Mon 25 Jun 2012
On (free) mooring ball in Manhasset Bay
[photo" Statue of Liberty passing towards the East River]
Well, today has been quite an adventure! Duane couldn't sleep once 0200 rolled around, so he got up to read and re-check weather. It looked like there was precipitation to the W but nothing strong in the way of thunderstorms. By 0400, it was time to try to go back to sleep, and it was such a good sleep that I had trouble getting awake by 0630.
There was nothing too threatening in the western sky when we weighed anchor, but here is where it got really interesting. I had come into the anchorage between a fish trap and a shoaling point near high tide. The depth sounder had showed over 6 feet under my keel. On the way out along that same path, we went from 13 feet of depth to being aground (about 4.5 feet) in seconds. The good news was the bottom was sand and we were not going terribly fast. The bad news was that the wind and minimal wave action was pushing us farther aground. It was good I had purposely decided not to put the sail up because we would have been pushed aground fast and hard.
After quickly calling myself a few names, I tried reversing hard to get off. It just wasn't working, so I elected to use the prop thrust and rudder to pivot the boat on its keel to face the way I came in. I would have thought that we would be off in minutes, but it took using the engine at cruise power setting and wiggling the rudder back and forth to plow our way back to deeper water. The wave action let the boat lift and move forward a few inches at a time (I assume) until we were free, but it took almost 25 minutes to do this. We could then choose a more conservative route.
While I was trying to get us off, I figured out what must have happened. Based upon just the astronomical tidal range, we should have had enough water to get over the shallow spot, but there was a NW wind when we came in which raised the water level more than usual. When we left, the S wind had been blowing which lowered the water more than usual. There could have been a 2 foot swing in depths from that alone. The solution is to just stick to the conservative approach and stay in "deep" water.
Now, I have consulted all the tidal current information extensively and concluded that we want to be at a certain place in the Lower Bay at a certain time. Otherwise, won't be able to use the fair current to get all the way through our route, and to experience a foul current with our slow boat would be dangerous. We have just lost 25 minutes, but it is still very doable at this point.
Once ungrounded, however, we see a very large section of sky to the NW is black with storm clouds. Do we continue or hold? Knowing we had no tricky depths or obstructions to worry about, and based upon the earlier radar of the squall line, we decided to press on. There were winds near 30 kts and short, steep waves of 2-3 feet, plus almost blinding rain for about 20 minutes. During that time, the scary part was the loss of visibility. I stayed in water that was charted near 20 feet and off the shipping channel so that big ships would not be a safety issue.
There were a number of 70-100 foot commercial fishing boats (with no fishing gear deployed) running around (some with no navigation lights!) in those same shallows, but I was able to avoid them all. One boat, however, should have been the "give-way" vessel and yet he barged on, forcing us to make a radical maneuver. To make matters worse, he circled back around toward us and I had to watch him carefully that time, too. I know he saw us that time.
After a tense 30 minutes or so, the visibility improved quickly and it appeared there would be no more precipitation or storm winds. We paralled the main shipping channel and up to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and had quite a few ships pass us going N. We could use the headsail to some advantage for perhaps an hour of the early passage, and I wanted every bit of speed I could get. I was starting to get concerned about our schedule regarding the current since the storm had both robbed us of the ideal sailing winds that were forecast and slowed our boat speed to about 3 knots for that half hour or so. We were close to an hour behind schedule at that point, but I knew we had a few options and carried on.
The Upper Bay was crowded with huge anchored ships, tugs chugging along, and many fast ferries zipping about. Surprisingly, though, it was not a stressful part of the trip. The skyline of lower Manhattan was in full view, but the mist and lack of sun made it disappointing. We cruised past the Statue of Liberty and we tried to remember the last time we saw her with our own eyes. We think it was at least 14 years ago.
By this time, we have some fair current and it looks like we will be fine as long as the predicted current in the East River is as strong as we expect. It is; at one point early on we are doing 8+ knots and starting to pass under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges rapidly. It is not stressful, but there are fast ferries zipping back and forth across the river all the time, plus a few larger ships, and a few pleasure craft.
Doing over 9 knots at this point, the lower end of Roosevelt Island comes into view suddenly and I need to be getting over to the N side of the island pretty quickly. I move over with no drama, but thankful that there was no error. If you have a mast higher than about 30 feet, you can't get under the bridge on the S side and you would have to turn around and buck a 3 knot current to correct your error. That would be a serious error in our boat.
Before long, we are in the infamous Hell Gate, which is the confluence of the East River, Harlem River, and W end of Long Island Sound. It had "boiling" water as the currents mixed and swirled, but it was not overly challenging. The most current we saw was before Hell Gate, 10.3 knots of boat speed, which means the current was about 4.5 knots for that short time. After that, it was pretty straightforward (make sure you don't try to pass S of Riker's Island) but the fair current was diminishing.
We could motor-sail for a little while to keep our speed up before the current switched, which helped. As planned, we made it all the way to Manhasset Bay and took a yellow transient mooring, which is free for two days. Along the way in Long Island Sound, we gazed at amazingly expensive homes along the water. Those investment bankers who make millions, whether they do any good or not, have to spend their money somehow.
We were glad to be secure on a good mooring when the follow-up squall line hit an hour or so later. It was over in 20 minutes, thankfully, and we enjoyed a nice supper after that: hamburgers, sautéed onions, mashed potatoes, and fresh broccoli. Drying off the cockpit seats left a nice place to enjoy the pretty calm after-storm conditions and comfortable temperature. Only an hour later, however, another brief rain started driving us below.
We have been pretty lucky with the weather so far, but the percentage of weather-issue days has increased lately. You can't do much about that, of course. We plan to explore Port Washington tomorrow and stay here another night. Right now we are eager to get our 3 bags of trash off the boat in the morning.
We have heard back from several of our Catalina 36 friends who live on Long Island and will put together a better itinerary soon.
Swinging in the hammock.
Cleaning the hull and checking the prop.
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.