Adventures of Puff Stuff: Vineyard Sound July 2001

By Sam and Arlene Wykoff

To avoid the I95 Friday night traffic and launching in the dark, we left home (Stillwater N. J.) at 0200 Saturday morning and arrived at Allen Harbor on Narraganset Bay 0900. The ramp is located in a small friendly marina with convenient docks. The incline is rather shallow and required getting the tow vehicle wheels wet. We filled our two 25 gallon fresh water tanks and motored out into the main bay where we were confronted with 12kn on the nose. Since we had 33nm to Cuttyhunk, which would give ample sailing once we cleared Newport Neck, we opted to motor Conanicut Is. and out past Newport. The bay was alive with sails and some racing. At the mouth of the bay, we hoisted full main and jib and held a broad reach for 22 nm under clear blue skies . doesn't get any better. We motored into the pond at Cuttyhunk at 1700 and found the MOANE group rafted in the North corner with Roger standing watch on Whale. The pond was the most crowded I have seen it, with boats anchored in the channels. Since we were working on 4 hours sleep, we opted to anchor outside off the beach and retire early.

Sunday dawned clear and breezy as we slept in resting on the laurels of our long run Saturday. We watched the MOANE group head out about 1000 and chatted with Ed Goodhue on VHF. About 1100 we felt guilty and headed out through Canapitsit Channel into Vineyard Sound for a fast reach to Tarpaulin Cove, one of our favorite spots. Anchoring close to the beach and springing the rode to counter the usual swell we enjoyed a late lunch. After a nice long walk on the beach, we tried a swim, but opted for a tepid sun shower; the older we get the less we like cold water. It was a beautiful evening for BBQ and we enjoyed venison shiskabobs. For anyone who has not been there, Tarpaulin is a large semi-circular bay open to the NE. The large island it is on has 1 house and a lighthouse at the bay entrance. Most of the shoreline is beautiful sand beach. Visitors are welcome, but are not allowed more than 50 yards from the water, as the island is a private nature preserve. It's about as close as you come to a Caribbean setting in the North.

Monday we awoke to heavy fog. While we have traversed Vineyard sound by GPS, dodging the Woods Hole traffic is less than fun; hence we opted to wait it out and watch our favorable 2+ knot current waste away. The afternoon brought clear skies and a brisk SW wind. We made a fast passage to Edgartown against the current. The last few miles were a double reefed, rail down beat to the entrance lighthouse. We have yet to sail that channel in a favorable wind. The anchorage area is a good mile plus from town along the sandy shores of Katama Bay, but the dinghy ride is reasonably protected. It was another great day sailing and beautiful evening for BBQ.

Tuesday again found us fog bound, but that fit our plans fine for touring Edgartown; lots of interesting but expensive shops. My mission for the day was to replace my sailing hat, which I lost in a puff on Willsboro Bay in Champlain mission accomplished. One of our favorite activities in Edgartown is to dinghy in after dinner for ice cream and then catch a late movie at the old theatre. Coming back to Puff Stuff at midnight was interesting, especially when I hit the sand bar at Snow's Pt., but escaped without harm.

Expecting another foggy morning per Arnold, we slept in and missed a clear sunny sail with the current to Tashmoo, our next destination. We used the morning to empty the head and buy ice at the Marina. There is also pumpout at the town wharf, which is high and barnacle encrusted. Water is available from a float in front of the marina; best done at slack tide.

After lunch we set sail for Tashmoo, a very well protected pond on the Vineyard near Vineyard Haven and accessible by a 4 foot deep channel. We planned to miss the worst of the adverse current rounding E. Chop and W. Chop on the NW corner of the Vineyard. It was a broad reach out of Edgartown in 15 knots. It hardened up as we approached Vineyard Haven with 1 reef in and a storm jib. We put the second reef in as we entered Vineyard Sound from Nantucket Sound. With 2 knots of current and 15 to 20 of wind on the nose it was a real fight to tack our way between the rocks off W. Chop and Middle Ground reef, which runs parallel to the shore in front of the channel to Tashmoo. The crew was very happy to get into the relative tranquility of the anchorage. We celebrated our accomplishment with a swim and cocktails. As I type this by the light of our oil lamp, it is 2100, the boat is battened down ( Arnold says T storms and heavy winds) and we can hear a fog horn on in the distance very peaceful.

Thursday dawned gray and windy. An 0630 debate on catching the 2+ knot current to Cuttyhunk in order to breakup the return leg was ended abruptly when the skies opened with thunder in the distance. The rain lasted until late afternoon. We ventured a walk into Vineyard Haven for some supplies and exercise. This is a dry town and much less tourist oriented than Edgartown. We met a fellow sailor from NJ and discussed the many merits of the anchorage. Another cozy dinner on Puff Stuff, as Arnold forecast small craft advisories, a favorable NE wind and falling temps.

Friday it was up at 0530 to a clear, brisk and windy day. It was a great sail down Vineyard Sound past Cuttyhunk on a broad reach with a 2-knot current and 15 knot wind in the leftover waves. GPS said we were doing better than 8 knots COG. Once past Cuttyhunk we lost most of the current and had a great reach toward Newport. As we closed on Newport around noon, the wind moved to a beat and dropped to 6 knots. We rounded the light at Beaver Tail Point in Narraganset bay under full sail in light air. The crew voted to motor the last few miles upwind to Dutch Harbor, but the captain refused to yield the helm and found some air on the far shore for a nice beat up the bay. 42 nm and 8 hours later it was anchor down and swim time. Unfortunately, the sea nettles over ruled and we settled for a sun shower. Dutch Harbor is a great anchorage with good holding and protection except NW, water and pumpout. But the best part is a half-mile walk to Jamestown and some great restaurants. Chop Mists Charlie's is our favorite and we celebrated our week with a great seafood dinner.

Saturday morning did not bring the SW winds Arnold promised, but rather continued the N wind coming from our ramp at Allen Harbor. So we decided to wait and go exercise to recover from past sins. We went ashore and made a 6+ mile hike round trip to Beaver Tail Point light. Upon our return to Puff Stuff Neptune blessed us with a nice SW breeze and we ran the spinnaker up the bay, reaching Allen a little past high tide. As I retrieved the trailer from the parking lot I made a quick survey to be sure all was well for the ride home. By pure luck I noticed a 1 by 6 inch hunk of tread missing from a trailer tire with just the cords sitting there and the rest of the rubber separated from the cords. I think it may be a defective tire. Fortunately I had a good spare and was quickly back in business. The boat came out easily. Although the ramp is not very steep and I did need to get the car wheels in above the rubber.

This trip we really exercised our discretion not to fight the wind and weather ... just wait for favorable conditions and I think it really paid off. We made the long runs in good time under pleasant conditions and enjoyed the local scene when conditions were adverse. The most dangerous line on a small boat is a deadline!

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