A Circumnavigation of Fisher’s Island

The day was absolutely perfect.

I rowed in to get ice, take out the trash, and arrange for a short-term slip.  We have some work to do on the dinghy, and it’s hard to take something apart when you use it a dozen times a day.

This is an entrance to the marina – bathrooms to the left.

First we had to clean the bottom.  Rather than break out the brushes, we went for a sail.

James dropped the pennants that attached us to the mooring.  I pulled the jib out as we blew down on the wind.  In very few moments, we were sailing out of the mooring field.

Down the river we sailed.  The wind was fresh, the sun was shining, and it was warm.

We ran downwind under jib alone until we got past the bent number 5 green.

Somebody must have smacked this thing awfully hard, because they’re made out of solid stainless steel beams and tough stuff that normally you would want to avoid while underway in a little plastic boat.

James raised the main and tied two reefs in right away.

We were promised 10-20 all day, and that’s what we got.

James decked himself out for all weather before we got started.

I was acting like it was summer.

We had a goal for the day – to circumnavigate Fisher’s Island.  That involves leaving the river, transiting the infamous passage between Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound, known as “The Race” for its swift currents, and rounding back up through Fisher’s Island Sound.

Race Rock is well marked.

We sped through the Race at 6-7 knots, picking up a nearly 3 knot boost by hitting the Race at the strongest ebb.  Then it was broad-reaching down the Fisher’s Island shoreline with the Monitor doing all the work.

That’s James, on watch.

At this point, we’d had the wind mostly behind us, meaning our speed was subtracted from the speed of the wind.  Now it was time to round the tip of the island, bringing us into the teeth of the wind.

Rather than aim a little farther out to Lord’s Passage, we cut through Wicopesset Passage.  This seemed like a fine idea while we were going with the wind and current and clipping along.  It was almost like we hit a brick wall.  The Nor-Wester was on our bow, kicked up to about 15, and the current was now our enemy.  We nearly stopped in a dangerously rocky passage.

We headed for the green, which we thought should be on our port side, but that put us in shallow waters, too close for comfort to the Wicopesset rock pile.  With no power from wind and being swept toward the rocks by the current, we made a very modern decision.

Kick up the diesel!

Whew.  Through the passage and into Fisher’s Island Sound.  In here, the wind was right where we wanted to go.  We tacked back and forth, back and forth.  We turned away from the island – Stonington, then it was Mystic, then it was Noank, then we were done.

With 4 hours of beating between us and Burr’s Marina at 3:30pm, we made our second modern decision of the day.  Motorsailing.

We discussed what we’d do if that wasn’t an option.  Well – we would have taken the wider passage.  Or we would have tossed the anchor out and waited for a favorable current.  When we were getting our asses beaten in the Sound, making very little ground toward our destination, we could have easily anchored on one side or the other.

The diesel’s aboard, and we’re going to continue putting it to use when we feel like it’s an important piece of equipment for keeping us on the water, safe, and enjoying ourselves as much as possible.  We want to be purists.  We want not to rely on the evil, destructive fossil fuel industry.  To our credit, we did spend about $25 on fuel last year.  And in our opinion, that’s still too much.  But it got us back to the dock in less than 2 hours and, yesterday, it was worth it.

Quartering the waves under power, we rose and fell, rose and fell.  The cat looked funny, but he was not happy.  The paying customers on the Schooner Argia weren’t moving much on deck either.

Back at Burr’s, we pulled into a slip with contrary (and strong) wind and current.  Sigh.  We got’er done, and that’s what matters.

And a few hours later, at high tide, we pulled the dinghy onto the dock.  The bottom was much, much cleaner than it started, but this morning, it still looked like it had been slathered with hair gel.



  1. These images are beautiful. What a metaphor. That top one of Dena? Squared to breech a neighboring empire. Kingdom of the Box Dwellers: rigid, symmetrical, lines and angles and little balcony cages. Hard red, iron red looming far beyond the frame.
    All the rest? Your whole world is blue.
    A swollen sail is a poetic thing.

  2. I just discovered this handy lil website: http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/
    The Mystic Whaler is on there, it’s fun to watch. Like a fish tank. I don’t see the S/V Itinerant in the area, though. Why is that? I wonder. Maybe you do not have an AIS on board? It’s required for ships over 300 tons, I read, but maybe you are smaller than that. I have no gauge, don’t know how big that is, couldn’t figure it out.
    I’m sure you carefully considered whether you’d want an AIS or not. Tell me about the pros and cons of that thing?

    1. We have used marinetraffic.com ever sense we sailed away from Baltimore and I really use it now that Dena is underway every day. I track the Mystic Whaler whenever I’m missing her and it makes me feel like she’s closer to me somehow.
      We don’t have AIS on S/V Itinerant, we prioritize ourselves right out of it every time we get a little spending money in our pockets. It’s not that it’s not cheap, it’s just not on the top of the “needs” list yet.

  3. Aloha and What ‘s happening with you guy’s ? I hope that things are well with you’s. Did I just write YOU’S ? Hahaha Yes, I did.
    Be safe and update us poor slobs , when you can. Happy boating….

    1. Our friends who just recently tried to sail to Hawaii had an experience that truly changed their lives.
      You’ve all see his posts on this site, his name is Zen and there is a link to his site on our front page. Please go to his site, read their story, comment and help if you can.

  4. Today I learned about knots. I learned how fast a sailboat goes, how fast a “plastic destroyer” goes, how fast a big cargo ship goes. Next time you say the knots you’re making, I have a typical range in mind to compare to.
    Also taught myself about the Beaufort Scale and learned what 40 foot waves really means. It means you shoulda drowned, doesn’t it?

    I miss you two, like Tom. I know you’re both working like busybusy beavers and you’ll be back when you’ve got the leisure for extra. Just lemme wave and say I’m listening, I’m listening! Whenever you have stories for telling, I’m still here.

    Until then: Hi! I’m updating your page! Tom, Zen, Dean, Jennifer, Alan Gilmore, Heinz O., Glenda…any thoughts to add?

    1. !!!Wow, so much has happened and we both admit that we have been lame-ass bloggers…
      I quit the marina in Niantic, it turned out to suck beyond words.
      Dena has a-shit-load to talk about her book, her job, her ship et-cet but I’ll let her catch you up when she gets let out of the bilge. As for me, I’m looking for work (SUCKS!) and keeping S/V Itinerant shipshape.

  5. James I’m totally doing that too — tracking the Mystic Whaler — and I mostly just feel like a stalker. But it’s so soothing I can’t quit. There she goes! Here she comes! 5.2 knots this last hour! It’s mesmerizing. But hey, I’m learning about other classes of ships and speeds and ports and making inferences about why boats take certain routes and stuff. Let’s call it educational and leave it at that.
    Oh, hello, hello. I love you back! (Totes obvi, as my kiddos say.) Besta luck with the job searching. I’m gonna go unfriend 3 Bells right now.

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