By Paul Jacobs & Tom McDonald
Editor’s note: This is the final installment of an epic tale in which the authors acquired a lovely 1964 Graves Constellation and embarked on a 200-mile delivery to her new homeport. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you’ll find them at:
The Adventure Resumed
Finally, on 14 May 2022 Tom and I drove to Westport, Connecticut – yet again – and slept aboard. We awoke on the morning of 15 May to a thick fog! A functioning GPS chartplotter notwithstanding, we were reluctant to sail in unfamiliar waters without seeing where we were going. Unfortunately, waiting too long for the fog to clear would forfeit a favorable tidal current. Finally, around 10 am the fog dispersed, we started our new outboard, untied the dock lines, stowed the fenders, raised the mainsail and motor-sailed out of the marina.
The wind was light at 2-3 knots, with only “cat’s paws” on flat water, so we motor-sailed towards Branford, Connecticut with just the mainsail up. It was here that we fell in love with the smoothness of the new Tohatsu engine, and its substantial reduction in fuel consumption per hour. Never running the throttle above 50%, we were making about 6 knots in zero current, and later over 7 knots with a favorable current. Finally, around 1:30 pm a 7-10 knot breeze developed out of the southeast, we cut the engine, unfurled the genoa, and were sailing for almost four hours at 5.4 – 5.7 knots. Indeed, as the owner of the Constellation that we spotted in Wickford Harbor last October had mentioned, it was “two fingers on the tiller.”
As we approached Branford we turned on the engine, furled the jib, and motor-sailed down the narrow, winding channel to the Branford Yacht Club where we again had a transient slip reservation. We spoke to the very helpful dockmaster via VHF, pulled into the indicated slip, tied her up, and repaired to the club to celebrate a safe arrival, call Sheila and Nancy to inform them all was very well, and order a pizza from a local place that delivered as Branford YC does not have a restaurant, we did not have a car, and we had not had anything to eat or drink all day except water and peanut butter on crackers – basically a prisoners diet.
The next morning we both took extended and luxurious hot showers in the Branford YC men’s room, consumed all our necessary pills, and felt like real people again. The morning was foggy – yet again – so we repeated the process from the previous day; namely wait until it starts to clear and then head off while the tide was still favorable. This time however, the fog initially dispersed until we were a few miles offshore, but then unexpectedly re-formed again.
Fortunately, the GPS chartplotter kept us away from any rocks, while the Boat Beacon cell phone app pinpointed the location of all commercial traffic, assuming they had their AIS systems turned on. Normally, we would turn the engine off in a fog to listen for other vessels, but with little wind we would never make it to Stonington before dark, so we motor-sailed at half throttle and again with a favorable current we were making around 7 – 7.2 knots over the bottom! Nonetheless, it is a bizarre feeling to motor-sail in a fog with only about 100-yard visibility and no visual references whatsoever. At the tiller, the ONLY reference was the compass, and staring at the card for an hour or so is utterly mesmerizing.
Again, around 1 pm the fog finally lifted, and by 1:30 a nice 7-10 knot southerly had filled in. We unfurled the genoa and sailed on a beam reach at about 5.7 knots, with about 10 degrees of heel, and again only two fingers on the tiller. The shoreline of Connecticut passed by town by town until we finally saw Fishers Island ahead to starboard and then spotted the twin angled breakwaters marking the entrance to Stonington Harbor where we had previously reserved a slip. Again we furled the genoa, dropped, flaked and secured the mainsail, set out fenders, and tied up to Stonington Harbor Yacht Club’s long outer dock.
After Tom and I finished coiling lines and stowing winch handles we walked towards SHYC and noticed a couple walking towards us but clearly looking at the GC. As we drew close I said hello, they also said hello and he asked what she was. I told them she was a 1964 Graves Constellation and introduced ourselves when we learned that he was Rod Johnstone, one of the founders of J Boats and a renowned sailboat designer for the past forty years. He said, “What a sweet looking boat! I love her shear line.” I agreed, and told him a bit of the story of sailing her from Stony Point, New York. Rod asked how that went. I smiled, sparing he and his wife all the details noted herein; I simply said, “The sailing was great, the original engine not so much.”
Tom and I then walked to the Breakwater Restaurant, despite an intervening fence that frustratingly turned what would have been a 100-yard walk into about five blocks. Not a problem perhaps for most young sailors, but literally a pain in the derriere for two old dudes limping along with multiple creaky hips, knees, and ankles. Fortunately, the atmosphere was bright and cheery, the food and drinks were splendid, and the prices reasonable. Again, we called Sheila and Nancy, explained that we were now having dinner in Stonington and barring the sudden arrival of a hurricane or the outbreak of nuclear war we would hopefully arrive in Warwick the next day. It was dark by the time we made it back to the boat, and yet again we slept wonderfully well.
The next morning did not exhibit dense fog, but yet again there was negligible wind. With 44 NM to go we needed an early start, and thus motor-sailed out beyond the breakwaters by 8:30 am and past the long sand spit of Napatree Point, past the mansions of Watch Hill, and were just off Weekapaug when the breeze finally arrived around 11:30 am. We turned off the engine, rejoiced in the silence, and sailing close-hauled on starboard tack we were later able to fetch the stone breakwater of the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge.
At that point we bore away onto a broad reach and scooted up Narragansett Bay at 6 knots, past Dutch Island, and under the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge, the eleventh and final bridge of our voyage. We then sailed past Wickford, and our Catalina 34 Pleiades on her mooring both to port, leaving Hope and Prudence Islands to starboard, and finally furled the jib, dropped, flaked, and secured the mainsail, set out fenders and dock lines and motored through the narrow cut into Warwick Cove, where we temporarily docked on an end-tie since Bob had not yet assigned us a specific slip. The next day he did, and a few dock-mates kindly assisted us moving her into her new home. A voyage safely accomplished, and surely the stuff of memories!
Now the dream of restoring this almost 60-year-old classic sailboat finally begins in earnest! The work will undoubtedly be long and involved, but we are both retired and there is no schedule to meet, no time clocks to punch, and we will try to do each step to the absolute best of our ability. Paraphrasing the late, great Sir Winston Churchill, “A labor of love is something that makes the clock stop.” ■