Sunday, November 18, 2018

Snow Boating

11/16/18 - 11/18/18   A weekend exploring the Connecticut River- Old Saybrook, Essex, Gillette Castle.  2 nights, 2 days. 
I drove thru a snow flurry on my way to the boat ramp on Friday. Hey you can't scare me away that easily.

Snowy Anchorage near Gillette Castle
Friday Evening- I left the boat ramp at sunset, headed north, pulled into the Essex Yacht Club as the last light was fading from the sky. I just wanted to ask for directions to the town dock but the manager, Bob, was fascinated by my "floating tent". 

We had a friendly chat and he offered to let me tie up there for the night. Wow, does that make my boat a yacht?! I walked into town for dinner and I was careful to mention to anyone in earshot that my powerboat was docked at the Essex Yacht Club. Just saying that seemed to add roughly 20' to the length of my boat in my mind. I was very impressed with myself for owning such a big boat.

Essex Buoys
Saturday- Northbound, I took Selden creek, the scenic route around Selden Island. I had plenty of water at mid tide. This narrow, secluded channel felt like a secret passage through a beautiful landscape painting.

Selden Creek
Further north, I hiked all the hilly trails around Gillete Castle in the new snow. It must be beautiful here in the Fall foliage season. It would be fun to see the inside of this funky eccentric castle when it's open to the public. 

North again, I stopped at East Haddam, before the bridge, and got some ice cream, perfect refreshment for a cold Autumn day. There isn't much else here in the tiny hamlet of East Haddam.

North, the Salmon River was pretty shallow on mid tide. This is when I started having motor trouble. It wouldn't run over 3000 rpm. I turned south to Deep River Marina and tied up to a small floating dock in Pratt Creek. 

During the night I noticed that the view had changed. I knew my boat was firmly tied to the dock so that shouldn't happen. Then I saw that the entire dock had pivoted 180 degrees around it's single anchor pole! Probably due to a change in the tidal flow. My boat was now up against the shallows. I raised the motor, checked the tide chart, which showed high water in the the morning, and slid back into my sleeping bag. If I got beached overnight, no problem, I'd be floating when I woke up. Life is good.

Frosty the Windshield, Sunrise on Pratt Creek
The temp was down to 30F overnight with zero wind. I was cozy and happy in my synthetic mummy bag with long underwear and hat and my heavy winter jacket thrown over the foot of the bag. In the morning it took about 1 hour of motoring before the thick layer of frost melted and dried off the windshield enough for me to see through it.

Sunday- I headed south to the mouth of the Conn river mostly keeping my motor under 3000 rpm to keep it running. I checked out almost all of the Lieutenant River, paddled the marsh in the Great Island Wildlife Area in my new packraft, and found a nice kiting beach in Griswold Cove for a west wind day. The small channels in this area were deep enough for my boat on the mid tide but getting in and out of the channels was scratchy. The connection of the Back River to the Conn River was especially challenging to navigate even on shallow water drive where I draw less then 1 foot of water.

A Dinghy for my Dinghy
Packraft- This super lightweight inflatable raft worked great as a dinghy to get to shore or I can add a home made rudder and use it to go exploring. I found that I could half deflate it and put it behind my seat or leave it fully inflated, tied to the side of the boat and flipped up, if no wind.

My tiny boat is getting better and better for this kind of cruising and gunkholing but this was probably near my limit for having fun in cold temps in a boat with no heater. Now I have to get my almost new motor to run like an almost new motor.

Gillette Castle
40 miles, 5 gallons gas.