The Great Loopers Chapter Four. New Frontiers

From the log book on July 9th 2017. Written by the XO.
“Anchor up at 6:15.
Arrived North Cove, Essex, CT at 1:30.
On a “non-member’s” mooring.*
Over 47 miles in 7 1/2 hours.
Hit a log in the crowded Connecticut River, which then bounced off Salty.
*It’s a harbor of refuge.”

It’s wicked early, but we weren’t the first to leave the comfortable anchorage behind Gardner’s Island in the Point Judith Pond, Rhode Island. As the sun approached the horizon, and spread an orange glow across the underside of wispy clouds, I watched three sailboats weigh anchor and follow each other around the island and out towards the sea. They all had the same hailing port written across their transoms, meaning they’re travelling together. I wondered where they’re headed, and what adventures they’ll have. We followed the trio to the Harbor of Refuge. They went left, we went right.  Our destination: North Cove, Essex, Connecticut.

We vowed to never travel on a weekend, when everybody that owns a boat is out on it, but we stayed such a long time in Rhode Island that we made an exception. Were we subconsciously prolonging our departure into parts unknown? Every port from now on will be the furthest west we’ve ever cruised. New frontiers await.

We soon discovered that the entrance to the Connecticut River was very popular with our fellow boaters. Everyone was pretty much ignoring the 5 MPH NO WAKE buoys. Except us. Par for the course. I get it, no one wants to go slow.
We were hugging the reds, minding our own business, just letting all the boats zoom around us, criss-cross in front of us, and generally behave badly, when we see this huge, fifty-plus-footer barreling up the channel behind us. The dude was throwing up a four-foot wake! Tossing everybody aside like matchsticks. It was unbelievable. The protocol for taking such a wake from behind is to run away from it, but we were already on the edge of the wide channel. We’re just gonna hafta hang on and hope we don’t get swamped. I could see this schmuck standing on his flybridge, looking straight ahead, nose in the air, oblivious to the mayhem. His wake slammed into us on the port side rear quarter. We slid perilously sideways, but Ginger Lee managed to right herself quickly enough to avoid disaster. Then we hit a tree! I could hear it scraping along the keel, then the sickening sound of it ripping into unprotected, spinning props. Salty, our dinghy in tow, took it head on with a loud BONK. There is that horrible feeling a boater gets, when, for a few minutes, you don’t know if you’ve been holed, or if the running gear has been damaged. My eyes kept going to the bilge warning lights. Praying they wont flash on. Jeez! I hate that feeling.
The radio came alive with pissed off boaters telling Mr. Schmuck to shove it and other more colorful obscenities. But he either had his radio off, or he was ignoring it. He just kept flying down the channel. Finally, somebody said: “What do you expect. It’s the f***ing weekend.”

Well, the bilge lights never came on, there was no vibration from bent shafts, and Salty towed steadily behind us. Yay! I’m so glad we survived. Let’s just say it was very exciting, and leave it at that. When we took a left into the little channel that led us into North Cove, it was like night and day. Calm waters and bucolic scenery soothed my frayed nerves like Valium. We were the only boat under way in this quiet little cove. The cruising guide said to grab any unused mooring float with a yellow ribbon attached to it. Of course, there were no yellow ribbons, but plenty of empty moorings. We grabbed one, and just to be sure, I called the yacht club that controls this cove and they said we were fine. Time for a drink. A strong drink. And time to renew our vow to never travel on weekends.

North Cove.

We spent the afternoon cycling around Essex and Old Saybrook, CT. I have to say, I don’t feel like a 65-year-old guy. I have no problem peddling my butt around, or walking for hours, or contorting my body into our crowded engine room. I was ten years younger when we decided to do The Great Loop. I laugh when I look at my driver’s license. Last month, the RMV renewed it using the 15-year-old picture they had on file. I barely recognize myself. I was clean-shaven and had lots of thick, dark brown hair, like the robust young man I am in my dreams at night. Don’t misunderstand, dear reader, I feel older in a good way, a successful transition into maturity. I survived the maelstrom that is life in some pretty turbulent decades. I did all the stuff that should have killed me, but it didn’t. My thinning hair is grey, my bones creak a little, I need glasses, and I’m afraid that someday my age will keep me from doing the things that I enjoy. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet. But I’m a cautious man, I knock on wood, and even occasionally thank the Lord for my very life, such as it is, ya know, just in case there is a God.

Old Saybrook Town Beach

You don’t see or hear of too many young people doing this Great Loop. I have a theory about that, and it has a lot to do with money. It’s not cheap to do it. Financially, by the time a person is in a position to even consider such a thing, they’re usually older. People will sell their homes and buy a new boat to this. It happens all the time. Not us though. We saved for nearly a decade, and when I say we, I mean my wife. Saving is one of her superpowers. I’m the dreamer in the relationship, but everyone deserves a chance at their dreams, and if you listen to them, really listen, you can hear them come true.

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