Monthly Archives: June 2011

>Fisher’s Island New York


Fisher’s Island marks the eastern end of Long Island Sound and while it is just a few miles from Stonington CT, it is part of New York State.  Fishers, unlike Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket has been largely privately owned during it’s modern history so it’s development has been very carefully controlled by a small group of very powerful individuals.  If you are lucky enough to visit the best way to get there is on a private boat.  There is a ferry from New London but once you are on the island you are largely on private property.  For our visit, we left Mystic and motored over the few miles as there wasn’t any wind. Our destination was West Harbor which is, incredibly enough, located at the western portion of the island on the north side.  There are moorings for rent in the harbor just south of can #7 behind the reef.  It’s well protected and very pretty.  You can take your dink ashore at the yacht club and go for a walk.  There’s a well stocked market about a half mile up the road if you turn right out of the yacht club lot.   The club is host to a variety of boats from the most humble to this visitor while we were there to this massive yacht.  Clearly, the folks on this island have the means to keep everything just so. 

You can charter Gene Machine for your own cruise if you wish. She’s was built by Westport Yachts and is 130 feet long.  I understand that there was a wedding the prior evening at the yacht club so perhaps the wedding party spent the night aboard.  If you like the design there are 30 others similar to her so perhaps you can find one at a location around the world that suites your needs.  
A nice shot of the clubhouse.  It looks like the entire clubhouse and tent would fit aboard Gene Machine. 
There isn’t much to do on the island except in the center of “town”, actually a town green and a few shops, is only a short walk from the harbor.  Along the way is a wonderful cooperative garden that’s always a treat to visit.  
The garden is very well tended and oviously gets a lot of care.
It’s impressive what money will allow when it’s not coupled with a stucco mansion as is sadly so often the case.   As you would expect, there is also a very tasteful graveyard along the way.
It looks like there’s plenty of space still left so book your spot for your eternal resting spot. 
In spite of our many visits to Fisher’s over the years we have never heard of or visited the Henry L. Ferguson Museum,  a wonderfully organized collection of the history of the island.   We were treated to a personal tour by the curator who spent nearly an hour with us showing us around.  He was deservedly proud of his current exhibit that chronicles the early history of the island’s homes,in pictures, both then and now, from first settlement through the early 20s.   There is also a nice newsletter that tells a lot about what’s going on at the museum and on the island.   For such a modest museum, it’s obviously well endowed and the building itself is quite new.   I understand that some involved in the layout of the museum are associated with major institutions on the scale of the Metropolitan in New York City and it shows. 
This interactive map rotates to show archaeological sites and other areas of interest on the island.  
There are some dioramas that are of very high quality, and certainly of a caliber than you would not normally expect in a museum of this scale. 
There is also an very nice model of the Race Rock Light, which is located on the south western point of the island.  This light itself has a fascinating history given the technical difficulties in building it.   $3,000 was appropriated by Congress to begin construction of the light back in 1838 but it was not completed until 1878 at a total cost of nearly $280,000.  The piece of water that it marks is particularly dangerous and is the site of countless wrecks.   While it’s possible, I doubt that the lighthouse ever had a $100,000 toilet seat in it.  However, with Congress holding the purse strings, who knows. 
If you are interested in the history of this light, a long and complex one for sure, check this out
The island, along with an early history of raising livestock, including cattle, sheep and even poultry in large numbers, is currently known for it’s terrific oysters.  This is a shot of cages used to hold growing oysters for commercial sale.  We wouldn’t want our oysters laying on the dirty, muddy bottom would we?  Never!
Speaking of meals, what blog post isn’t better if it’s ended with a shot of a meal aboard.   Here’s Brenda with a wonderful omelet ready to dive in.  Visit Fishers’s, you won’t be disappointed.
Is it me or is the horizon tilted?  Perhaps it’s the earth listing to port.  Something else to worry about.  Well, at least there are fresh flowers on the table.  I guess that means that everything will work out in the end.  Hmm…

>Pandora in the water and visiting Mystic, finally

>As I write this blog I am sitting aboard Pandora on a mooring in Mystic CT.  It was truly a “saga” getting Pandora into the water and up here this year.  It is very unusual for me to have not launched by Memorial Day weekend but this year was quite different.  Actually, in 40 years of sailing this is the very first year when my boat wasn’t launched.  However, it was for good reason.  Sadly, Brenda’s father died about a week prior to the long weekend so we headed of to VA to help her mother and take care of many issues.  It was a number of very tough weeks but things are getting back to normal and well, here I am, a few weeks later and Pandora is in Mystic and the summer of sailing is under way.

My good friend Roger, who’s SAGA, Ilene, is in Granada, yes the one near South America, now for the summer, agreed to help me bring Pandora up to Mystic last Friday.  As the yard where I have been keeping her over the winter is on the other side of the RT95 highway bridge, with only 61′ of clearance at high water, I have to bring her under the bridge at low tide.  By doing so, there is adequate clearance for her 63′, plus instruments, mast height.

Although I have brought Pandora under that bridge a number of times, my heart was firmly in my throat as I watch the mast pass within what seemed like inches.  No, I was actually convinced that we were going to hit.    Alas, we didn’t hit but it sure looked like we were very close.  My heart was pounding.  I’d hate to think of the sort of damage that dragging the mast head under a bridge would do to the gear at the top of the mast.  My approach is always to make the approach to the bridge at the slowest possible speed of one knot or less. However, I doubt that would make any difference at all given the fact that 25,000 pounds of Pandora, even at one knot, would easily scrape off all of the gear at the top of the mast.

Getting under the bridge wasn’t the only obstruction that I had to get past, as there was also the railroad bridge and the downtown Norwalk Water Street bridge.  The railroad bridge opens as needed but you have to call several hours early as they don’t keep an operator on site and it takes 6-8 guys to throw the necessary switches to get the bridge to swing.    This shot shows a bunch of guys getting ready to open it.  It’s hard to imagine what it costs to have that entire crew head out to open it up for any boat that wishes to pass.

I have been sailing the Norwalk waters for over 40 years and I never tire of seeing the oyster boats plying their trade.  This old oyster dragger is a classic and judging by the mound of oysters on deck, business is good.  It’s possible that these are empty shells that will be spread on the beds for the baby oysters, or spat, to cling to.   Oystering has been a part of Norwalk history for generations.  You can purchase oysters from the local producer Norm Bloom and Sons, at their website.  They are terrific and I have seen them on menus in many top seafood restaurants.

 If you are interested in reading about the history of the oyster business in the New York area, I strongly recommend Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, a book that is as much about the early history of Manhattan as it is about oysters.   Trust me, this is a really good book as this review from the New York Times attests.

As is so often the case, we headed toward Mystic with the tide against us and not enough wind to sail.  Why is it that the wind always blows from dead ahead.  I guess that’s God’s way or reminding you that you have to work for a living and have a schedule.  My retired friends always remind me that they just wait a day or so and get great winds.  Hmm…  As the day progressed, the wind backed around to the East, as forecast,  right on the nose, and increased to nearly 20kts.  Our destination for that night, Duck Island Roads, harbor of refuge, ended up being just that as it was really rough as the seas built and it got choppy.  After the tide turned in our favor after nearly 7 hours, remember we left at dead low, the wind was against the current which is always nasty.

In the morning, after a good rest, we continued east with a full ebbing tide, which pushed us along nicely.  Unfortunately, the winds were still very strong and again we slammed into waves and wind.  However, we did make good progress in spite of the constant slamming that we and the boat endured.

Finally, into Mystic and calm waters.  Pandora is now safe and sound on her mooring where she will be for the next few weeks until we head to Maine.

Now, for something completely different.  I have been struck for some time now with the dramatic changes that have taken place in yacht design over the years.  Pandora, designed by the noted marine architect Bob Perry, draws inspiration from a class of boats designed to go fast offshore.  These designs, including the Open 30 class, are designed to surf at high speeds.  While they lack the creature comforts of Pandora, they are impressive racing machines, never the less.  A few hundred yards from Pandora’s mooring is Dragon, a terrific example of the class.  Actually, Dragon won line honors (first to finish) in the 2010 Lobster Run, a 350 mile run from Stonington CT to Booth Bay Maine.   Note that I won second place on Pandora in the cruising class in 2008.  Dragon is a very high tech boat, for sure.

This video shows another boat in her class at speed.  These boats really move.

I guess that I would put graphics on my boat like this if she were such a rocket ship.
Everything about Dragon is high tech. Look at this cockpit layout.
There is no doubt that yacht design has evolved tremendously over the years.  Here’s another racing boat in the same marina from early in the 1900s.  Yes, it’s a lot different.
And, check out the cockpit layout, a bit different.  Yes?
There was a time when I would have chosen the classic but I have to admit, that I love those creature comforts aboard Pandora.  Did I say that I have a microwave?
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer will bring along with my rewarmed and microwaved coffee.