Thursday, August 16, 2012

Island Hopping

Block Island

(click on photos to enlarge)
While on Block Island, we rented some bikes and visited the Southeast Lighthouse, which is not only a very unique looking lighthouse, but unique in it's history.  When the old time sailor men complained that they couldn't tell one lighthouse from the next (back then lighthouses had steady lights coming from a kerosene flame lantern - always on, but today they're electric and can flash with distinct characteristics), the Southeast Lighthouse was fitted with a green lens, the only such colored lighthouse on the entire east coast.  The other interesting thing about Southeast Lighthouse is it was moved.  The cliff erosion over the years came so close to the lighthouse, they were afraid it would fall into the ocean, so they moved it.  The giant boulder marks where the lighthouse once stood.  It must have been an amazing feat to move that boulder.

The rolling Block Island countryside was really quite beautiful on the ride back to Moonshadow.  

Once back aboard, we were treated to some great sunset colors.

Next up was a sail to Cuttyhunk Island.  We didn't have the best wind but the distance wasn't too great so we enjoyed the quiet with the engine off, and kept some diesel in our tanks.

A day at sea on a great boat tends to put a smile on your face.

Cuttyhunk Island

We didn't go ashore at Cuttyhunk, but that worked out fine because we learned that Cuttyhunk's answer to Aldo's Bakery's Block Island yacht delivery service is the floating Raw Bar.  A dozen oysters on the half shell with horseradish and cocktail sauce delivered to Moonshadow…priceless!

Not to be outdone, Cuttyhunk's sunset colors put on a great show.  

Martha's Vineyard

The sail to Martha's Vineyard was part motoring, part sailing and lots of push from a strong current.  We passed the first anchorage at Vineyard Haven on the north side of the island, continuing on to Edgartown at the east end of the island, near Chappaquiddick.

This is where the movie Jaws was filmed, so we had to visit the little beach point lighthouse that appeared in the film.  

The view from the lighthouse illustrates what a stubby little mast Moonhsadow has.  All the better to duck bridges!

(click on photos to enlarge)

We also took a bike ride out to Oak Bluff harbor and back where we learned just how strictly roadside signs are enforced.  

The Edgartown Yacht Club hosts an annual regatta called the  12 Metre Regatta.  I guess somebody misspelled "meter" years ago and they just went with it rather than reprint all those t-shirts!  Anyway we happened to arrive just as things were getting underway.  

Twelve Meters are the yachts that were sailed in the Americas Cup off of Newport, Rhode Island from post WW II until the first defense by San Diego Yacht Club.  

With almost 50 years of development, there are some radical differences in the designs.

Eight 12's were here representing a span from the late 1950s to the 1980s, four of them past winners of the cup, all in mint condition and ready for battle around the buoys.

While walking around Edgartown, we found this Pagoda Tree, believed to be the oldest in America, which was brought back by an old whaling captain and planted here.

Our other discovery in Edgartown was Murdick's Fudge.  We watched this craftsman make some peanut butter fudge on a marble top table for so long they had to mop up the drool from the floor where we stood.  The fudge was awesome.


From Edgartown, we had another great sail over to that island to the east of Martha's Vineyard for which so many limericks have been coined. 

40 miles south of Nantucket is a dangerous shoal called Nantucket Shoal for which a lightship was employed to warn sailors.  The Nantucket Shoal Lightship provided the first  light to be seen for ships arriving after a long North Atlantic crossing.  Lightships served at Nantucket Shoal from 1854 until 1985 when the Nantucket Lightship 612 anchored here was decommissioned.  All the US lightships have now been replaced with deepwater buoys or other navigation aids.

Nantucket is a very interesting island with lots of history.  This is where US whaling started, became a global economic factor and just as quickly disappeared as the Gold Rush and discovery of oil in Pennsylvania conspired to make whale oil obsolete.  Nantucket is also where Herman Melville sailed and wrote Moby Dick.  

There's a whaling museum here with all the whaling museum stuff you could want to see, and enough information to put in your blog so you really look like you know your stuff.

Whaling captains and some of the crew got rich and built fine homes in Nantucket.  They put a railing on the top (called a widow's watch) so their wives could stand up there for months and wait for hubby's ship to return home...yeah, right!

Today, Nantucket is where the rich people hang out.  We know this because two drinks cost 35 bucks!  

It is also where the beautiful boats come to hang out for Nantucket Race week.  Hey we're here, right?!!  But these aren't just beautiful boats.  Some are legendary boats.  Take these, for example:


Back in the day, Ticonderoga was it.  Big Ti, as she became known, is a 73 foot Herreshoff ketch that is just beautiful from every angle.  She won the Transpacific Yacht Race (Los Angeles to Honolulu) in 1965 in what was then the most dramatic finish of any yacht race in the world.  John was 13, living in Hawaii, and drove out to Diamond Head to watch the nighttime finish.  Ok, his Dad drove.  For days the reports on the radio differed on who was in the lead, Big Ti, or Stormvogel, a more modern, faster looking boat from South Africa.  Stormvogel was a newer and possibly a faster boat, but Big Ti had won first to finish in 1963.  Both boats reported gear failure, one had a broken boom, the other had a broken spinnaker pole.  

Unlike modern racing with GPS and constant updates of accurate positions, positions were determined with a sextant, and reported once per day in the morning roll call.  Some speculated false positions were being reported.  Really, nobody knew who would win.  That night at Diamond Head in the distance we could see first one, then two lights on the horizon.  Still, nobody could tell who was who until Big Ti sailed into the beam of light from Diamond Head Lighthouse, just 5:48 ahead of Stormvogel, after 2300 miles of racing.  Wow!  

Back then, the finishers tied up in Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu in the order of the finish, so when you went down to view the boats there was Tichonderoga in the first slot, then each of the other boats, with masts getting progressively smaller, all the way down the wharf.  

click to enlarge and see the gold dolphin
In 1965, these legendary big boats were called "gold platers", meaning they were just stunningly beautiful, beautifully maintained with gleaming varnish and polished brass and bronze.  But Gold Platers didn't just look good, they were usually first to finish in the major ocean races.  Big Ti wasn't just first to finish, she set a course record that stood until 1971.

For John, taking in the sights of these thoroughbreds at Ala Wai back in '65 was the moment a lifelong passion for boats was born.

Now at the start of our cruising adventure whose roots can be traced all the way back to those Ala Wai visions and the 1965 Transpac finish; seeing Big Ti here in Nantucket, looking every bit as majestic as she did then seemed a fitting bookend.


Another 73 footer, Bolero is a true Gold Plater.  Designed by Olin Stephens of Sparkman and Stephens, and first launched in 1947, Bolero is probably the best S & S boat ever launched.  She was first to finish in the Bermuda Race 3 times (1950, 1954 & 1956) and held the elapsed record until 1974.  Bolero was recently re-launched after an 18 month refit in Maine.  She looks perfect!


Spartan is a 1913 New York 50, designed by Herreshoff.  She is 72 feet long with a huge sail plan.  Spartan has been completely restored and is looking just awesome.

All the 12 meters that were in Edgartown are here for another regatta plus a few more including Gleam, Nefertiti, and Northern Light.  

Another part of this week's action will be a tall ship gun battle between the Baltimore Clipper Pride of Baltimore and the Privateer Lynx, both beautiful schooners with raked masts, square yards on the foremast, and cannons.  

The Moonshadow crew was invited aboard Pride of Baltimore for some sailing pointers, but the best we could do was look like silly tourists.

There are a lot more classic boats here, but rather than spoil the fun, why not just come for a look!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok you really got me with this one. John looking like he did in the 70sand like that kid in Blue Lagoon, surrounded by boats we mainly read about and would have paid just to get close to, impish smiles like only you have when things are going great.
I remember when Bolero would come to the SF Bay and duke it out with Baruna and Orient and occasionally Ti and Stormy in the Big Boats. How nice to see them in such fantastic shape. I can see why my folks spent two years cruising the east coast. Well done Rogers!

I am beginning to see why my folks

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