Last week I mentioned cruising aboard the little cuddy-cabin my husband and owned back in our twenties. And as I said, we had many good times aboard that boat. But there’s one in particular we still laugh about – our arrival at Block Island. It was right after that two-day stop-over in Mystic, and wanting to squeeze in as much time as possible on the island, we departed the Seaport before dawn had begun to tint the horizon. We had our course plotted, the engine was running perfectly, and off we ventured into the darkness.
The passage went smoothly, with nothing but miles of wide, flat rollers while the engine hummed and the blackness gradually gave way to a murky fog-bound grey. We stayed on course, and right on schedule, we reached the red bell buoy marking the entrance to the Great Salt Pond. We motored slowly through the crowded anchorage and made our way to Payne’s Dock, where we had a slip waiting at the floating dock with the thirty foot and under crowd. It was still early; the sun was starting to burn away the gloom, people were just beginning to stir, and the fellow on the 28’ flybridge Carver we were docking beside paused from his mug of steaming coffee to give us a hand tying up. And then he asked the strangest question.
“How did you get here?”
Huh? I looked to my husband, he looked to me, and we both looked to the boat we’d docked only moments before. The answer seemed fairly self-evident. But maybe not. Carver asked a second time, as though we hadn’t understood the question. In reply, I pointed to the boat we were standing in.
But that, it seems, wasn’t the answer he was looking for, so this time he rephrased his question. “But the ferries aren’t running yet. How did you get here?”
Am I missing something here? My husband and I look at each other, perplexed, and this time I state the obvious: “We came by boat.”
Still Carver looked as baffled as us, and finally he elaborated enough to explain his confusion and clear up ours. He said, “But the ferry isn’t running this early. How did you find the island?”
Ahhh! That’s what he meant. I pointed to the compass and my husband held up the chart.
“Oh,” Carver replied. “You know how to use those? We just follow the ferry.”
And sure enough, later that day as we hiked around the island and saw the ferry arriving, it was trailed by a small flotilla of boats, much like a duck with ducklings. Apparently, our friend from the docks wasn’t the only one who used that method of navigation. And while it may have been a reliable way to get from point A to point B in those pre-GPS days, personally, I’d rather plot my own course to explore new and unfamiliar waters, rather than follow in someone else’s wake.