Summer of COVID – Cruise #3 – Block Island

Block Island is a case study of why COVID 19 continues to spread.

August 6 – 9, 2020
Block Island, RI
Days 22 – 25 aboard this summer

What a strange world. We are very lucky, but still, we struggle. Like everyone else, all our normal patterns and pleasures are disrupted. We have stayed home a lot more than normal, not socialized with friends or family, and used the boat less than we would like. The weather has been stifling hot, so we have been inside far too much.

The New England states have been constantly changing tactics to try to suppress COVID-19 transmission. Rules on what businesses can do vary depending on what town or state you are in, and guidelines change weekly. With summer activity, infections are creeping up. Interstate travel is being suppressed. For us, going to Maine would be complicated. We hoped Connecticut and Massachusetts residents would not be flocking to Block Island. We would find out.

In an effort to break the chain of our own COVID frustration we decided to get back on the boat and head to Block Island for a change of scenery and some fresh air. We had hope that we could break out of the emotional gloom we are feeling.

We had been trying to get away for about a week, but with tropical storm/hurricane Isaias headed our way, we decided to wait it out and see what the storm would decide to do.

Isaias was a stealthy storm. On the one hand, it seemed not so dangerous. On the other hand, it did substantial damage as it came ashore in the Carolinas. One of our favorite marinas in Southport, NC was devastated as the storm came ashore with tornadoes. These reports had us wary as the storm headed our way.

Southport Marina was devastate by Hurricane Isaias, as the dock structure collapsed when tornado traveled through.

For a few days, we were in the bulls-eye. Fortunately for us, the storm shifted to the west. We had a brief period of 45 knots gusting to 60, but Esmeralde was fine in her sheltered slip. With tens of thousands without power across the region for up to five days, we loaded up the boat and slipped our lines after the storm raced off to the Canadian Maritimes.

We were under way by 10:00 am on Thursday, but we stopped in Newport to have our bottom scrubbed by Elite Divers Newport. If the boat sits in her slip for a month or more, she gets a little slimy, which slows her down. We like to run clean, and a quick bottom scrub is worth the one-hour delay. We highly recommend Elite Divers. Thorough, friendly, efficient, and on-time.

The ride to BI was straightforward. There was a little bit of a lumpy sea left over from Hurricane Isaias, but we had an easy ride and were in Great Salt Pond by 2:30.

Rody was ready for some good times, mask at the ready, as we approached Block Island.

There were no town moorings available. The deep anchorage was largely empty and the shallow anchorage was moderately busy. The club and private moorings on the west side of the harbor were mostly empty. The Boat Basin was booked for the weekend. Champlins had space but expected a full house by Saturday. Both CCA moorings were available, so we grudgingly picked one up. We don’t like staying on them because of the Club’s requirement that you raft with whoever shows up. On busy weekends we don’t like the uncertainty of the anchorage, so we took the CCA mooring, hoping to move to a town mooring the next morning if one opened up.

Other than being a little less busy than we would expect on an August week-day, Block Island seemed normal from a distance. That impression would change during our three-day visit.

We did not explore ashore that first afternoon, other than taking the dogs for an afternoon walk near the Boat Basin and an evening walk at Champlins. The sight of too many folks trying to jump through the hoops of COVID social distancing, was simply not appealing. We had a nice Flybridge Evening, but we talked about all things COVID and how life is just not the same, which depressed us in spite of the lovely surroundings and the privacy of our boat. A simple pasta supper, some air conditioning for an hour to cool off the boat, and off to bed. Not even a Mudslide: things were definitely not normal.

A quiet August Flybridge Evening in Block Island.

Our first full day started early, while I was still in my bathrobe enjoying coffee and Bruce was still asleep. It was not yet 7:00 a.m. I spotted an available town mooring, so I woke Bruce up and we hustled to grab it before someone else got there. Bruce dragged on his shorts and I got the boat fired up, still in my PJs. Minutes later we were settled in on the town mooring having another cup of coffee. Check that box.

From then on it was a quiet day. We got the dogs in for a quick walk at Champlins before the rain settled in, then went about boat tasks for a few hours with the AC running to keep things dry. By late morning the rain had generally moved out, so we decided to check out life ashore.

We walked to town. It wasn’t terribly crowded but there were enough people clogging various spaces and sidewalks that we were not comfortable. Most people had masks on, or at least made an effort to socially distance in some way, but many simply flaunted their masklessness. It was not comfortable. We returned to the boat without accomplishing anything other than developing a reinforced sense of dismay.

In spite of crowds and bad behavior, there is beauty in Block Island. I tried to ignore the people and COVID and take some solace in the parts of the Island that are special.

Later in the day we took the dogs for a walk and wandered over to see what was happening at Paynes. By now it was Friday afternoon. The weekend was clearly getting into gear. The docks were crowded with people. Boats were rafted three-or-four deep. Crowds were hanging out in close clusters at Mahogany Shoals, and masks were nowhere to be seen. We headed back to the boat, once again not terribly happy.

Back on board we had a lovely visit from a delightful couple who knew us from the Facebook group Trawler Life. Charlie Brown and his wife have an Albin trawler and live in East Greenwich. They were a great relief from the party central atmosphere ashore.

Once again, chased away by COVID, we had dinner on board: excellent lamb chops that we had picked up at Block Island Grocery. All was well until the partying started on the two boats rafted on a mooring just ahead of us. Loud offensive music and foul language went on at high volume for several hours, well into the night, until Bruce (and some other neighbors) started yelling at them. A disappointing end to the day.

The following morning the Harbormaster came by to collect for the mooring. We has a healthy chat with him about the shenanigans ashore and the offensive partying on the mooring ahead of us. It seems this has been an especially unpleasant year on Block Island. We aren’t the only ones feeling it. It appears the locals cannot wait until it ends.

The rest of our visit we stayed much to ourselves. We did have to take Mattie to get a Killer Donut: this is a must-have for her when on Block Island. She knows exactly where to go and will not walk past the spot when she gets there. Very funny little animal.

Mattie is on a mission.

In the afternoon we joined my brother Charlie aboard his boat in the anchorage. It was a wonderful respite from being ashore on Block Island. We had just really had enough of the bad behavior and tense atmosphere.

My brother’s boat, a Discovery 55, was a delightful place to retreat from the congestion and poor behavior ashore.

Before going to bed, we took the pups in to Champlins, where there was a full-blown block party going on complete with pot-luck buffet and live music. COVID Who?

In the morning we were ready to leave. Block Island just isn’t the same this year. Or maybe it is too much the same, which just doesn’t work well in a COVID world. As we headed home, news was just breaking on the coconut telegraph of a fatal car accident. It happened at around 12:00 noon. Four Connecticut high school students were in a car driven by a 16-year-old girl. She was DUI. One passenger, a 16-year-old classmate, was killed, and another classmate was med-evacuated to Rhode Island Hospital in critical condition. A sobering end to a strange weekend.

4 thoughts on “Summer of COVID – Cruise #3 – Block Island”

  1. Dear Bruce and Dorsey,

    Sailing/Traveling aboArd Obsession has been a similar experience to your latest trip to Block Island. Covid 19 has certainly made this a summer that will not be forgotten, but definitely not for the reasons our summers aboard are. I sense the same sadness, despair and exasperation David and I felt on our trips to Block Island and Cuttyhunk. So, like you, we sit at home, in our condo, in Fall River on the deck, overlooking Mount Hope Bay, sipping wine and rum and trying to fathom what our winter will be like. Originally it was going to be a road trip out west, then maybe a train trip, now, we’re exploring a bathroom and bedroom renovation. UGH! We, like you, have fond memories of our summer cruises on the boat. I sure hope they aren’t gone for good. I hope we run into you again sometime. Janice and David Roehr “Obsession” Catalina 42

    Sent from my iPhone On Board Obsession

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    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janice, thank you for your note. I am at once sad to hear that you and David are suffering the same angst that we are, and also comforted, I suppose, that we are not alone in all this. We too are still hoping to drive across the country this winter (we sold our little Airstream Bambi but will get another one in December), but who knows? We consider everything a toss up at this point. We just keep planning, hoping that something will work out in our favor, and sooner rather than later.

      Chin up, and keep us posted!

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  2. Bruce and Dorsey, great to hear from you both as always…sounds like your summer has been up and down as far as boating is concerned. We know you like the crowds and eating places out at block, the social aspect is usually great but this years summer has been different for sure. The masks, social distancing etc. doesn’t seem to have sunk in to some of the population , which doesn’t help the overall picture for sure. We had a great time in Maine as always, had our grandkids and family on part of our cruise. They had a one week charter out of Bass Harbor again… Met some really nice cruisers with social distancing, no one onboard which is strange but we do it. Back in Rockland now ,haul home next week…but a great 81/2 weeks aboard. We are thankful for that, sorry to have missed you again. You will be ready to trade before we see the tug… All the best, Dean and Kathy

    Sent from my iPad

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  3. A potluck buffet…really?!? Almost unbelievable, but I have seen a lot of foolishness on Block Island over the years. It has been removed from my “favorite places” list. We are happy to be sticking close to home this summer and feeling lucky to live in such a beautiful area.

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