Norfolk to Rhode Lsland

Captain’s Log June 14 to July 4, 2011

The Great Mango Run – Norfolk to NYC, NYC to Newport R.I.

June 14 & 15:  We had a great time in the Norfolk area and reluctantly left for our two day cruise north along the coast to New York City.   For the most part it was a very pleasant trip, although a little lumpy until I moved Odyssey closer to shore.  We arrived at the NYC ship channel about 2300.  It begins as a separated sea lane about 30 miles from the harbor off the coast; the sea lane leads to the Ambrose Channel and the Verrazano Narrows.  We arrived in the New York City harbor about 0800 on the 16th.

June 16, Thursday:   Entering NYC harbor was a special thrill; passing under the Verrazano Bridge, seeing the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge.  Wow!  After dodging the ferries and sightseeing boats, we headed to our birth at Liberty Landing Marina.  We tied up to a very nice dock, and then decided to tour Ellis Island, a place we had never seen. Most of our tour was predictable, having seen pictures before coming here, yet being in a place communicates emotional and small facts that you can’t get by reading or watching a TV program.  It is hard to imagine that about 20% of the country’s population in the early 20th century came through Ellis Island.   We were surprised to learn that only passengers of the great steamships who arrived with less than a second class ticket came to Ellis Island.  If you were a 1st or 2nd class passenger, the immigration and customs officials came to the ship and cleared you in personally.   If you held a lower class ticket, you were escorted to a barge, taken to Ellis Island and then herded through the bureaucracy.   Seeing little things like the food service or medical evaluations available to emigrants was interesting, and of course imagining the emotional reunions of family members and the thought of entering America without much money, knowledge of the language or its customs brought into clear focus the determination and courage of these people. 

That evening our daughter Kathryn and her special friend Neal joined us.  Kathryn arranged dinner at a twenty-something restaurant in the meat packing district, the city’s new “in” neighborhood and night life mecca.  I notice a high positive correlation between the popularity of the restaurants and their state of state of decrepitness.

June 17, Friday: Two days at sea and a busy touring day left us tired and in need of a little rest.   Kathryn and Neal joined us onboard Odyssey for dinner and stayed over in preparation of our East River cruise and a trip to Port Washington on Long Island.   We had a lovely time together.

June 18, Saturday: The cruise up the East River was fantastic, much more interesting than I had imagined.  While I am not a particular fan of Gotham, I must say that seeing all the sights of the city by water was a real treat.  As you probably know, The East River is really not a river, but tidal water connecting the harbor with Long Island Sound.  The river begins at the Battery, flows under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and other bridges, past City Hall, the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, Midtown, the United Nations, Roosevelt and Riker’s Island, and then out to the sound.  All-in-all it was about a two hour trip and another hour to get to Port Washington, where we planned to spend the weekend.  Port Washington is a suburb of NYC and really doesn’t have much to recommend it, but we had a great family visit.  We stopped there because it gave Neal and Kathryn a chance to catch the railroad back to the city.  

June 19, Sunday:  Sunday was Father’s Day and luckily I could spend most of it with Kathryn.  Last year she was with us in Vancouver.   Monday we decided to move up to Sag Harbor on the tip of Long Island about 90 miles away, an 11 hour cruise.  It was a lovely day, calm waters, sunshine and our route kept us close to the picturesque shoreline.  We anchored in the harbor that night and the next morning cruised about 10 miles around Shelter Island to Greenport, also a picturesque little seaport town.  It was a beautiful early summer day and the cruise around the Great Peconic Bay and Shelter Island gave us a chance to see the often palatial and beautiful homes of the rich and famous.    Greenport boasts Claudio’s, a seafood restaurant on the pier that claims to be the oldest restaurant in the U.S owned continuously by the same family.   These little towns all seem to boast some trivial fact of history.   It is a cozy and inviting spot with very good food.  We rented a car and over the next few days toured the north and south fork of the island, visiting such places as Sag Harbor, East Hampton, South Hampton, and Bridge Hampton.  These are really lovely places.  They are famous for the large summer homes, and the bountiful shops that lie in wait along the main streets.  Most of the really large residential properties are difficult to see because of the characteristically giant, well manicured hedges that are unique to this part of the country.  The hedges themselves are quite something to see.  Very large dogwoods are abundant and in full bloom, and other trees species such as oak and beach and other mature hardwoods graced the beautiful landscape.  Of course every little town has a museum, and most of the more famous towns have the best designer stores in the country.  The colonial architecture is well preserved as is the whaling and fishing heritage.  The north fork of Long Island has developed quite a wine industry, with vineyards everywhere.   Jamesport is in the middle of it all and home to a very fine restaurant named Jeddah Hawkins.  It is located in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion.  None of the restaurants seem to present the local wines.  We spent about four days traveling about the area and it was delightful.

June 25:  This morning we set off for Block Island, which is about 25 miles east of Long Island and about halfway to Martha’s Vineyard.  It was a bright and lovely day.  Block Island is shaped like a lamb chop with a large lake like harbor in the middle.  We were told that during the summer as many as 2,200 boats cram the little bay, particularly when there is a regatta.  Because space is at a premium, we tied up to a buoy for the night.  The island is mostly a vacation destination, either for day visitors who come by ferry from New Bedford, or by cottage owners who stay the summer.  The cottages are traditional sea port style with grey cedar shake siding and white trim.  The island has few trees except in the low areas, and is rocky with green grass and cattails growing in the marshes.  The main restaurant is the Oar Inn in the new harbor and provides a beautiful vista of the bay and the boats.  The little tourist town is a short $11 cab ride away and has a full complement of ice cream and tee shirt shops, but is nevertheless worth a visit.  It was all very pleasant.

June 26: We put out for Cutty Hunk, and other small island about 25 miles east and about 20 miles north of Martha’s Vineyard.  Our transit was in a pea soup fog.  Luckily it cleared up just before we entered the little bay.  Here we met up with Curtis and Melanie Hoff, dear friends from Ann Arbor.  They own a beautiful Fleming 55.  We had a delightful time together visiting the island and enjoying breakfast at the “Fishing Club”.  The Fishing Club was started decades ago.   Its members included Teddy Roosevelt, J.P. Getty, FDR, H.S. Truman and others.  It was a very modest camp, and had a cupboard with small locked lockers for the members to lock up their alcoholic beverage of choice (during Prohibition).  The lockers are still there, but I am not sure the club is still in business.  The facility operates today as a B&B and serves breakfast to the public.  It is popular among the locals.  The island is dry and has no other restaurants or gathering places.  They do, however, have fresh lobsters, scallops and occasionally fresh sword fish and stripers.  We enjoyed a wonderful lobster dinner aboard our boat one night, and a great scallop salad on “Hither’n Yon’ the next night. 

June 28:  This was our last day at sea and the last day of The Great Mango Run: we left Cutty Hunk Island around 1300 for Portsmouth, R.I.   It was about a three hour run, and a beautiful day it was.  Our last few hours on this trip were really memorable as we cruised up the Sakonnet River to Portsmouth.  We had never been to Rhode Island before: it is a very beautiful place, with vibrant green pastures and hardwood knolls rolling down the hills to the sea.  The shore and cliffs are dotted with beautiful homes some of which are spectacular mansion.  After tying up at the Nordhavn dock we rented a car and drove to Newport, about 15 miles away.  That evening we dined at The White Horse Tavern, established before 1673 and is reputed to be the oldest remaining tavern in the U.S.  It was a very interesting and busy place and they had the best swordfish we have yet enjoyed in these parts.  Newport has an historic district that runs about 20 blocks down Thames Street to an ocean drive around the peninsula and the Mansion District.  Historic buildings along the way are marked with signs dating their origin.  The historic area dates from the mid 1600’s, and is very quaint and interesting.  Wonderful seafood restaurants abound near the dock where lovely yachts are moored.   Huge (by our standards) hydrangeas resplendent in brilliant blue grace the lawns and byways, most of which are neatly manicured.   

June 29 to July 4th:    Aside from cleaning the little hidden places, packing, and moving off the boat we took time to see the Newport area.  First we toured the Mansion District and went through The Breakers and Rosecliff homes; both were spectacular.  The Breakers is 67,000sq. ft. and built at a cost in today’s dollars of $310 million ($12.5 million in 1895 when it was built).  The Breakers was owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, son of the founder of the New York Central Rail Road and an associated Steamship Company.  Vanderbilt died at age 57, just a year after the home was completed.  Another mansion, Rosecliff, was built by the daughter of the owner of the Comstock Lode in Nevada.  Both houses were built as summer cottages and used for about two months during the summer party season in Newport.  We were told that to participate in the “season”, one was expected to host 6 dinner parties for 60 or more people and two balls with at least 600 guests.  The budget at Rosecilff for the two summer months was about $7 million in today’s dollars.  These homes were beautiful and lavish by any standard.  They epitomize the “Gilded Age” of American capitalism before the adoption of the income tax by the federal government.  Today, many of the homes are open for tour and cared for by the local historical society.  About an equal number are still privately owned and seem to be occupied and well cared for.

We drove the Ocean Drive, which is a very beautiful trip of ten miles or so along the coast.  That afternoon, Kathryn and Neal joined us, so we got a chance to drive to Providence to pick them up at the RR station.  Providence was a surprise, in that it is a lovely city with an imposing and beautiful white marble capital building that is among the loveliest I have seen in my travels.  For a tiny state, they have a big capital! 

The next day we spent about 3 hours aboard a newly commissioned 68 foot Nordhavn. The owner told me he took ten trips to Taiwan to look over construction during its twelve month construction period.  I asked him if he felt he was obsessive by nature, but said he didn’t think so, although he allowed that others may have a different point of view.   It is a spectacular boat and similar to the one now being built for us.  The owners showed us around and we got many good ideas for our new boat.  That afternoon we had a very nice lunch on the dock and then walked around the historic shopping district. 

July 3rd was cloudy and misty, but we took the boat around Aquidneck Island, past Ocean Drive and the Mansions, past Newport, then up the Providence River to Bristol, R.I. anyway.   Bristol claims to have been the first place (1785) to celebrate the 4th of July, and it still has the biggest and most enthusiastic celebration in these parts.  We anchored in their harbor overnight and enjoyed the fireworks from the stern of Odyssey, after a wonderful dinner prepared by Kathryn and Rebecca.  The next day we moved back to Portsmouth and then took Neal to Providence to catch his train back to the city.  Except for two days of cleaning and moving the rest of our belongings off the boat, that was the end of The Great Mango Run.

Prologue:  We have had a few days to reflect on our trip since returning to Ann Arbor.   It was a spectacular adventure, one that we are anxious to continue.  The beauty of the earth as seen from Odyssey is beyond description.  The color of the sea, the marine life, the volcanoes of the Pacific Rim, the great sand beaches of Mexico and Central America…everyday was exciting and memorable.  The adventure of piloting our boat into unknown places and challenge of the sea and the forces of nature and to come through it unscathed was a terrific thrill.  The trip afforded us the opportunity to invite friends and loved ones aboard and to get to know them in a way that we could never do in any other venue.  And finally, we met many lovely people along the way, all of whom were a delight to encounter and, in some cases, get to know.  We never had a moment of feeling at risk or in danger; on the contrary, all the people we met were happy to assist us and were interested in our adventure.   It was a fantastic trip.  We dream about it and recall lovely memories all the time.

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