Fri 3 Aug 2012
Docked in Cape May, NJ
We were not supposed to be docking at a marina today, but events conspired to make that a wise choice. But, let's start at the beginning. We had a wonderfully restful night aboard with cooling winds that exceeded the forecast in a good way. Weighing the anchor at 0645 was easy enough, but the chain was coated in thick, black mud. Luckily, we have a wash-down hose in the anchor locker.
The current was against us exiting the anchorage and the inlet, but we were not prepared to leave before dark, nor delay all morning before leaving with a fair current. We got out to the ocean in 35 minutes; far slower than the 18 minutes it took to come in with the current behind us. After turning onto course, we were faced with much larger and more uncomfortable waves than we anticipated for the forecast wind conditions. It may have to do with the very shallow depths even miles from shore.
What was worse than the discomfort was the fact that the waves were slowing us down considerably, and the wind was on the nose with no chance for it to help. The Captain was concerned that the 30% slower speed would erase our fuel reserves and put us close to empty upon arrival. It was a somewhat tense 7 plus hours with that weighing on his mind. Despite the fact that we should not be in that predicament, rest assured there were many contingency plans being worked.
We were blessed with good weather in that the sun was out and there were no storms in sight. By 1400, we had the inlet in sight and the engine was still purring. When we turned in, we had the wind off our port quarter and the course to the marina would be essentially reachable under sail alone, if absolutely needed in case of an engine failure. We navigated the very shallow water at a negative tide (below normal datum), barely scraping the bottom, and finally got to the fuel dock.
To our great surprise, the 25 gallon tank took only 20.4 gallons to fill. I guess we now know that when the gauge reads E, we still have almost 4 gallons, although we do not know how many of those are useable. We hope never to get that close to fuel exhaustion again, I can tell you.
We had plans for an early afternoon arrival to drop the anchor, followed by getting the bikes ashore by dinghy, and then going for an early dinner at the Jackson Mountain restaurant. Those plans were not looking good. We were pretty exhausted from the constant motion of the boat in the waves, and the tension of the fuel supply issue, so we decided to take a slip at the marina where we fueled up.
We got the boat tied up, got the electric plugged in for the air conditioning in the suddenly oppressive heat, had a beverage and decided to forget the bikes and the Jackson Mountain restaurant. We elected to stroll 300 yards to the Lobster House and eat at the Raw Bar. Our crab soup was excellent, the crab cake was decent, and the mussels in garlic wine sauce were quite good. The calamari was so-so, but overall we had a decent meal for a reasonable price and there was no cooking or clean-up required by us.
On the way back from supper, our dock mates introduced themselves, Gary and Susan, from NE Florida. They took their new to them trawler N from the Fernandina Beach area all the way up the rivers to Canada and are now on their way back. We just may see them again as we head south.
Tomorrow, we leave to go through the Cape May canal and then head to Lewes, DE to meet our friends, Rich and Brenda. Rich and Duane used to work for the same company as mechanical engineers back in the early 80s. They have been renting a place near our home in Florida every winter, so we get together down there. Now, we can visit them in their summer home in DE.
It will be a very early bedtime tonight. We are luxuriating in the air conditioning and will leave tomorrow around 0800 for what we hope will be a nice 4 hour passage.
Thu 2 Aug 2012
Anchored near Atlantic City, NJ
[photo: Captain and Clyde resting on the passage while Diane has the helm]
We had a very quiet night that was perfect in almost all respects. Duane slept in the main cabin to take advantage of a little better airflow through the hatches, while Diane stayed in the V-berth, and Clyde alternated between the two. It was after 0700 when we awoke and the light was streaming in with nary a cloud in the sky. It will be a great beach day for Diane.
Diane enjoyed the cockpit with Clyde while Duane plotted distances, tidal currents, and passage timing for the next week or so. Then we switched places and Diane did her daily housekeeping while Duane was banished to the cockpit so he wasn't "underfoot." We got ready for the beach by 1000 and set out in the dinghy to first explore the extents of Brigantine Bay. It is a really nice little spot for homeowners, and the anchorage is great, but there is no place to land a dinghy or get access to a dock, even though at one end is a nice shopping center with groceries, drug store, etc.
After our exploration, we landed the dinghy right at Rum Point with the current ripping through at 3 knots or more. There were very significant whirlpools at the edge where the currents intersected. With a falling tide, we didn't have too much concern with the dinghy, although we set the anchor anyway. The little section of beach must be packed with people on a weekend, but at 1030 on a Thu there were only a dozen or so. By 1200, that increased threefold at least. People were beaching boats as big as 26 feet to enjoy the 80F water and the firm sand under a blazing bright blue sky.
We came back to Diva Di for lunch around 1230 and then Duane brought Diane back to the beach and he returned to the boat. Too much lying in the sun doesn't work for him. Diane phoned a few hours later for pick up and we were back aboard the boat to finish our day of relaxation. After reading our novels, a short nap was in order.
We both were not all that keen on going out at night for supper in the dinghy across that inlet with its rushing current, so we agreed that another meal aboard would be fine. Being on Diva Di in this tranquil anchorage with the wind blowing a nice 10 knots for cooling comfort under the gorgeous blue sky is delightful, so why not just enjoy it. The plan is to ride our bikes in Cape May tomorrow and re-visit the Jackson Mountain restaurant for an early supper; this was where we had such delicious lunches on our last visit.
Supper was bratwurst, grilled onions, and the last of the fresh broccoli. We will need to pick up a few food and beverage items in Cape May. We watched the full moon rise with a decidedly reddish hue; it was very pretty. The weather forecast was pretty accurate today, but the wind speed was a little higher which gave us a nice cooling effect through the night.
Wed 1 Aug 2012
Anchored near Atlantic City, NJ
We left the dock at 0750 in order to not have too much current against us on the way out the inlet into the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was as forecast, out of the S, which meant it was "on our nose" and useless for sailing. It also meant that we had to motor into the waves, but fortunately they were only 1-2 feet high. The first 6 hours were boring, with surprisingly little boat traffic out there. There is, as I suspected from our trip up the NJ coast, a slight southerly current, so our speed was a little better than I predicted.
There were flashes of brightness on or near the surface of the water for many miles. At first, I suspected they were little "white caps" formed when the wind blows the top off of a wave into white spray. Then I realized they were shiny fish running in loose schools. If I had to bet, I would say they were bluefish. Another neat moment occurred when I saw a brown mass just of the side of the boat. It quickly resolved itself to be two large stingrays swimming close together at the surface. They quickly peeled off and dove down.
Even though the trip was boring, it was nice to read the town names on the ubiquitous water towers along the coast and remember the times I had visited there while living on the Jersey Shore in my youth. Diane had brought Clyde up into the cockpit so he could sleep next to her on the seat, rather than stay below for (to us) such a long day at sea. He seemed surprisingly comfortable.
By 1400, we could see lots of towering cumulus clouds appearing, mostly over the mainland, but also way to the SE over the ocean. I chose to augment my eyes with the radar picture from the smart phone to better determine the movement of the storms and was happy to see that none looked to threaten our passage. There was another sailboat that appeared heading N towards one of the storms, but before long he was headed the same direction as us, towards the Absecon Inlet by Atlantic City.
Entering the inlet was quite straightforward, unlike several other inlets in NJ, and we were soon rushing along at over 9 knots with the strong flooding current. Our anchorage destination was one called Brigantine Bay just to the N of the inlet and away from the glitter of the high-rise hotels and casinos. The entrance to the bay proved to be interesting as we had to make a 90 degree turn to starboard off the inlet which had the current sweeping us to our port at close to 4 knots. It took a lot of power and an abnormally large correction angle to maneuver into the channel, which is only 20 feet wide. Fortunately, this place is used heavily on weekends by locals and they have placed numerous private navigation aids to mark the deeper water.
We saw some low depths along the way and will have to leave when the tide is up at least a foot in order to get out. We anchored in the middle of a large body of water with no one else there. It looks to be a great spot for protection from any waves, although there is no protection from wind. The beauty and solitude of this spot was marred only once by the surprise of a party cruise boat moving along at a sedate speed while passengers swilled drinks and listened to (horrible) hi-hop music at high volume.
Dinner followed shortly after we relaxed with a celebratory beverage. We had the leftover flank steak, some mashed potatoes (those precooked potatoes that are available in many brands now are really good), sautéed peppers and onions, and fresh broccoli. We plan to treat ourselves to a meal out tomorrow.
There is horrible TV reception here, so no Olympics tonight, it seems. Diane has made arrangements with some good friends to meet us in Annapolis, so we will be there in about a week to see them and our friends, Bill and Linda, as well.
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.