First East Coast Cruise -Part 2 – Mystic Seaport

After a very pleasant stay in Block Island we decided to move on and head west into Long Island Sound.  We had several destinations in mind, including Montauk, Sag Harbor, Stonington and Mystic Seaport.  All had their unique appeal and we had different reasons for wanting to visit each one. IMG_3793The day dawned beautifully.  I was up early and enjoyed a beautiful, classic summer sunrise over Great Salt Pond. My favorite time of day.

Everyone was up and about early, so we made our way through breakfast and a walk ashore while the day was still young, and were ready to roll shortly after 8:00 a.m.  We didn’t want to waste such a beautiful morning.

Another first for the new boat: we cast off the mooring and did a Great Salt Pond harbor tour on the flybridge. What a great view!  We cruised along the docks, then looped through the shallows on the east side of the pond where we scouted the possibilities for anchoring.  We haven’t been able to use this shallow area since we had the Able Whistler 32 in 2004, and we are looking forward to being able to do it once again.

Once outside the breakwater we began yet another lesson in Cruising Under Power. It was a crystal clear day, and in sailors terms it was flat calm, not a breath of wind.  However, the sea was lumpy and confused from the blow the day before.  We were still on the flybridge and the dogs, who were up top with us, were not impressed by the conditions.

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Calm, but uncomfortable flybridge conditions.
We set a course for Watch Hill Passage.  Eight knots was not very comfortable as we rolled and rocked in the confused surface chop and odd ocean swell running beneath it all.  After playing with the throttle for about half an hour, running everywhere from eight knots to 17 knots, we decided that maybe, in spite of the otherwise beautiful calm day, the sea state was just not amenable to flybridge cruising.  We retreated to the pilot house and discovered that magically, the ride felt comfortable again.  Lesson learned.

While all this was going on, we ultimately decided to head for Mystic Seaport, which we always enjoy.  They had room for us alongside: perfect.

We cut through into Long Island Sound at Watch Hill with two to three knots of fair current pushing us along.  The sea state got a little crazy for a bit with the current, ledges, shallows and old ocean swell, but it flattened out quickly.

We were amused by the insane number of small Sunday morning fishing boats racing around at top speed — or sitting still — in every direction.  With clear visibility it was no problem, but looking at the chaos on the radar made me think about how challenging this would be in the fog.  It did give us a good opportunity to play with radar features and figure out how to interpret the mess.

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A very busy river.
Back in flat water, we made our way back up to the flybridge for the trip up the river to Mystic Seaport.  This is always a fun ride; experiencing it on the flybridge made it especially enjoyable.  The river was incredibly busy! We were part of a large contingent parading northbound, and there was yet another, even larger, parade southbound.  A wonderful festive atmosphere of summer weekend fun on the water.

An Amtrak train powered across the river just before us, and the railroad bridge opened as we approached.  We made our way into the tiny, crowded basin before the bascule bridge in the center of Mystic village where we had to wait half an our for the scheduled bridge opening.  There were about six other boats holding position there with us, including what appeared to be a 50-some-foot converted minesweeper, so it was cozy.

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The historic Bascule Bridge, built in 1920.
The historic bascule bridge in Mystic is a Strauss Heel-trunnion type bridge designed by former Otis Elevator Company Chief Engineer Thomas Ellis Brown of New York, and built in 1920 by the J. E. FitzGerald Construction Company of New London, Connecticut. It’s movable span is 85 ft wide, 218 ft long, weighs 660 short tons (589 long tons; 599 t), and employs two 230 short tons (205 long tons; 209 t) concrete-filled counterweights. Until 1928, the bridge carried streetcars of the Groton and Stonington Street Railway.

Eventually the bridge, which opens once an hour, slowly lifted skyward, and after waiting for the half-dozen or so outbound boats to pass through, we proceeded through the narrow passage and waved at the tourists lined up along the road.

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Esmeralde lies along the bulkhead at Mystic Seaport.
The entire length of the Mystic River is lovely, but the prettiest part is north of the Bascule Bridge, where Mystic Seaport sprawls on the east shore and lovely historic homes, with well-tended lawns and gardens, rest along the west shoreline.  We proceeded to the north end of the Seaport, and were guided into a berth along the historic concrete bulkhead in the tiny yacht basin.

It was a picturesque spot, with the rigging of the whale ship Charles W. Morgan and Joseph Conrad defining the southern view, and the pleasant homes across the river to the west.  All afternoon there were kayakers, paddle boards, dingies, small tour launches and historic wooden sailing craft marching up and down the river.  Festive and wholesome.

We love Mystic Seaport and it is one of the dogs’ favorite places to explore.  We are fond of coming here in the dead of winter, when it is nearly deserted, to enjoy the charming scenery and fresh air.  In the summer it is a different —  but equally enjoyable — spot.  It was too hot for the dogs to do anything more than a casual trot around the grounds, so after doing just that, we took them back to the boat where they could enjoy the air conditioning, and Bruce and I took off for a walk into town, where we scouted dinner options.

The culinary scene in Mystic has improved substantially in the last five or so years.  The Mystic Oyster Club (not to be confused with the S&P Oyster Company, please) is excellent, and we always enjoy the simple but reliable fare at Anthony J’s.  We also checked into the new exquisite looking  Sift Bakeshop, which is definitely the go-to spot if you want to splurge on your calorie budget, although they do also offer really nice looking salads and other lunch offerings.  The Rise Bakery across the street looked equally enticing for breakfast and lunch, but it was closed when we walked by.  We also eyed the Engine Room which we have contemplated in the past but never tried.  It is owned by the same people who own The Mystic Oyster Club, so we suspect that it is pretty good.

98151E1A-EB3A-4733-9F74-282242BF99F9We ultimately decided not to worry too much about dinner, and instead focused on an excellent flybridge evening opportunity, which was beautiful.

When we finally did decide to grab some dinner, we went to the closest place, the Engine Room.  It is in a handsome old brick building, which was the home of the Lathrop Marine Engine Company.  James W. Lathrop began the company in 1897 in Mystic, and it became a pioneer in the development if marine engines.  The building has been extensively rehabilitated, and behind the bar, surrounded by 16 beer taps, sits a massive antique drill press, presumably left over from the Lathrop days.

The Engine Room features “sixteen craft beers on tap, the area’s largest bourbon selection, craft cocktails, a full wine list and a menu of locally sourced, creative American comfort food, with a focus on America’s most beloved dish, the burger.” While this wouldn’t seem to satisfy someone like me who is rather veggie-centric, I enjoyed a terrific salad with really wonderful fresh local greens and a dressing with exceptional flavors.

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Appetizers at the Engine Room.
The kale hummus with roasted chick peas and chili oil was excellent, as was the salmon jerky appetizer.  Bruce exclaimed over and over that his burger was the best he had ever had, anywhere.  So yes, we say Go!  We went back to the Boat as well-fed happy-campers.

Here is a small slide show of our Mystic visit.

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