Saturday, September 8th
A cruising friend of ours put it best. "The
hardest mile of any cruise is the first one." By this past Wednesday we
were in complete
agreement with him. After weeks of preparing our house for tenants and working our way through seemingly endless lists of boat
tasks we had had enough. We were suffering from list fatigue. It was time to go. Lists be damned.
Bright and early Thursday morning we headed out the
mouth of the Merrimack River and pointed our bow south. (Imagine
big sighs of relief and giddy grins here.)
We had hoped to make
Provincetown our first destination but that was not to be. A south wind
a change in plans and we found ourselves headed for Gloucester. One of the many items on our Summer's to do lists was the installation
of a WiFi antenna. Although there is a definite element of "getting away from it all" to cruising, it does not include missing out
on "occasional" updates about the New England Patriots. Once we were secured behind the breakwater at Eastern Point in Gloucester
the magic wand was given a test. Low and behold it worked. Roger was able to listen to Coach Belichick's press conference.
At least one thing was right with the world.
Friday brought us the Southwest wind that we wanted for a
Provincetown landfall. By mid-afternoon we had somewhat more
SW wind than was actually necessary to make our destination. Among the tiny list of local knowledge we possess, having spent some time
cruising New England waters, is the fact that the race off the tip of Provincetown really does play havoc in a SW wind. It's one
of those little notes they put on the chart that sometimes people miss. You only have to miss it once and you'll definitely
remember the next time. It was a very good day to possess this knowledge. With 20-25 knots of wind we were happily well offshore
and enjoying a great sail as we rounded into P-town. Only Milo the cat would dispute the level of enjoyment experienced.
This brings you up to the relative present in our cruise.
After having read my first log entry you may have decided it is not quite
as weighty or thought-provoking as you had hoped. In response I say that it will probably continue in this vein for much of the year.
With any luck you will stick with us.
Thanks to our family and friends for your unflagging support and tolerance. We'll miss you!
Saturday, September 15th
Cape May, New Jersey
Today finds us firmly out of New England. This is
somewhat of a milestone for us. During our last trip south in
2001/2002 we seemed to be unable to make much headway south
for weeks. First we were pinned down in Red Brook Harbor, Pocasset then we couldn't get out of Newport, RI despite several tries. This memory was definitely on our
minds as we planned our passages over the last week.
Monday, September 10th found us headed out of Provincetown
Harbor with a tentative destination of Red Brook Harbor, Pocasset. The
weather was basically windless,
though threatening rain. While underway we planned to take care of an item on our maintenance list which we were attempting for the first time. "The Turbo Wash." Jay, the owner of Merri-Mar Yacht Basin in Newburyport and guru of all things nautical and mechanical, had provided us with the supplies and instructions for this operation. It's simple really. All you have to do is run the engine at full throttle while injecting some fluid into the turbo. Take care not to do this too quickly or you could damage the engine in terrible ways. Sure. No problem. Just as we begin this process rain starts coming down in buckets. At the helm I can't see too well, but happily there is no one around for miles. We are zooming towards the Cape Cod Canal with the engine red-lined and Roger upside down over it with a syringe in his hand. Ah, the joys of cruising. No smoke, no flames, we considered the operation a success.
The rain stopped by the time we reached the Canal and we
were making good headway with a fair current. It isn't often that a
sailboat of our size sees
10 knots on our speedo. Always a cheap thrill. We transited the canal with several schooners which had been in Provincetown for the Schooner Regatta. We were in lovely company.
By the time we passed Onset it was still early so we decided to continue on to Hadley Harbor at Naushon Island. Naushon is one of the Elizabeth Islands that trail off
the southwest end of Cape Cod like a hind leg. That is a somewhat inelegant description of some very beautiful islands. The majority of the Elizabeth Islands are held in trust by the Forbes
family and are therefore private. The family allows access to a select few spots along the chain and otherwise maintains them in a relatively pristine state. Naushon is the most developed of the islands with a number of family homes visible from its Hadley Harbor. Hadley is a very popular harbor. It is scenic and very protected though a bit crowded for our liking. In early evening a boat arrived and picked up the mooring next to us. They promptly rigged a small generator in the lower reaches of their rigging started it up and went below. Nothing like a little generator noise during the dinner hour. That helped us make our decision to push on come morning. The forecast was for southeast winds of 10-15. Sweet.
Tuesday morning we were underway by 7:45 bound for Block
Island. Our forecast of southeast 10-15 became southwest 20-25 by
mid-morning. The boat didn't bat an eyelash.
Before departing we had put in a reef just in case the forecast was off. Now we took in a turn or two of the jib and were as comfortable as could be. We were maintaining over seven knots through the water with no thrashing. Until the wind started to shift around toward the west a bit it looked like we were going to make an early arrival at Block Island. Never anticipate an early arrival, it'll get you. We had reached the buoy at the north end of Block Island and decided to extend the tack instead of turning and motoring up the shore to the entrance of Great Pond. This plan would have worked admirably had it not been for the wicked thunder storm which descended upon us at that moment. We had heard rumblings several minutes before and should have just turned tail and run. Unfortunately we didn't, thereby extending our day by at least an hour. Lots of rain, thunder, lightening and the occasional gust. Electronics get kind of fluky in such conditions. You can't see a thing. Mostly you try to figure out how close you are to the reef you just sailed by. Getting the remaining sail down is a big drag. All in all not a fun way to spend 45 minutes. Remember. Drop the sails. Turn tail. Run.
Tuesday evening, safely on the hook at Block Island we speculated on a possible weather window for our next move. There are basically three ways to head south from New England. There is the non-stop option which few prudent small boat mariners would consider trying this time of year. The two other options are much more palatable. The first is to sail straight from a harbor with easy ocean access, like Block Island, directly to the south end of New Jersey at Cape May, or Norfolk, Virginia. The second is to sail down Long Island Sound, take a left down the East River and then over to the north end of New Jersey at Sandy Hook. The Block Island to Cape May option is a straight shot of about 30-36 hours non-stop. It's the way to go if you get a good weather window. The inside route is good if you can't get a break weather-wise. It does take several days longer than the Block Island option. During our first trip south we took the inside route, passing the battery on Manhattan just a month after 9/11. This time around we really wanted to go outside. As we looked around the Great Pond anchorage we could sense the anticipation of the other cruisers. Dinghies were being pulled from the water and lashed on deck, crews were checking their rigs and chattering amongst themselves on the VHF radio. Wednesday was definitely a stay put day. Winds of 25-30 were forecast all day. If the wind settled overnight Wednesday allowing the seas to drop, Thursday and Friday looked like a great window. We downloaded the wind and wave GRIB files from the internet and were happy with what we saw. Light seas, light wind, clear weather for two days. Things were looking good for a Thursday morning departure. We spent Wednesday getting organized for the trip. We secured stuff that needed to be secured, made an easily reheated dinner for the overnight portion of the passage and got our navigation worked out. We were good to go.
We were up at 4:00 a.m. Thursday with a plan for exiting
the Harbor in the dark. Well, you know what they say about the best laid
plans... First, and I'm not sure how we missed this previously, we
discovered that when we flipped on the compass light (the lovely subtle red
light that glows over the compass without ruining your night vision) we
got both the compass
light AND the spreader lights (the lights on the mast which point down toward the deck that allow you to hold a dance.) Needless to say everyone within a short distance of us was
suddenly blinded. After several minutes of messing around with the wiring we simply decided to go without a compass light and just use a small flashlight if necessary. I was having some difficulty getting my compass course and GPS course to make sense together. Roger helpfully pointed out that the "course over ground" function of the GPS doesn't work exceptionally well until you are making headway. Since we were in the midst of pulling up the anchor we were making no headway. Once we were moving it was at a very slow speed because it was pitch dark and I didn't want to hit anything. We finally got our acts together with Roger on the bow looking for stuff I might hit and I making sufficient headway to get the COG working so I could find may way to the Harbor entrance. Needless to say that by the time we were at the last mark at the outside of the Jetty we were very happy to be underway.
Two sailboats had departed before us that morning.
Lady Galadriel from San Francisco, CA. and My Way from Annapolis, MD. We
would follow them until midmorning when we
passed them going ever-so-slightly faster than they. We discovered through the VHF that three cruising trawlers left Block Island a few hours after we and they would follow us all night.
The weather was exactly as forecast. The light wind and relatively calm seas made for very comfortable conditions. At around mid-afternoon we had a visit from what I think was
a yellow finch. The bird was a little pooped out. He hopped around, landed on my left knee jumped to my right, then over to the starboard cockpit cushion where he ate a small bug and then went on his way. He's lucky Milo was below napping. That is the kind of excitement I like on an overnight passage.
Early in the evening we made contact with Lady Galadriel.
It turns out that she was designed by Crealock, as was Shango. They also
were headed for Cape May and eventually the
Bahamas. We will undoubtedly see them again. If the weather is good on an overnight the next thing one generally thinks about is things you might hit or be hit by. This particular passage crosses three sets of New York/New Jersey bound shipping lanes. Oh Joy. There is a new system called AIS which identifies the names and courses of the ships you see on your radar. I can definitely see the merit in this new tool. It hasn't made our short list of "must haves" just yet but may at some point. The night progressed without incident. The weather held up and as mentioned previously we could see the three musketeers in our wake all night. During the 4:00-6:00 shift Roger was tormented by a series of tugs with tows. The shipping channel which goes up and down the coast of New Jersey is rife with tug traffic. As you might suspect we survived all challengers. We arrived at the Cape May breakwater at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning and were anchored by 11:00. We celebrated our 30 hour passage by having a brunch of eggs on toast (we call them Jersey eggs), an early night cap and then promptly went to bed.
Wednesday, October 3rd*
It's time for some catching up on our part. It has been a rather quiet several weeks since our last log entry. No evil weather. No unfortunate mishaps. But for those interested in accounting for our whereabouts I'll retrace our steps. We last checked in from Cape May, New Jersey.
Tuesday, September 18th
Cape May, New Jersey
On Saturday the15th we got together in the evening with Lady Galadriel and her traveling companion, My Way, and swapped sea stories. Lady Galadriel, with her crew, Dennis and Lisa, left San Francisco six years ago and headed down to Mexico. After spending time there they headed through the Panama Canal and up through the Caribbean to the east coast of the U.S. My Way, a Hans Christian Christina 40', was captained by a woman named Charlie and crewed on this particular trip by a friend of hers from Maine. Amongst the three crews there were plenty of sea stories to go around. The night did not end early.
During our planning phase in the late Summer we were tentatively going to leave Newburyport in company with a boat called Merlin. Unfortunately they were delayed and we left without them. Sunday morning we heard them check in on the morning SSB net. They were traveling with a boat named Orion and were headed from Newport to Cape May. We decided to hang tight until they arrived. During the day we futzed around with the diesel heater which refused to come on this morning. Roger seems to have gotten it to work again. My toes thank him. In the evening we hosted the Lady Galadriels and yet another Crealock, Maiden Song. Dave on Maiden Song is a single hander. In the last three years he has sailed across the Atlantic to the Azores and back down to the Caribbean and up to New England. I'm not sure how many more nights of sea stories I can survive.
On Monday morning Jadera arrived in Cape May. Jay and Debra own the marina where we usually store our boat in the winter. They are delivering their boat to VA. and driving back to Newburyport to close up shop for the season in a few months. This delivery saves them from having to sail south from New England in mid-November. Brrr. According to Jadera, Merlin had been having fuel issues during their crossing. Late in the afternoon, Orion arrived at Cape May solo. Merlin had gone into Atlantic City for fuel but arrived just before darkness settled. We toasted them from across the harbor during yet another night of sea stories. It was decided that Tuesday wouldl be a day of rest for the Merlins before we head up Delaware Bay to the C&D Canal and the Chesapeake.
Wednesday, September 19th
Bohemia River, MD
Wednesday morning we finally departed from Cape May. The trip up the Bay is one that you have to plan for optimum current advantage. If you get it right you can get pushed all the way up the Bay and then catch the tide through the Canal and find yourself in Maryland by dinner. Some boats can go out the back door of Cape May via a small canal and under a bridge, saving about two hours. Unfortunately both Merlin and we have to go out and around the tip of Cape May because our masts are too tall to fit under the bridge. We left just before the sun came up and headed out around Prissy Wicks Shoal and into the Bay. Delaware Bay is the route ships take to get to Wilmington, DE. and Philadelphia, PA, among other places. This means that you spend a certain amount of your day dodging car carriers, container ships and tugs towing you name it. Happily we had a clear day and no frights. We had planned well and found ourselves at anchor in the Bohemia River at the head of the Chesapeake Bay by 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, September 20th
Thursday was a short day. We headed from the Bohemia south to the Sassafras. The Sassafras is a very pretty river and we were able to find a nice spot to anchor. We got off the boat for the first time since Provincetown (11 days) and took a walk to the closest store. It felt great to stretch our legs even if it meant walking down the side of a somewhat major road with no sidewalks. Tomorrow we will make our way to Baltimore with Merlin. Orion will continue on to Annapolis to get their anchor windlass fixed.
Monday, September 24th
Friday morning we arrived in Baltimore after a half-day motor from the Sassafras River. There wasn't a breath of wind so we were powerboats once again today. We headed up the Patapsco River, under the Francis Scott Key Bridge, past the Francis Scott Key buoy and around Fort McHenry (think War of 1812) into Baltimore's downtown. It is a very boat friendly port. It is loaded with marinas and has several places to anchor. Part of our reason for visiting Baltimore was to hook up with friends of ours who keep their houseboat, Whale Tale, here. Barbara and Rod live in Silver Spring, MD and work in D.C. but spend almost every weekend on their houseboat. After checking out the tiny little anchorage in the Inner Harbor proper we headed back to the anchorage adjacent to their marina in Fells Point. It was very conveniently located near a dinghy dock, a Safeway and a West Marine. We checked in with our friends and planned. to meet on Saturday for their version of the Baltimore tour.
Bright and early(ish) on Saturday we became tourists. Barbara and Rod, our tour guides specialize in the "Fells Point Neighborhood Bar" tour. After a walk around Fells Point we began our tour in earnest with hand-pulled beers at the Wharf Rat. Very nice. After additional walking a plan was hatched to dine that evening at a restaurant called Gecko where tequila is a specialty. After shore side showers (i.e. all the hot water you can use and the ability to comfortably stand while showering) the Whale Tales, Merlins and we headed out into the Fells Point evening where a fine time was had by all.
The touring continued on Sunday with brunch at Mamma's on the Half Shell. Roger and Rod had to leave early to find a bar which was broadcasting the New England Patriots game. After five false starts, joy at a bar called the Gin Mill. Meanwhile Barbara and I needed a break. She went back to the Tale to work on her tan and I went for a walk and started the laundry. The guys returned to the Tale for a second round of football at mid-afternoon. Happily I knew it would all come to and end in the not too distant future because Barbara and Rod had to work in the morning. After the second game, as dusk fell over Fells Point we bid our fine hosts adieu, knowing that we might well be seeing them in D.C. in a few weeks.
On Monday we became somewhat more wholesome tourists. We and the Merlins headed over to Fells Point where we boarded a water taxi that operated like a city tour bus. You can get off and on as many times during the day as you want. We decided to hit the Inner Harbor first while it was still reasonably cool. Dave and Roger bought tickets to tour a WWII submarine and a Coast Guard boat similar to the Bibb. Donna and I headed off in search of a Salumeria in Little Italy. Everyone enjoyed their choices. From there we grabbed some lunch and reboarded the water taxi for a trip out to Fort McHenry. We watched a short film about the British attack on Baltimore in 1814 and the origins of the national anthem. It was very well done and we were glad we made the trip.
We'll begin to meander our way south from Baltimore in the morning. The Annapolis Boat Show doesn't begin for a week and a half so we have some time before we head in that direction.
Dobbins Island, MD
After getting fuel and water we headed out of Baltimore. It was mid-day and the wind was sadly blowing from the direction we wanted to go. Power boaters again. It was a quick trip to the Magothy River and Dobbins Island within. We met up with Merlin and also Orion after their windlass repair. Dobbins Island is a popular anchorage and there were several boats already there. We dropped our hook and within several minutes decided that we had found the only spot in the anchorage with "surge." Surge is hard to describe but involves swinging oddly on your anchor and rolling every so slightly (in this case.) It is generally caused by currents wrapping around land features. We had found that spot in the anchorage. After experiencing surge in a big way in the Bahamas, we were able to tolerate this more mild variation without feeling the urge to move. Tomorrow we head across the Bay to the Chester River.
Saturday, September 29th
Corsica River, MD
Wednesday morning we headed out of the Magothy River headed for the Chester. We were actually able to set some sail for this trip. After a gentle reach we entered the Chester River and the wind was temporarily on the nose. Once we rounded a corner we were able to get some downwind work in. By mid-afternoon we took a right into the Corsica River, a tributary of the Chester and found a somewhat rustic anchorage. We and Orion chose a spot with a nice breeze but a bit of fetch. Merlin chose the protected but windless anchorage across the way.
Thursday morning we chatted with Merlin and Orion. Merlin had been swarmed by some variation of fruit flies while anchored in their windless spot. Orion was a bit anxious about a front which was predicted to come through that night. So, they both decided to continue on to Davis Creek on the other side of the Chester River. We were happy with our protection and opted to stay put. I sprung the kayak free for the first time this trip and went up a little creek near our anchorage and looked for wildlife. After paddling the little creek I headed further up the Corsica River. I saw a heron standing on a floating wooden container that people store their crabs in. He was contemplating his next move. It was great to be out in the little boat. Back at the big boat we were having plumbing issues. Two of our water couplings were not holding and have let two tanks of water drain into the bilge. We may find that we are going to end up in Annapolis sooner than anticipated in order to get parts to repair them. My afternoon entailed creating a canvas screen to attach to the stern rail to block out the light produced by the stern light. When you are underway at night and your night vision is effected it makes you unhappy.
Friday involved more projects. It was a beautiful day though I'm guessing it was a bit blowy out in the Bay proper with the front that came through.
On Saturday we decided that we'd head to Annapolis the following day and get our domestic water situation under control. Roger fiberglassed part of the anchor locker and I cleaned the glass of our cockpit enclosure. In the afternoon I watched wildlife. A doe walked along the edge of water at our anchorage. She was very quietly nibbling her way north. Once she turned and headed into the tall grass and trees I took up with two herons who were looking for lunch. It was really a great anchorage and we hated that we had to leave.
Sunday, September 30th
In the morning we headed out of the Chester River and into Chesapeake Bay. We pointed the bow toward Annapolis. It was a beautiful day despite a shortage of wind. I think we encountered more than a million boats on our brief trek south. Despite its small size the Bay is home to a serious number of boats. The boating season is several months longer here than in New England and everyone takes advantage of it. Almost every type of boat was represented from the freighters headed up the Bay to Baltimore to fleets of tiny little sailing prams. It reminded me of one of those Dr. Seuss books with the vast array of characters.
The Annapolis Boat Show(s) (the first weekend is the sail
followed the next by the power) is a huge event. It was the first in-water
boat show and it claims to be the worlds largest. Cruisers headed south in
the Fall often stop at the show to buy parts and equipment. Needless to
say between the sailboats being displayed and the sailboats tied up and anchored
in the area it is a sight to see. We started our search for a place to
anchor by taking a spin through Back Creek which is the Creek you come to before
Spa Creek where the show is held. This small Creek, already lined with
marinas, becomes packed with boats anchored out by the time the show starts.
Our four days early was way too late. The place was wall to wall.
The intrepid and artful might have come up with a spot but it was much too tight
for us. Other cruisers had suggested Weems Creek which is beyond Spa
Creek. Weems Creek would require taking a bus into town so instead we
opted to anchor right in front of the Naval Academy. It's definitely more
exposed to the weather but it provides easy access to downtown Annapolis by
dinghy. Thus on the last day of September, twenty-five days into our adventure
we find ourselves in Annapolis, one of the East Coast's prime sailing