So let’s just enjoy the good stuff!
Days 3, 4 & 5, Essex, CT, Wednesday to Friday, 10/18 – 10/19
The Wednesday run from Stonington to Essex was nasty, so between more bad weather forecasts, the need for new heater parts, and the draw of a lovely eastern Connecticut town, we decided to stay in Essex awhile.
We have always enjoyed visiting to Essex. Its a fun day-trip in the off-season to look at boats and walk the dogs, but we have never spent any time there. This visit was a first, and we loved it.
Although we originally wanted to stay at (Safe Harbor) (Brewers) Dauntless Shipyard in order to flaunt our American Tug in front of all the Nordic Tugs, they had no room for us so we ended up at the (Safe Harbor) (Brewers) Dauntless Marina instead. This was a happy accident. The Marina is nestled right along the river alongside the two Essex yacht clubs. It is a small, and pleasant facility with a very nice, welcoming staff. Our slip was easy to get into and sitting in the pilot house we had pleasant views of the river, the marshes, and the Connecticut River Museum. There was plenty of room to walk the dogs and we were just one block from Main Street.
The first thing on our agenda was a nice walk with the pups. This is especially important after a rough ride. We went first to Dauntless Shipyard to pick up our heater parts (shipment #2) which were waiting for us.
We were also in search of a welder. Our masthead light bracket had worked loose and needed to be welded tight so it would stand proud, rather than tilt off at an annoying 20-degree angle. It wasn’t anything serious, but it was one of those things that once you notice, it drives you insane. We found the folks at Essex Boat Works enormously helpful. They told us to have the part there at 8:00 am and they would take care of it.
Bruce went back to the boat to do battle with the heater, and the pups and I wandered through boatyards and all over the village. Town was so quiet. We normally visit on bustling weekends when there is a steady stream of cars and the sidewalks are crowded with visitors. This time it was genteel, calm and restful, and I was struck by how much easier it was to enjoy the lovely period architecture and streetscapes. There is pride here in maintaining property. It was all richly complemented by the crisp, brisk, breezy fall weather. A delightful moment in time.
Back at the boat bruce was doing battle with the heater, but I’m going to save all that for another post. For dinner, we elected to try The Griswold Inn, even though we were skeptical. So many people had said “you have to go to The Gris!” that, well, we had to go to The Gris.
Errr. The initial impression in the lobby was, errr, funky. Not entirely on-point after the sedate exterior. We stepped in to the tap room hoping to sit at the bar for a drink and a bite to eat. The bar itself was small, half-crowded, and had no stools. Standing only. Errr. We looked around. It is a small and very dark room, lots of history, and lots of, errr, patina. A woman was playing the piano VERY LOUDLY. Another woman sat beside her on the bench.
We looked around again and sat down at a table for four, squished between the crowd at the bar and an old, unused wood stove with a tree towering over it (and us), decorated for halloween. As we sat down, two unshaven and toothless men at the bar turned around with huge grins and put their hands on the two extra chairs and said “Would you like company?” OK, so now it was going from weird to creepy. On cue, the second woman at the piano, who was probably about 70, began belting out songs LOUDLY so she could be heard over the VERY LOUD piano. She was off-key. My head hurt.
I looked at Bruce and said “no.” This was a switch because usually he’s the one to get an attitude and want to leave. This was my turn. Out we went.
To make matters worse, we wandered up to the Black Seal pub and had one of those wash-rinse-repeat moments. We walked in. The bar was shoulder-to-shoulder with locals apparently just getting out of work. They all turned on cue and stared at us, then went back to their business. There was no room at the bar, standing or sitting. And there wasn’t another person in the entire place. No host, no waiters, no patrons. We stood there and looked around, then looked at each other. And left.
OK, I guess we’ll have dinner on the boat! Which we did, a fine simple shrimp & pesto pasta, a big salad, and a nice bottle of red. It was lovely. The evening was topped off with a brisk but pleasant walk up and down the main street with the dogs, enjoying the canopy tree cover, the low lighting, and the near-total quiet. Perfect evening.
The next day we got an early start to get the light pole off to Essex Boat Works. It first had to be removed from our electronics tower and wires disconnected, which required all 6’3″ of Bruce, plus long arms, to execute. It was cold, too, 38 degrees, so this was fussy stuff.
Meanwhile, the pups and I went out looking for adventure, which we found in the form of Olive Oyl’s carryout, an eclectic eatery in a minimally re-purposed 1950-ish service station. Bruce called looking for us after he delivered the light pole, and knowing the smell of breakfast sandwiches would appeal to him, we summoned him to Olive Oyl’s. We sat outside in the chilly! breeze with hot coffee and shared our warm, gooey breakfast sandwich four ways. We also doled out a sizable amount of sliced roast beef to our hungry pups. They have been unhappy with our rough travels and Pepper has been not eating well, so we wanted to put a smile on his face. The roast beef was a hit. A well-fed family is a happy family.
Mid-day we retrieved our repaired light pole from Essex Boat Works. The folks there couldn’t have been more helpful or more pleasant. They get high marks and we recommend them.
The rest of the day followed a familiar pattern. Bruce did battle with the heater in the engine room. I explored Essex and found a few things we couldn’t live without. Like Truffle Shots. Need I say more? Cream from local grass-fed cows and all that. And it didn’t stop there. I went back to Olive Oyl’s and came out with enough prepared food for another dinner on board: delicious, fresh, unusual, middle-eastern focused. Kafka patties, chicken cutlets, hummus, tabouli, and pork wings. Before going back to the boat I rewarded myself for my hard work at Essex Coffee & Tea Company where I enjoyed an espresso at a small table in the sunshine, out of the cold wind. Did I say we enjoyed Essex?
Back at the boat I found Bruce still battling with his nemesis the heater. It had died again. He needed refreshment.
He decided he wanted to try again at The Griswold. Okeedokee. Off we went. The atmosphere was similar as the day before, but just different enough that we actually had fun. There was a gentleman at the piano this time, and he had turned the volume down from the night before to a pleasant level. He had a big smile on his face the entire evening as he chatted with patrons from his perch. We had a little table for two along a side wall where we could watch everything, rather than being jammed under the bar, so we were much happier with our space. The wine and beer were cold. Supper was simple but good. We were happy.
After taking the pups out for a quick one, we turned in early. The plan was to be up at 4:45 to get the day started, and off the dock at first light. The forecast was not perfect, but we were itching to move and wanted to give it a try.
Essex gave us a first-class send-off. I made coffee, and we stepped outside in pitch black to walk the dogs. It was COLD! Thirty-two degrees, but calm. There was hard ice on the decks, the docks and the ramps. We walked over to the the waterfront at the Connecticut River Museum just as first light broke across the river. By the time we got back to the boat dawn was in full bloom and it was spectacular, with rich colors and smoke on the water. Very impressive. We had a lovely ride down the river, waited about twenty minutes for the railroad bridge, then passed Old Saybrook and made our way between the breakwaters out onto Long Island Sound. The forecast was questionable. We kept our fingers crossed.