P/C Susan and I, and our son and his family (from SF), spent a long weekend in Newport, RI early in May. Our daughter and her family joined us from their home in CT. So we had two grandkids, both under two years old, to share the time with, and our kids had able and willing babysitters! We stayed in a large Airbnb house (built in 1882) in the old downtown, close to many waterfront and city attractions. And we were easy walking distance to fine local restaurants; we especially enjoyed some local clams and oysters. We were fortunate, not only with the weather, but also by the marine-eye-candy and exciting activities at Fort Adams and the nearby Newport Shipyard.
Fort Adams is a great place to visit, especially in fine weather when the Volvo ocean racing sailboats are berthed there! The fleet of open 65’s had just finished leg 9 of the 11-part round-the-world race, with a grueling final few hours as they drifted into Newport after 19 days sailing from Itajai, Brazil. The race village was a lot of fun, and there was something for everyone: sailor, shopper, eater, and even little kids. Volvo, as race sponsors, had some beautiful cars on display – our son is tempted by their new electric fleet – and a large shiny new tractor that kept our granddaughter occupied for quite a while. There were also displays showing the details of the Volvo racer’s life at sea, with a cut-away hull, with cockpit, open for exploration. How about that gimballed carbon-fiber toilet bowl? Waste management is tackled head-on, and a consistent theme of the race and village was sustainability: reduce consumption of plastics, recycle, repeat! These are not simple boats, with a myriad of systems, pipe bunks, and workspaces for the skipper, navigator and onboard reporter. Yes, each boat has one embedded reporter whose only job is chronicling the voyage; they are not allowed to assist the crews. The ‘Race Experience’ movie was interesting with some thrilling and awesome segments from the Southern ocean, and a moving tribute to veteran ocean racer John Fisher, the most recent fatality of the race (there have been six since the race started as the Whitbread in the early ‘70s).
The Newport Shipyard is more than a shipyard. We had a great breakfast at Belle’s Café, next door to the gift shop, and sat outside and watched sailboat crews laying out gear, and hoisting bright orange storm sails, readying for inspections for the upcoming Newport-Bermuda race. Quite a few Volvo racers were also enjoying the morning there. What a place for boat watching! Some of the boats are big, and much bigger than they appear. For example, I saw something on a spreader on the main mast of a large ketch, and at first thought it was a bird. But it was actually a full-sized adult male rigger working on the spreader tip. And then there was Sophia, a drop-dead gorgeous, all bright work carvel-planked boat – even the topsides were varnished – with a large crew polishing her.
Can you find the photographer, Steve, in this picture of Rambler 88?
Can you find Susan, giving us perspective of size?
Near Rambler 88, and perhaps most interesting, to me anyway, was Dongfeng, one of the Volvo open 65’s, dangling in hoist straps, getting a new keel installed. The old keel, some 16 feet tall, was sitting nearby with an obvious problem indicated by rusty cracks just above the 7,000 pound bulb. This is a canting keel that can swing up to 40 degrees to windward, so the replacement was even more complicated than it would be for a fixed keel (which is bad enough!).
On the penultimate day of our stay, also the sunniest, my son and I rented a J22 from Sail Newport, Brenton Cove, at Fort Adams, and spent a very pleasant afternoon sailing the bay. The requisite checkout by a local instructor was straightforward – rig the boat, cast off dock sail this heading, tack, tack back, spin and jibe, then back to the dock close enough to let the instructor hop off. Then we had three hours to explore, just as the afternoon southerly came up. And that we did, sailing North and West across the main passage from the Atlantic (with a theoretical view of the mythical Block Island so often used as an example is classes), and toward the inland Route 138 bridge, then East to just outside Newport Shipyard, passing close by Nefertiti (US 19), a legacy 12 Metre Class America’s Cup boat as she prepared to head home. Then we wove through the countless moorings, mostly still empty as they are in Winter, then we flashed Susan and son’s daughter playing on the beach. We had 8-15 kts the entire afternoon, perfect for the J22, and all in sunshine. It was a pretty nice way to end our visit!
Nefertiti in view