First Sail 2012

Posted on Sunday 20 May 2012

Today, Sunday, May 20, 2012, was the first sail of the 2012 season for s/v Pretty Gee. I was excited to have an old friend along for the sail. I hadn’t seen my friend Adrienne since 1997, when I moved to Virginia and she headed off to Belgium for a nine-year stint in the EU. She was in town from her new home in the mid-west, accompanying her significant other on a trip to his alma mater Harvard.

I drove into Boston to pick Adrienne up at the Boston Airport Hilton. They had flown in the day before and were going to be moving over to Dunster House on the Harvard campus today. We then headed down to the marina. Adrienne and I loaded the dinghy with a few more pieces of gear the boat needs—the grill, the LifeSling2, the anchor, and such. Then I rowed the dinghy out to s/v Pretty Gee and came alongside the starboard ama so we could unload the gear. I moved the dinghy up to the mooring and tied it off to the mooring ball.

We fired up the engine and stowed the gear where it needed to go and headed for the swing bridge. The New Bedford-Fairhaven Swing Bridge is one of the prices I pay to keep my boat at one of the safest heavy weather marinas in the area. The official schedule of the bridge is:

  • Daily, from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM, the bridge opens for marine traffic (or closes to vehicle/foot traffic) at the top of each hour: 6 AM, 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM and 10 AM.
  • Then daily from 11:15 AM to 6:15 PM, the bridge opens 15 minutes past each hour: 11:15 AM, 12:15 PM, 1:15 PM, 2:15 PM, 3:15 PM, 4:15 PM, 5:15 PM and 6:15 PM.
  • After 6:15 PM, the bridge will open on-demand from marine traffic by calling the bridge keeper’s office on marine channel 13.

After passing the swing bridge we headed out the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier. This is the reason the New Bedford/Fairhaven harbors are among the safest in the world, at least when dealing with storms.

The New Bedford Hurricane Barrier closes in heavy weather and prevents storm surge from washing through the harbors. It is capable of resisting about 21′ of storm surge. It is wider than and as high as the Great Wall of China and is the largest stone structure on the Eastern coast of the United States.

Once we got out past the Butler Flats Light, we hoisted the mainsail, unfurled the genoa, and killed the engine and were off sailing. The weather was pretty much perfect for the first sail of the season—almost 70˚ and with about 15 knots of wind under a mostly sunny sky.

Adrienne had never been aboard a larger sailboat, and this was her first time sailing on saltwater. She is not a sailor, nor a person of the sea, having grown up in the Mid-west and spent most of her time in those landlocked, flyover states. Fortunately, she doesn’t get seasick like some of the other guests I’ve had aboard s/v Pretty Gee.

We sailed, and talked…having to catch up on things that have happened over the past fifteen years, especially the last six. Marriages, divorces, deaths, careers, friends and family were subjects that we talked about. It was good to catch up with one of my closest friends after such a long time apart. I guess life happening complicates things and the geographic distance and events in our lives conspired to keep us from being in touch as much as I’d have liked. The time apart didn’t affect our friendship though.

One thing I learned is that she’s starting a new business and I’m going to help her as much as I can. I think she’ll do well and I want her to hit the ground running. I have some contacts that I think might be helpful for her as well.

Since we were just out for the day, we really didn’t have a set destination in mind and just sailed about Buzzards Bay, mainly enjoying the day. Adrienne learned that sailing a boat like s/v Pretty Gee takes some strength, even with the winches and other hardware. She loved the salt air and the fresh breeze and being able to move along with the engine off and only the sounds of the wind and waves to accompany our conversation.

After a few hours, we were starving and headed back into the harbor. We caught the 1515 bridge opening northbound and tied up to the mooring. After tidying up the boat, covering the mainsail and tiller, and doing the little tasks that you need to attend to on a sailboat, we headed off to the pair of restaurants that has become a tradition among my crew and guests after a day of sailing—Elizabeth’s and Margaret’s.

Elizabeth’s and Margaret’s are two restaurants, two doors apart, down by the commercial section of Fairhaven Harbor waterfront, which are owned by the same family and have much the same menu. One of the two is always open. The food is excellent, and features seafood dishes with a Portuguese twist to them often.

Adrienne got one of the lobster and pasta specials and a side of Asian cole slaw. I got a Bay scallops based dish. We split a huge piece of Pistachio Creme cake for dessert. Normally, we would have gone to the Brady Ice Box, which is located between the two restaurants and also owned by the same family, but the Brady Ice Box doesn’t open until Memorial Day.

After dinner, I drove Adrienne into Cambridge and dropped her off at Dunster House, on the Harvard University campus. I met Roger, her significant other, at Dunster House and then headed back to the house.


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