Overnight Passage From Beaufort to Wilmington

When we originally planned the final leg of our trip to Wilmington, we planned for an overnight passage in the Atlantic Ocean from Beaufort Inlet to the Masonboro Inlet at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, then down the ICW to Snow’s Cut, across Snow’s Cut (a man made cut that connects the ICW at Carolina Beach with the Cape Fear River) to the river, and finally up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.  Internet research both before we departed and during the trip south indicated that the ocean inlets on the ICW stretch between Beaufort and Wrightsville Beach all had serious shoaling problems.  Running aground on the ICW at an inlet, especially when the ICW route would have had us pass by four problem area inlets, would have ruined our trip as much as striking the Wilkerson Bridge with our masthead would have.  For this reason, even our original plan had us doing the outside, overnight, passage in the Atlantic Ocean where there are no bridges and the water is eighty feet deep.

We had two routing issues with the Masonboro Inlet off-shore route.  First, the off-shore distance from outer channel marker to outer channel marker on the two inlets is only 60 miles.  At an average speed of 6.5 knots, we would cover the distance in a little over nine hours.  In order to avoid coming into the unfamiliar (at least to us) and narrow and shallow (nothing like the wide, deep Beaufort or Cape Fear Inlets) Masonboro Inlet, we would have to depart Beaufort after dark and with a strong current running through the Beaufort Docks Marina making our departure in the dark even more tricky. On top of all this we knew there were additional ICW shoaling problems in the short trip from Wrightsville Beach to the Cape Fear River.

Friday morning began with preparations for an open ocean passage.  Changed out the primary fuel filter elements, topped of the lube oil, ran jack lines on the deck, pulled all the safety gear out of storage, checked and re-located the “ditch” bag, fixed the electrical wiring problems with the stern running light, and generally got the boat ready to go off-shore.  Friday remained a sunny day.  We ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant next to the marina.  While eating lunch and pondering the difficulties of an after dark departure, we talked about taking the longer, but safer route to the Cape Fear River around Frying Pan Shoals and into the Cape Fear River through the well marked inlet channel.  Neither of us could really see a reason not to do this.  In May 2012 we took this route north with Chuck and Jeanne, making an overnight passage from Bald Head Island (at the mouth of the Cape Fear River) to Beaufort.  We still had the 2012 route in the ship’s computer.  Nancy readily agreed to investigate the route change, and we headed back to the boat to view the 2012 route in the opposite direction. 

In 2012 we went the whole way around the bottom of Frying Pan Shoals (the shoal that extends 16 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean from the NE corner of the Cape Fear River Inlet) before heading to Beaufort.  The 2012 trip was approximatley 113 miles land end of inlet, to land end of inlet.  While examining the 2012 route to Beaufort, I noticed the Frying Pan Shoal Slue on the chart, an opening through the shoal about three-quarters of the way out to the end of the shoal.  Water in the Slue was 20-30 feet deep as opposed to 6-12 feet deep further in Frying Pan Shoal (why so many ships historically have foundered on this shoal).  While Nancy was looking over my shoulder, I reversed the 2012 route on the ship’s software navigation system, then moved the old waypoints from the extreme south end of the shoal to a mini-route through the Slue.  The change in the over-all route reduced the route length by 10 miles or about an hour and half of travel time.  We were good to go with the new route to the Cape Fear River in the ship’s computer.

This lovely boat preceded us out of  Beaufort

This lovely boat preceded us out of Beaufort

We departed Beaufort Docks at about 3 PM Friday afternoon, October 18 in the daylight and with the current in the marina almost slack.  Nancy took us to sea out the inlet channel without difficulty.  We turned southwest out of the channel when we passed the three mile limit.  Winds were light at about 7-9 knots and on our tail.  While we could have sailed it would have been a really slow trip, fighting to keep the sails filled with the wind directly astern.  So we continued motoring.  We had a favorable 1 knot sea current keeping our speed at 7.8 knots at our normal 2500 rpm operating speed.  Not wanting to arrive hours before dawn, we slowed the boat down to 2200 rpm and a comfortable 6.5 – 6.8 knots.

One of our goals on this the last leg of our trip south was to arrive in Wilmington prior to the 10 AM bridge opening of the Isabelle Holmes Bridge across the North Branch of the Cape Fear River.  Our marina for the winter, Cape Fear Marina, owned by Bennett Brothers Yachts, is located just beyond this bridge.  This bridge only opens for recreational boat traffic daily at 10 AM and 2 PM, and that’s it.  In order to make the 10 AM opening I knew we had to maintain an average speed of about 6.5 knots.

Once we turned out of the channel, I set a temporary waypoint on the buoy 82 miles away marking the eastern entrance to the Frying Pan Shoal Slue and set the Go To waypoint on the chart plotter and the autopilot.  From that point on for the next 11 hours all we did all night long was make +1 and -1 minor course corrections with the autopilot.  It got dark around 7 PM and the wind decreased some more.  VQ’s radar indicated that we had almost no other boat traffic accompanying us to Frying Pan Shoal.  The big commercial vessels all must go around the bottom end of the shoal, so we expected no large boat company until we crossed the shoal.  After dark a couple of rain squals showed up on the radar indicating their passage north of us.  At about 8 PM I had a breakfast sandwich for dinner and Nancy had two yogurts.  Neither of us was very hungry after eating a big lunch.  I took the first watch until about 11 PM.  Nancy slept in the cockpit.  At about 11 PM we switched places.  I tried to sleep, but couldn’t.  After midnight we passed through a squal line that produced little rain.  However, once we got on the SW side of the squal line the wind suddenly clocked around dead onto our nose and rose to about 20 knots for about 1.5 hours, literally, the wind went from 6 knots to 20 in an instant.  As we moved further away from this last squal line of the evening, the wind lessened.  In between the squals that passed nearby, the full moon was visible in the eastern sky, and provided an unexpected amount of light.  Near 1 AM, Nancy realized that some of the “stars” were actually planets, and looked at them through the binoculars.  At about 2 AM Saturday morning I took over the watch and Nancy tried to sleep again in the cockpit.  We passed a couple of fishing boats all lit up as we approached the shoal.

We reached the Frying Pan Shoal Slue at 3 AM.  I took VQ through.  There is a pair of small, unlit red and green buoys marking the very center of the Slue’s channel.  Even with a full moon, I could not see either buoy when I was a little less than a mile away.  Our charts on the chart plotter at the helm station in the cockpit showed no chart detail below the 6 mile range setting, and at this range setting the red and green buoys were so close together on the chart on the chart plotter I could not safely steer between the buoys for fear of hitting one of them.  So I woke Nancy up and had her take the helm while I guided her using the charts on the ships’s computer below at the navigation station in the salon that showed great detail at much lower range setting.  With me calling up to Nancy new course bearings, we easily passed through the Slue seeing no less than 20 feet of depth and mostly 25-35 feet for most of the transit through the Slue. 

We crossed the Slue and turned north to the Cape Fear River inlet at about 4:30 AM.  I took the helm again and remained at the helm until VQ was well into the river.  At about 6 AM and still very much in the dark, we reached the Green 7 channel buoy where I had previously decided to enter the inlet channel.  At this point I made a “pan-pan” annoucement on VHF radio channel 16 announcing our entrance into the channel to all concerned traffic and our northbound route intentions.  I could follow the next few lighted green and red buoys marking the entrance channel fairly well, but once we approached the actual mouth of the river all I saw was lights in every direction and in varying intensities and flash timing.  At this point I woke Nancy up again to help me out with light identification in order to stay in the river entrance channel as it twisted and turned several times on the way into the river proper.  Nancy also helped me spot the Southport ferry crossing our path as well as several recreational fishing boats heading out to sea for some early morning fishing.  Without the chart plotter at the helm station showing me the channel and the radar in the chart overlay position “lighting” up the buoys on the electronic chart, it would have been extremely difficult and unsafe to come into the river with just a visual on the channel lights.

Sunrise on Cape Fear River, Saturday, Oct 19, 2013

Sunrise on Cape Fear River, Saturday, Oct 19, 2013

At 7 AM the sun started to rise, the sky lightened up, and I gave the helm to Nancy, who stayed at the helm until we traveled up the river about 16 miles to Wilmington.  We had a very favorable current once in the river.  At times VQ was speeding along at 8.5-9 knots.  Nancy said she saw 9.6 knots for a moment.  We reached Wilmington’s first lift bridge at about 9 AM.  I checked the tide board with our binoculars – it thankfully showed 66.5 feet of clearance.  We next tried to reach the bridge tender on the Holmes bascule bridge on the VHF.  No response, probably because I didn’t really know the name of the bridge.  I then tried to reach Bennett Brothers marina on the VHF and got no response.  Frustrated and getting a bit upset, we tied up temporarily at the Wilmington Town Dock in front of the Hilton Hotel.  The city’s dock master came out and assisted us in contacting the bridge tender.  I also reached Bennett Brothers on the cell phone and received a temporary slip assignment.

Cargo cranes in fog, Cape Fear River

Cargo cranes in fog, Cape Fear River

DSC_0070

Equipment reflected in Cape Fear River

Wilmington waterfront

Wilmington waterfront

At exactly 10 AM Nancy took us through the bridge opening on the Isabelle Holmes Bridge and shortly thereafter we tied up VQ at the first Bennett Brothers dock after passing the bridge.  We then turned off the engine and both of us got a couple hours of sleep.  For me, I think it was the first sleep I had since waking up Friday morning.  Later that afternoon I got our permanent slip assignment for the winter (I selected from five available slips), though we wouldn’t move til the next morning at slack tide.  Then we started cleaning up the boat and putting safety gear away that was taken out for the ocean passage.  I also took a taxi to Wilmington’s airport (5 minutes from the marina) and picked up a rental car for the weekend and trip to Myrtle Beach.  Saturday night we had dinner at Caprice with Dina Greenberg. 

Sunday we spent the morning moving VQ to her permanent winter slip and cleaning and preparing the boat for a long winter at the dock with only monthly visits planned by the two of us beginning in January.  We met Dina again for lunch at La Catalan, a french bistro/cafe right on the river.  Dina and Nancy went shopping for a few hours while I amused myself taking in the street sights in historic downtown Wilmington.  We returned to the boat at about 5 PM for more cleaning and boat preparation.  Nancy completely emptied the fridge and freezer and turned them off.  Some food got dumped, but much was taken to Dina’s apartment in downtown Wilmington.  We returned to Dina’s apartment at 8 PM with all the usable food and some boat electronics I did not want to leave on the boat for the winter.  We ate outside on Front Street at Circa, and returned to the boat at 10:30.

We departed Bennett Brothers at 7 AM Monday morning for the 1.5 hour drive to Myrtle Beach, SC where we dropped off our rental car and headed for the terminal and our airplane flight back to Baltimore-Washington Airport.  We flew Spirit Airlines from Myrtle Beach for less than half the cost of flying US Air from Wilmington, saving about $400 even with renting a car.  JoAnne Norton picked us up at BWI and drove us to Annapolis, where the three of us had lunch as we shared with JoAnne our trip adventure.  We drove home from Annapolis in my car which had been parked at our marina for the last eleven days.  We were home in Cherry Hill by 5:30.  It was a tough trip in some respects, but it was a great trip too.

One post script on the Wilkerson Bridge.  Cruisersnet.net (our guide to ICW problem areas) reported on October 17 that a day or two before we passed under the bridge, a sailboat with a 63 foot mast crashed into the bridge when the tide board was reading 62.5 feet.  Apparently, the sailboat suffered significant damage.  I read the internet article on the crash this morning.  Once again I’m thanking our lucky stars for our safe passage under the bridge.

Arnon

 

On to Plan C, or Maybe Its D

Before I get to how we actually got to Wilmington, NC, which is where I am writing, I wanted to fill in some of the pictures we missed getting to this point.

The container ship approaches

The container ship approaches

The cause of that really big wake is a really big bow!

The cause of that really big wake is a really big bow!

 

They really have planes on aircraft carriers

They really have planes on aircraft carriers

Submarine at dock

Submarine at dock

Patrol boat at Norfolk Navy Yard.  That's a machine gun on the bow

Patrol boat at Norfolk Navy Yard. That’s a machine gun on the bow

So, we spent an additional, unplanned, night in Coinjock.  The next day we left the dock at about 7:30 am.  Fluke, who was behind us, left a bit earlier.  We headed down the North River, but could tell there was still a bit of wind, coming from the north, but nothing like the two days before.  We wondered what the Albemarle Sound would be like with the wind at lower intensity.  It was still a bit rocky, but we knew it was nothing compared to what it must have been like the day before.  The waves were very manageable.  One of the good things about the Albemarle is that it is deep enough that staying in a channel is not necessary.  Just put in a waypoint on a particular course, and let “Otto”, our autopilot, control the helm.  Just have to make sure the waves don’t knock you off course.

Our first “uh-oh” occurred as we entered the Alligator River.  As you may recall, at the end of this river is the dreaded Wilkerson Bridge.  Arnon happened to look at the back deck and realized that our big yellow water balloon was not there.  He went on deck and discovered that one of the net ends holding the balloon had chewed right through its connection to the end of the boom, allowing the balloon to slide out of the net, onto the deck, and right overboard on one of our bounces on the waves.  We had no idea if it was floating somewhere, or sank.  But not having it was a problem, since Arnon was really intent on heeling the boat over to get under that bridge.  Within minutes, however, he had the solution: he would just lower the dinghy, with motor, over the side, attached to the end of the boom.  OK!

Our destination for the night was an anchorage off the Newport News Point, where the Alligator River takes a right hand turn, and a place we had spent the night with Jeanne and Chuck two years before on our way down the ICW.  Skip Monsein (On Course) had recommended it.  We pulled in still in pretty windy conditions.  But this anchorage is protected (albeit just by scrub pines on shore) from any wind with a northerly component, which is what we had.  Fluke was already there, and another boat we met at Coinjock pulled in sometime later.  Just after we anchored, a large power boat went past, clearly with many more miles to go.  Arnon radioed and asked if they were going through the Wilkerson Bridge that day.  Since they were, he gave them his cell phone number and the skipper agreed to call and let us know what the tide board read.  This was assuming we had any cell phone service, which was in and out.  Sometime later, they did call to let us know that the tide board read just over 63 ft.  Our mast is 63 feet without any of the instrumentation (taken off in Portsmouth).  Thus, our problem.

The next day, Wednesday, we left the anchorage early.  The wind had died considerably during the night, and we hoped that all the water had been blown down river and out from under the bridge.  This is a very pretty part of the Intracoastal Waterway, but since the weather was still pretty lousy, no good pictures could be had.  One thing we both remarked upon is that as pristine as much of the waterway is, almost no sign of humans, there is also almost no sign of wildlife.  No otters, no beaver, no deer, almost no birds.  Very strange.

Anyway, got to the bridge, and actually put the boat in reverse in case I had to back out fast.  The tide board still said a bit over 63 feet.  We slipped under, without throwing the dinghy off the side, and didn’t hit a thing.  Fluke, who was behind us, radioed to say they had the binoculars on us and it looked like we had a good inch to spare.  Not great, but it worked.  Fluke left us at Hobucken, which is nothing more that a long commercial fishing dock on the ICW, where you can tie up if there’s room, buy fresh fish, and spend the night.  Oh, and for some reason there’s also a Coast Guard Station there.  We continued on to that night’s anchorage at the end of the Goose Creek.  Still not so nice out.  But we were having really nice meals on board, even if we had to cook them ourselves.  Pretty close to dark, a small sailboat pulled into the far part of the anchorage for the night as well.

The next morning the sun actually was visible.  I was so excited I grabbed the camera to get some pictures.  Didn’t know when we’d see the sun again!

OMG.  The sun!

OMG. The sun!

Our anchorage neighbor sailing into the sun.

Our anchorage neighbor sailing into the rising sun.

Our destination for the day was Beaufort.  This was a beautiful day, and the waters we traveled were beautiful as well.  The Neuse River, Adams Creek, then Beaufort Inlet.  It was really a lovely day, and we were docked at Beaufort Docks by 1:30 pm.  Saw dolphins, always a treat, near Oriental and just as we got into Beaufort as well.

Dolphins in the Neuse River near Oriental

Dolphins in the Neuse River near Oriental

Adams Creek

Adams Creek

Houses on Adams Creek

Houses on Adams Creek

Nancy at the helm, concentrating on staying on course

Nancy at the helm, concentrating on staying on course

Checking out the passing boats

Checking out the passing boats

Our dock mate in Beaufort

Our dock mate in Beaufort

Beaufort waterfrot

Beaufort waterfront

We had a lovely dinner at Beaufort Grocery Company Thursday night, a place we had eaten on our way down the ICW two years ago.  Just as good as we remembered.

This is a long entry, and we’re very tired from an overnight in the ocean.  I’ll report on the rest of the trip to Wilmington tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.

Update to the Update

OK.  The new plan is to leave in the morning and go through the Albemarle Sound, since the winds are supposed to die a bit, and we will spend the night at anchor off New Port News Cove, just off the Alligator River.  The next night we will anchor off Goose Creek, at mile marker 155 on the ICW, and we should still make Beaufort, NC by Thursday.  Friday afternoon we’ll head off shore, and make Wilmington on Saturday as originally planned.  All of this is weather dependent, as usual. But the weather forecast is improving as the week goes on.  So, we’re off tomorrow.  No internet or phone service until Beaufort.  Will do another entry there.

Update

Best laid plans, and all that.

Last night, on our way to the restaurant at the marina for Arnon’s prime rib dinner (I had grilled shrimp), we stopped at the dock master’s office for the phone number of the Alligator Swing Bridge tender, since we heard from the owners of Fluke that the wind report was not good.  That could mean high waves and a difficult passage through the Albemarle Sound.  It could also mean that the swing bridge wouldn’t open.  At certain wind levels, they don’t chance it.  We had to go through there, since our mast is 63 ft with nothing on top, and the only other way around has bridges we could not get under.

This morning when Arnon called the bridge tender, he said he was only opening between gusts, and the wind was gusting to 30 knots.  So, not only was an opening iffy, the water state would be really bad, since any high wind kicks up high, short period waves.  We heard that there were 5 ft seas.  We made the decision to stay in the marina at least another night.

As of now, early afternoon, at least it has stopped raining, and every once in a while the sun peaks out.  Haven’t seen the sun in what feels like a week.  It is still blowing, even in here, where we are pretty much surrounded only by land, except for the ICW.  Bouncing around in the slip windy.

We will see what tomorrow’s weather brings, but this does set back our traveling schedule a bit.  We are talking about leaving VQ in Beaufort if we are delayed another day, then coming back down in a few weeks to take her the rest of the way to Wilmington.  Keep you all posted.

Headin’ South

photo

You all know us.  We don’t like to stay home too long.  So, this year we decided to take Vision Quest to Wilmington, NC for the winter.  Our friend, Dina Greenberg, is going to school at UNC-Wilmington, and we had visited last year with an eye to taking VQ there for a winter berth.  Dina’s husband, Bob, is still working at home, but flies down every few weeks for a long weekend.  Wilmington is below the frost line, so no winterizing, one of the things we REALLY don’t like to do at the end of each boating season.  So, Wilmington it is.  We had to leave a bit earlier than we otherwise would have, because we are going to a wedding in Ann Arbor, MI the last weekend in October, and after that Arnon is helping our friend Skip take On Course to Florida.  Had to get special dispensation from our insurance carrier, since most boat policies won’t let you leave the Bay until hurricane season is over, November 1.  So, we left Annapolis Friday, October 11, 2013.  It was not a nice day, as can be seen above.

We actually pulled out of the slip at 7:30 am.  We were going to leave earlier, but there was no light at all.  It was still dark because of the clouds, and rain, and mist.  But these are home waters, and it did lighten up shortly after we left.  Our day was 10.5 hours long, from engine on to engine off.  It alternately poured on us, then would seem to subside.  We had a fairly comfortable ride, since the wind and waves were off the stern quarter.  About midday, we passed the schooner Sultana, which we think is a training ship, heading north, and not having a good time of it.  Then, many hours after we started, as we pulled around Smith Point Light, it started to POUR.  Visibility was down to almost nothing.  The marks were almost right in front of us before we could see them.  Our destination was a lovely little creek, Mill Creek, off the Great Wicomico River which is off Ingram Bay.  We had been there before, most recently the last night on our trip home from the Bahamas.  Luckily, the rain let up just as we got into the creek, and we were able to anchor in relative ease.  Since it was still raining, we cooked dinner inside, had some lovely wine that Mary and Rocco Falvello left for us in the cockpit before we left, and called it a night early.

Sultanna at Sea

Arnon raising the anchor

Arnon raising the anchor

Mill Creek anchorage

Mill Creek anchorage

The next morning, it was lightly raining (anyone getting the theme of this trip yet?).  We pulled up the anchor, and were headed into the Bay by 7:30 again.  Just as we turned out of the creek, the heavens really opened up.  The wind started howling, the waves were pretty rough, and it was a very uncomfortable ride for several hours.  Finally, we got to Wolf Trap Light, marking Wolf Trap Shoal, just south of the Piankatank River, and were able to turn in a more southerly direction.  The waves were now off the stern quarter again, making for a much more tolerable ride.  Eventually, the seas calmed down, and we continued to the night’s destination, Portsmouth, VA.

Entering the James, and then the Elizabeth Rivers, is always exciting.  interestingly, there were no US Navy vessels out and about (government shut down?), just huge container ships.  One passed us fairly close by, leaving a huge wake, which we took on the proper angle, but still buried the bow twice.  It took a long time for all the water to drain off the deck.  That was exciting.  The first time we came in here, many years ago, JoAnne was with us.  She and I were sitting on the deck, with the front hatch open, when we took a commercial vessel bow wake that nearly washed us over.  It flooded the front cabin through the hatch.  Never made that mistake again.

We pulled into our slip at Ocean Marine Yacht Center, the same marina we stayed in when we left for the Bahamas two years ago.  We were there early enough to get fuel, fill the water tanks, and Arnon went up the mast to remove all the instruments off the mast head in preparation for the bridges we had to go under the next day.  That night we had dinner at Café Europa, a little place we found two years ago.  It was just as good as we remembered.

This morning we left at 6:40 am.  The sky was not even pretending to get light, but this part of the Elizabeth River is lined on the other side with boat repair yards, which operate 24/7 on the Navy ships.  It’s lit like daylight all night long.  We had plenty of light.  Our goal was the Gilmerton Bridge 7:30 opening, which we made with a few minutes to spare.  Next was the Great Bridge Lock lock.  There were only two boats in the lock.  We both remarked how strange it was to be traveling without a slew of other boats, as we had two years ago, in both directions.  Back then, when we neared a bridge that had to open, we were in danger of hitting all the other boats milling around waiting.  This time, it was just us and Fluke, a really interesting Krogen trawler with a hailing port of Ann Arbor, MI.  Anyway, after the lock, there is a swing bridge, then another swing bridge about five miles away, which only opens on the hour and half hour.  We really wanted to make the 10 am opening, so we pushed VQ a bit harder than we normally do.  We made it, but Fluke, our lock traveling companions, decided to hold back.

Currituck Sound is a really large, flat, body of water.  It is also incredibly shallow, so it is imperative that a boat stays in the marked channel.  Unfortunately, the wind decided to pick up, blowing on our beam, which made staying in the channel very difficult.  Since it is shallow, at least there are no big waves.  But even small waves can knock you off course.  Although it is only about 14 miles, we each had to take the helm off and on, since it was so hard to steer.  My arms started killing me!

Our “home” for tonight is Coinjock Marina.  There is nothing in Coinjock except a marina on either side of the ICW, and a few houses.  I think the houses probably belong to the people who own the marinas.  We got here pretty early, since we left so early, and were tied up by 1:45pm.  Had lunch (finally), did some boat cleaning, Arnon tried to see if he could fix a couple of things, and I’m writing this blog.  Dinner tonight is at the marina restaurant, which features 32 oz. prime rib.  They like you to order that in advance, so guess who did?

Tomorrow is another really long day, with the dreaded Wilkerson Bridge near the end of it.  Arnon has rigged his water and net weight to heel the boat over again (see pictures in the blog post from two years ago in archives).  We’ve used most of the fuel in the starboard gas tank to lighten that side of the boat, so it will be heavier on the port side.  Our destination tomorrow in New Port Cove on the south end of the Alligator River.  Forecast for tomorrow is another day of 15-20 knot winds so the Albemarle Sound crossing will be rough.  However, this sound is deep so we won’t have to worry about staying in the channel to avoid running aground.  From there it is either Belhaven, or Oriental, then on to Beaufort.

It is raining, AGAIN.  It’s so humid in the boat that when I wipe the countertops, they don’t dry.  I’m wearing the hood up on my sweatshirt, since I didn’t Keratin my hair again.  This is a very different trip that the one two years ago.

We miss our constant traveling companions Chuck and Jeanne Spofford.  Our kids are worried because we are making this trip alone.  But, it’s another adventure.  And what is life without adventure?

Back Safe and Sound

VQ from Brizo on Thursday, courtesy of Bonnie

VQ from Brizo on Thursday, courtesy of Bonnie

I will get to discussion of the picture above, but first a little catch up on activities.

Wednesday morning we got an intentionally late start, leaving Liberty Landing on the 11:00 am ferry to Manhattan.  Jeanne, Chuck, Bonnie, Arnon and I were meeting Sarah at the Standard, and would go somewhere for lunch.  Since we had time, we took the subway uptown from the Financial District. Mistake.  SOOOOO hot underground.  Getting in the subway was a pleasure since all the cars are air conditioned.  Got to the Standard, Sarah left work for a quick lunch (she is just up the street), and we walked to Chelsea Market.  Looked at everything available, then chose a little Panini place.  Sarah really did have a quick lunch, then left to go back to work.

Sarah & Justin and the ring

Sarah & Justin and the ring

Bonnie had already left for her lunch appointment, so Jeanne and I did some shopping.  The guys walked around a little, then Jim called to ask where to meet us.  They were already in the city.  We met them on the corner, then walked the High Line.  The High Line is an old elevated line that has been converted into a city walkway, beautiful gardens, and art space.  It is really an amazing accomplishment for NYC.  Jim and George were hungry, so we stopped at a little place where they ate the most expensive, and small, chicken salad sandwiches on the planet.  They were lugging around their sea bags, so all the guys went back to the boats, and Jeanne and I continued to do a bit of shopping.  By this time Bonnie had rejoined us, and the three of us went back to Chelsea Market for a bit of reprovisioning.  I was able to get everything on my list in a really great little supermarket right there – coffee, tomatoes, and reduced fat potato chips.  After than, Jeanne and I went back to the boats.  Bonnie met us later for dinner at the marina, in the other nice restaurant there.

The next day VQ and Brizo pulled out right after the 9:00 am water taxi left the marina.  Arnon had checked the weather before going to bed the night before and nothing looked alarming.  It was gray and cool, and a bit of wind in the harbor.  Getting out of NY Harbor was just as interesting as getting in, but with bigger and more traffic.  The Staten Island Ferry moves VERY fast, and VERY frequently.  There were helicopters buzzing around overhead.  There were a number of really big boats anchored on the side of the channel waiting for their turns at the loading docks on the NJ side of the harbor.  Easy to feel dwarfed by their size.

VQ going under the Verrazano Bridge

VQ going under the Verrazano Bridge

Brizo leaving NY Harbor

Brizo leaving NY Harbor

 

The conditions got progressively worse as the day went on.  The swells from the ocean grew larger, the wind started howling, VQ was rolling from toe rail to toe rail, which makes for a very uncomfortable ride.  The opening picture on this entry gives you an idea of what the day was like.  I was at the helm for the morning and into the early afternoon, and got a real good core workout trying to stay erect.  If you let your body roll with the boat, that’s an easy way to getting pretty sick.  When I got hungry, it was time to give the helm to someone else – George.  Gotta hand it to our autohelm, it held except in the worst swells.  Once, while Jim was at the wheel, it simply let go, but came back on easily.  We were asking too much of it.

At some point during the afternoon, Jeanne radioed to see if we wanted to go into Atlantic City that night, which was where Bella and Opus were, never having left that morning as planned.  Jeanne called the marina and reserved slips for us.  VQ was still up in the air until Arnon checked the weather again, and advised that if we kept going through the night, it was just going to be the same, not any better, beating into weather on the Delaware Bay.  The vote was for VQ to go in too.  We let Lydia know, and she organized Team Bella and Opus to get us in, since it would be dark and the marina office would be closed.

Atlantic City Inlet is somewhat tricky, especially if approaching from the north.  The outer sea bouys are hard to see against the lights of the casinos, and it is very shallow on either side.  Arnon once ran aground in a 27 ft power boat there.  Also, as Lydia informed us by radio, there was a dredging barge in the middle of the channel going in.  Keep in mind that the wind was howling, the swells were at least 6-8 feet, and it was dark.  As we approached, Peter turned on his AIS so he could see where we were, and actually talked Brizo and VQ into the channel and then the turn to the marina like a flight controller, and we were instrument flying.  It was actually very neat.  Lydia, Mary Kay and Mike were all on hand with lanterns and flashlights like beacons so we could see the U-turn (!) into the marina.  Al and Harriet were also on hand and helped both boats get in without mishap.  It takes a village, and we’ve got a good one.

Friday morning was cool, clear, sunny, and little wind.  Very different from Thursday.  We all decided a good breakfast was in order, having eaten pretty much nothing the day before, and trooped into the buffet at the Golden Nugget, which is where Farley Marina is.  The waffles and egg white omelets were the best.  Then everyone took off at about noon.  Our intention was still to get back to Annapolis by Saturday.

There was some wind, but if we sailed we would be either headed out to England, or into NJ.  VQ doesn’t sail very well under 30 degrees, so we motored.  Brizo decided to go into Cape May with Bella and Opus, but we kept going.  It was actually the right decision.

As we entered the Delaware Bay, the seas smoothed out and the wind pretty much died altogether, which had been predicted.  I decided it was OK enough below to have a real dinner, so I cooked up some cauliflower and baby tomatoes, and Arnon grilled some chicken sausage on the grill outside on the stern.  We set the cockpit table and all four of us enjoyed a decent meal.  Cookies rounded out the evening (who knew Jim Kelly is a cookie fiend?).  Jim was at the helm when I went below to try to get some sleep.  Arnon was taking the watch after Jim.

When I woke up at 3:30 am, George was at the helm and we were almost all the way through the C & D Canal.  The only excitement was apparently a small power boat speeding through the canal, who cursed at VQ as it went by.  Arnon was up in the cockpit with George, and neither of them could figure out what caused that type of reaction.  Arnon stayed with me in the cockpit, and George went below to sleep.  Jim was already asleep.  While I was at the helm a really large ship passed going toward the Delaware River.  But that was it until we got into the Elk River, when a tug with a long tow on a barge passed also.  When it started getting light, I nudged Arnon, asleep in the cockpit, to see if he wanted to stop at Still Pond, one of our choices.  We decided to keep going.

Dawn, Saturday July 27, 2013

Dawn, Saturday July 27, 2013

Our home towers

Our home towers

At about 7:30, with everyone up, I went back down to try to sleep.  George woke me up at about 9:00, when we were turning toward Annapolis south of the Bay Bridge.  There were the towers, the symbol of home if we are coming from the north.  As we neared the marina, I took the helm again, since I am in charge of getting us into and out of slips.  The guys got boat hooks out and the bumpers untied, and we pulled pretty neatly into slip 70 at AMCYC.  Didn’t hit anything.

Mary and Rocco grabbed some lines, Bob Christman came over to welcome us back.  It’s almost nice to be home.  But I do love being on this boat, and seeing places never visited before.  For the next few weeks, we have family to catch up with and a wedding to plan.  Oh.  And I guess I better check in with my office….

For those interested in seeing all the pictures, let Arnon know and he will send an invitation from Dropbox.  This was a great trip.

On Our Way Back Home

What a sight, just as we turned a bend in the East River

What a sight, just as we turned a bend in the East River-view under the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge

After Mystic, we went to Old Saybrook, where Peter’s mom lives.  We were staying at the Old Saybrook Hotel, Resort and Marina.  Very nice facility (rebuilt since the hurricane last fall), and we had full use of the resort amenities.  Everyone used some part of the place.  The first order of business though, was lunch and then reprovisioning.  Lunch was in a nice place next to the resort called “Dock and Dine.”  There were pictures on the wall of the place destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  The water was at least 4 feet in the dining room.  MaryKay got Peter’s mom’s car, and took all of the ladies to the supermarket.  Everything we bought didn’t quite fit in the trunk, so some of us had packages on our laps on the ride home.  Since we were all pretty tuckered out (another long, hot, day), we just spent the rest of the afternoon napping, sitting by the pool, or washing our hair (me).  That night all of us, I think we were 14 or so at that point, shuttled on the resort shuttle to a terrific pizza place right at the Old Saybrook train station.

Saybrook Point Marina

Saybrook Point Marina

Next day was a spa day for the ladies (and Michael).  We had our nails done, Lydia and Mike had a “couples massage”, after which Michael fell asleep (they just left him there), some of the guys cleaned the boats then went to the pool, Peter and Al (new crew member on Bella) took a dinghy ride.  It was a low key day.  That night Mary Kay had made reservations for all of us for dinner at the restaurant at the hotel.  It was terrific.

Next day we all left early, for a 45 mile or so trip to Port Jefferson.   VQ left first, and as soon as we were out of the marina and in the Connecticut River there was a flash of lightening followed immediately by loud thunder.  It was just to our right.  Then it started to POUR, kicking visibility to nearly nothing.  Luckily, the lightening/thunder combination was not repeated, but we slowed down, turned on the radar, the fog horn, and all our running lights, and closed up the cockpit enclosure.  The deluge did not last long, just enough to unnerve us.  We spent the rest of the day making sure there was nothing else on the radar we should be concerned about.  When they talk about “pop up storms,” this is what they mean.  Actually, the sun did come out by the end of our trip.

We had reserved mooring balls at the Seatuaket Yacht Club in Port Jefferson.  This was actually a nice place too, and a lovely harbor.  The yacht club provided free launch service from the mooring field.  As soon as Brizo and VQ crews were ready to explore, we called the launch and got to shore.  The town is a quick walk up and down Main Street, and then it was time to find some fresh oysters and a bar.  The only oysters we found were at the Danford Hotel and Marina where Bella was in a slip.  I texted Mary Kay, who was looking for company, and she joined us all for a drink.  After that, Brizo’s crew and VQ crew returned via launch to our boats and made dinner on board.  Opus’ crew never even made it off the boat.  It was nice to have a low key evening.

Vision Quest (center of pic) on a mooring ball at the Seatauket Yacht Club in Port Jefferson

Vision Quest (center of pic) on a mooring ball at the Seatauket Yacht Club in Port Jefferson

Arnon and Chuck in downtown Port Jefferson

Arnon and Chuck in downtown Port Jefferson

Sunset in Port Jefferson harbor

Sunset in Port Jefferson harbor

Tanker bringing oil for the power plant in Port Jefferson at dusk

Tanker bringing oil for the power plant in Port Jefferson at dusk

From Old Saybrook on, we were travelling in Long Island Sound, and by the time we neared Port Jefferson the houses on the waterfront were looking mighty good.

Next morning, it was up early again for the 36 or so mile trip to Port Washington.  This was finally a day we could sail.  Of course, just like at home, sailing meant going not quite in the direction you want to go.  As we were nearing the coast of Connecticut again, we decided to jibe the boat.  That’s when we saw the building black clouds ahead of us.  Arnon checked the weather radar, and decided that the REALLY BIG system was going to pass west to east just south of us.  I went down a little while later and didn’t interpret what was happening exactly the same way.  We doused all sails and proceeded under power, and radioed back to Brizo and Opus III, who were still sailing some ways behind us, what we were doing.  Bella was close by us, and doused her sails too.

After another look at the radar, I thought there was a window during which we could get into Port Washington.  It was yellow instead of green (or even purple, which Arnon saw over New Jersey near NYC – that’s scary).  Arnon went down to check.  BTW, at this point we were circling in Long Island Sound, waiting for the storm to pass.  It took some time, but he came back up to the cockpit and told me to go for it.  Which is what I did, with Bella close behind.  Brizo caught up with us too, as we entered the harbor.

We all made it into slips without mishap.  We were staying at another Brewers Marina, and there are two of them, almost next to each other, in Port Washington.  I don’t know about the other one, but this one was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, and has all new floating docks and marina office.  The tidal range looked to us to be about 8 feet, and the dockhands told us that even at that, the original office up on land had 3 inches of water in it from the storm.  After having been cooped up on the boat for another long day, Jeanne, Bonnie (Brizo’s crew – arrived in Old Saybrook with Harriet, Opus’ new crew), Guacira and I decided a walk was in order.  There was a restaurant at the other Brewers marina that the guide book recommended, so we thought we’d go make a reservation for dinner.  We found the place and made a reservation for two tables (eating en masse has its limitations), then continued to walk in the rain.  We found a little grocery store, found out the royal baby was a boy, and walked back.  Peter, who had taken his bike for a spin, passed us on the way back.

Shoreline house entering Port Washington

Shoreline house entering Port Washington

Leaving Port Washington

Leaving Port Washington

Bella had invited us all for cocktails, which was really nice, since we hadn’t done this for weeks.  He also told us that he had biked all the way through “town”, and there wasn’t much.  All of us felt better for not having made any effort to “see” Port Washington.  The biggest claim to fame here is that it’s about a mile and a half to Manhasset Mall, allegedly the best mall in the US.  I think we were all shopped out at that point.  Anyway, after herding the cats, we all made it to the restaurant, a five minute walk once we got everyone actually walking.  And dinner was lovely.  We even had dessert and coffee.  The next morning Peter biked back to a bagel place right near the little market, and we all had bagels and cream cheese for breakfast.  Can’t remember the last time I had a bagel.

yesterday morning we waited until 9:00 to leave, with instructions from Arnon not to exceed 6 knots, since we needed to hit Hell Gate at 11:00 am or later, when the current was at least slack, and it was 12 miles away.  This was why we stayed in Port Washington last night.  Hell Gate, at the wrong time, can be very “uncomfortable”, since there are competing currents from two rivers, the East River and the Harlem River join at Hell Gate.  Hell Gate is the gateway to Manhattan.

Last light house in Long Island Sound approaching Throggs Neck

Last light house in Long Island Sound approaching Throggs Neck

Whitestone Bridge-gateway to East River

Whitestone Bridge-gateway to East River

Passing La Guardia Airport

Passing La Guardia Airport

Passing infamous Rikers Island Prision

Passing infamous Rikers Island Prison

In Hell Gate at just past slack water looking north up the Harlem River-we turned south down the East River

In Hell Gate at just past slack water looking north up the Harlem River-we turned south down the East River

Chrysler Building from the East River

Chrysler Building from the East River

Passing the aging UN Building

Passing the aging UN Building

Rounding The Battery

Rounding The Battery

Passing The Lady in NY Harbor

Passing The Lady in NY Harbor

View of southern Manhattan as we entered Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City

View of southern Manhattan as we entered Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City

This leg of the trip was fantastic.  At this point we had New York on both sides of us.  We passed La Guardia airport, Rikers Island, City Island.  Commercial traffic picked up tremendously, with tugs pushing large barges coming at us from the East River.  I nearly missed the turn into the East River, just looking around.  Luckily we all caught that I was going in the wrong direction.  The views are astounding, if you like cities, which we do.  There were the barges, the Circle Line Sightseeing boats, ferries, water taxis.  This is a busy waterway.  We passed the UN (looking tired and old), under the beautiful old bridges of Manhattan, and then there she was, framed by the bridge abutments, the “lady in the water,” as my youngest sister used to say.  This was an awesome trip.

We are now in a slip at Liberty Marina in Jersey City, with all of Manhattan as our view.  We had dinner with Sarah and Justin last night, the first time we’ve seen them since they got engaged.  Justin did a great job with the ring.  Beautiful.  Today Bella and Opus left early for home, and will be making stops each night, since they do not want to do a passage as we are doing.  Fair winds and following seas to them.  They have been great company for the last three weeks.  Brizo and VQ are staying, and we’ll go into Manhattan today to see the lower part of the city, particularly the High Line, which Chuck and Jeanne have never seen.  Bonnie (on Brizo) has family she will visit.  Jim Kelly and George Siegle will be joining VQ as passage crew, and will meet us in the city somewhere.  Then we will take off Thursday morning, and see how far we get, although the intent is to just keep going and make Annapolis by Saturday.

Next entry will be from home.  I’m actually looking forward to staying in one place for a while.

Did I Tell You It’s Hot???

We had a lovely time on Block Island, where most of us had never been.  Thursday, we arranged for a tour of the island by van, with the same driver who had picked up some of us the night before for dinner.  It was a soggy, gray day, but Jim, our cab driver and tour guide, was very knowledgeable and informative.  Block Island is all of 10 square miles, and was originally settled by Indians.  There were a few skirmishes with other tribes for the island but the locals always won.  Then, the English came, with a few families, some of whose descendants are still around.  This is a typical New England island, with land holdings and fields outlined in beautiful old stone walls.  A lot of the island is in conservancy, and has miles and miles of hiking trails.  The trails go through public and private land, with use allowed by the land owners.  There are small wooden bridges built over the stone walls where necessary to make hiking easier.

We ended our tour in New Shoreham, on Old Harbour (we were staying in New Harbour).  Lovely little seaside, New England town, with lots of great shops, and the best lobster roll Arnon has had so far (he is on a mission to find the best up here), at a little take out place on the water near the ferry dock.  Check his review on www.tripadvisor.com.  After some obligatory T-shirt and sweatshirt shopping, the guys left the girls, and we continued to walk, talk, and shop.  Everyone was successful, except JoAnne, who was just along because she was having fun.  The day ended, for the ladies, on the veranda of one of the big, beautiful, old hotels along the beach street, with a glass of white wine, served by a young man from Haddonfield, NJ, of all places.  He was having a great summer between his freshman and sophomore years of college.

That night we made reservations for all 16 (!) of us staying at the marina, at another big, old, beautiful hotel back in Old Harbour.  Our taxi driver, and a friend, got us all there, and back, without mishap.  Great dinner in a lovely setting.  It was “martini night”, which simply meant that martinis were the featured drink – no discount or “two for one” deal.  Bella’s crew was having a blast at the outdoor bar after dinner.  The “old folks” went back to our boats.  By the way, we were all wearing long sleeves at this point.

Next day we set off for Oak Bluffs in much calmer weather than the day before.  The weather report was decent for the 50+ mile trip.  Not so fast.  Very shortly after leaving Block Island, the weather turned gray and misty again, and the wind picked up.  Although the crossing was uneventful, except for the ferry who wanted to know what we were doing in its channel – just going through, sir – by the time we hit the inlet there was a lot of wind.  JoAnne, who had gone in front of us, radioed that the inlet was wild, and to stay in the middle and give it a lot of gas.  Peter, who was already in his slip, radioed that it was “Med mooring”, that is, stern to, or we would be climbing dangerously from bow to bulkhead.  This was going to be interesting.

Arnon took the helm to get us through the inlet, which was wild.  Like a braid, not a washboard.  The waves were rolling into and on top of each other.  Once we got inside I took the helm again, and we radioed for the slip assignment.  It was clear on the other side of the harbor, on the other side of the mooring field and in front of the public showers and restrooms.  There were ladders onto the bulkhead at the front (back?) of each slip, and we really wanted to go in stern first since we were sure we would never be able to get off the boat otherwise.  So, Jim and Arnon got the dinghy off the davit and tied it to a side cleat, while I just circled the mooring field in front of us.  EVERYONE was on the dock to help, since there was current and a bit of wind at this point.  The dockhands at Oak Bluffs were superb, also.  I had to back up between two fairly close pilings, not hit the really nice power boat on one side, or Brizo on the other.  I missed the first round, but pulled forward, then backed in beautifully, if I do say so myself.  However, it was a challenging half hour from inlet to tied up.

That night a bunch of us just walked around the quay to the restaurants, found one, got a table for 10, had a so-so dinner, then found some pretty good ice cream, walked back and went to bed.  The next morning, we asked at the nearby market about the bus to Edgartown, which I had noticed stopped on the street right in front of our boat.  That was the bus, but to get to Edgartown we needed the one that stopped on the other side of the street.  JoAnne, who is a member of Eastport Yacht Club, was able to get lunch reservations at the Edgartown Yacht Club for us.  Gathering cameras, credit cards, and hats, and all looking nice for the yacht club, we got on the bus and went to Edgartown.

Edgartown is really nice.  Lovely shops, nice restaurants, beautiful buildings and houses.  There was actually a police officer directing all the traffic, pedestrian and vehicular.  Lunch was terrific – they seated us at a round table just inside the doors on the harbor side.  We watched incredible boats coming and going; the food and service were terrific.  We all were very civilized and on best behavior.  The Yacht Club was having a regatta, and all the crystal cups for prizes were being set up on a table in the middle of the main dining hall.  It was a traditional yacht club, with great sailing pictures all over, old trophies, dark wood.  Just lovely.  On our way out, there was a table with the hats and T-shirts for the races for sale.  We all bought a hat or T-shirt, or both.  The rest of the afternoon, which by that time was getting warm, was spent going from store to store.  We took the bus back to Oak Bluffs, and, since Jeanne remembered a grocery store from their last visit, those of us needing provisions went in search.  Her memory was pretty good.  By the time we stopped to ask someone, we were only two stores away!

Shopping in Edgartown

Shopping in Edgartown

The guys taking a break

The guys taking a break

The gang at the Yacht Club for lunch

The gang at the Yacht Club for lunch

Oak Bluffs is also extremely picturesque.  The original houses around the green are still there.  Beautiful.  These pictures were taken on the walk back from the green, where we got off the bus so we could see some of the town in daylight.

Houses around the green in Oak Bluffs

Houses around the green in Oak Bluffs

More Oak Bluffs houses

More Oak Bluffs houses

That night we intended to have a “progressive dinner”, but the weather gods didn’t allow that.  At the appointed time to gather, the skies opened in a downpour.  We all stayed on our own boats and cooked in.  That was fine.  Had some pretty good tuna and sautéed cauliflower with grape tomatoes.

Next day it was on to Newport, RI.  This wasn’t a bad trip, but there was little wind, ALOT of fog, and then it started getting pretty hot.  At least the sun was out at the beginning and end of the day.  Interesting trip, with ferries running all over the place, a number of other pleasure craft, and, as we got in sight of the turn into Newport Harbor, a lot of racing going on.  Janet took the wheel for about 3 hours, and really got the hang of it – using the autohelm, seeing how the chart plotter worked.  I think (hope) she enjoyed it.  As we neared our turn, what I at first thought were bubbles of some sort on the horizon, turned out to be the spinakers of small racing sailboats.  Next to them were larger sailboats, and next to them the larger sailboats.  All having their own class races.  Also on the horizon, to the right, was something I thought might be paragliders up in the sky, then I thought it was some kind of really tall sculpture.  This turned out to be kites.  It was beautiful.

Janet at the helm

Janet at the helm

Kites on the beach in Newport

Kites on the beach in Newport

One of the seaside "cottages"

One of the seaside “cottages”

Then we turned into the harbor, and on both sides are incredible houses – almost castles.  Rolling green lawns down to the water, huge stone houses with patios.  Wow.  And none of these were “the mansions” along the Cliff Walk.  We had made reservations for a mooring ball from Oldport Marine Services, so we got our directions to the mooring field.  Unfortunately, Arnon didn’t have the range on the chart plotter low enough, and we nearly hit a rock. Janet and I felt the boat bump the bottom, though Arnon and Jim didn’t feel it.  Goes to show women really are more sensitive.  We didn’t get on the radio to Brizo in time, though.  They did hit, got stuck, and had to call TowBoat US.  They were towed off, with no harm according to the diver.  Thank goodness!

Our mooring balls were near each other.  But as soon as we got settled, Jim called Enterprise, since they were trying to get to Connecticut in time for their granddaughter’s birthday.  We called a launch(provided by Oldport also), and they actually made it in time for presents.  We had a great time with them.  Easy to have on the boat for a long period.  But it was nice to have some off time too, which was only until the next morning.  Did I say it was hot?

Brizo had her own mooring ball, but Opus III was rafted to us for the first night.  We took the launch in and had dinner at Black Pearl, which is reputed to have the best clam chowder in New England.  That may be true, but the rest of the meal was only so-so, again.  Ben and Jerry’s in on that wharf, so that was dessert.  Ran into Mary Kay on the wharf, since Bella was staying in a slip at Bannister’s.  She was pretty tired.

Next day, Eugenio and Guacira, our friends from Brazil, arrived.  After getting them settled, and consulting with everyone else, we planned the day in Newport.  Opus had gotten her own mooring ball, so we were no longer rafted.  But the “marina” wanted us to move to a different mooring ball, since they had a heavier boat coming in and wanted to use the mooring we were on.  Luckily, one had just opened up next to Opus. so we were all still together.  The launch guys got to know us pretty well over the three days we spent in Newport.  We did a lot of shopping, walking, toured the Vanderbilt mansion and the Elms, had one really good meal, at a restaurant called “Midtown”, which apparently is pretty new.  Other meals were just OK.  Did I say it was hot?

Yesterday morning VQ and Brizo fueled up prior to leaving Newport.  Bella decided to go right to Old Saybrook, which is where Peter’s mom lives, for some bonding time without the full complement of fellow travelers.  Don’t blame them.  We will meet them there tomorrow.  VQ, Brizo and Opus III traveled on to Mystic, Connecticut, again with some fog and little wind, where we are now.  Did I say it was hot?  Sweltering.  Baking.  Broiling.  We all went to the pool (after taking all the washing machines in the laundry room), and a woman Jeanne was talking to said that she’s been here 20 years, and this was unusual.  Figures, when we decide to escape the Chesapeake heat, it finds us in New England.  Last night, since we are pretty far from town here, and are all tired of paying too much for not great food, we grilled on the gas grills the marina has at the end of most docks, with lovely umbrellas and picnic tables.  When it got dark, we did a little planet gazing, got a few mosquito bites, and called it a day.

Today (did I say it was hot?), we took taxis to Mystic Seaport and spent a few hours there.  Very neat.  Then, by arrangement, the taxi came back to take us to the town of Mystic.  We walked a little, looked in some of the shops, but it was so hot we were all a little cooked.  Decided not to have Mystic pizza, and settled in for an early dinner at S & P Oyster Co.  This was a great dinner, even though most of us ate light.  Great oysters.  Tomorrow it’s an early start for Old Saybrook, to meet back up with Peter and Mary Kay.

In Newport waiting for the launch

In Newport waiting for the launch

Entrance to the Mystic River

Entrance to the Mystic River

At Mystic Seaport

At Mystic Seaport

Another seaside cottage coming into Newport

Another seaside cottage coming into Newport

Another beautiful, restored boat at Mystic Seaport

Another beautiful, restored boat at Mystic Seaport

We have had a few boat issues – the generator quit while we were in Newport, baking out in the harbor.  Arnon was able to diagnose some problems, and fix them, but he thinks the heat exchanger is full of salt encrustation.  We were able to run the front air conditioner, which was helpful to cool down the boat.  We don’t run it at night while on the hook anyway.  The starting battery is also not holding it’s charge, which was a problem before we left, even though it is a new battery.  Arnon thinks one of the house batteries is going, and is draining power from the starting battery.  These are problems which will have to wait until we get home.  As long as we are plugged in, we have air conditioning in the whole boat.  We will be on a mooring ball one more night, and by that time, hopefully, the weather will have broken.  Today we are under an extreme heat alert until 11 PM.

Did I tell you it was hot?

A new sailor’s perspective

In January when Jim volunteered us as crew on Nancy and Arnon’s cruise to New England, I thought little about it until several months later when powerboat friends started asking me what I was thinking spending so much time at sea on a sailboat. They seemed skeptical when I answered that I had been on a cruise ship and spent nine days crossing the Atlantic Ocean. “it’s going to be a lot different than that,” they said. Okay, okay, I said. Then I asked my husband the sailor if I should worry about the trip and he said no, no, you’ll be fine. So, I went about the next few weeks before July 4 with a little black cloud of doubt over my head.

Then came D-Day. We arrived on VisionQuest and sailed to Still Pond where we went for a refreshing swim and had a lovely dinner with Jo and Dave and Jeannie and Chuck. So far, so good. No problem, I can do this. The next couple of days were long and it took us hours to make progress compared to Argo, where in my estimation, we always got someplace too quickly. I realized it was supposed to be the journey, not the destination, but I really loved arriving at Summit North and at Cape May.

The big test was the 30-plus hours it was going to take us to get to Block Island with an overnight on the ocean. Again, my powerboat friends voiced their concern. So, when even Jody, a sailboater, asked after a fabulous evening at the Washington Inn if I wanted to borrow her shock watch/bracelet, I jumped on the offer.

We set out in fog for BI and when things started to rock and roll a little, I put on my bracelet and took the churn in stride, well, almost. I let my husband the sailor take my watch that night while I settled into the v-berth and tried to sleep with some success. And, yes, when I saw landfall, I said yay.

By the time we set out for Oak Bluffs, I felt more seasoned, ready to handle the 10-hour trip. But I wasn’t taking any chances and donned Jody’s bracelet. The trip got very choppy toward the end, and water was splashing over the bow. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the whole trip, including the peanut butter and cracker lunch. Was I getting into the rhythm of it.

I’m in awe of Nancy and Arnon’s competence on the boat (although the ditch bag frightened the daylights out of me) and how sailors more than powerboaters have to be in synch with the forces of nature. It has been a revelation to me, and I’m totally grateful to our gracious hosts for letting me share this experience with them on the absolutely beautiful and sea-worthy VisionQuest.

As we reach the end of the journey tomorrow at Newport, I ask myself would I do it again. Yes, but maybe without an overnight on the ocean. Those red jack lines you attach to your life jacket make a wimp like me cower in fear. JoAnne assures me spending overnights on the ocean is a rhythm thing. I’m skeptical.

 

 

Vision Quest Is On The Move!

A rainbow to start our trip

A rainbow to start our trip

Our journey began about the same way the trip to the Bahamas did – with a rainbow. As we walked onto the dock early Wednesday evening, July 3, there was a low slung rainbow sitting across Annapolis Harbor. I did get some pictures, on my phone, which are not translating well, or at all, into this blog. In any event, I thought it was an auspicious beginning. The next day, July 4, we all did some last minute West Marine, Giant, and liquor store provisioning. The marina put on a barbeque for slip holders, then everyone gathered on our dock to watch the fireworks. Since getting involved with Severn River Yacht Club at Mears, we have rarely been in Annapolis to watch the fireworks, since the Commodores’ Cruises were always during July 4th week. We now have a ringside seat to the best show in town – we overlook the Academy, where the fireworks barge always sits. It was a great show.

Fireworks over our boat

Fireworks over our boat

Sometime during the night, Sarah texted: She and Justin got engaged near midnight in Big Sur, California, where they had gone for a long weekend vacation.  He apparently planned a very romantic setting, and surprised her totally.  SO EXCITED!!!  So very happy for them, and thrilled that Justin, whom we love, will be a de jure member of the family, instead of just de facto.  We will deal with wedding plans when we get back home, but this is so very, very exciting and wonderful.

Early Friday morning, Janet and Jim brought their stuff over, stowed it, and we pulled out of the slip at about 11 am. First stop was Still Pond, one of our favorite northern Bay anchorages. We all sailed much of the way, although it was pretty hot with a south wind behind us. Eventually it gave out and we motored the rest of the way. Brizo had a bad experience on the way up – their autohelm froze, and would not let them hand steer. Eventually, after drifting about for a while, they turned EVERYTHING off, rebooted, and were OK the rest of the way to Still Pond. It was freaky. We all anchored, and had a great meal cooked on the grill on the back of the boat.

Next morning we enjoyed the anchorage for a while, waiting for the current in the C & D Canal to go slack, then pulled out at about 10:30 for our next destination – Summit North Marina in Bear, Delaware, on the C & D. Although we had all been in the Canal as far as Chesapeake City, few had been farther than that. The C & D Canal is maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers, and has a fascinating history which I will not detail here. But is saves HOURS of travel time between the Atlantic Ocean, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Very large container ships and car transports regularly use the Canal, and recreational craft must stay out of the way. Since we hit the Canal on a Saturday, there were only a few tugs. It is an interesting waterway, with a very strong current, which smaller boats, even our size, do not want to go against. As we entered the Canal the current picked our speed up to 9 knots, not a speed we would hit on our own power.

There are few sights to see on the Canal, but we did take a picture of the mobile home park.

Mobile Home Park on the C & D

Mobile Home Park on the C & D

Summit North Marina was interesting. It is an oblique left turn off the Canal, and was clearly silted in at the entrance. We didn’t even think to check the tide when we were going in, and it was low. I radioed the office again and asked if there was a particular side to stay close to. The woman on the other end told me it was all silt, and to just plow through it. That’s what we did. The lowest depth I saw going in was 5 feet – and we draw 5’10”. I just revved it a bit, and plowed through. The depth at the slip was 13 ft. Bella, with Mary Kay and Peter D’Arista and crew, ran aground about 5 ft from their slip, since they came in a few hours after us, at dead low tide. They were able to throw their power cord to a dock hand, so they did get power. By the time we all got back from dinner the dockhands had pulled Bella into her slip.

Did I say it was hot? It was REALLY HOT!! That day was close to unbearable. The marina had a pool, thankfully in shade, and some of us meandered up there for a dip. Arnon and Chuck, however, were working on Brizo’s autohelm, which had cut out again on the trip up the Bay to the Canal. But at least we all had air conditioning.

Next day, although we intended to leave at 6:00 am, the water was much too low for any of us to get out. We all sat in our cockpits watching our depth gauges. Finally, t 8 am, we ventured out into the Canal. Everyone made it, although Brizo bounced a little on her way out. One of my favorite bridges anywhere crosses the C & D carrying Route 1 in Delaware. It is a beautiful bridge.

St. Georges Bridge over the Canal

St. Georges Bridge over the Canal

The major landmark of the Delaware River is the Salem Nuclear Power Plant, which can be seen for miles and miles.

Salem Nuclear Power Plant

Salem Nuclear Power Plant

It was a long day down the Delaware River, then out into the ocean for a little bit, to avoid being swept onto the beach by the wind, then into the Cape May Inlet to Cape May, NJ (our home state!!).  The inlet was a bit wild, with opposing currents and wind.  Almost like one of the cuts in the Bahamas.  There was a pretty swift current into the marina, but all landed safely.  It was an 8 hour transit, and all the sailboats were pretty tired.  All the power boats were already there – Rocky Shelle, Libertad, First Light, August Moon, On Course.  The first night we all walked over to the Lobster Pot for dinner, which was surprisingly good.  The next day everyone who ate breakfast ate at the little place attached to the marina, helped with a $10 per boat discount card.  But it was a good breakfast.

Several of us walked into town, which wasn’t that far.  Cape May is a delightful Jersey shore town, with Victorian houses all over the place, and lots of great gardens.

Victorian house

Victorian house

Bridge light

Bridge light

Dinner had been arranged by Jodie at The Washington Inn, one of the most famous of the bed and breakfasts, and a well respected restaurant for dinner.  It lived up to its reputation.  Everyone had a great time, and we needed the walk back to the marina.

The next day we waited for the current running through the marina to go slack, so we could leave the dock.  In order of departure: Walkabout, Opus III, Brizo, VQ, then Bella.  Walkabout radioed back that the inlet was encased in fog, and boy, was it.  The mast in the picture below is Brizo.

Brizo enveloped in fog, leaving Cape May

Brizo enveloped in fog, leaving Cape May

Then it was out into the Atlantic for the 30+ hour passage to Block Island.  VQ motored sailed the entire way, to make the most of any form of propulsion we had, since it was a long slog.  But the swells were pretty tame, the wind (what there was of it) was off the starboard stern quarter, and it was actually a good passage.  Jim, Arnon and I all took watches, and Janet tried to sleep.  The only excitement was while I was off – there were lobster boats dropping unmarked traps into the ocean in the middle of the night.  Although one of the captains responded to Arnon when he called, the other maintained radio silence.  Eventually, Arnon just steered around him.  It was a very dark night, but there were some stars.  It also got cool, necessitating sweatshirts and pants for Janet and me.

At about 2 pm on Wednesday we hit the inlet for Block Island.  The wind suddenly picked up to 20 knots and it was interesting trying to stay in the channel, since the wind was trying to blow me out.  We had made the decision several hours earlier to get into a marina instead of picking up a mooring ball, since the weather was going to turn nasty.  I made a phone call and got slips for all the boats, which was a good call.  We all got in, made a dent in the messes in our cockpits and below from the all-nighter, and took naps.

After getting a recommendation from a dock hand for dinner, we called a taxi and went to Dead Eye Dick’s, a very nice little place on the water, not too far from the marina.  Excitement as we were leaving – a fire in the laundry room.

Sunrise in the Atlantic, Wednesday, July 10

Sunrise in the Atlantic, Wednesday, July 10

Block Island Fire Company

Block Island Fire Company

Great Salt Pond anchorage

Great Salt Pond anchorage

Arnon in vacation mode

Arnon in vacation mode

We are in discussions about leaving tomorrow for the next destination, Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.  There is a front coming through today, which will change the weather for the trip tremendously, with wind coming from the northeast – our travel route.  That would make a difficult, long, 40+ mile slog, with wind right on our nose.  Will report on what we decide with my next entry.

All is well.  Having fun.  Janet Kelly, who has never done anything like this before, will be a guest blogger for the next post. – n