08/27/2011, BWI Airport
Irene is approaching, currently whacking the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's forecast to go back out to sea but hug the coast on its way up to central Long Island. Having just sailed down much of that coastline, we can vouch for the hundreds of miles of communities along the beaches of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey that are threatened with devastation.
Options is snugged away in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We've docked the boat so it is facing north, where we expect the strongest winds to come from. We have a total of ten dock lines holding her in place, several feet away from any dock. There is only about a quarter mile of water to the north of our dock, so not much room for big waves to be built up by high winds. Any waves from the north should largely be broken by the two rows of docks in front of us and the boats attached to them. Options is in the very last row of boats, with one hundred foot high Federal Hill covering its back.
We spent most of Friday getting Options ready for Irene. I woke up in the wee hours thinking about all the things we could do to prepare Options. After tossing and turning, I finally got up and wrote down a page-long list of things to do, starting with "Batten down the hatches," whatever that means.
One of the risks is a surge of water coming up the Chesapeake, perhaps raising water levels as much as 10 feet above normal. At last year's dock (Herrington Harbor North), we would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle--our dock there would end up 6 feet underwater with a 10 foot surge! Not so at Baltimore Inner Harbor where, thankfully, we are on a floating dock with pilings that rise up about 15 feet above the docks at normal high tide.
It's almost noon here at BWI airport. We're on one of the last flights out--the airport closes at 12:15. Gotta go, time to board!
We slept in on Saturday and didn't leave Cape May until almost 7:30 am! We timed our departure to maximize the current going up Delaware Bay. It actually worked like a charm. Running just one engine, we were able to average over 8 knots most of the time! Without a current boost, we can't average more than 7.5 knots running both engines. We got into Delaware City late afternoon, in time for a free 5:30 pm concert in the park. The musicians were very good and they were all over 70, as was most of the audience. They played a nice assortment of music, including "Your Mama Don't Dance" as we were walking up. The guitarist played some hot licks, spicy chords and never missed a note--reminded of my friend Dr. Bob Coates. It turns out this guitarist played with Bill Haley and the Comets for eight years and was his main guitarist. Everything he played was smooth and seamless, no matter how fast the notes flew by!
We spent an extra rainy day in Delaware City on Sunday, sneaking in an afternoon excursion to Fort Delaware. We learned a lot talking to the Union soldiers who were "in character," from the loading and firing commands for a Civil War Union infantryman, to marching orders, to the purposes of the cannons on the three different levels of the fort: take out the sails and rigging, blows holes in the side of the ship, and skim across the water and gash the ship at its water line. They were "in character," but not obnoxiously so. As thunderstorms rolled through, we were confined to the entryway. The ferry that got us to Pea Pod Island was cancelled until the storm cleared. We had visions of spending the night sleeping on a rock floor, but the ferry resumed and had us back to Del City by 4 pm.
Monday morning, we were back to our old tricks, off the dock and on our way to the C&D (Chesapeake and Delaware) Canal before sunrise. This time, the current charts lied. We were supposed to have maximum current pushing us through the canal, but instead we had a little current going against us. We pressed on with both engines running for about 3 hours and then a miracle happened: The current turned to help push us forward and the wind freshened, coming from a direction that actually allowed us to sail. Imagine that, a sailboat sailing! That hadn't happened in a long time. We sailed for hours down Chesapeake Bay, under the Annapolis Bay Bridge and didn't douse our sails until we made the turn into Annapolis! Boy, that was good!
As always, it was great to be in Annapolis, although there were two calamities. The 5.9 magnitude earthquake rattled the populace and caused some damage. Brooke was shopping in town and heard what she thought was a canopy falling off a roof (actually her first thought was that it was a sail on the roof, but that made NO sense). There was a bit of damage, but really not too bad. Brooke got out my cell phone to call David who was on the boat, but could not get through. As she looked around, at least 90% of the people around her on the street we already on their phones. It took about a half an hour to get through to David's phone. He said he heard a little rumble and felt a small wave, but had no idea what had happened! But FAR worse was the unprovoked attack on our dinghy by a band of duck hoodlums while we were eating dinner ashore. They defiled our dinghy in ways that were disgusting and rude, to say the least. It took much spraying, scrubbing and a little gagging to get rid of the evidence. We will never again look at those cute little ducks swimming around with the same fondness.
David with Brooke
P.S. The picture shows a new development right after the earthquake: Previously, there was no gap between the two buildings!
08/21/2011, Now in Delaware City
Obviously, we're running a little behind on our blog posts...
On Friday, for the third morning in a row, we were up early and underway before the sun rose. Brooke snapped some good pictures of the Statue of Liberty glinting with the first rays of the sun. There were only a few ships to dodge as we made our way under the Verrazano Bridge and out past Sandy Hook. We had our second near run-in with a big fishing charter boat. They had the whole ocean to work with, but they set their sights on Options and came charging at us. This time I veered just enough to avoid a collision and then turned into them as they were passing, coming with 50 ft. of the stupid boat.
The forecast for Friday was good, but the wind and waves were projected to turn against us on Saturday, so we decided to make Friday a long day. Instead of shooting for Barnegat Inlet, the half-way point to Cape May, we set our course for Little Egg Inlet, another 15-20 miles down the coast. That would give us a good chance of beating the bad weather to Cape May on Saturday. Along the way to Little Egg, we picked up some useful wind. We wound up motorsailing with both engines and the main and jib sails for several hours, averaging our top speed of 8 knots! We were hoping to make it into Little Egg by 6 or 7 pm, but with our unexpected extra speed, we were well ahead of schedule.
We reassessed and realized we could make it into Atlantic City. I called ahead and was able to get us a spot at the end of the longest dock we've ever tied up to. Walking down the dock felt like that scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". It seemed to stretch out forever and we never got any closer to the end where the bathroom was! The dock was part of Farley State Marina (named after either Chris Farley--my preference--or Senator Frank Farley) with 640 slips, thereby making it the largest marina we've seen. We were one of only about a half dozen sailboats surrounded by hundreds of power boats.
Brooke hadn't been to Atlantic City since she was a little girl and I had never been. We took a taxi and did the obligatory walk up and down the boardwalk. It was full of all kinds of nasty little shops, arcades, and parlors of all sorts: pizza, tattoo and massage, among them. In the words of Bette Davis, "What a dump!" We kept on walking until we found some outdoor dining at the far end of the boardwalk away from all the nasties. The food at House of Blues was OK but the live music (a singer/guitarist with a bongo buddy) was great!
Saturday we decided to luxuriate and reward ourselves by sleeping in past 7 am. It felt great to finally get a full eight hours of sleep!
As I write this, Cape May lies somewhere over the horizon. I will be there for a week. Brooke will abscond to St. Louis for a few days with family. After that, we will complete our trek to Baltimore.
David with Brooke
P.S. The picture is of Atlantic City as we left the next morning. The tall tower under construction on the right hand side will be the second tallest building in New Jersey. Our marina in Jersey City was in the shadow of the tallest--the Goldman Sachs tower.
08/20/2011, Long Island Sound
The first leg of Wednesday's journey ran from Block Island to "The Race," so named because the water that empties out of the east end of Long Island Sound has to squeeze through a rather narrow opening, causing the current to "race" through. Our mission was to get past this narrow opening and into Long Island Sound before the tide turned against us.
7:15 am: No traffic except for a lone and large fishing boat, trawling with both trawling arms fully extended. Nothing else as far as the eye can see and we're on a collision course! They are part of the "No fish left behind" program, no doubt. There's got to be a better way than scooping up everything in the water, killing it all, and keeping only a fraction for the dinner table. End of sermon.
The forecast for today was 5-10 mph of wind out of the west, upgraded to 10 knots (11.5 mph) this morning. We now have 15 knots of wind, right on the nose. Once again, we have no chance of sailing. Since we left Baltimore on July 6, we have been able to sail a little less than two days out of our ten days underway! Not much advantage in having a sailboat! End of rant.
Good thing we got an early start! It looks like we'll be traveling 14 hours today, from sunrise to sunset, to get within striking distance of NYC. (Don't tell Homeland Security!) The problem we've had today is the one we hope to avoid tomorrow: a shockingly adverse current. In addition to the pull of the tide, we had copious volumes of water being driven from the west to the east end of Long Island Sound by strong west winds. For several agonizing hours, we felt like we were on a treadmill: We had both engines at full throttle going against current and wind and were making a scant 3.5 knots (4 mph)! We had to abandon our original destination, Port Jefferson, near the middle of Long Island, and yield to the wind.
Now we're headed to Milford, about halfway along the Connecticut coast. Before we gave up on Port Jefferson, we had raised the mainsail and altered our course just enough to harness the wind's power--we needed all the help that we could get! I went inside to study the charts, looking for a protected harbor that was as close to NYC as we could reach before sunset. I came back out and plugged our new destination into the chart plotter. It was meant to be: Options was already exactly on course!
We didn't exactly paint the town of Milford: We pulled into the outer harbor and anchored before sunset, grilled steaks and enjoyed a good dinner on board as the sun went down. Then we cleaned up the dishes, took showers, watched a little TV (I fell asleep as the first photons struck my eyeball), and slept as fast as we could. The anchorage was blessedly quiet and uncrowded, so no need to worry about going bump in the night.
I awoke around 4:30, checked the weather, made the coffee and prepped the boat for departure. We were out of the harbor by 5:40, bound for NYC, this time with the tide on our side. We ran both engines to keep up with the tide, knowing it would pay big dividends later. Sure enough, we skied through the dreaded Hell Gate with the vicious currents propelling us forward at light speed! Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. At its maximum, the current added 5.2 knots to our speed. I watched as our boat speed climbed past 11 knots, past 12 knots and edged up ever so close to 13 knots. Alas, in spite of my shouting and jumping around, Options would not go faster than 12.9 knots.
We tied up in the afternoon at a marina on the north edge of Jersey (or "Joisey") City, within sight of the Statue of Liberty. It was nice to get off the boat and stretch our legs. After a 3-mile walk through the nastiest part of town (to avoid paying $1 each for a 1-minute ferry ride--hands up of everyone who can guess whose idea that was--we reached the Jersey City boardwalk and went for a run (me) and walk (Brooke). We took a cab back to the boat. We had a pleasant evening dining al fresco at a little restaurant in the nice part of town.
"The Race" was not quite over: As we went to bed, about 7:30 pm (Brooke exaggerates), we knew we had to be underway at first light to beat a storm coming up from the south.
P.S. The picture is at first light as we left the next morning.
08/13/2011, Newport to Cuttyhunk to Vineyard Haven
Rain Does Exist!
David met me on Tuesday in Newport with the boat after 100 hours of boating with his guy friends having delivered them to the airport One of the best parts of traveling is unexpected neat stuff happening. On Wednesday evening in Newport, we were walking to a Japanese restaurant when we walked by a very old, open church. There was a docent giving a tour which she invited us to join. It was Trinity Episcopal Church built in the 17th century by the British as an Anglican church and, when they had the courtesy to leave (or were invited to leave) in the late 18th century, it became Episcopal. A stroke of luck to be walking by at that time! We also saw a number of beautiful Victorian homes on our walk.
We left Newport early Thursday and arrived at Cuttyhunk that afternoon, immediately embarking on a walk around an island which I had been assured was not very big--not even two miles across. Eight miles later, after a lot of backtracking, we finished the walk!
Cuttyhunk has about 30 full time residents all of whom, as far as I could tell, run B&Bs or very small restaurants. (I almost said "very small rocks," for you Monty Python fans.) We ate that night at a pizza place run out of someone's house with seating on picnic tables in the backyard. We shared our table with two couples from Newport (or Long Island?) and had a very pleasant time.
We arrived in Vineyard Haven on Friday afternoon after an uneventful sail from Cuttyhunk. We rented bikes and biked from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs, taking a detour to ride by and gawk at houses along the water. When we got to Oak Bluffs, David found a quiet place (Note from David: It was a quiet place when I scouted it out, but once the call began, the vacationing family next door came home and started a raucous yard party, popping beers, yelling, etc. just on the other side of the fence I was sitting against!) for a conference call and I did a little shopping as well as spying Daily Show host Jon Stewart! We rode home and saw more gorgeous houses.
That night we ate at the Black Dog Tavern. The whole Black Dog thing was started by a man who started a tall ship charter company in Martha's Vineyard and always took his black lab with him. The dog was either more pleasant or famous than the man so, as he opened a tavern and clothing line and more clothing stores, they were all named The Black Dog. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Saturday, we walked and ran about 4 or 5 miles around Vineyard Haven to get our almost daily exercise. Then we went on the bike ride from hell, from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown and back, a distance of less than 20 miles, but with lots of hills (they felt like mountains!) that were hard on us non-bikers. When returned the bikes and mentioned that we were tired he asked where we had ridden. I told him I was pretty to California and back!
Sunday was almost a total washout. After so many perfect days of sun and comfortable temperatures, we received our comeuppance. It rained and rained, so we stayed put inside the boat. Finally, in the late afternoon, the rain stopped, allowing us to finish the day with a great dinner at La Grenier, an authentic French restaurant run by an authentic French chef and owner.
Monday morning, we disconnected from our mooring just outside the Vineyard Haven breakwater and headed out, bound for Block Island. Before we could round the top of Martha's Vineyard at West Chop, the fog rolled in and blinded us. We spent most of the trip down Vineyard Sound glued to the radar screen. Finally, as Vineyard Sound gave way to the open ocean, the fog dissipated. Soon after, we spotted a group of birds sitting on something floating in the water. We altered our course to get closer. Sadly, it was the carcass of a very large sea turtle.
Brooke (with a little David at the end)
P.S. The picture shows how thick the fog was--no way you could see a boat on a collision course until it was too late!
We spent a couple of nights in Block Island. As we tied up to the dock on Monday afternoon, we had a brand new experience. Because there was a fishing tournament going on, dock space was at a premium. Well, actually, it was over-booked. But they have an interesting tradition there--simply tie the extra boats to the outside of boats along the dock. This process is referred to as "rafting up," something boaters often do to be close to their friends or to share a dock with someone in need. However, I've never heard of involuntarily being forced to raft up at a dock and then having to pay full price for the benefit of having people tromp through your boat all day and into the night. And full price there was $215 per night! Arrgh!
This probably colored our feelings about Block Island. We went for a nice walk over the hills and out to the beach the first evening. On Tuesday, I went on a run through down West Side road past many pretty vistas and nice estates. Later, we rented a Smart car (a tiny no-frills two-seater) for four hours for the price of renting a much bigger car on the mainland for four days. (I hate being taken advantage of! Arrgh again!)
We had a nice lunch downtown at a restaurant overlooking the beach, then drove down to the old Southeast lighthouse which has quite a history: Built in the 1870s, it had to be moved in 1993 because the coastline is eroding by 3 to 7 ft. per year. The lighthouse is not that tall since it stands on a cliff about 200 ft. above sea level, but the move included the large attached house, built to house three lightkeepers and their families. The complex is now 300 ft. from the edge of the cliff.
A little ways form the light house, we took a long stairway down to the beach. As we started our descent down the gorge with its lush vegetation all around, I was reminded of Kokee State Park in Kawai, Hawaii. Once we got to the bottom and looked back at the cliffs, the problem became obvious: The cliffs were made of clay! No wonder there is so much erosion.
Wednesday morning, we were up at 5:30, but not underway until 6:15. Our departure was complicated by having to un-raft! We wanted to get the earliest possible start to avoid the dreaded swift current at "The Race." To be continued...
P.S. The picture is of Block Island's Southeast Lighthouse.