Sights and sounds of Block Island Race Week

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 8:30am
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New Harbor is a familiar place for Block Islanders and visitors alike. With the Narragansett Inn, Mahogany Shoals, Payne’s Dock, Dead Eye Dick’s, and more, it has a lot to offer away from the hustle of downtown during the season’s height.

At Payne’s Harborside shop, there are tee shirts depicting an outline of Block Island and slogans like “This doesn’t suck,” “The bar you’ve been practicing for,” and “It doesn’t get better than this”; the tee shirts receive vocal and tacit approval alike from passersby. The racers are taking a break this morning — the air is too still for good sailing and everyone is outside, lounging or preparing their boats for the afternoon. The sun is already high and hot, but there are plenty of cold drinks going around. Two women stroll by the shop, reminiscing about past years on the island, when the kids used walkie talkies to communicate. Couples zip around the harbor in inflatable motorboats under the blue, cloudless sky. A waitress wearing the Narragansett Beer Hi Neighbor! tee shirt clears and cleans the table, getting ready for a family to sit down. A party of three discusses their talented dogs and the various tricks they can perform, leaning against the bar counter. A group of teenage boys make their way off a boat and up the hill past the Narragansett, drying off.

Despite bad weather, sailors persisted with optimistic attitudes throughout Block Island’s Race Week. Thursday morning, June 27th. This year, Block Island’s Race Week was co-sponored by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. The singer even made a surprise appearance at the final awards party at the Narragansett, playing a few hits for the joyous crowd.

The rain didn’t put a damper on the festivities, said Iris and Tim, owners and sailors from New Rochelle, New York, of one of the J88s competing in the regatta. And it certainly didn’t stop the crowd from showing up the rest of the week: Mahogany Shoals was overflowing by noon on Thursday, June 27, and the dock was filled with sailors entering and exiting their ships, families steering small, wide-eyed, children away from potential harm, and the sunshine, at last.

Lorie, a Block Island regular, didn’t know anything about Race Week, but she was enjoying the high spirits on Payne’s Dock. She said she couldn’t wait to visit some of her favorite restaurants on Water Street — Finn’s, the Mohegan, Harborside Inn, and the National. Lorie and her husband also didn’t want to miss a visit to the bluffs or the beach.

Ron Hyatt, a sailor from Tampa, Florida, was sitting outside his team’s boat, Wings, a J 88, enjoying the warm weather. He has been to Block Island many times for Race Week, and enjoys the Marina, the Oar, and Yellow Kittens. During his current visit, Hyatt has been focusing on working with his new crew. He said, “rain is a part of sailing.” He was unfazed by the recent downpours.

The day after Race Week finished, New Harbor was just as chaotic — busy with people cleaning up from their past endeavors. Vespas and bikes crowd the sidewalks, and people carrying boxes of supplies navigate purposefully through them. The bar is less crowded, but not empty, with people still enjoying their drinks. The sky was a faded gray-blue; the sun only peeking out every once in a while.

It was still early. Women in broadband hats and men in tee shirts and vests gripped their coffee as they tried to organize themselves from the past week. Families contemplated the breakfast menu and a girl ate a chocolate ice cream cone at 11 a.m. — a celebration, possibly.

Despite threats of more rain later in the afternoon, New Harbor will get busier as the day goes on, with people wanting to take in every bit of sun they can.