Rhode Island, Cape Code and Plymouth, Massachusetts
September, 2000

If there is an ocean near, the boys have to get into it.  Mitch catches a pretty good wave here.  For more surf pictures click here.

Although Rhode Island is about 25 miles across there are over 400 miles of beautiful coast line.  You may have heard that Rhode Island is not an island, but if you look closely at a map, you'll see there are several islands and one of them, the largest,  is named Rhode Island.

The RV Park where we stayed was just outside of the small port town of Mystic, Connecticut.  The highway comes through town across this bridge.  On a sunny weekend the bridge is up as much as it is down. Towing the trailer can be tricky with narrow, twisting roads and surprise low bridges or weight restrictions.

Sometimes it's hard to get Mitch and Max to sit still or see sights.  We'll hear, "let's go", "we want to play", "I'm hungry".
But then one of them will spot something and we can't drag them away.  After looking at the bridge Mitch spotted schools of small fish and florescent jellyfish in the water and now it was the adults turn to whine, "let's go", "we have more to do", ......


  Whale ship - Charles W. Morgan
This is the oldest floating whale ship in the world.  It sits in port at the Maritime Museum in Mystic, Connecticut.  This ship is open to the public and we looked throughout the ship.  There are several other historical ships on display here, as well as the historic shipyard, shops and nautical museum.
We always enjoy stopping to see a blacksmith at work.  This smith pointed out that not a single horseshoe has ever been made here at Mystic.  This shop was used to produce hooks, harpoons, hinges, oar locks, fasteners and other hardware for the maritime industry.
Next we visited the old rope building.  It was two stories high and very long and narrow.  This is where the workers would walk backwards over eight miles a day pulling the strands that were made into rope.  The rope in this picture is about three inches in diameter.  We've seen several rope twisting machines in our travels, but none as large as this.
The simplest of ropes is made by tightly twisting three sets of three twines.  As each set tries to untwist, they end up twisting around each other in the opposite direction to form the rope.

Three sets of three twines was far from the case here.  These spools are only half of the total.  Another rack sits back-to-back with theses for a total of ninety-six spools.

All of the twines are fed through what looks like an old colander.  When a spool runs out workers would tie the end of another spool on and this would keep the rope going. 
Next the twines are twisted by these units that move down the length of the building as the rope is twisted.  This building was several hundred feet long, some are longer.  As I see more and more history and old technology, 1800 doesn't seem so long ago.  A lot of basic technology has been around for many years.
Both here, and again on Cape Cod, we came across this rescue technique known as the breeches buoy.

This part of North America sticks out into the North Atlantic with a rocky coast and many prevailing onshore winds. Thousands of ships have run aground.  Ten man rescue boats are the preferred method of saving lives.  In heavy seas, however, it's too dangerous to row these boats into the surf. 

In these cases a Lyle Gun is used to shoot a projectile with a rope to the stranded ship.  Then a heavy line is hauled out and the Breeches Buoy is set up.  The crew and passengers can be pulled to shore one-by-one. This technique was not used that often.  When it was, it was usually in the worst weather conditions and the people were often pulled through the top of the cold surf as they were pulled to shore.
They say that some of the "rescued" victims died of hypothermia before they reached the beach.
 

Evening sets in and it's time to secure the sails.


Newport, Rhode Island
On Sunday we went for a drive to Newport for a visit at the Astor's summer cottage. The Astors were out, but their staff gave us a tour of the grounds.

Newport is filled with the mansions, (they were called "cottages" by their owners).  The Astor's mansion is presented as living history.  The staff are all dressed in historic attire and their presentation is done in a present tense, as if it was in the late 1800's.

You don't suppose they mind if I park here do you?
This was an interesting family who played all of the money games and followed all of the quirky etiquette rules of the late 1800's.  In addition to this "cottage", Mr. Astor owned the largest private yacht in America, (until J.P. Morgan had one built slightly larger than his).  The Astor's son was the richest man to go down on the Titanic.

We learned that there would be four staff members for each person living or visiting here. 

Twenty-four staff, plus cooks and gardeners for only six people. Being rich, they did not work so to say, but they had a very busy life with proper etiquette and absurd formalities.
After the tour we took time out of our busy day for a game of croquette with Mrs. Astor's German maid, (who was really a wonderful actress from San Diego). 

Mitch beat all of us by several wickets. 


Cape Cod, Massachusetts
We stayed at Port Dennis on Cape Cod along the ocean.  Mitch was disappointed that the surf was small.  Along the coast to the west is Hyannis Massachusetts, home town of President John F. Kennedy. From Hyannis there are ferries to Martha's Vineyards and Nantucket Island

Cape Cod is a small strip of land that projects out into the Atlantic Ocean 25 miles and curves northward about twenty miles. 

Except for a few stops on Cape Cod there is not too much to see from the highways.  At one time the settlers had cleared the east coast of almost all of the trees for farming. Today the trees have grown back and cover much of the land.  It's easy to see how difficult it would have been for the early Pilgrims to travel by land.  It's mostly thick trees and underbrush or tall grasses and marshes.  It's like a jungle.
Did you know that the Pilgrim's first stop was on Cape Cod? 
PLYMOUTH ROCK
The Pilgrims stopped on Cape Cod for six weeks but the area was not sufficient to settle.  Scouts went across Cape Cod Bay to explore for an adequate location.  Like the Pilgrims, many people came here to escape religious persecution.  They left England and lived in Holland for twelve years before coming to the new world on the Mayflower.  They were provided with transportation and supplies in return for several years of sending goods back to England from the new world.
Here's the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original Mayflower.

It was built by Great Britain and presented to the U.S. in appreciation for it's support during World War II.  It was built in England and sailed to Plymouth by a small crew.  A few modern tools such as saws were used during construction, but all of the materials and design replicates the merchant vessels of the time.

The Mayflower II is 106 feet long.  Walking on deck and in the hold it seems quite incredible that 200 passengers, 34 crew and many supplies could all fit onboard, let alone cross the North Atlantic.
A few blocks south is Plimoth Plantation, (yes, that is the correct spelling).  It is a reconstruction of the original settlement.  It is built from written records, journals and sketches to match the original village as it existed in 1627.  This village is presented in the living history style.  The people here are all dressed as the pilgrims would have been and are busy going about their daily duties.

In our travels over the past two years, we have read a lot of U.S. History, and between us we have not yet figured out why the Pilgrims are credited with being the first to establish a settlement in the new world.  We'll hear more about this claim when we visit Jamestown, Virginia in October.  (It was established ten years earlier than Plymouth).  And certainly don't forget about Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was established in 1613, seven years earlier.  It may be the stories of hardship and human endurance that have given these people their long lasting fame.
  Visitors can start up conversations and ask about life in the 1620s.   They have assembled enough information to know the family that lived in each house and their way of life and business.  They also try hard to match the personality of each person they represent and also the general culture and personality of the Pilgrims during that time. 
The picture above was taken from the fort on a hillside above the village.  The original fort was built two years after landing in Plymouth. 
In the crafts center we took a closer look at this odd looking trap.  It looked like a fish trap with a way for something to swim in the funnel shaped opening -- except the opening itself was very small.  The basket maker told us that it was an eel trap. (I don't recall learning about eel traps during American History in school).
Most of the homes were built with thatched roofs and lapped boards for walls fastened with nails.  Most had dirt floors and a fire pit in one corner with a partial chimney to help vent the smoke. 

Even with an open fire it was impossible to heat these buildings during the winter.  It was interesting to hear the Pilgrims say that they didn't even try to heat their houses, they dressed to stay warm.
 

I was impressed with the thatched roof.  I've seen it before in the tropics but didn't know it would work up here with the Atlantic storms.  Most of the Pilgrim's time was spent surviving; fixing meals, chopping wood, tending livestock and gardens and maintaining homes and tools.  There wasn't time for many crafts such as basket weaving and furniture making.  It was easier to get these goods from England.
One craft that was successful on the new land was that of the blacksmith.  Today he was making nails.  The iron stock was heated white hot and then hammered to a flat tip.  Then he would slip a holder over the tapered end and strike the stock against a chisel and bend off the nail.  Next he would support the holding tool over the anvil and hammer the head of the nail flat and then tip it over and drop out a nail.  By this time his other piece of iron would be white hot and he would repeat the process.  Each nail took about a minute to make.  All of the raw material came by ship, obviously there was no foundry in America yet.

(Think they might have pulled out their nails when replacing construction?)
 
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