Hamburg Cove, Essex, CT

Posted Oct. 18, 2008 at 05:54

It would appear that we brought summer to this part of the US since the day (Oct 7) we arrived at Beverly, MA.  Every single day was nice and warm, temperatures reaching 20C and beyond...  And, the forecast for this coming weekend is still more nice weather.   As soon as we stop somewhere it's tee-shirt time - too hot with anything more.  I'm now even more worried about the punishment that has to follow such nice times...

Our passage from Boston to the Cape Cod Canal eastern end was uneventful.  The "harbor of refuge" at Sandwich, MA is a small cove with a hundred boats or so crammed in tightly so that there is barely a boat-length to turn or maneuver between the docks.  Fortunately there was almost no wind.  The dock cost $80 for a night (with no electricity - that's extra - we didn't need it) and was full of s..t (literally,  of seagull brand).  You could not step off the boat without stepping into it unless your shoe size is 1 or baby-size.   But it was a must to stop in our case as we arrived near the end of the afternoon with opposing strong currents flowing through the channel.   As planned, around 9' in the morning (after I remounted my now refurbished windlass contactor relay) we zoomed down the canal at speeds over 10kn over ground thanks to the favourable current.  The Reeds 2008 almanac is really indispensable for this kind of information.

I was a bit out of plan for this part of the trip knowing that we got into "famous" territory - Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Newport, Rhode Island and somehow expected we would have time to 'cruise' around here a bit...  So we didn't go too far, and stopped at Padanaram (South Dartmouth), the New Bedford Yacht Club.

We got disappointed - it's a ghost town, the Yacht Club was barely operating (just to take $35 for a mooring ball, with club use 'priviledges'). True, there was a free option if we don't go ashore, but we didn't know ahead of time just how dead the situation was onshore.  We got to ride in their luxurious 'launch' service a number of times back and forth between our moored boat and the club docks - this service really worked. They were there within a minute, you hop on and a minute later you're ashore.  We had a nice walk to through the ghost town - the only offices that we saw were real estate offices (quite a number for such a small town) and a few closed boat yards.

Dora said: well at least I'm going to have a nice long hot shower...  So out we went with the 'launch' service again, Dora walks into the 'facilities' and walks out again, looking for the 'real' facilities... We go ask and are told, yes this is it!  A beach shower stall with the sky above your head is "the shower" in a nice, large luxurious-looking New England Clubhouse building with a huge restaurant on the top floor (closed for the season).  These guys fire a cannon at 8am every morning (even this time of the year, I saw/heard/couldn't believe it) when they raise the flag and in the evening when they lower it, but you go home (they all do) if you want nice long warm shower.  Anyhow, that's how it is around here (there).

So we slowly realized that there is no point in 'cruising' around here - most places are blown out of proportion in guides/magazines - just catch a few natural gems along the way down south.

We took off next morning on a beautiful sunny beam reach sail with 10-13kn southerly winds to Block Island (south of Rhode Island - first time in the US we didn't have to motor-sail) and zoomed in there with a bit of time to spare.  Block Island is an island 5-6 miles long, and there is a 1-mile pond in the middle of it that can be entered through a narrow channel.   The 'Great Salt Pond' is full of mooring balls, most of them empty by this time of the year, so we just grabbed one marked 'private' and relaxed.  No-one bothered us, and I had the time to replace the furler lead block (for which I had two spares knowing that they tend to fail).  This is the real boat mecca during the tourist season - I could tell by the number of commercial wifi sites (over two dozen  - seemed like one per mooring ball :-) popping up on my 4-foot, long-range wifi antenna all asking for $$ for the pleasure of accessing the internet...  Fortunately the antenna fetched a couple of free ones too.

This morning (Thu, Oct 16), we left Block Island early - 7am :-) to take advantage of a strong tidal current that would take us though "The Race" - a narrower section between Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound.  With heavy fog rolling in from the sea just as we were leaving the harbour, we pulled out all the signalling gear, blew our horns only to hear the response of the horn-equipped beacon at the tip of the entrance.  It did give us a scare initially thinking it is the Block Island Ferry coming in... Ten minutes later, the sun started burning the fog off and another ten minutes and it was bright and sunny... Just a fog exercise.

The current ran as predicted through the Race... with a cooperating wind from abeam and aft (NE) of only 12-14kn, we went over 10kn over ground (the boat speed was just over 7) and covered 20nm in just over 2 hours.  So we continued on to Essex on the Connecticut River, which seems on the chart as a sizable town. We stopped at a riverside marine in Essex to diesel up, walk around town a bit and then continue on to Hamburg Cove, another 1.6nm up-river that was recommended to us as a nice place to 'hole-up'.

The town of Essex is very pretty, clean and rich with a number of marinas and boatyards.  It seems to have a pretty extensive marine history (like most coastal towns in New England).  We 'discoivered' a real 'gem' (Griswold Inn) by a fluke. We walked over a mile to a grocery store with no means to take our bags back to the boat (for some reason we set out without our bikes, because we expected everything would be closer in the harbour).  So after asking the clerks in the store, who were blank initially, then finally pulled out the yellow pages, I called the only taxi company to be informed that they are busy for the next hour and half.  The taxi company told me about a shuttle bus supposedly running from nearby.  Nearby, no one knew anything about the shuttle bus.  By this time Dora's done with the groceries and there is a young man, a bit absent and nervous behind us with just one item in hand, looking like he really wished to jump ahead of us...  So I said: 'just go ahead, no problem...', he goes: 'yeah thanks, I'm kind of in a rush'   While he's paying, I ask him: 'are you with a car,  we came up by foot from downtown and could use a ride back, oh..., but never mind, then you'd be waiting for us to pay...  I felt a bit bad, but hey... Dora was having a bad day and walking back with groceries in hand in hot weather was not a good outlook.  He agreed and we were done really quickly at the cash.   On the way back to town in his nice black Mini-cooper with white rooftop he asked us all about what we were doing, said that he had a house down here and pointed out the Griswold Inn - "it's a real gem" he said, "it hasn't changed much since the British occupied it briefly in 1776... They landed over there came up and stayed in the inn until..."  So after we thanked him for the ride and unloaded our bags, we walked back for beers and appetizers to the 'ancient' inn...

This inn really looks like it's from one-to-two centuries ago...

All the wood inside is old, almost black and worn, the walls are plastered with century-old ads and cruise-boat pictures, and hundreds of various paraphernalia, including  a  gun rack that is a museum piece in itself with guns and pistols, all worn/used covering two centuries of 'homo homini lupus est'.  The black ceiling is apparently of horse-hair mixed with ground/broken shells (it must have been the particle-board of the time), the black color coming from all the smoke/tar that accumulated over the years. The bar itself is like out of an old western (with a real foot-'bar' and a wooden top bar, all seemingly original), complete with spit-pots (that in more recent times would have served as ash-receptacles).

Hamburg Cove is really beautiful, especially now with the fall colors showing significantly (see Long Island Sound photo gallery).  It is surrounded by hills with mansions hiding among old trees.  The cove has lots of mooring balls available to pick up at this time of the year.  Even though the one we picked up is marked 'rental/$20', no one has bothered to collect the fee. We stayed two nights to have a day to relax (anchor relay wiring re-secured, transom folding door motor switch working again, engine checkup done :-)...

Next, we sail to Stratford CT, to a marina, ($70/night for us) where we can have a real hot water shower...