We slept in today, but then headed out for a 6 mile hike on the northern bluffs of Block Island. It was hot, but we persevered.
Then we relaxed and had lunch at Deadeye Dicks. Simple, but excellent seafood and chicken sandwiches, but no alcohol since we got tickets for the last night of race week festivities under the tent. We met up with Annapolis dockmates Tom and Wally, the sailmakers from Ullman and other folks from Annapolis. As you might expect there was great frivolity and unlimited alcohol.
Then the ultimate party crashet arrived and played a few songs we all knew for singalong time.
After another Margarita it was time to head back to Merlin for relaxing in the cockpit with hors d’oevres on a perfect cool evening. Can’t complain!
With time awaiting and Tuesday being a steamy, hot day, we decided to set off for Block Island. We still didn’t have our part but we were sure it would catch up with us. So early Wednesday we woke to the fog. With a little discussion and a look at the weather, we headed off for Fisher’s Island. About 84 miles away going east down the center of Long Island Sound. Having 3 of us to trade off steering duties and sleeping duties was really appreciated. The fog burned off pretty quickly. The wind never picked up and the sun shone the whole day. It took 14 hours to travel the sound and anchor in Fisher’s harbor. A red sunset and cool, ocean breezes finished the day.
Thursday morning we woke early again to dense fog. Ate a good breakfast and cleaned up hoping the fog would lift. Never did. So we set off on the 28 miles to Block Island with a lookout on the bow with a fog horn, a radar reader in the cockpit and the captain handling the AIS readings on the chart. The fog stayed with us until we started to turn into the harbor at Block, only to encounter 50 sailboats leaving for the afternoon race. The harbor was clear. It the fog lingered outside the island all day.
Monday was a lovely day to sleep in. We leisurely approached the day’s tasks. Laundry, hardware store for screen to defend against the flies, calendar! And groceries. The evening was drinks on Joe’s boat and dinner out at La Mottas. Rain and thunderstorms for tomorrow.
Tuesday is gray and rainy, a perfect day for travel down the sound. But we are waiting on a part to fix the starting battery so here we sit. The town is delightful with an ipe dingy dock, walking paths and outside art in all the parks. The Stop and Shop is big, the stores in the town center are quaint and fun. We will probably head for Port Jefferson Wednesday morning.
Right out of the gate, we are headed for a baby passage of 36 hours. Working backwards from slack water at Hellgate (3:15 pm), it was determined that we could sail up the New Jersey coast slowly overnight and get to the Verrazano Narrows bridge around 12 noon for a pleasant trip. Hell Gate is a narrow tidal strait on the East River where the river meets Long Island Sound waters and the Harlem river as well. It is known for strong current, roiling waters and occasional standing waves. It is worth waiting for slack, but we were early and had 2+ knots of current with us.
The trip down the Delaware Bay had good current and wind behind us and quiet seas so we motor sailed with the genoa and rounded Cape May just after noon. Put our main sail up and turned off the engine. Winds out of the west, seas were 1-2 feet, sun shining. Perfect except we were going too fast. The captain decided to deal with that problem later. We passed Atlantic City around 5 and trekked on. We settled on a 3 hour watch schedule with overlap. Reefed the jib but left the main up. Winds had shifted north and lightened so we were close hauled but the seas were still quiet. Amazingly little boat traffic but plenty of big cargo ships to look out for.
The moon was incredible. It emerged with a red glow in the haze and steadily became white and clearly visible. Night sailing has a certain magic about it with the dim sight of water and the sounds of the waves against the hull.
The sun came up around 5:30 and we were gathered in the cockpit by 6:00. Winds were still at 10-15 out of the NW and we were making good time. Still ahead of schedule. We had depowered the sails as much as we could. We were rounding Sandy Hook at 12:15 and heading for NYC. And then Ed saw the spout and we all saw the hump of the whale. Apparently humpback whales have made a comeback in New York Harbor as the harbor has gotten cleaner and the menhaden are running.
We circled the harbor and came as close to the Statue of Liberty as we could and kept delaying passage up the East River which had 3 knots of current. Note to self: coming into the harbor on a pleasant June Sunday resulted in less big ships, fewer ferries, more recreational boaters and lots of radio traffic. Hell Gate was manageable and we made PortWashington in good time. Walked out for dinner.
Saturday, June 22
The early bedtime last night was a good thing because the captain had us all up and rolling by 5 to pick up the current. Calm seas, quiet winds from our back and a strong current. We are averaging 8 knots. Saw a high of 9.4. With continued wind we may make Cape May by noon. The plan is to continue up the coast to New York. An hour repair of the toilet was part of the morning activities. We are continuing to look for the large bottle of olive oil that we both know we brought on board but no one can find.
Friday June 21
A day of victories, some large. The plan was to leave early and travel up the Chesapeake Bay through the C and D canal before the current changed. Ed, the captain, misread his watch and had us up at 5:15. Leaving the slip was uneventful and all looked good, although breezy as we headed under the bay bridge. Then the winds began to build and the seas became bumpy and large. We eventually saw 6-7 foot waves over the bow and a high of 47 knots of wind. However it was the sustained 30-40 knots that made the trip exciting, albeit uncomfortable. We double reefed everything, (before the big winds fortunately) and eventually turned on the engine and furled the jib to keep us going straight. As we passed the Sassafras, the seas were calming and the winds were dropping. The C and D canal was its usual quiet self and we turned into the Reedy Island anchorage soon after exiting the canal. And then the fun really began. The instrument panel with the gauges and ignition key had stopped working. Initial diagnose was a lost ground wire. Four hours later after discussions of fuses and switches and tracing of wires, Ed and Alan found the lost ground and fabricated a fix. All this involved Alan standing in the engine hole and Ed reaching through (from the cabin side,) with many pictures taken of hidden components around a tight engine compartment. Tina hung up all the wet bedding because she forgot to adequately close the front hatch. Installed the new reefing line so the main sail could easily be reefed from the cockpit. Made dinner. Winds continued to die. Fell asleep early, but not before we scrambled to close up hatches as rain pelted outside, from a cloudless sky.
Thursday June 20
Hunting and Gathering in the 21st century; we make piles of stuff, certain we’re leaving something behind. The days a touch muggy, the boat cabin a touch more. After normal pre-embark fitting, we’re ready. A final dinner at Cantlers with Kimberly and Don ( Tina and Alan’s sister and brother-in-law. A bit more pouring rain to increase the mugginess and we are good to go.
Wednesday June 19 –
Ed and Tina had been working to provision and make the normal, ‘this’d be nice’ improvements for a few weeks. However as they were busy with trip to Ireland, nieces’ weddings, life… they managed to forget a few things. Such as extra towels, a pillow for Alan and The Calendar which shows that this boat is cruising not just vacationing.
Meanwhile Alan (Tina’s brother) drove out from Indiana where he’d been helping some friends after driving out from Utah, uneventful other than a complete loss of functioning electronic gizmos and a downpour between Frederick and Laytonsville.
prolog: its been a few years since an extended cruise. Anticipating a cruise to Maine, Merlin received new sails, cockpit canvas, batteries and other fine stuff. Should be sufficient to guarantee a smooth, trouble free cruise. Except with all this new stuff, things are bound to go wrong.