Down-wind down the New Jersey coast
The cold front was coming through a little earlier than predicted and at 1100 on Sunday morning the wind shifted suddenly to the NNW and increased from almost nothing to 20 to 25 knots. This put us on a lee shore, with no protection from the breakwater. I had planned to leave around noon, but was almost ready to leave when the wind-shift hit. Using the windlass controls from the cockpit I raised the anchor while the seas were rapidly building. With a double reef and the engine on at low rpm I moved slowly away from the shore. Amazing how quickly a short and steep sea builds up in these shallow waters. It was a bumpy ride in breaking seas and gusty wind, but at 1240 I rounded Sandy Hook and things started to quiet down. I shook out one reef, unfurled the yankee and shut down the engine. At 1400 I was under full sail, with the wind at 15 knots from the NW. I could see 8 sails ahead of me and one behind. On the AIS I saw that there was an entire convoy heading south! At 1500 Willet, a nice looking ketch hailed me and we chatted for a while. Around 1600, to my great pleasure, I passed three sailboats. Once clear I went below to check the Racor filter. Again, there was some sediment in the bowl. Not as bad as on the trip out, though. And not surprising, after the rocking and rolling getting out of Sandy Hook Bay. I drained and flushed the bowl and the fuel now flowing was clear.
Sunset at sea
Then the phone call that I had feared came through: My father-in-law, George, had passed away at age 95, two weeks from his 96th birthday.
At 1725 I put the yankee on the whisker pole out to SB, but as the wind increased and backed from the N to the NW I took the pole in 30 minutes later. For the next hour the wind went back-and-forth between N and NW and 6 and 18 knots. It settled after a while at 15 to 20 knots from the NNE, just as predicted. I continued under main only. I had no appetite to do lots of work on the foredeck in the middle of the night while running dead downwind. At 0245 on Monday I even put in a reef when the wind started gusting over 20 knots. An hour later, off Atlantic City, I suddenly saw the shade of a sail moving against the backdrop of the shore lights. And it seemed pretty close too! I had not seen any running lights, but it is possible that they were just drowned out by all the lights on shore. With the binoculars I could make out that it was a catamaran, under reefed mainsail only, slowly bobbing up and down at very low speed. It had its running lights on, as if under power. I changed course to pass to seaward of the cat, while trying not to jibe. Curlew had the wind now a little over the port quarter, which was the side the boom was out on its preventer. The cat followed an erratic course. I had my hands full controlling Curlew and had no hands free to hail him on the VHF. Suddenly he jibed, luffed, crossed my wake within a few boat lengths and headed away from the shore. Strange.
At 1115 I entered Delaware Bay and headed towards the anchorage behind Reedy Island. We've had biting flies on board on and off during this trip. It was bad down the Jersey coast, but on the Delaware Bay they really became ferocious. I had to close the companion way to prevent them from infesting the cabins, and, despite the warm temperatures, had to wear long pants, socks and a long-sleeved shirt. I must have killed hundreds of them. And they bite even through your socks. Well, they at least helped me to stay awake! After I had dropped anchor at dusk they disappeared but I spent quite some time killing the last few down below and then washing all the dead ones off the deck and cockpit. Below I picked up one dead fly after another.
The next morning I motored up the Delaware and pulled into a slip at the Piers Marina in Philadelphia, next to my Nordic Tug. I'll move Curlew to her slip in Baltimore after George's funeral.
Curlew and Puffin II in Philadelphia