Not quite Bermuda, but close enough

Our latest sailing venture turned out to be one of those trips – you know, where you try to go to Bermuda, but end up in Rhode Island. I hate it when that happens.

Although in fairness, Block Island is considered "the Bermuda of the North."

Although in fairness, Block Island is considered “the Bermuda of the North.”

We set out last Saturday with the best of intentions: winds were forecast to be good, we had a few of Chuck’s friends coming along, everyone had plenty of time off from work, I was all Dramamine’d up, and we had stocked enough food and alcohol to last us through the zombie apocalypse. We’d just left the Chesapeake and were setting our course across the Atlantic when the winds died. No big deal, we’d just have to motor for a while, right? Well….

A reminder that things can always be worse: as we bobbed along with no wind and a broken engine, the USS Bush rolled by, bringing up old memories of long deployments. At least we have non-spoiled food (and beer!)

A reminder that things can always be worse: as we bobbed along with no wind and a broken engine, the USS Bush rolled by, bringing up old memories of long deployments. At least now we have non-spoiled food (and beer!)

Long story short, we hung out off the coast of Virginia Beach for the rest of the afternoon while Chuck troubleshot the engine, which had suddenly decided it no longer felt like going to Bermuda. Diagnosis #1 was a faulty injection pump, but for some reason we happened to have an extra one (no, I have no idea why, either.) However, the engine still wouldn’t start after we switched it out, so our trip came to an unceremonious end as we got towed back to the marina.

On the bright side, thanks to Chuck's membership with BoatUS (basically AAA for mariners) we didn't have to pay for what turned out to be a $1500 towing job. Strongly recommended! www.boatus.com

On the bright side, thanks to Chuck’s membership with BoatUS (basically AAA for mariners) we didn’t have to pay for what turned out to be a $1500 towing job. Strongly recommended! http://www.boatus.com

By Monday, Chuck had figured out what was wrong – when he replaced the injection pump, it was installed 180 degrees off so fuel wasn’t getting to the engine. A quick adjustment, and voila! The engine started, Chuck called his friend who was still available to come with us, and we decided to go sailing. Bermuda was no longer an option, so we picked a place we hadn’t been to yet: Newport, Rhode Island.

Unlike our last trip up the East Coast it was rather uneventful – almost too uneventful. Consistent winds out of the south meant we got to go wing-on-wing for almost two days straight, leaving plenty of time for wine, cheese, and trying out our new-and-improved Scrabble board, custom made for rolling on the high seas.

Velcro solves everything!

Velcro solves everything!

Strangely, we didn’t see anyone else until the evening of the second day, when a ghost ship appeared off our port side!

Ghosts... or PIRATES!

Ghosts… or PIRATES?!?!

It turned out to the the US Coast Guard’s barque Eagle which, while impressive, was not nearly as exciting as ghost pirates. Oh well.

That night the wind started to shift and die, so once again we turned to the engine, which once again refused to work. Diagnosis #2 was that it wasn’t the injection pump after all, but an air leak that was causing it to stall. Thankfully Chuck was able to rig a hose and fuel canister to bypass wherever the leak was (really technical terms, I know.) And good thing, because this is what the ocean looked like on the morning of the third day.

A transoceanic sailor's nightmare

A transoceanic sailor’s nightmare

No wind and flat seas. Who knew the Atlantic Ocean could ever look so calm? At least we weren’t too far offshore. Half a day of motoring finally got us to our first destination, Block Island.

aka Not!Bermuda

aka Not!Bermuda

Block Island is a popular tourist destination in the summer, but right now it’s quite empty save for the local population. It was cool to have the place to ourselves, if only because the locals were eager to enlighten us with stories of how crazy it gets during the high season from late June to August. The tiny island fills up with over 9,000 people, there are so many boats in the harbor that you can walk across them to get to shore, and the poor fire and medical response teams (all-volunteer) are overwhelmed with idiot tourists who do things like rent mopeds although they’ve never driven a motorcycle before. A favorite evening activity for the locals is to grab a bunch of mudslides (the drink of choice on Block Island) and cruise around in a dinghy to laugh at all the boaters in the harbor, where it’s turned into a giant game of Bumper Boats.

So that was our day in the Bermuda of the North, a quirky little island that’s probably a bit colder than the real thing (“Why do we keep sailing north?!” Chuck asked at one point while we were bundling up in our winter coats) but still a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. After a good night’s rest we set off the next morning; our plan is to gradually make our way back down the New England coast while stopping in different towns along the way, starting with Newport.

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