Friday, February 9, 2007


A bunch of us kids taught ourselves to sail somebody's older brothers' Sunfish. Sunfishes. On the Sakonnet River, Tivertonside. Since it was easier to have someone else pop the daggerboard for landing while you dropped the sail: two lines, two crew. Until the thirteen year-old learns that the daggerboard really doesn't do anything in two feet of water, you pull, then drop. We all had chores (like mowing 6-acre lawns because in those days if you had a kid, he or she was the gardener for a couple of bucks. Not some guy you paid $2000 a month to park his equipment across your driveway), and a Sunfish just isn’t a party boat, no matter what any old guy with a dumb old girlfriend says. (I told you: Thirteen.)

Consult the smeary old chart above. I limited my solo expeditions, while others mowed, to Gould island (b -- which we called "Ghoul") because it was cool for a thirteen year-old, full of guano-covered rock and exotic birds. Off Nanaquaket (a) and up to Grinnell’s beach (c) was a safe trip, and sometimes the girls on the beach would wave and you could "ignore" them to be even cooler. When the race (d) between the remains of the Stone Bridge was receding and with the right southerly, you could get through on a small craft like mine and continue north, past the “packy on the pier” (what they called Mr. Jones’ Stone Bridge Liquor store, where some boaters would dock and "fill’er up" for the day’s fishing.) Past Standish’s Boatyard (e), and the few “yachts” (there are a lot more these days), past (f) the Tiverton Yacht Club (Kids like Peckham were there. I knew Peckham from Fort Barton school, and he has gone on to be a big damn skipper and was a pretty fair mate when we both sailed the Big Blue motoryacht. He’s one of the people I’ve seen, worked with, or laughed at, every decade of my life. I hope he’s well.) Then, you tack back, hitting mooring balls and freezing because the trees always made it shady up there, and there was the one time we had to pull the boat up onto the beach and portage over the bridge because the current was nuts...
It would be decades before I ever had to sail past the "old railroad bridge" and under the Sakonnet River Bridge, and I did so on other people's boats. They removed the rusting hulk of the crippled swing bridge, and the cement piers were blown up yesterday. I only remember seeing a train on that bridge once. But I always thought trains would come back, and there would be service from Boston to Newport through Fall River and Tiverton. But the Coasties called "HazNav!" so good riddance. Now the yachties from Pirate's Cove can let the kids helm all the way to Fogland.
A local station has a lead-in read that goes nowhere and a bizarrely-truncated video. Read the whole story here. (There's that seal again, asserting his rights under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, putting off the people for a whole hour.)

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