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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.