Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Interesting if Odd Little Place

written in Hampton VA
2010 10 14

New Bedford was a town we wanted to visit.  Just south Cape Cod, home of a vast fishing fleet and better yet the place that opened that supposed masterwork of American literature, Moby Dick, New  Bedford was a mainstay of the New England nautical experience.

We enjoyed New Bedford.  But there were these things...

It is an expensive town for boaters.  Marinas cost $3.25 per foot plus hydro, and that was the city run Pope Island marina, not the more expensive but much more professional Fairhaven Boat Works.  Declining a slip at Pope Island we discovered that we had to arrange a mooring ball through the Harbour Control Commission or HCC, a state board that has total hegemony over the waters of the harbour.

We made the arrangements and were quoted $35 a night.

Next day we tried to arrange showers and landing at the Pope Island marina but were rebuffed.  We needed to buy a card and we could only get one from HCC.  We did so and were met at Pope Island marina by the HCC guy and arrangements wre made.  Marina staff were lovely to deal with.

That day we learned that the HCC guy who had quoted us $35 a night for the ball was on vacation but his replacement would collect the fees.  "That was $30 a night, right?" he asked.  Hmmmm

Then the HCC guy tells us that all payments are in cash and when we paid there was no receipt offered or available.  Hmmmm.

Trying to leave New Bedford was difficult as we wanted to pay our fees but no HCC guy was on duty until 9:30 a.m.  Not much use to sailors I would say.

The town was nice but that was about it.  No Moby Dick stuff about town but there is  a whaling museum and a fishing museum, good places on bad days when you have to waste time somewhere.  There is a cool walkway crossing a busy 4 lane divided highway which divides the town from the waterfront but the town is tearing it down because "drug users use it at night and the police will not patrol it".  It leads from the fishing museum to the whaling museum. Hmmmmmm.

There are no groceries in walking distance and there is no public transit.  The liquor store in Fairhaven was a hoot and apparently was the first stop for guys who missed last night's "meeting".  While buying a case of beer we were preceded at the cashregister by dozen guys each buying those little 1 1/2 shot bottles.  It was fun and everyone was friendly if seedy.  Very appropriate for a fishing town.

One cool thing about NB is the "hurricane wall", a 25 foot high rock barrier across the entire mouth of the harbour, split only by a massive steel gate.  When a hurricane threatens NB can close the gate and keep out the threatened storm surge.

When you estimate the cost of construction of the hurricane wall and compare it to the value of boats (even at the $1 million dollars per that the fisherpeople tell us) and fish packing plants on the waterfront you sort of get the feeling there is some pork barrel here. 

A nice place. 

Glad to get here.  Happy to leave.

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