Goodbye To Newport

By Bernadette Bernon
October 6, 2000
N39 15.644 W75 20.095

Photo of Point Judith, one of our last sightings of Rhode Island Point Judith, one of our last sightings of Rhode Island, as we headed offshore to the Chesapeake.

As I write, it's Wednesday. Ithaka is steaming up the shallow Delaware Bay under power and a flopping main. We're headed for the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal for an early evening transit that will deposit us into the Chesapeake early tonight. Hopefully, we'll sleep with Ithaka tied safely alongside Schaefer's Marina, across from Chesapeake City, after a day that started at 5 a.m. We spent last night at Cape May Inlet, tucked into 10 muddy feet near the Coast Guard station — along with seven other American and Canadian cruising boats (it was obvious they were cruisers by all the orange jerry cans strapped to their decks!). This morning we crawled out of bed at 5, weighed anchor at 6, and puttered out into the foggy sunrise, grateful for radar. We wondered why it always seems that we're taking off in fog. Ahead of us was this long day, starting with a delicate maneuver. In a gray soup, with GPS coordinates but no physical markers, we inched our way through the Cape May Channel, between Prissy Wicks Shoal and North Shoal, thereby avoiding an extra 10 or so miles and a bunch of hours in the transit up the Delaware. With our early start and the shortcut through the shoals, we hope to arrive at the canal before dark, make our way through the well-lit, 12-mile canal, and get a nice start early tomorrow for Annapolis, where we plan to spend some time with some friends at the boat show. Anyway, that's Plan A. If we can't make it tonight to the canal, and with the necessary tide to go through it, so be it. Our fallback plan is to pull into the Cohansey River on Delaware River's eastern shore and try again tomorrow. So far, though, Douglas is at the wheel, and we're on track.

Photo of Aidan's Irish Pub

It's been a momentous few days since we bid Newport farewell this past Sunday morning. In many ways, we felt we'd left Newport in June, when we set off cruising Long Island Sound and Maine for the better parts of July, August and September. But we, and our families and friends, all knew that we'd be back for awhile after Maine, and so the goodbyes weren't such serious affairs then as they became last week.

Almost every single day of our last 10 days in Newport, I either had lunch or dinner with someone whose company I wanted to savor, someone who I thought I'd miss desperately. In between these times, other good friends would stop by the boat. Every night we had some plan for dinner with people. One day, I went to Aidan's pub with my dad to watch the final game of the All-Ireland football match. Irish football, if you don't know the game, is a unique cross between soccer, American football, and square dancing. Ireland is passionate about it, and worships its players (who are unpaid, mind you) as though they were movie-stars — O'Sullivan, Donovan, FitzGerald, O'Mahoney, Finnigan, O'Shea.

It was the first time Kerry had made the final in years, and every Kerryman in Newport was at Aidan's, as well as every Galway man, the team we were up against. Kerry came out strong, never missed a play, and finished the half 11 points ahead of a gloomy Galway, who looked, even to a sports un-enthusiast such as myself, like they were playing a different game altogether. We began to feel sorry for the Galway bunch in the bar, who'd gone kind of quiet as the first half continued. Father McCarthy of St. Mary's (a Kerryman) was heard to console the Galway man next to him, "For the amount of time yer lads had their hands on the ball, Michael, I'd say they made good use of it indeed."

Then, miraculously, the second half produced a juiced and improved Galway team, who began scoring with determination. "Don't worry, Bern," said my dad, as much to himself as to me. "Kerry likes to come back and win in the last five minutes. They train in the sand at Derrynane to build their collups. The boys'll do it for us yet."

But it was not to be. The clock ran out with both teams scoring 14 — a draw. Aidan's deflated. No one likes a draw. "The rematch'll be in two weeks' time," said my dad. "We'll come back. They'll win it then for sure." Then it hit him that Douglas and I would be gone for the game. "Hmmm. Oh, never mind," he said. "The next year Kerry makes the final, let's all go to Dublin and watch the game firsthand. All right with you?"

"Deal," I said, and we both meant it.

Meanwhile, Douglas and I attacked our errands from morning till night, trying to tie up all the loose ends and fix various things aboard the boat while we still were in a town we knew like the backs of our hands. We installed an anti-siphon valve for the bilge pump and a new solenoid for the anchor windlass, repaired a couple of leaks (we think), and installed the beautiful new stainless steel dorade hoops that we'd had made by Cedric Muller in South Africa, and which had arrived while we were in Maine. We organized our offshore insurance, paid a pile of bills, gathered the contents of a dental kit and a suture kit, took care of some business, and filled out the paperwork for entering Cuba. We did six loads of laundry, cleaned out the boat, and reprovisioned.

Then, a glitch on Friday. The person who we thought was lined up to buy our car had a change of heart at the last minute, so in order to sell it we had to hustle to get a classified ad into the Newport Daily News. We were to depart nine days later, on a Sunday. But the earliest the ad could appear was Tuesday, and I had to endure endless I-told-you-so's from Douglas for not taking care of selling the car sooner. The schedule was tight, and was made even more so when the car was rear-ended Monday, the day before the ad was to appear. Douglas was driving; he was fine, but damage to the rear bumper put the car in the shop for two of our precious errand days. Then Mr. Coffey, the fine magician of a man who owns Coffey's Texaco, right behind the courthouse, called to tell me that the inspection sticker on the car had expired two weeks ago.

Photo of Mr. Coffey The AMAZING Mr. Coffey, who everybody in Newport should forever take their cars to.

"Ohmygod!" I screamed. Douglas and I conferred with Mr. Coffey about it, and we decided that we'd do better selling the car if it were inspected, so we asked him to go ahead and inspect it for us. Of course, it turns out he no longer does inspections, but he organized it all for us somehow — God bless him — and this meant another day in the shop. Then the stoned kid who'd hit Douglas stiffed us for the repair money, after Douglas had been a nice guy and not reported it to the police. And finally, just to make matters perfect, we received a call from Bank America, who told us that someone in Canada had taken $5,600 in cash advances on our VISA card. Mercifully it was now frozen. (At least we didn't have to cough up the money.) This took time to sort out; time we didn't have. Back to the car. I went to pick it up and Mr. Coffey broke it to me that it needed two new tires and a repair to the parking lights in order to be granted an inspection sticker. This was Thursday. The ad to sell the car already had been in the paper for three days; no one had called to inquire about it. I began to cry.

"Look, don't worry about it," Mr. Coffey said, in the panicked way men do when they see women tearing up, and he gave me the keys to his Cadillac. "I have two cars, and I'm going away this weekend anyway." I protested. He insisted, and I ended up driving around in the lap of luxury for the last three days we were in town. We sold our car while it was at Mr. Coffey's — he sold it for us, really, and for his many kindnesses, we'll always be grateful to him.

On Saturday night, we had dinner with my family — my dad and stepmother, Suzanne; my brother, Mark, and sister-in-law, Gina; and Hannah, my beautiful 7-month-old niece — and we all mused about where we're going to meet up over the next year or two.

Photo of Bill Roche and Lynda Childress Bill Roche and Lynda Childress. Bill is CW's art director.
Lynda is CW's managing editor.
Photo of Jon Brett and Douglas Bernon Our friend Jon Brett and Douglas.
Photo of Joy and Ian Scott Joy and Ian Scott. Joy is Cruising World's production director.
Photo of Leslie Elms and Steve Brookings Leslie Elms and Steve Brookings.
Photo of Lily and Michelle Roche Lily and Michelle Roche. Michelle is CW's classified
advertising manager.
Photo of Mark and Gina with Hannah Mark and Gina with Hannah.
Photo of my father with Hannah My father with Hannah.
Photo of my stepmother, Suzanne, with Hannah My stepmother, Suzanne, with Hannah.


Douglas and I planned to leave the dock quietly on Sunday morning at 8 — no fanfare, no fuss, just slip our lines and head out. But at 15 minutes of the hour, friends started arriving to wish us well. It was an exciting and emotional morning. Douglas, who was feeling jazzed, ended up feeling sad. I, who'd felt sad, ended up very jazzed. Such are the balances in life. Even my dad, who'd received the news that we were going cruising as one would receive news of a tumor, told me that he was thrilled that we were, as he said, "grabbing life by the shank," and that he'd decided that he wanted to do more of the same himself. As we sailed out the harbor, Leslie Brookings and Steven Elms escorted us in their Boston Whaler to whoops and laughter. All in all, we couldn't have asked for a more wonderful send-off.

We sailed out of Narragansett Bay and around the outside of Long Island Sound through the night, then down the New Jersey shore to Atlantic City Monday night. Tuesday we sailed to Cape May Inlet and began to peel off fleece as the temperature climbed. This morning we set out for the Delaware. As I write, Douglas tells me that we have the markers for the entrance to the C&D Canal in sight, and we're getting ready to head in. The Chesapeake is ahead, as well as the next chapter of our cruising lives.