Life's Adventure

Getting To Watch Hill – The Anniversary Cruise

This is the first report on our 9 day Anniversary cruise…

I booked the first leg of this trip in early May thinking it would an unforgettable vacation for one of our couple friends. Surprisingly, all of our out-of-town cruising guests came in June or are coming in September, so it’s just me and my honey (Mrs. Horne to you).

With her VIP cabin in the bow and midship master, Relentless is very comfortable for four, workable for five, but downright palatial for just the two of us.

And since our 41st wedding anniversary falls on day 3, it makes sense we’re doing this one alone. Our lives have come full circle over the past four plus decades and it’s quite nice to celebrate a sort of second honeymoon.

We were as broke as broke can be in the summer of 1980. We were building our first home in Harvard Massachusetts’s, I was going to night school, and Mrs. Horne represented the 7th wedding her hard working father of nine had to fund. So we did everything on a shoestring budget.

The wedding was in my parents backyard and we spent our honeymoon on his 25’ C&C sailboat cruising Buzzards Bay.

It may sound romantic (and much of it certainly was), but we ended up in Cuttyhunk in the midst of a wicked 4 day nor’easter and if you know anything about sailing, you know how difficult it is to tack up the narrow channel getting out of Cuttyhunk in 25 knot winds.

But we did it and survived the next 41 years (you can read the full story here).

Forty one years later we’re still cruising Buzzards Bay, but now we’re doing it in luxury – aboard Relentless.

Isn’t life strange?

Day One – Newport

Watch Hill is about 90 miles from Mattapoisett and certainly doable in a straight run (in fact we’ve done it before), but it’s much more fun to to stop over along the way.

When I booked this back in May, we’d just returned from a three day trip to Newport, staying at The Newport Yachting Center, so of course I booked it again.

Nine days is the longest trip we’ve ever taken and it’s way too long to know what the weather will be at the tail end of the trip. The forecast for Saturday was up in the air, but there wasn’t a lot of wind. And if you do get stuck in the rain, Newport’s probably the best place to be.

It was hazy, hot, and humid when we left and all the weather gurus said there was a front coming through that would break the heat wave.

I have two autopilot routes plotted to Newport. The regular one hugs the coast and passes near Gooseberry Island. I also have a second one that I plotted for fog. It follows the shipping lanes 3 miles offshore where you generally only find professionally piloted large boats (easy to see on radar).

I took the offshore route and ran at 34 mph hoping to skid south of the thunder storms. It generally worked, but off of Sakonnet we got hit by a little squall…

We were into 3-4 footers at the time and the rain flattened the seas for a few minutes.

By the time we reached Newport, the rain had stopped and the sun came out…

We didn’t want to start our nine day cruise with a heavy meal so we went to Bar and Board Bistro for lunch…

Bachelorette Parties Gone Wild!

I thoroughly appreciate the rush of Newport weddings this summer. If you were planning to get married anytime from April 2020 to May 2021, you probably postponed to this summer. And if you’re planning a dream wedding, Newport has to be at the top of your list.

We observed well over a dozen bachelorette parties in bars and out on boats Saturday. It’s all wonderful unless your sitting next to one in a restaurant.

We ate lunch in Bar and Board Bistro’s upper dining room and bar to beat the heat (downstairs is open air). About five minutes into lunch a bachelorette party of 10 sat next to us.

The upper bar is all windows, hard floors, and painted plaster ceilings – sound has no where to go. Within minutes of their pink foo foo drinks hitting the table, the lovely young bridal party turned into a herd of screaming hyenas.

I have a Noise Meter on my phone and captured the moment…

Just how loud is 83 decibels? According to a Purdue University Study it’s the sound of a freight train from 100’ away and could damage your eat drums if it lasts too long.

So if you’re a little hard of hearing (like me), do yourself a favor before you sit down in a Newport restaurant and ask if there are any bachelorette parties anywhere near your table. You can thank me later.

Newport Evening

Ben and Becky were in town for the weekend so they joined us on the Fly Bridge to watch the buzz in the harbor. And of course more bachelorette parties on boats…

We even got to witness another wedding at The Bohlin…

Ben and Becky had never been to Midtown Oyster and Althoff it’s one our favorite Newport restaurants, we hadn’t been there in years,

It was still really hot and humid at 6:30 so we grabbed a booth in the dark recesses of the first floor (heat rises and cool settles!)

The food and service didn’t disappoint…

After dinner, the heat was breaking and Bannisters Wharf was coming to life…

Becky and Mrs. Horne

We picked up Becky’s service dog Bernie and had to take a selfie in front of the gorgeous Newport Harbor sunset…

By now it was a perfect evening for sitting outside so Mrs. Horne and I ended the day enjoying the gentle breeze and Newport scenery…

Day Two – Watch Hill

When we were chatting over dinner Ben asked us our favorite cruising venue. Mine is Nantucket, but unequivocally, Mrs. Horne went with Watch Hill. Of course, being a rather smart husband, I knew that and that’s why I booked it for our anniversary dinner three months ago!

The wind was blowing 12 knots as we left Newport. That’s not bad, but it could mean that we’d have to slow down a little for our 40 mile run to Stonington Connecticut before turning north toward Watch Hill.

The mouth of Narragansett Harbor can be a little unsettling if you’re not expecting the rolling seas. It’s well over 150’ deep and much deeper than the surrounding ocean floor.

As we rounded Point Judith we hit 3-4’ chop for a few minutes, but the wind was quartering from the north, so I just had to match our speed to period of the waves.

I had plotted a course near the coast to get protection from the wind and let us enjoy the scenery. Once we passed the Point Judith Breakwater, the seas flattened and I took Relentless up to a fast cruise of 33 mph.

Surrounded By Dolphins

My plan worked and we flew south in no time on nearly flat seas. About 5 miles out I spotted something in the water dead ahead. I called Mrs. Horne and quickly realized that we were surrounded by multiple schools of dolphins.

Of course we stopped and drifted trying in vain to get a good photo or video. We were truly surrounded and there were at least 4 or 5 schools behind, in front, and to either side of us.

We both shot a half a dozen videos and this is the best one I could get…

We belong to a very active Facebook page for Buzzards Bay Boaters and we saw several other boats reporting dolphin sightings on Sunday afternoon. I’ve been on Buzzards Bay for over 60 years and only seen a dolphin once before this. It’s very interesting and I wonder if they’re here to stay.

Entering Watch Hill

Getting to Watch Hill is a little tricky. It lies at the end of a long dredged channel that’s only 100’ wide. You have to go into Stonington Harbor and the turn north to enter the channel.

It’s also a little frustrating in that you pass The Ocean House to the south 45 minutes before you actually reach the docks.

The Channel to Watch Hill from Stonington

The first turn is terrifying if you’re not familiar with the channel. There’s deep water all the way to edge of the beach and rocks just off the green can…

This was the first time I was bringing Relentless and her 5’ draft through this precarious channel so I was already a tad tense when I looked up and saw a police boat with blue lights flashing leading what looked like a mile long boat parade.

I hailed the police boat on channel 16 and asked them what I should do. He replied “Just proceed with caution Captain.”

Fortunately for all of us, Mrs. Horne grabbed my iPhone and shot some video that I compiled it into a short musical. The camera was set on wide angle so it may look like we had more space than we did. The channel is 100’ wide and we were coming within 20’ of the oncoming boats…

I waited for the first few 40’ boats to go through and just as I was starting to enter a yellow sailboat passed me on the port side (you can see him in the video). Then a fishing boat passed me on the starboard side just a few feet from the beach and I made my move.

As the video shows, I was doing fine until a couple of jerks in small boats tried to ride side by side down the middle of the channel…

He’s on the far opposite side of channel. To my right of him, the chart shows 2’ deep water!

I pulled to a stop and laid on my tri-horn. He still didn’t turn, but finally did to avoid a head-on. As he passed within a few feet I screamed down at him “Were you born stupid or did you have to learn it!” Mrs. Horne wasn’t happy with me, but laughed just the same.

People in little outboards driving down the center of rock lined narrow channels is becoming a new pet peeve to me.

I finally calmed down and as I was picking my way through the outer harbor in 5’ -6’ of water, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw what looked like a super yacht coming out…

Turned out it was 114’ Newcastle. I checked the specs and it said it draws 9’. I later spoke to the Captain and he said he can get out at high tide if runs down the fuel and dumps the water. He did said he can get the draft down to seven feet.

This beautiful yacht is owned by a very old man who spends weekends on it with family. They take it out to the edge of the outer harbor, drop anchor, and picnic.

After we docked, we grabbed a quick lunch at The Olympia Tea Room…

Watch Hill is a boutique shoppers paradise so Mrs. Horne did a little power shopping while I took a nap.

The Anniversary Dinner

We’d only eaten diner once before at The Ocean House Bistro, but we remembered that the food, the ambiance, and the service were all Five Star. I was surprised to find reservations available on OpenTable in mid-May and immediately booked it for the Anniversary Cruise.

Although it’s a bit of a walk up the hill to the Ocean House, I would still call it a seaside eatery…

The Bistro Bar at The Ocean House

Celebrating 41 years of marriage is nothing to sneeze at, so I set the proper mood with a good bottle of wine…

As expected, everything was perfect…

They finished the evening off in first class…

Chocolate Pot de Creme at The Ocean House

Even the walk back to Relentless was magical…

Day Three – Biking to Misquamicut

I often joke that my first job as Captain is to avoid hitting anything and my second job is to forecast the weather. I think my third job is finding dockage in Summer Crunch of 2021 and making dinner reservations!

Whenever we’re in port for a full day, Mrs. Horne and I always try to go on a 15-20 mile bike ride to burn off some calories and Monday Morning in Watch Hill was a perfect day for biking up the coast.

There are two real restaurants in Watch Hill and we’d already eaten at both of them. I was planning on returning to The Olympia Tea Room for dinner, but hoping to find a cab to take us to the seaside village of Misquamicut for lunch.

Although I didn’t plan it, I started riding north along the coast and ended up in Misquamicut…

A few hundred feet from downtown we past Taylor Swift’s house. Of course we couldn’t see it, but we did see three security guards and multiple ominous signs…

It wasn’t hard to find a drone photo on the Internet…

We spoke to a couple of locals and it sounds like a sad fairy tale with the beautiful young princess trapped in a castle and unable to leave. A waiter at the Olympia said she use to come to town, but doesn’t anymore, too many pushing fans and paparazzo’s. Now she just sends “her people” into town for takeout.

She’s also a few houses down from The Ocean House which is where I made my first right turn following the coast.

We rode for miles amongst multimillion dollar mansions (Taylor paid $17.5 million for the aforementioned house). I even saw a future castle being built…

I just kept making right turns and we ended up with a spectacular 15 mile ride up the coast…

The traffic was very light (it was Monday morning) and Mrs. Horne never got nervous. There were nice bike paths most of the way. Here’s some of the scenes from along the way…

The little village of Misquamicut reminded me of the seaside towns my father use to take us to before building a home on Buzzards Bay.

Wright’s Cab

We’d seen enough on our bike ride to know we wanted to go back to Misquamicut for lunch at Andrea’s…

We spoke to a few locals who told us Uber and Lyft don’t exist in Watch Hill and the only way to get anywhere was on Wright’s Cab. They also all told us “they’re terrible…”

Being a Monday and looking for an adventure, we were “all in” and I called Wright’s requesting a 12:15 pickup (as a side note, google has a bad phone number listed for Wright’s, the correct number is (401) 596-8294.)

Not surprisingly, they showed up 15 minutes late, but we were on Island Time, so who cares? The cab was clean, there was none of the horrendous plexiglass barriers you find in city cabs, and the driver was friendly and conversational.

Our driver “John” told us more about Taylor Swift and other Watch Hill celebrities – Conan O’Brien and Kanye West.

Next Stop – Lunch at Andreas…

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