Our Boats and Us: Lobster Fest
After a rough beginning, Ava T proves herself a comfortable and capable cruiser.
By Richard Thiel
Anyone who read Ben Ellison’s September “Electronics” column (“Voyage of Ava T”) knows the highlight of my summer boating season: taking my new boat from Camden, Maine, down to Stratford, Connecticut. I’d spent 18 months shopping for a lobster boat and driving brokers crazy before I settled on Plain Jane, a 1985 Jarvis Newman 32 on the hard in Camden. I made the deal, had her surveyed and launched, and set out for Connecticut. Only problem was she’d been out of the water for 18 months, and her fuel had gotten jiggy with algae. Plus, in the throes of new-boat passion, I’d replaced her tiny, aging chartplotter with a new Raymarine C120. Long story short, I went through a half-dozen Racor filter elements, and the Raymarine experienced a few quirks. But Ellison and I survived the trek (we’re even speaking again), and the newly rechristened Ava T (named after my mom) finally settled into her berth at Brewer’s Stratford Marina, where her pulchritude turned a few heads—including that of the harbormaster, who deemed her the prettiest boat in the harbor.
I continued to hone my quick-filter-change technique throughout the summer, but by September the fuel problem had disappeared. And a Raymarine software upgrade eliminated the C120’s maladies, endearing it to me. Really, I now can’t imagine boating without it.
Problems solved, Ava T proved to be a fine boat on which to explore Long Island Sound. Although I explored the Connecticut side from Norwalk to Old Saybrook, my best cruising was on the north shore of Long Island, from Shelter Island to Port Washington. Half of the time I was on a mooring or in a marina and half on the hook.
My best trip was to Cold Spring Harbor on, of all things, Labor Day weekend. If you know Long Island Sound, you know it gets crowded, and on Labor Day weekend you can hardly see the water for the boats. But this year the weather turned cloudy and the wind piped up out of the east, creating a nasty steep chop and a threat of rain that kept most boats in port. I was lucky to make it around Lloyd Point and into the lee of Oyster Bay before things got too snotty, and by the time I made the half-hour passage down to Cold Spring Harbor, I’d no clue it was blowing like stink outside.
Beyond a great whaling museum and two really good restaurants (Trattoria Grasso Due and the Inn on the Harbor), there isn’t much to do in Cold Spring Harbor, and that’s what made it such a treasure. I’m one of those people who loves boating because it takes me away from crowds, and that’s what I got—a little bit of solitude. And when the weather turned chilly and I had to crank up Ava’s propane heater, I felt like I was back in Maine.
I did pay for my solitude on Monday, however. With two days of 25-knot winds and 100 miles of fetch working it over, the Sound looked like Kramer’s hair. Even the big convertibles heading east were throttled down, and what should have been a two-hour trip turned into a wet four-hour slog back to Stratford. But no fuel problems appeared, and the C120 guided Ava T home without a hitch.
It’s nearly October as I write this. It’s getting crisp in the evenings and downright cold at night, but for a boat with two heaters (the propane one and one that runs off the engine coolant) and a pilothouse, this is prime cruising season. I’m planning a trip to Block Island, Rhode Island (where in season the boats are packed like sardines) next week, and the way things are going, I may leave Ava T in all winter.
This article originally appeared in the November 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.