From New York to New Jersey
Once again I/we are woefully behind on posting, so as a quick update before sharing the past few weeks . . . we have been back in NJ at our new home base seeing family and friends. We also participated in the ALS walk in Ocean City – an annual event which brings friends and family together from all over. It was a great event and one that is SO important to Frank each year. It also serves as somewhat of a family reunion for Frank – and all three of his children were in town this year which made him (and me) very happy. We are now back in the Chesapeake Bay for a while enjoying our former home turf . . . but before we got to all of that, we still had to make it back from Rhode Island through New York to New Jersey. We left off with our stormy stay in Point Judith. From there we headed south towards NJ. As people ask us what some of our favorite “moments” have been in the last three months, one of the highlights is certainly this last leg that took us down the Long Island Sound into the East River and through New York City. But before we got to THAT moment, we’ll share the very cool re-visit to one of our favorite stops: Shelter Island, NY. After leaving Point Judith, we took a long day to get back to Derring Harbor in Shelter Island, one of our favorite (and unexpected) stops in July on our way up the coast. We visited with our “Gozzard cousins,” once again being treated to their hospitality and graciousness. This time around, our friends conspired ahead of time to get me (Ems) out sailing on their Herreshoff doughdish sailboat. Frank keeps telling me that I need to get on a small sailboat to really feel the wind and understand it at a different level than I can sailing on a larger, more forgiving vessel! Our friends agreed and so had decided to get me out for just such an experience. And so, Frank stayed behind and worked on boat projects and my Herreshoff Captain took me out for a lesson!
After enjoying another meal and musical jam session at their house, it was time for us to push on towards our home turf via the Long Island Sound. After an early start and a rough/choppy first hour of wind vs. current (not a good combination), we made it around the corner through Plum Gut (a notoriously tricky cut between pieces of land that has strong currents, traffic and shoaling) before heading down the Long Island Sound with beautiful conditions – perfect wind and lobster pot free!! We enjoyed the best sail we had had in weeks!
Our destination that day was Port Jefferson. We found a great place in the anchorage there and enjoyed a restful evening. Our welcoming committee was a male swan that Frank promptly named “Bubba.” (By the way – Frank names most any animal “Bubba” if he doesn’t know their actual name.) I will do a whole separate post about Bubba and his antics, but the short story is that Frank had Bubba eating out his hand in short order.
After a restful night, we had another early morning departure . . . and saw the remnants of an event that had taken place after we had come into the harbor the prior evening. You never want this to be your boat . . . but it happens.
So off we went down Long Island Sound headed to New York City. Now you have to understand – I had some trepidation about taking this route at all. So true confessions here: New York just makes me uncomfortable. I love the idea of New York. I love what it represents for us as a country. But New York and I have a rocky history. I have been in the Big Apple on a number of occasions over the years. I even interviewed for an HR job at one of the big, fancy hotels back in the mid 90s when my first marriage was going south. I have dealt with a taxi scam, a near robbery in Central Park and a chalk outline on the sidewalk beside my car in the morning after visiting a friend (you know, the kind where the body was laying a couple of hours earlier.) Frank had entertained a number of customers back in his Atlantic City days and always enjoyed his trips to the city pretty episode-free. My “episodes” in the city all happened when I was in my 20s and 30s, so I figured I was past all of that when I accepted a consulting gig there in 2001 in the World Trade Center. I worked on the 54th floor of Tower 2 about 8 days a month for about a 9 month period. The last day of my contract was July 6nd, 2001. You do the math . . . I harbor a lot of mixed feelings about the place. So when I thought about the idea of sailing right through the heart of it all, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Frank had even coached me to have an attitude adjustment about the trip. I almost wanted to bag it and go back out in the Atlantic and do another long passage to get home. But after much discussion, we decided that New York was the way to go – and I managed to embrace the idea and get into the spirit of the trip. What we did not expect was the overwhelming feeling of excitement and pride that we felt as we cruised through the city on a spectacularly clear and sunny day. All the corny lines that you hear in songs about New York kept coming to mind during the trip . . . the city that never sleeps being the one that I kept hearing the most. The place was just throbbing with energy and activity in every direction! Ferries, mega yachts, skyscrapers, airplanes, helicopters, water taxis, sky writing planes . . . it was 90 minutes of constant action . . . it was truly sensory overload!! And from a navgtional standpoint, there’s an awful lot going on! There’s mega boat traffic and currents to contend with and two rivers coming together to create eddies at “Hell Gate.” There isn’t much more to say about it than that: let’s just let the pictures do the talking!
I don’t often use the word “awesome,” but this was truly an AWESOME day in the truest sense of the word and we were awestruck.
We settled in at anchor in Sandy Hook. The next day was going to be a long passage, and again, our timing was based on wind forecasts and the time of day we wanted to arrive in Little Egg Harbor Inlet in Longport, NJ – our base of operations when we’re at “home base” in NJ. We we had the next day to relax and rest before leaving at 4pm for our 16 hour trip down the coast. And while we were enjoying time in the cockpit, look who came around the corner! Why, just a lil’ old aircraft carrier, that’s who!! It was carrier #5. We were able to look it up and see that it is one of the “small” carriers that is especially for harriers and helicopters. This ship was also one of the first to respond after Katrina as it can be used as a mobile hospital unit as well.
Around 4:00 in the afternoon, we departed for our overnight trip down the coast. Now my second time down the coast overnight, I knew a little more what to expect. As with the first time, there were exceptionally inspiring moments and exceptionally nerve wracking ones as well. Sunrise and sunset are always amazing on the water – those are the great moments. The number of stars you see (since the moon set very early that night) is beyond words. We took approximately 2 hour watches early on which then spread to 3 hour watches overnight. As with the last time, the first hour of real dark threw me (Ems) for a complete loop. What a feeling of disorientation! But after that adjustment is made, it is kind of magical (although I’ll still opt for daylight when given a choice.) The forecast had called for winds to pick up after dark, but we had let the reef out of our sail early on since the strong winds were not there yet. Quick review: reefing your sails means you don’t have the full sail unfurled so you don’t get overpowered with heavy wind. There is an expression that if you’re wondering if you should reef your sail, you’ve already waited too long. We proved that again. Let me say that this was never dangerous – just unnerving for the inexperienced crew member! I was at the helm and Frank was still in the cockpit with me but attempting to get a nap. The wind had been building and I had been hanging in there with the growing wind, the growing seas and our increasing speed. (It WAS nice to be making our destination more quickly!) And then the wind was just a little too much and I experienced the phenomenon of losing the ability to steer the boat. We were heeling like crazy and I couldn’t fall off! (turn away from the wind.) I know when I need help and I yelped a clear, loud yelp which got Frank to leap up out of his light slumber to see what I needed. The sailors reading this are now going, “Well duh, Mary Marie! Just head it up into the wind if you have to to depower the boat!” Yeah – I know that now, thank you! It just makes such an awful racquet when you do that and it just feels wrong. But I get it . . . lesson learned. Frank quickly did just that – enough to get us back under control . . . and then I headed the boat directly into the wind while he reefed the sails. After that, the ride was a lot less harrowing and a lot more comfortable. That got my heart beating! But all of those moments are good learning and provide me with more experience. I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself several more times until I actually believe it.
Here are some of the beautiful moments of dusk and dawn.
We sailed all night and cruised past Atlantic City in the early morning, arriving in Longport and back to Seaview Harbor Marina around 10am where we would park Eleanor Q for the next two weeks. And so the first “segment” of our adventure comes to an end. We made it to Maine and back – over 1,000 miles! We have spent time reflecting on our major learnings in our first three months and here are some of our key takeaways: a) you don’t have as much time as you think you do to see and do everything you thought you would, b) it is HARD WORK between boat maintenance, dealing with weather issues and just the physical demands of operating the boat, and c) there’s nowhere else we’d rather be right now. It is every bit as cool and stimulating and challenging and fun as we thought it would be.
After a few weeks back in the Chesapeake, we’ll spend the next few months on “segment 2” – going down the southeast coast of the U.S. before our leap to the Bahamas this winter. We’ll keep you posted!! Thanks for riding along with us.