Napatree Revisited

Returning to familiar and well-loved places can be comforting and relaxing. We were ready to take a short trip on our new boat with the goal of relaxing. Our first 7 days aboard Unfunded Requirement were “delivery mode” – every day was a traveling day, anywhere from 5 hours to 11 hours, depending upon the next logical and convenient location. Now it was time to enjoy the boat and get to know her a little better. The only way to “know” a boat is to use it and spend time on it.

We sub-let our dock this summer because we did not have a boat – makes sense, right?  Fortunately, we still have a permanent town mooring in the outer “field” although things have changed there in the past 3 years. It is no longer our private little “harbor.” In addition to the two transient moorings, there are now three other moorings with ours. Not everyone would want a mooring out here. It isn’t always a comfortable location when the winds and waves are from the west; and the ferry wakes always set the boat rocking. Although the neighborhood is getting crowded, it is still a sweet spot with a wonderful view of  Ledge Light and UCONN’s Avery Point campus.

Our view of Ledge Light, the entrance to the Thames River.

Our view of Ledge Light, the entrance to the Thames River.

UCONN's Avery point campus. The little lighthouse on the left and Branford Mansion on the right.

UCONN’s Avery Point campus. The little lighthouse on the left and Branford Mansion on the right.

One of Al’s favorite things is to check the Ledge Light weather station on UCONN’s Department of Marine Sciences’ “My Sound” website.  He can monitor the weather statistics (wind speed & direction, air temperature, humidity, dew point, and barometric pressure.)

MySound weather station website

MySound weather station website

He particularly loves to use the LedgeCAM, a webcam mounted on a UCONN building.  When you have control of the camera, you can turn it and scan the area. Al controls it so that he has a view of our boat. He did it all the time when the sailboat was out there, especially during storms. One time I telephoned my mother and father in Pennsylvania and gave them step-by-step directions on how to use it. While on the phone I was able to wave to them. That was before the days of FaceTime and our iPhones.

LedgeCAM ~a distant view ~ a close-up view of our boat on its mooring

LedgeCAM
~a distant view of our mooring
~ a close-up view of our boat on its mooring

The weather looked good so we decided to head to Napatree Point in Rhode Island, a favorite spot of ours. We often use the words Napatree and Watch Hill interchangeably. Watch Hill is the village in Westerly, Rhode Island. Napatree is a long 1.5 mile sandy crescent that extends out from the business district and harbor of Watch Hill and forms an anchorage area on its north side. Up until the Hurricane of 1938, Napatree was sickle-shaped and included a long northern extension called Sandy Point. The Sandy Point strip is now separated from Napatree. If you are ever interested in reading more about the 1938 hurricane, we recommend reading The Sudden Sea, Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti.

Satellite view of waters around Napatree, Sandy Point, and Watch Hill. ~ The blue arrow points to our general anchor location.

Satellite view of waters around Napatree, Sandy Point, and Watch Hill. You can see the shallows between Napatree and Sandy Points, where they were once joined prior to the 1938 hurricane.
~ The blue arrow points to our general anchor location.

With the sailboat (and again with the trawler) we must take the route that brings us around the northwestern tip of Sandy Point. This marks the beginning of a shallow channel entrance to the Napatree anchorage and Watch Hill’s harbor. It is the only route that deeper draft boats can take to get there. “Deeper” is relative – the channel can be as low as 5 ft at low tide and must be navigated with caution.

Just before turning into the channel, we pass Stonington.

Just before turning into the channel, we pass Stonington.

~Just ahead of us is the western point of Sandy point. A boat must pass between the visible sandy point and the green marker. The water is actually quite deep through this narrow spot.

~Just ahead of us is that northwestern point of Sandy Point. A boat must pass between the visible sandy edge and the green marker (to the left.) The water is actually quite deep through this very narrow spot.

After rounding the point the channel passes the beaches where small boats anchor for a day trip.

After rounding the point the channel passes the beaches where small boats anchor for a day trip.

We anchored off of Napatree and settled in for a beautiful long weekend.

We anchored off of Napatree and settled in for a beautiful long weekend.

Dean and MJ dinghy over for dinner.

Our friends on Jallao, MJ and Dean, arrived to join us for dinner.

Our first dinner guests aboard the Mariner Orient 38!!

Our first dinner guests aboard the Mariner Orient 38!!

Every evening, as the sun set, we sounded the conch horn. I'm still working on my technique. Dean, of course, picked it up immediately. Former band member!

Every evening, as the sun set, we sounded the conch horn. I’m still working on my technique. Dean, of course, picked it up immediately. Former band member!

One of the things we enjoy about Napatree is the front row seats for the Watch Hill sailing races, races for the little ones in dinghies, small sailboats and larger ones.

Watch Hill racing!

Watch Hill racing!

The Race Committee boats head out to mark the courses and monitor the race.

The Race Committee boats head out to mark the courses and monitor the race.

Napatree is a favorite spot for lots of reasons – it is within 2 hours of our homeport and offers beaches, kayaking, exploring, and a town.

Watching the sea gulls' antics on the beach and on the water.

Watching the sea gulls’ antics on the beach and on the water.

We always kayak around this little "houseboat". It's been anchored off of Napatree year after year. It looks like it is getting more use now.

We always kayak around this little “houseboat”. It’s been anchored off of Napatree year after year. It looks like it is getting more use now.

The line of little shops is visible as you approach by dinghy.

The line of little shops is visible as you approach by dinghy. The town has changed a little in the past year. Some shops have disappeared and others will now give it a try in their place.

A favorite Watch Hill sight is Aphrodite, a 74-foot 1937 Long Island commuter yacht built for financier Jock Whitney to take him back and forth from his home in Manhasset to Wall Street. In her prime, celebrities were her guests –  Fred Astaire, Shirley Temple, Lawrence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy . Whitney gave Aphrodite to the Coast Guard the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. She served as a PT boat test vessel, a torpedo screen for the British liner Queen Mary and an escort for President Roosevelt’s Hudson River trains. The FBI once caught a purported spy on the boat. Her full history is nicely told on the blog, Messing About in Boats.  After passing through many hands and years of neglect, she was restored from 2003-2005 and now summers in Watch Hill.

The iconic Aphrodite

The iconic Aphrodite

Walking about the village of Watch Hill is always a feast for the eyes. The homes are spectacular. We have noticed that there seems to be more “money” around than in days past. The Ocean House and Taylor Swift have had an impact.

This home sits among similar stately mansions overlooking a pond.

This home sits among similar stately mansions overlooking a pond.

On our walk we had a view of Taylor Swift's home (right) perched on a beach cliff. The Watch Hill Coast Guard Station is on the right.

On our walk we had a view of Taylor Swift’s home (right) perched on a beach cliff. The Watch Hill Coast Guard Station is on the left.

This is the sign at the end of Taylor Swift's "driveway." Amusing - it'a a quote from one of her songs.

This is the sign at the end of Taylor Swift’s “driveway.” Amusing – it’a a quote from one of her songs. That and a guard notify regular folks to stay out. We have noticed that there are many more “tweens” roaming around the town than there once was. I guess she is an attraction for some age groups. 😉

Gin & Tonic and a Mojito (a little change form our usual beer and wine!)We prefer a quiet drink at the Olympia Tea Room.

Gin & Tonic and a Mojito (a little change from our usual beer and wine!)

 

Since 1916, the Olympia Tea Room has become a Watch Hill institution.

Since 1916, the Olympia Tea Room has become a Watch Hill institution.

No visit to Watch Hill is complete without a stop at St. Clair Annex for homemade ice cream! Yum!

No visit to Watch Hill is complete without a stop at St. Clair Annex for homemade ice cream! Yum!

While eating our ice cream, we observed this Rolls Royce Excaliber, a classic.

While eating our ice cream, we observed this Rolls Royce Excaliber, a classic.

Our last evening was spent watching the sunset from the bow, followed by a game of cards.

~MJ & Dean with their boat, Jallao, in the background ~ You know who.

~MJ & Dean with their boat, Jallao, in the background
~ You know who.

Now that we have a boat with a shallower draft (4 feet vs 5 feet, and, yes, a foot can make a big difference!) we decided to try “the cut” instead of going back around Sandy Point. “The Cut” is a relatively new passage developing over time as storms and currents change the depth of the bottom, cutting a narrow but slightly deeper path in the shallow waters. We left Napatree close to high tide to ensure that we would have enough water beneath our keel. We still held our breath as we saw 3.9 feet on the depth finder at one moment. Taking this route shortened the trip home by about 30 minutes.

~ These unofficial orange floats mark the edge of the cut. Notice the difference in the color of the water. ~ The last one marks the beginning of "The Cut" and is even labeled by name.

~ These unofficial orange floats mark the edge of the cut. Notice the difference in the color of the water the shallow sandbar is lighter in color on the other side of the mark.
~ The last one marks the beginning of “The Cut” and is even labeled by name.

We enjoyed our first R&R trip in this boat. I really did rest and relax, but Al continued with his own style of R&R –” rip and restore.”  I am saving his adventures for a separate blog post. 🙂

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