One More Gale and 25 Miles to Go

The end is near. At least for now.

Yesterday we completed a relatively short hop from Belhaven to Broad Creek on the Neuse River. Along the way we passed the first (but certainly not the last) shrimp boat of the trip and a small Coast Guard station near the Hobucken Bridge.

Shrimp boat at R.E. Mayo Seafood
USCG Station Hobucken

After getting tossed around a bit in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River we pushed as far up Broad Creek as our draft would allow and found a snug spot close to shore to wait out another gale.

Anchored close to shore. Decks cleared and everything tied down. Wood smoke and owls.
Better in here than out there.

The winds and rain should start any time now and persist through tomorrow. Hopefully by Monday morning nice weather will return and we’ll set off towards Beaufort, NC and the final destination of this leg of our trip: Bock Marine. With 25 nm to go we should arrive at the yard shortly after lunch.

While waiting for the storm I’ve made some changes to the other pages on this site. Comments and suggestions for further improvement are welcome.

Jersey Shore

Long day. Good fun.

Only short-in-stature, challenged-in-draft vessels can navigate the intracoastal waterway protected by the Jersey Shore’s barrier islands. Unlike the ICW south from Norfolk, VA the New Jersey segment is very shallow and the fixed bridges that cross it are shorter than the 65 ft standard. So real boats need to head out into the Atlantic at Sandy Hook and sail offshore to Cape May, a distance of about 120 nm. There are a few inlets in between that can be used to break up the trip (notably Atlantic City) — but we chose to press on and get it done in one 24-hour period.

Friday afternoon we filled the fuel tank, refilled the snack locker, and gave the engine a thorough checkup. On Saturday morning we left the Atlantic Highlands boat basin at dawn. It took more than two hours to navigate north around Sandy Hook, into the Atlantic, and then back south along the beach to the latitude of our starting point. There were lots (LOTS) of little fishing boats for the first few hours. I didn’t see anyone actually catch anything, but from the volume and diversity of boats (and the salty language on the radio) you could tell these folks were serious about their sport.

The Atlantic Highlands boat basin has an amazing view of downtown Manhattan.
After much messing about in inland bays and sounds it was a good to finally be out in the ocean and heading in the right direction.

Weather conditions were generally good with a few clouds and a light drizzle in the morning. A few scattered showers were predicted for the evening. It was cool enough and with enough rain potential that I put up the bimini to provide a windbreak and keep the cockpit somewhat dry. And I bundled up too.

Winds were light and from behind. On a flat sea we probably could have sailed the whole way but with a 2-3 foot quartering swell we were rolling and the sails were not effective on their own. So the engine ran for the first half of the trip to keep us moving at a reasonable pace. The genoa did help stabilize the boat as long as there was enough wind to keep it full. To escape the noise and smell I spent time forward of the cockpit as conditions allowed.

An almost glassy Atlantic

The Jersey shore is not particularly photogenic from 1-2 miles offshore. In some areas there were lots of little cottages and families at the beach, in others the entire beachfront looked commercial. Each of the towns was different, none more so than Atlantic City. The high-rise buildings were visible from more than 20 miles away in daylight and the gaudy lights further still after dark.

Barnegat Inlet is known for its occasionally rough and dangerous conditions. The wreckage of a sailboat was being cleared as we sailed past. The Barnegat Lighthouse is one of the taller and more attractive along the coast.

With the glassy conditions I was disappointed to see no whales. But I was ecstatic to see some brown pelicans. These are generally warm-climate birds that migrate to the mid-Atlantic states in summer and are very rarely seen as far north as Cape Cod. More evidence that we are making significant progress southward.

An afternoon rain shower provided some interesting colors. The full rainbow was visible but I was unable to get a photo of the complete arch as my camera lens wasn’t wide enough.

Right around sunset the wind picked up as a few more small storms passed over us This let us shut down the engine and sail for the second half of the trip. It was glorious cruising along at 7 kts on a starry, moonlit night.

Storm coming
Moonlight

Cape May is a well-protected harbor with an easy-to-navigate inlet. Which is good, because I had to navigate it at 0400 this morning after 22 hours of sailing. Fortunately there was still some moonlight. And also GPS. And radar. And a very effective range. And lighted channel markers. And I had studied other accounts of finding the anchorage in the dark. So using just those few tools we found a nice spot to anchor just off the beach adjacent to the Coast Guard training facility. And then went to bed.

We are literally a stones throw from the beach. We’re well-protected from the weather. Not so protected from the fisherfolk who started zooming by before 6 this morning.
Coast Guard training facility in Cape May

From Cape May the fundamental routing decision is whether to continue south on the outside to Norfolk, or head inshore up the Delaware Bay, across the C&D Canal, and down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk. I’m looking forward to having some family visit us in the Annapolis area — so we’ll be taking the inshore route this time.

Today, besides napping, I’m working on planning our transit of Delaware Bay and the C&D canal. It looks like the weather should be passable tomorrow – not perfect, but workable – and the all-important tides and currents align nicely with daylight hours. The leg from Cape May to Chesapeake City (near the Maryland end of the C&D canal) is about 75 nm but should take less than 10 hours if we can ride a favorable tide the whole way. A substantial gale is expected Tuesday and Wednesday. If all goes according to plan we’ll ride that out in Chesapeake City. From there its on to Annapolis, then down the Chesapeake to Norfolk to join the ICW.

Escape from Port Jefferson

Its a nice town. Can I leave now?

Zephyrus is the Greek god of the west wind. This is the origin of our word zephyr, the lightest of breezes. Clearly somebody did something to piss off Zephyrus because the west winds have absolutely howled for the last few days. Except for one rainy afternoon the sky was sunny and the temperatures were moderate. It just blew like stink. The highest wind speed we saw (on a mooring in a “protected” harbor) was 42 kts and it rarely dropped below 25. So we sat tight in Port Jefferson for three days until the various weather forecasts suggested the winds would begin to ease up.

It is impossible to capture with a still image the pleasure of 30+ kt winds and 1-2 ft waves while on a short, non-compliant mooring. Its a very unpredictable and jerky motion that is different from a vessel underway or on anchor.

During this forced downtime I went ashore twice to do some grocery shopping. There was plenty of time to do some boat maintenance and some more laundry. I made some improvements to the jacklines and tethers that keep me aboard. And I assembled and hoisted our radar reflector. The next few legs are going to be in highly-trafficked areas (like New York harbor) and I want to be easily seen.

Last night the forecasts all indicated we should see a lessening of the wind this morning. The forecasts were, as usual, optimistic. The forecast predicted 18 gusting to 27 with 1-2 ft waves. In fact we saw winds today of 38 kts in the middle of Long Island Sound with 3-4 ft waves. Andante handled the conditions as she was built to do and I just tried to point her in a reasonable direction and not do anything stupid. As you can tell from our track we didn’t try to take this weather head-on but tacked back and forth across the sound. While it made for a longer journey it was much more enjoyable than just bashing into waves all day.

In late afternoon it was rewarding to see the NYC skyline appear as we approached City Island, just NE of the Throgs Neck bridge and the entrance to the East River. We found a calm spot to drop the anchor for the night. Its a pretty area and a nice anchorage but for the intrusion of city noises (cars, sirens, what I can only assume is a gun range).

Tomorrow is a big day. One of the two legs I’ve most anticipated is the transit of the East River and New York harbor. This is one of the busiest waterways in the world and can be challenging to navigate with sharp bends, strong tidal currents, and lots of big ships. Because of these currents the timing of our departure is important. As it turns out we will need to leave later in the morning than I’d usually choose for a trip of this length (about 37 miles) which means we may arrive at our destination after business hours and possibly close to sunset. Fortunately I was able to reserve a mooring at Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club so even if was arrive late there should be an easy end to the day.

Its supposed to be a nice sunny day tomorrow with light winds. l’ll do my best to take some photos while dodging traffic.

A foggy start

Soup in Newport gives way to sun in Mystic

We left Newport early to catch a favorable tide near our destination. Early mornings in spring and fall often mean fog. AIS and radar and GPS make navigating in fog possible but its still not something to be taken lightly. The big guys are easy to find and we passed several of them near Castle Hill in the channel leaving Newport. Its the small fishing boats without AIS and with poor radar signatures that I worry about.

Light fog in Newport just after sunrise.
I’m pretty sure there is a massive suspension bridge over there somewhere.

Light winds (from behind) and big swells (from the side) do not make for effective or comfortable sailing. Much of today was spent with the engine in gear and the yankee unfurled to provide a little roll-damping.

We followed the Rhode Island shoreline south from Pt. Judith for several hours to Watch Hill where a narrow passage with strong tidal currents leads into Fishers Island Sound. In the span of about an hour we left Rhode Island, entered and left New York (which claims Fishers Island), and ended up near a small island at the mouth of the Mystic (CT) river. Three states in an hour at a walking pace. Nice.

Watch Hill, RI and its lighthouse. Seems like a nice neighborhood.
Latimer Reef Light just north of Fishers Island. Not shown are the 15-20 small fishing boats working the rips around the shoal. Very pretty area – but busy even in mid-October.
Anchored in about 15 ft of water NE of Ram Island at the mouth of the Mystic River.

Our chosen anchorage near Ram Island is a little exposed to the NE but the winds tonight and tomorrow morning are supposed to be “light and variable.” If recent experience is any guide that is NOAA-speak for 15-20 from the SW. So we’ll be fine.

We’re due at a marina up the Mystic River tomorrow mid-morning to have work done on the refrigeration system. Hopefully that will only be a 1-2 day job. We’ll stay in a slip at a marina in downtown Mystic until its done.

Then its off off towards NYC with perhaps three more stops between here and there. Depending on the wind the next port will most likely be Port Jefferson (on the north shore of Long Island) or Milford, CT.

Thanks for leaving comments. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to explore anything specific in a future post.