It’s October. Our last post was early in September. We’ve been back in Annapolis for a couple of weeks. So we need to catch up with the end of our summer cruise.
“September Song” started running through my head. You know the song? It’s a classic that was written for a movie in the 40s and has since been covered by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and – our favorite version – by Willie Nelson.
Well the days notably turned shorter, but we certainly made the most of them!
After Newport, we only had a couple of other “must see” destinations and those were on the coast of Connecticut, an area we didn’t see at all last year. The really cool thing about cruising north this year is that we had made friends with a number of cruisers over the winter whose home bases are in Connecticut and who had invited us to stop in on our way through!
We had a good trip from Newport to Stonington, CT. What a lovely port. We were very fortunate to visit with cruising friends who ran us around for some boat errands, groceries and laundry – AND fed us a delightful dinner.
Our next trip was up the Connecticut River to Essex, CT. We grabbed a mooring ball at the Brewer Dauntless Marina – a very nice stop if you’re looking – and enjoyed the quaint main street of Essex with the upscale shops and specialty food markets. Not where you’d shop every day that you’re cruising, but a nice treat for a couple of days. There’s just something about New England. We also discovered the Griswold Inn (or “The Gris”) for food and drinks. They have a pub and a wine bar and we tried both! Enjoyed a picnic lunch with cruising friends and a really fun dinner in town with friends that evening! Thanks to all our Connecticut hosts!
We learned about the strong current in the river by watching the sailing club trying to come back in to port at max flood!! They came in dead sidewise, crabbing their way through the mooring field. A few had paddles off the side of the boat trying hard to keep themselves from overshooting their target. Great entertainment.
The last night in Essex was sort of the last night of “vacation” in some respects. Now our mission was just to get back to Annapolis post haste. We really liked our approach to getting here in August – make a longer trip and passage and get it over with. That was going to be our approach going back, too, but a lot of things have to align for that to happen.
1) The weather and wind have to be favorable, of course.
2) From Long Island Sound, you have to go back through New York City. Talk about a place where you really have to go with the tides . . . so timing the tide through “Hell Gate” (that’s the name, really) and the the East River is critical.
3) Once you get through there, what’s the tide doing at Sandy Hook at the top of NJ?
4) Okay, so now what’s the wind direction as you head down the coast of NJ? That’s the overnight part.
5) And after that, if you want to keep going, what’s the current doing past Cape May and turning north up into the Delaware Bay?
6) AND THEN, when you get to the top of the Delaware Bay, which way is the current going through the C&D Canal?
If the current isn’t in your favor in any of those places, you have to break the trip up into chunks and wait it out . . . or you can try powering through any of those places against the current and just about sit still in place and waste a bunch of fuel. That makes no sense and is not recommended. We used our Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, the boater’s Bible for all things tide and current related, and found a window of about three days where all the tides aligned . . . if only we could get the good weather to go with it.
So we did a long but beautiful day down the Long Island Sound clear from Essex to Port Washington, NY just north of the city, passing right by Port Jefferson. We plotted the exact time we needed to leave Port Washington to start our trek which would be on a Sunday around 11am. That gave us all day Saturday to rest and prepare for the overnight trip down the coast.
And sure enough, the forecast looked great. We did a little happy dance (okay, I did a little happy dance . . . Frank just looked pleased) because everything was lining up perfectly. We departed Port Washington on schedule at 11:00am, had another exhilarating trip through New York City (never get tired of that), whipped around the top of NJ just before sunset and motor sailed, then just motored down the coast overnight in extremely calm, benign, comfortable conditions. Yes, some more wind to sail would be nice . . but for overnighters, we’re happy for really settled conditions so the one not on watch has an actual chance at sleeping. We were riding the engine pretty hard, too, to get us to the Delaware Bay in time to catch the changing current direction just right. There were a number of other boats who had the same idea and we found each other on the radio and suggested calling each other a few times during the overnight hours just to hear another voice out there in the dark and to “shepherd” one another down the coast a bit. We were not necessarily within sight of each other, but we were within a few miles. Always nice to have some company offshore in the dark.
Some of the boats stopped in Cape May, but a handful of us kept charging on. Another fleet of boats had been in Cape May overnight and were setting out up the Delaware. That was the most boats we’ve seen on that leg yet. It was fun! A virtual flotilla.
We zipped up the bay with the current (motor sailing), caught the current right in the C&D Canal and got to Chesapeake City, MD at the end of the canal by 5pm on Monday evening – 30 hours after departing Port Washington! Mission accomplished! The more overnights we do, the better we get at them. We did 4 hour shifts overnight and both got some reasonable sleep . . . but we did crash big time Monday night after a fun dinner with another cruising couple that we had met via radio and by waving as we passed each other in Ocracoke . . . finally got to talk face to face! Always a fun part of the adventure.
We enjoyed a lay day in Chesapeake City just wandering around town. I used the term “lay day” in an email to my family one morning . . . they were unfamiliar with it’s origins. It basically means a day when a vessel is at dock but the crew has no particular responsibility for that period of time. We were back in the bay!! Home waters! There is always a sense of comfort when we get back in the Chesapeake. We spent the rest of the week just enjoying short travel days and nosing around the bay. Stopped in the Sassafras River for a day. Visited Bodkin Creek the next. And then . . . we were back in Annapolis, back at Stella’s Stern and Keel. Back “home.”
Home. What will home be in 2015?
Well, we can tell you that we’ve decided not to go south on the boat this winter. We’re going to take a sabbatical from our sabbatical and go back to work for a while. What is that going to look like and where is that going to be? We’ll let you know just as soon as we’ve finished figuring that part out ourselves! Meanwhile, we just had ourselves a heck of an end of summer cruise and look forward to some fall time in the bay.
“Oh these days dwindle down to a precious few, and these few precious days I’ll spend with you.” You said it, Willie.