14 September 2016

Block Island and My Friend Hank

The hustle and bustle of the mainland is behind us and the regular social engagements abruptly ceased after leaving Newport. Argon's hook is set in Great Salt Pond among only a handful of other boats in the anchorage.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Block Island

Most people traveling to Block Island are familiar with the small, downtown inlet for ferry traffic. A short walk to the northwest leads to Great Salt Pond which is normally packed with hundreds of occupied moorings and a crowded anchorage where one, if arriving by boat, risks not finding space during a summer weekend. But upon Argon's arrival more than a week after the end of summer Labor Day Holiday, there are less than a dozen sailboats in this vast anchorage and the majority of moorings are off duty.

Keeping a close lookout in the narrow entrance channel of Great Salt Pond.
Entrance to Great Salt Pond is lined with people fishing. There is a sharp drop off in depth along the channel.

Snubbing the anchor chain. Winds were light on the first day but kicked up to 25+kts later in our stay. The anchor held tightly.

Sparse anchorage peering westward at dusk.

Off Shore Wind Farms

Off shore wind farms have stirred much controversy in the US with several projects in the northeast being stalled for years. Many New Englanders are familiar with the Cape Wind project that has been in the planning and permitting stage for 15 years finally to apparently die last year. Cape Wind aimed to build 170 (then decreased to 130) wind turbines in Nantucket Sound but had been blocked repeatedly due to opposition stating safety (heavy boating area) but also aesthetics. There were rich and famous among the outspoken opposition. Interestingly, in Europe, wind farms are quite plentiful (more than 25) with the UK boasting the two largest in the world: London Array (630 MW) and Gwynt y Môr (576 MW). Overall, Europe has more than 3,000 wind turbines across 84 farms producing electricity to power more than 7 million homes! Come on, America, get with the program.

Sailing southwest from Newport to Block Island one can see the five wind turbines from the first wind farm to be build in the US.

Block Island Wind Farm is the first wind farm in the US and will initially consist of only five turbines but may expand to 15 in the coming years. Each turbine is 270 feet and weights 440 tons. This pilot program is lead by the company Deepwater Wind. Construction began almost a year ago and the turbines will begin producing electricity for Block Island by end of this year.

View of the wind farm from the Southeast Lighthouse. Score is Europe: 3000, US: 5.

New Normal

I have fallen in to a routine of daily swims (even if for a just a quick swim and salt water bath followed by a fresh water cockpit rinse), practicing my stand up paddle board, and reading and writing in the cockpit. The warmer waters south of Cape Cod Bay are welcoming and I am hoping that as we travel more southward and explore the Chesapeake Bay in the coming weeks, the waters will remain inviting.

Getting the hang of the SUP in calm waters and light winds. I also ventured out the following morning in 15+kts of chop staying on the board but only barely being able to stay stationary against the wind and current; it was good balancing practice even though I made no geographical progress.

Morning swims remind me of 0500 meetings with Taisa at Miller's Pond.
We are enjoying the 70-75 degree waters.

A new toy that I brought along on this trip is an inflatable stand up paddle board (SUP). We have rented the hard / solid boards a couple of times in the past and were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we learned to balance and paddle in (smooth) waters. My inflatable, however, has proven to be more challenging. It is a little shorter and a bit squishy compared to the solid boards and I have experimented with estimating the appropriate pressure (15 psi) to stiffen it up enough as I have no gauge on my pump. After several attempts on the water I am getting acclimated and feeling more confident.

Exploring by Land

Block Island is wonderful for biking as long as one is prepared to handle some hills. We have enjoyed sailing to Block Island most summers for the past several years and I was sparked to looked up blog posts from prior visits here: July 2015 and August 2014

Scene from Southeast Lighthouse towards Mohegan Bluff.

The Oliver Hazzard Perry (aka The Perry) pulled in to Great Salt Pond. She is a civilian sailing school vessel named after the US Naval officer from Rhode Island. The building of this 196 foot long steel hulled ship was just completed two years ago.

My Friend Hank

Turning abruptly on to the dirt patch by the ramshackle fishing hut, careful to avoid the three sleepy hounds of varying mixed breeds, I dismount my rickety rental bike. I asked the obviously approachable, heavily bearded man in the doorway "I stink at fishing... can you help me?" Hank kindly but sternly replied "Nobody stinks at fishin'. Ya just need some guidance, a few pieces of gear, and to get out there in the water." Hank's enthusiasm for fishing gushed immediately as we struck up a conversation and I agreed to return with my two poles for some advice, instruction, and of course, some tackle. My return visit with Hank later that evening was worth way more than the $92 of gear he sold me as he also examined and tweaked my rods, confirmed their lines were good, taught me how to feed the hook through the slugs for both weedless surface jigging and deeper casting. In addition, Hank walked me through how to catch squid at night to use as Striper bait or to clean it for calamari.

A true fishing enthusiast! Hank was generous with his time, knowledge and advice from this little side road fishing shack.

Hank showed me how to rig these common bubblegum slugs for both surface / weedless skimming and slightly deeper reeling. The small bright green piece on the combing is for jigging for squid. We also now have trolling lures for Stripers and, when further south and off shore, for Mahi. (By the way, I have no idea how we would clean a big fish out under sail should one be caught but will cross that bridge when/if we come to it.)

Stay tuned to see if any of the instruction pays off in the coming weeks. If any readers have fishing suggestions and feedback for me, please send along your comments - I need to make Hank proud.

Preparing for a Mini Off Shore to Cape May, New Jersey

New Jersey does not sound like a particularly sexy or adventurous destination. However, our next transit to the southern tip of the Garden State will mark our foray in to waters new to us and provide an opportunity for more off shore practice.

We have been keeping an eye out on the near and mid range forecast and have started to check in with our trusty weather router, Ken McKinley from Locus Weather, as we prepare for this relatively short off shore trip (~220 nm heading southwest south of Long Island Sound). If we average 5.5kts, the trip will take 40 hours; based on conditions I am optimistic that our average speed will be a bit faster.

Currently we are nearing the end of a couple days of moderate to high southwesterly winds and are waiting for the shift from the north and northeast. Departing while the winds were still out of the SW would make the transit both very uncomfortable and long (nose to wind in high chop and waves with lots of tacking adding to the distance and time). We will time our departure to be several hours after the shift from SW to N/NE likely providing for some moderate seas (3-5 feet) for our first few hours but steadily calming as day 1 progresses. The plan is maintain a broad reach port tack heading a bit south of the rumb line initially but pulling back to the line as the wind clocks from N to NE. We expect to have our hands full with active steering and moderate following seas especially the first 12-18 hours but safe conditions under clear skies with a full moon.

Preparing for a short two day (~40 hours) off shore passage with a pre-dawn departure Thursday 15 September. As we leave Block Island, we will be in waters that are naive to Argon and her crew as we venture further along our journey.

Off line until after we settle in at Cape May.
Until then...   we ARe GONe!


  1. Hope to see you in he Chesapeake! Fair winds to you!

    1. Safe travels to you and Chris, too! Looking forward to connecting in the Baltimore area.

  2. In the sunset video, I noticed that your dinghy is hanging from the davits, we have found that towing or decking is better. Did you stop and change that or is it sturdy offshore?

    1. Hi Rick - We move the dinghy to the foredeck (slightly deflated and upsidedown) for off shore passages including the 'mini' one we just did to Cape May. The outboard is mounted on the stern rail. We far prefer davits to towing for normal coastal sailing especially in choppy waters. Kato Marine custom made our davits and we installed them. (Bob did a nice blog post on this if you are interested.)


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