Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Letter to the CT River Museum

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Connecticut River Museum
Dear Connecticut River Museum,

Late one December evening in 2008, I slipped up to your dock and tied off for the evening.  The goal was to make Portland, but rough seas and unfavorable winds on the Sound put a damper on that idea!  My fellow voyagers and I were grateful for the refuge; thank you!

That was the last time I sailed with my friend, Fred.   He passed away 19 months, later.  At the time, I did not know he had cancer.  He knew, but hadn't yet told me.   Looking back on this event, I saw what a good friend Fred was; I knew anyway, but this day exemplified it.

Knowing that it would be our last adventure together, he put me at the helm for most of the journey.  The crew consisted of Fred, myself and his nephew, Joey. Joey lost his saiing-cherry on this trip!

Blue skies and white clouds accompanied us out of New London Harbor on unremarkable seas. After passing the lighthouse, the seas became a bit more rough; the wind from the west/northwest.

File photo - Leviathan
The foresail and the mainsail fully extended, we tacked to the southwest.  It soon became apparent that we were the only "pleasure" boat on the water.   The only other boat we saw that day was the Long Island ferry.

The further from the harbor and the further from land we got, the higher the wind and the higher the seas. The seas were a consistent six or seven feet, at 15 - 20 foot intervals. This caused the Leviathan to be pounded across the bow every ten or so seconds!  (The fiberglass hulls on these old Hunters are virtually indestructible.  Thankfully.)

While it is very near impossible to capsize a late 80's Hunter, having the rail in the water on a frigid day in December, can be . . . unsettling . . . and invigorating!   I called for the jib to be brought in.  While we still leaned heavily to port, the rail was no longer in the water.  This was to everyone's comfort, especially the pilot's.

File photo - Looking up
The time came to change course from southwest to northwest and head toward the mouth of the Connecticut River.

Cold, wind and spray; the waves pounded against the hull! Alone on Long Island Sound was the 32" sloop, Leviathan and her novice crew of three.  Novices they be, they were prepared for the weather, clad in multiple layers of clothing, a life jacket and rain gear.  Lunches were packed.

The day began roughly at 07:00. We met at the marina in New London and were on the way by 08:30.  By early afternoon, the winds had subsided a bit.   When we began approaching the mouth of the Connecticut River, the waters became more calm, as they had been while under the protection of the New London Harbor.

The wind having diminished, the mainsail was brought in and the 5 horse diesel turned on.  We motored toward the bridges crossing the mouth of the river.  Long before it was necessary to submit a radio request, the operator (probably bored to death), raised the drawbridge, allowing us to pass under.  (How cool it is to have a bridge opened to accommodate your passage!)

File photo - On LI Sound
Our trip up the Long Tidal River was pleasant and relaxing; much more comfortable without the wind.  It gave us a chance to decompress from the previous 6-8 hours of excitement. With limited hours of daylight remaining and not wanting to navigate after dark, we began looking for a place to stop for the night; when lo and behold, your dock (at The Connecticut River Museum) appeared before us!

It was perfect. The right place at the right time. Just enough depth to accommodate the draft of the keel, (though it did drag in the mud a bit), the boat was moored for the night.

File photo - Griswold Inn, Essex
From the dock, we walked up to the Griswold Inn.  After removing our wet weather gear, we found that we were reasonably dry, underneath.  I put in a call to our friend Linda, who was on stand-by, for a ride home.   Fred treated Joey and me to dinner and drinks.  So ended one of the most memorable days of my life!

What a good friend Fred was, to give me this experience!  May he rest in peace.

File photo - Dauntless Shipyard & Marina, Essex

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