Good Bye Block Island...Another Storm??
08 September 2009 | Cape May New Jersey
Bob/ windy,cloudy, pending Noreaster
I loaded some pictures of Block Island but unfortunately my small digital camera just doesn't have the horsepower to convey the whole story. In one of the shots I tried to capture the dinghy dock crampacked with little gray inflatable dinghys; so tightly packed that boats were three deep from the dock and boaters had to climb from theirs over several others all-the-while trying to maintain a sense of dignity and control. These little boats are not that easy to get in and out and for a people watcher like me it was a hoot observing the various climbing styles. One of the manufacturers might want to use a shot like that as a promotion for these wonderfull little boats. Ours is nine feet with a hard fiberglass bottom. We have a 15 horsepower outboard and man does that little fellow fly. Many cruisers have inflatables with much smaller outboards and they go by putt-putting along and we go by in a flash. Kinda brings out the kid in me, good fun and incredibly useful for exploring or getting back home quickly.
I had checked the GRIB charts and could see another storm brewing in the central US heading for the east coast. It was looking like a classic three day noreaster and the wind charts looked ominous. So here we were once again wanting to do another long passage with the prospects of a significant wind producer waiting for us at the end. It adds stress knowing you need to make the passage and you have to get there before the storm. We did our homework, checking currents, wind direction and made our plans to get up Monday at 05:30 and leave Block Island for a straight shot to Cape May some 205 miles at 240 degrees. The forecast was for NE winds increasing to 15 - 20 with gusts to 25 by Tuesday afternoon or evening and then to 30 overnight. So the window was Monday morning to Tuesday afternoon.
The course of 240 degrees took us across three different traffic lanes for New York. Once again our AIS unit was extremely helpful in a potential crossing situation with a 600 foot freighter. It was late Monday afternoon, I could see the ship on the chartplotter well before I could get a visual. I plotted the ships speed and course with ours and sure enough we would have a situation unless we altered course. Alice was steering and she suggested calling the ship and letting them know our plans. Great, the AIS gave us the ship's name, course and destination. I called, talked with someone on the bridge and let them know what the little sailboat off their starboard bow was about to do. They were surprised by my call and greatful that we were communicating. It worked out perfectly, they passed and we were back on course. Later that evening another crossing, this time all we could see were the oncoming lights, and sailors know that at night it is very difficult to judge distances and ship lights can be confusing. We thought the ship was proceeding on a course to cross our bow, the lights were very confusing and it was closing. I looked at the chartplotter and the AIS icon showed the ship passing behind us and with that knowledge the lights then made sense. No problemo, thank you AIS designers.
We arrived at the Cape May breakwater at noon Tuesday about three hours ahead of schedule, thank goodness. The wind was up to 15 - 20 and seas were 6 to 9 feet although it's tough to judge sea height from a 42 foot sailboat. They seemed big to me and tossed Lucky Bird around like a toy. I promised Alice a slip rather than anchoring and she is now preparing our first on-board pizza. Pizza ala Lucky Bird, pretty nice, don'tcha know!!