Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did!

December 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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If it’s not your habit to check a marina’s hours of operation when you pick up or discharge guests or crew you might be in for a surprise.

Three of us were heading out to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts at the end of September, looking forward to uncrowded anchorages along the way. The first night we put into Greenport on Long Island, getting up early the next morning in anticipation of our 29-mile slog to Block Island in Rhode Island.

The weather turned against us with a foul tide and wind gusts on our nose up to 25 knots. We hunkered down for a long day of heavy wet going, but after an hour of incessant pounding, we had traveled just a little over one mile. Time to change course!

We hung a left at Plum Gut and set a course for the beautiful waters of the Connecticut River. Apart from Essex and Middletown, the lower river is largely unspoiled by civilization; few buildings intrude on a pristine shoreline where dense woods crowd right up to the water’s edge in many places. Sandy beaches beckon boaters to land and swim. If you are patient, you might spot ospreys and bald eagles overhead.

However, I digress. The real story resumes after we made a promise to meet up with a couple of friends for dinner and so we tied up at a boatyard in Portland, Connecticut about 5:00 pm. Our friends were planning to come aboard in an hour and share some wine and cheese before we headed out.

With nothing to do before our guests’ arrival, I went exploring the boatyard. As I reached the front gate, what I saw made my heart stop. A large sign declared, “THIS GATE LOCKED AT 5:00 PM DAILY. NO EXCEPTIONS.”

It was now a little after 5:00 pm, and the gate was still open. However, what would happen if our guests drove up at 6:00 and were turned away? Alternatively, what if they arrived but we couldn’t return to our boat after dinner?

I searched around the gate for holes to squeeze through. None. The fence surrounding the property ended five feet past the river’s edge, and there was no climbing over the top with its concertina wire. “It’s like Fort Knox,” my crewmember, Sed, remarked.

As the office was dark, I wondered if the gate would remain open. I had no clue as no one answered the main or emergency telephone numbers. The yard was named after its owner, but no listing could be found, and the town appeared not to have its own police department to render assistance.

Our friends were en route and weren’t answering their cell phones, so what were we going to do? Our solution was to mount an (unarmed) guard at the gate to prevent someone from coming along to lock up. We took 20-minute shifts until Allen and Ann arrived. Explaining the situation, we agreed it was best to eat aboard. Scrounging from an almost-empty larder, I cobbled together a dinner of leftovers — a chicken leg, a pork chop, the remnants of spaghetti and meat sauce, half a head of lettuce, three apples, a plum, and several bottles of wine. Our guests added the cheese they’d brought.

As happy hour and then dinner progressed, guard duty continued. Allen and Ann thought the whole affair was a hoot, and our impromptu party didn’t conclude until after 10:00 pm.

The next morning we left at the break of day, but not before I stole a glimpse of the gate. It had remained open all night.

By William Winslow

The author is the Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the all-volunteer, non-military arm of the Coast Guard, teaching boating safety education and conducting search and rescue operations. Visit to join the Auxiliary or for class information.




is Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and a freelance writer for marine publications. His work has appeared in Sailing, Wooden Boat, and Good Old Boat; he is also the author of Cat Boat Tales.

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