Friday, January 30, 2009

Ode to Block Island

Given the glorious weather and the salty, seasoned-cruiser way in which we conducted ourselves, you would have thought that we had hit the Caribbean about three months ahead of schedule.

That’s what can happen when you catch Block Island on the right day.

John here, by the way.

It was only a three-hour run from Newport to this tiny island off the coast of Rhode Island, and since Block Island is a short-season resort, we were happy to learn that an off-season mooring in New Harbor was only 20 bucks a night.

Tuesday afternoon was a rainy affair, which provided a good opportunity for some journalism and for all of us to catch up with e-mails, but no one was disappointed when the sun was shining Wednesday morning.

Since the harbor's launch service had already been suspended for the season, we dinghied ashore and set out to explore Block Island. It’s a lot more like Bermuda than Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.'signpost.jpg' It’s lush and green and quaint, and after a five-or six-mile hike, we’ll all attest to the hilly terrain.

Before we set off on that hike, however, we needed a bit of liquid refreshment, so we stopped at Ballard’s Beach Bar. Four Narragansett cans, please – pints, of course – because when in Rome, budget-minded cruisers do what the Romans do.

The highlight of the hike was the Southeast Lighthouse, a massive brick and stone structure that was actually moved to save it from erosion on nearby cliffs back in 1993. 'the-girls.jpg' Just a few steps away were the Mohegan Bluffs, where a series of steps led 300 feet down to the beaches below. Looking up from the beach, the bluffs were a cross between a lunar landscape and Hawaiian island volcanoes, and we have the pictures to prove it. 'the-bluffs.jpg'

The hike home, while mostly downhill, was a thirst-maker.

Fortunately, we found refuge in a bar called The Yellow Kittens, but that was just a haven for an hour, because the real fun began at 5 p.m. 'at-the-yellow-kittens.jpg'

On our initial walk up from the harbor, we tried to get a beer in a bar called Captain Nick’s. The manager politely told us the bar was closed, but there was an event beginning at five that night called the “Bartender’s Ball,” and we were welcome to come back.

The inducements? Well, the event was a thank-you for all of the restaurant people on the island, so they were serving $2 ‘Gansett drafts. That was one lure, and then, when she mentioned that there was also a free barbecue, do you think there was any chance we weren’t coming back?

Yes, we came back with a vengeance. The bar was a basic as can be – we’re talking frat house basement, here – but the crowd was a fascinating cross-section of humanity, from the yuppies to the blue-collar workers to the heavily-inked chicks who may or may not have been refugees from a methadone clinic.

But for $2 beers and free food? Hey, we’re cruisers. If Charles Manson was a regular at Captain Nicks, we’d be there drinking. To make things even better, a young man named Matt was running the Narragansett promo, and we all scored free T-shirts. Hi neighbor, have a ‘Gansett indeed!

Morning saw us leave the mooring ball and Block Island behind, with our sights set on Long Island. We were surprised on our voyage, however, by the sight of a US Navy nuclear submarine running above the surface as it crossed in front of our bow. 'sub-4.jpg' Naturally, we took evasive action and made it safely to port. We’re now anchored in Fort Pond Bay just a stone’s throw from Montauk, and plans for our next anchorage are being formulated as I close…

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