30 days, 50 islands

By PHILIP EIL  |  July 11, 2013


Captains’ log: Notes from Operation Landfall’s Facebook page


Heavy rain at dawn had passed by the time we gained Third Beach, around 11:30. Journalists (Providence Journal’s Richard Salit and Phil Eil from The Phoenix) and friends (Pastor Paul Hoffman and Director of Gear and Chief Amplifier Tom Garraway) attended dingy launch to DT. Sail to Sakonnet Point and launched dingy from there. Returning rain and challenging sea conditions made for hard rowing. Both landings are dramatic, especially West Island. Saw ruins of lodge from a great distance: three stone pillars rising at least thirty feet, toward the isle’s center. There are colorful tales of these pillars, remnants of an old lodge that had supported one community and infuriated another.

In addition to general conditions, the large colony of gulls (quite possibly Greater Black-Backs) were nesting. Numerous young; the adult birds made clear their wish for our immediate departure. Also a prominent sign forbidding exploration during the birds’ rearing season. The young were large and vertically-oriented, like slightly grotesque muppets.

No such sign at East Island, which, though a short sail from West, had rather few birds. Much more overgrown close to the shore, including massive poison ivy, and considerable trash on the shore. Ventured into the island slightly, partly because of mysterious-looking birds that may well have been Canadian Geese. Several Osprey seen at various points of the day, also single loon at anchorage at Sakonnet Point. Wonderful evening at Foglands: rowed ashore in the gloaming: found many empty whelk shells, gathered seaweed briefly fried and eaten with bean-and-rice burritos. Spectacular. Wind out of SW 12-18 knots all day, HT 3:30 pm, 3-5 ft swells, mostly favorable wind direction. Asleep by 10 pm


6 am, woke to birdsong. Sailed to Glen Manor; received welcome and brief tour from caretaker, Katie Wilksinon. Grounds amazing and quite varied. Gathered various snails from the low-tide rocks. Breakfast on DT, eggs and bee-pollen wrap. Sail to Sakonnet’s Gould; extremely challenging landing in bucking waves. Gulls again, loud. Dramatic cliff features. Took trash from shore, stayed very briefly. Then to Pirate’s Cove Marina, which had generously donated a night’s dockage. Learned certain details about Spectacle and Hen; took dingy thence. Spectacle first: gathered Samphire from waterline and lamb’s quarters nearby; found a few mushrooms and collected mussels. Spoke with islanders and were well-treated. Hen somewhat different story; glimpsed two shy goats. Back to marina; land transport allowed access to Bristol, where we spoke with Herreshoff staff and stumbled into new friends aboard Bellerophon and Griffon. Enjoyed beer and conversation in the sunset. Back to marina: planned pasta dinner with snails postponed due to tiredness: chose fancy restaurant dinner at 15 Point Road. Saw night heron; bed at 11 pm.


Original 5 am start pushed back until 9; Wotton brought a stronger motor for the DT; he and Trip spent roughly 2 hrs on it, fouling ambitious goals for the day. Launched from PC around 10 am, on our way to Spar Island. Spotted extensive fish activity soon afterward and diverted to cast; unsuccessful. Simple landing on a majestic, somewhat crescent shape with lines of tide waste but no garbage to speak of. Roughly 100 Terns took skyward upon approach and expressed severe unhappiness with us. Saw roughly 40 young [furry balls on tiny legs] running along the shell heaps, quite camouflaged but for their frantic movements. Was divebombed by adults and declined further incursion; maintained 50 foot distance from young.

Beated against wind to Seal Island, took position in lee of landmass, saluted by distant strains of the RWC band rehearsing for Bristol parade. Some vegetation and considerable guano. Water particularly warm; small barnacles like stars in the night. Many shattered whelk shells. One pair of terns, at first demonstrating feeding behaviors but similarly perturbed by our presence. Saw single fledgling well-camouflaged; larger and older than those on Spar. Regained DT, to find anchor stuck. Worked it for almost an hour before reluctantly cutting it loose (we’ve discussed going back for it, though it’s in 20 ft and we took no GPS reading); around this time called journalist to cancel plans.

Lack of anchor obliged sailing to Prudence, in order to access donated mooring. Long, spirited sail; minor adjustments during travel. Moored; realized that reaching the ferry to Bristol would be nearly impossible, given foot travel with substantial luggage. Trip asked homeowners for a lift, which was graciously given; they would not accept payment offered as thanks. Serendipitously met the same journalist and photographer at the ferry; interview on route to Bristol, to our homes from there.
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