11/04/2010, The Middle of Nowhere, Delaware Bay
Today was a long, full day and we learned a lot. We almost stayed at the dock in Cape May. It was supposed to be heavy rain and Bud was worried about visibility. Then we were awakened by the wind. Light winds were in the forecast, but when we got up at 5:30 AM (isn't retirement great?) there was over 20 knots of wind pinning us to the dock. There was no way Bud could squeeze back out of that marina in 20 knots of wind. I went and took a good long, hot, shower. When I came out of the shower rooms, the wind was down.
According to the forecast, today was the best day to go until Sunday. When the wind got down to around 10 knots we decided to leave, despite the rain. A man from Maine helped us out and we got out of there without hitting anything, but it was close. The big powerboat had left during the high winds. He did a good job of getting out of his dock, but he could take the Cape May canal, so didn't have to worry about the waves out on the ocean side.
And there were waves out on the ocean side. The inlet seems to be very bad for waves; the current was opposing the wind. Bud figures we went through 10-foot waves. Earendil rode them well, but they were not nice long rollers, they were close together and some were starting to break. One big one broke over our bow, lifting the dinghy lashed to the foredeck and giving a solid "whump" to the dodger. Fuzzy was still in the cabin, when I looked down through the hatch he was looking up at me with very big eyes. I went below to check on things and learned that the TV needs to be secured better, the cutting board can't ride in the slot next to the microwave and we need covers for the dorades and vents; when the bow goes under water, they leak. But there were no leaks around the mast, so that fix worked.
We wanted to cut to starboard right after the entrance buoy, but we went straight out for another 2 to 3 miles before the waves were small enough and spaced well enough for Bud to turn the boat. We went out far enough so we could actually angle back, because there was no way we could take those waves on the beam. We didn't have sails up because we thought we would soon be heading up the channel though the Delaware Bay. Bud suggested we put out the staysail, and after my initial moment of shock I saw the sense in that. We tried it. Immediately the action of the boat calmed down and we gained some speed. We were now angling against the current and any additional speed was needed. The lesson here is that the staysail is great to have!
The wind started to die and the waves settled down, but the outgoing tide was still killing our speed. It was raining off and on and we were getting damp and cold. We hadn't unzipped the main from the stack pack and that's not something you can do in any kind of seas at all. The lesson here is never assume you won't use your sails, have them ready. The staysail was doing great, but a reefed main might have made it that much better.
A major problem with this part of the trip is that once committed you have to keep going more than halfway up the bay to find a place to dock or anchor. We were struggling to make headway and the wind kept moving around to the nose. We put out and took in the staysail 3 times. Each time we furled it we seemed to get it tighter around the foil. That means it made more wraps and took more furling line. After yesterday, it wouldn't quite roll up all the way. A small corner stuck out. We should have fixed it last night but we were too tired and cold to stay out and do it. Today, after the second time we brought it in, we had 5 feet of sail still unfurled. That had to be fixed. We waited for a straight stretch of channel with no boats around. Then Bud engaged the autopilot. He went up and held the furling drum; I uncleated the furling line, pulled it back through the place where it ties on the drum (it take pliers to pull it out of the bottom of the drum to untie it). Then Bud rolled up the rest of the sail by turning the drum and I retied the furling line. It all went quite smoothly, but we were lucky the waves were down by then. There's another lesson here - can you guess? We put the staysail out one more time and kept it up until the end of the trip. We had no trouble furling it.
Despite our efforts to increase speed using the staysail, we still got to the stopping place just before dark (it was 6 PM). The nearest marinas were another 4 miles up the river and no one had answered the phone at either of them, so we decided this would be a good time to anchor. While Bud was selecting a spot and lining the boat up with the current (the tide had finally started to come in) I unclipped the anchor. When he had the boat stopped I released the brake on the windlass (mechanism that winds up the anchor) and nothing happened. After a few moments of struggle, Bud and I switched places. When Bud couldn't get it to release I went below to look up the information on the windlass. I couldn't find it.
Now it's seriously getting dark and the anchor still isn't set. Bud had me hold the boat with the engine while he tried to set the anchor by hand. That took two, so I left the controls and went to help. We couldn't tell how much chain we were putting out. I went back to check our speed (which we wanted at 0) and the depth. We were in 9 feet of water. So we pulled the anchor up and started again. At least the windlass worked like a charm to pull the anchor up.
By now we had to dig out our spotlight to find the shore to place the boat correctly again. Repeat all, only this time Bud was pulling the chain up from the anchor locker and Jill was feeding it out to the anchor. We stopped a couple of times and put the chain back around the windlass while we checked position and boat speed. It was odd. The boat wasn't moving, the current was against the bow, but the boat was moving over the anchor. We backed it off more than once. Anyway, after one such stop, Bud released the clutch on the windlass and the anchor started going out on its own. Evidently the windlass had finally freed up (we knew the past owner hadn't used it in the 8 years he owned the boat because the old chain was rusted into a blob in the anchor locker and some had to be cut out). So now we learned how to use the windlass. We even tied a snubber on the chain (we'll buy one when we can).
The generator is chugging away, the boat doesn't seem to be going anywhere, we're reasonably warm and reasonably safe, but it was NOT a nice day. I'll have to post a photo tomorrow. It will be interesting to see where we are (in more ways than one) in the morning.
The big lessons for the day are:
You never need to be somewhere badly enough to risk going at a bad time.
If you are stupid enough to do it anyway, the boat and you will probably live through it.
11/03/2010, Cape May, New Jersey
The next good stop on our way was Cape May and it is a long way from Barnegat Inlet. We started out as soon as we could see. Since it was a clear morning, we were on our way at 6:50 AM.
We motored in light wind for about 3 hours. The wind picked up and from a favorable direction so we set the sails. We got all three sails flying (main, genoa and staysail) and the wind immediately dropped off. Within a half hour we had the genoa and staysail furled again and were motor-sailing with just the main. That was a lot of work without any gain. You can see in the picture how hard Fuzzy was working. That's his typical sailing position.
We might have had better speed under sail, but the prop wouldn't set again. We had this problem earlier this summer and thought it was fixed. Our transmission is hydraulic, so there's no gear to hold the prop still. We have a Max-prop which is supposed to feather to reduce the drag. When it works, the prop stops spinning. When it doesn't work, the prop spins, the shaft spins and the transmission spins. It makes a terrible whine. Anyway, yesterday the prop set perfectly. Today, no go. We sailed anyway because it's not supposed to hurt the transmission, but it's terribly annoying. I'm sure we put the engine on sooner than we might have otherwise.
We sailed past Atlantic City and I added a couple of photos to the gallery. I started a new album now that we're on the ocean, just thought it would be easier to view the pictures if there weren't too many in any one album.
Altogether we went over 76 miles. That's a long day at about 7 mph. We got here to the marina just after 5, by the time we bought fuel and got in our slip it was going on 6.
The folks at this marina are very nice, but it's another one not set up for sailboats. Bud did a masterful job maneuvering. You have to make a 90-degree turn to the left to go from the main channel to their entrance channel. Then you have to make a 90-degree turn to the right to get in the opening in their bulkhead, and it's not all that wide an opening. We came straight in the marina main channel to the end; where Bud had to pull, bow first, into a slip for fuel. Once fueled, he had to back out, and come back out the channel a bit to our assigned slip. There wasn't room to just back out and turn, Bud had to go forward and back again to get turned. The slip was next to a 48-foot powerboat. The man and woman came out and were ready to fend as Bud began to make his turn into the slip, but no fending was necessary. I could see how worried the man was seeing a 44-foot sailboat with one engine and no thrusters try to pull in next to him from a narrow channel, but in the end, he just stood and watched and said, "Nice job."
It was about 7:30 by the time the sails were tidied. We still had to walk to a convenience store and cook and eat. We are both really tired. The bad part is we have another long day tomorrow! We need to make it around the point of Cape May and up into Delaware Bay tomorrow, as the wind and waves are going to pick up through the day and all day Friday. If the weather wasn't going to turn bad, I'd love to stay here an extra day. It wouldn't be an issue if we could take the Cape May Canal and skip going out around the point, but there are two bridges with only 55 feet of clearance. That 63-foot mast is causing problems again.
Sailing on a deadline (even as vague a deadline as coming winter) is not so much fun. I'm still dreaming of warm weather and lazy days!
11/02/2010, Barnegat Bay, NJ
Today we SAILED on the OCEAN. It was great. We were only able to sail for about two hours, but for that time we had about 12 to 14 knots of wind on a broad reach. We had full main and 135 genoa out and were doing over 9 knots (we must have had some help from the current again, but Earendil was doing most of it herself). It was quiet and smooth and so nice. We've been motoring for so long that I was beginning to wonder if I'd find sailing stressful or too much work; not at all. Sailing is restful. The only thing you lose is the constant source of power from the alternator.
Unfortunately, once we got out past Sandy Hook and turned south, the wind was astern. We sailed off our course for a while to try and keep both sails filled, but after about a half hour decided we'd never make Barnegat Inlet if we didn't use the engine. There wasn't another place to stop in a day's sail, and with all the traffic in the area we were not ready to sail through the night. We motor-sailed with the main for a quite a while, but eventually had to take that down, too, and become a trawler with a big stick again.
Barnegat Bay has great places to anchor, but it's still too cold for us. We don't like to leave the generator run for hours and we really don't want to go without heat. So we had to find another marina. I thought in a place like this it would be easy, not so. Most of the places are set up for powerboats. They're too shallow for us. There is one yacht club and we checked that out, even though they want $3.50/ft per night. They could take us, but because of our length we'd go on a long dock with only 50 Amp power. We take 30 Amp power, and because too much power has never been a problem on Lake Ontario, we have adapters to go from 30 down to 20 or 15, but not up to 50. The club had no adapters, so we chose to go to the commercial fishing marina instead. We were warned that this was a fishing marina, we wouldn't fit in the lagoon and we'd be out near the wall. They thought they would have a place we could go that would have power. We arrived right at 4 PM and pulled in to the gas dock. Unlike gas docks that cater to pleasure boaters and have fenders or some protection all along the dock, this gas dock had no fenders and pilings on the outside, so your own fenders won't do much good. We got in with no problem. They showed us the slip we could use; it was right on the inside of their front wall. Again, the docks are lined with pilings. The commercial fishing boats don't bother with anything like fenders. Bud decided to back in, and he did it pretty well. It took a while to get the lines and fenders set up for the tide and pilings but now we are safe and secure and have power again. Earendil fits right in with the fishing boats, don't you think?
We celebrated our first sail with a seafood dinner at a local restaurant. We enjoyed it, but Fuzzy wasn't too pleased to be left alone on the boat. He does like the smells around the fish dock, though.
11/01/2010, Great Kills Harbor, Staten Island
If it were warm enough to anchor we would be out of New York State tonight. But the low is still in the 30's, so we opted for a marina again. Looking at the chart, we decided it would be less overall distance if we went to Great Kills Harbor, on the south shore of Staten Island rather than down to Atlantic Highlands behind Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Besides, this marina (Nichols Great Kills Marina) was $.50/ft less. So as much as Bud wanted to get out of New York, he agreed to come here.
We had quite a ride down the end of the Hudson. At one point we were doing 9.9 knots with the current and ebbing tide. That's the fastest we've ever gone on this boat, and we didn't even have the sails up.
The ride down past Manhattan was beautiful. I took a few pictures of the city and have posted them in the gallery. There were a few barges around, but most were anchored. It looked like the up-bound barges were anchored until the tide changed. We passed one other traveling sailboat. It was probably less than 30 feet and was from Juneau, Alaska. I hope he sailed it from Alaska, I find that reassuring.
Once we got below Manhattan things got interesting. We installed an AIS, Automatic Information System, receiver. It's supposed to receive information automatically broadcast from commercial vessels. The first time we encountered a barge on the Hudson we were pretty happy to have the alarm go off and "Dangerous Target" come up in a huge box on our chart screen. Once we got to lower Manhattan the alarm was going off constantly. The AIS is supposed to be able to give us detailed information about each vessel. We weren't getting anything but the alarm and the box, so we'll have to figure that out later. There were ferries and barges, cruise ships docked, freighters, Coast Guard vessels, dredges and more. It was a challenge to sort them all out and stay out of everyone's way. The picture for today is of the Statue of Liberty with two ferries crossing in front. That sort of sums up sailing through New York.
Our paper chart ended at the George Washington Bridge. We have the chart on our chart plotter and we have electronic charts on the computer. I went down to the computer and planned a route to our marina. It worked pretty well after we figured out that the green buoys numbered "23" and "21" on the computer chart were "21" and "19" on the chart plotter. I determined a point to head for that would take us safely across some relatively shallow flats (16 feet for most of it) and put that in as a waypoint on the chart plotter. We steered to the waypoint and from there to a light and a buoyed channel that took us into the marina. I know this seems pretty simple, but to do it for the first time and to have all the systems work together correctly felt like an accomplishment to me.
So Earendil is back in salt water and tomorrow we go to sea!
10/31/2010, Haverstraw Marina
We got up early today to try and get going with the outgoing tide. We were also hoping to avoid fees at Norrie Point. We were just trying to figure out the best way to cast off when Bud saw the dockmaster approaching. So instead of leaving, we stayed and pumped out. The dockmaster helped us turn the boat around so we could reach our holding tanks. We told him about our docking experience last night. He said at low tide it was pretty shallow in the basin and we were best off out on the gas dock like we were. The marina is actually part of a state park there. We asked him what we owed for the pump-out and the night's docking. He said 7 bucks for the pump-out, and since he hadn't been around to help us dock, he wouldn't charge for the docking. So another free night with power. I added a picture to yesterday's post of Earendil at the dock, now facing out and ready to go again.
It was a sunny cold day. The wind started on our nose. It was supposed to move around to the northwest. When it came abeam Bud wanted to raise the main to save on the engine and gain some speed. I was concerned because we were coming to a narrow place in the river with high hills on either side. We got things tidied and stowed so we could sail, but waited until we entered the narrow part. The wind increased, but shifted directly behind us, so we didn't set the main. We were gaining almost 2 knots with the current already. The wind continued to go around us, the next time we got into a wide place in the river; it was back on our nose! By the time we got to the marina, the wind had wrapped our ensign completely around the pole.
We sailed past West Point today. That's very impressive. The picture is looking back north at the older buildings along the south side of the peninsula. The oldest part is on the right of the photo and looks like an old fort.
We didn't want to repeat yesterday's fiasco, so we were careful about the marinas. (No going without power tonight, the low is supposed to be 28! That is NOT boating weather as far as I'm concerned.) Haverstraw Marina seemed a reasonable distance, so I called ahead and gave our length AND our mast height. They could take us. As the day went on, and the current from the tide picked up, we thought we could perhaps make another 11 miles to Tarrytown. That was even more expensive than Haverstraw, but we thought the extra mileage would be worth it. So I called, but had to leave a message. When no one had returned my call as we neared Haverstraw, we headed in, even though it wasn't even 1:30 yet. We are safe and docked with power and have just finished a nice Chinese dinner cooked by Bud and I still haven't heard from Tarrytown. Glad we stopped. I wonder if we'll get Trick or Treaters here.
It will be a long day tomorrow, but we still should be able to get past New York City.
10/30/2010, Indian Kill
This morning we put on both foresails, decided the baby stay was too loose and tightened it up again and put on the staysail again. At least the staysail is easy to work with, and for once there was almost no wind. I hooked up the line to the backstay antenna while Bud ran the reefing lines. It all took morning to do these things and clean up the boat to get it ready. It's nice to have it back as a sailboat. We don't even have the extra lumber on the decks.
We were anxious to get off so we left as soon as we were ready, even though it was already 1:40 in the afternoon. Out on the river there was a strong breeze against us (of course) and not much help from the current or tide. We were only doing about 5 knots and at times less than that. We looked for a place to stay about 20 miles down river. We wanted a marina or yacht club because it's supposed to go down to the upper 30's tonight, so we wanted power for heat. I checked our "Skipper Bob" book and found a marina with a pump out (we need to pump our holding tanks, too). They said they monitored VHF channel 16, but this time of year we're finding that's not too reliable. Happily, we have the computer and internet access, so I went below and Googled them and found the phone number. I also checked out their website and it said they could accommodate boats up to 160 feet. The man at the marina asked me to call back at 4:45, since they close at 5. I called, at 4:45 we were just about to turn into Rondout Creek and go up to the marina. Bud had noticed a bridge in the distance. I was sure it wasn't a problem because neither the guide book nor the website had mentioned any bridge clearance. I asked, the bridge clearance was 56 feet. Our mast is 63 feet off the waterline. We weren't going there!
Now it was already 5 o'clock and we had no place to stop. I asked the man there if he knew of another marina. He said there were none near-by, he thought that the closest one was already closed for the year. He said there was a good anchorage on the east side of the river behind Esopus Island.
We headed down the river. I called Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, they had just finished pulling their docks. I tried to call the Norrie Point Marina but their phone was not in use. That usually means it's a seasonal phone that has been shut off. We started to plan to anchor. We got out a length of nylon dock line to use as a snubber. That's a line that's attached to the anchor chain and led to a cleat. Then as the boat pulls, it's pulling on the cleat and not on the windlass that raises the anchor. The only problem was we weren't sure how to attach the line to the anchor chain. I checked two of our reference books, but neither helped. So Bud suggested I call Jon and Arline. Jon described a knot, and told me to look up taunt line knot for better instructions. I found instructions on how to tie it on the internet. Then Bud asked me to make sure the end of the anchor line was secure in the anchor locker. I had to move two sails, two folding boat seats, Fuzzy's unused Pup-Head and a basket of miscellaneous stuff to get at the anchor locker, but I managed it. The anchor was secured.
When I got out on deck we were approaching the area the man at the marina described. He said we'd see other boats at anchor and on mooring balls. There was nothing. There was about 16 knots of wind coming straight through with no shelter. We continued to look for a likely spot. We saw one boat that might be at anchor, but it was well past the island. Bud headed towards shore, I went out on the forepeak and got the anchor ready to drop. Suddenly Bud slowed way down and turned back out towards the river. We were almost aground! The water went from 30 to 40 feet deep to 7 or 8 feet deep in an instant! At that point I persuaded Bud to go back about a half mile to the Norrie Point Marina. We had passed it, and there were still a few boats tied up, but there was no one around that we could see and they looked like pretty small boats. The guide said they had 6 feet of water at the approach and docks. That's not much more than our draft of 5' 8". Plus with the wind blowing towards the shore Bud wasn't sure he'd be able to maneuver to a small dock. It now seemed like our best chance, so we got to try it in the dark! (Oh, yeah, it was now dark.)
Bud turned the boat in circles out in the river as I got fenders and docklines set up on both sides of the boat. Then he sent me forward with a flashlight and told me to tell him loudly if I saw a dock. We still had 16 knots of wind. Happily, as we came through the flashing red and green entrance lights I made out their gas dock. Bud headed for that. I got off and got a line around a cleat. The gas dock sits right at the entrance, so with the wind angling across the river there is no protection. However, our slip at TYC gave us lots of practice in tying off against wind. About a half hour and 8 docklines later we felt pretty secure. Best of all, there was a 30 AMP working plug on the dock, so we even have power and heat.
Bud said he would just as soon not do something like this again tomorrow; I heartily agree.
I'll post a picture of the boat at the dock tomorrow, when I can see it.