Monday, July 21, 2014

North of Cape Cod

        Provincetown is notable for one of the largest concentrations of gay men on the East Coast. When we arrived ashore it just so happened to be 'Bear Week', a huge celebration of hair, beefcake, and pulsing male testosterone. Quite a sight to behold. The town is beautifully tarted up for the tourists with numerous art galleries, fine dining and randy nightclubs, one of which was sponsoring a 'Tea Dance'. Hundreds of brawny, bare-chested males paraded through the streets and overflowed the bars. While we were there, high winds had whipped the waves into white caps and we got soaked to the skin on our way home in the dinghy!
Boston Yacht Club, Marblehead

The Mayflower
 Marblehead to Plymouth
          Generally known as the sailing capital of the Eastern seaboard, Marblehead has a deep, wide, sheltered and very picturesque harbour. We spent three days enjoying reciprocals at the prestigious Boston Yacht Club. Marblehead is an exquisite maritime town of narrow, winding cobblestone  lanes and brightly painted seafarer's lodgings of days gone by. It is perhaps, the prettiest community we have visited thus far. Plymouth is, of course, famous for the arrival of the first Pilgrims in 1620. We checked out the Pilgrim's Museum and the remarkably small (100ft) replica of The Mayflower. How 102 passengers and 25 crew crossed the Atlantic in this tiny vessel boggles the mind! A quick glimpse of Plymouth Rock  and we set our sights on the great city of Boston.
Plymouth Rock

           Home of the Red Sox, the Bruins and the Celtics, the non-sports fans will appreciate Boston for it's role in the early shaping of America. We rented a car and made our first stop the John F. Kennedy Museum and Library. It left us in awe of the power of the man for oratory and the sense of his belief in his convictions, his many great speeches...."Ask not what your country can do for you..." and his vision for racial and religious freedom for all. We also happened across the Holocaust Memorial, a series of glass towered fountains with steam coming up from around your feet. The tatooed numbers of the the six million people who died in the camps were etched upon the glass, a testament to the potential for cruelty of mankind.
          A tour of Boston would not be complete without an Irish Pub crawl in the old town, and as luck would have it, as dusk set, an amazing outdoor Rhythm and Blues concert in the park.

John F. Kennedy Museum

           The fog finally lifted as we set a course for Gloucester, Massachusetts. The home of the fishing vessel the Andrea Gail, and the now ignominious setting for the film A Perfect Storm. The famous bronze statue of the lone fisherman at the helm, commemorates those lost to the perils of the deep. Daragh and I wandered the docks in hopes of locating the Crow's Nest Pub, local to the five young fishermen who lost their lives that tragic day in 1991. We took a moment to reflect on all those brave souls who have gone to the sea in ships since time immemorial, never to return.

The Crows Nest

          Our final stop before the New Hampshire border was the most darling village of Rockport. With it's tiny granite ringed harbour filled with dories and skiffs it looked just like a small town in Cornwall, England, minus the pirates! The old Sandy Bay Yacht Club allowed us to tie to their pier, which took some doing considering the 10 foot tides here! We side-tied fender-board style, using two old boards tied to the dock lengthwise to fend off the dock poles. Very ingenious, and a bird's eye view of the lovely harbour!

Lobster Pots - aaargh!

10 foot tides

Friday, July 11, 2014

Connecticut to Cape Cod

Welcome Ethan Tiffin the first!

New England
         After a well-deserved respite back at the homestead and the arrival of the first grandchild Ethan Michael Donald Tiffin,  we arrived back at the lovely New England village of Essex, Connecticut
and prepared for the North Atlantic. As fate would have it, our arrival coincided with Hurricane Arthur  touching down just offshore at Cape Hatteras, but was 150 miles east of us as it passed by. Torrential rains and high winds of 30 knots met us at the coast putting a damper on the July 4th festivities. We were sent scurrying to the local for shelter and a piano singalong at the Griswold Inn  to wait out the storm.
         The area known as New England consists of the coastal states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. With it's rolling green pastures, tufts of sylvan forests, seaside sailing towns, and Cape Cod style clapboard houses,it is truly a little bit of old England. However, today the clapboard houses are architecturally designed and luxury yachts have replaced the fishing boats. It's all very tony and Ivy league, but still holds it's charm. At the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club we met past commodore Terry Stewart and present commodore Tim Brewer who gave us a hearty welcome and we exchanged burgees and sea lore.
Essex Corinthian RVYC burgee exchange
The Royal Victoria Yacht Club burgee now proudly hangs in the chart room. In the morning the sun beamed down as we headed north to the darling town of Stonington and visited nearby Mystic River, right out of Mayberry R.F.D! We grabbed a mooring ball and enjoyed a mariner's view of the harbour.
Spring House Hotel Block Island

Block Island
Happy Hour (almost) on the veranda
         A few miles off shore sits the little pork-chop shaped Block Island (also know as little Bermuda to the locals). Established in the mid 1600's for wealthy families and their summer cottages, it is as 'twee' as anything in Britain. Stately whitewashed hotels with Adirondack chairs dotting manicured lawns and breezy verandas lined with rocking chairs. Old folks sip lemonade and loiter at the ice cream parlour. We expect to see Robert Redford in his white flannels from the Great Gatsby turn the corner at any moment. Very Gatsbyesque!
Right at home here!

Newport, Rhode Island and Cuttyhunk

Who would have thunk it!

          The America's Cup races have dominated this seafaring town for many years. Consequently there are oodles of gorgeous yachts lining the piers in every direction. In fact, there are so many boats and mega-yachts that it is difficult to actually see the harbour or the stunning mansions along the shoreline. After a visit to the Yacht Museum and a brief repast we headed out to Cuttyhunk Island and a night on the hook. This tiny island with it's rural, sleepy village atmosphere could be right off the pages of Tom Sawyer. We awoke at 2am to thunder and more torrential rain with wind up to 35 knots! After over an hour of nail biting and praying the anchor wouldn't drag, the squall moved off as quickly as it had appeared. We managed to get forty winks before turning the pointy end towards Nantucket and the famous Martha's Vineyard.
Clarke Cook House dock, Newport RI

Edgartown Lighthouse
Lobster dinner
    Edgartown was the first settlement on Martha's Vineyard Island in 1642. Between Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, together they owned one quarter of America's whaling fleet. Lining the harbour the gracious homes of long ago sea captains suggest unspoken tales of whale oil, mutinous crews and wooden ships lost in frigid waters. Most of these houses are now elegant shops and restaurants. Absolutely beautiful in an understated sort of way.  Across the pond is the infamous island of Chappaquiddick. Of course this was the summer playground of the Kennedy clan back in the sixties. Where are those Jackie O sunglasses?

Martha's Vineyard

                                                  " Those who go down to the sea in ships
                                                    And do works in the great waters,
                                                    They have seen the works of the Lord
                                                    And his wonders in the depths of the sea."