Sunday, August 13, 2006

Perfectly Ending A Vacation

Normally I end a sailing vacation in a horror show of motoring into 20 knot winds, rain , and six foot chop. By the time I get back to the dock or mooring the vacation forgotten in drenched clothes, broken gear, empty fuel tanks, stress of getting myself together to go back to work.

This time was characterized as one of the best sailing days of the year - the kind of day where the tide, wind, and sky all come together to make almost a spiritual experience! The sky was deep blue with little puffy cumulus clouds over land and a few high cirrus clouds all in a deep blue sky. Wind out of the north, and the tide in flood (the best for going west in Long Island Sound). A perfect beam reach. It was the kind of day you want to hand steer the whole day so you don't miss any of it!

But how did I get here? When last you heard, I was at Watch Hill, RI. Well, that's a long story.

My friends, Herb & Gina and Bob & Carol started their journey back to Stamford, CT on Saturday and I sailed over to Fisher's Island to anchor for the evening. Once the thunderstorms passed through Thursday night, the weather turned really pleasant - in the 80's during the day, 60's at night.

Fisher's Island, the island that is the southern bound of Fisher's Island Sound (obviously) and between Watch Hill, RI and the Race at the very north eastern end of Long Island Sound is actually part of New York State. It's obviously nowhere near New York, but that's a whole 'nother story.

On the west end there's a harbor with a large anchorage outside, called interestingly enough, West Harbor. Given that the prevailing summer winds are out of the southwest, this is well protected and the holding ground is perfect. The only thing you need to be aware of is the rocks and in the south eastern end. You'll see them before you hit them. The only direction the harbor isn't protected in is to the north east.

I spent the day swimming and kyacking throughout the main harbor. The Fisher's Island Yacht Club is in there and also a fuel dock. There are a few pretty inlets that go on for quite a bit, almost bisecting the island. All very pretty. I think I could live there! If you look at a chart, you'll see that West Harbor is only about 5 nautical miles (nm) from Watch Hill, so it's a really short sail. There is a store on Fisher's, so if you really need food, then you can get some.

Monday I was supposed to pick up my friend, Julie, (the very same from the Bermuda trip) for a couple of days of sailing about, so Sunday I sailed the 3 nm to Spicer's Noank marina. They're a Boat U.S. participating marina so if you're a member, you get a discount on slip rates.

I can't say enough good things about Spicer's. The docks are floating concrete - solid and well maintained. The heads are clean and comfortable. The office people are universally friendly and helpful, and Abbott's Lobster In The Rough is a short walk away! In fact, within easy walking distance is a general store with an excellent butcher, and four restaurants, including the aforementioned Abbott's. Next to Abbott's is Costello's Clam Shack. Get it? Abbots and Costello's? These links may not be working. Do a Google search if not. But Noank, CT is so small that you can walk easily from one end to the other in 10 minutes with a few minutes left over.

Back to Spicers - I spent the day cleaning the boat for company, talking to people on the dock and generally just fooling around. It was a pleasant day, to say the least. In the evening, I walked over to Fisherman's Restaurant about a half mile away to the west. After a very pleasant meal, I tootled on back to the boat to sleep.

The plan was for Julie to get there around 1 pm so we could get the outgoing tide for Newport and Naragansett Bay (we were going to Bristol), but due to traffic and other delays she didn't arrive until about 3:30pm, or the end of the outgoing tide. Since I'd gone shopping and had a fully stocked larder (from the general store mentioned above), we decided to just go to Fisher's Island again to anchor. So that's what we did.

I grilled some fresh chicken and made a salad, and we ate in the cockpit watching the sun go down. Very relaxing.

The next day, which would be Tuesday, we sailed from West Harbor west past New London and then back to Watch Hill, RI. It was a day of swimming and kyacking again - Although Julie had to get some work done, so I spent the day doing other stuff. That night, we grilled steak, had salad and rice & beans. Mmmm. Eating during sunset is really special. The moon was full so it was almost like day. The sky was totally clear. Very beautiful.

Wednesday we sailed back to Spicer's and I got a slip for the evening. We ate on the boat again, and Thursday morning I had to start my journey back, so Julie left the boat at 6:30 am so I could catch most of the tide back towards City Island.

The wind was 8 to 10 knots out of the southwest which is exactly the wrong direction for going southwest - I ended up motoring the day to Milford, CT, just west of New Haven. It was a long day of motoring but the autopilot really helped with that! I got to sail for about an hour before I anchored in 'The Gulf' north of Charles Island outside Milford Harbor. The holding ground is pretty good, and as the afternoon and evening got on more and more boats joined the anchorage.

At low tide there's a bar that connects Milford to Charles Island and apparently a number of people walk the bar and around the island. They fly kites from the bar. And just before it's flooded again, they run back to the mainland.

A few thunderstorms moved through north of us and the wind moved to the north during the night. The next morning it was 65 degrees and breezy and brilliantly sunny. I motored out of the anchorage and set sail as soon as I was clear of the marking bouys.

That brings me to the wonderful sail back to City Island. As I mentioned, it was one of those days that makes the whole boat ownership thing worthwhile.

I figures I'd refill the fuel tank at Capri Marina in Port Washington (Manhassett Bay). It turns out that it's been purchased by Brewer's - who owns a large number of marinas in the northeast. They have universally driven up prices for slips and moorings and apparently have the attitude that if you own a boat you should pay through the teeth. It should be painful.

When you go to one of their marinas, not only do you pay top dollar for the slip ($3.00/ft/night during the week, $3.50 during the weekend) but you pay extra for electricity. In other words, for the price of a decent hotel room with all of it's amenities, you get a hole in the water. Nothing more. Also, although I don't use their services for repair, I've been told, at least in the case of Yacht Haven in Stamford Ct. that it's less than stellar and expensive besides.

Because of this, I no longer go to Branford (because Lenny's is there) , Greenport (Preston's is there), or any other Brewer's marina. I'm not against making a profit. I am against usury. Spicer's was $2.50/ft/night but discounted for Boat U.S. members, so Inertia ended up being like $67/night with electricity included. No extra charge. In fact, they were surprised when I asked about that.

Remember, transients are not in slips, generally, that are transient only. They are already sold for the summer and provided to transients when the owner is out. So the marina makes the money for the summer (very expensive at Brewer's - in Stamford, $122 - $133 per foot) plus anything they make from transients. It's win/win for the marina. I don't feel bad for them. But of course, if Brewer's raises their prices, so do other marinas because, well, they can. It's partially the reason I left mine in Harbor House.

I can't do anything else but vote with my money.

End of rant. It falls under the heading, "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do that something". It's a great big nose thumb to customers.

Well, I got back to City Island Friday evening, had a great dinner and met some more of the members. It was a very pleasant end to the vacation. I'm only sorry I can't continue...

Next weekend is another weekend, eh? See you on the water!

1 comment:

Zen said...

Bob my man, Sounds like good times!!

After hearing about Brewers, I do not feel so bad visitng a place that charged 1.00 a ft for over night.

Sounds like Brewers is owned by the oil companies, or at the least follow thier handbook.

It is all about money for many in this world!