Nantucket to Newport

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Sailing into Newport, RI

On October 9th we left behind that elbow of sand, and headed out into Nantucket Sound. With the shoals, sandbars, unusual currents and shifting wind directions, sailing in Nantucket Sound can be incredibly challenging—and dangerous. The charts are dotted with ancient shipwrecks in this area.

Within an hour of leaving the harbor, we all donned our bright yellow foul weather gear. The ship rocked and rolled from the swells coming in off the open ocean, many of which were over 10 ft. They would rise up level with the deck, and crash against the hull like surf against a rocky cliff.

We were taking so much water over the bow that it had begun to rain in spots in my cabin. It leaked around the mast and right onto the middle of Isaac’s bunk. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d bother to make his bed. Perhaps he will remember now. I endured the heavy rocking below deck to jury-rig some mildly effective protection, so his bunk didn’t end up too wet.  However, Molly’s bunk was probably the worst.  Water would crawl up under the railing when we rolled to one side, and pool right in the leaky spot over her bunk. Not long into that sail our newbies  got the full sailing experience. The seas were the largest and roughest we’d encountered on this trip thus far, and Molly and Isaac were feeling it. We drugged them both and were fine for the rest of the day.

Just when things seemed to have calmed down, a huge wave crashed over the sailing dingy on deck and washed back over the boat, flooding the stern where I happened to be sitting. I jumped up to avoid being soaked, when Mom and Scott yelled “Danica, secure yourself!” I saw a second bigger wave coming on, so I grabbed the handrail over the wheelhouse, swung through midair, and flung myself feet first though the gap in the cover into the cockpit. And then Dad yelled at me for risking damaging the cover… sheesh.  After several hours of heavy seas and high winds we ducked into a harbor on Martha’s Vineyard. Soon after the anchor was down we all went down to take naps.

The next day we left Martha’s Vineyard before sunrise. I had looked forward to visiting the island, but it would have to wait for a future trip. The wind had shifted during the night and the previously protected harbor was now filling with choppy seas.  It was particularly disappointing that we left so soon as an extremely friendly fellow sailor had visited us the previous day. He was very excited about our voyage, extending any assistance he could offer—from fresh goat’s milk from his son’s herd to lending us his truck (no, we had not met him before). Hopefully we will meet up again on our return trip.

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The grass tennis court outside of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (which we did not visit). The court is surrounded by the covered bleachers of an old converted casino. There was no gate or people around, we just walked right in and looked around.

It was a wet, rough, rolly sail from Martha’s Vineyard to Newport, RI—decked out in our foul weather gear yet again.  We spent one full day in Newport. Newport is allegedly the yachting capital of the US—and based upon their facilities for sailors I think I believe it. The facilities were clearly designed with sailors in mind. With well maintained showers, laundry, free wifi, weather channel on the TV, vending machines (with toothbrushes, razors, laundry detergent, etc) they really thought about what boaters need.

From the 1930’s to 1980’s, the America’s Cup sailing races were based in Newport. Now it is largely a tourist center, albeit a classy tourist center. We perused the town’s many shops, our favorites were the scrimshander’s store, and the IYRS—International Yacht Restoration School. Isaac and I had just seen the impressive scrimshaw collection at the Nantucket Whaling Museum, and it was interesting to see modern scrimshaw for sale. They explained that there are still a few sources of ivory/whale bones that are legal, including some sources of walrus tusks, and fossilized bone and tusks, as they obviously couldn’t have been killed for their ivory.  I briefly entertained the thought of purchasing one of these classic pieces of maritime art, but when I saw the price tag ($2000 – $11,000) that thought quickly went away. However, they did have a few reasonably priced items, but they weren’t nearly as cool or impressive as the classic, expensive, pieces.

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IYRS students at work

We also enjoyed visiting the IYRS and seeing the different projects in the works there. This traditional trade school instructs its students in classic yacht building, restoration, and repair. You can go right in and watch 1st year students at work restoring beetle cat boats up through graduates and instructors restoring the 130 ft “schooner yacht” Coronet—the last of the classic pleasure schooners in existence. Back in 2001, my dad and brother had seen the boat before restoration had begun, and it was in extremely rough shape. Since then they’ve entirely dismantled the thing and a new frame filled a warehouse. A collection of odds and ends pulled from the boat, from blocks and tackle to a full-sized piano, were scattered in the corners. They seem to have crossed the point where a restoration becomes just a rebuild. However, from the frames and scrap alone you can tell that once restoration is complete, it will be the impressive yacht it once was yet again.

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The schooner-yacht Coronet “restoration” / rebuild

We heavily debated staying in Newport another day, but decided to keep going. I wished we’d stayed put. We had yet another rough, windy sail, but worse.  We had our first sailing-related injury. We were jibing the main in 25-30 knots of wind, the main sheet popped out of the winch, and I instinctively held on. I tend to wear sailing gloves about 90% of the time I handle lines, and it would just figure in the other 10% that this would happen.  It gave me a bad case of rope burn, and removed several layers of skin from patches of my palms and fingers. I was so mad at myself for making such a rookie mistake. Right after it happened Mom and Dad acted extremely concerned, saying “it’s going to be okay, Danica, you’re going to be okay.” I replied, “I’m fine, it’s ok, it doesn’t even hurt.” But about 10 minutes later it hurt like hell. Since we were sailing in such rough conditions I had to wait a good 20-30 minutes to get bandaged up. My hands were marginally useable mittens for the following week. But I got out of dishes and line handling duties, so it wasn’t all bad.

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3 thoughts on “Nantucket to Newport

  1. David Bushby

    Enjoyed reading of all the excitement Danica and the sly remarks about bed making!!. Just to rub it in, fine and just the right temps here in Ecuador and no great winds. It it rains, minutes only. However it will get better. Best wishes to all.

    Reply
  2. Sharon

    Hopefully the rough weather is over with for a while. We even had horrid winds here in Maine. Almost all the leaves are gone….down the road :-). Enjoy reading about your adventures, so keep ’em coming.

    Reply

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