Thu 28 Jun 2012
On mooring ball at Port Jefferson, NY
[photo: replica of HMS Bounty in port for tours]
As mentioned in the previous entry, we slept late enough that we didn't have time to post the blog. We tried while underway a few hours later but the cell signal would not allow it.
The weather was wonderful ("severe clear" as we used to say in aviation) and the seas were less than a foot high as the 10 knot wind was from the W and the current was also flowing from the W. It wasn't great for sailing while the wind was dead astern, since there was not enough apparent wind to keep the sail full, but it was a very pleasant day on the water.
We arrived a little before noon and decided that racing a fast ferry from Bridgeport, CT into the channel was not a good idea, so we hove-to for a few minutes to let him pass, and then motor-sailed into Port Jefferson harbor. The people that manage the mooring balls and launch service helped us find the mooring and gave us some info about their services and the small town.
Diane made BLTs on tortilla shells for lunch (heavy on the LT and light on the B). Ever notice that not too much smells better than bacon cooking? We got our showing/shaving stuff ready to take ashore and then called the launch service to explore the town with our bikes. Even at $45 per night for a mooring ball (very expensive by our standards) at least the launch service is prompt and very helpful. We had trash and recycling with us and the launch captain said to leave it for him to dispose of. They get frequent tips (I know we tip each time), so it pays them to be helpful.
Once again, even with some challenges of narrow sidewalks and moderate pedestrian traffic, we were very glad to use the bikes. This town is one of the most compact for walking, however, so if feet are all you have, they will do just fine. There were many restaurants and shops to view along our path. We scouted the convenience store, a specialty cheese shop, and a local brewery for use at the end of our exploration.
Following a leisurely tour of everything reachable without going up major hills, we stopped at the brewery to find that you cannot consume it there and they have no food. So, we went to Tommy's Place a block away and had two beers and a huge plate of loaded nachos for $9.35 (happy hour - food and drink half price). It was very tasty and very cheap. When Diane came back from the ladies' room, I mentioned that the drink and food were on "sailors' special" and she thought I was serious.
Next, we peddled up the moderate hill where Diane got some minor provisions and Duane got some specialty cheeses. We skipped the bakery feeling guilty about the nachos, I think. Back at the harbor minutes later, we hit the bath/shower facilities, which were quite nice, and then called for the launch to bring us back to Diva Di. It is a gorgeous day, but if you are in the blazing sun and shielded from the mild breeze, you are cooking. On the boat, Diane is topside in partial sun with a little breeze and Duane is below with a fan blowing directly on him.
There is some growing concern by Duane about how warm it will be when we turn around to head home in a few weeks. Not only will air temperatures be higher, but the boat will be floating in much warmer water, which adds to the interior temperature considerably. To enjoy comfortable late summer (by northern standards) conditions all the way home, we would probably be best leaving New England in late August, but that puts us back home too late for Duane to uphold his commitment to his employer.
As much as we enjoyed Port Jeff, we feel we have seen enough and will sail tomorrow for the CT shore and the Thimble Islands. That moves us up a day in our schedule and maybe we will be able to get into Block Island after all.
As the last entry of the day, it is now almost 2000 and the sun is near to setting. The breeze has picked up just a bit and with the sun low in the sky it is again a delightful evening.
Wed 27 Jun 2012
On mooring in Northport, NY
[photo: part of the quaint town along Main Street]
The day dawned bright with only a moderate amount of wind. We got underway at 0700, as planned, and motor-sailed with a close-hauled headsail until we got to the mouth of the Manhasset Bay, where we turned generally E and had the wind "over the shoulder" all the way. The fair (favorable) current and the wind built steadily for a few hours and we turned off the engine for almost 2 hours, making about 4.5 to 5.5 knots.
There were hardly any other pleasure boats out that we could see at that time, but there were some large tugs with towed barges out there. The wind was increasing and so were the following waves, but it never got uncomfortable at all. The sail was blocking the still-rising sun, however, so Diane had to put on some warmer clothing. Before long, we were turning to the SE into the large Huntington Bay, from which we then entered Northport Bay and then Northport Harbor. All along the way were gorgeous homes scattered amongst the hillsides overlooking the water.
When we got a sight of Northport Harbor, we were amazed at the number of moored boats (mostly sailboats). Our fellow Catalina 36 owner friend, Tim Farrell, said there could be over 1,000. We motored slowly down the channel between the moored boats until we suddenly realized that there were over a dozen Optimist sailing dinghies with very young children tacking up the narrow channel ahead of us. There was a young female coach in a small powerboat amongst them, and there was nothing for us to do but stop dead in the water and let them scurry around us. They were not holding any courses and simply tacking (turning) right in front of us at will. It was all sorted out in just a minute or two and then we reached Seymour's Boat Yard where we spun around into the wind and docked to take on fuel and water. We are still averaging about 10 statute miles per gallon of diesel, but lately we have ensured (by timing our passages) that we have a mostly fair current, and sometimes we even have winds to help us along, like today.
We went back up the harbor and found Tim's boat right where he said it would be. Rafting up to it meant putting out (in our case 3) fenders on one side and coming alongside slowly, and then using appropriate lines to secure the boat. We sat there for a bit over an hour and realized the noise from the fenders squeaking as the two boats tried to slam into each other from the wave action was not going to let us be comfortable and possibly not sleep if the wave action continued through the night. We called Seymour's and paid for a guest mooring ball for the night. Tim's offer remains very generous, but it didn't work out this time.
Once on our own mooring, there was no drama between two boats any longer, so things seemed much more settled. Diane suggested we clean up and take the water taxi ashore, which we did. The launch Captain, Adam, was a nice young man who gave us lots of insights for the short excursion ashore. We disembarked and walked up the Main Street past many cute and interesting shops, restaurants, and professional offices. It isn't a "Disney-style" tourist town, but many of the buildings were nicely maintained and attractively painted and decorated to appeal to tourists and locals alike.
Our tour ended just before 1600, so we waited for the happy hour time at Skipper's Pub in the park across the street. When we entered Skipper's we were told that the clock on the bar was 10 minutes fast so happy hour hadn't started yet. I guess with modern Point-of-Sale cash registers, the timing is automatic, so we really had to wait for the real 1600 to get served under reduced prices. We had a beer and wine and ordered the half-priced calamari. The calamari was just OK, but overall we had a nice happy hour experience. As it often happens, we had good conversations with a local man who frequents the place and then later with a new resident, a young woman who apparently also comes there often.
Following happy hour, we strolled up the street above the marina and took the stairs down where we found Adam on the dock. He took us and another passenger aboard and in minutes we were back on Diva Di. While we have generally been eating pretty healthy aboard, there are some nights (like pizza night) that it won't pass muster as a healthy meal. Tonight, we need to use up some onions and peppers that were not going to keep much longer, and the roast beef we bought for sandwiches had been frozen by being too near the freezer. What to do? Well, cheesesteaks on tortillas with fried peppers and onions sounded awfully good, and it was. Oh, yes, there was fresh broccoli, too (Marilyn, we always think of you when we cook it ;-))
The early evening in the cockpit was lovely, with a comfortable breeze and mild wave action. We sometimes forget that the NE USA has been a breeding ground for great sailors and we saw lots of youngsters of all ages in various sized boats weaving in and out of the moored boats, just having a great time. There are also adults leaving the harbor in 30-40 foot sailboats who appear to be enjoying an after-work sail in the gorgeous conditions.
Not much before 2000 (8 pm), Tim called to say he was just getting out of work and would Diane and I like to join him and part of his family for dinner at a place not far from where the launch service docks at Seymour's. We hated to miss the opportunity to meet Tim and his family face to face, so we violated the cruiser curfew and quickly got dressed for the occasion and then went ashore in the launch. Adam, the launch captain, was quite impressed that older cruisers such as we are would be hitting the town after dark.
Tim and his family were delightful people and we thoroughly enjoyed our conversations while they dined and we sipped a drink. Tim insisted on treating us to the drinks and we appreciate his generosity. We won't repeat the conversations, but suffice it to say that they are very smart, have plans, and will strive to make those plans happen. We wish them all the success in doing just that.
It was such a beautiful night when we got back to Diva Di after 2200 that we had to sit on deck with Clyde and enjoy the calm water and gentle breeze. Bedtime for Diane was near 2230, but Duane was up until about 2315. It was a wonderful sleep and Duane had to be awoken by Diane at 0715 for the 0800 departure.
Tue 26 Jun 2012
On (free) mooring ball in Manhasset Bay
[photo: fiery sunset reflecting off the boats in the harbor]
Under the category of "it's always something," last night we endured the pendant (line) from the mooring ball snagging on the anchor numerous times as the boat veered in the gusty winds and making an unsettling racket. In the middle of the night, I tried to adjust the line, but without success. After awaking in the morning, I realized I had to drastically shorten the overly long line so that the angle was steeper from the cleat down to the ball. It appears to have worked, but Diane spent the night in the main cabin to partially escape the noise.
The sun is shining today although it got fairly cloudy later on. Just before 1000, we got cleaned up to go ashore to explore and buy a few provisions. Our dinghy was quite a sight loaded with 2 bicycles, 2 large bags of trash, and our backpack. We got to the Town Docks, deposited the trash, and tried to find someone to register with, but the only official looking building was empty.
We rode the bike along a short boardwalk overlooking the not-so-attractive waterfront (mainly because it was low tide and what was exposed was not pretty). We then hooked up with Shore Blvd. and rode past a nice park, and then found the grocery and liquor stores in a nice little mall a short ways down the road.
Knowing now where they were, we took a road to the NE that wound through a very quiet residential area. It wasn't especially scenic, but it was a pleasant way to get some exercise. We had to backtrack to get to the Main Street in town and there really isn't much there (we had a friend recommend a good book store, which we saw, but not needing anything, we bypassed it). We also rode S along Main Street past Louie's Restaurant and then turned around for lap number two.
Diane had her choice of restaurants either on Main Street or Shore Blvd., but she suggested we see what was in the mall. She chose the Chinese place and we ate there off paper plates with plastic forks. It wasn't all that great, but it was a good, spicy and hot meal on a cool, blustery day.
After the meal, we went to the grocery and liquor stores, careful of our selections since the majority of heavy items needed to go in the backpack Diane was to carry (for those that forgot, the folding bikes have a weight limit and Duane is just over it; to add 20+ pounds of groceries would be pushing it a bit far). The ride home was swift, despite the load, and we were on the dinghy by 1230.
As expected, the chop in the harbor was bad and we went very slowly to minimize the amount of salty spray. Once unloaded, Diane stowed the groceries, while Duane hoisted the dinghy and rinsed the salt off the bikes. As of 1400, it is blowing 15 knots steady with gusts over 25. The whole harbor has white caps and we are swinging back and forth and heeling over with the gusts. It isn't really uncomfortable, and at least we figured out how to stop the mooring pendant from snagging the anchor.
We are really glad not to be out there today, but we wonder if the current forecast will be correct or if it will still be almost this gusty tomorrow. If the wind is really WNW, the only rough patch should be getting out of this bay, but after that the wind will be abaft the beam and easy sailing even at 15 knots of breeze.
As of 2000, we had a significant lull in the wind, but it has picked up again to 15 knots or so. Speaking of weather, we see that or homestead, Punta Gorda, FL has been getting lots of wind and rain from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Debby. Friends who live next door said the water has been over the docks for a while, but not over the seawall, thankfully. We hope that is the last storm threat for everyone this year, but that is not likely.
Preliminary Plan (always subject to weather and other factors):
Wed - Northport, NY
Thu, Fri - Port Jefferson NY
Sat - Thimble Islands, CT
Sun, Mon - Mystic, CT
Tue, Wed (Jul 4th) - Block Island
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.