September 25 – 29, 2017 – Thames River

As described in the Hurricane Irma blog, we had previously made reservations for Provincetown Marina and Burr’s Marina in our Cape Cod trip plan and had eventually cancelled (or postponed) the Providence Marina reservation, but did not cancel Burr’s Marina. We got the Burr’s Marina idea from the MTOA Northeast Rendezvous in Mystic Seaport earlier in the year. The welcoming packets to the Rendezvous included vouchers for a complimentary night of dockage at Burr’s Marina to be used with any reservation of two days or more. As we looked at the website and descriptions for Burr’s it looked more and more like a location where we could have some fun exploring. So we kept the reservation and made our plans for a Tuesday arrival. The weather forecasts called for a spectacular fall week so we were looking forward to this trip when Monday rolled around.

Part of the preparation for departure was to get our dinghy put back on the roof for the trip, so I got the control device and the tie-down ratchet straps and climbed the ladder to the roof, plugged in the control device and got no response from the davit! Turned out to be a dead circuit, so once I located that and reset the circuit, we were in business to load up the dinghy. Oops, as I tried to raise the outboard motor prior to lifting the dinghy, the motor would not go up, so we had to work another project before we could get our tender onto the roof. We took the tender over to the loading ramp where I could stand behind it and get some leverage on the motor from behind and try to muscle it up to the locked position. We realized that the issue was just some tight pivot points on the outboard. Nothing a bunch of WD-40 and some steel wool wouldn’t fix. So we got the dinghy up onto the roof, tied it down and from the dry perspective of the roof, proceeded to free up all the tight pivot points of the motor and now it works just fine. Tracy also took an opportunity to clean her up a bit and she looks great.

After seeing the dinghy atop the Sundeck roof and just waiting around for a Tuesday departure, Tracy asked why we didn’t just leave right away and anchor our at the mouth of the Connecticut River, then on Tuesday it’s a short hop over to the Thames River and Burr’s Marina. I took that as Tracy was anxious for some saltwater fishing and she wanted to get into salt water for her fix! So we shoved off, headed down the River and smoothly anchored Kailani at Fenwick Beach just outside the mouth of the Connecticut River in 12 feet of water. Winds were calm, seas were calm and out came Tracy’s fishing poles! Everything was perfect except the fish didn’t get the memo that Tracy was in town! She didn’t catch much other than an eel and some crabs. So we settled in for the night with the plan to wake up in the morning and head out for the two-hour ride to New London.

Tuesday morning we awoke to very thick pea soup fog and the Saybrook Lighthouse singing the foghorn blues. Since we only had a two-hour cruise duration, we decided the safest strategy was to just wait out the fog (it was sunny, so it had to eventually burn off) and fish the morning away waiting for the fog to lift. The fog was stubborn as it would clear, then fog up again, then clear, then fog up again until nearly straight up twelve o’clock when we decided to lift the anchor and head east. From Fenwick Beach, we aim for Red Buoy #8 then head east towards Bartlett Reef. Well as we headed south towards R8, the fog dropped in again so here we were two miles off the coast and visibility was nearly zero. Since this was a weekday, the boating traffic was very light, so we decided to slow down and turn on the radar. Oops, radar wouldn’t turn on!!! There’s my next project, however, it wasn’t helping us get through the fog. The good thing was that the fog wasn’t long lived and seemed to lift rather quickly, so back up to cruising speed of 9.5 knots (10 mph) and clear skies to New London.

We arrive at Burr’s Marina around 2:30 pm and after calling ahead, Adam (owner) is waiting at the fuel dock to help us dock. After learning our lesson at Mystic River Marina from backing into our slip while the dinghy is still on the roof, we tell Adam that we’d like to tie up at the fuel dock and lower the dinghy, then motor over to our slip, so everything goes smoothly. Tracy hands the lines to Adam, he secures Kailani to the dock, then we lower the dinghy into the water, add the fuel tank and Tracy motors the dinghy over to the dinghy dock and returns. Our slip is the first finger behind the fuel dock, so Adam jumps in his work boat while Tracy & I maneuver into slip 24. The docks are fixed height and the slips are fingers with port and starboard bow pylons so Adam gets the bow lines around the pylons and we secure the stern cross lines and the springs. With fixed docks we’ll need to accommodate the four foot tidal water, so we soon find out that even though we’re a good distance from the busy Thames River channel, we’ll still be constantly hit with waves and wakes. Oh well, we live on a constant motion machine!

After checking in at the office with Trish who is very helpful and friendly, we meet Diane Womack who shares the marina office and owns Diane’s Bait Tackle and Charters. She is a wealth of information, loves to share that information and loves to see her customers catch lots of fish. Tracy likes this place instantly!

After settling back aboard Kailani for the evening, my phone rings and it’s our good friend Shawn Hoar who just recently purchased a waterfront cottage right across the river in Groton and is having a ton of renovations done on the cottage. Its already after 8 pm so Tracy is settled into bed, but I agree to go meet him at the On The Waterfront restaurant right outside the marina entrance. When we meet, we’re told that the restaurant is closed for the evening, so after he introduces Betsy and me to each other, we get in his car and head to another restaurant called The Recovery Room.  Their sign says they close at 10 pm so when we walk in at 8:55 pm Shawn immediately asks them if we can get food and they tell us that we’ll be the last customers for the evening. Good thing we got there an hour before they close!

Anyway it was a nice meal while we caught up on Shawn’s progress on his cottage and I told them about our Kailani. After we were done, Shawn said he wanted to show me the cottage, so back over to Groton we go and he opens the cottage to give me the three dollar tour. He’s done a ton of work and has more to go, but he’s considerate of the house’s history and is working to preserve many aspects of it’s past. All of the renovations are from Shawn’s mind transferred to his architect and his crew, but everything is progressing well and he and Betsy will really enjoy it when it’s complete. He drives me back to New London and the marina, we say our goodbyes and I walk back on the dock to Kailani.

Wednesday is a complete day of exploration for Tracy and me, so we take the dinghy up the Thames River to explore. On the Groton side of the river is General Dynamics Electric Boat Division where the most powerful submarines in the world are built and farther up the river is the US Naval Submarine Base where many of those submarines are stationed, while on the New London side of the river is the United States Coast Guard Academy and Fort Trumbull. Along with all those picturesque sites is an extremely busy ferry dock with departures /arrivals for Block Island, Fischer’s Island and Orient Point. Also while we are in the river exploring the sites our portable VHF radio picks up a US Coast Guard message that there will be naval activities in the river and the vessel operating protocols to maintain during these operations. So we motored back over towards our marina, sat in the dinghy and watched a nuclear powered submarine return to base escorted by three naval vessels and a USCG vessel. It was really neat to see crew members standing atop the fuselage as the submarine returned to base. I’m pretty sure they were happy to see the sun again after probably three months underwater.

Before we even thought about dinner, we had to return to Kailani, drop off Frankie, get our fishing gear and go out to try some of the tips that Diane had given us yesterday. Tracy had also been talking to Adam Bergamo (marine owner) and he said to go right out to White Island (between the marina and the channel cut), which is nearby, and the Porgies will be active. So after dropping off Frankie, we headed back out to White Island for some fishing before sunset. Since Diane had already rigged Tracy’s line, she was fishing as soon as we dropped the anchor and before I could even finish tying the rig onto my line, she had the first of a dozen Porgies that we would catch in just under an hour. We really had fun landing those fish and returning them to the river.

Dinner on board was a simple hotdogs with macaroni and cheese. Then we watched a horrendous movie called “The Happening” as we relaxed for the night knowing we would be shoving off the next morning to return to Chester.

Thursday morning greeted us with heavy winds and plenty of waves. We watched the weather carefully as we tried to decide to go or stay. We had one more day available to us before another commitment, so staying was definitely an option. I also checked with Burr’s and they said they could accommodate us if we decided to stay. So by 10 am we committed to staying one more day and waiting for hopefully calmer seas for our trip back. Even though we were making a decision to avoid rough seas, by staying, we got to experience rough dockage anyway. At least we were able to manage the lines by tightening them at high tide and loosening them at low tide.

We took a walk with Frankie into town and stopped at a Sam’s Quik Mart, a pharmacy and a Saeed’s International Market where we got some lemon ice before the walk back to the boat. Dinner was on board and this night we decided to read rather than watch another potentially lousy movie. Tonight we went to sleep knowing that we really had to be leaving in the morning so we hoped the weather would be calmer by the morning.

We woke to beautiful calm seas and virtually no winds so we knew we’d be shoving off this morning. After a few coffees and breakfast we decided on a plan for untying Kailani from the docks and retrieving our lines from each pylon. It went rather smoothly and safely and soon we were pulling away from slip 24 and heading over to the fuel dock to re-load the dinghy onto the roof. The whole process took a little less than an hour, so by 10 am we were thanking Burr’s Marina and heading out to the Thames River channel for the three hour ride home to Chester.

Long Island Sound was clear, calm and not very crowded, so the two hours in the sound were very pleasant. Visibility was at least 10 miles because as soon as I turned at Bartlett’s Reef I could see the familiar orange roof of the Castle at Cornfield Point. Everything was going smooth until we hit the Connecticut River. Once we were past the Old Saybrook Railroad Bridge, we heard a call from a Captain to the USCG telling them that his vessel was grounded on the rocks at red buoy 22 in Essex, CT. The USCG told him to call Sea Tow or TowBoatUS. He replied that he had spoken to them already and they told him to alert the Coast Guard. While this conversation was taking place, both Sea Tow and TowBoatUS arrived on scene and Sea Tow (apparently his emergency service provider) was telling the captain to verify that he wasn’t taking on any water. The captain replied that he wouldn’t be able to check because he only had himself and his wife on board and the hatches were too heavy. By this time we were able to pick up sight of this boat in distress and the assistance they were getting. Another boater with a passenger was able to get his passenger on board the distressed vessel and that boater was able to verify that the bilges were not taking on water. SeaTow asked his to continue to monitor the bilges while they pulled the vessel off the rocks. Everything was handled professionally, TowBoatUS stayed on scene in case additional assistance was required and Sea Tow was able to tow the vessel safely to Essex Boat Works where the lift was waiting to haul the vessel out for inspection and necessary repairs. We stayed back from the tow so as not to disturb them with our wake and after passing thru the Essex Shoal ‘No Wake’ zone, we had a virtual open river back home to Chester Marina. A Friday in September with nice weather draws out the boaters that skip out from work early for the weekend, and true to form, as we turned into the Chester Creek Inlet, again we had plenty of hands to assist us with docking Kailani.

All we had left to do was re-connect utilities, get Frankie on dry land for some exercise and rinse off Kailani from her salt water cruise. Our original plan was from Tuesday to Thursday and we ended up Monday to Friday, so it was a pleasant extension to our cruise plan and well worth it.

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