The fall season began at 4:21 in the early morning of Sept. 23. It’s the designated time for this shifting of seasonal gears. It’s a date and time ― simple digits. However, it is many other little parts that make up the whole of the seasonal transformation called fall. I flopped aboard my boat in Newport Harbor on Sunday night — it had been a hot day. And here is where I noted examples of some of the nuance of the pre-seasonal changes. First of all, The Annual Newport Boat Show was ending around four in the afternoon. By six, it was like a light switch was turned off, and the town emptied. Vendors and boats were leaving town. A pall was slowly cast over the town.
On the launch ride out to my sailboat, I decided to take a longer boat ride with Perrin the launch driver so that we could catch up on how the summer season was in Newport. As we were dropping off passengers on their trawler in the middle of the harbor, the British couple mentioned the wind would be blowing from the northeast at 20 to 25 knots in the morning. Now, forget a date or a time of day ― fall is not just some digits. The northerly wind direction is a clear and direct harbinger of the fall season — gusty northerlies, mind you. Furthermore, that night was a double blanket one, and an on the-cusp-of a sleeping bag night aboard Reverie. In the morning the trusty propane heater was turned on as the coffee was being made. The aforementioned are examples of the nuances of fall’s beginning.
That morning there were full intentions of sailing in the brisk norther and heading up the bay for some mad monk time. As the coffee was sipped and a bagel nipped, this sailing geezer decided to simply do his “mad monk time” right in Newport Harbor. But to change perspective, I moved Reverie to a quieter part of the harbor over in Bretton Cove. I sometimes use a friend’s mooring there and it is a whole other world — more nuance. The types of boats and color of buildings and landscapes can change with a 60 or 90 degree wind shift in the cove. It’s not necessary to go too far to see the subtle nature of a season’s seamless changes.
Sailing a boat in the fall requires more clothing, blankets and foul weather gear. North winds can be gusty and here we must be prepared for comfort—I just bought some Maxwell House instant and more propane canisters for my heater and cooker stove. Fall sailing in Narragansett Bay can be colorful and pretty relaxed. For example, if the wind is honking from the North West, we can make one tack to windward, which will lift us to Warwick Neck. It’s a great sail. If it’s honking too hard, reef down, flatten the boat and go sailing. Off Warwick Neck it is fun to change course, head east on a broad reach and then go round the north end of Prudence Island. Then, it’s a fast reach through the east passage and back to Newport. And, it’s a pretty sight to see the nuance and slow depopulation of the island’s summer folks: fewer cars, people, and ferries. More nuance and fall is on, full tilt. The same change can be noted on Block Island.
Gunk holing around Narragansett Bay is a perfect way to witness the passage of fall. We can find a cove, read a book, or maybe just mess around doing some cleaning and small projects. All the while, the wind and blue and white clouds are in constant and dramatic motion. The air is crisp and the sun is setting earlier. Bundling up in the cockpit of a boat in the protection of a dodger is a great place to actively do nothing, or, read a good book. I’m currently cranking through “Moby-Dick” on my Kindle ― on the quick.
There is much nuance in Reverie’s cabin. My writing rig is set up on my cabin table. I have what I need for scribbling: laptop, pens, paper, iPhone, a dictionary. There are reference books to inspire me in my little library. There are snacks like beef jerky and plenty of cold drinks stashed all over the boat. Dinty Moore Beef Stew is a nuance of fall. I know it is fall when I’m buying this simple and practical dish of meat and potatoes. Furthermore, there is never a dull moment while messin’ around in a sailboat in the fall.
As fall fades into late November, a harbinger of winter is when we see fewer and fewer boats in Newport Harbor and on the bay. Some boats will have headed south, and some have been hauled for winter storage. I will do neither. Reverie will remain my “mad monk hang,” in Newport Harbor where this Ferry Dock Scribbler will crunch out verbs and nouns for the reading public. Finally, more nuance of winter will reveal itself in a month or two, but I’m not thinking of that this night on the evening before the beginning of fall.