After spending a few weeks away from the boat following our return from our winter trip to Florida, we headed out again just before Memorial Day weekend to enjoy Block Island before the summer crowds descend. We had some memorable moments!
May 30, 2021
Portsmouth, RI to Block Island, RI
Note: After abandoning the blog for much too long, I’m going to give it another try. No time like the present to get re-started.
We returned home from our winter cruise to Florida on Friday, April 15. After spending exactly six months on board, we moved ashore and caught up on life at home, plus made a few short Airstream trips to get our land legs back. But sure enough, the itch to get back out on the water soon returned, and we decided that an early season run to Block Island would be fun. We’re not wild about the summer crowds, so we like getting there before the season gets in to full swing.
Departure day from New England Boatworks in Portsmouth, RI was beautiful. Crystal clear, cool, with a light southerly breeze. We left on the Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend to beat the strong southerlies in the forecast for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was a lovely ride down Narragansett Bay and across Rhode Island Sound. It felt good to be on the water again. We ran at a leisurely eight knots, which is going to be a theme this summer, with fuel prices soaring. We are still running off the fuel we put on board in New Jersey at Liberty Landing, where we paid $5.99/gallon. It will be interesting to see what impact these high fuel prices will have on the cruising community over the summer.
To say the season had not yet started when we arrived in Block Island is an understatement. Great Salt Pond was virtually empty, with just a handful of local boats on moorings and perhaps three in the anchorage, plus the big gray tug that is always there. Champlin’s had one boat (although the dock bar was open!). The Boat Basin had one boat, plus two or three local center consoles, and the dinghy and launch docks were not yet installed. Payne’s had maybe four boats. It felt deserted — and we loved it.
We had decided to splurge and stay at New Harbor Boat Basin for the weekend. It’s a lot easier with the pups to be at a dock, and we knew there would be some wet and windy weather that would make frequent dinghy rides less than optimum. When we arrived, there was just one dock hand. He told us to pick any place we liked. We pulled along outside on a T-head: easy in, easy out, and a nice view without other boats in our way. Plus we could easily launch the dinghy.
Once settled, we hitched up the puppies and headed off for a walk. The staff at The Oar was hard at work getting ready for the scheduled season opening the next day. We ran into George who updated us on the happenings, and also gave us a heads-up that The Oar would be having a soft opening at 4:00 pm, and we were welcome to join them. Ooooh, fun, we thought!
We enjoyed a lovely cool, clear, crisp walk over to Payne’s, where we chatted with Cliff and Sands. They were in the midst of both a water main failure and rebuilding a large section of their bulkhead, so things were pretty torn up — but they were open for business! Mahogany Shoals would not open up until the weekend.
We returned to the boat and wandered up to The Oar. When we walked in at 4:05 pm, we discovered that we were the very first customers of the 2022 summer season! George marched in ahead of us and announced to the staff that their first customers were in the house and the season was under way. We got a big cheer, and sat down at the bar to start Summer 2022. A badge of honor. I do believe there was a mudslide at some point during the evening.
The rest of the five-day visit was a relaxing, slow pace of exploring the island, visiting with friends afloat and on shore, and of course plenty of food and drink. The Oar definitely had their act together, the sushi was great, and they still had my favorite salad on the menu. We went to Dead Eye Dick’s one evening. It was cold on the outside porch and service was slow, but we enjoyed it anyway. The bagel shop was fully up and running, as was Old Harbor View Takeout, Ernie’s, and The Surf Hotel. We also like the convenience and selections at Dead Eye Dick’s new Fish Market & Provisions behind the restaurant. Very handy.
Many shops and restaurants were just barely open, or not yet open at all. Staff is short everywhere. Weather for the previous few weeks had been cold and wet, especially on weekends, so merchants were fretting. However, we enjoyed the relative calm. Late May and early June is a really nice time of year to visit. Just bring a good jacket along, and you may not want to bother with a swim suit.
We launched the dinghy and took a few rides around Great Salt Pond. Normally we do a lot of boat-looking, but with so few boats there, that was not a big project. By the peak of the weekend there may have been twenty or so boats on the town moorings, and maybe another twenty at both The Boat Basin and Payne’s. Champlin’s had much fewer, which is easily explained by the fact that the price of a slip at Champlins is roughly twice that of the Boat Basin.
Champlin’s was sold before last season and there has been a lot of cleaning up going on, although the basic infrastructure is the same. They are definitely trying to “upscale” the property, but they have a ways to go. They do still do a decent mudslide, there is an improved coffee shop, and the restaurant is, at least for now, not operating.
Weather for the long Memorial Day Weekend was typical for New England. We had a gorgeous day to arrive, and most of the second day was also pleasant. Then on Thursday night, Friday and Saturday we enjoyed an invigorating mix of howling wind, downpours, and fog. Things finally dried up and calmed down on Sunday, but the bad stretch definitely kept visitors to a minimum. On Monday we ran home in spectacular summer weather, much like our trip on the way out. It was a lovely ride, and a nice way to cap off our little adventure.
The summer is officially under way.