10/11/2010, Fairlee Creek, Md.
AIS signals in New York Harbor
Summer is back!! But only temporarily. It is a hot day here, with thunder in the background, heralding the arrival of a mild cold front.
On Friday (Oct 8th) we left Port Washington about 9:30 am, arriving at the mouth of the East River just as the current changed. With two other sailboats, we were swept through, reaching 10.4 knots as we raced through Hells Gate, where the Harlem River joins it. Past the busy La Guardia airport with its runway sticking out into the river, we counted one plane landing and one taking off every 45 seconds. Then past Rikers Island prison and down into the lower reaches where we saw the elegant apartments and homes of the Upper East Side. Past the United Nations building and to Lower Manhattan and the Financial district where we shot out into New York's busy harbor.
Our AIS which shows commercial shipping on our electronic navigation, was totally covered with the signals of tugs, tankers, freighters and ferries, all busy and running in all directions. So we hugged the shore as we hoisted sail and sailed out through the Verrazano Narrows and out into the relative quiet of New York's outer harbor.
The two other sailboats that came through with us headed down the New Jersey shore, but our destination was Atlantic Highlands NJ just 10 miles across Raritan Bay. We picked up a mooring at the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club and headed in for groceries. By the time we were back and organized, we were ready for supper, fresh shrimp in a marinara sauce with penne pasta.
Saturday morning we dropped the mooring at 7:00 am and left for the run down the coast of New Jersey. Our course took us north 4 miles to round Sandy Hook and then south along the 110 miles of sandy coastline. With the exception of a stretch of about 12 miles, it is totally built up with everything from small summer homes to the garrish Atlantic City.
We were anxious to reach Cape May by noon Sunday when the winds were forecast to turn south-west. But we didn't need to worry. In the 10-12 knot north-westerlies we sailed and motor-sailed down the shore in a clear warm day. By 1:00 am Sunday morning we were off Cape May. We headed in and dropped anchor.
The currents in the Bay are strong, and to get up the bay you have to time them, so we were off again at 7:00 am and ran up the bay reaching 8 knots in the light southerlies. Because of our mast height (61'), we can't take the canal "back door" route out of Cape May and into Delaware Bay, but have to actually round the cape. This is not our favorite thing to do, as the sand banks continually shift. But we have found a route through the Cape May Channel. Although there are no marks, the charts are accurate, so that if you can take the breaking seas just off your beam, it saves ten miles of heading out to the shipping channel. Safely through, we had a quiet run up the bay.
We are finally starting to see some other cruisers, and the bay was dotted with sails all taking advantage of the currents. We reached the C&D Canal just as the current in the Delaware changed and caught its current running towards Chesapeake Bay. By sunset we were anchoring in Bohemia Creek at the head of the Chesapeake. Ready for a good sleep, we grilled salmon and had a quiet evening, then slept for the next 10 hours.
Today, for a pleasant change, we took our time over breakfast. We are now slowing down. We'll spend a couple of weeks in Chesapeake Bay, meeting our daughter Sarah on Saturday in Annapolis and slowly cruising south. The weather is decidedly warmer. Today, above normal, is in the mid-80's (about 27C), so after a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit, we hoisted anchor and headed south.
We arrived off Fairlee Creek in early afternoon and headed in its very narrow entrance where the currents run so strong that full power is needed just to maintain control and make progress against the outgoing current. The channel is about one boat-length wide, so careful attention is required. Safely in, we tied up at Oak Bay Marina's fuel dock for fuel, water and laundry. Its clearly off-season here as it was so quiet we had to search out someone to get fuel. We sat at the fuel dock while the laundry was on and went for a walk, our first time ashore since Atlantic Highlands, three days ago. Then we just ran out into the creek and anchored for the night.
Dinner in the cockpit was our Thanksgiving Dinner of roast turkey with squash, potatoes, brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Dessert was a fruit cobbler with whipped cream. Our only companions here are hundreds of Canada Geese, migrating like us.
10/07/2010, Port Washington, NY
Well, we visited Mystic Seaport finally, taking Monday off as the winds blew as predicted, NE@25-30 with gusts to 40. So we just enjoyed the day. Tuesday it was still blowing, but the gusts had subsided to 30 knots, so we headed down into Long Island Sound.
Our course was dead downwind, not a favorite point of sail in those conditions, so we headed up onto a broad reach and ran down the north shore of the sound. Gybing out to give us more sea room, we found ourselves in the grip of the currents running out the sound. In over 20 knots of wind, doing 7.5 to 8 knots through the water, we struggled to make much over four over the bottom as we fought the 3.5-4 knot current. With the current running against the wind, it set up a mice sloppy 5'-6' sea just in case we were bored. I had forgotten how strong the currents are in this area.
So in the drizzle, fog and high winds, we slogged our way westward. It was obvious we wouldn't make our planned destination, so we modified it and dropped anchor in a small cove not all that far from our starting point. As we were slogging it out, a small yellow/green bird fluttered aboard. Obviously exhausted, he showed no fear of us and found a spot out of the wind to rest... on my right toe! He must have been blown offshore and become lost. He dozed and woke, hopping around looking for food, but we had nothing he would eat. We think he was a fly-catcher, and we don't normally carry flies. He stayed with us until we anchored, where we were going to take him ashore, but just as we got settled, he gave up and died. So we had a burial at sea and drank a toast to him that night.
Wednesday the wind had moderated to a nice 15 knots and swung to the south It was forecast to swing west, our destination, so we got another early start to get as much of the south wind and incoming tide as possible. Through the morning we enjoyed the boost, but at noon, both wind and tide turned against us, so we spent the afternoon beating up the sound. But the sun had come out and the breeze was light, so it was an enjoyable sail, even if, again we had to modify our destination. By evening we coasted in to Lloyd Harbor on Long Island and anchored for the night.
All day we listened to some 12 meter boats on the VHF. We could see one, but the talk was between three; Nefertitti, Columbia and Weatherly. Out of Newport, they were sailing in the Sound for some reason.
Thursday's objective was to get to the head of the sound to take advantage of the currents in the East River on Friday. Again we were off early to try to beat the forecast for increasing westerlies, but again they beat us out. As we headed out, we ran into our old friend, 20-25 knot westerlies with gusts over 30. Not interested in pounding 20 miles in it, we turned around and returned to our anchorage. By noon things had calmed down to a steady 20 knots, so we tacked our last 20 miles up to Port Washington where we anchored for the night... WE MADE IT!!!!
This has been a heavy weather trip so far. Tomorrow we can sleep in and catch the current in the East River, changing at 10 am, and just 5 miles from our anchorage. We always enjoy the trip through the river as it cuts right through New York, with Brooklyn on one side and elegant Manhattan on the other. The forecast is finally decent. We are hoping for 10-15 westerlies as we motor through the river and out into New York Harbor, then down to Atlantic Highlands to stock up for the New Jersey coast on Saturday and Sunday.
10/04/2010, Stonington, Conn
Etchells rounding the windward mark in the US Nationals, Newport RI
From Opti prams to Maxi racers, from lovingly maintained antique yachts to state of the art racers, you can see it all in Newport!
We left East Greenwich on Saturday, sailing down Narragansett Bay in light northerlies, but bundled up against the cool weather. Just above Newport we came across the Etchells 22 US Nationals. Since we used to race Etchells, we stopped and watched the action for a while. Then continuing our sail, we met another race of about 50 boats of all sizes and types racing north in the bay.
Back in Newport, we found the streets crowded with people from two cruise ships and a good crowd of regular tourists. We did some more grocery shopping, hoping to be able to take advantage of some easterly winds to get up the sound and through New York Harbor from where we'll be able to head down the New Jersey coast. Dinner was Vongole, a clam dish with linguini pasta.
Yesterday (Sunday) we headed out in fresh N-E winds heading west. To clear Point Judith we had 8 miles of dead downwind with a 5' swell on the beam making it a rolly trip. But once clear of Point Judith, we had a broad reach in the freshening (25-30) winds that sent us racing westward. With only a couple of other sails visible, we ran through Watch Hill Passage and out of the swell. Although only early afternoon, we decided to head in to Stonington, as the next good anchorage was just a bit too far for the afternoon, and we wanted good protection from the N-E as the forecast is for the winds to build with gusts to 40 knots overnight.
And the forecast was correct. Today dawned cloudy with the winds howling, so we're here for the day. Its forecast to go down overnight, giving us one more day of downwind sailing, so tomorrow will be an early start to take as much advantage as possible before the winds shift west.
We won't make NYC, but we can come close, leaving a S-W sail in the lighter N-W winds forecast for Wednesday.
As for today, we are only 2 miles from Mystic, so we'll try to get over there.
09/29/2010, East Greenwich RI
We left South Dartmouth Tuesday morning at our usual 9:00 am time and enjoyed another beautiful downwind sail down Buzzards Bay into Newport, arriving in early afternoon. After getting settled, we headed ashore for a walk and tour of the waterfront. As usual there was an impressive array of boats of all sizes and quality. We walked up to The Armchair Sailor where I bought an electronic chart chip for the new chartplotter, and a couple of books. On the way back to the boat, I spied "Dorade", famous as being the yacht on which the deck vents now known as Dorade Vents were first installed. Built in the 1930's, she has been maintained to perfection and was quite a sight on her mooring in front of the New York Yacht Club's Newport station (see pics).
Next morning it was serious laundry time so we were in early and into the Seaman's mission where we loaded both machines. Returning from a walk to do a couple more loads, we met a couple waiting and in minutes realized I had been in touch with them this summer as they were cruising the Maritimes. So we had coffee and chatted while the laundry finished.
In the afternoon we headed for the Tennis International Hall of Fame where we spent an enjoyable rainy two hours. For keen tennis fans it was really interesting. Next, groceries again, and a taxi back to the dinghy dock. But that's museum number 3 in 10 days... about enough for now.
This morning, we dinghied ashore for a walk and to chat with Andy and Sue from Spruce about the weather. A system has suddenly formed just below Cuba and is forecast to head this way bringing winds of 30-40 knots for Thursday night and Friday. Our anchorage would be fine for the southerlies forecast, but once it turns to the north-west, we will have no protection. So time to play "Hide-the-Boat" again.
We cast off and left Newport in a beautiful light southerly and sailed up Narragansett Bay to East Greenwich, the best hurricane hole on the bay. Here we picked up a mooring from the Yacht Club, more reasonably priced this time, and settled in.
The forecast is calling for the wind to stay up through Friday night, so I am planning boat projects. Here's the list:
Install new stereo (bought 2 years ago)
Mount carbon monoxide monitor
Adjust governor on diesel generator
Adjust water heater thermostat
Replace torn screens in ports
Whops... Another project. The generator just quit, saying there is a hot exhaust. But I know its not. Its a sensor... Top of the list for tomorrow, and it looks like I'll have lots of time to get at it. The forecast for tonight and tomorrow just gets worse... Winds 30-35 knots with higher gusts and flood warnings. Yuck!
09/26/2010, South Dartmouth, Mass
Fishing Fleet in New Bedford Mass
We left Red Brook Harbor this morning, sailing out in conditions bearing no resemblance to the ones we had when entering. In a quiet broad reach, we set sail for South Dartmouth, location of the New Bedford Yacht Club, just under 20 nm away. As we arrived off the tiny harbour, we watched a race get underway. Entering the harbour, we called the club and were assigned a mooring. Established in 1877, the New Bedford Yacht Club takes itself seriously. Since the moorings are privately owned there is no charge for them. There is, however a fee for the use of the club facilities...$50.00 per day. The only use we got from our fees was a ride in and out in the club launch and calling a taxi.
South Dartmouth is a residential suburb of New Bedford with little to see or do ashore, so we took a taxi in to New Bedford where we found the "Working Waterfront Festival" in full swing. The wharves were covered with people, fishing displays and eating tents. New Bedford's waterfront is truly a working one with few concessions to pleasure craft. The wharves were lined with literally hundreds of deep sea fishing boats. It has the largest landings of any port in the US. The displays were interesting, showing the fishing techniques, and tours of some of the ships. We found a small farmers market set up on the wharf, bought a few supplies, some fish and headed for the whaling museum. It was excellent, highlighting New Bedford's central role in the Whale fishery in the 1800's.
South Dartmouth is also home to the famous Concordia Yachts. In the museum there was a ¼ size model of one of the most beautiful boats ever built. Of the 108 built in the early 1950'5, every one is still in existence. In the harbour we saw some beautiful examples of them. Back on the boat we had fresh shrimp from the waterfront in a marinara sauce and penne pasta for dinner. We had found a pastry shop too, so dinner didn't end there.
09/24/2010, Red Brook Harbor Mass
Oldest Church in Salem
Some of the "Witch" trials were held in here
Well, we learned that NOAA don't always overestimate the wind forecast. This morning we woke to 15 knot southerlies. With our course S-W and the wind forecast to move that way, we got underway early, heading out across Cape Cod Bay for the Cape Cod Canal, 25 nm or about 4 hours away. That would have us arriving at the canal just as the strong currents would switch in our favour. With all sails set, we were enjoying a nice beat to windward, just laying our course. About one hour out, we noticed we could no longer lay our course, so we laid off to the north. And with the shift we carried on. About half way across, the wind and waves began to rise, so that by the time it was time to tack down the shore, we were beating into 5' seas and tacking in 30 knot winds... not a fun proposition. By the time we reached the canal, it was time to furl the sails, no easy task in those winds. But with the engine pushing us, we got things under control and enjoyed the respite in the canal's calm waters as we were swept through at 9 knots in its strong currents. Into Buzzards Bay, we were swept into the facing winds with the current against wind producing short steep 5' standing waves. Not a comfortable ride, but tonight's anchorage was only 5 nm from the canal exit. So we limped in, covered with salt and exhausted. Anchoring quietly in the lee of Bassett's Island, it is difficult to believe the conditions outside. The good news is that we tested the boat for watertightness and passed with flying colors. The only issue was in the aft head where the steep seas when on Port tack caused water to slosh up the sink and spray salt water around. But hot showers cleaned that up. Next time I'll close the seacock to prevent the problem. With tomorrow's forecast the same as today's actual conditions, we may shut sit tight. I have some boat projects to do, and a nearby marina has a restaurant and laundromat, both which we can take advantage of. In fact, I might just have a stiff G&T tonight before dinner!!
09/23/2010, Provincetown Mass
The House With Seven Gables, Salem Mass.
Tuesday morning dawned clear and cool with a fresh S-W wind as forecast. Our destination for the day, Salem,was just 10 miles along the coast, so we went ashore for a final tour of Gloucester. We checked out a couple of marine stores, but came away empty-handed as they cater primarily to fishing boats. I sat and read the paper while Jeannie did a bit of shoping, then at noon, we dropped the mooring and headed out. With the wind on the nose, we just motored the short distance. Salem Harbor is better described as a bay with Marblehead, Salem and Manchester-by-the-Sea on it. Plan A was to pick up a mooring at the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead, but as we entered we saw all the boats rolling to the swell that has plagued us. Not wanting a rolly night, we headed out and into Manchester. Here we found the best protected (and crowded) harbor in the area. We carefully worked our way in between the boats in the tiny channel and picked up a mooring from Manchester Boatyard. Since they were closed for the day,we just took the dinghy ashore to explore. We found another beautiful town, a bedroom community for Boston, with all that the cruiser could want... full grocery store 100 feet from the dinghy dock, excellent restaurants, and great shelter. Back aboard, we had dinner and early to bed. In the morning I went ashore to settle up for the mooring and found out we could take a train to Salem, the station, again, three minutes walk form the dinghy dock. So I paid for two nights and twenty minutes later we were on the train heading in to Salem. We spent the day exploring Salem, a beautifully restores waterfront area. Watching a film at the visitor center, we learned there was much more to Salem's story than the burning of the witches. It was, at one time, the busiest port in the Thirteen Colonies, and surrendered to Boston, New York and Philadelphia only when ships grew in size so that the harbor was too small. And we took in the witch stuff, and finished with a visit to the Peabody Museum where we saw, among other things, an impressive exhibition of furnishings from China's Forbidden City. The museum is assisting with restoration and has the exhibit on loan. Time to head back, we walked back to the train station (everything's within walking distance) and back to Manchester. Some shopping and back to the boat. This morning we got up early (for us) to head across to Provincetown, hoping for another exhilarating sail, but the forecast 15-20 northerlies never really developed. So we motor-sailed and, as we do every time we cross the Stellwagen Bank, saw some whales. Arriving late in the afternoon, we just had time to catch the Portuguese Bakery for a re-supply of sweets, then back aboard for dinner, starting with Tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese, grilled salmon in an olive tapenade, a fresh salad and Smoking Loon chardonnay, and closing with a fresh pastry! Tomorrow will see us through the canal, a sort of imaginary dividing line between Maine and Southern New England. Plans past tomorrow are sketchy.
09/20/2010, Gloucester Mass
Our sail from Great Diamond Island down the southern coast of Maine was as usual, light airs and close hauled, but with a big swell from Hurricane Igor as it hit Bermuda. Again we were cautious about the forecast, strong winds from the north for the night. Usually we anchor in the Isles of Shoals, about 5 miles off Portsmouth NH. But they are completely open to the north, so we decided to head in to Portsmouth for the night, picking up a mooring from the friendly Portsmouth Yacht Club. And again we spent a quiet night in light winds. In the morning we cast off the mooring, still in light airs, not certain about our destination. In any case our first waypoint was off Cape Ann, due south. In light northerlies and the swell now at its peak of 7'-8', dead downwind was not a good plan. So we headed S-W and closed the shore near Seabrook NH. Scared off by waves breaking on the offshore shoals, we gybed just as the wind finally got serious. Now laying our waypoint on a beam reach in 15-20 knots, we raced across to Cape Ann where we gybed and headed down the shore. We decided to head in to Gloucester, a destination new to us, and as we approached the harbor, we surfed down a wave at 9.4 knots, a new record for Estelle!! Sails furled we headed in, unsure of what we would find. Our cruising guide describes it as a working harbor making few concessions to cruisers. Calling the Harbormaster about a mooring we were assigned one in the very protected inner harbor arriving at 3:45pm. After taking care of the "paperwork" ie. paying $25 for the night, we headed ashore, and found a beautiful town that has done a great job of maintaining and restoring its waterfront. In the evening we watched an anchor dance between two boats, one a 32' sailboat and one a 100' converted WW II hospital boat. The sailboat had anchored first, and the motor boat came in later and anchored too close. So the sailboat wanted to move but his anchor was stuck. Finally the Harbormaster came out and intervened. The motorboat skipper finally decided he "might" have dropped his anchor (350 lbs) in the sailboat's anchor chain. So as the sun set, they were trying to get untangled, drifting around the anchorage. Finally freed, the sailboat picked up a mooring and the motorboat re-anchored... very near us. But in the calm night all was well. Next port... Salem.