Due to wind and sea conditions we stayed another night in Cuttyhunk but we pulled anchor and spent the night rafted up at the dock. We explored a little more of the island. There are several bunkers on the west side of the island that overlook the island and the surrounding waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The bunkers were built by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1941 to watch out for Nazi U-boats during WWII.
Other than that we just puttered around doing little chores on the boat.
October 30 – Block Island
We left Cuttyhunk and had a beautiful sail across Rhode Island Sound to Block Island. It was Tim’s first visit to Block Island. I had been there several times with my family when I was a teenager but it might as well have been my first; I recognized very little of it. We anchored in New Harbor otherwise known as Great Salt Pond and walked over to town which overlooks Old Harbor. Since this is mostly a tourist town most of the hotels, shops and pubs had just closed for the season. We found a small clothing shop that was open and stopped in to ask the proprietor if there was any place open where we could grab a beer. She said she had beer in her fridge that she wanted to get rid of and whipped out two Budweiser’s for us. We tried to refuse the Buds (we are beer snobs!) but she wouldn’t hear of it so we left her shop with the two buds and directions to a local pub that was still open. Shamus was invited into the pub as it doesn’t serve food. We enjoyed meeting the folks who stopped in and even ended up witnessing a spat between two of the patrons who were sitting on either side of us at the bar. The two buds were abandoned on the steps of the pub. Hopefully someone will find and enjoy them!
We didn’t stay long as another Nor’easter was forecasted to blow through on the weekend so we decided to head to Westbrook, CT where we would have good protection from the storm.
October 31 – November 3: Westbrook, CT
We left Block Island early in the morning in order to time our arrival at “The Race” to be at slack tide (the period of relatively still water between high and low tide). The Race is the narrow eastern entrance into Long Island Sound through which the Sound’s tides pass in and out of every day and if timed incorrectly can be notoriously difficult to navigate. The Race overlies part of a moraine, a ribbon of boulders and rocks left behind by a retreating ice age glacier. Parts of the moraine are above water forming Plum, Great Gull and Fishers Islands which essentially form what amounts to a kind of narrow gorge through which the Race flows. The underwater sections of the moraine are higher than the surrounding floor of Long Island Sound, forcing water to go up and over it. These two constricting forces, from the sides and from below, force huge volumes of water through a comparatively small space, causing currents that can run as fast as 5 knots and if there is wind opposing the current there will also be large and erratic waves. We had a beautiful broad reach over to the Race and thanks to Tim’s meticulous planning we hit the Race exactly at slack tide and had an uneventful entrance into Long Island Sound.
We docked at a slip at the Brewer’s Marina in Westbrook, CT. This size of the marina is unbelievable. It is a city of boats and there are two swimming pools, playgrounds, and picnic areas throughout the marina. The staff there was incredibly nice and helpful. They shuttled us to the grocery store and West Marine. We planned on leaving Connecticut on Monday but delayed our departure until Tuesday as Tim started having some painful muscle spasms in his lower back. Nothing strenuous brought them on – just leaning over to pick up a pen or something off the nav station. Anyway, sea conditions in the Long Island Sound were supposed to be choppy on Monday and a bouncing, rolling boat would have been agony for Tim so we relaxed for another day and departed Tuesday.
Nov 4: Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY
We motored across Long Island Sound to Port Jefferson, Long Island and picked up a mooring there for the night. We didn’t explore the area. We only went ashore to a nice little beach to walk and play with Shamus.
We were pushing to get to Jersey City, NJ or Staten Island, NY before the weekend as we planned an offshore passage off the New Jersey coast to Cape May, NJ which we estimated to be about a 30 hour trip. We hoped if we made the passage on a weekend then some of Tim’s brothers or our friend Chris Allen could join us so we could have shorter night watches.
Nov 5: City Island, The Bronx
We left Port Jefferson and had planned on anchoring for the night in a small anchorage close to the Throgs Neck Bridge but it was too shallow for our boat so we spent the night on a mooring in City Island, the Bronx. Again we didn’t do much exploring. We did take a nice walk to a small neighborhood grocery store a couple blocks from the Marina. It was a really neat little area with several little pubs and galleries.
Hell Gate is another section of our passage where careful attention to the tidal currents is essential. Hell Gate is the tidal strait that connects three major bodies of water; The New York Upper Bay, Long Island Sound, and the Hudson River via the Harlem River. On any given tidal cycle the “Gate” is going to have currents usually in excess of 3.5-4.0 knots except at slack tide. The convergence of these different waterways as well as the tidal currents and wind can make the waters here particularly turbulent and challenging. Large commercial tugs and tankers take special care transiting this section of water so you can imagine that it is imperative for a small sailing vessel like ours to time the passage through Hell Gate correctly. Failure to do so not only would leave you open to getting a good ass kicking by mother nature but given the commercial traffic through Hell Gate it certainly would not be a healthy choice to end up unintentionally playing chicken in the channel with 25,000 ton steel vessel!
It was a rainy morning but visibility was still good. Again, Tim’s careful planning had us arrive at Hell Gate at slack tide and we had an uneventful passage through the Gate and a nice cruise down the East River to New York Harbor. It was great having our AIS. We could see all the commercial traffic, their direction and speed and just as importantly they could see us. In fact, one tug and barge reached out and asked if they could get by us before passing under one of the bridges. We had no problem slowing down for them to pass.
We anchored in Liberty State Park, Jersey City which is very close to and offers a great view of the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower.
My sister, Colleen, lives in Hoboken which was less than 10 miles from the anchorage. She picked us up and we spent a great evening together at a restaurant called Skinners Loft in Jersey City!
We left the anchorage at Liberty State Park early in the morning for Great Kills Harbor on Staten Island. The skies had cleared and we had great views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Manhattan skyline especially of the Freedom Tower.
We had a nice sail over to Great Kills Harbor and picked up a slip for the night at Mansion Marina. Tim and I each rented a car. I was headed out Blairstown, NJ to see my family for the day and then back to the boat later that evening.
We estimated the trip from Staten Island to Cape May would be about 30 hours. Shamus isn’t trained to go to the bathroom on the boat (yet) so Tim drove him to Cape May where we put him a nice kennel until Sunday morning. He was also meeting our good friend Chris Allen in Cape May. Chris pulled some very long hours in his truck to drive all the way down from Maine to help us with the overnight passage of the NJ coast. Trust me when I say Chris, Tim and I looked into all modes of transportation and rendezvous points to meet up with Chris and then reunite him with his truck for his drive back to Maine. Crazy as it seems Chris driving all the way to Cape May and then back to Staten Island with Tim worked out the best.
Nov 8: Offshore Passage of the Jersey Coast / American Chop Suey on Deck
Chris and Tim arrived back at the boat from Cape May around 3:30 a.m. Tim and I were up a couple hours later to return the rental cars. We got back to the boat around 7 a.m. and started out for Cape May shortly thereafter.
The forecast called for northwest winds 10 – 15 knots changing to southwest late in the afternoon with seas building to 3 – 4 feet. The forecast turned out to be fairly accurate. We started the trip with some nice wind and calm seas and were able sail several hours before the wind turned to the southwest (right on the nose) and we needed to start the engine.
The waves started to build late in the afternoon or early evening. Carina started bucking a bit but all of us were very comfortable. Even in the rougher conditions I was able prepare us a nice warm dinner of American Chop Suey.
Our night watch schedule was to each take 2 hours at the helm and then four hours off to rest. I went to bed around 8 p.m. and came out to take my watch around mid-night. We were just offshore of the very brightly lit up Atlantic City. Tim had just taken the helm from Chris and said he was still good to go for a while. The sea conditions had gotten a bit worse and between the wind, waves and current we weren’t making any real headway sticking directly to our course. We put out the staysail to stabilize the boat and started tacking back and forth across our course line. It was a somewhat more comfortable ride and we were able to make pretty good headway. When something crashed I stuck my head down the companion way to take a look below and then I also put my head down when I was helping tack the staysail. Not such a good move for me in particular to make in rough seas. It gets me everytime. My stomach curdled and my portion of American Chop Suey hit the deck – literally! Yuck! As is typical for me when I get a little sea sick the involuntary clearing of my tummy makes me feel better almost instantly as long as I stay in a somewhat reclined position. Sitting up usually brings on another wave of nausea and vomiting. So I spent the next couple of hours reclining, vomiting if I sat up to help, and staring at the lights of Atlantic City while Tim and Chris took turns at the helm. Around 3:30 a.m. I rallied and took the helm until about 7:30 a.m. Tim relieved me and we arrived in Cape May at 9:15 a.m and picked up a slip at the South Jersey Marina.
Nov 9 – 10: Cape May, NJ
Shamus was really happy to see us when we retrieved him from the kennel in Cape May. As always he was especially ecstatic to see Chris who is one of his most favorite people in the world. Chris left for Maine after grabbing a shower at the marina. We offered Chris a nice hot breakfast and a bunk to catch some sleep before he started his road trip back to Maine but he was anxious to get going. I worried about his return drive as he had two long nights in a row without much sleep but he made it home just fine.
Chris, we can’t begin to thank you enough for helping us out!!!. It would have been a difficult night without your help especially since I had a short bout of sea sickness that sidelined me for a bit. You and Jen are the best of friends! Just pick up the phone when we can return the favor and make plans to come visit us in the warmer climates where you and Jen can do some diving!
Tim and I didn’t have much energy to do more than get a bite to eat and straighten up the boat a bit before dropping into bed for a long nap. We woke up long enough to take Shamus for a nice walk, eat dinner and go back to bed for the night.
On Sunday, we decided to stay another day in Cape May. We did a thorough cleaning of the boat inside and out and I hauled Tim up the mast so he could replace the wind direction vane. After finishing up our chores we explored the town of Cape May a little bit. It is a nice little village especially the Pedestrian Mall area. We splurged and bought some very yummy fudge and salt water taffy.
We needed to determine if we could transit the Cape May Canal to enter the Delaware Bay or if we would need to go down around the peninsula which would add a couple hours to our trip. The issue is whether there was enough clearance to pass under the two bridges in the Cape May Canal. The height to the bottom of the bridges is 54’ at mean high water. Our mast height is 56’. Everything Tim researched seemed to indicate if we transited under the bridges at dead low tide we might be able to squeak under. After double checking all the information he could find and actually walking over to see the first bridge Tim felt we should give it a shot. Dead low tide was around 4 a.m. The plan was to glide up to the bridge in neutral or just barely in gear to see if we would clear the first bridge girder. If not we would not clear the bridge we would do a hard reverse to stop our forward momentum turn around and head around the peninsula.
Nov 11 - Nov 12: Chesapeake City, MD
4 a.m. arrived bright and early. The moon and stars were still out and it was a beautiful morning. We followed our plan and approached the first bridge at dead low tide… and… we made it! Just! Our VFH antenna, which is flexible, hit every girder on the way under the bridge.
When passing under the second bridge we had a close call with an electric cable hanging down which powers the green navigation light illuminating the height of the bridge. We almost hooked it with the masthead and had to back down hard to avoid it having break off equipment that is mounted on the top of the mast! PHEW! Once we were certain everything was okay with the equipment on the masthead, we passed under the bridge no problem then changed our underwear and proceeded into Delaware Bay.
We crossed Delaware Bay and transited most of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (CDC). We stopped in Chesapeake City, Maryland which is still inside but toward the end of the canal. It is a great place to stop. It is a quaint little historic village filled with nice little shops and galleries. There is an interesting museum there about the history of the CDC, and plenty of places to walk Shamus. The “Deck” at the Chesapeake Inn is a lot of fun. We met a very nice woman named Jersey who we had a great time talking with and sharing stories. She was a veteran of the army and navy and had served our country in some very cool places. It was Veterans Day so we made sure to thank her for her service to our great country.
Tim’s parents met us on the 12th for lunch at the Chesapeake Inn. It was great to spend time with them. Hopefully, they will come visit us when we get to warmer climates! It was a little too late after lunch to head to another anchorage so we spent another night in in Chesapeake City.
The next day we sailed down Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis where I hope to meet up with a few friends from my college days at the University of Maryland. I haven’t been down here in 17 years so it will be nice to reunite with those who can meet up with us on such short notice.
November 14: Annapolis Day 2
I had forgotten how beautiful Annapolis is. There is history everywhere you look. It was nice place just to stroll around. We had lunch at McGarvey’s with Bev Cauley, a friend from college. It was fabulous to see and catch up with Bev and hear how well her husband Mike and sons are doing and also to get the news on some other mutual friends we shared during our college years.
This morning we had breakfast with one of my closest friends from college – Amy Dunne. Yesterday at lunch Bev had described Amy as a “breath of fresh air!” Amy is absolutely irrepressible and it was wonderful to spend time with her. Tim and I are both still smiling. I will definitely not let so many years pass between our next visit!
After our visit with Amy, Tim and I sailed away from Annapolis and we are now anchored off Fairhaven, MD. We hope to be in Portsmouth, VA by Tuesday.