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.
This time, all the sails went up and the apparent wind went forward of the beam as we beat back into the southwesterly that had pushed us so effortlessly up from Newport. But we weren’t on the breeze for long. The sheets were eased again once we cleared the Mount Hope Bridge and sped past the green lawns of Bristol, where ol’ Captain Nat Herreshoff himself often sailed.
So far, I’d been impressed with how the Seaward Eagle 32 and its retractable rudder and bulb keel handled the brisk conditions, but the true test happened after we’d wound our way through the forest of masts in Bristol’s harbor and turned back into the teeth of the still-stiff breeze funneling between Bristol and Hog Island. The boat pointed well and stood up to the breeze admirably. We did wrestle a bit with some weather helm, but I’m pretty sure that was due to our unfamiliarity with the boat’s adjustable rudder and bulb keel. Since we were heading upwind in a good breeze, I thought we should have both foils down all the way, but as I learned later from Nick Hake, the boat’s designer and builder, we could’ve adjusted the depths of both to fine-tune the feel of the helm, and we’d have increased our speed slightly by reducing wetted surface area, too. Nick says that the boat is plenty stiff and weatherly, even with the keel retracted halfway in a stiff breeze. Reducing drag by retracting the rudder a notch can reduce weather helm, he explained. When we headed back into Mount Hope Bay and made a beeline for the Kickamuit River, where we’d planned to spend the night, those retractable foils came in handy for a more obvious reason.
I often panic when the depth sounder starts showing low, single-digit readings, so as we motored into the calm, protected, and, in some places, shallow waters of the Kickamuit, I especially enjoyed the electric-powered retractable keel that made it possible to reduce our 6-foot-6-inch draft down to 20 inches with the push of a button. As we looked for a place to drop the anchor for the night, it was fun to see just how shallow we could go. We nosed the boat up to the shore near the mouth of the channel in way less than 3 feet of water, and I probably could’ve set us up so we’d have been able to walk ashore without getting our shorts wet.
We happened to know a Kickamuit local who invited us for pizza and beer on his deck, but he lived about a mile up the river from our just-found super shallow anchorage. Since we’d been “at sea” for about 10 hours at that point, hauling the hook and leisurely motoring a mile up a wide, placid river on a calm night under a full moon was an ordeal we were willing to endure.
We ended up leaving the boat on one of his neighbor’s moorings. Our host and his son even came out to fetch us so we didn’t have to go to all the trouble of pumping up our dry and well-packed inflatable dinghy. “You ready for a beer?” I asked John as we pulled up the well-used mooring rode and waited for yet another outboard-powered tender. “Yup,” he said with a smile. What more could he say, really? Cruising close to home is fun.