Maine Cruise – Days 2-3 – Boston

Otherwise known as The Gale That Didn’t Happen.

Actually, it did blow out of the north and east pretty hard, especially on the Rhode Island south coast where Block Island saw sustained winds of 40 knots for much of the afternoon on Saturday.  Here in the Boston area it was gusting towards 30, and it appeared to be slightly less than that in Provincetown.  We probably would have been fine in Provincetown, but no matter: we had a great time in Boston and are very glad the weather pushed us this way.

Shipping traffic heading into and out of the Mystic River, beneath the Tobin Bridge, kept s entertained.

Food, family, friends.  Sightseeing, history, megayachts. Boat work. Dog baths. Major commercial shipping.

After our Friday trip from Marion we had a simple evening on-board at the Charlestown Marina, watching the weekend get under way in the harbor, enjoying the city skyline, meeting a few friendly marina mates (Hi Vicky, Michael and Beatrice!), and a simple supper onboard.

A segment of the Charlestown Harborwalk, with views of the USS Constitution and the Boston skyline.

We also discovered that Charlestown is a delightful place to go for walks. The Charlestown Marina is right on the grounds of the old Charlestown Navy Yard.  There was a rich mixture of new and rehabbed historic industrial architecture, quiet and clean tree-lined streets, and a fantastic Harborwalk that winds around the perimeter of almost all of Charlestown offering views of the city and harbor from so many angles.

The world’s largest bandsaw? Possibly. A relic from the shipbuilding days.

It is clean, feels safe, and is popular with walkers, runners, dog walkers, tourists and residents.  A wonderful resource.

The Navy Yard itself dates back to 1801. It was officially closed as an active naval facility in 1974, and is now the Boston National Historic Park.  In addition to being the home of the U.S.S. Constitution, otherwise known as “Old Ironsides”, and U.S.S. Cassin Young,  a Fletcher class destroyer built in 1943, it has buildings, piers, cranes and retired equipment spanning more than 200 years of history.  Both the Constitution and Cassin Young are open to the public, although the Constitution is currently undergoing a major renovation and is therefore closed temporarily.

Saturday, true to expectations, dawned gray and cool, with a breeze that built steadily all day.  The harbor was busy, although the sailboats boats struggled with reefed sails and the powerboats got tossed around.  Even the captain of the Boston Harbor Cruise vessel Majesty, which looks to be close to 100 feet long, complained that it was ” a difficult day”.  We were happy to be snug and secure.

My “Tour de Charlestown” on foot featuring the Navy Yard, the Harborwalk and The Freedom Trail.

My first project was a little run to get my heartrate up and explore our neighborhood.  I first took in the Harborwalk, which was great fun, then I stumbled across the Freedom Trail and decided to follow the Charlestown portion and see the sights.  The Trail took me through several historic parks and charming 19th century brick townhouse neighborhoods.  Bruce’s RAM 2500 would never make it here, thanks to narrow winding roads with hairpin turns and challenging parking options.

I climbed Bunker Hill (twice!) to the Bunker Hill Monument.  The Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place on June 17, 1775 during the Siege of Boston, was a pivotal battle early in the American Revolution.  Interestingly, most of the battle took place on nearby Breeds Hill.  Although the colonial militia eventually gave up their position and retreated to Cambridge, British losses greatly outnumbered those of the colonial forces, demonstrating that inexperienced militia could stand up to professional British troops, thus discouraging the British from future frontal assaults on well defended colonial lines.

These monuments and beacons of history always make me pause and think about the sacrifice, bloodshed and peril that afflicts humanity in so many ways.  On a marginally lighter note, it is good to be reminded of the past, to better understand and appreciate the present.  Boston is ripe with such opportunity for retrospection.

Bruce and his sister Clair aboard Esmeralde.

Back to the boat. We expected Bruce’s sister, niece and husband for dinner onboard. To keep it simple we decided to walk to the convenient (about a one-mile walk) Whole Foods, where we stocked up on simple picnic fare.  Mother Nature cooperated by providing us with welcome sunshine shortly before Clair, Jamie and Anna Rose arrived, so it was a pretty evening to enjoy being aboard, although still a bit too windy for a harbor tour.  We enjoyed their visit immensely.

The Freedom Trail on a fine Sunday morning. With six zillion other people.

When Sunday morning rolled around I decided it would be a great opportunity to explore the rest of The Freedom Trail, this time through Boston proper.  It was cool, dry and sunny: a gorgeous day.  Bad idea! The streets and sidewalks seemed to be more crowded than a weekday rush-hour. Tourists, residents, visitors, tradesmen, construction, laborers, and even a few local crazies clogged everything.  There were walking tours, bicycle tours, trollies, Duck Boats, shoppers, brunch-goers, even Segway tours (really??).  And people staring at their cell phones while moving blindly. It was chaos.  So much for a decent run.  I even lost The Trail a few times, especially in the North End, and had to seek Google’s help to get myself back on track.

After I realized running was out of the question, I had fun and enjoyed the sicenery and historic sights.  The Old North Church, the Paul Revere House where Revere lived when he did his famous Midnight Ride (and fathered sixteen children), the fabulous North End with all the incomparable Italian food, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, the Old State House, Old South Meeting House, Granary Burying Ground, the Massachusetts State House and Boston Common, to name a few. The Freedom Trail is a wonderful experience, although in the future I would try to find a less-crowded time.   Sunday morning in February, maybe?

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Back on the boat, Bruce was finishing up a morning of waxing.  There’s a lot of that to do on this boat, and thankfully Bruce is very diligent about it.  Me, not so much.   I did decide the dogs needed a bath, though.  That became my contribution to boat-and-crew cleanliness for the day. It’s a bit of a project, but everyone is happier afterwards.

Our agenda for the rest of the day was to walk over the Charlestown Bridge to meet good friends Gary and Barbara in the North End, and to enjoy all the rich and flavorful food and culture that this historic Italian neighborhood has to offer.  We don’t know the neighborhood, but Gary and Barbara are seasoned pros so we let them call the shots.  What a ball we had!

There is always a line at The Daily Catch. It’s worth the wait.

We lined up for a late lunch (or was it early supper?) at the tiny, unpretentious The Daily Catch on Hanover street, where we had an excellent meal of calamari salad, oysters Rockefeller, squid ink pasta aglio olio and alfredo, haddock and a delightful chilled Italian white of some unknown variety (one bottle wasn’t enough).

Mangia.  The Daily Catch.

We even got to watch some unidentifiable  marching band go by as we waited in line on he sidewalk – a North End tradition — and after that we witnessed a near spectacular meltdown of our chef who couldn’t find his waitress, but managed to produce a terrific meal for us in spite of it all.  (Didn’t I mention it was crowded in Boston?  Oiye.)

More food! Caffe Vittoria.

After our meal, in spite of the fact that we were stuffed, we crossed the street to Caffe Vittoria for espresso, biscotti, limoncello, gelato and limoncello cake.  Ooooof.  So glad we can’t do this every day.  We then crossed the same stree again to the Modern Pastry where we picked up some delightful pastries to go, because we hadn’t had enough already.

Why stop now? Cafe Modern.

Gary then led us on a frenzied march around the neighborhood, pointing out all the best restaurants and pastry shops that we have to try next time!  I can’t wait.  If we weren’t scheduled to push on towards Maine the next day, we would be back immediately.  By the time our tour was over were we all overstuffed and exhausted, and gratefully accepted a ride back to the marina in The Sh!tter.  What a treat, a memorable affair.  It usually is, with Gary and Barbara in charge.

In the morning we would bid Adieu! to Boston and be off to Maine.

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