A Travellerspoint blog

Martha's Vineyard, MA

rain 66 °F

So, we waited. Waiting appears to be an important part of boating: waiting for weather, waiting for tides, waiting for bridges, waiting for parts, waiting for berths. The sun disappeared, the rains came but the wind took its own sweet time about arriving. In the interim the on board power miser, moi, watched as the batteries drooped from 14.00v to 12.60v, not a problem, but in the case battery charging, bigger is almost always better. Then the winds arrived and the batteries slowly clawed their way back over 13.00v, a number with which Carol, who knows nothing about batteries, was more comfortable. So was I.

It was cool and dank two days on the boat, a climate not much to my liking. The temperature didn't much break 60o but did manage, barely, to stay above 50o. This may be a summer trip where the winter clothes never get put away .... we're too busy wearing them all. I have on enough layers of fleece to do a passable imitation of the Pillsbury Doughboy. The heavy wool blanket, which had been folded away for a few nights, is back now, a regular part of the decor. Even the Nordic Princess has allowed that the sleeping cabin has been "coolish." Of the several weather locations on our desktop, Hot Springs is by far the warmest, by a 10o margin and the homestead is looking very appealing. Of course, Martha's Vineyard is closer and easier to reach by boat than is Hot Springs, so we went there instead.

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The Friday evening before we left, the skies cleared, the sun shined and the winds died making for a beautiful evening after two pretty crummy days. That nice weather carried over to Saturday. The tide was running out, low tide at 0600, so we were up at 0430 and underway at 0450 to catch the current, which we did. Coming in to Newport we were much occupied with traffic; that morning only one boat left earlier than we did. On the way out the channel we saw some more "estates, " that we had not noticed on the way in. Several were older ones, a few contemporary, all aspirational .... just not for us. The sun started to show itself about 0515. There was no particular reason to feel patriotic that Saturday morning, it was the morning after Flag Day, but the American flag flying proudly at Ft. Adams against the backdrop of the sunrise looked pretty good to me. There are not so many benefits to being old but indulging in schmaltzy patriotism is one of them.

The trip was about 45 nm and we were in the mooring field shortly after noon, a little over seven hours. It was a wonderful day to be on the water as long as sailing wasn't important. We're cruisers with a sail boat; no wind, no problem. That's what motors are for. We saw several boats out today with limp dacron flapping pointlessly, content to go nowhere, patiently waiting on the wind's arrival, maybe, sometime.

Our trip took us past the mouth of Buzzards Bay, and then along a chain of islands to the north that separate Vineyard Sound from Buzzards Bay. I was noticing that several of those islands have indian sounding names which surprised me. Turns out that about 3,000 indians occupied this island when it was "discovered," that being an arrogant word since the indians already knew the island was there. No one seems to know who the eponymous Martha was, or even if there was one; don't know much about grape vines either. Those factoids have been lost in history. By conscious design the possessive apostrophe in place names is facing extinction; it's just not much used, Pikes now just a plural of something modifying Peak sans the apostrophe. This island, Martha's Vineyard, is one of only five US place names that still employs that grammatically correct punctuation mark, reason enough for me to like it here.

I'm starting to get exasperated with marina employees, especially those that work for a municipal government. These people seem quite capable of explaining how to do something for the 101st time if we've done that thing 100 times before. A rational, coherent explanation of how to do something the first time is just too hard, requires too much thought and too much originality. We must have spent 30 minutes in a mooring field not much larger, if larger, than our homestead trying to find the mooring ball needle in a mooring ball haystack. Having found it, the clearances were too tight and we moved to a new place, one of my choosing. The young man who located us, and also does pumpouts, boat septic tanks, has probably exceeded his reasonable career aspirations. I suppose that the world needs places for people like that; I just would like to be able to avoid them when trying to moor the boat, always a tense experience in crowded locations. But, it ended well enough.

Sunday morning was beautiful and a fitting time for firsts: we both slept well past 0600; when I got up it was warmer in the cockpit than in the cabin so breakfast was topside, the first such occasion for that in the 75 mornings of this cruise; Carol actually took the dinghy in by herself, easily more than a year since she has done that, probably not since her debacle in Hope Town in the Bahamas. We cleaned the boat, some parts at least: the cockpit and head seem to accumulate detritus at an amazing rate, probably from shoe bottoms. A lot of that detritus is, sadly, human hair. Since there are only two humans aboard, fortunately for me, some of that hair is a familiar chemical shade of red.

We might be getting better at this boating thing. I noticed that the wind had shifted, moving to the west and that some altocirrus clouds had moved in during the morning. Better check the weather! Sure enough ... rain and some wind tonight.

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My endless fascination with sailboats has taken on a new direction: schooners. Since owning the boat we have only seen one, a working boat in the Bahamas. I watched the single masted boat underway on Saturday and it was interesting. Lots of sailing, no futzing with the sails. Want to go in another direction? Just turn the tiller, wheel, whatever and go. The sails flip to the other side and it's away. I suppose sloop rigged boats are faster on most, or all, points of sail. These have the weight of history on their side; they were the commercial backbone of the eastern seaboard.

This is the first place that we have seen schooners as personal, not business, boats. The problem with these as a boat to own is that most have wooden hulls, are very long due to the bowsprit and have little space and not much in the way of amenities below. So, I guess that unless I want to start gypsy marine freight business based on wind power we'll stay with what we have. I keep repeating: first, last and only boat!

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The island is fairly large, about 25 miles east to west, and 88 sq. mi., roughly comparable to the Spring Creek Fire District at 90 sq. mi. This is by way of saying that it's way too big to cover on foot, especially if two of those feet are mine. So, we rented a car for the day, Monday, to explore the island. It was a fine day .... sunny and warm. I may have lost count but I think that this was the third summer day we have had.

There are three towns on the island and several other named places having little in the way of population: Tisbury, aka Vineyard Haven or vice versa where the boat is, Edgartown and Oak Bluff.

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With no particular plan in mind, we set out for Edgartown early and got there before most things had opened; total trip, maybe 5 miles. What a wonderful place that was. I'd have much prefered to stay there than here. I was raised in New England until about the age of 12, and there must have been some strong impressions made. When I think of houses here two styles come to my mind: White Clapboards with black shutters, which my mother would have insisted have a red door, and cedar shakes. Those two styles just about covered all of Edgartown.

The houses were pretty dense in the neighborhood, at one time ample but not pretentious houses where regular folks lived. Most of these house we saw are now worth incredible amounts of money and, as such, most are immaculately maintained; those few that are not are ready to be rehabbed at considerable expense which will be recovered in spades.

Edgartown also has the oldest extant house on the island (bottom left), built in 1672, now part of a preservation project. There were several really neat churches in town, this being one of them. Whatever my Puritan, New England ancestors were doing, and I have about 400 years of them, condemning witches, trading slaves, or fomenting revolution, they had no doubt that it was all God's will and they had houses of worship where they made sure He was listening.

We got to talking with a young man, working at a gallery, about living on the island and he said that there were issues for regular folks like him. A place that might rent for $1,500 a month most of the year, would go to $3,500 a week when the tens of thousands of Bostonians descend on the island in July and August. The year round population of about 10,000 is said to go to 100,000 in those months. It's a big island, but not that big. There aren't even any 4-lane roads.

Edgartown is also the place from which the island of Chappaquiddick is accessed and the place where a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, met her untimely end as a result of a man who thought to be President in 1980. It's important to remember names like these so that facts trump myths.

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The young man with whom we spoke said that we must go to Gay Head, I'm not making this name up .... it's on the map. So we did, but took a detour to see American Beach, just south of Edgartown. It was a wonderful beach, like that on Cape Cod .... white sand, dunes, sea grass, open ocean. The area around this beach had some mega-mansions .... huge! To their credit, the folks who built them used the cedar shake architecture so they actually seemed to blend with the landscape pretty well.

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The etymology of the name Gay Head is: the location is the very western tip of the island, a headland. The cliffs which appear to be whitish gray were once, purportedly, red and orange, gay colors to sober Puritans and tired sea captains. The land's elevation is about 250-ft. above sea level so the lighthouse was fairly short by lighthouse standards. It was a little hazy that day; we were told that on a clear day the bridge at Newport, RI is visible.

We ate lunch there and Carol had her first lobster roll: chunked up cold lobster meat with mayonnaise on a hot dog bun. She was nice enough to share it with me .... very good! The park at Gay Head was a first for me: in Newport we had to pay for a shower, $1.75 for 7 minutes. At Gay Head we had to pay to pee, $0.50 each; no time or volume limit was specified.

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A nice man at the park said that we should be sure to see Menemsha, so we did that too. It is a small village built around an inlet to a salt "pond." That's what they're called. There were several old sheds along the waterfront that put me in mind of Quint's shed in Jaws. The dunes at American Beach also fit the movie. So, I checked .... the movie was mostly filmed here on Martha's Vineyard although these buildings were not part of the film.

There was also a US Coast Guard station at Menemsha. I have seen many of these on our trip and they are always one of the coolest looking building around, pristine and immaculate as is this one.

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The ride through the middle of the island was interesting and engaging, very different from the eastern side. There were hardwood forests, oaks, maples and ash although few were very large, probably due to wind from nor'easters, gales and hurricanes. Some of the land was state park but there was a lot of open space. Many of the homesteads had rock walls along their property lines which made Carol and I think that there had probably been farms here. We did see, actual count, four cows and two horses, not exactly Green Acres. Houses were well separated and many had some acreage, not of the estate kind. It was very flat but had a rural feel not unlike home. I have given Carol's Episcopalian faith fair blog credit. In Chilmark we saw this Congregational church, the faith of my New England childhood. If there ever were to be a prototype for a typical New England church, this one would do the job quite nicely. One of the reasons that I was struck by the church is quite personal. Carol and I renewed our vows (yes, she married me again) in 1997 in a church, rather like this, in Wayne, Il. If we had one of these in Spring Creek I'd probably haul myself to it on Sundays except during football season.

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The last place we visited was Oak Bluff, another place that made me wish we had stayed there instead. It was a pretty place and I was busy taking pictures; Carol was busy, hard to guess, talking. In this case, as she often tells me, her talking benefits us. There were some unusual "gingerbread" houses overlooking the harbor, all dated from about 1867. The man Carol had engaged in conversation owned one of them and offered to show us his house and relate its history. His house was, at the time, one of about 600 all of a style but quite different in exterior execution. His in 1867 had no kitchen .... it was communal. He had expanded his by about a factor of 2X adding a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. The home is seasonal, no insulation but June is in season. He then allowed that we might be OK and told us that we should walk up a narrow lane and look for an tabernacle, so we did. What a place it was, something that we would never have found on our own. The 600 homes were built around the open air tabernacle, the site of camp meetings and revivals during the 3d and final "Great Awakening," vacation homes for the faithful while they heard the word.

This is a piece of history to which I would have been oblivious and am grateful that I got to see it. I had studied the Great Awakenings as part of college history courses; a place like this just seems to make that sterile history come alive in ways that are compelling.

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These islands, bays and sounds are much ferry-ed places. We are right next to a ferry that runs from the island to Woods Hole, the southwestern extremity of Cape Cod. There are two other ferries to different parts of the island from several points of departure. We've been close to a few on the open water and they seem to fly, probably about 15 knots, and they don't seem inclined to want to dodge sailboats .... so we get out of the way. The ferry is not much bothersome; being mostly deaf we hear only the required sound of its horn as it gets underway.

This particular ferry has an unusual construction: two identical bridges, one at each end so they never have to turn around; they just walk to the other end of the boat, that becomes the bow, and they go. This sounded simple at the time but rudders and propellers have to be somewhere.

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Martha's Vineyard has been the apogee of the trip, so far. It is a place to which we both can imagine returning, although probably not on a boat amd not between the 4th of July and Labor Day.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, we are off for Nantucket.

Posted by sailziveli 18:50 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Newport, RI

storm 66 °F

The sun was up early that Sunday morning and so were we, getting the boat ready and getting underway by 0530. We joined a parade of small commercial fishing boats heading out the harbor for the open water. Our route took us along the western side of Block Island, and then around the northern tip. There were some rocks or a reef between the northern buoy and the island and the fishing boats there were thick on the water. After we passed to the east of the island we picked up a heavy swell from the Atlantic, 6~8-ft., there being nothing between Block Island and Africa to the southeast, a very long fetch indeed. The ride was very rolly but Carol, fortunately, didn't get sick.

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For a pretty nice Sunday there weren't too many boats on the water, early in the day at least. But by noon, as we approached Narragansett Bay, the wind picked up and every sailboat in the area must have been out on the water, all sailing with no particular place to go. We watched these three, seemingly identical, boats racing or, maybe, just showing off. It's hard to see in the picture, but along the deck of each boat are a bunch of people hanging over the windward edge of the deck providing weight to counterbalance the wind. I later learned that these are 12-meter yachts, former America's Cup participants, that carry folks on charters for the day. There are at least six that do this although we only saw these three on the water.

Since we left Cape May, NJ, through all the miles, the deepest water we had seen was 101-ft, somewhere in the vicinity of the Port of New York. When we went through the channel to enter Newport, RI, the channel being no more than a mile wide, the depths were about 140-ft., deeper even that the open water approach to the harbor.

We were under power and so had to yield the right of way to every idiot learning a point of sail. That seemed like a lot until we hit the inner harbor which was even more crowded, with maybe a hundred small racing boats, each with a two man crew, both hiked out trying to hold the wind. We almost hit one, rather were almost hit by one, when it and another boat both changed course and we had no way to avoid them both. I'm sure the guy to whom we came closest thought that I'm a real jerk; the feeling was mutual.

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This port entrance, like so many we have seen this trip, was guarded by a huge stone fort, Fort Adams, in various iterations, protecting the Bay since the War of 1812.

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I have repeated the supposed truism that Annapolis, MD, is the sailing capital of the US. And so I thought, like many others. Having visited Newport, I'm not so sure anymore. For starters the harbor at Newport is many times larger that Annapolis and accommodates many more boats, most of them sail. Carol and I have seen lots of boats in lots of places but this is the only place we've ever been where the vanity boats have sails. The profusion of types, sizes, construction and mast configurations amazes me. Annapolis had nothing that compares. Some of the most interesting boats are smaller, 20~30-ft. or so, that are obviously older, decades older, but have been lovingly and meticulously restored. It is quite unusual to see as many wooden masts as there are in this harbor.

The first two pictures are of the yacht Columbia, and its sail cover, winner of the America's Cup in 1958, the first race featuring the 12-meter class of boats.

The next two are simple megayachts with sails; the cutter rigged sloop is easily over 100-ft. long; the other, a ketch, if not, is very close.

I'm not sure what the old-timey boat is, but it is authentic, it is in use because I saw a lady on deck doing some chores. There are no sails rigged so it's not going anywhere. And it does have what appear to be openings on the hull where cannons could be rolled out. Maybe it's a reproduction of an earlier boat.

The last boat is another, newer 12-meter racing yacht, that competed in the 1970 races but did not win.

I love looking at sailboats and this is the best place I have ever been to do that. Every boat on every mooring ball or at anchor looks like it has a story. There are, of course, a few power boats and there is a sort of ego-alley where lots of them are moored. But, mostly, this place is about sailing. There are a few cruising boats in the harbor with tell tale wind generators and solar panels. I have seen only one other boat in the harbor with jerry cans on deck; we're ruining the neighborhood and running down the property values with all of our topside barnacles and carbuncles.

We went in to shower and have supper on our first night here. Along the way we ran into Bill who we had met at Delaware City, a couple of weeks past. He, and most of the others that stayed there, had moved up the New Jersey coast, hopscotching from harbor to harbor, then going through the port of New York, up the East River and into Long Island Sound. Despite our layover in Cape May to wait for weather, it was interesting that we both arrived at Newport on the same day about one hour apart.

While I was motoring about in the dinghy, an ocean racer, Donnybrook, docked. That boat looks fast even when it is tied to a dock. If there is a marine equivalent of a greyhound, sleek, lithe and lean, this boat is it. These pictures show the beauty of the boat better than mine ever could.

Link to Images of Donnybrook

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Two of the places we most want to go are Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, both islands south of Cape Cod and east of Long Island, both very exposed to the weather from the open ocean usually not attenuated by any other land masses. I have loaded both locations into our various weather programs. After studying the reports for a few days some patterns became clear that were pretty obvious if I had thought about it, which I did not. Because both islands are so exposed, whatever the weather/wind is on the mainland it is at least 1.5X on Martha's Vineyard and 2.0X, or more, on Nantucket. We're waiting in the harbor where winds might get up to about 25 knots. On Nantucket they are forecast to hit 60 knots, in gusts, and that is hurricane speed. Nantucket, in particular, may be hard to get to and then, when there, may be hard to leave, something that never entered my imagination.

The other thing that has been happening is that we have been losing more days to weather since we hit Delaware City. Notwithstanding Andrea, there have been many days when it has been a bad idea to get the boat into open waters, e.g. today as an example: fogged in and rainy. Not being able to travel is one issue; being boat bound is another. If we get to Maine, I guess that a weather factor of 50% may be a good plan.

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The weather cleared on Tuesday, at least for a while, and Carol and I had a walkabout the town. We both wanted to see the estates and had a general idea of the area. Turned out to be pretty easy to find, not too very far to walk. I don't know if there is such a field of study as forensic architectural anthropology; but if there were, Newport, RI would be a great place in which to ply the profession.

Regular Homes:

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We walked down streets and side streets and saw the ordinary homes and houses, of which there were many. Plaque after plaque noted that houses were on the National Register of Historic Places. The oldest of these homes dated from 1701; most were from the 1700's to the early 1800's. The oldest building we saw was a Baptist Church from 1635; it was in some disrepair so the age was believable. Owning one of these homes is probably interesting; but, when the building's age is measured in centuries, maintenance and upkeep is probably extreme undertaking.

One interesting factoid we learned: there was an active Jewish community in Newport from the 1670's. That surprised me.

Now that we're here, I've got to wondering why this town and this harbor never became more important. The town was prosperous and water access was the key to that prosperity. But Boston and New York clearly eclipsed this place and I do not know why.

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Estates, Mansions & Magnificent Homes:

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These were just a few of the estates that we saw, a pastiche of styles each with an architectual credit to a man long forgotten. It didn't seem as if any of them were actual habitations. Most were now museums, managed and maintained by the local preservation society. One or two had been subdivided. Most dated from about 1870 to 1900, the Gilded Age of the robber barons. It seems good to me that they have been preserved for they are economic and cultural milestones on the way to the values that our country embraces today: so few had so much. Those fortunes have all passed and been dissipated, no enduring privilege conveyed, no enduring economic legacy created, the names of the owners remembered only by the identifying signs on the mansions. Chicago had a similar group of mansions from the same era; almost all were abandoned, fell into disrepair, and, eventually, razed. The only similar place of which I know is Jekyll Island, GA, where the state is preserving the "cottages" from the same era.

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Having concluded the unsponsored "real estate" section of the blog, on to more serious matters. We had wanted to leave today, Thursday, for Martha's Vineyard, an 8~9-hr. trip. We knew weather was coming in but it seemed like we could complete the trip ahead of its arrival and snug in for a very rough 30 hours. We decided to stay in Newport because Carol's sister is having another of her serial reconstructive surgeries today and Carol wanted to be available by phone; tough to argue with that. Probably a good thing, too, since the weather arrived a couple of hours earlier than originally forecast.

So, maybe Saturday is the day, maybe not. At this pace we will lucky to have visited those two islands and then have made our way to Provincetown. MA, at the tip of Cape Cod by the beginning of July.

Excluding WDC, which is sui generis, to me this is the most interesting place we have yet visited and was well worth the trip.

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Posted by sailziveli 09:11 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

After Andrea

semi-overcast 66 °F

Mostly, it was no big deal. The barometer got down to 29.50. We read through most of the storm and slept through the rest. It did get pretty windy which kept the wind generator going; we probably could have powered the eastern end of the island with our excess electrical output. The forecast had the highest winds coming later in the evening, 25~40 knots, so we shut the wind generator down for the night. Having almost destroyed an index finger in similar circumstances at Emerald Bay, I was very cautious. That caution was justified because the winds were so strong that I had trouble pulling the unit away from the wind to shut it down.

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The only mistake was not accounting for the amount of rain. We left the dinghy in the water and it became an 8-ft. catch basin. There was no concern about it sinking, even with the motor attached. The level of water in the dinghy was close to the level of the fuel separator which, long shot, could have absorbed some water into the fuel system. The other thing is that gas has a specific gravity less than water, ergo the gas can started floating and, had the hose parted, we would have violated all sorts of Federal laws about dumping nasty stuff into protected waters.

What a difference 12 hours makes. The lake is placid; the sun is shining; there's a fresh breeze; things are starting to dry out; we bailed out the dinghy and tested the motor. We are trying to figure out where we go next and what comes after that next. Carol is not enthusiastic about going to Maine, safety and security issues I suppose, but will go if I want to do so.

We went into town on Saturday afternoon. For having been a pretty lousy Friday, weatherwise, the motels were all "No Vacancy" when we walked around, which didn't take too long because it's not a very big town. We looked at the displays in some real estate offices; major bucks for not very much house or land. We took a walk down to the beach. It was almost strange seeing the water from land after all these weeks on the boat.

The beach sand and salt seems like a pretty hostile environment for most plants but these purple flowers were blooming in profusion. The water was still very rough in the aftermath of the storm.

The trip has been defined by weather, both good and a lot of bad. This week there is more stuff coming through on Tuesday and Wednesday. What we don't have is any sense of what normal is. I think that our preparation was good enough on the things for which we could prepare: routes, places to stay, things to do. I'm not sure how we could have prepared for weather. A lot of it just seems to come down to looking out a porthole.

So, tomorrow, Sunday, we are off for Newport, RI for a planned visit that will allow us to ride out the coming weather on a secure mooring ball. It will also position us to make a run to Nantucket when the weather breaks.

Posted by sailziveli 18:21 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

What a Surprise Was ANDREA!

storm 57 °F

We have been mostly concerned about the weather between where we are and where we want to go. On a boat, the weather some place else cannot cause problems for the boat. So, I've been lax about checking the NHC for hurricanes this early in the season. Not too bright. I dialed up the NHC to see about a low pressure system just off the coast of South America. There, sitting on the coast of the eastern US was tropical storm ANDREA about which I had been oblivious. We're sitting here in near gale conditions, the tropical storm having passed off the coast of Long Island a little earlier today, Friday, 06/07/2013. At this point, the cost of a secure mooring ball is worth way more than we were charged. But the chances that we'll take the dinghy to the dock this afternoon to get a shower are looking pretty slim.

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Posted by sailziveli 15:03 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

New Plan! The Passage to Montauk Lake

storm 58 °F

We passed a milestone of a sort. When we started we carried three "bricks" of books, each brick wrapped in a gigantic ziploc baggie suitable for an ad hoc body bag and each secured with large bungee cords. We have now gone through 1.7 bricks. Since the trip is close to the halfway point that works pretty well. The irony is that we have not been able to off-load the completed books; the recent run of marinas have not had book exchanges. So, the books get read but the cabin does not get any emptier. With the iPads and Kindle we are in no danger of running out of books ... this trip or any other trip.

It's not exactly celebrity alley but, having extolled the virtues and value of the website, ActiveCaptain, we found ourselves, in Cape May, about 5-ft. away from the active captain himself, the guy who owns the website. The website business must be pretty good because he has a pretty nice 53-ft. boat, much to be admired. The website name is on the boat which probably means that he can declare some/all of the boat and related expenses as business deductions. You don't get a boat like that being dumb. We chatted about stuff for a while; he's from Maine, so he passed along some insights and opinions which could be helpful.

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Having put the words to "paper" in the blog about my low enthusiasm and high concern about the route I had planned I spent most of Sunday morning thinking about and trying to give voice to my concerns. One was top of mind, and had been for a while: we were going farther offshore than we had previously been. The distance from shore was not a concern but being that long out of normal VHF radio range was .... big time, although the USCG operates much more powerful units which should hear us if we needed to call. The other came later: that I had no contingency plans on how to bail were that need to arise and we were a long way from any points to which we could bail. From Cape Hatteras to Key West I know the coast and the points of entry from the ocean in case of emergency; here .... absolutely clueless, a very unsettling thing.

So, out came the charts, the computer and related gear to see what, if any alternatives there might be. There was a clear coast hugging route, staying a mile or so off shore, but that's too close in and there would probably be small boat traffic that's hard to see on radar. So, I cobbled together a string of waypoints that kept us 5~15 miles off shore for the whole trip, which attenuated some of the effects of the wind and waves, less fetch. It also added about 10% to the time and distance, but that actually worked better pushing the trip more to 45~48 hrs meaning less chance of going too fast and arriving in the dark. I also noted and planned for all places where the boat could exit the ocean were there to be a problem; there are several on the eastern shore of New Jersey, fewer on the southern shore of Long Island. I guess that I must have liked the new plan because my misgivings evaporated and my confidence returned. The only residual concern, regardless of route, is that we have to pass through the several shipping channels for the port of New York. If we can pick up a cell signal in the area I will be able to monitor commercial shipping traffic on an AIS (Automatic Identification System) website. And, we always have the radar.

Monday was the day; I issued the float plan on Sunday. Then Monday morning broke rainy and the waves were predicted at 7~8-ft. since the water had not yet settled down from all the wind. Carol gets seasick easily, even with the scopolamine patch, and that seemed like it might be a bit much for her. It's hard handling the boat and standing a watch while heaving chunks. I know having suffered greatly on a wooden ship but doing well now. So, a wet Monday rolled over to a nicer, high atmospheric pressure Tuesday.

During planning, I had broken the trip up into four component parts: the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Long Island Sound and the Islands, Maine and the return trip south. Cape May was the transition point between the first two segments. When we left the dock at Cape May we were fully into the second phase. The first phase went little as planned, cool weather mostly, but not a disappointment. It was fun; we got to see and do lots of interesting things; got to see Sean and got to see my cousins. There were no major boat disasters, a rare stretch of good news for us. I had rather imagined that we would have been farther north by June 4th but this was not a problem either. There is no schedule, although I will probably drop a couple of marginal interest ports of call. The big difference will be marinas. South is cheap ..... north is dear. We've paid $1.50~$2.00 per foot so far, not inexpensive but quite doable. In most places we will visit the marinas cost $4.00~$6.00 per foot; absolutely insane! Mooring balls will cost about what a marina costs in the south, $50 and up. So, lots of being on anchor, fortunately, a thing both Carol and I enjoy.

The weather looked pretty good, a rising barometer, not much positive wind for sailing, but not blowing a gale either. We reissued the float plan; did a few chores and errands that morning and got underway before noon Tuesday; the tide was dead low, but slack, not an issue. And, I figured that at a reasonable speed we should arrive very early on Thursday. Leaving the harbor was not exactly daunting, but this was our first open water leg of the trip, something we had not done since October, 2012. And, since everything in this area is new there was an appropriate level of concern.

Jack lines were rigged, once bright red nylon, now faded to a more muted and mottled color from the years of sun and salt; safety harnesses were dug out with tethers for the coming nights under way. We went off shore power and stowed the cables, probably not to be used again for many, many weeks. Securing the pilot's chair is my job since Carol's womanly woman's hips do not accommodate themselves to the space available. Then we too were ready, the last boat to leave the marina on that Tuesday morning.

As we motored to the channel, Carol was busy stowing mooring lines and fenders. The last thing that she did was to close the lifelines where we had been getting off and on the boat. There is an interesting semiotic finality to hearing those two snap shackles lock. Our new world was bounded by white wires, a fence that surrounds 36-ft. of length and 12-ft. of width and encloses a population of exactly two and whatever must to be done will be done by those, we, two. My main concern basically is about us. As our stamina wanes, which appears to be the case, these long trips exact a larger toll on our bodies which seem to recover a little bit more slowly each time.

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The trip from dock to sea buoy was about 30 minutes, not much traffic, plenty of water despite the low tide. We passed a couple of other marinas ... each was wall-to-wall with sport fishing boats. I would never have guessed that game fishing was such a big deal this far north.

It would have been hard to design a nicer first few hours on the open water. The sky was Carolina blue, the temperature was comfortable and the Atlantic Ocean was a most pacific ocean, not a whitecap to be seen. Of course that meant not much wind. So, we put out the sails and motor sailed, taking what the wind would give us, using the engine RPM's to keep our speed between 5.0~5.5 kts. The gentle swell felt good and, hopefully, helped Carol to get her sea legs back.

A few miles north of the channel we saw a huge amusement park, ferris wheel, roller coasters, loop-de-loop rides. It would have been fun to go there if we had known of it.

By 1600 on the first afternoon we were able to see Atlantic City very clearly despite being 10~15 miles south, lots of tall building quite visible over that short horizon. I had hoped to see the city's lights from the water, but we were well past the city by 1900, an hour and a half before sunset. So we saw this instead. Pictures like this give me hope that New Jersey actually could be a garden state.

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We have an unusual watch schedule, unique to us; most boats, I assume, do 3/4 on and 3/4 off. Our watch schedule is built around accommodating Carol's need for sleep, beauty and otherwise. From 6pm to 6am I stay on the helm eight hours to her four: 6pm to 9pm; 11pm to 1am; 3am to 6am. She stands the reciprocal times during the daylight hours. The 3am to 6am just wears on me, but once is survivable; standing the same watch a second night just about does me in. I have been dreading this passage, not for anything to do with the water but because I know how I will feel after the second night: very tired and aware of each of my 66 years.

To my surprise, the first night wasn't quite so bad. I actually got, maybe, two hours sleep of the four off watch, Carol being kind enough to lend me her puce colored sleep mask (it's on her color chart). Given my inclination to blue jeans and gray t-shirts wearing that was probably the most fashionable I'll look the whole trip. The rewards of being up at 0300 were many. A little past 0330 I saw a dim smudge of white to the east, almost overpowered by the bright working lights on some vessels. As I watched the light broke higher and it was the very thin crescent of a waning moon. As the moon rose higher I saw the first hints of dawn's penumbra starting to light the sky. As "dawn's early light" climbed higher in the sky, so did the crescent moon which remained in the dark of the horizon. It looked as if the moon was floating on the sun's light, ever higher as the day started to break. Remarkably beautiful beyond my poor description.

Near some obscure Jersey shore city called Manasquan there was an eruption of fishing vessels headed east well before sunrise. The radar scope got very crowded and these guys really didn't care about stinkin' effete sailboats in their way. A lot of really close calls of 1/4-mi. or less. No fractured fiberglass so it must have ended OK. We passed this boat just as it was between us and the point of sunrise. It's probably some sort of long-line fishing boat, or maybe it hauls a net on the drum; it's after I don't know what.

I was taking pictures to the east and focused on the sunrise, got some good ones, when I decided to put the camera away. When I looked ahead I saw the windows of Manhattan turning red and gold, glowing with the sun's rise. Not the world's best picture but one heck of a sight.

When I got off watch I checked the phone and there was a signal so I looked at the AIS website. There was a lot of activity on the water but from where we were the approaches to NYC seemed not very busy.

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At mid-morning we had to dodge a 1,000-ft. container ship and saw this boat working the harbor. It is, I assume, the pilot boat mother ship, anchored in position and having, that morning, two boats to dispatch and retrieve pilots to and from their client vessels. Seems like a pretty simple program. As we turned East along the southern shore of Long Island we went through an anchorage with 12 big vessels of which one was a container ship and all the rest were clones of this ship, Nord Swan, of the Norient Line. All are oil carriers, all configured the same, all empty and riding high in the water, all with huge No Smoking signs painted across the fronts of their superstructures. My guess was that maybe these are being taken out of service, mothballed due to the increased domestic oil production. I researched the Nord Swan and it was last active in early May, so maybe .... maybe not.

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About a third of the way down Long Island lies Fire Island, a barrier island and recreation area. Robert, on dock #4 at BLM, related how he and his wife used to have a place on this island in the 60's, which he gave up in a divorce. He was a CPA and was auditing a major advertising agency at the time, and his stories about the place might make Mad Men seem tepid. It was sunny, but not overly warm, high 60's, but the beach seemed quite crowded for a weekday. The Fire Island lighthouse is one of several we saw along the southern shore.

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Long Island really is a very long island, at 118 miles; we traveled along 99 of those miles. The westernmost half of the island's south shore is very pristine, being devoted to state and national parks, with little, if any, private development. From a couple of miles out the dunes and sea grasses could as easily been in the Bahamas as this far north. About midway there must have been a line because on the other side of that line were houses, large and larger, literally exterior wall to exterior wall as far as we could see.
The sun went down over the island and after a while we could only see lights but there were a lot of lights.

The trip was pretty boring, not much water traffic of any kind. So, we putted along at 5 knots, executing the plan to hit a waypoint at 0330 and to be settled by 0600. In the event we hit the waypoint at 0335 and were settled at 0615. I have since decided that my plan stunk .... there were many ways we could have done this that would have been better by any measure. However, as every general knows superb execution can occasionally overcome a bad plan. That about sums up this passage.

We saw a great sunset over Long Island, the developed part; and another great sunrise as we turned the end of the island and headed west to Lake Montauk. I had a lot of trouble getting the bird to sit still for the shot. When I arrived on deck for my 0300 watch it seemed as if we were getting fogged in .... very poor visibility. Turns out that was just condensation on the outer strata-glass. My bright idea was to open the panels to equalize the temperature, it worked, but just made it possible for the inside to fog up also. VFR is better than IFR but we really couldn't see very much.

Getting into the harbor was easy enough, save for a tough current right at the jetty's mouth. Carol decided that she wanted to be on a mooring ball rather that anchor out; or, maybe, she thought that I wanted to be on a mooring ball. Regardless, we are very secure at the Montauk Yacht Club, a nice luxury since we will both be taking sleeping aids tonight to try to recover from the sleep we lost.

The first priority: launch the dinghy and replace 20 gallons of diesel fuel, both of which we did. The motor started on the very first pull; I'm not superstitious and don't believe in omens, but that was a very good omen.

We've stayed in a lot of marinas over these past years and I've sort of adopted a rule of thumb that evaluates marinas on their shower facilities, a critical function of which are the number of hooks to hang towels, etc, and general cleanliness. Where we stayed in Cape May .... absolutely the best. This mooring ball gives us access to the Montauk Yacht Club; their showers are great, top decile easily, probably top demi decile. The clincher ..... a sauna bath, something I have not been able to enjoy for over a decade. When I was doing a lot of traveling in the Orient, I started at a loss on how to connect with a people whose customs were so different from ours. Turned out that they like to get naked and go into hot air, hot steam or hot water, and then drink lots of beer. That was an easy connection and something I enjoy to this day. What a luxury that sauna bath was after the two long days to get here.

Irony is an interesting outcome, but less so when you find yourself the object of irony. We hung out in Cape May to avoid a weekend of high winds on Long Island. Having arrived we find ourselves in the midst of a weekend of high winds on Long Island; the weather is almost a copy & paste replica of the days we sought to avoid; there will be winds in the range of 34~40 knots, a gale on the Beaufort scale. The dinghy dock is, maybe, a quarter mile from the mooring, in this weather, a rough and wet quarter mile. The marina will shuttle us to town, too far to walk, but the rain and winds have us comfortably boat bound. We've also given up the first week of June, which will reduce the number of places that we can visit if we still intend to try for Maine. So, we'll use the downtime review the ports of call and to decide which are important and which to abandon.

Posted by sailziveli 10:33 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating Comments (0)

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