Our original plan was to leave Thursday for Block Island with Peter and Mary Lee. They had never been to BI and I was anxious to show it to them.
But alas, NOAA was forecasting 30 knot winds and tropical downpours, so we postponed our departure until Friday. By 3:00 Thursday it had cleared up enough that we could have gone, but alas…
Friday Morning Fog
Despite the forecast for a wonderful day Friday, we woke up to fog. Mrs. Horne said “we’re not going in the fog”, and I just said “we’ll see.”
By the time I brought Vigilant into the dock, the sun was popping in and out. We were loaded up and ready to depart at 9:00 so I fired up the engine. Mrs. Horne said “we’re leaving in the fog?”
I said “it’s clearing up” and proceeded…
It’s 55 miles from Mattapoisett to Old Harbor. On a calmer day, I’d run over at 25 and be there in a little over 2 hours. With deference to the fog, I settled into a 20 mph cruise, which the computer said would result in a 2 hour, 45 minute trip.
Normally that would be fine, but the fog thickened and I had to constantly stare at the radar screen.
Huge Ocean Rollers
After about 45 minutes we cleared Buzzards Bay and the calm seas turned to rollers. I’m okay with rollers since you never pound, you just have to slow down so you ride up and down the face smoothly.
Slowly the rollers got bigger and bigger as the fog turned from 500′ visibility to total pea soup – less than 100′. We were now at a point where we were looking up at the crests of the waves when we were in the troughs. I asked Peter how big he thought they were and after studying them for a minute he said “ten to twelve feet.” Oh me oh my!
Between the 12 footers and pea soup fog, Mrs. Horne started having a mild panic attack and stepped out back to cool down and avoid getting seasick.
Later in the day we talked to folks on BI who came over on the ferry. Everyone we talked with told horror stories about people puking. Although Vigilant was rolling up and down, we were traveling along relatively smoothly at 20 mph.
A Near Miss At Sea
As much as I wanted to go back and comfort Mrs. Horne, I was totally occupied with staring at the radar screen. The huge waves were actually showing up as red blips on radar and then quickly vanishing. Of course I had to constantly stare at the screen to make sure they actually did disappear!
Suddenly a big red blip showed up at two o’clock on the screen. It didn’t disappear and it was moving fast. It was also on a collision course. I turned off 10 degrees and it kept coming. I turned off another 10 degrees – still coming. I backed down to zero and laid on the horn as a 50 footer doing 25 knots passed 200′ feet in front of us.
We have no idea what his story was, but he never changed course and never slowed down. Since we were traveling toward each other at close to 50 mph, the entire incident happened in less than a minute. Maybe he was on autopilot and went to the bathroom, maybe he thought we were a blip from a wave, maybe he thought being 10 miles offshore he was alone, or maybe he didn’t have radar!
I don’t know and I don’t care, I’m just glad that God gave me the skills to avert a sure disaster!
A few minutes later Peter said “I’m going to be sick” and ran to his cabin to puke.
When Peter returned, the fog had lifted. I shouted back to Mrs. Horne and shouted “I see America!” And with that Block Island emerged from the fog and our vacation began.
Off To Ballard’s Beach
Everyone I know takes a vacation at a tropical resort where they lay on the beach and enjoy boat drinks from a Tiki Hut Bar. How come we don’t have any place like that in New England?
We do; Ballard’s Beach Resort on Block Island!
I unloaded the beach chairs and umbrellas and off we went. It’s about a 5 minute pwalk to the beach from Ballard’s Marina. It was quite crowded for a Friday, but we found a nice spot and ordered lunch from one of the Tiki Bar.
It was a total beach day, 80 degrees, light haze, and maybe 15 knots of wind…
We met a couple of ladies named Lucy and Lena. Of course we loved Lucy because her name is the same as our granddaughter. She said “she came from a long line of Lucille’s”, but she was a Lucy.
After a couple of boat drinks, Peter and I decided to go swimming. The water is 70 degrees, which is 4 degrees warmer than last year. As you can see in the video above, there were pretty big waves hitting the beach. And since it was low tide, you had to walk across some rocks before you got to the sand. Sadly, Peter stubbed his toe on a big rock.
The water was quite comfortable, but it was tricky getting past the breakers without getting pounded. We found a spot where we could stand up in the troughs and jump up 3 feet when a wave came by.
As we left the beach, we passed Ballard’s outdoor amphitheater just as a guy in the audience stepped to the mic to sing my favorite song – Wagon Wheel:
Asian Fusion on BI
After showers and a few songs on the aft deck, we headed out to dinner. I decided we try a new Asian-Island fusion spot called Tiger Fish. The food was great, fairly spicy, and the portions were huge.
Mary Lee ordered something called Fish Tacos:
Very unique and tasty. The chips were spectacular and unlike many Mexican Nachos, they were actually light.
Our sever was a lovely young lady named Arianna…
Arianna designs and builds hand crafted earrings…
John Brazile Rocks
As has become a tradition when we stay in Old Harbor, after dark we went back to Ballard’s to see John Brazile perform. John is a very good singer and a great solo guitarist.
After a couple of songs he asked for requests. Thinking of the guy we saw earlier at the outdoor amphitheater, I quickly ran up and said “do you know Wagon Wheel?”.
John said “yes”.
I said “can you play it in G?”
He said “you want to sing it?”
I said “of course”.
Then John turned to the audience and said “He told me he wants to sing it. I feel like it’s coming from the Mafia and it’s an offer I can’t refuse”…
Til tomorrow in Newport