Summer 2021

Here’s a map of Tumbleweed’s stops along our northern route from Florida to Connecticut.  Pressing one of the little red balloon-looking thingys will load up our blog posts related to that spot.


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“What the hell do you think Leona really puts in that pizza?,” or “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”

A couple of weeks earlier than we’d planned, but it’s time to head back to the Valley of the Sun for the winter.  The girls are anxious to get Black Dog Bikinis’ new workshop set up in Newport Beach, and we’re anxious to get back and help them.  Plus it’s getting cold in Connecticut.  And inexplicably we didn’t bring our fleece sheets.  And explicably we’re weenies.

So sadly we had to bail on the Sydenhams, who were to be our last guests.  Hopefully they’ll forgive us and reschedule.  And we had to bail on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Block Island.  Again.  Which sucks, but we’ll be back here next spring.  And hey, at least we made it as far as Mystic.

Despite showing up at these places in what essentially is our house, we’re really still just tourists.  Which generally means that we’re obligated to do cliché touristy things.  Obviously as tourists we can’t go to Mystic, Connecticut, without eating a Slice of Heaven and maybe seeing some other Mystic Pizza-related stuff.

The first one was easy.  As we turned up the Mystic River on Tuesday we passed Ford’s Lobsters, where Kat delivered pizza to her seafood-picking mom, before she slept with Phoebe’s dirtbag dad and had her heart broken.

Ford’s looks about the same as it did in the movie, and the pickers look about the same as well.

The boaters in New England, however, look a lot different than boaters in, say, Tennessee and Texas.

These are the kind of folks who’d rather sink their beautiful wooden boats than be seen in one of them wearing non-designer shorts and a t-shirt.  This area is so quintessentially New England that from our dock we almost can hear Bill Belichek and the Patriots contriving their next way to cheat.  But everyone we’ve met has been nice, so we’ll let them slide.

The town of Mystic—which one member of our extended family who we won’t identify publicly but who is old enough to know better thought didn’t exist in real life—is way cool, which came in handy when the weather stuck us here for a week.  As tourists we could’ve done with fewer tourists getting in our way, of course, but we heard it was way worse before Labor Day so we aren’t complaining.

On Thursday, our old buddy Fred from Chattanooga arrived.  We figured if No Drama could have a Fred come visit, we could have one too.

Although we’d really hoped to travel over the weekend, big waves in the Sound meant that Doug and Fred instead were forced to spend two days at Friar Tuck’s Tavern, which would’ve been a great sports-bar experience had God not turned His back on His people by allowing Satan and his evil minions to prevail in the cesspool of iniquity that is Gainesville, Florida.

Dana was able to use the time Doug and Fred were gone for some well-deserved “me” time.  Except everybody knows that everything revolves around Oscar, so basically that meant she had to tend to his whims and needs (mostly whims) by herself.   But Texas won big, so she’s okay.

Anyway, Mystic is a great place to be a boater.

That’s true even if your boat is better suited for a bathtub.

Yesterday morning the weather was awesome, albeit a bit cold.  We dropped the dinghy and cruised the Mystic River so that Fred could report that he had a boating holiday after all.

As we’ve observed in the past, sometimes the interesting stuff requires going a bit out of the way.  Like Fall River, Massachusetts, is a bit out of the way when delivering Fred to the Providence airport for his return to Tennessee.  Fall River, however, is famous because of that time in 1892 when Lizzie Borden gave her stepmother forty whacks with an axe before doing the same plus one to her father.*  The house still stands, although the gift-shop girl who assured us of her initial skepticism says it’s almost definitely now haunted.  Hence the very profitable ghost tours.

So that was awesome.  Just like Fort Rachel Marina has been awesome.

Except that Fort Rachel doesn’t have room for Tumbleweed over the winter, so tomorrow morning we have to move her about five-hundred yards down river to Mystic Shipyard.  Which meant that today was all about loading the rental van for the trek west, with a quick trip to the Goodwill in Groton.

Groton is home to one of the oldest free-standing obelisks in the country.  It serves as a memorial to the American troops who tried to surrender Fort Griswold in 1781 but then were slaughtered when the British went all Lizzie Borden on them.

Fort Griswold was named for some obscure Connecticut politician named Matthew Griswold.  We know a Clark Griswold who once took his family across the country to WallyWorld in a Wagon Queen Family Truckster, but we figure they’re probably not related.  Groton also is home to the largest fleet of U.S Navy submarines, which explains why all those submariners were at Friar Tuck’s Tavern on Saturday watching football but does not explain why the base is called Naval Submarine Base New London.

All history and nonsense and historical nonsense aside, tomorrow we’re out of here.  As for the blog?  We’ll pick it up next May, because that’s when we’ll next see Tumbleweed, unless something horrible happens to her and we have to rush back to document the tragedy for insurance purposes.  The general plan is to join up with the Looper migration, this time near the front of the pack.  We’ll work around Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Michigan, then down the rivers, assuming we aren’t murdered on a dark night in Joliet.  At a minimum this time, we’d like to take the Cumberland to Nashville and the Tennessee to Knoxville.  Maybe catch up with The Lower Place and more old Tennessee friends along the way.

Of course, last time we left a boat on Long Island Sound with a solid plan to return, we failed to foresee a world-wide economy-crushing virus.  So really, at this point we’re mostly just happy about the four months we’ve had since that day we loaded Tumbleweed and shoved off from the dock behind Rick and Mary’s house in Fort Myers.


*Imagine our disgust at learning that the doggerel on which most of our knowledge was based in fact is false.  There weren’t even forty blows total and the murder weapon was a hatchet, not an axe.  (Which we note oddly also can be spelled ax.)   But “hatchet” doesn’t rhyme with “whacks” or anything else that would be as catchy, so we’re left with fake news.  However, in an effort to be historically accurate, the gift shop did sell large replica rubber hatchets, complete with dried fake blood smears and fingerprints.  That’s not even a joke.  We took a photo.

A bottle of red, a bottle of white, we barely could pay to spend the night*

The Hamptons.  Montauk.  Sag Harbor.  These are places associated with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, not Dukes of Hazzard.  But we’re not ashamed of who we are, so Tumbleweed pulled in to Sag Harbor proudly flying a Tennessee Orange Vol Navy flag, much like the Clampetts when they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly.  Hills, that is.  Swimming pools.  Movie stars.

Sag Harbor is another cute town with shops and restaurants, but everything in all of them is priced outrageously.

$31 for chips and salsa at the taco joint?  Can’t get much more outrageous than that.  Chips and salsa should be bottomless and free and also should be accompanied by Chuy’s jalapeño cilantro dip.  In fact, it’s downright un-American for Mexican restaurants to charge for chips.  But that doesn’t make the town less cute.

Cavaniola’s is a wine shop.  By itself that’s not very noteworthy, but before becoming a place where one might purchase a bottle of wine for roughly twenty times what that same bottle goes for at the Total Wines & More near the corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard, it barracked British troops during the Revolutionary War.   Presumably—as the oldest structure in Sag Harbor—“Umbrella House” as it’s known locally, served some other purposes between then and now although we don’t know what they were.

In order to be close to town, we docked at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, which has exactly nothing in common with the Schenectady Yacht Club except that both are in New York.  The clubhouse was so swanky we didn’t dare go in except to take a photo.

Just across from the marina is a house owned by an Angry Young Man from Allentown who became a Big Shot.  That’s right, Billy Joel fans, we were close enough to steal his patio furniture if we were that kind of people and had room on the boat to hide it once we got it over the railing.

The yacht club’s strict “no drone” policy—which we know about only because an employee yelled at Doug—seems silly since the park is about a hundred yards away and provides a perfect place to take off and land.

Just before untying yesterday, we noticed a huge American flag being hoisted by fire trucks.  Turns out we caught the annual ride through New York by the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club.  Now that’s way cool.

Unfortunately they ran over our dog, but we wanted a family photo so we just picked him up and went with it.

Despite the lolling tongue Oscar isn’t really deceased, of course, and although we’d like to say playing dead is one of his party tricks, the fact is he’s just weird.

Then out north through Gardiners Stinking Bay again, but this time it wasn’t quite as bad.  Plum Gut?  Well timed.  No problemo.  Straight across the Sound to Old Saybrook.  Which is in Connecticut.  Here’s a map.

Hey that’s the Saybrook Breakwater Light!

This lighthouse is notable for having its likeness on Connecticut’s environmental license plates.  It’s also notable because the navigation section of the Coast Guard 50-Ton Master’s exam uses Long Island Sound paper charts and about 50% of the test questions involved Saybrook Breakwater Light as a reference point, so Doug viewed it as an old friend.

After docking, we shuttled into town and wound up at The Rabbit Hole in time to watch the Cardinals back into a win over the Vikings.  Our kind of place.  Nobody gave us Clampetts a second look, even after we hijacked the virtual jukebox with an eclectic playlist that ranged from Meatloaf to the Showband of the Southwest.  Now that’s a hell of a wide range.

Although today was a sad day because the girls left us, we still got a good sunrise sort of across the Connecticut River.  We don’t have too many of these left before we flee the approaching winter.  Luckily they’re starting to happen later in the morning, which increases the chances we’ll get to enjoy them.

Shannon and Mallory scootered to town for breakfast this morning, seemingly with no concern that their aging parents were walking.  But it’s all about the kids, right?

We don’t mind though, because any time we get with them is well worth the walk.  But then they left us.

After we stopped grieving we took the scooters around Old Saybrook ourselves, winding up at Fort Saybrook Park.

Fort Saybrook played an instrumental role in the Pequot Wars, which were triggered by the native Pequot Indians having the temerity to object to English settlers setting up shop in the area the Pequots considered home.  Apparently nobody told them, however, that attacking people who have harnessed the combined power of lead and gunpowder—when you haven’t—potentially will lead to extinction.  Which it did.  If any Pequots had survived perhaps they’d be honored that history named the wars after them, but since they didn’t we kind of assume the name “Pequot Wars” really is intended to make sure everyone knows it all was their fault.  We do suspect that any surviving Pequots might’ve found it funny that after the pretty park with the informational signs was finished, archeologists determined that in fact Fort Saybrook was about a thousand yards away, at a site now occupied by a nice family in a nondescript white house.

Then back to the marina, which is attached to the hotel which two weeks ago was a filming location for Next Stop, Christmas.  Next Stop, Christmas is a Hallmark movie that we’re guessing involves either a lovelorn man who doesn’t believe in the magic of Christmas or a lovelorn woman who does.  Either way, now we have to lay in a goodly supply of tissues and watch it.

The point is, even with the girls leaving us we’ve really enjoyed Old Saybrook, what with no pesky Pequots and all.   Actually these all have been great stops around Long Island Sound.  We’re looking forward to getting to Mystic tomorrow.


*Not a scene from an Italian restaurant.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

If there’s an unexpectedly unpleasant vibe to this post, it’s because we wrote much of it while enduring an unexpectedly unpleasant seven hours between Port Jefferson and Sag Harbor.  Lots of pitching and bouncing around.  Spray over the pilothouse.  Yuck.  Sometimes our free weather forecasting apps aren’t worth what we didn’t pay for them.

Fortunately, between that time the sun came up the morning we left Atlantic City and today’s ugliness, we enjoyed a pretty good run.  Dave and Becky.  Mike and Lucy.  Mostly good weather.  Then best of all, Monday evening the girls arrived.  As per usual, in our excitement we failed to take any immediate photos.  Oh well, we have them for a few days.

The Empty Sky memorial finally opened, showing us where we’d see the World Trade towers if they still were there.  Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday morning the sun popped up over our last view from Liberty Landing.  Yup, that’s kind of awesome.

After some buffoonery at the fuel dock that set us back thirty minutes, we headed out for the obligatory swing around the Statue of Liberty.  We’re dang near to needing a tour boat license, but it’s another view that doesn’t get old.

Then up the East River.  Past all the stuff we’ve discussed in prior posts.  The Brooklyn Bridge.  The UN.  Typhoid Mary’s island.  About the only thing we haven’t done yet is emulate Kramer, who started swimming in the East River after finding the pool unsatisfactory.*   We’ve now been through New York so many times that we’re thinking of joining a stick ball team or a street gang.  We still, however, find the prisons fascinating.

And not just the kid prisons.

Back past Throgs Neck, which sounds every bit as cool as the other times.  Just on the other side of the Throgs Neck Bridge, we passed an odd-looking thing that was vaguely military and vaguely commercial.

Turns out it’s a boat that’s chasing Gene.  Actually it’s a shadow boat for Gene Machine, a superyacht that claims to be seeking “genes to combat global warming and clean up the oceans and the air.”   Hence this boat being named Gene Chaser.

Anyway, Tuesday on Long Island Sound was everything today wasn’t.  Calm.  Blue.  The girls sat up on the bow, inviting the healthy tan that precedes wrinkles and skin cancer.

Despite Shannon having lived in Arizona, Florida, and Hawaii, however, we’re not sure she understands how tanning works.

Port Jefferson was known for shipbuilding in the nineteenth century, which explains the statue of four dudes carrying a boat skeleton.  We’ve seen dozens of boat-related statues and monuments in our travels.  This one is high on the list.

Port Jeff, as the locals call it, is another one of those cute little towns we like with shops and restaurants and boats.

For us, however, this stop wasn’t about shops or restaurants, but about finally meeting up with Exhale.

Tumbleweed is NPY 49 hull six.  As we noted back in our first post after buying her, her original owners were Rick and Mary, whose company we enjoyed several times when we were looping in Misty Pearl and they were looping in what then was Exhale.  The new Exhale is NPY hull 11.  Exhale is North Pacific’s gorgeous Euro style, however, which means the hull is about the only thing our two boats have in common.  That, and dogs.  Both boats have a dog, although theirs is white and named Maddie Sue.  We’ve been looking forward to seeing Rick and Mary and Exhale and Maddie Sue for months.

Obviously we welcomed Rick and Mary back aboard their old boat.

We did this for a couple of reasons.  First, of course, we wanted to catch up and thank them for the help they’ve given us.  Second, they know the boat inside and out, and dialed in most of the systems we’re still figuring out.  So it seemed like a great time to take advantage of Rick’s knowledge.  And his willingness to roll around on the floor.

Good meals, good stories, good times.  As an added bonus, nobody got arrested after Rick and Mary snuck over the fence at the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, which is good because we could’ve been fingered as accessories.**

Initially we’d planned to dock at Danfords, but Exhale was at the Yacht Club, so when we were almost there and Danfords said their dock power was out we figured we’d go to the yacht club so we could get a cool photo with the boats next to each other but the yacht club said there wasn’t room so we ended up on the town dock on the other side of the ferry landing.  The point being, it was tough to get a photo with both boats in it but if one knows where to look we technically pulled it off.

This morning, Exhale took off a half hour before us, heading to the Baltimore boat show where basically she’ll be working as a supermodel advertising boats for North Pacific.  We pulled out as soon as the ferry gave us an opening.

Just about the time we untied our lines, Mary texted that the Sound was rougher than expected, which would’ve been true even if we’d expected to be miserable.  The girls stayed in their cabin.  Oscar whined and cried.  Dana ran around cleaning up stuff that crashed or spilled.

Half way to Sag Harbor, we realized that Plum Gut is another of those places where people die if they don’t time the passage.  And we hadn’t timed the passage.  Coastal Boating Magazine ranks Plum Gut as one of the top five most “challenging cruising waters in the Northeastern U.S.”  Excellent way to end a rough day.

We rather assumed that once we passed Orient Point Light and entered Gardiner’s Bay, things would calm down for the last ten miles.  Hey we made it to the lighthouse!  Yippee!

The waves did subside.  For a hot minute.  Then they decided we were a bit too presumptuous and started slamming us on the beam.  Which—being from a new direction and all—caused stuff that miraculously had survived the pitching to succumb to the rolling.   Just excellent.

But as often is the case on these rough days, we survived.  We’re happily tied up in Sag Harbor.

Here for a couple of days or until we screw up enough courage to face the Sound again, whichever comes last.


*“You’re swimming in the East River? The most heavily trafficked, overly contaminated waterway on the eastern seaboard?”

**In fairness, any place with security so lax that people in their fifties and sixties with neither lock-picking skills nor bolt-cutters can breach it easily deserves whatever happens.

Never forget 9/11, or Welcome Mike and Lucy!*

Thanks to crappy weather and other travel-related whims, we found ourselves in New York City—well, technically in Jersey City across the Hudson but with a great view of New York City—during the twentieth anniversary of one of the most tragic days in American history.  Which meant, among other things, that we got to see the epic twin towers of light.

Thursday we dealt with rain most of the day, which wasn’t at all epic.  Mostly it kept us inside, although we did peek out periodically just to see the skyline again.

Big excitement when Arizona friends Mike and Lucy Gordon showed up Thursday evening, with the plan to head up the Hudson on Friday.  But Friday we faced 25-knot wind gusts.  And Liberty Landing parked a huge Burger on a t-head right in front of us, shrinking our  exit margin of error to about two feet.  The last thing we need is the Gordons going back to Scottsdale and reporting to all our mutual friends that we not only sank our boat but also took down the Burger and a sailboat as well.  So we didn’t leave until Saturday, which turned out to be September 11.  And turned out to be a gorgeous day that even a passel of kayakers in our way couldn’t dampen.

Before heading up to Croton-On-Hudson, of course, we needed to swing by the touristy-things.

That’s either an awesome photo Dana took of our guests on Tumbleweed’s bow as we passed the Statue of Liberty or a Walmart photo that they superimposed on a stock background, the latter being something they’d never do but it does look a bit too perfect.

After the statue, we figured we’d take a quick look up the East River, under the Brooklyn Bridge, then turn around.  We figured wrong, because another passel of vessels were in our way, but this time they all had blue lights and guns.  We might get away with running over a kayaker or two, but not NYPD boats.

The Coast Guard announced without explanation that the waters around lower Manhattan were closed to marine traffic, so no need to hang around down there despite the impending hoopla.

Hey, this is new!  An FBI dive team.  To us it looked more like an FBI stand around team, but they stopped their boat above the Holland Tunnel so maybe they knew something we didn’t.

Hey, this is even more new!  Marine One, carrying President Biden and being circled by V-22 Ospreys, passed overhead.  Now that’s cool.

We’ve now been up and down the Hudson a few times.  Not surprisingly, however, an area that’s home to a zillion people always seems to be tearing something down or putting new stuff up.  Or maybe we’re just not very observant.  Either way, we’ve never noticed this odd statue in Hoboken before.  We tried to research it but couldn’t find any information and then gave up looking.

Little Island in Chelsea we did know about, because Dana had read up on it in a ULI magazine.  Stirworld describes it thusly: “As a 2.4-acre public park and performance venue, the development near the city’s Lower West Side is settled atop sculptural, tulip-shaped concrete pots that sprout from the water and form an undulating landscape populated by hundreds of native species of trees and plants.”  They look more like mushrooms to us, but we guess we can give them tulips as well.

On the way up, the GW Bridge was sporting a big flag.  New Jersey wasted no time in taking it down, however, since when we came back 24 hours later it was gone.

Oscar enjoyed the flybridge on what turned out to be an easy trip up to Half Moon Bay.

One night was enough for a good sunset after dinner at the new Greek place that won’t be in business long if it keeps serving portions that are roughly five times the size of what a normal person might eat in two meals.  Plus, we were ecstatic to learn that the mean people in the condos must have moved or passed away, because now the association welcomes pets on the path along the marina.

Yesterday was windier and choppier and some stuff sloshed around, but we made it back to Liberty Landing in time for an excellent dinner.  Today we lose the Gordons, who not-surprisingly turned out to be great guests.  Hopefully they’ll come back and find us next year.

Most exciting is that Mallory and Shannon are on a plane, heading for Liberty Landing.  We haven’t seen them in nearly five months.  They’re not that interested in us, of course, but they’ll travel across the country in a New York minute to cuddle with the Black Dog Bikinis logo model.

We’ll take what we can get.


*Last night the Codenames battle came down to a final opportunity for the Gordons.  All Lucy needed to do was give Mike an appropriate clue and they’d take home the non-existent virtual championship trophy.  In a last-ditch bit of gamesmanship, we warned Lucy that we’d call her out in the title of this post if she failed.  Actually her clue was quite clever, but alas, too clever for Mike.  Lucy dodged the post title.  Mike gets the Footnote of Shame.