s i l o p a n e n r A u t > n e v d d n A a l n s a I s k y a w l Bloc A lie by Les
everal summers ago I began a tradition of vacationing with the Pert clan aboard their Palmer Johnson New York 40, Kalevipoeg, on Block Island, RI. Some years I simply camped out on board for a few days of clamming, beach combing, and exploring the natural beauty of “The Block.” Other years I signed on as crew for various legs of the journey between “The Block” and Kalevipoeg’s home berth in Annapolis. These offshore trips always proved unpredictable. Weather, engine trouble, and unfamiliar waters frequently derailed our itinerary. The first time I volunteered for the Block
As I rode Amtrak to New London, CT, the winds were holding steady at 30 knots, and rain was coming down all over the northeast. When I called skipper Agu Pert to confirm my arrival time, he warned that I would have no welcome party at the ferry dock, seeing as the weather was “atrocious,” boats were breaking free of their moorings, and he was having difficulty completing his last-minute boat errands. Five hours later, I was on a high-speed ferry, plowing through the waves on Block Island Sound. The seas were rough, and the other passengers were queasy. A couple of teenage boys behind me were laughing at the sight of a ketch battling the swells in the rain. It was an ominous harbinger of the weather that would plague our journey.
“There was much talk about the deadly, rushing currents that could carry a boat down the East River at speeds greater than eight knots. Instead, we were treated to front-row seats at the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and a rather esoteric art installation..”
Island to New York leg, I found myself surrounded by seasickness. It took all of my resolve to focus on knot-tying while my compatriots heaved over the rail. Later, a gale swept across Long Island Sound, bringing winds in excess of 40 knots, and forcing a hasty take-down of the main. Another year a cruise from Provincetown, MA to Martha’s Vineyard was interrupted by a clogged intake valve on the Volvo Penta, resulting in a tow through the Cape Cod Canal. We never made it to the Vineyard, but we did have the pleasure of passing four days in Onset, MA, a little-known hamlet at the top of Buzzards Bay. Despite these experiences, I eagerly volunteered to help bring the boat all the way home to Annapolis this year. I knew enough to approach the trip with a free spirit, an open schedule, and vague expectations. There would be a boat; foul weather gear was important; and the company would be entertaining. Beyond that, there were no guarantees. 52 July 2009 SpinSheet
I made it aboard safely that night, and our crew of five cast off at 6 a.m. the following day. The skies were clear, and we caught sight of a seal frolicking in the surf, all good omens. Our first objective was to make it to the “Race,” a four-mile gap between Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound, before the changing tides forced millions of gallons of water through the channel, creating a standing wave and rushing current. We passed through the Race unscathed, and even hooked ourselves a couple of bluefish for lunch. I was eager to man the gaff, and speared the second one clear through the gills. He was a fighter. By the time we had him subdued, blood and scales decorated the cockpit. With the Race behind us, we put up the sails and were making a respectable nine knots on a course to Oyster Bay, NY, home of Teddy Roosevelt (and more recently, Billy Joel). About halfway there, spinsheet.com