Staying local

For the last three summers, since buying my latest “big” boat, I’ve had the same three goals: 1) Hunt down Points East columnist David Buckman while he’s cruising in Maine. Me aboard my Good Buddy and David aboard his Leight, we’d go find a few of those eel ruts he’s always talking about. To do this, of course, I’d first have to sail Good Buddy to Maine from my homeport in Connecticut; 2) Sail to Block Island. It’s 40 miles, which is a long day, but eminently doable even for a pokey Pearson Commander; 3) Overnight in Coecles. Coecles Harbor is a beautiful little gem just across the Sound. Even on a windless day I could get there in four hours.

The good ship Good Buddy, kids on the bow, exploring waters quite familiar to her. Photo by Meredith Rapp

The goals are weighted from loftiest to least, but executing any one of them would constitute a victory. Were any one of them accomplished, I’d be able to rest easier over the winter, knowing I’d maximized my time and money.

I’ve yet to do any of them.

The reasons why are complex. And they definitely have something to do with putting out a regional boating publication each month. But mostly, if I’m being honest, it’s because I have too much fun staying local. Local for me is Essex, Connecticut, where I have a mooring. The Connecticut River connects me to Long Island Sound, which is a great place to sail. If the train bridge is open and the tide is right I can get there in about an hour. If it’s closed all bets are off, but let’s just say I’m looking at a round trip of at least 2 ½ hours. Which is a lot of travel time.

Consequently, most of the sailing I do is in Essex Harbor. I generally go out after 4:30, when the heat of the day is on the wane, and a light breeze can be expected to materialize out of the southwest. For my 26-footer, which was built as a daysailer, the harbor is plenty big, especially if I “maximize” the mooring field. And there’s always something interesting going on there – transients coming or going, the Adriaen Block replica ship Onrust taking tourists out, or, as I witnessed earlier this summer, a Super Cat high-performance racing catamaran rocketing through the harbor in excess of 80 knots (a friend of mine aboard pointed out that, remarkably, the boat wasn’t violating the harbor’s “no wake” zone, as it left absolutely no wake).

The waterfront is historic and beautiful. There’s an uninhabited island on the east side of the harbor, and three coves on the west side, beckoning the young and young-at-heart. A short sail to the north is Hamburg Cove, where the party rarely stops, and the stand-up paddle boarding and swimming is extra fine. A bit further to the north of that is Selden’s Creek, where the scenery allows one to imagine he or she is aboard the African Queen (and there’s cliff jumping, but you didn’t hear that from me). Expect to see eagles, ospreys and cormorants throughout. Good friends, a classic boat, and a well-stocked cooler – what more does one need?

As sailors in New England, our cups runneth over. I have a partner on my boat, a Kiwi who, marveling at the scene in Essex Harbor one night said, “I can’t believe people don’t know about this place.”

“They do,” I said. “And there are probably dozens of places just like this before you get to Maine; and then, once you’re there, who knows how many there are. Too many to count, probably.”

Chances are, reading this right now, you keep your boat in such a New England harbor, or know of one close by. There’s a reason we lament the end of the summer boating season here. They’re pretty magical.

I’m writing this because the crab grass in my driveway is beginning to die; summer is winding down. There’s still plenty of time left, I know, and fall cruising has its own special rewards. But the end is near. The marina’s “everyone off your mooring date” is approaching fast. Now that the kids are firmly ensconced in school, Maine is out; but goals two and three are firmly within my grasp. Will it happen? I’ll let you know. Odds are, though, I’ll probably just stay local.