Thursday, August 16, 2012

New England

Hallo All

It is a while since I posted. So here is a catch-up...................only a couple of months have passed by but it already feels like a lifetime.

Way back in the mists of time (actually it was only June) we left Last Mango in Essex,CT and flew back to England to visit with friends and family. We had new arrivals to bond with, old friends to catch up with, the departed to remember, and then there was my coming of age party. It was good to relax and watch Wimbledon, do some chores, and stay out of the inclement weather. The jet stream was a couple of hundred miles south of where it should be, and as a result the weather was, in a word, horrible. Putting the heating on in July? Oh well, perhaps that means that the poles will freeze over a bit more? Unlikely.

Back over on this side of the pond we started off with a 90 mile run to Newport where our friend John rolled out the red carpet and treated us to New York Yacht Club hospitality and tours of the Belle Vue mansions and the Newport Shipyard. Yes, this is THE yachting center of the North East. Weather was great and although I have some slight damage to a knee (blame 20 years of tennis) we did the cliff walk hike right round the peninsula. After a few days we made the short run to Bristol to tie up at the America's Cup Museum. The admiral was soon off on an Art Evening after some local networking. Next stop was New Bedford, and a visit to the Whaling Museum, quite an exceptional place. I didn't know that whale oil was still used until the 1960's in various lubricants; another example of man's wanton squandering of scarce resource, I guess we will never learn.

When the time comes to get past Cape Cod, there is a short cut - the Cape Cod canal. Quite a project, it is very wide and 40 feet deep, 8 miles long - and the essential part is to consult one's Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book and enter when the current turns in your favor - then you are whisked along at 4 knots over your normal speed, we almost need our seat belts. We anchored near New Plymouth - close to where the Mayflower arrived. Last Mango is 55' long and has two people aboard; the Mayflower was 100' long and had 130 people plus pigs, goats, poultry, cats, birds and 2 dogs. Those brave people took two months - September to November - to make their journey in 1620.

We try to find places to settle into in our travels, where we can establish a bit of a base. We found one at Salem, Massachusetts. There is an excellent wharf in the center of the town, just steps away from all you need. A weekly farmer's market, the train to Boston (30 minutes and 6 dollars), and the Peabody-Essex Museum, quite a gem. What links Normandy, JP Morgan, and Salem? Well, in the first place, Salem was the first port in America where captains decided to gamble on trade with the Far East - the gamble paid off, and in the 18th century Salem was the richest town in America, and the early museum concept was formed. From Normandy at the time of the English Conquest came a family from Pabode - later forming the name Peabody. George Peabody was an entrepreneur in England and America, involved in trade and banking. His very successful firm took on a new partner - the father of JP Morgan. Later the name was changed. As for George, he was the first philanthropist and his generosities endowed the wonderful museum in Salem and of course many other projects - the Peabody Trust for example. The museum has a number of restored period houses in the town which you can tour in date order. And the piece de resistance, they purchased a fascinating house from village in China - then transported it to Salem for a faithful rebuild.

Now I suppose I have to make some passing comment on the Salem witch trials; it would be remiss of me not to. In 1692 there was an outbreak of mass hysteria and the ordinary functions of society broke down. It took almost a year for people to come to their senses but it was too late for many; approximately 28 people had been executed or had died in prison; familes had been fractured, and property confiscated or appropriated. It took nearly 300 years for the victims to be declared innocent.Today this ugly incident is a reminder of how easy it is for injustice to happen in any society. Salem thrives on the notoriety; the town is full of kitsch stores, witch "museums" and ghost tours. Good luck to them.

From Salem we have made other forays on the train - Boston; Lowell. The latter is full of museums and a working cotton mill (not to mention the Quilt Fair!). Boston's Italian Quarter is a great place for dinner. Certainly it almost reminded us of a wonderful long weekend in Sicily a while ago. Our travels by train, boat and road have revealed enormous infestation of fallopia japonica, one of only 32 plants on the list of the worlds most invasive species according to the World Conservation Union. The USA has been slow to recognise the insiduous spread of this plant although it is listed as an invasive weed in certain other non-New England states. It can grow up to 3" a day and penetrate 2" of asphalt and concrete; the root system extends up to 25' wide and a depth of 10'. It is near impossible to eradicate and spreads over vast areas stifling native species. There are thousands of acres of this plant in New England; nobody appears to recognise it and I have seen it tended as a shrub in hedges and gardens. Look out, Japanese Knotweed will take over the area. I am just doing my bit......................
So, back to the travels. We are now back in Newport, on a mooring in the main harbor. It is very peaceful here and we can pop into town in the dinghy for supplies, walks, and entertainment - it is bustling at this time of the year. And this is the place to get boat things done. Here in Newport I have changed the way the title to Last Mango is held so she is now US flagged (again). Being a foreign-flagged vessel in the Americas is, in a word, a pain.

Forward plans are uncertain. Very much in our thoughts at this time are family in England with health issues. We are going to be here in New England for a while; we may see some of Maine and visit the Islands; we may head back to our base in Salem.

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