For the past week or so I’ve been moving almost daily from island to island in the central Exumas. The weather has been nice with consistent easterly trade winds that allow easy north and south sailing. All of this movement has been within a day’s sail of Staniel Cay and Big Majors Spot and I’m starting to think of this area as home. The anchorage is roomy and protected and its easy to get fuel, water and food — so I keep coming back after spending a few days away in quieter, more secluded spots.
The timing of a trip like this is a compromise. Leave New England too early and you risk encountering late-season tropical storms on the way south. Leave too late and you get slammed with early-season winter storms. While the tropical Atlantic is clear for the moment, a frontal system has brought strong gusty winds to Long Island Sound for the past two days — and the forecast suggests this will continued for several more. We’re currently moored in a substantial harbor rocking and rolling in 37 kt winds and wondering if we’ll ever get to NYC and beyond. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Saturday we left Fishers Island for the leg to Milford, CT. It was a long day of more than 50 wet and bumpy miles. We sailed the whole way but the strong wind acting against the strong current resulted in especially steep and uncomfortable waves. Andante is a big heavy girl who can usually punch through 3-4 foot waves but these were a challenge. I got completely soaked during a sail change and anything loose in the cabin went flying. The only serious casualty was my lone head of garlic that was violently ejected from its hammock and exploded on impacting the floor. I’m still picking up garlic shrapnel.
We found a spot to anchor in the Milford Gulf close behind a little (very little) island that provided some protection from the south wind. But within an hour of anchoring the weather alarm went off with a severe thunderstorm warning associated with the oncoming frontal passage. When it hit just after dark we saw winds in the low 30’s accompanied by a rapid 100-degree windshift. I’m really happy with the performance of our Spade anchor – especially its ability to reset on shifts like this. Its the only reason I get any sleep.
With winds still whipping we attempted a shorter leg today from Milford across LIS to Port Jefferson, NY. This choice let us make a little progress towards our goal without having to sail upwind for long. The short hop also put us in a secure location with most of the afternoon available to restow and secure gear, catch up on some maintenance and do some grocery shopping.
Port Jefferson is a an interesting town connected to Connecticut via a ferry service from Bridgeport. It seems well-equipped for summer tourists and all the shops and restaurants were still hopping today.
Unfortunately some of the tourist services have shut down for the season. For example, I had hoped to do some laundry using the much-advertised facilities in the harbormaster’s office. Closed.
I’m sure the folks on the superyachts (and the adjacent Port Jefferson Yacht Club) praised my resourcefulness as my underwear hung pinned to the lifelines flapping in the wind.
One of the things I’ve been concerned about when sailing in rough conditions is Dinghy. She’s seen a lot of use and is beginning to show her age, especially on the fittings used to attach her towing lines.
Losing Dinghy while underway is a possibility that I’d like to avoid. So I took the opportunity today to haul her on deck, deflate her, and lash her down. It took about an hour but was definitely worth it for my peace of mind. I expect we’ll gain up to a knot in boat speed without the additional drag.
So getting through Long Island Sound is proving to be a bit of a chore because of the weather and this portion of the trip is taking a longer than I anticipated. The winds are forecast to be strong out of the west and northwest — exactly the direction we need to go — for the next couple of days still. But we’re in not particular rush other than to stay ahead of winter as best we can. We’ll push on in small bites as conditions allow.