Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lost In Woodmont

I wasn't exactly sure where I was. I knew I was several miles west of New Haven but anything more precise or specific was hazy at best. After following streets with straightforward names like Beach Rd and Ocean Boulevard, the path became more confusing with each road becoming more narrow and circular. Was I in Milford? West Haven? I didn't know.
I spend a good portion of my floating life worrying about getting lost in fog. All the electronic devices in the world can't prepare you for that moment when a buoy isn't where you thought it would be. It is a scary feeling.
Unless you are hiking in the wilderness, getting lost on land is child's play. You are not lost in the classic sense, you are just not where you thought you would be. A little bit of backtracking or asking for directions usually regains your bearings.
But on this November morning, I felt I had been blindfolded and spun around several times. At least three times I passed the same house with a tiki bar on the front porch. The one-way streets all seemed to circle back to where I presently was. I was lost in a maze and couldn't find my way out.
I later learned  I was in the Woodmont section of Milford. Originally a summer community, it is now a mixture of various sized homes and designs. A walkway with random park benches wraps the shoreline and provides access to several small beach areas squeezed between the rocky shoreline
The most unique feature of Woodmont however is the rock themselves: orange phyllite. They provide a sharp contrast to the expected granite along these shores.
According to the Geology Of Connecticut, the rock is "a slate or phyllite, highly fissile, sericitic, and usually dotted with minute garnets."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Nellie Photos

Soundbounder: Nellie (original post)
SY Nellie: Website

Friday, November 19, 2010


Nellie is a powerful reminder of the age-old relationship between yachts and wealth. A century ago, this gaff-rigged cutter graced the western waters of Long Island Sound, flying the burgees of such exclusive yacht clubs as Larchmont, American, and Seawanka. She is the product of an era when sailing was a pastime reserved for men with pedigrees and summers off. An era when the western Sound served as the epicenter and playground for that crest of idle wealth.
Designed and constructed by the legendary Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Rhode Island, she was launched in 1903 for Morton Plant of New Haven, an heir to Reconstruction era railroad lines in the southern U.S.. With a 35' LWL and a deck that extends 46', she was one of three boats built to this design (Harold S. "Mike" Vanderbilt and J. Malcom Forbes owned the other two).
Surviving numerous owners and several different names (Butterfly), Nellie spent nearly 8 decades of the 20th century in western Long Island Sound. She had an auxiliary engine added in 1935; a new deckhouse in 1941; and suffered severe damage from a boatyard fire in 1959. Succumbing to the ravages of time, she
began her second century undergoing a 7 year restoration project which was just recently completed.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get a first hand view of Nellie and meet her crew. What an enthusiastic, accommodating, and fun group they are! I was invited aboard and given a tour which included a wealth of information about her history. She is a special boat and their pride in her was evident.

She is scheduled this winter to undergo work on some punchlist items from her recent restoration. Come spring, she will be back in the western Sound, ready to grace the waters for the next hundred years.

SY NELLIE: website (this is one of the best websites for a boat I have come across. Take some time and enjoy the photos and videos of her history and restoration. I highly recommend a visit; a long visit. You won't be disappointed)
Wooden Boat Magazine: Nellie (some beautiful photos of her undersail)
Herreshoff Marine Museum: website
YouTube: Interior Tour
Picasa: Nellie: Oyster Bay Spring Classic photo credits: Karen Martin

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Clearwater Hauled In Norwalk

While the sloop Clearwater spends most of her time on the Hudson River, she occasionally ventures east of Hell Gate into the waters of Long Island Sound. Making an appearance at random waterfront festivals, this vanguard of waterway restoration has from time to time, brought her message to the shores of Connecticut and Long Island.
With an overall length of 106' and a mast height of 108', she is modeled after the 18th and 19th century Dutch ships that worked the waters of New York Harbor and the Hudson River. The brainchild of Pete and Toshi Seeger, the Clearwater was launched in 1969 with the intent to bring awareness and appreciation to the Hudson's beauty, heritage, and frailty. According to their website, the message was always simple yet powerful:
"To the people who see her broad sails from the shore, the message is a poignant reminder of the potential beauty and wealth of our region’s much-abused and neglected waterways."

Clearwater's primary focus has always been the Hudson, but her influence has been far reaching. The Quinnipiac, Save The Sound, Oyster Bay Waterfront Center, and numerous other organizations along the Sound are following in the wake of The Great Hudson River Revival.
When I read Monday that she was hauled for some short-term hull maintenance, I made a quick visit to Norwalk Cove Marina to get a closer view.  Under threatening skies, it appeared the work was nearly finished and she was awaiting to be splashed once again. Never one to sit idle for too long, she was berthed at the 79th Street Boat Basin by Tuesday evening.

New York Times: A Sloop Named Clearwater
Maritime Systems: Clearwater Location

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WWII National Submarine Memorial

WWII National Submarine Veterans Memorial, Groton

Submarine History: History of the Memorial (additional photos)
Soundbounder: Battle Of Point Judith
USS Nautilus Museum (nearby)
US Submarine Veterans, Groton

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The lobsterboat Raven rests quietly in her railway cradle; Stony Creek, November 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010


"November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."


Hauling a boat is a ritual that I often try to postpone. When the calendar reaches November, a strain of denial seems to overtake me. I become convinced that there will be plenty of warm days ahead. I try to remind myself of the years when I sailed on Thanksgiving weekend. A few peppers still growing in the garden reinforce this delusion. Unfortunately, the calendar and the thermometer do not lie. Sailors, like aging starlets and men with bad combovers, need to acknowledge the passing of time.

The sail from Noank to the Connecticut River boatyard is an easy one. It is the preparations that are most consuming. I needed to make sure the yard had a dock space available. I also had to make arrangements for getting back to Noank to retrieve my car. Finally I had to dig through my bedroom closet for gloves, a wool hat, and the rest of my winter wardrobe. A gentle autumn day on land can sometimes feel like January just a few miles from the shoreline.

November is lonely on the water. An occasional commercial boat is the only other vessel you may see. The shoreline in the distance seems deserted too. Gone are the crowds that flocked to these beaches just six weeks ago. Waterfront homes that overflowed with guests, look empty and silent. Their awnings and Adirondack chairs have been removed from the lawn. Only an occasional whiff from a fireplace tells you that someone is home. A lighthouse that seemed like a quaint image for artists and tourists in June, becomes a utilitarian navigation aid in November.

November is also a sad month on the water. No matter how enjoyable the time might be, you know the days are numbered. This year is no different, as my day is spent looking back in time, rather than forward. I think of my trip to the Thimble Islands, and a starry night anchored in West Harbor. Any sort of thought to suppress my approaching winter ashore. The seasons of the year have come full circle.

I arrived in Saybrook without a hitch, and made my way to the train station the next morning.

It was a spectacular fall day with sunny skies and temperatures in the 60's. As the train passed through Niantic, Long Island Sound came into full view. There were several boats in the distance, taking advantage of the lovely weather. For a brief moment, I started thinking that I should drive back to Saybrook and take one more sail. There would certainly be enough time, and it would be a shame to waste such a nice day.
Eventually I realized that this would not be possible since I had already removed the sails from the boat. My sailing season was over, and there was no way to delay its inevitable end.

But in spirit, it never ends.
This was originally posted in November 2008; but I had no readers then.

Cakewalk V

Who says we can't build things here anymore? This August, Derecktor Shipyard of Bridgeport launched and christened Cakewalk V, the largest private yacht built in the United States since the 1930's. Measuring 281 feet in length, with a beam of nearly 47 feet, the $82 million vessel is the newest toy for Charles Gallagher, a private equity investor from Denver.

With her six decks and massive beam, Cakewalk V might very well be the largest yacht (by volume) ever built in the U.S.. The largest yacht lengthwise was J.P. Morgan’s Corsair IV, a 343-foot steam ship built in the 1930's by Bath Iron Works of Maine.

Derecktor's Mamaroneck shipyard has been a staple of the landscape for years but it is limited in size. Their Bridgeport location opened about a decade ago with the intent of attracting larger projects, both commercial and private. From oil skimmers to large yachts, the drydock here can accommodate vessels up to 4,000 tons.
In October, I  got a zoom lens view of  Cakewalk V from across the channel in Steel Point. After a month of sea trials and outfitting, the crew was busy putting the final touches on her. Within days she was gone; bound for warmer waters to make her world debut at the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show.

Derecktor: Cakewalk V specifications
CT Post: Cakewalk Makes A Splash
Bloomberg Profile: Charles Gallagher
Bloomberg Profile: Gallagher Industries
Derecktor Shipyards

photo credit: (bottom) Derecktor

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Route 146

With the fall colors now quickly disappearing, I took a short detour yesterday and drove Route 146 from Branford to Guilford. I have traveled portions of this road before, but it was always with a destination in mind. Yesterday's drive was simply a diversion from the monotony of the interstate.
Leaving Route 1 and its forest of leftover campaign signs, Route 146 winds through an assortment of landscapes, from rocky vistas to wooded marshlands. At times, I would turn onto a side road when the name sounded interesting (Sachems Head Rd, Old Quarry Rd etc), but I never explored too deep before continuing on.
Route 146 is probably my favorite drive along the Connecticut shoreline. But it is not a great "let's film a car commercial here" sort of road. It's too disjointed, too narrow, with causeways that seem prone to flooding. It's not the open road, it's a back road,... traveled by slow pokes like me, listening to Herb Alpert and taking pictures out the car window.

Soundbounder: Stony Creek
Soundbounder: Chaffinch Island Park
Herb Alpert: Route 101

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Inlet Pond In Greenport

About this time last year, I spent a day wandering around Long Island's North Fork. I had no real agenda or destination, so when I stumbled across something interesting I would stop and explore further. One of the highlights of my day was Inlet Pond Preserve on the outskirts of Greenport.

Consisting of approximately 50 acres, Inlet Pond is a county preserve maintained in cooperation with the North Fork Audubon Society. There are a network of trails that wind their way around the property; I followed the Blue Trail which circles the pond and leads to the adjacent beach.
Despite the name, there is no inlet connecting Long Island Sound to the pond. My first guess was that an inlet once existed, but had been sealed shut from some long forgotten storm.  Several websites however, claim the pond is freshwater. If I were a better investigative reporter, I would have verified the salinity myself. Shoulda, coulda, woulda!

After combing the beach and circling the pond, I arrived at an observation deck which provided a nice overview of  the land I had just walked. On one side, the pond was protected by a few short bluffs that were quickly losing their autumn color. And on the other, just a thin spit of sand was all that separated it from that "domesticated body of water"*  known as Long Island Sound.

North Fork Audubon
From The North Fork
Gail's Trails: Inlet Pond (map)

*quote: F Scott Fitzgerald; The Great Gatsby

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stepping Stones Pier

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning .....

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Great Gatsby; 1925

Great Neck Parks District: Sailing & Kayaking Programs
New York Times: Eyeing The Unreal Of Gatsby Esq.

The Late Season Mooring Field

Essex, October 19, 2010


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

West Pond

West Pond, Glen Cove, October, 2009


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Milton Point Pier

Milton Point, Rye, October 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pegasus Visits Mystic

The only thing I love more than an old sailing ship is an old tug. So when the tugboat Pegasus visited Mystic Seaport this Columbus Day weekend, I made sure to stop by. Built in 1907 for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, she was known as a "battleship tug" because of her size and power. When purchased by McAllistar in 1953, she was converted from steam to diesel power, and served the ports of Boston, New York, and Norfolk. She retired in 1997 after a 90 year career, and is now being restored by the Pegasus Preservation Project.
When I arrived, Captain Pamela Hepburn and her crew were just finishing up their third and final day of providing tours aboard the Pegasus. This may sound like easy work, but it can also be demanding. The sunny weather brought large crowds to the Seaport this holiday weekend, and standing for 9 hours in an engine room answering the same questions repeatedly is tiring work. Congratulations to the volunteer crew for a job well done.
As luck would have it, I was invited to join them for some food and grog at a nearby restaurant. Though tired, the crew was great company, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet them and share a few laughs. There was a wealth of maritime knowledge sitting at that table, and I promised to keep in touch as I said goodbye and wished them well on their trip back to New York Harbor the following morning.

Tug Pegasus Preservation Project
Tugster: Mystic Weekend
Tugster: A New York Harbor Waterblog
Mystic Seaport

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crown Princess Visits New London

The 947 foot Crown Princess returned to New London this past Saturday for a seven hour visit. Entering the harbor before dawn, she was greeted by the tugboat Patricia Ann which escorted the cruise ship to her berth at the State Pier. Despite the early arrival time, a good number of people turned out to witness this. Viewers lined the waterfront at City Pier and Fort Trumbull as the large ship made a 180-degree turn to prepare for dockage.

Although the Crown Princess had previously visited in September, her return was still a noteworthy event.   For a moment, it seemed as if everyone in town stopped what they were doing and looked towards the harbor. Shopkeepers stood in their doorways and taxi drivers got out of their cabs as the ship passed by. Volunteers were on hand to assist the visitors, and music from the Nutmeg Fife & Drum filled the air.   New London is a busy port, with ferries, submarines, tallships, and Coast Guard vessels all plying the waters regularly. It is not everyday however, that a 947 foot cruise ship comes to town.
Departing Brooklyn, the 3,000 passenger ship is touring New England and the Canadian Maritimes, with stops that will include  Newport, Boston, Portland, St John, and Halifax. 

Princess Cruises: Destinations
New London Day: A Princess Stops By

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arrival Of The Crown Princess

Fort Trumbull pier, New London; 6:35 a.m.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chasing The Half Moon

She was several miles west of me when I first spotted her masts breaking the horizon near Race Rock Lighthouse. With nothing but a thin silhouette to identify her, I knew instantly this was a ship I had not seen before. It was late in the day, with just a few hours left of daylight, but I decided to follow her in hope of getting a better view.

I was only gaining on her by a small amount, and if she continued to sail westward down Long Island Sound, it would be long after dark before I caught up with her. My guess however, was that she would drop anchor in New London for the evening, rather than face the 30 knot winds forecasted for the following morning. But when she passed the entrance to New London Harbor without changing her course, I debated whether to give up and sail home.

Sometime while I was busy arguing with myself over whether or not to continue on, the ship began to head north and enter Niantic Bay. This seemed like an odd destination for a ship of this size, but I was not about to complain.  I fired up the diesel and motored on, fully confident that I would reach her before sundown.
Drawing closer, it became apparent to me that this was the Half Moon, a replica of the Dutch ship sailed by Henry Hudson in 1609. Launched in 1989, she was built at the Snow Shipyard in Albany, and has sailed much of the east coast and Great Lakes.

She dropped anchor in the lee of Black Point, while her crew tended to some rigging work. I circled her several times, making small talk with the crew. I learned she will be in New London this weekend, and there are plans to travel the Connecticut River this month. I joked about how I had been following them for several miles and was so happy to catch up and get a close-up view.

"Happens all the time" one of them shouted back.