Sun 24 Jun 2012
Anchored Horseshoe Cove, W side of Sandy Hook, NJ
[photo: flat bread pizza on board]
The wakes were very infrequent after 2100 and the wind did "lay down," as they say, so it was a comfortable night. We had all the hatches open with no screens and had no bugs at all. Still, when it gets light just after 0500, it is hard to sleep late.
As we often do (about once a week) when we have a day with no traveling, we had scrambled eggs, a slice of bacon, and some pan toast for breakfast. After the usual interior boat chores, we both set out to decipher the available info to determine where to go between NY Harbor and Newport, RI. We have just emailed some Catalina 36 friends who live in CT for recommendations. Others are always welcome.
I steeled myself for the nasty task of cleaning the hull with that powerful acid-based cleaner, On & Off, and then set to it. I managed to get it all done with minimal acid burns on my skin, but several towels and a shirt are now trash. Needing to immerse my body to rinse any residual acid, I almost immediately dove under the boat with the air hose/regulator from the SCUBA tank aboard. I was pleased to see that the prop zinc anode was still in great shape and that the prop was almost completely clear of any growth.
What I did not like was finding several nicks in the prop; they certainly had to be from whatever we hit in the river in NC on the way to Coinjock after that horrible crossing of the Albemarle Sound. They were not bad enough to be of immediate concern (after all, they have been there for over 6 weeks). I was dismayed to see how many small barnacles were on the part of the hull I could see from my position. Visibility was only about 1 foot, and I didn't feel like straying far. It might explain why the boat is slower than usual.
Despite the poor "viz" in the water, this is a lovely spot to be in this gorgeous weather. We have not spent much time gazing to the W across the Raritan Bay, but there must be a heck of a lot of boat traffic to generate the almost constant wakes that keep you rocking and rolling all day. The boats don't generally come closer than a quarter mile from this cove, but their wakes don't diminish much over that distance.
The rest of the day was pretty relaxing, actually lazy. We both read and napped and researched options for stops in Long Island Sound on the way to Newport, RI. For dinner, we sautéed some garlic and added some fresh tomato, then some leftover raw tomato sauce. I spiced it up with a bit too much crushed red pepper, but overall it was good. Spreading that on some lightly oiled flat breads and adding mozzarella cheese and a few small chunks of pepperoni made a great pizza. If you are going to consume all the toppings anyway, cutting down on the amount of carbs in the crust can't hurt.
We got the dinghy up and secured and everything ready in case we get rain tonight (likely). By 1830, all the boats had left the anchorage but us. It is Sun night and these other poor folks have to work tomorrow.
We hope for decent weather for the passage tomorrow, mainly so we can get a clear view of the Statue of Liberty and the NY skyline as we pass. I am looking forward to running with the current the whole way.
Sat 23 Jun 2012
Anchored Horseshoe Cove, W side of Sandy Hook, NJ
[photo: a gorgeous sunset in our pretty anchorage]
We had a little problem after the sun set last night in that we were both thinking the other one had closed all the hatches when the last downpour of the day began. By the time we realized the error, the V-berth was pretty wet under the hatch. Diane elected to sleep on it anyway and Duane took the center berth in the main cabin.
As promised, the fishermen out for their shark tournament were on the docks before 0500 and some were casting off shortly after. We expected a lot of boisterous conversation amongst the competing fishermen, lots of engine noise and diesel smell, plus lots of violent wakes. All we got were a number of pretty tame wakes, but the spectacle was very entertaining, seeing boat after boat head out and jockey for position to pass through that very narrow railroad bridge. It was quite a parade.
In order to witness all this, Duane was also up before 0500. There was still much navigational planning to do, but I think I now have it sorted out for the next 5 days. The current in Manasquan Inlet, where we were, indicated that we should leave before 0700 before the current turned foul. We just made it at 0650 and we did have just a touch of current with us as we left the dock, but 15 minutes later as we exited the inlet, we had a bit against us.
Going up the coast, we had a decent breeze out of the WNW so we could motor-sail to good advantage. Even knowing it was Sat, it was amazing how many pleasure boats were out drift fishing all up and down the shoreline, although there were at least a half dozen major groupings with as many as 50 boats in relatively close proximity. Either they all knew the fish were there, or boats just kept joining the group thinking that they must know what they are doing.
It was a really beautiful day with high pressure, low humidity, and moderate temperatures. It was actually pretty cool on the water until after mid-morning. We went far enough offshore to pump out legally, but otherwise stayed between 0.5 and 1 mile offshore and passed a huge number of gorgeous and/or palatial homes on the beach. What a difference a day made as the passage was stress free and dry. The heavy rain washed off any salt we might have had and today we did not put any appreciable amount back on.
Passing Sandy Hook's long stretch of eastern beach, we saw the famous "nude" beach. We were a little too far offshore for any view, but it was apparent that most of the hundreds of beachgoers were definitely naked. Even before reaching Sandy Hook, we could see the skyline of Manhattan in the distance. Next, the Verrazano Narrow Bridge came into view and we were both a little awed. Duane was born in Jersey City, NJ and from their tenement apartment on the Palisades (cliffs), the New York City skyline was an ever-present sight. Even knowing the crime, congestion, pollution, and filth that plagues much of the City, it is hard not to be sentimental about sailing your own boat from FL back up to the original homestead.
Rounding the northern tip of Sandy Hook, it almost looked like a parking lot for boats - all fishing. We had to weave port and starboard through the "fleet" but we finally turned W and then S and put the headsail out on the port side for a change. The traffic lessened, but we were surprised to find a few large fish traps just like we first saw in NC. How you would avoid them at night in a fast boat is beyond me.
We anchored in Horseshoe Cove (about 2 miles S of the tip on the W side) with only 2 other boats as of 1300. We are definitely enjoying the end of our short 36 mile run. This is one of the first times that we have eaten lunch after stopping, rather than while underway. For the first half of the afternoon, it was what many might consider the cruising life to be: Diane reading her book on deck in the sun under a beautiful sky with just the right temperature, humidity, and breeze; Duane avoiding the sun by saying below, but enjoying research, reading, and later napping, also with a cool, comfortable breeze blowing through the boat.
It got ugly when Diane noticed the toilet backing up and smelling more horrible than usual. I will spare you the details, but it involved plumbing work and the inevitable spillage. Diane was a trooper and assisted throughout and we were so glad we could resolve it and get cleaned up in just over an hour. We are out another whole roll of paper towels and an old beach towel.
On a related note, I was in the water today and it was quite nice. Tomorrow, I hope to be able to clean the brown tannin stain off the hull which many say marks us as long-distance ICW cruisers, but it still looks ugly.
Just as we were reheating the delicious chicken fajitas for dinner, our new buddy on Tango finally arrived after leaving Manasquan. He had followed us out Little Egg Inlet and then wound up at the same marina in Manasquan, and now joined us here. I said hello as he cruised by and then went back to dinner. Afterwards, Diane suggested that I package up the leftovers for him since he is obviously not equipped to do a lot in the way of galley work. I got together his meal and my beverage and took the dinghy over.
He was very grateful for the food and the company. He is doing the Great Loop (up the east coast from FL, through canals to the Great Lakes, then down the major rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, and then back home). It is a major undertaking and to do it in a 24 foot sailboat is impressive, especially being middle aged and one-legged.
Following that, we took Clyde ashore to the beach. He was apprehensive at first, but seemed to enjoy it as time progressed. I guarded the dinghy and before long a 43 year old man of Dominican Republic heritage came over to chat. First, he was fascinated with the size of our car; then it was all about boating with plenty of questions about how life was aboard. What do you do for electricity? Bathroom? Shower? Water?
Most of the wave action is wakes from boats out in the main bay, with some from the W wind. We hope that both will diminish overnight.
Fri 22 Jun 2012
Docked at Hoffman's Marina, Manasquan, NJ
[photo: railroad bridge with passing train only 100 feet from us]
The dawn broke early, as expected, and we forced ourselves to stay in bed until 0600. Surprisingly, it took all of that time until 0740 to shove off. There were water tanks to fill, decks to be washed down of the bug and bird detritus, stuff to be stowed, shore power cords and cable TV to be disconnected and coiled, and dock lines to be sorted.
We cast off at 0740 with a new sailing buddy on Tango following us out the inlet. We had done it coming in several days before, so we were experts (?). We had to wait for the tide to rise so we had enough water to leave, but that meant the current was flooding (against us) as we left. We had to go 2 hours S and then E to get to where we could turn N towards our destination. That is a hard nut to swallow.
Our passage N along the NJ shore 2-3 miles offshore was generally good, except for the 4 hour thunderstorm we had to endure. It was actually a series of squalls that came in waves from the W heading NE. With the major winds coming from the W and SW and us being just offshore, the fetch was reasonable and we had waves no bigger than 2 feet. Some of the time the wind was against us so the headsail was furled, and sometimes it was favorable so we unfurled it.
It was intermittently rainy and windy and uncomfortable, bit considering how bad it could have been, we were very fortunate. One thing that was pretty horrible, however, was the number and voraciousness of the flies. We had the slow moving, easy to kill, green-head flies and the nastier small black flies that bite hard and were relentless. Duane put on sweatpants and socks to guard his legs and they just bit right through the fabric. Bug repellent was equally useless. For that reason, most of the trip was very frustrating, to be sure.
As we neared Barnegat Inlet, the storm was the least of our worries as we had to avoid collisions by the numerous fishing boats (mostly pleasure, but some commercial) that were running high speed for the inlet. I guess if you have high speed available, the idea is that you can get in and "safe". Our thought is that in a slow boat, you are just putting yourself into more risk being close to shore and more things to hit.
We finally got to Manasquan Inlet about 1700 and fought the end of an ebbing current to get in. there were no depth problems at all, but we had to go through a very narrow passage with a bridge that is normally open unless a train needs to pass. Immediately after that, we had to dock. It would have been much better if the two dock hands had waved us over instead of looking everywhere but at us. We finally got their attention and determined that they were where we were supposed to dock. I must admit that our maneuvering to the dock in the high current was very sharp. We only hope we can do as well leaving tomorrow.
This is a good time to mention that with the Active Captain discount, we are paying "only" $90 per night ($2.50 per foot) to stay here. For that, we have new docks, a nice new marina office, port-a-potties and no showers. Electric is extra but we don't need that. We also have a RR bridge with frequent and noisy traffic 100 feet to the E and a car bridge with constant traffic 300 yards to the W. We are also lucky that there are 170 sport fishing boats leaving early in the morning for a shark fishing tournament, so their wakes will smash us against the T-dock we are on. Oh, the joy! We really felt this was our only option, but we admonish all to avoid this, if possible.
As I explained to Diane, a slow boat with more than 3 foot draft has very few options in NJ. She has already proclaimed this the absolute worst place we have ever stayed. We plan to leave tomorrow to go around the tip of Sandy Hook to Horseshoe Cove for a few nights. After that, we hope to make the passage into NY and through the East River into the beginnings of Long Island Sound.
Thu 21 Jun 2012
Docked at Beach Haven Yacht Club Marina
[photo: Duane, Diane, Gretchen, and Walt in front of Diva Di]
It was a pleasant night, indeed, and Duane slept in until after 0600. We were expecting our good friends, Gretchen and Walt to arrive by mid-morning so we straightened up the boat as best we could. Actually, Duane's job was to get off the boat and out of Diane's way, so I did and spent quite a bit of time chatting with this other sailor who was a rather large guy with one artificial leg in a 24 foot sailboat. He had come up from northern FL and was heading into New England. This was virgin territory for both of us, so we shared stories and discussed strategies.
Our visitors arrived before 1000 and we chatted in the main cabin with the air conditioning running for a while. Then we got our bikes (they brought theirs, of course) and rode several miles S to the bird sanctuary at the end of Long Beach Island. It was hot but not at all oppressive, although the green head flies were biting horrifically when we stopped.
On the way back, we stopped at the grocery store to get sandwiches to eat on the boat with the cold beer they had brought. It was very tasty after our bike ride. We next got ready to go to the beach, and since they had 4 beach chairs and two umbrellas, we elected to drive the 6 blocks or so. Even though it is a weekday and still early in the season, all the parking was taken so we unloaded and Walt sacrificed by parking the car half the distance back to the marina.
The sign said the water temperature was 62F, but the three of us (minus Diane) braved the surf before long due to the heat. We all agreed it had to be at least 67-68F and maybe a bit more. It was very refreshing and we could stay in for 15 minutes of more with no signs of being chilled. Hundreds of other bathers obviously agreed with us.
To protect his bald head, Duane wore his ball cap, and to protect his eyes, his cheap sunglasses. One freak wave caught me by surprise and the hat was gone shoreward. After a "sprint" it was recovered, and luckily his glasses were still there. But, after surviving several more large waves holding the hat in place, it seems the sunglasses were history. Good thing there are 4 more pairs on the boat.
We all went back to the umbrellas for some conversation and reading and made one more trip into the water before leaving for the day. After quick showers and a pre-happy hour on the boat, we walked over to Tucker's Restaurant for their happy hour drink and food specials. We elected to share 5 appetizer plates of $5 each and had plenty of food for us all. It is a really good deal and we are glad we had "local knowledge" by Walt and Gretchen about this.
They departed for home about 1930 and we relaxed in the cabin and cockpit rehydrating with lots of cold water. Tomorrow we will re-trace our path out the Little Egg inlet to run the ocean N to Manasquan Inlet. We like NJ and its beaches, to be sure, but we understand why it is problematic for so many slow boat cruisers. Your options are few and when you are committed, you are committed.
Wed 20 Jun 2012
Docked at Beach Haven Yacht Club Marina
[photo: irrefutable proof that Diane is, indeed, getting time on the beach]
We enjoyed a very restful evening except for Duane's sinuses closing up, but Diane suggested and offered a Sudafed capsule and before long all was well. I must be allergic to my old homestead.
We received an early morning phone call from our good friends, Walt and Gretchen, who are driving down from PA to visit for the day tomorrow, Thu. They used to keep their boat here so it will be a pleasant time for all of us.
After getting the shore power cable hooked up for the air condition to combat the forecast 95F days for the next 3 days, we set out on our bicycles to explore. Our first stop was a mere 2 blocks away at the incredibly beautiful Maritime Museum of NJ. It highlight with many, many artifacts, very significant events in the maritime history off NJ's shore. One of the docents, John, took us around for 45 minutes on a brief tour, and we were amazed how many great things they had displayed and the historical events that were recounted in prose and pictures. It is a worthwhile visit if you are in this immediate area.
From the museum, we biked down the main drag to explore the grocery store (very good) and then we headed to the Centre St. beach access point. Until the fourth Sat in June, there are no beach badges required, so we locked our bikes and found a spot of the pretty beach. There were many people on the beach, but it was not blanket-to-blanket as I remember from many days in my youth.
The sun was hot, but the breeze was nice. We both spread blankets and read our books. An hour later, Duane went into the water up to his shins and realized that 68F was a little chilly after living in FL for over 8 years. It was refreshing enough that he could lie in the sun for a while again, but at some point it was time to go back.
On Diva Di, we finished the leftover pizza and then we borrowed the marina owner's car to go grocery shopping. It was only 4 blocks away, but it took well over an hour to shop and then stow all the items. It was convenient that their liquor store was co-located with the grocery. Diane wisely wanted to stock up while we had good access to a store, but it might have been the biggest grocery/beverage bill we ever saw.
Afterwards, Diane walked back to the beach with her beach chair and Duane stayed aboard to read in the air conditioning. When she returned, we walked the dock to the shower facilities and got ready for a meal ashore. The Boat House restaurant just one block to the N was a good choice. It was BYOB, so we brought a small bottle of wine, and we elected to share 3 different appetizers rather than get whole meals. We had plenty of food and a reasonable bill.
Back on the dock, we chatted with some friendly folk who keep their boat here year after year. The sunset was great from the cockpit with a balmy SW breeze blowing right into the cockpit. Even though the daytime high temps are unseasonably high, the still cool water moderates the temperature and the morning and evenings are very nice.
Tue 19 Jun 2012
Docked at Beach Haven Yacht Club Marina
[photo: a hazy photo of the beach at Wildwood as we passed under overcast skies]
After a very restful night, we awoke to the wakes of the local fishing fleet going out before dawn (near 0400). We could get back to sleep, of course, but by 0600, Duane was up for good. Diane got up by 0630 and put the TV on to catch whatever show was on at that time. The meteorologist confirmed that it was going to be a scorcher Wed and Thu of this week, with inland temps in the high 90s and seashore temps slightly lower.
We weighed anchor (windlass working perfectly) at 0720 and got out the Cape May inlet against a flooding tide. Our motor-sail up the coast was nice enough; we had no bad weather, the swells were only 2-3 feet and no choppy waves, and we had a decent wind for well over half of the 61 mile run.
We have not experienced ocean sailing in quite a while; you don't pitch up and down as much with a beam sea, but you heave up and down with the swell. We had expected to have quartering seas (over your shoulder), but the wind forecast was wrong and we had seas from just forward of the beam. While the wind was decent, it provided great stability from the seas which tend to roll the boat port and starboard in an uncomfortable way. When the wind was absent, it was necessary to brace yourself in the cockpit against the constant rolling.
Along the way, we passed Wildwood, Stoner Harbor, Avalon, Atlantic City, and Brigantine, to name a few. Having been born in NJ, it certainly jogged Duane's memory.
The approach from the sea buoy "LE" was very interesting (read "pucker factor") as there were waves breaking over sand bars almost everywhere. We could see a relatively narrow place where there were no breakers and sure enough we finally spied the red and green buoys marking the deeper water.
Most of the way in was in water over 15 feet in depth, which is comforting, but there was one spot early on where we saw 8 feet. We draw less than 5 feet, but when you are in waves heaving you up and down 4-5 feet, you do not want to be in shallow water.
The first part of the inlet was fine, but then the buoyage got very confusing and kept you zig-zagging in many directions. The fact that is was dead low tide helped in that the shoal (shallow) water was pretty visible. Once we were in calm water, the channel was still not a straight shot, and there were a few times that we saw less than a foot under the keel, but we made it OK.
The two dockhands at the Beach Haven Yacht club Marina were very helpful getting us tied up in the current and wind. We did a very respectable job of coming into the slip, but without their help it would not have been pretty.
We got tied up, tidied up the boat, made a drink, and got dinner on. Tonight we had a rustic pizza dough topped with leftover ground beef and pork sausage from the lasagna, a little pepperoni, and the normal tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. It was especially tasty after the long day underway. Naturally, a little red wine helped compliment the meal.
Tonight will be one "to chill" and tomorrow we will re-provision and hit the gorgeous beach. Diane is up showering ashore and I will post this and do the same.