After a very peaceful night in City Island we enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous day today on the East River and New York Harbor. Its hard to imagine better weather conditions for this leg in late October: Sunny, clear, and warm. And we timed the tides just right so that the passage down the East River and through Hell Gate was a non-event and we were pushed through the Narrows at more than 8 kts. Vessel traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. There were plenty of large ships and tugs and barges and ferries and jet skis (really) but it wasn’t the total mayhem I expected.
As a result I was able to take a ton of photos. I’ll share and comment on a few below and put some others on the Gallery page linked above.
I really looked forward to this leg of the trip. It was very satisfying to both get the logistics of this just right and to enjoy such nice conditions, especially after the past few days in Long Island Sound.
On to the next challenge: Sandy Hook to Cape May. As of right now the weather is looking reasonable for a departure late tomorrow or early Saturday.
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.
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.
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.
We spent the last few days in Mystic undergoing a much-needed upgrade to Andante’s refrigeration system. After two days of ripping out the old and installing the new we now have a modern, efficient, and quiet 12V system (a Seafrost Tradewinds XP) that will keep our freezer and refrigerator boxes well-chilled when the engine is not in use. Yay cold drinks and firm cheese and not-so-funky mayonnaise. It was a messy job made somewhat more challenging by my living aboard during the work but the end result is worth it.
The company that did the refrigeration work (Cool Boats LLC) secured us a slip in downtown Mystic between the railroad swing bridge (Amtrak trains several times per hour) and the old bascule drawbridge (endless parade of tourists). We were docked right between the two bridges and could watch the action all day long.
Upriver less than a mile is the Mystic Seaport Museum. There was a steady stream of beautiful wooden schooners passing just off our transom on the way to tie up at the museum.
After putting the interior of the boat back together late this morning we repositioned from downtown Mystic to West Harbor on Fisher Island. It was only about an hours steam down the river but it feels like an entirely different planet. Quiet, secluded, and a nice gentle breeze that doesn’t smell like boatyard and restaurants. And nice clear water.
Lately I’ve been noticing increased vibrations and noise when motoring at cruising speed. For some weeks I’ve suspected hard growth on the propeller and prop shaft but have been unable to do much about it because the visibility has been so bad. I took advantage of the clear water in Fishers Island Sound to investigate using the GoPro-on-a-stick contraption that Alex and I figured out earlier this summer. Once growth on the prop was confirmed I took advantage of the sunny, relatively calm afternoon, squeezed into my wetsuit, and went for a refreshing swim in the 60 degree water to scrape away all the growth with a putty knife. Mission accomplished in less than 5 minutes. I’m hopeful that this will lessen the vibrations since there is a lot of motoring in our future.
We are anchored just outside of West Harbor positioned for a quick exit early tomorrow morning. There are supposed to be strong winds from the south that should make for good sailing. With an early start to avoid the strongest adverse currents we will try to sail about 50 miles west to Milford, CT. From there it will be just one more 40 nm hop to City Island, then into the East River and through New York Harbor to Sandy Hook. But one step at a time.
Note: I’ve put the link to the tracker on its own page accessible through the top menu.
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 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.
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.