Tuesday, July 22, 2015 (Martha's Vineyard to Block Island): As we leave the Black Dog Wharf, we reflect on our week on the Vineyard. Today, our destination is Block Island, RI, 45 nM southwest. The weather starts out murky and rainy off and on but without wind in the harbor. We are getting accustomed to the gloom. The forecast is for improvement as we proceed south. At 08:30 the heavy rain clouds shroud the old schooner riding on a mooring next to us.
Coming out of Vineyard Haven, we dodge the ferry coming from Oak Bluffs. The ferry plods on to the west and we turn tail into Vineyard Sound, comparative shelter from the churn of the seas coming from the northeast. I fear the weather gods have given us a bum steer. The sound is calm, though. We wake the friends as we pass the western cliffs and give them a ceremonial toot of the horn.
We put the hammer down and engaged Blackthorne in his work. Going past Gayhead we catch a glimpse of the sun off to the southeast. The horizon is clear ahead and a light mist envelops us as we enter Block Island Sound. The gods didn't lie, after all. We trim out at 28 knots in a light chop that we don't feel. The Admiral puts out a light breakfast of toast, cheese, and juice on the helm deck. I settle into the helm chair with my notes. I am writing a new novel I hope to publish before year's end. It is a mystery, the working title, Girl on the Beach.
In case you are wondering, we have at least one pair of eyes forward at all times and verbally pass off watch when we aren't looking. There isn't a soul on the water. Blackthorn says we'll be at Block Island New Harbor entrance on the northwest side of the island at 10:15. I have set an alarm for 8 miles north of Sandy Point, the position from which we ought to see landfall. I have programmed several turns for Blackthorne from that point on.
Making a landfall is always reassuring. Until we transited the Great Lakes two years ago, the Admiral always had trepidation about open water; lack of trust in the instruments, she repeated. Now, open water is old hat. We abide by "near coastal" rules, very rigorously.
As you can see the tide is low with plenty of exposed beach in the channel. The channel is wide and deep. The old lighthouse stands guard over the channel into Great Salt Pond. Marinas are clustered along the sound shore at the far end of the pond.
We pull into Payne's Dock. It is the closest to the town. The dockhand who catches our lines is wearing a teeshirt from Dunleavy's Pub on Sullivan's Island, SC. Dunleavy's is one of our beachy hangouts when we are in port. The hand tells us that the guy at the bar passed them out to all the dockhands when he arrived from Charleston. He points to a venerable ketch tied up to the T-head next to us. I happen to know Billy Dunleavy and that is his boat. We make new acquaintance at the bar over lunch of a burger and beer. At the end of lunch Billy tosses us his car keys and tells to go look around the island. He sails up to Block from Charleston at the beginning of the season to tend bar. He leaves his pub to his nephew to manage. If the fall suits him he points his boat to the Caribbean for the winter.
We do just that. His van has some age to it. The brakes kind of work and the trannie catches now and then. However, we do see the island. We visit the Southeast Lighthouse, a magnificent antique no longer in service. The spiral staircase to the light and lens is dizzying.
The next day we walk to town, having found our bearings in Dunleavy's van, yesterday. The town is typical beach hangout. The Ice Cream Place does a brisk business. The Surf Hotel overlooks the Old Harbor, which is on the Atlantic side of Block Island. The verandah restaurant sports the view. It is a good place for lunch.
High speed ferries come and go from the Old Harbor serving the Connecticut and Rhode Island shore on a frequent schedule. More people arrive than leave and it is a weekday. The weekends must boom, yet there does not seem to be much accommodation for the throngs on the street.
Grilling a piece of fish on board seems to be a pleasant way to end the day. The same gull keeps careful watch over the grill. Gulls are just rats with wings.