The Block Island Times

Shooting the breeze part II

Aug 08, 2012
Sunrise at Bristol Harbor

Stories from the Big Bear, as she sails the waters around Block Island with her crew of two humans — the first mate and galley slave — and one dog, the Commodore.

The Big Bear Blog Installment Two

Word Count: 2,404

Margie Bucheit


Monday, July 30, 2012

There was fine sailing to Bristol this morning, across Narragansett Bay, in a light breeze. The crew commented on a house at the tip of Conanicus Island that is the spitting image of a house in the movie Moonrise Kingdom. It was red, with a tower. Had to be the same house. And then further on, plunked down on the beach at Prudence Island there was a small lighthouse that looked like it had been an extra in the movie.


We went to see Moonrise Kingdom before setting sail on Big Bear. The commodore is not interested in movies unless animals are featured, the more the better. But the captain and first mate happened to know Brenda, who worked on this particular film. And it was made here in Rhode Island. How fun is that? We have tried to identify some of the filming locations. We’ve nailed four, we think: The red house, a lighthouse, Camp Fuller Road in South Kingstown and Ell Pond in Hopkinton. Oh and that Lilli Pulitzer dress the mom was wearing? Well, I saw a size eight of that dress (different colors though) at a consignment store on BI.


Around lunchtime we dropped sail and motored into a cove called Potters that the captain knew about. We dropped anchor, but no one was swimming from the other boats, so we didn’t indulge. But the commodore demanded a shore visit via his dinghy and the captain obliged. They puttered around for an hour or so but did not find any lost artifacts or even good shells or rocks, so came back. Then time to pull up anchor and head into Bristol.


“You take the helm,” the captain demanded of the first mate.


Uh-oh. The commodore, hearing this, went immediately below and buried himself between some stowed sheets, pillows and towels. The captain went forward to deal with the anchor. The first mate reluctantly took the helm and engaged the engine.


“Reverse,” the captain yelled. The FM reversed.


“Forward, quick!” Captain ordered.


“I can’t it’s stuck!” the first mate whined. At which point the captain came running in a jiff; mud caked from dealing with the stuck anchor. He gave the gearshift a healthy shove sending the mud everywhere, including onto the first mate.


Smart commodore to hide out.


“I thought you had to be gentle with it,” the FM said in explanation, regarding the gearshift.


“Just get us out of here,” the captain barked as he went below to deal with the mud in his hair.


Under sail, we arrived in Bristol, and hailed the Yacht Club. The Captain took over the helm. Lots of boats. We dumped the sails. We were told to look for the mooring near a bright orange O-day. The First Mate spotted the boat (it was very orange) and snagged the line on the first try. Then the crew tackled the mud on the decks from Potters Cove. The mud did not come off easily.


Ready to light the stove to cook up dinner, the first mate noted that the propane was low. Difficult! And the commodore was once again demanding shore time. The captain said he would ask around. He hailed the club launch service for a pick-up and headed in with some other local members. He asked Lyndon the launch driver and club steward about the propane issue


“I’ll give you a ride to a hardware store in town with a propane filling station,” a guy on the launch offered. He was going there anyway. Young Lyndon, launch driver extraordinaire returned with the captain and for the empty propane tank. The commodore was pretty snippy that he was not invited along for the ride. Stuck on Big Bear with the first mate, he demanded at least dinner, then settled down by the helm to wait.


The galley slave got down to business. There was the tricky question of a boat dessert for tonight’s dinner. We had picked some Block Island blackberries that were ripe. On line the galley slave found a good a recipe for a crumble. It would go into the oven when the propane returned.


Good thing about that dessert planning. The captain arrived with company! John T., a friend, arrived with a good bottle of French Cotes du Rhone wine. We told him he could stay as long as he wanted for dinner and the commodore was forced by the captain to give up his spot at the table.


We heard from Breezes. They sent us a picture of a boat in rain and fog. Well, what do you expect in Maine? We had dinner outside and watched the sunset. After the crumble, John T. headed ashore. All the dishes got done except for the crumble pan. We made an executive decision to let it soak. As far as we know there are no ants on Big Bear.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A beautiful sunrise woke the commodore early. He insisted the rest of the crew take a look and suggested a ride into the dock by dinghy. It was 5:30 am. The crew looked at the sunrise, and then told him to shove it regarding the dinghy ride. He could just wait until at least 7 am. He went back to bed.


At around 8 am the entire crew headed in to avail themselves of the Yacht Club showers. Really great with lots of hot water. The commodore walked along Poppasquash Road to check out the local scene. He and the crew also watched with interest as some gnarly students bound their sailing instructor to a chair. We were worried they were going to cook him up for dinner but he must have gotten away because he was gone when we checked up on him later.


We then brought Big Bear into the dock to stock up on water.


“How’d you get that mud on the boat?” Steward Lyndon wanted to know. From Potters Cove, we told him. We don’t have mud like that on Block Island, we said, just sand. The galley slave brought out some 409 to get rid of the rest of the Potters Cove muck. She was glad the captain did not mention the rest of the mud story.


Bristol Yacht Club member Harold, who sails a 23-foot Sea Sprite stopped by for a chat. Harold has sailed for many years, many of them single-handed. He loves Bristol and wanted to know how the Commodore handled boat life. The First mate said he did OK, and stepped on the Commodore’s foot when he tried to say he would rather get off the boat and leave with Harold.


Sails at ready, water restocked, Big Bear left Bristol, heading for Conanicus Yacht Club with a south wind on the nose. It would be a beat and probably some motoring. The crew wanted to anchor in Mackerel Cove for a swim and then catch their mooring by dinnertime.


“Look at that sky,” the Captain said. Ominous clouds and the winds picking up. Mackerel Cove might have to wait. A few hours later, under the Newport Bridge, two freighters coming and going around us, we hailed Conanicus. Big Bear is bouncing around like a top.


“Where are you?” the first mate asked the Conanicut steward via marine radio. Directed to the third dock down from the bridge we spotted their flag. The steward came out in his launch to show us our mooring. It was one the first mate had never encountered. She missed it on the first snag. On the second snag she was able to wrap a part of it around a cleat.


“I’ve never seen anything like that,” she snapped at the captain. It had two ends that attached to the mooring line and about eight floats on it. Tricky.


The crew donned raingear and headed in to Conanicus Island to do some exploring and pay the taxes.


“What kind of dog is that?” a lady asked at our lunch stop. The Commodore was hiding under the table trying to stay dry. He had forgotten his foul weather gear in the dinghy.


“He’s a Scottish Terrier,” the captain said. The Commodore allowed himself to be petted but he let the lady know he was miserable. He really does not like water except to drink it.


The rain cut all explorations of town short. We headed back to the boat and hunkered down as the weather worsened. On this mooring, Big Bear rocked like she was out at sea. Everyone went to bed early after a game of Bananagrams. Everything on the boat was damp. That’s sailing for you.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

“This is more like it,” the commodore said. The Big Bear crew had picked up a mooring at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport. We were finalizing payment and the Commodore was listening carefully to the transaction.


“He seems a very well behaved dog,” Roisin, one of the club stewards said. The Commodore’s ears perked up at that and he gave her the “wave.” It’s always good to be able to pull a trick out of your hat when needed.


Then a walk into town where a pair of white female labradoodles caught the Commodore’s eye. They spent a few minutes checking him out but then decided to move on. The Commodore did not seem too dejected about this.


Later, the crew took the dinghy over to Fort Adams for a walk, a run on the lawn and some exploration. A good time was had by all before returning to Ida’s place to clean up for a visit to the club for drinks.


We saw Roisin again. She hails from Kinsail, Ireland which is Newport’s sister city. She has worked in Newport for two summers now and plans to go to college this fall back in her home country. The Commodore really liked her Irish accent and suggested we go to Kinsail for a visit one day.


“You have to get on a plane,” we told him. We are pretty sure the Commodore would hate a plane, finicky as he is about loud noises and heights.


At the Ida Lewis Yacht Club we saluted the sunset with a glass of wine. The First Mate received a sunset photo of a beach in southern California from her cousin. It was in response to one sent by us the day before, in which we were at the helm of Big Bear, soaking wet and in the fog. We took a picture of the perfect harbor that surrounds Ida Lewis and sent a return. I think this evening we won the photo wars. We also heard from Breezes. The crew said they were hunkered down in a hurricane hole for the night and Commodore Seamus was miserable.


An Ida Lewis Yacht Club member asked us about the Block Island Yacht Club, the clubhouse in particular. Well, we said, it’s in someone’s barn right now. Well that’s a first she said. She had never heard of a yacht club that met in a barn. We said we thought the BIYC members might be happy to build a clubhouse if someone wanted to donate a five million dollar piece of waterfront salt pond property for the cause, but for now the barn is perfect for meetings and such. Maybe not for luncheons.


Friend John T. again materialized, again with wine, this time a good California red, definitely not Gallo, so he was allowed to stay for dinner. We had a pan seared organic steak from a farm in central Massachusetts, roasted potatoes and salad. The steak was flavorful and really chewy. The Commodore said if we didn’t like it he would gladly finish it off. Got John T. out the gate and the Commodore walked before the Club locked up at 9:30.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Another mutiny aboard Big Bear.


“There’s a reason there’s something called a poop deck on boats,” the Captain said to the Commodore at about sixish. “Seamus knows what a poop deck is and how to use it. Why don’t you?”


The Commodore was having none of it and went into stubborn Scottish Terrier mode. Since the gate to Ida’s was still locked, the Captain found a route around the pier to the nearest beach.


After breakfast, gear was stowed for the sail home. Fog settled in. We had sails at ready but no wind. The fog thickened as we left Newport and passed Castle Hill. Beavertail Light became invisible. The First Mate went below for the foghorn and blew it in the Captain’s ear to make sure he was awake.


Horns from other boats, invisible in the weather sounded around us. Some were deep, meaning BIG SHIP. A Beneteau 40 materialized out of the mist. We were on the same heading for awhile and sailed side buy side.


Then, somewhere off Point Judith, the fog miraculously lifted. There was the lighthouse and the ferries. We sailed on to Block Island, Buoy One BI, on a heading for home.


At the Salt Pond Harbor entrance, the Commodore dug himself out of his lair in the rear berth. He came up on deck to see what was what. There were those same guys fishing at the channel entrance. And there were those two tugs. There was one big yacht and The Oar seemed to be hopping.


The crew went for a swim in the Salt Pond and then for a ride to dinghy beach. The Captain went for a run. For the time being Big Bear will just stay moored at her favorite port of call. The moon came out after dinner and the ctenophores, those nonstinging jellyfish, have moved in for August, sparking the water with nighttime phosphorescence.


The Commodore settled down early after his voyage and a visit to the beach. The captain forgot to tie up the dinghy after that last visit and had to jump in and swim after it. Training for the Block Island Triathlon helped. He got it.


And good news from Breezes. The crew said fair winds and skies finally arrived in Maine. Tomorrow they head east, to somewhere near Blue Harbor. For tonight, it’s Camden.


Tomorrow, we will be here. When Breezes returns from gunk holing around Maine, maybe we will meet up at Cuttyhunk. With sailing, it’s all about the weather.












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