YES! Those are Swallows! -tc
Tracy has been totally enamored with the swallows this year and will take every opportunity to get back to view another show, so we made arrangements for our good friends Joy and Tony Rinaldi and Kim Groot to come down for a cruise to Goose Island. Joy and Tony had never heard of this murmuration and Kim had tried several times to see it but had had bad luck with rainy weather. So for this cruise, Tracy and I were hopeful that the swallows were still running. In fact, on Monday evening, we drove down to Essex to see if there was still swallow activity this late in the season. We got down to Essex, parked the car and walked down to the water adjacent to the Connecticut River Museum with Frankie and our binoculars to try and confirm the swallows hadn’t all left yet. It was a great plan and was carried out with all positive intentions, but the reality was that we were actually too far away to even pick up swallow activity with our binoculars. The only good news was that, for a Monday evening, there were a fair amount of boats anchored at Goose Island waiting for the evening show. So without real confirmation, we started to doubt that we’d be able to get a good show for our guests and on the way back to the marina, we decided two things: 1: we would call the tour boats in the morning that were still running and see if they could confirm a decent show, and 2: we would come up with a plan B for our guests in the event that the swallows had all bugged out for the season.
Plan B turned out to be that we would take them to Cedar Island Marina in Clinton if necessary, but first thing Tuesday morning while we were waiting for our guests to arrive, Tracy was able to speak to the Connecticut Audobon Society and one of the tour operators who had last taken guests on Sunday and both calls gave us feedback that the swallows were still flying and Tuesday night should not be a washout however, they both cautioned us that the swallows don’t depart gradually, they just are there one night and gone the next. Oh well, we had enough positive feedback to go with our plan A no matter what.
Joy and Tony arrived first and we took the opportunity to review our re-Cruise Protocols with them prior to Kim arriving as she’s been aboard many tomes already and did not need to hear our safety protocols again. Kim showed up and we decided to have some hot lunch prior to shoving off.
Tracy took the helm, I went to the engine room for pre-start fluid checks and once Kailani was idling and we had briefed our guests on dock line protocols, Tracy was ready to take her out to the river and south to Essex. Once we were cruising at 9 knots down river, Tracy turned the helm back to me and she, Joy and Kim went to the bow for some late season sun worshipping, while Tony and I took care of the helm.
After Labor Day, the Connecticut River Pump-Out Boats reduce their schedule and only come by our marina once a weekend, so as this was Tuesday and we would be at anchor with five adults aboard, we decided to stop in Old Saybrook at the DEEP Pump Out Dock and clean out our black water tanks. As we approached the dock, we radioed the dock with no response. So we tied up to the dock and called the phone number on the sign with no response. Our last ditch effort was a push button on the dock. So we pushed the button, watched and waited for someone to show up on the dock. Soon, a gentleman showed up in an ATV and started up the pump for us while Tracy handled the deck pumping. Usually, when the pump out boat pulls up alongside us in our marina, they’re done pumping in about 4-5 minutes. When Tracy handles the pumping, we’re usually taking 15 minutes for a complete pumpout. This isn’t to say Tracy is slower, this is to say she does a complete job! When Tracy handles the deck pumping, there’s literally nothing left in the tank when she’s done! So we left the dock knowing we were completely cleaned out in our black water tanks.
Our plan was to travel out into Long Island Sound past the Saybrook Breakwater Light and anchor at Fenwick Beach for the afternoon until it was time to head up river to our anchorage at Goose Island. We found real nice water at Fenwick, anchored for about an hour then raised the anchor.
Our approach to Goose Island was typical for a weeknight. We were the only vessel in the area at this time of day. We had our choice of anchorage locations, so we dropped anchor in 12.6 feet of low tide water, calculated for the rise in tide and Tracy let out sufficient rode for the overnight, set the snubber and I pulled back on the anchor to set it. Soon our solitude changed as a fair amount of vessels came near for the impending swallow show. We like using the Sundeck roof for optimum viewing, so I went topside and lowered the dinghy into the water so the roof would be totally empty for our guests.
As sundown approached, the swallows arrived and put on their show for the viewing vessels. To Tracy and I it sure looked like there has not yet been a reduction in numbers of swallows and the sky was eventually filled with the little blue/black birds merrily chirping away waiting for that moment when the horde dives down into the islands reed grass for the evening. The thing about this dance of swallows is that they’ll fly around in the sky for a good 20-30 minutes as they amass their numbers aloft, then when they start their descent, the show ends in less than 2 minutes! Also, as fast as the swallows leave the sky, so do the boats! So in a short amount of time, we’re left to enjoy the peace and solitude again of the Connecticut River on a fall weeknight.
Time for the generator and a nice hot dinner that Tracy had planned. Dinner and after dinner conversation was very interesting as Tony described some of his adventures bicycling across the United States (3.450 miles – Los Angeles to Boston) and hiking the John Muir Trail. Kim is living in our house while we live onboard Kailani, so she was also filled with stories of our house and neighborhood. Soon, it was 9:30 pm and everyone wanted to turn in for the night so we could watch the morning show at sun-up. I set up the coffee maker but didn’t engage the auto-start because we need to start the generator before we can turn it on, so I just wanted to get it ready for our early morning start. Then off to bed, Joy and Tony slept in the vee-berth, Kim sprawled out on the Salon couch and Frankie retired to his cage for the night.
We were all up, dressed and drinking coffee by the time the swallows started their vertical ascent to the skies for the day. Typically, the morning show is somewhat more spectacular sue to the fact that all the swallows are departing as one group compared to the previous evening, where is takes 20 minutes or so for the swallows to amass. This morning was no exception and everyone enjoyed the view.
After some breakfast vittles and more coffee, the girls,Tracy, Joy and Kim decided to explore the other side of Goose Island with the dinghy.
Off they went to explore and apparently, they came upon an opening in the island passable by the dinghy, which meant they were compelled to find out where it led! Picture the movie the African Queen with three ladies battling the brushes instead of Bogart and Hepburn, We did NOT get out to push…all we could think of was “what if there are leeches like in the movie!? We got so far into the reeds I can only imagine, again as in the movie, we were within a few yards of the Kailani on the other side.” -tc
After some motoring, some paddling and some push-poling, they decided they had penetrated the island as far as possible and it was time to turn around, clean the vegetation out of the dinghy and return to Kailani. In the meanwhile, Tony and I spent the time up at the bridge watching the river, the boat traffic and talking about Italy. Turns out, Tony was born and raised (to 16 years old) in a town only 12 miles from where my Grandfather was born. He was familiar with Sepino Compobassa because he and his Mother used to walk there often. It’s a small world!
After the girls returned, we returned to dinghy back to the roof, secured it down with the ratchet straps and prepared to raise anchor. Port engine fired up as usual, but like another time this year that we anchored at Goose Island, the starboard engine wouldn’t fire. Only difference this time was, it wasn’t the starter. I could tell we just weren’t getting enough volts from the battery to turn over. So back to the engine room I went and with Tracy at the helm, we started the port engine, then I turned the battery control switches to send power from the port battery over to the starboard battery and Tracy was able to fire it right up. I will research this, but I think I’m looking at adjusting the settings on the combiner switches so the starting batteries don’t drain below 12.3 volts at anchorage. I thought that was already our settings, but I’ll have to research this and verify.
With both engines running smoothly, we returned up river to Chester Marina. Now we’re returning on a Wednesday afternoon in early October, so we don’t expect anyone to be on the dock, but wrong again. As we approach, our neighbor, Brian is on his boat and comes over to assist with our docking which turns out to be greatly appreciated because the wind is blowing us off the dock, so reaching the dock lines becomes somewhat problematic until Brian grabs them and hands them out to Tracy using a boat pole to grab them.
Again, we secure Kailani, connect the utilities and let Frankie out to stretch his legs while our guests prepare their belongings for home. We had a great cruise with great friends, saw a great swallow show, and all returned safely! What a combination.