Day 1

New England Boating’s highly anticipated Block Island shoot took place last week (July 13-16), in weather that ranged from flat-calm seas and clear skies to 25-knot winds and raging thunderstorms. A bit of everything, you might say.

The trip got underway on Monday afternoon at the newly renovated Galilee Boat Launch in Point Judith, Rhode Island, where we filmed the Pursuit C260 being splashed prior to our run across the Sound. This is the best and closest launch ramp for trips to Block Island, and it offers tons of parking and an extensive courtesy float system. The only drawback is the heavy boating traffic it sees, especially on weekends.

The Surf Hotel has offered stunning views since 1870. Photo Tom Richardson
The Surf Hotel has offered stunning views since 1870. Photo Tom Richardson

After launching, it was smooth sailing, and we made the 12-mile run to the Great Salt Pond (New Harbor) in about 30 minutes. After clearing the jetties, we idled through the pond to our waiting float at Champlin’s, the largest marina on Block Island. Marina manager Joe Grillo and his crew took excellent care of us during our 4-day stay, and we were impressed by the facility’s host of amenities, which include an onsite restaurant, arcade, grocery store, bike and kayak rentals, and a bakery/coffee shop.

Waiting to meet us as we tied up was Tom’s old friend Mitch Chagnon, a longtime charter captain, musician and operations manager of the Surf Hotel. He helped load our gear into his van and shuttled us to the hotel, a sprawling, Victorian-era building overlooking Old Harbor and the ocean. We settled into our rooms then enjoyed dinner on the hotel’s rambling porch before turning in early.


Day 2

At 5:00 a.m., the crew assembled in the lobby to prep for our fishing segment. However, a look at the radar revealed that a front was headed our way, so we postponed the launch time for several hours. When the skies finally cleared at 9:00, we hopped in the Pursuit and headed for the southwest corner of the island for some bottom fishing action led by Chagnon. Using 3-way rigs and squid baits, we caught some sea bass, a couple of keeper fluke and the biggest scup (porgy) anyone—including our host—had ever seen. Although we were tempted to try for striped bass, we decided to head back to Champlin’s to pursue the rest of our busy day.

This included a delicious lunch at the Beachead Restaurant on Corn Neck Road. The menu included a raw bar platter, clam strips, seafood nachos, Thai chicken wings, clams casino, crab cakes and more. Let’s just say that we were ready for a nap by the time we left!

Next, Parker and Producer/Director Gene Allen shot some footage in downtown New Shoreham while a rain squall pushed through. The rain forced some indoor filming, and Parker made the most of it by visiting with Bobby Leone, the pastry chef at Aldo’s Bakery.

The menu included a raw bar platter, clam strips, seafood nachos, Thai chicken wings, clams casino, crab cakes and more. Let’s just say that we were ready for a nap by the time we left!

Around 4:30 we returned to the Surf Hotel, where a sumptuous early dinner awaited. The food at the Surf is outstanding, and the entire crew feasted on scallop ceviche, crispy Asian-style calamari (a crew favorite), littlenecks, steamers, oysters, shrimp and more. The piece de resistance was the fish we had caught earlier that day. Chef Jimmy fried it to perfection and served it family-style with mounds of French fries.

Thankfully, the skies cleared by late afternoon, allowing Parker to shoot her moped tour with Leo Leone of Aldo’s bike and moped rental. Among the scenic stops were the Spring House Hotel, Rodman’s Hollow, Monhegan Bluffs and iconic Southeast Light. Allen shot some remarkable drone footage of these spots that you won’t want to miss.

As the sun dropped behind the clouds, we retired to Aldo’s Restaurant, where the Leone family served us a pasta dish made by pouring cognac in a hollowed-out wheel of parmesan, igniting the liquor and tossing fettuccini inside the “bowl” to coat it with the cheese. It was delicious!


Day 3

Assorted brunch items at the 1661 Inn. Photo Tom Richardson
Assorted brunch items at the 1661 Inn. Photo Tom Richardson

Wednesday started off with more food—a brunch at the 1661 Inn, hosted by owner Rita Draper. The 1661 is a historic inn and restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and incredible views of the water. The brunch is famous, and features fresh, local produce and fish (a whole bluefish was on display at the buffet during our meal). After eating our fill of made-to-order pancakes, omelets and all kinds of other delights, we headed across the street to the Abrams Animal Farm and Gardens. Rita Draper’s precocious 9-year-old granddaughter Carmyn Accaregui led the tour, showing us the farm’s kangaroos, lemurs, the Galapagos tortoise and the one-eyed zedonk, among other unusual creatures.

Next we headed back to the Boat Basin Marina for lunch at The Oar. The ceiling and walls of this famous boater’s hangout is adorned with hundreds of oars donated by visiting mariners over the years, as manager George Venezia explained in his interview with Tom and Parker.

After our visit to The Oar we returned to Champlin’s, where Tom collected his Montague folding mountain bike and met up with Gabriella Leone, a native islander and Miss Rhode Island runner-up, for a ride to the northernmost tip of the island. It was a hot pedal for sure, but Tom made it, whereupon he was rewarded with a Dell’s Frozen Lemonade.

Parasailing isn’t normally on the NEBO to-do list, but it involves boats, so we decided to go for it after being offered a trip with Block Island Parasail, a company with over 27 years of experience. Parker and cameraman Tyler Adams strapped into the parachute and soared 400-plus feet above the ocean, getting amazing views of the entire island. This is a must try, and really took the show to new heights (pun intended)!

We wrapped up our outing with the Gelsominis and made it back to the dock just before a massive cold front rolled over the island, dumping several inches of rain and putting on a tremendous light show. Glad we weren’t on the water when that thing hit!

Returning to Champlin’s Marina, Parker joined the Gelsomini family of Wrentham, MA, aboard their new Pursuit DC 325, which they keep on a mooring in New Harbor. The crew filmed Parker and the Gelsominis as they dove and swam in the protected waters in the northern part of the Great Salt Pond, which are open to tubing, swimming and waterskiing.

We wrapped up our outing with the Gelsominis and made it back to the dock just before a massive cold front rolled over the island, dumping several inches of rain and putting on a tremendous light show. Glad we weren’t on the water when that thing hit!


Day 4

Making the afternoon rounds in the Aldo's Bakery delivery skiff. Photo Tyler Adams
Making the afternoon rounds in the Aldo’s Bakery delivery skiff. Photo Tyler Adams

The big front that moved through brought strong winds from the northeast, which made it difficult to film anywhere on the island, but especially on the water, without a lot of wind noise. However, we pushed ahead by filming a dockside interview with Orrin Starr, one of the New Shoreham assistant harbormasters. Starr provided a detailed rundown on the transient services, anchorages and basic navigation advice for boaters planning a  visit to Block Island.

Next we returned to the Surf Hotel for Tom’s and Parker’s lengthy show close before Tom and cameraman Tommy Costello returned to the mainland via the high-speed ferry. Meanwhile, Parker, Gene, Tyler and Nick remained on-island to film a few more segments while waiting for the wind and seas to lay down. Parker shot a segment on the downtown area of New Shoreham, including some background on the “Rebecca at the Well” statue at the rotary on Water Street. Parker also visited Blocks of Fudge, where she tried chocolate-covered bacon and interviewed owner Shirley Fowler, who came to the island for a summer job and never left (like many people we met).

Just before leaving for the return trip to Point Judith, Parker stopped at the Boat Basin to make the afternoon delivery run aboard the Aldo’s Bakery skiff, which sells baked goods and coffee to the boaters in New Harbor.

Finally, at 5:00 the crew packed up and made the return trip to Point Judith, where we hauled the boat and put a wrap on what will be a very special one-hour episode of New England Boating TV. This one will be hard to top, but we’ll try our best next week in Kennebunkport, Maine. Stay tuned!


Be sure to follow our adventures this season on FacebookTwitter and Instagram with #NEBOTV.

New episodes of New England Boating TV will begin airing this fall on Mondays and Sundays on NESN.

 

  Check local listings or stay tuned to NewEnglandBoating.com for details.

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