Getting our sea legs and settling into trawler life again

From Scituate, we rose just after sunrise on 7/16 to catch the favorable current through the Cape Cod canal. Dean does a wonderful job checking weather, current/tides, and planning our routes. We aim for favorable currents to ease the burden on the engine, save fuel, and make the best time possible. Our “slow trawler” runs most efficiently at 6.5 knots so it is to our advantage to ride the current (or at least not fight it) as much as possible. So, 5 am alarm, instant coffee and tea, and we are casting off.

Surprisingly, a little pine warbler landed on our boat when we were 3-4 miles off shore! He seemed exhausted and had trouble staying on the railing in the wind. It seemed very unusual to see this type of bird off shore, but maybe it was migrating? After about an hour, he flew off, hopefully toward shore.

Pine warbler resting on our stern, far from land.

This was a long day, down the coast of the cape, then through the 7 mile long Cape Cod canal. Being a weekend, it was choppy with many boats and their wakes intersecting from both directions. Fun to see all the beach goers, bike riders, walkers, and people fishing all along the way.

Beach goers at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal

Huge tug on the Cape Cod Canal

We entered Buzzard’s Bay which was also choppy and busy, but the boats gradually dispersed as we continued toward our destination, Cuttyhunk island. Cuttyhunk is the outermost Elizabethan island, a series of small islands that forms a chain or archipelago. There are summer houses with much fewer year round residents, and I believe the harbormaster is also the police chief and the animal control officer.

We picked up a mooring in the outer harbor, avoiding the more jam packed inner harbor. The light winds were perfect for an outside option. 58 nautical miles was tiring, especially for Dean who does the lion’s share of the helm so we rested for a bit, then motored our dinghy into the dock, which was bustling with tourists like us accessing the ice cream, seafood, craft pizza and “backyard burritos.” They also run a seafood/raw bar boat out to all the boaters-what a fun summer job for these college kids!

Cuttyhunk Island, looking toward Martha’s Vineyard.

Nice hike to the top of the island with views across to Dartmouth and to Martha’s Vineyard. “Waved” to our friend, Kathy Elkind, in S. Dartmouth as it was her birthday. Deep blue hydrangeas lined many of the walking paths, but the rosa rugosa had fruited into rose hips, meaning minimal blooms left. Back to the boat for our first ocean dip – so pleasant compared to the cold waters of Maine, and so refreshing after a long hot sticky day. We are now “boat clean”!

Guess what, up early again (7/17) as another long course ahead of us and currents to consider. We were met with moderate fog when we started off, but the fog thickened as we got closer to Long Island Sound. Finally, it was so dense we could barely see more than a couple hundred yards – not enough visibility to easily react in a timely manner with obstacles. Radar, continual scanning, listening, and the occasional horn blast helped. It was exhausting, especially to Dean who was also dealing with the current, navigating, and lobster pots! Just as we reached the tip of Fisher’s Island (NY), the fog lifted into a beautiful sunny day with miles of visibility. Phew!

We have been to this island once before: last summer with our friend, John Karp, and it is as lovely as we remembered. It is a long but thin island about 2 miles off the coast of CT, about 4 square miles total, and filled with more summer mansions. It is at the most eastern part of Long Island Sound. Year round population is ~200 people, and the summer population swells to more than 2000. Picked up a free mooring (thank you, PCM) and settled in to watching the comings and goings of all kinds of boats, people, and birds. Dinghied into the very friendly yacht club and took a long walk around the head of the island, marveling at the summer mansions. Another refreshing swim!

Super quiet and peaceful night, and we had our best “boat sleep” yet. It’s always a challenge to adjust to the noises of the boat and the outside weather, as well as the always present gentle or not-so-gentle rocking. Awoke to fog again, but not so dense with adequate visibility after a bit. Weather looked okay – chance of showers – so we set out to travel from Fisher Island, further along Long Island Sound to meet up with a high school friend, Keith Coughlin and his wife, Mary, in Old Saybrook CT.

We passed North Dumpling Island and lighthouse at the start of our journey. It is a self proclaimed “micro nation” owned by Dean Kamen, who invented many things, including the Segway, the IV pump, and a motorized wheelchair that can climb stairs. He demonstrated his motorized wheelchair by climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower! Ethan and Gage demo’ed the chair at an adaptive equipment expo when they were 8-10 years old. Always interesting to hear who owns what island or yacht – colorful stories galore.

Partway into our trip, the rain started and we could hear thunder in the distance. Weather radar showed thunderstorms popping up, but potentially passing northwest of us. While we were scanning the fog, we heard a loud blast, indicating a nearby boat. Radar showed a boat then AIS indicated “submarine,” which seemed odd…..but then a surfaced submarine appeared out of the fog and passed off our stern! We are off of New London/Groton so that makes some sense, but our experiences with subs from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard by us was that they are escorted by multiple navy boats with announcements all over the radio to keep a distance, so this sudden appearance was surprising to us. On the radio, we heard of a boat collision in the fog relatively nearby – hopefully all parties made out okay.

Not our usual radar and AIS sighting…..

We ran with the rain and thunderstorms nearby, thundering just off in the distance, into the Connecticut River (yes, the same one as we bike around in NH/VT) and up a dredged canal into North Cove, in Old Saybrook. This cove is designated as a federal “harbor of refuge,” aka excellent hurricane hole, and the town has several free moorings by the town wharf. The local yacht club launch guided us to an open mooring, and we secured ourselves before the rain really opened up. Thankful, as always, for our dry boat!

Keith surprised us on a nearby dock with his umbrella (or lightning rod as he called it) at the height of the rain. Wonderful visit, walk about town, then dinner out at a nearby pub with open dining. We got the grand tour on our way back to the dock, and could see why they love this area. Meeting up with friends and family is always fun, and we are thankful to Keith for introducing us to this lovely protected harbor.

Dean helped tow one of the “Truant’s” to their boat. They are heading off on an exciting adventure? Boat laundry done!

We spent an extra day 7/19 in Old Saybrook as the winds were gusting up to 20 knots and the seas were 3-4 feet in Long Island Sound- not our favorite conditions for trawler Clare (or her crew) to travel. Beautiful hot day, and we awoke to the sound of, it seemed, white water on a river: bubbling, almost popping, churning, with an occasional crashing wave.

The tiny fins of the menhaden fish churning around us.

We were surrounded by literally tens of thousands of Menhaden fish, schooling around us to feed and to avoid the predators. Cormorants and osprey galore were gorging on the fish, and many local fishermen were netting or fishing for them to use them as bait fish. So cool to see flashes of their silvery bodies as they maneuvered or their tiny fins cutting in all directions across the water. Interestingly, menhaden (also called bunker fish) are thought to be the fish that Squanto told the Pilgrims to use to fertilize their early crops. I have never seen so many osprey in one area!

Osprey, with the menhaden aligned aerodynamically as it returns to the nest

We are moored next to the North Cove Yacht Club, and spent time watching the youth learn to sail opti’s and lasers, especially in the big wind gusts, a huge mooring field to weave in and out of, and shallows on either side of the channel. What fun they had!

Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” So says Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’.

Kayaked along and in the marsh, hot walk around town and scored a dairy-free ice cream. Brought the boat into the town wharf and did bucket laundry, rinsed the boat, and topped off the water tanks. Swim off the stern to get rid of the stickies and layers of suntan lotion.

A swan and her cygnets

We are setting into the more quiet, slow rhythms of boating life again and it’s wonderful. Praying for my sister’s health and brothers’ stability which has allowed us to “escape” for a bit.

The morning glow as we head out of North Cove, Old Saybrook, and back into Long Island Sound. A great town and harbor.

By the grace of God we go!

~ Karen and Dean

Categories: 2022, Long Island, Uncategorized


  1. Loved reading this as Old Saybrook/ Westbrook and the sound are where I grew up summers on the beach, boating and working in the local restaurants. It is a special place, still feels like home every time I visit. Looking forward to hear what’s next! Xoxo


  2. Oh, wonderful account – you made me feel as if I were there with you …. in the comfort of our home. Blessings and safe travels on the next leg. Thanks for sharing and helping us to learn of some of what goes into your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are certainly having an adventure-filled trip so far! Such fun reading K.
    Stay safe and happy.
    Love to you both.❤️❤️


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