Update from Cape May
24 September 2013
Our trip through Long Island Sound was a quick one with one night stops at Old Saybrook and Norfolk. We were blessed with early morning favorable currents and good weather, just not much wind. We've done the trip into New York City once before and it's always spectacular. If you're lucky you can get a favorable 2-3 knot current through Hell's Gate and the East River so all the sights are coming at you that much faster. It was a spectacular day and "The City" showed off her best. It was a little awkward seeing the new World Trade Center up close for the first time. When we did this trip fourteen years ago we took our children to the observation deck of one of the WTC towers.
We stayed at the Newport Marina in Jersey City and had front row seats for all the activity on the Hudson and wonderful views of the skyline. The marina was perfect but they put us in a very narrow basin. Maneuvering the boat in tight quarters with million dollar yachts all around has never been an area of confidence for me. After creating and scrapping several plans on how to escape I finally got one that actually worked and we managed to get out on Sunday without a scratch. Unfortunately, I was too busy congratulating myself as we were motoring down the harbor, and I neglected to see a tugboat with a barge. Fortunately, his horn worked well, and I was able to come back to reality quickly.
We had been planning an overnight from New York to Cape May, New Jersey for some time as the anchorages along the Jersey Coast tend to be difficult to get into. Yes - I know - but what about Casey? How is he going to make it for 20 hours. Elaborate plans were devised and last minute walks carefully scheduled and - oh yes - we got the boat ready for the overnight.
Weather predictions can be the darnedest thing. We knew we were getting a big storm on Saturday night, but all of the models were telling us that conditions would be near perfect for a Sunday departure, 15-20 knot winds out of the northwest to begin - moderating to 5-10 past midnight. Perfect - that's the beam reach that every sailor lives for - fast and dry. Well at least the first part of the forecast was accurate. We left New York with sunny skies and 15-20 knot winds. We used an abundance of caution and reefed the sails. By 6 P.M. the winds are moderating - ok this is a bit early but it was predicted so we take the reef out of the gennie but leave the reef in the main.
That's where reality and all the forecasts parted company. Shortly after we took the reef out of the gennie the winds came right back but this time they filled in to 20-25 knots and stayed there until an hour before we got to Cape May. For those without a lot of sailing experience 15 knots is a fair amount of wind. You can get the boat up to speed without too much stress on the rig. 25 knots sustained for 12 hours with gusts up to 30 knots is another story. I was very happy that we didn't take the reef out of the main, but the boat was still overpowered with the full gennie. The auto pilot is a wonderful friend, but it doesn't like downwind sailing with big winds. Or maybe it's just that Roger doesn't know how to tune the boat properly to allow the autopilot to do its job. At any rate, I ended up hand steering for basically the entire night. Whenever we get in reasonably heavy weather I am eternally grateful that we are in an Island Packet - which is not one of the fancy custom boats but it is a rock solid off-shore cruising boat.
With the strong winds and a bit too much sail up we made great time averaging over 7 knots for the trip. We actually arrived a little too early and needed to stand off the harbor for a half hour for sunrise. Tomorrow we will enjoy Cape May before heading up the Delaware River to get into the Chesapeake through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.