Few American ports have as much maritime history as Newport, Rhode Island. From north to south, America’s Cup Boulevard follows the natural arc of Newport Harbor, which is thickly studded with marinas and yacht clubs. It’s also protected in most directions thanks to the mainland and a sturdy penninsula that terminates in Fort Adams, which guards Narragansett Bay. Thanks to the generosity of my employer and the performance of my team, we were treated to a day of sailing on a chartered Beneteau 42 last Sunday.
The trip was delayed from the previous weekend, as New England’s autumn weather proved more suited for fireplaces and drawing rooms than beach towels and foredecks. Still, sailing season was slipping away, and we all agreed that Sunday, October 5 was the last logistically feasible weekend day where we could expect some sun. So it was that our group made its way to Newport from Connecticut early in the morning in order to squeeze every drop of sailing out of our sunlight hours.
As it happened, there were no sunlight hours. A drizzle began before we even reached Rhode Island, and it only intensified as the day went on. Moreover, the wind was light and variable, meaning that we had the trifecta of ingredients for a miserable day out: cold, wet and windless. Still, we had a boat, and that boat had a stove so we made some hot chocolate and waited for a while to see if conditions would improve. They did not, and so west cast off from our mooring at 11 AM and made for Narragansett Bay.
The boat was pleasant and clean, if lacking a bit in character (and stodgily named Summer Wind). I was shocked to find that nothing was broken, and even more shocked that we broke nothing during our few hours of use. This, I believe, settles the question of which Cook brother was the catalyst for Audentes’ many complaints.
With the capable help of Messrs. Ian, Andres and Canz, as well as Mlles. Ali, Kristina and Kerry, we safely motored through the mooring field and successfuly avoided a junior regatta thanks to some evasive maneuvers. Once we were far enough out, we raised the main sail, unfurled the jib and, cutting the motor, were moving only under the glorious power of wind. Elated and soaking wet, we headed for Newport Bridge at the respectable clip of 2.5 knots (slightly less than 3 mph).
Before long, what little wind we had was nearly gone. Still, it was probably for the best as everyone got a turn behind the wheel of our almost-motionless vessel. My pipe was filled with toasted Cavendish and eventually lit, so that the crew took turns puffing on it, assuming salty expressions and posing for pictures at the helm. We gradually crept forward and slowly passed under the bridge, the falling raindrops mingling with the gasoline-spiked runoff of the car parade above. The temperature continued to drop and the rain intensified, and we finally decided to turn back to seek food and warmth.
With the youngsters’ regatta still cluttering the harbor, we again picked our way carefully through the boats and moorings and found our own, which we picked up without difficulty. It was shortly after 2 PM, bringing the full time of our sailing experience to about three hours. That still proved to be enough for everyone, and we hit downtown Newport in search of a place to eat and warm ourselves. We settled on Buskers, a dark and cozy Irish pub, ordering enough Irish coffee, beer and grub to pleasantly warm ourselves.
It being Sunday, some of the group headed home, while the rest of us went to yet another Irish pub, which proved to be the best decision of the day. Stepping inside, our senses were washed with the delightful scene of a quintessential public house. In every corner, merry patrons in cable sweaters and tweed trousers leaned over worn tables and glowing candles. Brilliant light and heat emanated from the potbelly stove in the middle of the room, illuminating the circle of a dozen musicians playing Irish folk songs. We found a table near the stove and hunkered down, enjoying the beer, the music and Ian’s stories of Madchester in the 80’s late into the night.
We’ve been told to plan another sailing trip in the spring, and on the strength of this one, I’d love to return to Newport. Its deep links with the sea and its small shops and pubs made it a perfect destination for this trip, which offered some of the misery and lots of the joy of sailing.