After a good couple of days in Shelter Island where the Ocean Cruising Club rally kicked off from ye olde Shelter Island Yacht Club, we are back to the Crack of Dawn routine as we headed out for Mystic River at 05:00 on Monday.
Shelter Island was a great base. Fully enclosed bay and as the name implies we had a comfortable mooring for two nights and a launch service into the dock.
We were near enough to New York for Jim and Lucie to find us for the start of their two weeks of holidays/purgatory.
The OCC Southern New England cruise will take us from the east end of Long Island to Marthas Vineyard (no sign of either Martha or a vineyard) then across to the Elizabeth Islands then Newport and Bristol for 4th July celebrations.
13 boats gathered in Shelter Island and Julian starred at the opening buffet playing piano accompanying Jim and Bentley on banjo and guitar.
On sight of the scallops wrapped in bacon I parked myself within arms reach and stuffed myself.
From Shelter we moved east to visit Mystic Seaport. It seems odd to be going east and I'm still getting my head around weather patterns coming from the west, not to mention tides.
We left early to catch the 2-3 knot tide and entered the Mystic River just after 08:00. We had one of these perfect early mornings quietly motoring up the flat calm meandering river past more expensive houses and marinas. The Seaport was interesting and a reprise if a visit many years ago with the kids. Expensive though.
Next stop Menemsha on the Vineyard. We anchored off in 20k winds which brought rain then thick fog. Spooky.
Next day the Rally crews met for drinks and nibbles on the beach so all very sociable.
Massive lightning storm overnight with forked lightning, cloud to cloud and down to sea level. Phones microwave in token gesture.
We are mow in Oak Bluffs. AKA Amity, where the hordes came iff the ferry in the early scenes from Jaws. Its a lovely we town, touristy on the front but retaining its New England charm.
Edgartown later today to batten down the hatches for forecast 25-30 knots and rain fir next 48 jours. However, forecasts seem more fictional than Jaws.
We've had a quiet few days since last post. Quite pleasant to be just lazing about rather than on a mission to get somewhere.
After transiting New York, on foot and by boat we made our way to Port Washington, remember, where the Star was designed then a short hop up to Northport Harbour and from there, to here, Rowayton on the Connecticut shore.
Our OCC hosts here, Scott and Kitty, double circumnavigators (with kids) found us a dock, drove us around, fed us and inspired us with their pics of their past travels.
We are in company with Julian and Lyn on Domini. While Kitty took Anne and Lyn shopping Scott took Julian and I to his yacht club for his monthly guys lunch.......with among others, legend, Bruce Kirby, designer of the world's most famous, largest one design class, the Laser.
Bruce was in Scotland recently, taking part in the Sonar nationals a few years ago at the Royal Northern. He was too modest to admit he won it but I'm pretty sure he did.
Rowayton is a sleepy commuter town full of some nice houses set in the woods. Those on the river side are particularly impressive.
Last night Scott and Kitty took us to their Sea Shanty night. Jukian brought his keyboard and, amongst traditional shanties dropped in some blues numbers. A fun night hearing some interesting background to the genre.
Once the tide gives us room to get over the bar comfortably we head east for Shelter Island and the Ocean Cruising Club New England Bash starting on Sunday.
A Literary obsevation
"Live the Dream"
"Sell up and Sail"
"50 Ultimate Cruise Destinations"
How the books lining the chandlers shelves tempt you into this life of cruising.
Not many pursue the line of "Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Places".
Our exotic place just now is Port Washington on the eastern end of New York's Long Island.
Originally settled as a shellfish harvesting and processing bay, after a typhoid outbreak and over-fishing killed the industry in the early 1900's the locals turned to sand mining.
Millions if tons were excavated and shipped the 10 miles down the East River to satisfy New York's demand for sand for mortar to build skyscrapers and sidewalks; most of which we wandered again yesterday.
Port Wahington is also the home of the Star Class. 20 were built in 1910-12 for the locals to race not long before it became an Olympic class
Today Port Washington is largely a commuter town with weekend and summer tourists. Millionaires homes line the edges of the bay and I suspect a few might politely point out that on fact they are billionaires.
While tempted to anchor off their immaculate lawns rolling down to the waters edge we are on one of the many moorings in the bay, serviced by the launch service to one of the docks around the bay. The Stop and Shop dock, the Town Dock or the Marina Bar dock. Pretty hood for $25 a night.
Yesterday was time for more maintenance. So, once again buried in a locker, skinning my knuckles as I wrestled with the jammed, sheared nuts on the Duogen it occurred to me that the authors of "Live the Dream", Sell Up and Sail" etc.... must have had a somewhat higher patience threshold than me.
Anyway, it's back running again, the sun us coming out after a night of rain and tomorrow we head up Long Island Sound with Julian and Lyn on Domini, bound for an evening of sea shanties!
What shall we do with the drunken sailor?
Getting My Leg Over
It's been many, many years but after a long period of restrained abstinence, for weeks in Majorca and two whole winters in Almerimar, I finally got my leg over last night.
Not that I'm in any position to take a motorbike for a hurl but it was nice to mount and get back onboard (isn't this just crying out for more double entendres!). The feel of the responsive throttle and lightness of the brakes as I......enough! Getting like 50 Shades. Not that we've seen it.
Just saying it was nice to be on a (stationery) motorbike again, motorcycle to American readers.
The bikes were at Tracey and Noel's and we were having a look before heading out for dinner. They have 3 BMW's and a Ducati. Nice fleet.
We're getting set for our trip to the Statue of Liberty, through tide ripped Hell Gate and on to Port Washington to meet up with Julian and Lyn (if you haven't, google Julian's composition "Mad Bad Rabat Blues").
Beautiful weather and prospect of a breeze so hopefully we will get a sail.
Its odd being back in a location where there's tide and timing and calculations to be made. At least we're getting back into the swing of it before the 3-4 metres of Boston and Maine.
Tracey kindly drove us around the stores today so we are fully provisioned, beer'd up and ready for the next few weeks.
Driving round you know you're in America. Five lane highways, trucks, fast food, shopping malls and specialist shops like THE DIVORCE CENTRE - Quickies (!) from €399!
So, half five and just about to call the launch service to head ashore from our guest mooring for dinner on the Raritan YC deck.
Just murder this!
We keep doing this, planning at 6 knots then doing much better.
Consequently, after two days of "champagne sailing" at 7 and 8+ knots, noon yesterday we were well ahead of schedule. Not that keen on a night entry to New York, when the rope holding the genoa block at the pole end broke, we were goose winged, we just rolled away the genoa to slow down and burn some time.
But in vain. We just kept bashing on doing a respectable 6+ knots even under single reefed main. At midnight, 3 miles from the channel entry, discretion was the better part etc... and we hove to and drifted back the way we'd come for an hour.
Now, its not that I'm impatient but when the hpalf moon climbed in the eastern sky we decided there was enough light to make a prudent entry and maybe "valour" should have its moment.
Following the well lit channel we buoy hopped, counting the seconds between flashes, one elephant, two elephant, three ele... (alternate buoys were 2 1/2 second intervals), and cautiously made our way into the outer part of New York harbour with the first, early rays of dawn lighting up Manhattan off to our starboard.
Back in the Caribbean we'd met Noel and Tracey, on holiday on a chartered Island Packet. I don't remember if they invited us or we invited ourselves but we arrived off their yacht club at Raritan, New Jersey, about twelve miles west and south of the Statue of Liberty just before 7am. A quick exchange of texts had (possibly) Tracey out her bed at an ungodly hour and the Raritan Yacht Club launch leading us to a Guest Mooring.
Pretty tired having been up most the night we collapsed into bed shortly after 8am.
Come 9, we were woken by "the New York Symphony".....what I can only think of as being automatic rifle fire, coming from woods maybe half a mile off our starboard bow. An hour or so later its still going. It might be something else but having been woken and then sat in the cockpit listening to sporadic "fire" I cant think what else it could possibly be. Maybe I've been reading too many Winston's War tomes.
(Wishing I had my camouflage clothes on but I can't find them anywhere!*)
Augmenting the gunfire, there's the odd police siren (but they're not finding Rambo), the haunting wail and rumble of the double decker trains and the background noise of the poor commuters heading up the freeway to work and perhaps the pointless search for a parking space in NYC.
Anyway, once the sleeping beauty wakes (who else could sleep through this racket) we will call the launch and head ashore for some exploration and hopefully bacon, pancakes, maple syrup, eggs easy over and of course......strawberries. What else would you have with your bacon and egg!
Stuart & Anne
Raritan, New Jersey
* Thanks to Eric for another hilarious if well worn joke.
We finally tore ourselves away from Norfolk's unlimited hot water, electricity and eateries to make the 48 hour hop up to New York.
Before we left, at the Harborfest we caught the Plain White T's live in concert. Perhaps the first time we've seen a band younger than we are.
However, stuck in my '70's time warp, afraid they just didn't work for us. We hung out for a while trying to look cool then gave up and went for some nosh and back to the boat to prep for the morning departure.
Dawn came early so we ignored it and slept till 8am.
All turned out to help extricate Time Bandit from the tight pile mooring and with some tugboat style help from Ken in his dinghy, we pulled off and away. Leaving Norfolk, we passed the world's largest Navy docks, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers all around. We left in illustrious company (pun intended) with the Coast Guard barque Eagle behind us and aircraft carrier 75 in front.
It took a few hours to get out the estuary and back out into the wide blue yonder. Absolutely baking weather, clear blue skies, 20-25 knots beam reach and we scorched off into the blue wearing just shorts and sun tan cream. We carried the wind all night; a cold damp wellies and full oilskins night, waking to a light grey dawn but with the promise of sun later.
We need the sun, at least the solar panel and batteries do as once again, I've lost count of how often, the Duogen packed up. It sounds like either the interior drive shaft coupling (again) or the bearings (again) or both. More DIY for yours truly.....or maybe I'll just bin the dammed thing.
We are 40 miles offshore, about 30 more than planned but the wind pointed us this way. 40 miles out and still in just 40 metres or less but hopefully getting a slight kick from the Gulf Stream. Not that we need it as at current speed we arrive too early in the dark so sometime later we may need to slow down to get a daylight entry.
We passage planned at 6 knots but once again we've whacked that and currently about 6 hours ahead of schedule.....which gets us there in the dark. Not a great plan!
Finally, thanks to Gary and Greta, the OCC Port Officers in Norfolk whose hospitality and dock we thoroughly enjoyed.
After four days here in what can only be cheerfully described as November in Scotland weather, including thunderstorms and one period of continuous 24 hour rain the sun is back out. 80 degrees and crowds of people enjoying the sunshine at the Norfolk Harborfest.
Billy Joel is in concert just 15 miles away tonight and if we can find transport we might go....or we might just stay here on our sofa and enjoy the free music.
The good news of the rain was that we had good reason to do the indoors stuff. The Historic District, an original antique house, the Douglas Macarthur museum (I will go back) and the Chrysler Museum.
I did feel slightly conned by Anne on the Chrysler. I thought it was a collection of old cars. All gleaming chrome and fins. But no, plates from around the world and more giant oil paintings of old people being murdered and saved by demons and cherubims respectively.
We are also getting into the local food. Soft shell crab is a speciality. As our neighbours on the next boat (from Gourock!) said, it would go down well at home is the poor wee beastie was deep fried. Unfortunately I think it needs a bit of a makeover, perhaps Embarrassing Bodies or similar as it looks a bit like deep fried Tarantula. Poor Anne had to close her eyes as she failed miserably to make a meal of it.
Harborfest started after the US bi-centennial Tall Ships visit way back in the seventies. Since then its been an annual event brining up to 1 million visitors over three days. We have Tall Ships including Eagle, the US Coast Guard cutter and a Brazilian square rigger. A destroyer and some military PT boats.
Endless amounts of food stalls selling everything from chocolate bananas to burgers. Crab to kebabs. Fireworks tonight at 9:00 if we don't take a run to Billy Joel.
Greta and Gary, the OCC Port Officers here had us and two other boats for dinner last night. Home cooked BBQ southern style while overlooking the Elizabeth River.
From Orkney to Alesund to Marathon, Oriental and now Norfolk we've enjoyed stunning hospitality and assistance from
OCC members. Thanks again to all if you're reading this nonsense.
The sunshine today heralds a new wind pattern so come Monday we're outta here for a 48 hour passage to The Big Apple.
The Intracoastal Waterway
Beaufort North Carolina to Norfolk Virginia, Via the great Dismal Swamp
Taking some beers in the sun in Beaufort we chatted with our cruising buddies about routes North.
A. Go back into the ocean and make a 150 mile hit straight to Norfolk
B. The Intracoastal Waterway via Coinjock (where, if you can eat it, your 32oz steak is free)
C. The alternative Intracoastal taking the Great Dismal Swamp route.
Tempted by the name if nothing else, we opted for the Dismal route, first stop, was Oriental, so named as the wife of one of the first settlers found a name plate washed up on the beach from the unfortunately wrecked ship, The Oriental.
Just like the Bahamas we had to get comfortable sailing in just two to three metres, and it does take some getting used to but after an hour or so we relaxed, following the channel markers out of Beaufort, into the river and on up to Oriental.
Ocean Cruising Club members D and Don live in Oriental and they welcomed us to their neighbours pile dock in the marina. Pile docks are a new challenge and certainly designed to improve your skills with a lassoo, warps flying as you try to hook one as you pass.
Oriental is I guess a dormitory town of stunning homes. It's like houses built in their own small park. Lawns and hedges beautifully groomed and mature oaks, cypress and pines. Truck in the drive.....beside the Lexus. Many have their own creek leading to a pool where, like D and Dons, their own sailboat is moored at their private dock.
From Oriental we headed down the Neuse River and over the estuary to the Pungo River and the Alligator Canal. The ICW was started in 1770, dug by hand. Dug by Slave hands, working in mosquito, snake and bug infested swamps. The objective was to create a safe inland waterway linking Norfolk to Elizabeth City. It finally opened in 1809.
Acres and acres of trees. Miles and miles chopped out the forrest and shipped out on light gauge railways for sale at the new towns. Timber was also used to shore up the canal sides, and the stumps can still be seen today. The canal was dug to a depth of over two metres although on several occasions we had a dull thump as an old tree stump floated near the the surface. Strangely, very little sign of wildlife. We could hear the birds but other than a few turtles, very little else. We motored through the Alligator Canal, 20+ miles then the Dismal Swamp, another 30 miles. All excavated by hand. Just mind boggling.
Half way up the Alligator Canal we anchored in a pool, 2 miles diameter 0.5 to 2.7m deep at max. Every horizon was tree lined, Eagles and Ospreys flying around overhead while at deck level, Dragonflies by the flock, some the size of sparrows. You see a shadow which you think is a plane high overhead yet it turns out to be a super sized Dragonfly. If this were Norway there would be legends about dragonflies carrying off small children.
Between the canals we crossed the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, huge estuaries, 10-20 miles across again in max 3m water. Land only just visible on the horizon. The Italian in the Titanic movie was definitely lying when he said he could see Statue of Liberty.
Eventually we pulled into Elizabeth City at the head of the Pasquotank River. Unfortunately, the town docks were at the end of a thirty mile fetch and being battered by waves. We therefore passed through the bridge intending to anchor in the sheltered river when a cruiser on another boat already moored to the side, points to where we should tie up and yells that's a good spot and by the way, "if we need his car to go get groceries to let him know!" From Orkney to Elizabeth City the generosity of complete strangers in the cruising community continues to amaze us.
Elizabeth City, like Oriental had some absolutely stunning homes however, the centre was a little "tired" as its local industry, fishing had fallen away and the town seems too far away to attract sufficient tourism to keep the shops open. However, those that were left were interesting and we had a good night listening to live music on the harbour.
Next day we headed off up the Great Dismal Swamp. It could have been built be the Romans it's so straight. For mile after mile we motored through the swamps but mostly tree lined route stoping at the Visitor Centre and the penultimate lock for the night. Early morning we caught the 08:30 opening arriving in Norfolk about 11:00.
Norfolk is a Navy Town. It's the world's largest naval base with cruisers, destroyers, battleships and aircraft carriers all around.
Gary and Greta, the OCC Port Officers here very kindly lent us a dock and we will stay here to sight see and have a bit of a rest before heading north for either Annapolis up the Chesapeake or outside and heading up for New York.
Meanwhile, bad news on the radio. Tomorrow the wind goes North bringing a "snell blaw". Apparently the temperature is going to plummet to the 70's!
Stuart and Anne