!



  1. I did imagine it! The joy of James’s dingy sail, Tinker bouncing like the Itinerant’s wandering toddler through puddles, all splash and glee. Dena slicing through the water like a seal, pausing to snap a photo with her eyes. Big cartoon sun smiling, fish humming, little heart shaped bubbles bursting in between. What a lovely moment.
    So glad the job you gave me was to paint the rail of that tiny boat. It’s such a happy bouncing ball to follow along with your adventures. Seems like every time you take her out it’s cuz you’re having fun or mischief.

  2. PS: Your cut and paste job came through pretty well — on my netbook the formatting is choppy, but content seems complete. Also missing spellcheck, maybe? Worth it, though, this will work.

  3. I do like the pix. But, hey it is what it is. Sometimes we need to use our imaginations. As with you guy’s imagining whats around the next turn. Keep the stories coming and Thanks for a cool daydream for me.Aloha

  4. Oohh, oooh, Hey! Just remembered…I went to Cape May NJ on Saturday and saw a pair horseshoe crabs getting it on too! Little one on top as well, I reckon the the males are smaller. The tide was going out and they were getting creamed by the surf. They got knocked all over the beach but they stayed stuck together. Didn’t seem like their mating was too pleasurable, but hey, what do I know? If a spiney exoskeleton is your thing, more power to ya.

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