This summer we made our second trip to Block Island. Last year we took Tenacity and based on numerous recommendations, we stayed in New Harbor at the Block Island Boat Basin.
We chose the BIBB because of all the reports saying they were the only marina on the island with slips on a floating dock. It was nice, but it was kind of isolated from the main commercial center in Old Harbor.
It’s about a one mile walk or a $14 cab ride (plus tip) if you want more than The Oar, Dead Eye Dicks, or Payne’s Donuts. Despite this, I was anxious to get back there and contacted them in January to book the last weekend in July.
In April, they emailed me and told me they were SOLD OUT for that weekend. I started calling them and after a few weeks. I got a hold of someone who told me some fishing tournament had booked the entire marina.
The Other Floating Dock Slips on Block Island
Let me start by saying that BIBB is not the only marina on BI with floating dock slips — Ballard’s does indeed have them as well.
In terms of the actual slips, they are slightly tighter than BIBB in that the pilings are 30′ apart so each boat only ties one side to a piling and the other to the neighboring boat.
It’s also very small – only 10 slips and no real marina amenities. That said, there are plenty of services near by. The town pier offers baths and showers less than a 1,000 feet away. I also bought ice daily at Finn’s which was also about 1,000 feet away.
It does have a Moped, Jeep, and Car rental spot right off the pier and they give folks staying in the marina a price break.
The Primo Slip
A few days before our scheduled arrival, a Gale Warning came up from the south. We were scheduled for Saturday through Wednesday, but based on the NOAA forecast, it looked like we might have to wait until Monday to get favorable seas for the 55 mile trek from Mattapoisett.
Thanks to my wonderful crew (and dog sitter Mary), I got the “green light” to add a day if we could get into Ballard’s a day early. I booked it on Dockwa and called Breezy to double check. She said we were “all set” on our five day vacation became six!
By the time we reached the Island, the weekend bookings we starting to fall apart due to the incoming Gale. Although Vigilant is only 47′ long and 14′ wide, Breezy put us in the Primo spot at the marina.
This is the first spot she gives to big boats (up to 70′ per Active Captain). It faces pretty much north which made it ideal for riding out the incoming Gale.
I suspect they could squeeze bigger boats into one of their regular slips, but it all depends on the bean of the boat you’re sharing the 30′ space between the pilings with.
Breezy Makes Things Special
The marina (and I think the rental center as well) are managed by a wonderful young woman named Breezy from Connecticut.
I can honestly say that I have yet to encounter a more “hands on” dockmaster than Breezy. Part of this is surely due to the tight quarters that require some unique line set-ups. But part of it is clearly Breezy herself — she takes her responsibility seriously and it shows.
As I reported back in July, we woke up Saturday morning to a major Northeaster and only a few miles north of Gale Force winds.
Here’s an excerpt from that story that illustrates Breezy’s dedication:
Unfavorable Wind Shift
All was going nicely despite the increasing wind velocity. As we got back to Vigilant, I could see that the wind had turned fully to the north and the ocean waves were now coming head on. Vigilant was pitching significantly and the 3/4″ lines were stretching under the load.
We went inside, but it was pitching too much to read. I put on a movie, but no one was really interested.
About this time Mrs. Horne started to get nervous about everything. I went out to try and adjust the lines, but quickly realized I’d get soaked by the waves crashing over the float.
Just then our incredible Dockmaster Breezy showed up and said “If I move you back a couple of feet you’ll ride much smoother.”
Then she took off her boat shoes, rolled up her pants and went out to the end of the float amid the crashing waves. Rudy joined her and I manned the thrusters from the warmth and comfort of the helm. I kind of felt like Sig in Deadliest Catch watching the men haul in the crab pots!
It turned out that they needed the thrusters. The load on the lines was so severe that they were stretched and cleated so tightly that it was impossible to undo them.
Once we got re-positioned the ride smoothed out. Both Breezy and Rudy were drenched in salt water. Breezy said something like “just doing my job” and walked away.
Here’s a short video clip that captures the howling wind we faced that Saturday afternoon…
Calm After The Storm
We woke up Sunday to a beautiful midsummer day. Shortly after lunch we captured a BI Lobsterman hauling in his catch…
Unlike the expansive New Harbor, the Old Harbor is quite cozy. This means there’s plenty to see from Ballard’s Marina, everything is a short walk away, and you’re safely in a fairly well protected harbor.
Don’t Lie About Your Beam!
After the first three nights, we had to move to a regular slip to make room for a Marlow 49 and our neighbor was a 50′ Sea Ray. Vigilant sports a 14′ beam and he told Breezy the Sea Ray was 15′. It wasn’t.
The Sea Ray was closer to 15’6″ and with “all hands on deck” and a lot of TLC we eventually squeezed him in, but there was virtually no room for fenders between the boats and the pilings.
Although we loved the Primo Slip, the new one wasn’t too bad either. The last night there our Back Cove 41 was joined by a Sabre 42 and a Sabre 54 – both of which were beyond us on the floating dock.
As Ballard’s Marina filled up, we met our neighbors and enjoyed the social side of this nice little Marina.
All in all, I have to say that Ballard’s is now my favorite BI Marina…