Cruising by the Hour in Narragansett Bay
A midweek overnighter aboard a Seaward Eagle 32 allows working stiffs who also love to sail to unplug from the stress of everyday life.
CW colleague John Wilson threw a last-minute monkey wrench into the three-day, two-night cruise on Narragansett Bay that we’d planned to take last fall. “We’re on deadline,” he said. “I can’t leave until Tuesday morning.”
Unfortunately, the trailerable Seaward Eagle 32 we were going to borrow from Hake Yachts for the trip had to be back to the launch ramp in Newport by Wednesday morning.
“Well,” I said, “let’s see how far we can go in 24 hours.”
We were about to find out that even a sail that’s measured in hours rather than days can provide a welcome respite from the tyranny of our speeded-up, stressed-out world.
When we knocked off the last deadline and Tuesday morning finally arrived, we were really ready to chill, but we couldn’t relax just yet. The gunkhole-friendly boat, a 32-footer with a spacious interior and a retractable keel that makes it easy to trailer, was pinned to the dock in a 25-knot southerly that was honking up the bay, and it had to be backed out of the slip first. Winding our way out of the marina was our last hurdle, and soon we were sizzling out of Newport’s harbor with a small triangle of reefed main up. Then we turned toward our intended anchorage up the Kickamuit River, about 15 miles north. Things mellowed right out as we pointed the bow downwind, and we made a brilliant decision that increased the chill factor even further. To rid ourselves of the possibility of a stressful, cockpit-sweeping accidental jibe, the main was doused, and we simply barreled up the bay under a fully eased jib.
“Ahhh,” I said to John after the sails were sorted and we settled in to the relative quiet of our downwind course. “We may only have 24 hours to play with, but there’s no need to rush, right?”
Our easy downwind run under the crisp, blue September sky may have only lasted a few hours, but the determined pace of land-based life and its endless deadlines melted away as if we’d been out for a lot longer. After we passed Prudence Island, we only had to make a slight course change to head for our first destination, on the south side of Mount Hope Bay. The water flattened out and the wind subsided in the lee of Aquidneck Island. The warmth of the midday sun and the calmness of our new surroundings were better than we could’ve hoped for. Even without rushing, we were early to meet photographer Billy Black. We took advantage of the bonus by simply dropping the hook and doing nothing.
Doing nothing may not seem like the best way to take advantage of the gift of time, but I’ll tell you, when you’re relaxing by the hour rather than by the day or week, it’s an unmerited gift. We ate Subway sandwiches, toasted our good fortune with ice-cold cans of Coke, and capped our decadent lunch break off with steaming-hot cups of strong coffee in the sun-drenched cockpit that was big enough to stretch out in. It certainly beats a day in the office, doesn’t it? It did. And that was before the napping started. Yup, I admit it, we nodded off on the job—briefly. Turns out we were both well-suited to this kind of “speed relaxing.” Unlike some sailors who might find it prudent to use several hours in the heat of the afternoon to read or take an occasional nap, we only had a couple of minutes, but we made the most of them.
The sound of Billy’s outboard engine woke us up. At this point, we’d been “cruising” for about six hours.
When Billy pulled up, we were fed, rested, relaxed, and ready to explore some parts of the bay that locals don’t always visit.