Heading North: Adjusting on the Fly!
We left Annapolis on August 15th heading north. Our PLAN was this:
We thought we’d make about 5 stops and take about 7 days to get into the tip of Long Island.
That’s not quite how it went down . . .
August 15th: Depart Annapolis for the Sassafras River in the northern portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
August 16th – 8:00am: Depart the Sassafras River heading through the canal intending to stop and anchor for the night at Reedy Island located across from the Salem power plant in the Delaware Bay – a relatively easy travel day.
But not so fast. As we continued to study the weather forecasts, the winds were not going to cooperate with our plan. We wanted to go offshore to Montauk, NY, but the winds were going to turn and come from the north later in the weekend. North is NOT what you want for an overnight offshore passage from southern New Jersey to Montauk, New York. Wind on your nose is not comfortable. If we stopped in Cape May or Atlantic City to wait for the winds to change back around to the south, we were potentially going to be waiting for days. Nope, we had a pretty small window of opportunity to make a run for it. And we were really going to be pushing it to try to head straight to Montauk. Could we beat the northerly wind there or not? That wasn’t something we wanted to try. The timeline continues:
August 16th – 9:30am: After being on the water for about 90 minutes, the decision was made to make a run for it and just KEEP ON GOING! While I was at the helm through the C&D Canal, Frank bustled around and made his preparations for an overnight passage up the New Jersey coast, making sure things were secured tightly up top and such. When he took the helm, I bustled around making my preparations while he cruised down the Delaware Bay: pre-making a good dinner while it was flat calm so all we would have to do is reheat it later while on the ocean, putting together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the overnight munchies as well as trail mix and other snacks to keep in the cockpit overnight for the longer shifts.
Down the Delaware Bay and up the coast we went, passing Cape May at sunset, Ocean City in the evening to watch the ferris wheels rotating in the night, and Atlantic City around 11:00pm to see the lights that remain on in the city.
We were rounding Sandy Hook at the top of the state by 11:00am the next morning. We motored hard. Overnight the winds were so light we didn’t get much help from the sail, but the ocean was pretty calm because of it, too. When we made the turn around Sandy Hook, the wind picked up and we motor sailed like we were being chased!! (We sort of were – by the northerlies threatening to move in!) Then we caught the currents PERFECTLY and FLEW through New York City. That was just as thrilling this time as it was last September. At one point we were going 12 knots with the current. For a sailboat, that’s really, really fast! (Power boaters are snickering at that comment.)
August 17th – 4:00 pm: Arrive on the other side of New York City at Port Washington to grab a mooring ball and collapse after our 32 hours straight of travel! Whew! We patted ourselves on the back pretty hard for adjusting on the fly and deciding to just keep on going! The decision to go through New York instead of going further offshore and up to Montauk kept us in more protected waters if the wind should shift and would get us in the Long Island Sound quicker. We were happy with our sudden change of plans! Adaptability based on conditions is a good thing for cruisers.
August 18th: Port Washington to Port Jefferson – about a 6 hour trip up the Long Island Sound. We actually got to sail – no engine – for about a whopping 45 minutes before losing our wind again. Amazing how little pure sailing we get to do when trying to get from point A to point B.
August 19th – 7:30am: Leave Port Jefferson for Orient, NY. That was a long slog up the sound into the wind. The winds were turning on us, but better to be here in the sound. The wind wasn’t too strong, but it made for a choppier day. But that’s okay, because we were almost to the cruising grounds we were aiming for! Once we hit the fish tail of Long Island, we considered ourselves THERE! Everywhere after this for the next many weeks will be very reasonable hops around the area.
We tried something a little different on the overnight passage. Rather than having a strict schedule of shifts (we did 3 hours before), we decided to loosely aim for 3.5 – 4 hour shifts, but with the agreement that, if the person in the cockpit was doing still feeling wide awake, and the person down below was sleeping well, the person at the helm we keep going until they got tired. That allowed both of us to get a little more solid sleep than we had on previous trips, although I was the greatest beneficiary of this, falling SOUNDLY asleep while Frank drove from midnight – 4:15am when he finally came down and shook me (gently) awake from a sound, sound sleep. By 4:30 I was ready to take the wheel and he went down below and slept until the sun woke him up hours later. It worked well for us.
And so, we made it from Annapolis to the tip of Long Island in 5 days and 4 nights . . . ahead of the northerlies, and with the next 6 weeks ahead of us to relax and enjoy this beautiful region. Ahhhhh. It’s good to be back out on the water!