The Block Island Times

In Case You Haven't Heard

By Fran Migliaccio | Nov 23, 2012

On Thanksgiving Day, nine Block Island residents will depart these shores for Port au Prince, Haiti, to work in a Habitat for Humanity project sponsored by Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter called “Housing the Bottom Billion.” Approximately 600 volunteers overall will build 100 homes. The nine Block Island people who are going are David Kane, David Chatowsky, David Roosa, Herman and Linda Mast, Jim Rondinone, Terri Chmiel, Todd Tremble and Socha Cohen. They will return on December 2.

Socha Cohen obligingly provided more information: “Our job is to help build as many homes for people as possible. It all started with David Roosa having done similar work in Haiti last year. The Block Island Ecumenical Ministries-Roosa Fund is paying for us to go, and the Medical Center has been kind enough to coordinate all the shots and meds needed by many of us.

“The homes we expect to build will be very small, essentially one room, with windows, a door, small front porch and plumbing. People enter a lottery to win such a home, and when they do, they are encouraged to help build it. Once finished, people are taught how to grow their own food in the back yard as well. We may not solve all of Haiti’s social, political, economical and health problems, but we are showing them we care and are willing to help as best we can.”

Artist Leah Robinson passed along an anecdote about Block Island that she spotted in Reader’s Digest last month: “While we were visiting Block Island, off the New England coast, my friend, who’d had a few, called to ask me for a ride home. ‘I’m outside Iggi’s Inn,’ he slurred. After many hours, and even more miles, driving around looking for Iggi’s Inn, I finally found him. He was leaning against a large sign for the 1661 Inn.” (Submitted by Clayton Luce of Old Forge, N.Y.)

On the high seas

Captain John Eginton of schooner Mystic Whaler sailed through gales in a cruise of November 8, and wrote to tell of the adventure. “This was the first cruise we have ever done that got underway in November,” he wrote. It was chartered by none other than the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to stay underway 24 hours while conducting a sail training and navigation program for officer candidates.

“Having shoveled three inches of snow off our decks, we got underway from New Haven at 3 p.m. on Thursday, November 8. I have to admit that I did not want to go,” wrote the captain. They had sheltered in New Haven due to the winter storm, but deemed it safe to get underway again. Gale warnings were to be suspended at 4 p.m. The Whaler was scheduled to be in home port at New London by 3 p.m. Friday, November 9.

The sailing time between New Haven and New London is only six hours, so captain and crew headed west, making good speed in a north wind of 22 to 24 knots. By 6 p.m. they were making 10 knots under scant sail, with the wind gusting to 30. They learned from the radio that gale warnings had been extended until 11 p.m. They struck two sails and were able to slow to 8 knots.

The helmsman was soaked, doused in continuous salt spray. It was cold, with a temperature above freezing only because salt water does not freeze until 26 degrees.

At 10:30 p.m. they were at Execution Rocks light off New Rochelle when the wind shifted from north to northwest. “That was our ticket home,” wrote John, “so we tacked and headed east, turning our backs to the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building. Over the next few hours the wind occasionally moderated, teasing us into thinking we could set more sail. But then it would come right back up to 30 knots, and we would resume sailing east faster than we meant to, while drenching ourselves in spray.

“We arrived at New London Ledge Light at 10:30 Friday morning having sailed one and a half times the length of Long Island Sound in one night. The schooner was sheathed in a layer of white salt.”

John deemed it a privilege to sail with the dozen NOAA officer candidates: “As a crew and individually, they are impressive people, and each has made a significant personal sacrifice in order to become an officer in this country’s least-known uniformed service.”

He concluded, “I am indebted to Watch Captains Tommy Seda and Joe Walkden for providing me with the opportunity to sleep when shrieking winds allowed. I thank the Mystic Whaler for getting us safely through. At any moment I expected at least one sail to blow to shreds, but it did not happen. Once again I put the schooner in conditions I did not want her to be in, but she performed nobly and without a fuss.

“We docked in New London at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, November 9, 2012. And so ends this season.”

About town

The annual Thanksgiving Beach Walk, held in honor of the late Captain John R. “Rob” Lewis, will take place Friday, November 23 at 9 a.m., weather permitting. Starting point is the Town Beach Pavilion.

The annual Block Island Holiday Shopping Stroll provides great sales and holiday cheer from Friday, November 23, through Sunday, November 25. It’s a great way to pick up gifts and support local small businesses. In recent years, the stroll has garnered a number of shoppers who travel to Block Island specifically for the event, so best get out early for a wider choice of items.

North Light Fibers will offer tours of its newly expanded mill and a holiday sale of its woolen items on Friday, November 23, and Saturday, November 24, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The mill is located just off Spring Street, at the southeastern end of the Abrams Animal Farm.

On Friday, November 23, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., The Nature Conservancy will host an open house at The 1661 Inn.

The second and last opportunity to pick up Christmas decorations, gifts and baked goods from the American Legion Auxiliary Christmas Bazaar is Saturday, November 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Legion Hall.

The 5K Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, sponsored by the Town Recreation Department, invites walkers and runners to join in on Saturday, November 24, 1 p.m., beginning at the Town Beach Pavilion. Early registration fee is $20, race day registration $25. For additional information, call the Rec Department at 466-3223.

The 3rd annual Light Night Stroll will take place Saturday, November 24 at 4:30 p.m., starting at the library. Make your own lantern and join the parade of light through town.

Trivia tease

Bob Smith, whose “Block Island Trivia” book is available as a holiday gift from Island Bound and, asks us: “What five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist was engaged on Block Island this summer?”

In this space two weeks ago, the trivia question was, “How many foreclosures of residences have there been on the island in the last three years?”

The answer: “According to Housing Works RI, there have been two, from January 2009 to June 2012, as compared to 7,636 statewide.”

Bob reminds us that “Block Island Trivia” can be played on the boat or the airplane, when you get the quiz book from It is also available as a gift item at


Helen and Frank Magennis, married in a hurricane in New York City in 1950, celebrate their wedding anniversary on Sunday, November 25.

Happy anniversary to Joanne and John Warfel, whose anniversary also falls on the 25th.

Sara and Cliff McGinnes, married on Block Island seven years ago, have an anniversary coming up on November 26.

Joan and Howard Ballard, who recently moved to Florida, celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary on December 4.

Rheba and Bill McKernan’s wedding anniversary is on December 5.

Of cakes and candles

Happy birthdays to: Molly McQueeny O’Neill, Chloe Weber, Sarah Riordan Szabo and Dave Milner, all on November 27; Silas Littlefield “Dub” Barrows, whose 89th birthday is November 28; Logan Gibran, who celebrates his first birthday November 29; Greta Heinz, also on November 29; Kerri Walsh Johnson, November 30; Debbie Beck, Barbara MacMullan, Rick Batchelder and Yordanka Martin, December 1; David Graham and John Swienton, December 6; Bill Pease, December 8.

Let us know what’s happening! Visiting relatives, special occasions, updates on friends near and far, projects… Deadline is Tuesday morning, and Fran can be reached at 466-2892 or

Comments (1)
Posted by: Suzanne D Cotter | Nov 23, 2012 14:19

Peter Cotter thinks it was Michele Kwan who got engaged last summer...

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