Tue 31 Jul 2012
Docked in Manasquan Inlet, NJ
[photo: sunset at Sandy Hook, NJ behind another boat in the anchorage]
It was surprisingly cool this morning with a nice ENE breeze. We had a leisurely start, with the Olympics coverage on the TV as we did our morning routines. One funny moment came when Diane reached down into the refrigerator and came up with a cold can of what she assumed was her morning diet Coke. She popped the lid and started guzzling, only to find it was the one can of beer that was leftover from Walt and Gretchen's visit a month ago. The look on her face was priceless, of course, but we both laughed after she said, "ahhh, the breakfast of champions!" We shared that for lunch.
Our run in the ocean a few miles off the central NJ coast was exhilarating, but not comfortable. The waves piling in with the easterly breeze were rolling us and the inevitable larger waves that come caused us to hang on with gusto. We left the engine on to generate hot water and keep our speed up, but it was nice to have decent winds from the right direction for a change. The auto-pilot has a hard time with all the yawing of the boat from the wave action, so I disabled it most of the time and hand-steered. At least I could listen to my latest audio book, Steve Jobs, and finally finished it today. I will spare you my thoughts.
We arrived at Manasquan Inlet near 1230 and the ebbing tidal current was still pretty strong. I had thought we would not get here until about an hour later when the current would be less. With the strong current flowing to the E and the wind blowing from the E, it caused the waves to pile up pretty high. Two 100 foot fishing boats came roaring in just before us and I don't know if their wakes added to the wave amplitude, but they were large and steep and not moving in an orderly motion. Let's just say it had my full attention as I watched over my shoulder for breaking waves, the huge rock jetties on both sides, and the speed indicator showing we were only doing 2.5 knots over the ground at one point.
Once inside, there were many fishing boats of all sizes just drifting or anchored while they fished. One larger boat was kind enough to move out of the way as we tried to navigate through the "fleet." The current caused a lot of swirl going through the very narrow railroad bridge and that was tricky, too. Thankfully, the marina was putting us on the T-dock parallel to the current flow so that would make it much easier to arrive and leave.
What was embarrassing, though, was that I had put the transmission into neutral as we exited the bridge so that the current could slow the boat. I was very happy to be using small rudder movements and letting the current work in our favor for maneuvering. When it was time to add some thrust, I kept adding more throttle and saw that I was not gaining any speed at all. It was scary for a moment to think there was not enough thrust to overcome the current, but then I realized 2 seconds later that I needed to put the transmission back into gear. Duh! I guess we are all going to have lapses; we just have to be grateful if they are small, quickly corrected, and no harm comes from it.
With the tide at dead low, it was a very steep climb off the boat, but we got the shore power cable plugged in for the air conditioning. There was a decent breeze if you were above decks, but the orientation of our boat to the wind did not allow that breeze to get below. After relaxing a while, Duane pre-cooked the onions and peppers for dinner tonight. Diane assembled all our gear for showering, shaving, etc. and we walked over to the East Marina, where there is a nice bathroom/shower and a great barbeque grill. Eventually, they will have such amenities over here at the West Marina, but not today.
We stowed the bag with or gear in the under-sink cabinet and then set off for a short walk. All the homes we passed were very different from each other. Some were small cottages and others large homes, but their location probably put them all in the million plus dollar range, even in today's economy. After the walk, we tested that the grill worked, then started our routines. Duane was just barely done with the clippers on his head and beard when Diane knocked and said she was going back for the meat to grill.
By the time I was finished and had the grill heating, Diane was back with the meat, tongs, dish, beverage to sip, and a sailing magazine to read while the meat cooked. What a gal! When the meat was done, I strolled back to Diva Di and got the rest of the meal prepared: fresh broccoli and leftover macaroni and cheese, plus sautéed onions and peppers. It sure was yummy! After supper, we tried to get the TV to work, and got absolutely no channels through the airwaves. There is no cable TV here for some reason.
Diane realized she had lost an earring, so she walked back to the bathrooms to look for it. She was gone quite a while, but she had been conversing with a sailor on the dock who was checking out our boat. We invited Sal aboard and then he called his wife, Joyce, to drive over and join us. He is trying to get her to make a journey such as we are and wanted us to all chat about it. We gave them quite a bit of information about things we found important (cruising guides, ActiveCaptain and Claiborne Young's Cruisers' Net, mail forwarding services, etc.) and will supply more later. It was an enjoyable visit and we will stay in touch.
The evening turned comfortably cool and we sat in the cockpit with some nice music and a beverage. Last time we were here was a weekend and the constant boat traffic made wakes that pushed us into the dock. This time, the traffic is perhaps only 10 percent of that and it is much better, although we still have the commuter trains that run across the railroad bridge 50 yards away.
Tomorrow is a long run to Atlantic City where we hope the anchorage works out for us. It has close access to the beach and Diane is looking forward to that on Thursday. It is hard to believe another month has passed and it is now August.
Mon 30 Jul 2012
Anchored in Horseshoe Cove, Sandy Hook, NJ
[photo: Clyde is being trained to take over for Diane]
We were able to leave this morning at the civilized hour of 0700 for our run through the W end of Long Island Sound, through the East River, and then down the bay to Sandy Hook. With the strong currents in our favor (can't do it any other way in a slow boat), we traveled almost 42 miles in 5.5 hours.
We had surprisingly little boat traffic of any kind until we reached the lower portion of the East River where we were being passed by large ferries and some mega-yachts in both directions. The collisions of their massive wakes made for an uncomfortable 20 minutes. The weather was not exactly clear, but it wasn't misty like the last time we came through here. More importantly, we did not motor through a major thunderstorm in the bay like last time, either.
It would have been nice to have the sails up for most of the trip, but the wind only allowed it for a small portion and we'll just have to be grateful for that. The only incident of the passage was that the snap-ring I had installed on the steering wheel shaft broke again. I had bought a spare, so that is good, but the question is why.
Diane had noted that our schedule for the past 4 days since leaving Block Island was rather uncomfortable. I agree in that we had to delay our departure due to current considerations and that put us into our anchorage rather late on 2 occasions. Also, we did total 170 miles in 4 straight days of running, and that is a lot of hours (at least for us). Since I am keeping statistics, we have only run longer than 4 days in a row one time and that was quite early in our trip.
So, getting here early in the day with decent weather and nice sun for the beach will help rejuvenate my first mate for tomorrow's run to the dreaded Manasquan Inlet. Our friends on Aurora (Dennis and Shirla) also disliked Manasquan and elected to make a very long run to bypass it, but we can't bring ourselves to go that far in one day.
We got the dinghy down off the davits and headed to the beach around 1330. With another couple on one side of a rock wall, we took to the other side to give each of us some privacy. It was a mistake for us because it was low tide and after just 1.5 hours, the rising tide was threatening the last bit of beach on our side. Diane took the high road over the rocks, which turned out to be the hard way. I needed to move the dinghy so I walked it along the edge of the surf around the rock jetty.
Unlike our previous visit here in late Jun, the water was very brown and full of green seaweed. It may not have been dirty in the true sense, but it was very unappealing to wade in. The beach sand itself, however, was quite nice and the sun, breeze, temperature and humidity were all decidedly in the very pleasant category. We read our books and sipped our beverages on the beach and life was good.
Supper was the delicious linguini with while clam sauce that we got as take-out yesterday, along with some fresh snow peas. What a difference it makes being here on a non-weekend day. The last time, there were incessant boat wakes rocking us until dark. Today, it is the rare wake that we notice.
We are still close enough to NYC that the television signals are pretty good, even with our old rabbit ears, so we watched a few hours of the Olympics. It was nice to be able to do that. The sunset was very pretty and we expect a very comfortable night.
Sun 29 Jul 2012
On free mooring ball in Manhasset Bay, NY
The winds died down overnight and it was a very pleasant sleep until about 0430 when Duane couldn't sleep anymore. Diane got up around 0520 and we got underway a little earlier than planned, at 0540, with a hint of the dawn light filtering through the solid overcast. The flooding tide slowed our speed heading out the channel (with a large barge coming in, by the way), but once out in open water we had both the current and a nice sailing wind carrying us along.
We motor-sailed at an average of about 6.5 knots for most of the way until the wind died down and the current turned against us near the end of our 6 hour run. We had a little excitement at that point; a shrieking sound started emanating from the engine compartment. I quickly slowed the engine and had Diane take the wheel. I opened up the engine cover (not a simple, quick task) and identified the sound as the alternator fan striking something. I had her shut down the engine and then climbed back on deck to set the sail again. We had to adjust course to be able to sail, but at least we had control of the boat.
I inspected the alternator and quickly discovered that the lower bolt had backed out and the alternator had shifted a fraction of an inch. It was a simple matter to reinsert the bolt and ensure it was well tightened. After restarting the engine, all was well and we were both relieved that it was such a simple fix.
We continued on into Manhasset Bay where we stopped for fuel ($5.00 per gallon!) and water. We are still averaging just under 10 statute miles per gallon of fuel and under 6 gallons of water per day (not counting the leak the other day). We next grabbed a free town mooring ball and then relaxed. After that, the dinghy was lowered, we cleaned up our grubby selves, and headed into town with the dinghy. First stop was the main town dock to dispose of some trash.
Unlike our first visit here, we did not combine the shopping with a bike ride, so this time we located a great town pier right across from the Stop n' Shop supermarket. There was also a liquor store to get more wine and a nice Italian restaurant where we got take out linguini with white clam sauce and eggplant parmigiana for tonight's supper. Overall, this is a very nice place to pull in for reprovisioning.
After being up so early, we felt a nap was in order before supper. The portions of the take-out meals were much larger than anticipated, so we package the clam sauce pasta for another night and just ate the eggplant and spaghetti, but even that proved to be twice as much as we could eat. Having sampled both dishes, we can say they are really good. Being this close to New York City, I suppose we should not be surprised to get good Italian food.
We put up our rabbit ear antenna and watched well over an hour of the Olympics and some "color" about its host country of England. Then the cockpit was calling us in the fading light so we sat up there with Clyde and some beverages. It was amazing how many light and commercial aircraft we spotted to our W in just over a half hour, but there are quite a number of airports over there.
Tomorrow, we leave at 0700 to have the strong tidal current with us the whole way through the infamous Hell Gate, then the East River, then the Upper and Lower NY Bays. We expect to anchor again at Sandy Hook, NJ.
Sat 28 Jul 2012
Anchored in Port Jefferson, NY
When we first arrived at the anchorage, the wind went calm and it got warm pretty fast, especially for Duane in the galley. By the time we finished supper and took a warm shower in the cockpit, the air had chilled and our wet skin made Duane comfortable and Diane freezing. It was a good thing that all the captains in the anchorage left a lot of room between boats because in the very light air of the early morning, the current eddies around the breakwater had boats pointed in all directions of the compass.
Again, we had to await the earliest time that we could realistically depart (1100) due to the current in the sound. Not all sailors care enough about the current to modify their schedule, but for us it can make the difference of being underway 5 hours or 7 hours. When you are motoring, that is two more hours of time on the engine, fuel burned, and listening to the noise.
As expected, we had a somewhat foul current until about 1400, but the SE wind was strong enough to help us along on our WSW course, so we maintained a decent speed. When the current began flowing in our favor, we were making good time until the wind went light due to the nearby thunderstorms. We were very fortunate that we had just a little rain and no winds of concern for the entire passage, until the very end, that is. As we entered the channel at Port Jefferson and turned into the NW anchorage, it started raining pretty hard and gusting to 25 knots or so.
The hardest part of anchoring was choosing a spot. The charted depths were so different than reality that it was laughable. We had 30 feet of water where the chart reported 6. The charted depths of 8-12 feet would have been nice, but we wound up anchoring in 27 feet of water, meaning we have a lot more chain out than usual. We are plenty far enough from everyone else, so we feel secure.
Supper tonight was a mix of healthy and not: pan-seared tilapia, snow peas, and homemade macaroni and cheese. When you don't anchor until after 1700, it seems that you have little time to relax, but tonight was different in that we had supper eaten and cleaned up in short order, and enjoyed an hour of TV (Joey Bishop show and the Beverly Hillbillies, which speaks to both the content availability and our age).
The rain continued until almost 2000, with Duane reading (mostly dry) in the cockpit under the Bimini and Diane doing puzzles in the V-berth. The rain has washed away all the salt from the boat and dinghy, and the winds were never a threat, so life is good.
We have consulted the current information and decided that it would be best to leave around 0600 tomorrow. That will give us fair current for the first half of the run and minimally foul current for the last half. It will, most importantly, allow us to get moored and dinghy to get some provisions prior to tackling the NJ shoreline.
Fri 27 Jul 2012
Anchored off Duck Island, Westbrook, CT
It was still blowing in the morning, but after forcing ourselves to just relax until 1100, we weighed the anchor and headed to the fuel dock at Payne's to top of our water tanks (2 of which were emptied accidentally due to my error). We got outside the channel by 1130 and had the wind on our nose, as expected. We also had large ocean swells coming from the SSW that were easily 6 or more feet high, but they came at such a long period that it wasn't too uncomfortable. Once in a while the roll we experienced would be ill-timed for the next swell and then we would "really" roll.
The current predictions by both Eldridge and our C-MAP chartplotter software are obviously not always very accurate, because where they predicted we would have about 0.5 knots of fair (beneficial) current, we obviously had none or even a slight foul current. We knew we could not go too long, however, before the current's help would become apparent.
There was rain on the CT shore mid-afternoon, but we had no bad weather at all. Once we got W of Montauk, the ocean swell started dying and then the wind did, too. Having read about the way the water reacts to its movement through The Race, we were not surprised, but still fascinated by the standing waves and swirls that we witnessed for almost a mile.
As we neared "The Race," we finally started seeing some significant benefit and at one point gained almost 4 knots over our standard motoring speed. Overall, we averaged just over 7 statute miles per hour, which was not too bad, so our 49 mile run took just about 7 hours. This is not necessarily a long day to some, but not getting anchored until 1830 is not our preference.
As soon as the anchor was set, we got out the fixings for the pizza that we had prepared in the morning. It didn't take long for the oven to heat and cook our flatbread pizza. Diane had made a salad for us, and with some nice wine, it was a tasty feast.
Thu 26 Jul 2012
Anchored in Great Salt Pond, Block Island, RI
[photo: dinghies at the edge of the pond near the beach access]
When the wind was howling through the wee hours, it occurred to both of us independently that maybe it would be best just to stay another day. We have done plenty of uncomfortable passages, and there was no urgent need to do another one right now. So, when light started filling the cabin at dawn, I finally verbalized the thought and Diane readily agreed. It will likely be cloudy all day and we will definitely have rain and strong winds in a while, but better here than "out there."
According to cruising guides and other cruisers, one of the attractions in the Great Salt Pond is Aldo, the Italian baker, who comes out in his red skiff named Andiamo to pedal his tasty offerings. There are several types of yummy pastries and even bacon and egg sandwiches available (until they run out, of course). I hailed him over to the boat around 0730 when he was in our section of the anchorage and bought a cinnamon roll and cheese Danish. It was not nearly as healthy a breakfast as our typical multi-grain cereal with fresh fruit, or even the weekly multi-grain toast with scrambled eggs, but it sure was a great special treat. Aldo comes around in the evening with Stromboli and other, too.
Today was one of the first days where we stayed on the boat and just relaxed with our books all day. It was overcast almost all day so the beach would not have been especially pleasant. After a brief happy hour, however, we decided to brave the choppy water and take the dinghy back to The Oar for supper. This time we had a fabulous meal , reprising the delicious clam chowder and trying their sushi. It was a bit pricy, but excellent. Diane raved that her shrimp tempura sushi roll was the tastiest sushi she had ever eaten. We finished up with their famous mudslide as our dessert beverage and enjoyed that, too.
While sipping on the mudslide, Diane started a conversation with the couple at the next table. They are boaters, too, but apparently the wife is not as enthusiastic about boating as her husband. When they found out we were cruising together for 4 months straight, she was shocked and he was envious.
The ride back to the Diva Di was downwind and quite dry and comfortable. We relaxed in the cockpit with Clyde for a long while and then it was time for bed.
With apologies to friends whose advice and info we have solicited, we have decided to make up our lost day by traveling to Westbrook for an overnight stop, then to Port Jefferson, then Manhasset Bay, and then through New York to Sandy Hook on Monday.