Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day Eight, concluding in Buzzards Bay

As I crossed Narragansett Bay, I found myself getting worried about two large container ships, at first barely visible, then plainer and plainer, and of course bigger and bigger.

They both appeared to be on a collision course with me, and I couldn't figure out what they were doing. It's suicide to insist on your theoretical sailboat's right-of-way with these leviathans, so I gybed to get out of their path -- and they promptly changed their own heading, so that I was no better off than before. Gybed back onto the original course, and they were still relentlessly bearing down on me. Were they going into the bay? Crossing it? Their behavior made no sense. Were they trying to run me down?

After a half-hour or so of anxiety, the riddle was solved: These ships were going nowhere. They were anchored, in eighty or ninety feet of water, well outside of Narragansett Bay, and the reason they had appeared to change course so perversely was that the wind and tide were swinging them around at their anchorages.

This was a striking phenomenon of this trip -- how little shipping I saw, compared to last year, and how much of what I did see was parked, awaiting further orders.

My local NPR station had a sort of promo going for a while, asking people to call in with their Uncommon Economic Indicators -- how easy it is to get a cab, how long you have to wait in line at Zabar's lox counter. I guess this was mine: the idle shipping littering the Eastern seaboard.

I glided past these pitiful helpless giants -- to borrow a phrase from the immortal Richard Nixon -- and poke, poke, poked along, past Sakonnet Point and on into the darkness, and finally, to a cold misty moonlit grope, around midnight, among the ledges and rocks of a little cove between Mishaum Point and Dumpling Rocks at the entrance to Buzzards Bay:

Buzzards Bay kept me windbound for about a week last year, on my trip home, so it is a name of fear to me, and its shoreline is rocky and treacherous. The anchorage wasn't all that sheltered, but the weather forecast was unthreatening. I put down my usual belt-and-suspenders two anchors, just in case, and turned in.

The night was uncomfortably cold and damp, so I put on the long johns and piled sleeping bag on sleeping bag and closed every door and hatch I could, and finally, after half an hour, my teeth stopped chattering and I drifted off to sleep.

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