Today, we sail from Newport Harbor to Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard, a distance of 49 miles. Our course takes us southeast from Naragansett Bay into Rhode Island Sound, then northeast into Vineyard Sound and briefly east into Nantucket Sound where we pass West Chop and navigate the wide entrance into Vineyard Haven Harbor.
Rhode Island Sound greets us with four foot southerly ocean swells, remnants of yesterday’s storm, now well offshore. We feel the effects of these rollers until we are well in the lee of Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard. Ten knot winds out of the southwest help to propel us to our destination. With wind on the starboard quarter and a four foot southerly swell on our beam, Cutter Loose rolls and pitches her way through Vineyard Sound. Under these conditions, we avoid going below into the cabin where motion in an enclosed space is an invitation to nausea.
But motion is amongst the least of our challenges today. One hour into the journey, we are ensconsed in pea soup fog with visibility of one quarter mile. Visibility does not improve until we are within five miles of Vineyard Haven Harbor. Between these two bookends, navigation today is accomplished entirely by radar and chartplotter. We are unable to establish visual contact with any aid to navigation or shoreline for most of today’s journey. We see images of the buoys on the radar and chartplotter. But we cannot actually see them with our eyes, even when they are less than one-half mile from our position.
In one anxious moment, the high-speed catamaran ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Newport approaches Cutter Loose from the opposite direction near the south shore of Cuttyhunk. We communicate with the Captain via VHF radio, who reassures us confidently that he sees the AIS image and radar echo of Cutter Loose. We pass port to port within one-half mile of each other. At the time of passing,we hear the roar of the ferry’s powerful engines. We feel the effects of its wake. But we never actually see this vessel. There is nothing quite as exhilirating as witnessing an approaching echo on the radar screen closing at 37 knots. Navigation today teaches us an important lesson in faith.
Magically, the fog dissipates as we enter Nantucket Sound. It is reassuring to be able to visually navigate into Vineyard Haven Harbor where the wind is now blowing 20 knots from the southwest.
Similar to Newport, Vineyard Haven is cluttered with moorings. There is little space to anchor in this harbor. The moorings inside the breakwater in the inner harbor, in particular, are positioned very close to one another. Boats are literally packed into this mooring field like sardines. While we have nothing against sardines, we do not feel the need to become acquainted with our neighbors in such an intimate fashion. We elect instead to pick up a mooring in the outer harbor near the breakwater on the red side of the channel. Tomorrow we will explore the Island.