2009-11-12 / News

New friend calls to mind island’s adventurous history

By Will Tuttle

Jamestown played host to a distinguished visitor recently, and it was all because of foul weather. A one-two punch of back-to-back low-pressure systems brought strong northeast winds to the region.

For gardeners, it meant rain and wind.

For boaters, it was something far worse.

While out on “storm patrol” along the shoreline by the Dumplings area recently, I went out to Ft. Wetherill. There, I was struck by an unaccustomed sight — a boat at anchor in the small cove near the old highway barn. The cove is narrow and surrounded by rocks.

It is not a typical place for boats to anchor.

The high winds and tides had swamped a kayak that I had on the beach near Clark Boat Yard. I had a beer with me and decided that it would make a good gift to whoever was on that boat. I took the kayak over to the cove and paddled out to go rap on the hull.

That’s when I saw the Danish flag.

The boat, although only 30 feet, was clearly fitted for voyaging. As I got closer, I saw that it was from Nykøping, Denmark, an island town south of Copenhagen and not unlike Newport in size. The gentleman aboard was quite surprised to see someone and delighted to take delivery of the beer. We had a brief chat, but the weather was quite fierce so we soon parted ways.

While at the farmer’s market at Casey Farm in Saunderstown that Saturday, I couldn’t stop thinking about my new friend, Henning — stuck aboard his small boat, without heat, in such awful conditions.

But the Danes were Vikings, and Henning was no fool. He looked at the chart, saw the weather and found a spot that was sure to be safe. Although no one I know has ever gone in there with a boat larger than a kayak, that didn’t play into his decision.

He sought shelter, and found it.

All day Saturday, I collected items for a care package: Corn from Hotchkiss Farm, apples, pears and tomatoes from the farmer’s market, homemade chicken soup and grape jelly from the grapes in our back yard, bread from the Village Hearth, a copy of the Jamestown Press and a six pack of Narragansett. It was fun to think of playing Santa Claus, but even more fun to imagine what it must be like to travel from so far away in such a small boat.

On Sunday, the rain came in sheets, and the wind reached gale force. Just to the windward of the safe little cove, dangerous waves lashed the shoreline, but the tiny anchorage at Ft. Wetherill was calm. After a day of cabin fever, my daughter, Annie, and I donned wet suits and swam the care package out to the boat.

It was there — while treading water and watching a wide grin spread across our new friend’s face — that we learned he had been traveling for nearly a decade. His wife was in Halifax with her brother, and they were planning to meet in a few weeks. They had sailed the boat all the way around the world before reaching Jamestown, crossing the Indian Ocean from Australia to Trinidad, and moving up the coast from there.

As we all go back to our work lives, it’s interesting to contemplate that Jamestown is an island that has been visited by travelers for centuries.

We do indeed live in an exciting place.

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