Dagny's Winter Cruise

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So Close But So Far

20 May 2019
Allan Gray
The official opening day for the New York State Canal system has come and gone but we're still here in Waterford, waiting. The cause of our delay is the high waters on the Champlain Canal which have prevented the Coast Guard from installing the navigation marks in the Hudson River. Although the Champlain Canal officially starts in Waterford, the first 6 locks are actually in the Hudson River, so until it is open for navigation we will be stuck in Waterford. The water has dropped a foot and a half since we've been here and the general feeling is we should be on our way by Thursday or Friday.

In the meantime we've been keeping busy with various activities as well as making new friends with the crews of the other 21 boats that are tied up here. The town hosted it's annual Canal Fest this weekend with something for everyone. There were free boats ride on a solar powered boat, a fishing derby for kids, tours of the locks, live music all day Saturday as well as numerous food kiosks and craft vendors. The Welcome Center staff has bent over backwards to ensure our stay is as pleasant as possible and numerous local residents have stopped by and offered rides to the stores.

Besides doing odd jobs around the boat Bev and I make sure we get a good walk in daily while exploring the area. Yesterday we walked the old towpath along the canal with Megan, Mark and their kids and then headed off to visit the local museum. Although the displays were limited in scope they were well presented and informative. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of foresight that some of these people had.

Our surprise of the day came when we arrived back at Dagny and received an email from two former co-workers. Catherine follows our blog and as they were driving home to Montreal from a cruise ship holiday out of New Jersey they realized that Waterford was on their route and that they would stop by. As I was composing a reply to them I heard "Bonjour Allan" and much to our delight they had found us. They have been good friends of ours since our ATC days in Winnipeg and it was a great to see them.

Today's picture is of some of the 22 boats patiently waiting at Waterford.

Mother Nature Wins Again

17 May 2019
Allan Gray
Monday morning dawned cool and cloudy but luckily the rains held off and we managed to get Dagny's mast down by 10:30 without any issues. Mark and Larry had arrived in time on Jazzy Lady to give us a hand with the final preparations making the task that much easier. The goal was to get Jazzy Lady demasted as well so we could both continue on towards Waterford on Tuesdsy morning. However, the rains returned after lunch making deck work a little risky so once we had all the new supports built we elected to call it a day. Everyone was tired, wet, and cold so the safest thing to do was regroup and finish the job on Tuesday morning.

Despite the unfavourable forecast we managed to find a break in the rain and had Jazzy Lady's mast hauled and secured on deck by 9:00 a.m. We were all concerned that the free wall would be filling up at Waterford so Bev and I headed out at 10:00 a.m. to try and secure a spot for both boats. We rode a favourable tide for the first half of the 35 mile trip but then gradually started to fight the tide and river current. As in most areas of the northeast spring floods have caused lots of problems and this area has not been spared. We were constantly dodging debris in the water and the closer we got to the dam at Troy the worse it got. During our final 2 miles to the lock we saw numerous trees and deadheads of various sizes but managed to miss everything and with a huge sigh of relief entered the lock unscathed. We quickly locked through and motored the last 2 miles to Waterford where we managed to find a few empty spots on the wall.

As has often been the case during our journey north Mother Nature has intervened to change our plans and today was no exception. Normally we can get home from Waterford in 2 days, the canal was scheduled to open on Friday the 17th so we figured we would be home by Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon at the latest. WRONG. Due to high water levels from heavy rains and heavy snow melt the canals are closed until further notice. Currently there are 21 boats tied up here with more to come over the next few days.
Luckily the town of Waterford has a great Welcome Center at the locks and as news spread that we're all stranded the locals are bending over backwards to help. There is a 2 day festival here over the weekend to celebrate the canal as well as numerous other activities to keep us busy.

Bev and I have already walked the towpath along the old Champlain Canal as well as hiked up to the waterfalls at Cohoes. The down time will give us the opportunity to do a lot of small chores that always get pushed aside and of course we'll have lots of time to walk the dock and talk. With any luck we'll be on our way sooner than expected, in the meantime we'll enjoy the great hospitality.

Today's picture is of the waterfalls on the Mohawk river at Cohoes.

Another Home Run

14 May 2019
Allan Gray
One of our goals on this trip was to stop and visit towns we had bypassed during our trip of 2016-17. As we looked over the charts and read some reviews we decided Kingston NY might be a nice place to stop so, we plugged it into the chartplotter and wound our way through the narrow entrance to a well protected harbour. We had left Atlantic Highlands with a renewed faith in mankind but we were not prepared for what we would find in Kingston.

When we arrived we elected to tie up at the Ole Savannah Smoke House restaurant which is housed in a beautifully restored brick building from the 1800s. The deal is if you have dinner, overnight docking is free. Kind of a no brainer, so we secured Dagny and went for a walk around town before heading back for dinner. Fortunately, there was a table on the terasse overlooking the water, and as we settled in the table next to us started asking questions about our boat. They were intrigued with our trip and were keen to hear about our winter adventure. By the end of the evening they had offered us the use of a car the next day as well as inviting us to be their overnight guests. We gratefully refused but did take up an offer for a one hour guided tour of the area on Saturday morning which included a stop at the local farmers market. The historic Center of Kingston is enjoying a rejuvenation as it draws attention to the many area attractions.

We had intended on staying here until Monday morning but once again the terrible spring weather that has affected this area came into play. We had relocated to the dock at the Hudson River Museum for Saturday night so we could visit the museum on Sunday as well continue exploring the town. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain on Sunday morning so we decided to move on once we visited the great little museum. News was spreading that northbound boat traffic was starting to back up at various marinas so we decided to head to Catskills and get the mast down a day or two earlier than planned. The goal is to get to the junction of the Erie and Champlain Canals in Waterford while there is still room to tie up at the town Welcome Center.

By the time we left Kingston the showers had turned into a steady downpour, this combined with single digit Celsius temperatures and a 15 knot wind made for a miserable afternoon. We felt like the 18 mile trip to Catskills would never end but all was forgotten once we arrived, plugged in, and got the heat going. In between the rain showers we got Dagny ready for dismasting before calling it a day. If all goes well we will be ready to travel by day's end on Monday with everything secured on deck.

Today's picture is of me at"The Wheel" in the Hudson River Museum.

The Good Samaritan

10 May 2019
Allan Gray
When discussing favorite memories of voyages with fellow cruisers it is usually a toss up been a favorite anchorage or a special person that sticks in our minds. Although we have visited numerous favorite spots, Wednesday we met someone who we will remember for a long time. Our neighbour in the Atlantic Highlands anchorage was a solo sailor from Nova Scotia, who we invited over for a beer at day's end. As we were discussing our trips we discovered that he had left New Brunswick late in November and stopped in Barnagett Bay NJ to visit a friend on the way south. Unfortunately his southern trip ended at his friend's marina. When he arrived he discovered the friend's teenage son was suffering from cancer and it was uncertain if he would see the summer. Rather than continue south he volunteered to spend the winter in NJ looking after the friend's elderly parents while father and son went to Florida for treatments and recuperation time in the sun. So far so good, the son's health is improving and they have returned to NJ. Everyone should be so lucky to have a good friend like this.

We were disappointed that we didn't get to spend a day or two visiting Cape May on the way north so we were determined to spend some time in Atlantic Highlands. Thanks to Goolgle I discovered that there is a Twin Lighthouse museum in The Highlands which was only 2.5 miles from the boat. After breakfast Wednesday we launched the dinghy and set off to explore the town and tour the lighthouses. There is a beautiful waterfront trail that leads to the historic village that "back in the day" was a popular day trip for New Yorkers. We ate at an old funky waterfront restaurant that has been around for a couple of generations and following lunch we hiked up the hill to the lighthouses. The view from the lighthouse park is spectacular, to the north lies Sandy Hook and NYC in the distance, to the east the Atlantic Ocean and the Jersey Shore strecthes south as far as the eye can see.

Once again the weather was not to be in our favour so we decided to start our trip up the Hudson River on Thursday morning. The forecast was for rain so we figured we may as well be on the move if we couldn't go ashore. After a final check of the tides we were off the hook by 7:30 for the trip north; fortunately, the rain held off and we set sail in a stiff easterly breeze. We haven't had the best luck with winds on the ocean this trip but we've had some great unexpected sails. Thursday was no exception, we rode a 15-20 breeze from Atlantic Highlands to the Statue of Liberty before finally starting the engine. As much as neither one of us are City people, we have to admit sailing through New York is very impressive. We milked the flood tide as much as we could and covered 75 miles before calling it a day.

Today's picture is of "Dagny" at anchor with NYC as a backdrop.

What Was I Thinking??

08 May 2019
Allan Gray
Sailors who move up and down the east coast all have a common dislike like for Delaware Bay, it can be 50 miles of misery if the wind and tides are against you. There are only one or two decent anchorages which compounds the problem of route planning. To top it off, there's a large shoal off Cape May and if you don't have confidence in your charts and navigational skills, circumnavigating it adds 15 miles to an already long day. Oh, and don't forget the wind, if it's over 15 knots or so and against the tide then you're in for a very miserable ride.

So with all these factors to weigh we carefully checked the tide tables for both ends of the bay numerous times before leaving Chesapeake City. We found the trick is to leave Chesapeake about 2 hours before high and ride the flood the last 12 miles down the C&D canal which dumps you out into Delaware Bay. From that point we fought a 1.5 knot current for about an hour or so knowing that when the tide reversed we would get a longer push down the bay. Gradually the tide reversed and by mid day we rode a 2.5 knot push to within 12 miles of the Cape May shoal before we finally started to hit adverse currents. Then it was time to put on our big boy pants and pick our way through the shoal. In tight situations like this Bev always monitors our progress with the backup charts on our I Pad. After fighting a 3 knot current for a mile or so we squeezed through the shoal and we safely rounded the corner only to be greeted by a fog Bank that reduced the visibility to a few hundred yards. However, as we turned into the channel it lifted revealing an almost deserted anchorage for us to settle into.
After 68 miles in 10 hours we dropped the hook for the night.

We had intended on visiting Cape May but as I mentioned earlier our opportunities were limited for moving north. The wind was forecasted to blow hard from the NE on Sunday evening through until Monday morning so we figured we could al least get in a half day touring around Cape May. However, it wasn't to be, when we awoke Sunday morning it was already raining, blowing 20 and COLD. The one mile dinghy ride didn't appeal to us so we hung around all day doing a few boat chores. Around suppertime it really started to blow, the anchorage had 2-3 foot waves rolling through as the peak wind gusts hit 42 knots. We have a lot of confidence in Rocky the Rocna as we have ridden out a lot of blows with him, however, it is still a little unnerving when the wind gusts shake the whole rig right to the keel.. Needless to say, sleep was limited as a windshift put us closer to shore than we liked but everything held and we awoke Monday morning to frigid temperatures.

As is often the case for ocean passages the radio is active with people seeking weather and Sea condition reports before moving on. There were numerous boats in the harbour that were anxious to get moving and as the day progressed we decided that an afternoon departure was the way to go. We were off the hook by 3:00 p.m. and set off for the last ocean passage of this trip, 110 miles to Sandy Hook NJ. Other than an auto pilot issue, the trip was uneventful but it was cold, I mean cold, I actually wore long fleece pants all the way.

Sometimes we learn from our mistakes and sometimes we don't. The autopilot issue struck right after leaving Cape May. We had no sooner set the sails and were doing 7 knots on a close reach when I set Otto to take us north. Within a couple of minutes he was all over the ocean, I tried to reset him a few times but it was always the same result. I wasn't looking forward to hand steering for 18 hours when it dawned on me. While in Annapolis I had purchased 2 six foot lengths of stainless tubing and while cleaning the boat on Sunday I found the ideal storage spot for them. This is Deja vu for those who have followed our blog from the start. I put them under the cushions in the aft cabin so they couldn't roll around and you guessed it, right over the flux gate compass for the autopilot. No wonder poor old Otto was acting like he'd had one too many, once they were moved he was back to normal and took us safely to Sandy Hook. We arrived Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Today's picture is of a fence section in Oxford. There is a local competition when the sections are auctioned off for charity.

Bye Bye Annapolis

05 May 2019
Allan Gray
Thursday was to be our final day in Annapolis for this year so we were up and off the boat early armed with our "to do" list. First item to take care of was retrieving our dingy from the repair shop. Luckily for us we were using Sandbox as a base and the repair shop was at the head of the marina driveway. The friendly staff loaded the dinghy in their pickup truck and delivered it to the waterfront for us, besides repairing it they had washed it and it looked great. Lana had graciously loaned us her car for the day so we headed out for groceries and the last few items from the marine store. It was a beautiful hot day, however, severe thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day so we made sure to be back before they hit.

Around 4:30 while waiting for laundry to finish we could see and hear the rapidly approaching storms so we high tailed it back to Dagny, arriving just before the downpour. Included in the weather warnings were the possibility of waterspouts and microbursts with high winds. Our little anchorage at the top of Back Creek was surrounded by houses and tall trees giving us great protection from the storm. As the storm intensified it rained so hard visibility was reduced to a couple of hundred yards, the scuppers couldn't drain the deck water fast enough so it flowed over the toes rails. According to people on shore that's when the micro burst hit, our anonometer at the top of the mast only read 15 knots but at water level it blew so hard that the rain was horizontal and blinding. Thankfully this didn't last long but it sure was impressive. Since we were less then 150' from a couple of docks I had started the engine as a precaution in case the anchor dragged but Rocky held firm.

As planned we were on our way Friday morning after having bid farewell to Robert and Lana. After a quick stop to top up our water tanks we set course in the fog for Chesapeake City on the C&D canal. This is the midway stop on route to Cape May and we planned on spending a day there exploring the area. Unfortunately, the weather is still crappy and once we looked at forecasts and tide schedules we decided the best thing to do was to move on the Cape May on Saturday.

Today's picture, taken by Lana, is of Dagny anchored in her back yard.




Vessel Name: Dagny
Vessel Make/Model: Sabre 402
Hailing Port: South Lancaster On
Crew: Allan Gray and Bev Bethune
About: Allan is a retired Montreal Air Traffic Controller and Bev is a retired Elementary School Principal.
Extra: After many years of local cruising and Etchells racing we are living our dream of sailing to the Bahamas. Allan enjoys golfing, cycling and skiing. Bev is an active cyclist, runner, aerobics participant and cross country skier.
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Dagny's Photos -

Who: Allan Gray and Bev Bethune
Port: South Lancaster On