Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer Vacation 2007 Days 8, 9 and 10

Friday 10 August 2007

We woke up to rain. We woke up to very strong winds, like 30-40 miles per hour. It stayed this way the entire day. Todd went in to shore to check in with the marina, I stayed aboard and didn’t leave the boat until the evening.

Normally when it rains like that there are 3-4 leaks in our stateroom that we have to place containers under to collect the rain. Somehow the containers stayed bone dry. It rained non-stop for the entire day, and these containers stayed dry.

We stayed indoors, made some soup and grilled cheese for lunch and watched 3 movies, while it rained outside. There were white caps on the water in the harbor, yet our boat stayed nice and dry. Out boat is also a very heavy boat, so it doesn’t bounce around too much in a storm like this. It was quite nice to just hang out all day, and not have to do anything.

We had decided that we were in need of some clean bed sheets. We were waiting all day for the rain to let up so that we could go in to shore and do the laundry at the marina laundromat. The rain never did let up. Around 5 or 6 PM we decided we needed to go in to do that laundry. I had already packed up the dirty laundry in the morning, and the dirty clothes sat there stewing in the bag all day. Neither of us wanted to sleep on the sheets that had gotten even grosser as the day wore on.

We packed up the laundry and the dogs into the dinghy, figuring they’d need to be walked as well. In the dinghy we bounced over the waves as we rode in, gripping the hand holds on the sides of the boat. We got a shore and I was trying to get out while Todd tied the boat up. We didn’t have Griffen on a leash, which to him means “Hey! Time to go swimming! Let’s go!” Splash! In went Griffen. He happily paddled around near the dock while I scrambled out of the dinghy after him. I managed to drag him out.

I dragged the sack of dirty laundry up the dock, in the rain, to the laundry room, while Todd tied the dinghy. He came in just as I was finishing loading up the washer. We broke out the Uno cards and began to play. We decided we were hungry and Todd called the one pizza place on the island. Unfortunately they did not deliver, so Todd called a taxi. The taxi dispatcher told him that the pizza place was about a mile a way, and that it would cost $10 each way to get there. We weren’t keen on paying $20 just to get to and from the pizza place, and decided to wait on dinner.

We continued to play Uno while we waited for our sheets to wash. Another couple came in to wash their clothes too, and we struck up a conversation with them. They live on the island, and he has a house cleaning business. Apparently he’s rather successful at cleaning houses, because he was driving a BMW SUV. (But then that leads me to wonder why he is using the laundromat at the marina if he is successful enough to drive such an expensive car.) Anyway, their names were Jose and Flavia, and they are very nice people. Jose offered to pick up a pizza for us if we ordered it, and sure enough he returned with our pizza. We offered to share it with them, but they’d already eaten.

We asked him a few questions about life on the island. He said that he used to clean Billy Joel’s house, and that most of the houses on the island are summer homes. The houses I had seen so far were the insanely huge houses facing the harbor. If those are merely summer homes, I seriously wonder what these homeowners live in for the other 3 seasons of the year. I also wonder what they do for a living to be able to afford such beautiful homes, and do they ever have time to fully enjoy these homes on the Island.

We finished the laundry, and double bagged it in trash bags to keep it dry for the dinghy ride out. By the time we finished the wash, night fell. It was completely dark on Shelter Island. There are few lights on buildings, and I don’t recall seeing street lights at that point. We made our way, in the rain, to the dinghy dock, and back to our boat. We got the dogs and the wash in, and then we had the challenge of how to find the boat in the dark mooring field. We, of course, forgot our flash light and laughed about how to find our boat in the darkness.

We found it; we came aboard and put the sheets on our very dry bed. It would seem that enclosing the cockpit has somewhat solved the problem of the leaky bedroom roof.

Saturday 11 August 2007
We woke up to a perfect sunny day. The turmoil that yesterday’s storm created was gone and replaced by clear skies, and flat water in the harbor. We decided to explore the island with an electric car that we rented from the marina office. It’s basically a more modern looking golf cart that travels at a maximum of 25 miles per hour.

We picked up the car, and drove off of the lot with it, only to see the battery gauge fall to 68% after we’d only driven it for a few minutes. We decided to go to one of the restaurants that would let us plug in while we ate there—there was a list of these restaurants in the car. We went to Pat and Steve’s and plugged the car in—we could recharge the car’s batteries while we charged our own.

We ate our breakfast, and then went back to the car to see that the gauge was even lower than when we went in. The woman at the marina office told us to return or plug in when it got to 50%. We were at 60%. We figured that something might be wrong with the car, so we went back. They plugged it in, checked it over and said it was fine.

We decided to explore the island by bicycle, then. We got on the bikes and didn’t even get to a mile when Todd said his knee was hurting him. Todd had a knee replacement when he was a teenager, and sometimes physical activity like a long walk or riding a bike is quite painful for him. We returned the bikes, and sat on the porch to wait for the car to charge up. After an hour it was charged, and ready to go.

We jumped back in the car, once again ready to finally check out Shelter Island. Overall, it’s a pretty place, and the people are very friendly. You can definitely see a difference between the people who are visiting and the people who live there. You can definitely see an affluent influence. We even noticed that when we were reading the local paper over breakfast—there is a feeling of wanting to preserve the island from things like traffic lights, chain stores, Starbucks and the like.

We headed over to Shelter Island Heights, which is the shopping area of the island. The Heights consists of maybe a half dozen stores. There were boutiques containing ridiculously “couture” items that I’d never wear even if I could justify spending the $200 for a sundress. We stopped in at Bliss department store, where I bought my favorite vacation souvenir, a green hoodie sweatshirt with “Shelter Island” embroidered in pink across the front. We popped in and out of the stores a little longer, and we stumbled upon a bakery called “Mark it with G.” Todd and I like to check out the local bakeries, and we popped in to sample the single best chocolate croissant we’ve ever tasted. We ordered a few and planned on picking them up later.

Our next stop was the Mashomet Nature Preserve. The Preserve occupies a third of the island, and is stunningly beautiful. We opted for the 1.5 mile loop, as it was approaching the end of the day, and walked along the path to check out what the preserve had to offer. We saw birds, tall bushy trees, a turtle, a gazebo that overlooked the water. Absolutely beautiful, and well worth the walk.

We went back to Mark It With G to get our croissants, and downed them on the way back to the boat. Well, it does take a long time to get anywhere on the island when you’re only doing miles per hour. We returned the car to the marina with 34% left in the battery. We puttered around on shore for a bit then headed back on to the boat to have some dinner. Todd had picked up some teriyaki sauce at the gourmet food store in town, so he put that on some burgers and grilled them up for dinner. Then we had some croissants as well.

The rest of the night we set on a few boat chores that needed our attention. The light in the bathroom ended up shorting out because water was leaking into it. He replaced the light, did some repairs on the generator, and on the bilge pump. Then he got into installing the radar.

We bought this radar system 3 years ago. We installed the dome on the mizzen mast, but never installed the parts that you actually use when you’re sailing. You know, the screen part of it that tells you where all the obstacles are. Lack of radar prevents us from going anywhere in the fog, so we decided to take the time to finally install the thing.

He managed to get it installed, but it wasn’t working. It was dark by then, and harder to see what was going on in the cockpit, so we decided to pack it in for the night and give it another whirl the next day.

The net upshot, we loved Shelter Island, and will definitely be back again. We’ve been wanting to go to the Island for several years now, and we’re thankful to finally have had the opportunity to see it.

Sunday 12 August 2007
We woke up early to make it out of Shelter Island on a favorable tide. The tidal currents in Long Island Sound are very strong because it is a relatively narrow stretch of water between the Connecticut coast and the northern coast of Long Island. The current is called “The Race” because it is so strong. When you time it right, the current will add considerably to your speed. When you are against it, then you will make very little progress against it.

We settled up with the marina, and untied the mooring and said goodbye to Shelter Island. We made our way out of the narrow passageway out of Coecles Harbor, and back toward the Connecticut coastline.

Our next stop would be Essex, Connecticut. Essex is one of our favorite spots on the Connecticut coast. It’s 6 miles up the Connecticut River from the Sound, and up here the water is fresh. We can swim in it without worrying about the dogs ingesting too much salt water. The fresh water is also good for our engine and toilet intakes, as it helps keep the systems clean from the salt built up that naturally occurs in ocean water.

Essex is a postcard town filled with historical houses built in the 1700s and 1800s. You can walk down Main Street and imagine that it doesn’t look too much different than it did back when the houses were built.

Last year when we were in Essex we had the pleasure of meeting Jim and Helene McMullen. We were sitting at dinner at The Black Seal with my brother Kaz and his family. Kaz and company drove down from their home in northern Connecticut to see us for the afternoon. That night we were at dinner and my niece, Hali, struck up a conversation with the couple at the table next to us. We ended up talking to these people all night. Todd invited them aboard to use the Internet, because Jim had mentioned that he was having trouble finding Internet access. We ended up talking to them late into the night and could have talked to them all night. We ended up hanging out with Jim and Helene for the next few days as well.

Coincidentally, Jim and Helene were in Jamestown, RI and managed to track us down last month. So we hung with them in July while there were visiting our state and we got to show them around our state too.

This year we haven’t had the chance to meet up with any other cruisers yet. But, Kaz and company will be joining us on Monday night because my niece Maggie and nephew Krystian will be making the trip with us for the week. So, maybe Hali will do her magic and introduce us to some new people again.

Sunday afternoon in Essex, Griffen and I went for a jog in the stifling heat. Then we all decided to go swimming. There is an island in the river directly across from our mooring field where we liked to swim last year. Seeing as how it was Sunday afternoon, the beach on the island was packed with boats. We motored the dinghy up a little ways and immediately drifted back into the anchored boats. The flow of the river combined with the outbound tide created a very strong current in the river. We gave up on swimming after about 20 minutes only because it was so hard to stay with the dinghy. It was just enough to refresh Griffen and myself.

We went back to the boat and chilled out for a bit then headed into town for dinner at The Black Seal. As we were leaving the restaurant I saw a flyer for a trolley that runs through Essex. We walked down to the Connecticut River Museum to catch the trolley, and we got a chance to see more of the town that we hadn’t been able to explore before because we didn’t have a car.

The trolley took us past the Connecticut River steam train, and we thought that would be a fun thing to do on Monday. I grew up in Connecticut, and completely forgot about the steam train. I had never gone on it as a child either. The trolley is a new thing they’re doing this year, and it’s great because the drivers are willing to take people off route to places like the hardware store and the supermarket.

We headed back for the boat, got into the dinghy, and motored north to explore more of the river. We went through Hamburg Cove and checked out the area in there. Then we headed home, to the boat. I went ashore to wash a load of towels and other clothes that we didn’t get to wash on Friday on Shelter Island, and Todd worked on the radar some more.

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