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post #8 of Old 07-10-2007
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A long night at Block Island

I love Block Island, and yes, the Salt Pond can be a difficult anchorage... every one has stories! A number of years back, I was with a couple of buddies aboard "Gavilan", a Morgan 382. It was late August, and Ken, Pete, and I were just returning from Martha's Vinyard. We arrived late afternoon in New Harbor, and anchored with a 35# CQR and lots of chain. We felt good about the set and drove it home with some reverse throttle. After tending to the boat chores, we set about readying the dinghy for the trip ashore. We were anxious for a few cold ones at Cap'n Nick's, but just as we were ready to cast off the dinghy, the wind switched ever so slightly, and started blowing a few degrees cooler.

Being prudent sailors, we figured we should stick around for a few minutes just to be sure the anchor held. Ten minutes later, the wind had settled in to a NorthWest direction, and was blowing about 25-30 knots. But the anchor held in the shift. Twenty minutes later, the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees, and the wind was settling in with gusts to 45. The anchor still held, but we figured we'd abandon the hootin' & hollerin' ashore in favor of standing anchor watches through the night.

We kept the coffee hot, not only to help the person on watch to stay awake, but to help keep warm. Hey.. it was August! Summer, right? We bundled in sweatshirts and foulies and huddled behind the dodger to try to stay warm while on watch. I think the temp finally bottomed out in the low 40's. Wind chill much lower! All night, through each of the watches, the radio was buzzing with reports of anchors dragging, boats colliding, rodes tangling, and termpers flaring. We watched all night from the cockpit as less fortunate boaters dragged and drifted by us.

In contrast to all the chaos around us was the soft but steadfast glow of the Milky Way overhead! With very little light pollution, and the passage of the front clearing out the haze, the view of the stars was incredible... alone in the cockpit on watch on a cold blustery bouncy night, hot coffee, a good boat with a well set anchor, the experience was memorable, if not spiritual!

Our chain and CQR held through the night. We were lucky. A few close calls, but no one crossed or fouled our rode, or drifted into us. The morning was crisp and bright, and by then the wind was a compartively gentle 20-25kn. We had a great sail back to Long Island Sound that day, close hauled into the teeth of that northerly, with swells from the south adding a gentle rythmic contrast to the gusts.

I've been back to Block many times since in my own boats with my own family, with lots of other stories and memories... fortunately though, never another night like that!

M382 #26
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