Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The View From Kestrel

IMG00070-crop A few weeks ago I met a colleague of mine for lunch (weiners, fries, and coffee milk at Rod’s in Warren, RI).  While we do talk shop, our conversations often turn to John’s love of sailing.  Adventures on Narragansett Bay, anchoring in Newport for the Folk or Jazz Festivals, night sailing, slipping through “the gut”.  His stories are always fascinating.  As a Navy man I always take an interest in sea stories.

As we left Rod’s that day John asked if I’d like to sail one evening after work.  “Sure.  Love to”.  We settled on a date and that date came yesterday. 

Fall has started to settle here in New England.  There is a little nip in the air.  We’ve been fortunate to have a couple of glorious days lately, and luckily for me, yesterday was one of them. 

I slipped out of work, fought the downtown Providence traffic, and made my way to East Providence.  Kestrel is moored in Bullock’s Cove in Narragansett Bay.  As I arrived John was rowing the dingy back to Kestrel to retrieve his cell phone in case I was calling.  Seeing me he turned around and headed to shore.  Safely on the dingy we made our way to Kestrel. 

I don’t know too much about sailboats, but I do know that Kestrel is 34 feet in length, has a nice wide beam (plenty of room to walk along side the cabin, has a full cabin (head, dining table, cooktop, room for my 6’5” frame to stand upright and not hit my head, and sleeps six).  It even has a hot and cold outdoor shower.  Really a  nice boat.

After securing my valuables in the “dry bag” John readied her for sail.  We motored out (Kestrel has a nice diesel engine) to the center of the channel so we could hoist the sails.  John gave me instructions and the helm.  I held her pointed into the wind and John unfurled the sails.  With sails hoisted we turned about and headed down Narragansett Bay. 

I remained at the helm with John instructing me as to how to hold the tack.  Satisfied we were safely in the channel and having a nice breeze across our port stern, John cut the engines. 

And then there was -- Absolute silence. 

John uttered, “I just love it when I cut the engines.  It’s so peaceful.”  And, it was.  Not an hour after I left the hectic pace of work and the traffic congestion of the city, here I was sailing, with the only sound being that of the wind passing over the sails. 

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John broke out the cold beers and we continued down the Bay.  He shared stories of past adventures on the bay (including a rescue he and his son assisted with in the dark of night) and he educated me on the art of sailing.  It was fascinating.  “Ready about”  “Hard alee”.  Another successful tack.  A few more tacks and we were passing Conimicut Light

John has a tradition that as they pass Conimicut Light that they call to shore on the radio (and now with cell).  I’m happy to say I was aboard Kestrel when John made the first International Call from Kestrel as we passed Conimicut Light. 

Further down the Bay we sailed.  Patience, then Prudence Islands to our starboard.  Waving to fishermen and other sailors.  Watching the regatta as they rounded the mark.  The sun set and dusk was upon us.  One last tack and we came about.  Time to head home.  Darkness surrounded us by now, but the skyline of Providence was just one of many beacons.  We made our way north, Colt State Park in the distance now to our starboard.  Up past Rumstick Point, Rhode Island Country Club, Nayett Point.  Another pass by Conimicut Light.  Gaspee Pt to our port.  Bullock Point to our starboard. 

Just past our return past Conimicut Light we lost the wind.  We motored the rest of the way back.  No worries.  The awesome sights of the city, the shoreline, boats drawing us into their searchlights, drowned out any rumble from the diesel.  

After a safe, and somewhat easy approach to the mooring we secured Kestrel to her mooring.  We secured her and sat down to enjoy a snack and a last beer.  Although we were only 100 yards or less from the shore there was dead silence.  With the wind dying down, the Bay was also silent and still.  John told me that when he and his wife often return from an evening sail they secure to the mooring and then have the discussion, “stay aboard for the night?”  I can see how tempting that must be. 


After the short row back to shore it was back to the real world.  I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure.  Thanks John.  The view from Kestrel is like no other.  I am so grateful to have experienced it, and so jealous, as well.