First East Coast Cruise – Part 4 – Fourth of July in Block Island

After spending a pleasant day and evening in Stonington, we got under way early and headed for Block Island.  It was a gorgeous sunrise in Stonington Harbor: a quintessential start to a summer day, with glassy calm water and a beautiful moored fleet reflecting the early sun.

DCIM100GOPROThe trip to Block was quick and easy.  The water stayed flat and we had a fair tide to carry us along.  We kept the throttle at an easy cruising speed of 8-9 knots, which is very relaxing (although Bruce couldn’t restrain himself completely, and cranked her up to full throttle for a few minutes as we approached the entrance to Block Island).

Champlins: virtually abandoned.

We were in the harbor shortly after 10:00 am, and were surprised to find it very quiet.  A couple of town moorings were available, there were few boats on the private and club moorings on the west edge of the harbor, and the two anchorages were almost empty.  Champlins, the Boat Basin and the Oar were also virtually abandoned.

We are fortunate to have access to two club moorings along the western shore of the harbor.  Both were unoccupied when we arrived, so we picked up the pennant on one and made ourselves at home.  The club guidelines for these two moorings are that “rafting is suggested, but not required.”

Crowded raft developed on the other club mooring.

We enjoy our privacy while cruising, so while we love to meet and connect and socialize, we do not like to raft.  Although there are a few members who seem totally committed to rafting, we have discussed the issue with enough members to recognize that there is a silent majority who are like us, and will go elsewhere rather than raft.  It can be uncomfortable when the two opposing opinions collide.  In any case, we were happy that, for now, the harbor was quiet and there was lots of room.

We really enjoy spending a few relaxing days in Block Island.  We do it every year, sometimes on holidays like the 4th of July, and sometimes at off-peak times.  We like it best on the less-crowded days, and surprisingly, we enjoyed several quiet days on this trip leading up to the Fourth.

We arrived on a Tuesday, a full week prior to the holiday, and for the +/- four days after we got there, it was gusting over 30 knots for some period of time each day.  This kept the casual visitors away.  It also made us glad to be on a secure mooring tucked up under the lee of the windward shore.  The open anchorage is not a happy place in these conditions.

We were pleased on this visit that the mornings were delightfully cool, which allowed us to walk the dogs into town and back several days in a row. And since the crowds had not yet arrived, the sidewalks were largely empty, traffic was minimal and getting a cup of coffee or bottle of water was pleasant. This is how we truly enjoy BI. Thumbs up.

One of my goals was to explore some of the greenway trails that criss-cross the island.  Thanks to The Block Island Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy, this network of  more than 28 miles of walking trails allows access to the island’s natural beauty, heritage and wildlife.  Forged by glaciers 10,000 years ago, Block Island is a busy crossroads for wildlife, including right whales, seals, thousands of migrating birds, seabirds, songbirds and raptors. I found it remarkable that even when the town, beaches, roads and harbor became overrun and unmanageable over the holiday, these trails were peaceful and quiet.

IMG_1198My first adventure was to walk from the dinghy dock over to beach road, then up Corn Neck Road to the Clay Head Trail.  It was three miles on the road just to reach the dirt road to the trail head, and in spite of some lovely views, the narrow shoulder and copious traffic made it not an entirely pleasant walk.

Bluffs along Clay Head Trail.

The reward, however, was the spectacular Clay Head Trail along the high bluffs of the south east shore of the island, and maze of connected trails that go along with it.  My walk, round trip, was eleven miles.  For a more reasonable trip I would recommend either a bike ride or a taxi ride to the trail head, then enjoy three to five miles of beautiful trails while avoiding the perils of Corn Neck Road.

IMG_1199My second adventure started at the dock at Champlins, and after a short stint on West Side Road (and a brief stop at the Saturday Farmers Market), I entered the Greenway and stayed on it right across the island to Black Rock Road, Robin Hollow, and the bluffs looking south at the Atlantic Ocean.  This was a very pretty walk through woodlands, some quiet residential areas, and farmland.  IMG_3994I didn’t see another person from West Side Road to Cooneymus Road, except for a runner who appeared at a fortuitous moment when I was unable to figure out where the trail was.  On Black Rock, there were just a few other people out enjoying the scenery.  Imagine my surprise when I passed a couple coming in the opposite direction, and looked up at them to find it was my banker from Bank  of America and his wife! The Small World Department lives on.  IMG_3996After pausing to enjoy the views on the south side of the island, I cut back through Rodman’s Hollow, where the steep descent into and climb out of the “Hollow” got my heart rate up to acceptable levels.  I followed the path around Fresh Pond, then after a brief stint on the busy road, tucked back onto the trails and crossed the Fresh Swamp Preserve to Payne Road.  From there it was an easy walk into town to grab a fresh bottle of water, and then the regular walk back to the Champlins.  Lovely hike, just under ten miles round-trip.

IMG_1200My third excursion was a little shorter than the first two.  I again entered the Greenway from West Side Road, near Champlin Road, but instead of pressing all the way south to Rodman’s Hollow I turned east on Beacon Hill and continued on Old Town Road into town.  I had intended to take the Meadow Hill Trail, but somehow I missed or forgot it (!), so that remains for a future trip.

Each of these walks was unique and lovely, and I have plenty more to explore on our next trip.

Refreshments at Mahogany Shoals.

Bruce and I did enjoy a fair amount of the commercial activity on the island, where food and drink are plentiful and colorful.  Our first stop, on the day we arrived, was a late afternoon refreshment at Mahogany Shoals at Payne’s Dock.  This is always fun, especially before the crowds arrive, and we can bring the pups along as a bonus.  We managed to return a couple more times, especially when the afternoons became scorching.  Oh, and Rebecca’s at Payne’s is great for a good breakfast sandwich or quick lunch al fresco.

Cocktails with a view.

No visit to BI would be complete without a stop (or three) at The Oar, and we had our full share.  Burgers, fried chicken, sushi and their [in]famous mudslides…

Southeast Light Salad.  Kimchi!  Yum!

My fav is the Southeast Light Salad, which features kimchi alongside ginger pickled shrimp, pickled veggies, ginger, avocado and seaweed salad.  Bruce was more partial to the Bucket ‘O Chicken.

We enjoyed one civilized evening with friends at Winfields, which we have found to be excellent, especially in the context of Block Island.  Eli’s is another favorite, but we saved that for another time.  Because Champlins is the closest spot to our mooring, evening walks with the dogs were often held there, which meant, of course, we had to force down a few mudslides at the dock bar.  Sure, twist my arm.  And I can’t leave out the Old Harbor View Takeout, which is a great spot for a quick refreshment after exploring the island, and to watch the circus emerge from the ferries.  There’s so much more…but so little time.

Then there is the activity in the harbor.  Yes, we like it when it’s quiet, but the antics of The Mob are great entertainment every now and then. The floaties become more elaborate and numerous every year.  The constant traffic of overloaded dinghies, paddle boards with riders of every shape and size, kayaks, dogs, party boats, the 20-boat flotillas of the Cranston Navy anchored cheek-to-jowl in the shallows, and the after-dark parties and charter yachts at Champlins.  All a better show than anything on Broadway.

And the Fourth of July Parade.  We missed it this year, but it is a hoot and definitely worth the effort to experience.  We did see a chaotic display of the “floats” as they continued their celebration throughout the day all over the island.

To the idiot on the Hinckley picnic boat on the mooring next to us: your cannon makes you a total jerk.  Stop it.

So go if you can.  Just go early and make certain you have a secure spot for the boat for the duration.

The was the end of our First East Coast Cruise.  Our new boat proved to be a delightful platform.  We are looking forward to a full summer of cruising in the Northeast.


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