28 November 2013

Flashback: How we ended up on Block Island

shape of Block Island: locals call it a "pork chop"

It was mid-April in Culebra/Puerto Rico when we met Bill (an American cruising bartender with Irish roots, we mentioned him already in this former post) on the "Dinghy Dock Bar & Restaurant" where he was working on the weekends. His opinion, besides that of others, was an important factor in our decision making process on how to proceed with our sailing route after the Caribbean. To make a long story short: he is a little bit to "blame" that we ended up in Bermuda, New England and especially on Block Island, RI.

We all have a certain picture in mind when we hear "Bermuda" - sup-tropical climate, turquoise water, offshore companies, Bermuda triangle etc. But what's the picture when you hear "Block Island"? To be honest I'd never heard of it before. Bill already had raved about Bermuda's beauty and it turned out that he was right.
So we simply decided to trust him and his friend Dave as they highly praised "their" Block Island... and got a very warm welcome!

Before we even caught a glimpse of Block Island we had to fight our way through hundreds of sailing vessels that were participating in a race - very common during the season as we learnt later. The famous "Block Island Race Week" would have their 25th Anniversary just a week after our arrival.

According to our friends' advice we called them once entering Great Salt Pond, a big anchorage and perfect refuge for any boater, and they guided us to a mooring ball where we could tie up to (the picture below shows our view).

that was before Race Week, during and after boats were tied to every mooring ball you can see

withing minutes it could also look like this - FOG!

You have to know that in comparison to the Caribbean the docking and mooring prices in the US, especially in the New England and New York area, are ridiculously expensive.
No, the opposite happened. When the anchorage filled up with boats for the Race Week we had to leave our mooring. Immediately a plan was concocted and we could move over to Dave's private mooring (which he easily could have rented out for big money). And if this was not enough we got invited wherever we went. Our first stop was - of course - "Payne's Dock" the bar Bill worked in since many years.

A gathering point during Happy Hour we met old and made new friends. The fact that we were one of the only two foreign flagged boats on the whole island and had sailed there from Bermuda served to fuel discussions. I remember one story very clearly: We got introduced to Jim. Our friends suggested to us to go on an island tour with him. You must know - on our journey through the Caribbean we got countless offers for an island tour and the prices could be very variable. So our reaction was a bit reluctant... But our friends kept pushing us until we gave in. So we walked with Jim to his car. We expected there would be a minivan waiting for us. But then slowly we started to realize that it was Jim's private car and that he wasn't actually a tour guide. Jim was just a very friendly and open-minded guy! During the next hour he drove us over the tiny island, showed us hidden spots and explained what celebrities used to or still live there. It was overwhelming, really.
Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of Jim. But he showed us a very special memory he was carrying around in his wallet since many years: it shows him as a little boy with his dog, a German shepherd.

We spent some very relaxed days, explored the island, bought some fruits and veggies on a farmers market, met friends, Marco went sailing with Bill on his little "Sailfish", a sailing dinghy.

Block Island actually attracts thousands of tourists during the summer months. The temperatures are lower than on the mainland and they also call it "Bermuda of the North". It's a summer oasis just 150 Miles from New York City. A perfect getaway with great beaches, bars, restaurants, biking, hiking, diving, swimming, surfing and some of the best fishing. And even if it attracts a crowd the island still feels unspoiled. What we found very interesting was the fact that many students from Europe and beyond worked in groceries, restaurants or hotels. They came from Albania, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and so on.

During the time we stayed there it was still shortly before high season, quite chilly and we didn't even dip our toes into the sea. Every year our friend Durbin and his lovely wife Ludi spend 1 - 2 weeks of their holidays on Block Island and Marco got some first hand fishing advice from the expert.

Durbin explaining the fish to catch in the area

Marco is usually not a morning person, but in this case he got up one morning at 2 or 3am (I was still sleeping, so I don't know exactly...) and went to the spot Durbin had advised him to. And he came back at sunrise with a nice catch: Stripped Bass, a very delicious fish!

And last but not least I want to mention one person especially. Dave, who was joining Bill on his sailing trip from Bermuda to Newport. He calls Block Island his home, has lived there for many years. He really grew on us the more time we spent together. Marco and Dave could talk politics for hours as they never agreed on the others opinion. He brought us gifts and paid countless rounds on Happy Hour. Simply - he was there for us when needed.
This of course applies for so many people we've met on Block Island. So there goes a big THANK YOU out to the lovely folks we had the privilege of meeting while we stayed there!

Rahel & Dave
And Bill, this counts for you as well even though not fully deserved... He sent me the picture above with the title "Fetti" - making fun of my English pronunciation of "Fatty" ;-))

When we finally "untied the mooring lines" we did it with a feeling like leaving our home and family. Block Island will always have a special place in our hearts and we hope to go back there one day...