Navigating and Dining

The Thames is an estuary or drowned valley fourteen miles in length, with tidewater as far up as the junction of the Shetucket and Quinebaug Rivers, which join to bring it into being at Norwich; but it has all the twists and bends of a freshwater stream and is just as difficult to navigate. Each time I made the trip I thrilled inwardly as we threaded our way through uncounted dangers. When we boys sat on the hard benches on Block Island's hurricane deck, we would sometimes see the tide rip where the fresh water of the Shetucket met the incoming salt water of a flood tide; but for the most part the waters were unruffled, black, and oily - an unhappy mixture of commonplace mud, sewage, and chemicals discharged from the factories above. We knew that we would not find clear, green sea water until we turned east past Fishers Island on the Sound side. It was then that we left civilization behind and were about to navigate the seas for a space.

Looking downriver,Norwich

It was the fashion to bring one's lunch in a large hinge-lidded basket, but the improvident could get soda pop and sandwiches on board. The more prosperous dined on shore at one of the hotels - at the Ocean House or the Watch Hill House. I believe there was a third at that port, the Plimpton House. On [Block] Island there was only one place that I recall as near enough to permit bathing, dressing and dining within the two short hours. The shore dinner was composed of all sorts of aquatic edibles in several states - chowders, half-shell concoctions, fish in all sorts of forms - planked, broiled, baked or fried. Fresh country vegetables in abundance and a concluding dish of ice cream with a huge slice of cake. Most of us shunned the haunts of the rich and really preferred to carry our own.  We had a way of spreading our banquet in paper plates on hatchway covers, benches, and the like. We also provided for the end of the day knowing that an adverse tide might delay our arrival home until long after seven in the evening.