And They Lived Happily Ever After
Eleanor Q: For Sail or For Sale? – That was the original title of this post when I started it.
First, let me note that this blog has been written in stages over the last 4+ years. Yup… one blog post has taken that long. I used to just crastinate, but then I turned “pro.” What motivated me to wrap this up, at long last, was the desire to do a printed book version of the blog just for our own library… one that we could flip through at our leisure and use to reminisce in our declining years. I’m not planning for the declining years to start any time soon, but you can never be too prepared! As I got ready to print, I recognized that the story never had that nice, logical conclusion to it, and it really needed one. So here is the last chapter of the tale of Eleanor Q.
Part 1 – It was the summer of ‘18
The story of this summer has several stages.
You might remember, from lo those many months ago, that after lots of soul searching and agonizing, we put Eleanor Q up for sale. We decided it was time for something a little smaller and a little faster (meaning without sails) since we determined that our days of long distance cruising were behind us. And Eleanor Q wants to RUN! She wants to travel! She’s ready for new adventures!
So we put her on the market last October. By June (after only one looker) we decided that we were tired of tip-toeing around her like a model home that isn’t allowed to be mussed. Well balderdash. We’re going to use her and love her and just not sweat it. When someone is ready to look at her, they will see a loved and used boat. We loaded bags of stuff back onto her that we had removed in April. So we changed our thinking back to,“Eleanor Q FOR SAIL!”
We finally found ourselves a few beautiful, early June days and set off to Oxford, MD on the eastern shore of Maryland… our favorite anchorage. The added motivation was because our anniversary was coming up in a few weeks and this is where we anchored up and got married seven years ago. We figured we’d start the anniversary celebration early.
Here’s what I wrote about that trip back in June 2018 … it’s been sitting in a file ever since waiting to be finished…
The trip over was a motor-sail day… not enough wind to get us there without some assistance, but still, a VERY lovely day on the water.
We love to take our traditional walk up “The Strand” in Oxford on our way to the Robert Morris Inn… where we dined on the evening of our nuptials. We’re traditionalists… what can we say. And although they may have excellent desserts after the excellent dinner, we wouldn’t be able to vouch for that first hand, because, you know, there’s a Scottish Creamery around the corner with MIGHTY fine ice cream. Then a walk around the docks, a nice chat with some fellow boaters and then the dinghy ride back to our quiet anchorage where we sit alone!
We spent the perfect (for us) and typical evening on the boat … sit in the cockpit to watch the sunset, then go down below to turn on some great music, sip some whiskey and play gin rummy. (Could we sip gin and play whiskey rummy? Hmmm…) Too exciting, I know. Might sound dull to the average human, but it is heaven to us and something that we don’t do at home (the cards part, that is…) There is another important element that is usually part of this tradition, too, except I messed up. I forgot to pack the M&Ms. Whiskey without M&Ms. What is this world coming to. We endured.
Frank is always the first to retire while my night owl instincts kick in. Let me try to describe some of my feelings about being out here. It is a spectacularly calm, clear night. It is quiet. The boat is just barely rocking. I walked back up top after getting everything settled below and lights off for the night. I can hear Frank sleeping (identified by the not quite snoring/heavier breathing sounds). I tip toe back up to the cockpit and stick my head off the edge of the boat to see more stars than I have seen in a very long time – since the last time we were cruising last summer, as a matter of fact. I don’t even know how I ever slept when we were cruising… it makes my heart beat faster just looking all around at the peace and the dark and the stars and the distant lights on the water. It’s challenging for me to make myself go back down below…
I distinctly remember how hard it was for me to go to sleep that night. Maybe something deep in my gut knew it would be one of the last nights we would spend on Eleanor Q. Schedules got busy, weather got crappy and before we knew it, it was August and we had barely used her. And then we got the call that someone was flying in from Michigan to take a look at our girl. And look they did. And they fell in love, just like we had. You could see it in their eyes.
And so, just a little over a week ago, we said goodbye to Eleanor Q as she left our dock with her new owners. (Note: that section was written in September 2018.)
Part 2 – Is there life after Eleanor Q?
Well of course there is! A few years have passed and the wounds of separation from Eleanor Q are now just barely visible scars. We have not replaced her with another non-sailboat like we had talked about; that may still happen. But what we did do was procure our own smallish sailboat to race in the Annapolis area which is famous for its racing. After crewing on some other boats for a couple of years, we decided to purchase a Harbor 20 sailboat. Being a 20 footer means that it only needs a crew of two. She had been an instructional boat in the Boston area for a while and we got her for a fair price. After some thought as to what to name her, it was Frank who suggested the name we settled on: Dolly.
Hello Dolly! My mother, Dolly, was about to turn 95, and as a surprise for her birthday, we named the boat after her. The original Dolly is spunky and intrepid, so we thought it was a good fit. Plus Dolly the woman is pretty darn cool.
So all the while that we were on Eleanor Q, Frank kept saying that I would TRULY understand sailing more completely when I got to spend time on a smaller boat. Yeah, I kind of learned bass-ackwards. Now I understand what he meant. And now we’ve switched our focus from cruising to racing. Annapolis has so may great sailing traditions, and Wednesday night racing is one of the greatest. All summer long, weather permitting, hundreds of boats of various sizes and classes take to the Annapolis harbor to compete. I could write several posts just about our racing experiences, but I will spare you the details. We are in a wonderful fleet of Harbor 20s with the most amazing sailors. They are competitive, but in the best of ways. They are also helpful, gracious, welcoming and will do anything they can to help you sail your best, too. In our early races, our goal was just to not be DFL. You know… DFL. (Dead flippin’ last – that’s the PG version.) Last year our goal shifted up to being in the middle of the pack. We have good days and bad days and Frank is constantly tweaking the boat, the sails, the rigging, etc. I like to think that I have learned to be pretty good crew, but my love for the sport is not as deep as his. I still cringe when we are within a few inches of other boats or, God forbid, make contact in a tight turn. Hey, I didn’t like bumper cars when I was a kid, either. But I’ve come a long way. Truthfully though, I’m still more of a cruiser at heart. We will figure out how we will get back to exploring some of the special anchorages and towns up and down the Chesapeake while we’re still of sound mind and body…. well, of sound body, anyway! For now, our travels on the water remain close to home on Dolly and on our 17’ skiff that can take us into town for ice cream. Did you think I’d leave out the ice cream?
So thanks for reading along about our adventures on Eleanor Q. It was a good run for which we are extremely grateful. And though life does not always read like a fairytale, I feel okay saying that, in fact, we are living happily ever after.
P.S. – My mom, Dolly, passed on to start her next excellent adventure in May 2021, but S/V Dolly carries on in her name.
Cruising Out of Summer and into Fall
Okay, so I’ve dropped the ball on finishing up on any posts about the end of our late summer cruise to New England. We got back home and hit the ground running with lots of Annapolis fall visitors and activites and music and racing and other events in our lives…so we’ll do some catching up on the end of our summer cruise before filling you in on newer developments.
We left Newport and headed to Montauk, NY – the last lengthy stopover in our cruise. I’ll do more pictures than words. The headlines from Montauk: friends, fishing boats, fun!
– Met up with our dear friends on Kindred Spirit for a few days of fun on the water! Their boat and ours kept bobbing and weaving about trying to figure out if and where we might meet up – and it worked out to meet in Montauk! Both vessels were out for a few weeks of cruising, but you know that cruisers set VERY loose schedules and commitments because Mother Nature can just throw too many wrenches into plans. But it worked for a rendezvous in Montauk.
We got to Montauk first and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the fishing community.
Frank was lovin’ on this old diesel engine. Claims he knows the sound of one from memory.
And if you didn’t get enough fine signage from the first visit to “The Dock,” here’s some more artistic fun for you…
We enjoyed a nice dinner out…
It is hard getting up for these departures, but they also reveal some of the most beautiful sights and sounds on these trips. This was no exception…
And we headed south and didn’t stop until we reached Cape May. The good news: It was an easy trip because there was no wind to speak of. The bad news: There was very little sailing because there was no wind to speak of. But it was truly the glassiest trip we’ve ever had down the coast. It was all motoring all the time. Sigh. But I’ll never complain about conditions that are too calm.
Goodbye, New England. Thanks for being a great host yet again. We’ll see you some time … just maybe not in this boat. But that’s another story for another post.
And goodbye summer. See you next year. On to fall!
Reconnecting in Connecticut
We’ve made some really good friends along the way while cruising and a couple of them happen to be from Connecticut, so we were thrilled at the change to reconnect with our friends from Cutting Class and spend a little quality time around their neck of the woods. When we pulled into the anchorage in Stonington, Dan and Marcia were there to greet us as we pulled up to the dinghy dock, scooped us up and took us to their home in nearby Mystic for catching up, laundry and a yummy dinner. Apparently we have “reciprocal privileges” at their house! Stonington is a lovely area and we took a little walk around town after dinner before returning to Eleanor Q.
We said our goodbyes and got back on the boat thinking we would head to Newport the next day… but we have been in this area before and not spent much time. What was the big hurry? So in the morning, we changed our plans and decided to head right around the corner to Watch Hill and see what it was all about. Hey, if Taylor Swift bought a house there, then it had to be okay, right? Maybe we’d stop in and say hi to her during our stay. We mosied the 3 miles up a very winding and skinny inlet to Watch Hill. Although it was only three miles, somewhere in that short route we had crossed into Rhode Island. It took us half of the afternoon to figure that out… it was when I saw a t-shirt in a shop that said “Watch Hill, Rhode Island.” Duh. I said, “So, we crossed into Rhode Island today?” Frank said, “Guess so!” You know, Garmin Blue Charts doesn’t really show state lines!
Side note: one of the things that really does change as you go north… VHF radio etiquette. It starts in NJ – that’s where we heard the first F-bomb dropped at a fellow boater. It got progressively worse in NY and in CT – and approaching RI, it’s really a doozie. We heard an unbelievable exchange of name calling between a couple of captains – all on VHF 16, the emergency and hailing channel. Someone finally broke in and said, “There is no civility in New England any more.” The Coast Guard kept coming on reminding folks that it is a hailing and emergency channel only… but they don’t know who’s on the radio or where they are, so nothing they can do to enforce that – even the guy that called another guy a “homo.” No lie. And even FRANK commented on it… and he worked in the fishing and casino businesses in NJ, so that’s coming from him, if you know what I mean. Some of it you have to laugh at, but really people, JUST CHILL! People squawk at each other a bit in other locales, but not quite so, uhm, colorfully as this section of New England. Okay, side note done.
Anyway, back to Watch Hill. It was an interesting place to visit… a busy, upscale shore town – but very scenic and a nice stopover for a night.
We went back in that evening looking for dinner in a pretty crowded town. We stuck our heads in the Olympia Tea Room Restaurant. I don’t know why it is called that – there is nothing about the place that resembles a tea room. The place was packed, but two seats at the bar opened – our preferred seating, anyway. GREAT food and where we met Frances. She was an endearing soul sitting by herself, and we struck up a conversation. (I know – shocking.) She is a Rhode Island native and she gave us a great tip on a good restaurant in Newport. She told us which nights she goes there and sits at the bar, and that we should ask for “Uncle Joe” when we go. Would we run into Frances again in Newport? You’ll have to wait and find out! So cute that Frances. I enjoyed saying, “Frances, meet Francis!” (Frank, you know.)
We were carefully instructed that the last launch would be at sunset… so we made sure we were back shortly before, but Donna the launch driver said, “You’re going to need to wait a few minutes. I have sundown duty.” No problem, Donna. Sunset duty means setting off that proverbial canon and lowering the flag. There was a small “bang,” and I said to Frank, “That’s a pretty wimpy can—-” and before I could finish, the real canon was fired. When I regained my hearing, I shouted to Frank, “Oh! They have a real canon!” The flag was lowered, properly folded and stored all while anyone anywhere close by stood in quiet respect. How nice. We like this New England tradition. Call me old fashioned! See, there is plenty of civility in New England.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Connecticut… oh yeah, and in the first little bit of Rhode Island, too. Please tell Taylor we’ll catch her next time.
(Hey Fred, were there enough pictures of me this time?)
Long Island Sound of Music
If you ever watch Jeopardy, then you’ll understand that the title of this blog would fall under the category “Before and After”. The clue would be something like, “Movie set on the 110 mile tidal estuary with Connecticut to the north, and Long Island to the south where the Von Trapp Family children pick Edelweiss and are taught their Do Re Mis by a problem like Maria.” “What is ‘Long Island Sound of Music’ Alex?!” (If you don’t know The Sound of Music, none of that made sense to you – move on.) Well, it seemed fitting because there was music intertwined heavily through this part of the trip!
We pulled out of Pt. Washington, looked to our left to wave goodbye to the city in the distance, then turned hard to starboard and headed east on the Long Island Sound.
Our next stop was Pt. Jefferson… the next logical stop when you’re headed that direction. We’ve never paid “Pt. Jeff” any mind… just used her and discarded her. It is a very nice, secure, protected place to anchor and that’s what we’ve done – anchored, stayed on the boat, gotten up the next morning and run without so much as a “how do you do.” And yet we’d heard people talk about what a delightful little town it is. It was time to stop dissin’ Pt. Jeff and go see what was happening there. We knew we’d be tucked in for two nights because weather was moving in, but the afternoon we arrived was beautiful! So we took off in the dinghy and went to Pt. Jeff. What we found was a vibrant little shore town with restaurants, shops and live music. We’ll remember the live music – some in a good way and some not so much.
The bad live music: Okay, we’re not even sure where this was coming from, but somewhere there was outdoor karoke that could be heard for blocks. And some unfortunate soul who had clearly had a few adult beverages too many was belting out (VERY badly) Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”. You can hear it, can’t you? I mean, people for blocks were cracking up at this guy, and I’m sure he had no idea just exactly how far his voice was being amplified. We passed a very cool looking older dude who was shaking his head – and we shook ours back – to which he responded, ‘Hey, at least he’s trying!” Good point, my man.
The good live music: We landed at an outdoor bar to sip a brew and listen to a guy singing and playing acoustic guitar.
This man had a challenging assignment: perform music that would appeal to ALL the age groups in the audience which ran the gamut. When we tell you this guy could play/sing songs from every decade since the ’50s, that is no joke. That’s impressive and he was good. And when he had two sides of the audience facing off about which decade to cover next, he killed two birds with one stone: He sang a song that was a hit in the 60s and then redone by Pearl Jam in 2000, and it is the world’s most depressing song ever. Okay, I won’t make you guess at this one: “Last Kiss” was made a hit in 1964 by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – then the Pearl Jam success. For some reason, Frank knows every word to that song. Every single one.
“Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.…”
Uplifting, right? Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to this guy sing.
The best kind of live music: Frank playing guitar in the cockpit. Except that he had this depressing song stuck in his head now, so he of course had to pull a guitar tab up for it and (since he knows EVERY word) I listened to the tragic story of the car wreck and his baby going to heaven for quite a while. Apparently, birds like sad love songs, because they started showing up. Now, when we were last in this same anchorage, Frank made friends with the swans. He named them what he names all animals that need a name: Bubba. (Ask my great niece who now calls Frank “Uncle Bubba” after a lengthy discourse about everything being named Bubba.) So how many years has it been since we’ve been in this spot? And guess who comes up to the side of the boat… Mr. and Mrs. Bubba! They heard Frank was back in town and knew that meant good eatin’!!
When he tired of hand feeding the Bubbas and getting his finger nibbled on, he went back to the guitar. Seagulls gathered.
The next day was supposed to be a washout, but when we woke up, we looked at the radar map and discovered we had a couple of hours of dryness, so we explored a different dinghy dock that dropped us in the less touristy town of Setauket. After about a 5 block walk to Main St., we explored the store fronts and restaurants.
And even better, we found a barber shop!!! (Sorely needed if you ask me.) It was the classic, throw back barber shop – and Frank got a mighty fine hair cut there!
Afterwards, a quick trip to a local deli for lunch and then – oops – we didn’t quite make it back before the precipitation. Hey, that’s what foul weather gear is for. We got a little soggy on the walk/ride back, but no big deal.
We were back on the boat for the rest of the day enjoying the down time after our hectic travels so far. A day of reading, cards and a little dinner on the boat in the middle of a rainy, peaceful anchorage is quite delightful. I actually really like those days peppered into our other experiences. We did get a little break in the clouds later!
Next day we were back out on the Sound heading to Shelter Island – one of our favorite places. We have friends there who we met on our first visit – we have the same make of boat which automatically makes us cousins. We always look forward to meeting up with them. One of the things we MOST enjoy is playing music together, as our friend is an outstanding guitarist and all around musician and likes to rock out. We have a blast playing classic rock, folk and a little country together and were able to have two jam sessions at their house while we were in town.
And Shelter Island Yacht Club is a beautiful place to hang out! Oh, did I mention we are back in the land of the canon? The yacht clubs from NY north seem to share the tradition of setting off a canon at 8:00am and sunset – and also observing “colors” which is the lowering of the flag at day’s end while everyone stands quietly at attention. It is actually a very cool tradition that is observed all over NY and New England.
And our friends were very generous to let us use their second vehicle to get around the island a bit, so we took advantage and did some grocery shopping and – went to a concert!! Yay – more music! The last time we were in Shelter Island, I was able to convince Frank to come with me to the Perlman Music Camp. Itzak Perlamn and his wife started this camp for gifted young musicians. Only the finest up and comers get into this camp and they offer frequent concerts throughout the program. Last time was a special concert that Mr. Perlman performed in as well – that was unique! This time we saw a “Works in Progress” concert – performances by a number of the campers. Most of them could go pro now. UN. BE. LIEVABLE. We will be interested to see how their careers take off! The setting is basically a tent that holds about 200 people with a stage up front, so the sound of crickets and cicadas is part of the accompaniment, too.
It is truly special. Great concert.
On a completely separate side note – we were happy to find that Frank’s #1 Choice for best milkshake can retain its titile… The Islander Cafe – hands down.
One morning we decided to take the short walk from the dinghy dock to the Greenport Ferry and have breakfast in that cool little town. Love the ferry ride. Found “Crazy Beans” for breakfast again – just as tasty as last time – then expected a typically pleasant and uneventful 15 minute ferry ride back. Instead, we got a really crappy ride – literally. Look what they loaded onto the ferry with us.
Now understand, this ferry is SMALL! It does take vehicles, but not many – maybe 20? And the pedestrians or bicyclists just stand around the cars – not like there is an inside cabin to sit in – it’s very bare bones. So when we saw this trailer full of cows being loaded on, it made us wonder: should we wait for the next ferry? And the cows were NOT HAPPY about being rolled onto a boat which agitated them greatly. They truly were trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Now here’s the difference between Frank and I, ’cause you might remember, we’re different in some ways… he walks TO the trailer and I walk away from the trailer.
You know what happens to those who peek their heads up to the trailer air holes to see what’s going on in there? They get an earful of shit, that’s what! (Okay, maybe a whole earful is an exaggeration, but he did scrape cow dung out of his ear.) There were several bicyclists boarded who were told to stay at the stern of the boat. After we explained to them where the stern was, they parked themsleves as told – which happened to be right behind the cow trailer. Yes, they went to their assigned spot dutifully – or should I say – doodie-fully. Yup, they got the brunt of the flying cow pies when the bovine beauties freaked out. You know who was also bummed? The guy in the Porsche convertible parked right next to them. You want to see a top go up on a car quick? I “hoofed” it to the bow of the boat so as to avoid any more of the flying feces. That was the stinkiest ferry ride I imagine any of us has experienced… so literally, it was a crappy ride. But it sure made for a good story around town that day! You know, one of my favorite songs is “If I Had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett…
“If I had a boat, I’d go out on the ocean… and if I had a pony, I’d ride it on my boat. And we would altogether go out on the ocean, me upon my pony on my boat.”
Just change “pony” to “cow” and that was sort of our day. Kind of a stretch on the musical reference? Fine.
So for now I’ll just say, “So long. Farewell. Auf wiedersehn, adieu.” Thank you Long Island Sound of Music.
New York State of Mind: De Planes! De Planes!
We’re definintely in a New York state of mind as we have been cruising through the state for the last week. Of course, that started with the Big Apple last Friday after stopping in Sandy Hook for a brief rest following our overnight trip up the Jersey shore. We have blogged about going through New York before, so I’ll just hit some highlights, mostly through photos, because the views NEVER get old! This was our fourth time through the city and it was still thrilling. We’re transiting waterways so you think boats, right? What’s the deal with “De Planes” subtitle? Well, ALL types of watercraft, commercial and personal, fill the waters around NYC, but we seem to have interesting encounters with aircraft on these trips!! We see planes coming in to land at LaGuardia… MULTITUDES of helicopters coming in to the business helipads… the SKIES are full of traffic as we transit the area. You’ll see….
So as we approached The Battery where you have to choose if you’re going up the Hudson River or the East River, Frank reminded me that this is where Sully Sullenberger landed USAirways Flight 1549 back in 2009.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Sully,” it is VERY interesting. Okay, moving on…
So a LOT of visual stimulation happens in this next part (because there hasn’t been enough already)…
I was fascinated by these strange looking towers! I sent the picture to my family and I don’t remember the EXACT quote, but my sister Christine thought they looked like hugging Gumbies, I believe it was. I had to find out… they were designed by SHoP Architects who also designed the Barclay Center… and they are apartments. The 2-story sky bridge houses a – get this – LAP POOL. No thank you.
Okay, so I’ll post a flashback from our last transit going the other direction in 2014. That was when we passed port to port under a bridge with an NYPD helipcopter – that startled the %&#! out of us! Yup, he flew under the bridge. Hard to forget that one.
So when you think that can’t be topped, Frank looks up and I hear something like, “What the hell am I’m looking at?” DE PLANE! DE PLANE! That’s the same bridge where we saw the police helicopter! (Bonus for getting the classic TV show reference…)
Yes, THIS time through we got to pass starboard to starboard with a sea plane! And 3 minutes later, we had another one!! Note to self… stay out of the middle of the East River.
And then there’s all size and nature of water vessels to dart around. Large cargo ships are anchored here and there…
No picture could possibly tell the story of how busy the waterways are. At one point a small herd of 10 jet skis whizzed by going top speed! That’s a little crazy if you ask me. (Frank thought that looked fun…we’re different that way.)
So it was another exciting, memorable and successful trip through New York City. On the other side of the city is Pt. Washington (Long Island) – a very cruiser welcoming harbor! We have stopped there before and it did not disappoint this time, either. We had a couple orders of business there….
First order of business…. okay, anybody notice something important missing in this picture?
At one point I went to take a picture over our stern, framed with Old Glory, when I realized “GASP” where’s our flag? Our offshore trip wasn’t bouncy enough to lose the flag… except for the 20 minutes that we turned around into the wind to await sunrise – and then we bounced real good! Apparently our flag gave up the ghost in that part of the trip… drats. That was a nice flag pole.
We had an extra oversized flag aboard… rigged a broom handle that fit nicely into the holder… this will do in a pinch, but we’re going to need to look for a more stable answer.
And of course, ice cream (or in this case, Italian Ice) is in order.
We found a new favorite for dinner… Finn MacCool’s. First – it’s Irish so what’s not to love. Good advice from a local… the further up Main St. you walk, the food gets better and cheaper. Good tip!
Next day we walked town and, upon advice from a friend, went to check out the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club… beautiful!
We walked BACK to Finn MacCool’s with nice folks we have met in our past cruising whose travels we’ve followed ever since! Good to see you, S/V Ullr!! (Yes, that spelling is correct.)
And so, after a very restful and fun stay in Pt. Washington, we said goodnight and prepared for our next leg… on to Pt. Jefferson – hopefully without meeting any aircraft on Long Island Sound along the way.
The Best Laid Plans… Sailing North
Do you know that famous literary quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?” Since we have no mice aboard that I know of, I’ll alter it to say, “The best laid plans of sailors often get revised.” Such was the case for us last week when we set off for our cruise to New England. After watching and waiting for a weather window, we left on August 1st at 6:11am. (My best time of day – note the sarcasm).
Truth be told, we both were a little verklempt as we pulled away from the dock. We have been having such a good time in Annapolis, we kind of wondered if we had made the right decision to take off for a while. Frank uses an expression from his former fishing days to describe a moment like this: “You don’t leave fish to find fish.” But Eleanor Q has been sitting there staring at us, pleading to go out for more than a day sail or an overnight trip. “Let’s GO,” we could hear her saying. And she’s right. So off we went.
Plan A was to travel most of the day up the bay, proceed on through the C&D canal and anchor up on the Delaware side at Reedy Island. The next day we would transit down the Delaware Bay, up the NJ coast, through NYC and into Pt. Washington, all without stopping. We’ve done it once before – it does knock a big chunk off of the trip early and we wanted to get to Long Island Sound rather quickly. That second part would take about 1.5 days straight. We were set. Right? Day 1 executed as planned.
Day 2 we headed down the Delaware and made it to Cape May in record time with favorable current. We rounded the tip of NJ in sunshine and a nice breeze, threw up the sails (unfurled them, not upchucked them), turned off the engine and stared at Frank’s home town, admiring the beach-goers, the light house and Cape May in all its glory.
Yeah, 6am – not my best time of day…
We were just about to set up the coast on this beautiful day when we thought, “Hey, let’s take a quick peek at the radar map.” Good plan.
Okay, bad plan. Ah crap. Really? But it’s sunny and we’re sailing. It’s perfect (we whined, admittedly). We, of course, are the blue dot. Now, not that we haven’t been in thunderstorms on the boat before, and she can handle it… but there were more up the coast as well. When given a choice, do we really want to be in the ocean, overnight in thunderstorms? No, not really. There are very few “bail out” points on the NJ coast, but Cape May is certainly one of them, so we turned on the engine, took down the sails and made a hard turn to port and into the Cape May Inlet to settle in for the night. Sigh. The best laid plans… As it turned out, Plan B turned out to be a better plan in the long run. We had been running pretty ragged getting everything ready to go, so a decent night’s sleep and a better frame of mind to do our first overnighter in a couple of years was not a bad thing. Plan B was better than Plan A. Based on our NEW plan and timing the currents in NY, we didn’t have to leave until 11am the next morning. There is not much of an anchorage available in Cape May right now due to dredging equipment taking up a good portion of that space, but we found a little spot right beside the Coast Guard station, and right beside a piling with an osprey nest…
That osprey made a serious “thud” when he landed… and didn’t look like he knew how to get off. We finally scared him enough with our incessant picture taking that he landed with a splash all splayed out in the water. Kids. He finally gathered himself and managed to take off out of the drink.
Day 3 we set off for the 25-30 hour trip up the coast and through New York. That was truly one of the best pure sailing days we’ve had – definitely in the top 3. Perfect beam reach and sunny skies. Then we noticed this big, dark area forming in the sky in the distance. One again, the trusty radar map revealed another set of classic summer storms popping up all over, but still a ways away.
We had time to make a call… bail in Atlantic City? Bail in Barnegat – an inlet that has been rumored to have shoaled up pretty badly? Shout out to my friend Hank for helping to get us some intel on Barnegat. In the end, we decided that we can’t run away from EVERY chance of thunderstorms or we’ll never get there! So we kept going and had EXCELLENT storm karma. We watched storms all around us, but other than 30 seconds of rain around Sandy Point, we got nuthin’. Nada. Zippo. Yippee. When we lost our wind in the evening, we turned the engine back on and had a blissfully uneventful overnight motor up the coast taking 3.5 hour watches. Got to Sandy Hook ahead of schedule, so pulled into the anchorage by – well why not – the Coast Guard station to take a 4 hour break to wait for favorable currents through NYC and to take a well deserved nap. All was well. We did not have to go to Plan C. (Shout out to cruiser friends, Loretta and Jim, who aptly named their boat “Plan Sea.” I get it!)
Here is a collage of the sights going up the Jersey coast…passing by Atlantic City, sunset over land, the night time lights of Seaside Heights, then dawn close to Sandy Hook, the storms darting around us, and then a little bit of sunrise just as we were pulling in to anchor for a few hours.
And one last poetic picture with which to end this episode…. (I had to use proper grammar there so the grammar police wouldn’t strike – aka my sisters)…
Yup – sailing past Atlantic City and his old office from many years ago. Poetic, don’t you think?
Think I’ll stop writing for now and crack open a beer – excellent plan. Next post: NYC, baby!
A Few of Our Favorite Things: Life on the Chesapeake
Don’t pass out… but the blog rides again!
Quick catch up… and most of you reading this already know this, but Frank retired in March. No really. He means it this time. So he is not living out of state for work any more – he is really, really here in Annapolis with me full time. This is truly home now.
It has been quite a while since we posted about our move to Annapolis. We celebrated two years of home ownership here in May. And how do we know when we moved in? Because it was the same week as the Blue Angels Show! Their demonstration is an annual event here during commissioning week at the Naval Academy. It is something you put on your calendar 6 months in advance and make sure you don’t have any out of town commitments on those days! And it is SPECTACULAR! That leads us to our first Chesapeake favorite…
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: BLUE ANGELS
And of course, one of the main reasons for moving here is the amazing sailing! Eleanor Q lives with us now which means staying on top of boat projects all the time. But it also means taking her out on a more regular basis!
But Annapolis also means Frank gets to race! He has been testing the waters (literally) by crewing on different boats. So far he has raced on J-30s and J-24s. Although he makes 61 look good, he’s trying to decide what race boat makes the most sense for him at this stage in the game. Lately he test drove a Laser which is a one-person racer. (That also means he’s the captain which suits him.) Stay tuned as his racing career evolves. I promised myself that I’d race this year to help with my sailing skills… perhaps next year. Stay tuned on that one, too.
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: SAILING
But our latest love is anything related to Blue Crabs. We both read “Beautiful Swimmers,” a wonderful book that gives a peek inside the business and culture of crabbing and crabbers on the Chesapeake including detailing the reproductive life of the blue crab in more detail than you ever thought you wanted to know! Frank has his crabbing license and is perfecting the trot line method of crabbing. Let’s just say, we have had some AMAZING crab feasts on our deck this year! We have come a long way from our early days of using weights and twine on floating water bottles (although that was pretty effective some days, too).
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE : CRABS
We have a lot of visitors to our house, and not just the two-legged kind! There is WAY more “nature” here than we would have ever imagined. Critters of all kinds like to hang out around Lake Ogleton (where we live). By the way, “lake” is a misnomer. It is more of a harbor than a lake in that it has an inlet to the bay as opposed to being self contained. Anyway, we have critters and they’re fun to watch.
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: NATURE (a) Critters
Still in the nature category is just the scenic nature of this entire area. Nicole said to me this morning (during our latest crabbing trip), “Pictures just can’t do this place justice.” She’s absolutely right… but here are a few anyway.
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: NATURE (b) The Scenery
But our #1 favorite part of being here… sharing it with friends and family.
The adventures of Eleanor Q will continue! We will be sailing north for about a month and visiting some of our old favorite haunts in New England as well as exploring a few new places, too. Stay tuned!
‘Twas the Week After Christmas
‘Twas the week after Christmas and all through the boat,
Not a creature was stirring since she isn’t afloat.
The systems are drained of all water with care,
In hopes that no icicles will ever form there.
Eleanor Q is nestled all snug on her bed
With antifreeze throughout her, including the head.
With me in my parka and Frank in his cap,
Got Eleanor Q settled in for her long winter’s nap.
And so . . . our first round of cruising has come to an end.
We finished out the season in late September and October with some quality time in Annapolis and with a few hops around the Chesapeake.
But when the cold weather hit in November, we knew it was time to take Eleanor Q out of the water for a while and give her a well deserved rest.
We are diving back into the work waters . . . I have already had a couple of consulting gigs this month and have some more work scheduled in January. Frank is still in discussions determining where and when he will go back to work, so we are waiting for definitive word as to exactly where our next “port” will be. In the mean time, we have enjoyed time in our house in Smithville, NJ and have spent lots of time with family here. Christmas in the warm weather of Florida was an interesting change last year, but spending it with family this year was pretty special . . . and singing with my former church choir in Ocean City throughout the season has buoyed my Christmas spirit.
Yes, we occasionally have pangs about being on the boat in warmer climes about now, but we have also really enjoyed time with family, football season on our couch and the beautiful fall weather.
So . . . we are prepared to be transients again, just on land instead of sea for a while. We will return to cruising some day . . . it will not be a one and done deal for us. But we have lots of years left to return to the sea, God willing. We fulfilled our goal of cruising from Maine to the Bahamas and back and it was AWESOME! But for now, we’ll enjoy the stimulation that we both get from doing work that we really enjoy and having a few more land adventures for a while. We’ll let you know where we and Eleanor Q land!
And so we exclaim as we turn out the light,
Happy New Year to all and to all a good night.
September Song – Connecticut to Annapolis
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.
“Oh, it’s a long, long way from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for
the waiting game.”
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.
Newport or Bust!
After being waylaid in Nantucket for an extra day due to fog and drizzle, we were ready to move on. Our ultimate goal was to get to Newport, but that would be a 60+ mile day. What’s the hurry? We need to enjoy our time in these parts. We chose to do a 30 mile hop over to Martha’s Vineyard which meant we didn’t have to leave at the crack of dawn. Good thing, because at the crack of dawn it was foggy again, but the forecast promised that it would burn off quickly. Happily, it did (we thought) and we set off. The series of pictures below shows the progression of the trip: clear passing the light at the exit of Nantucket Harbor, then some fog, then pretty limited visibility for quite a while! We have radar and that’s exactly what it’s for. We saw lots of fog last summer in Maine and, compared to that, this was child’s play. We’ve been unbelievably blessed with great weather for just about this whole month. The last picture is the bright sun shining on the lighthouse at the entrance to Edgartown Harbor on Martha’s Vineyard. We figured we’d stay for a couple of days before marching on to Newport.
Not much to say about our stay there. We arrived in the early afternoon, anchored, hopped off the boat and went into town. When we were in Edgartown last summer it was July, hot and crowded. We were looking forward to giving it another chance post-Labor Day. And this was the Tuesday after Labor Day. The weather was pleasant, the crowds were gone . . . this looked promising. And then we discovered that everybody who works on the island was burnt out. Okay, we’re familiar with seasonal business and end of season burn out from the years in Atlantic City, but even if you FEEL that way, a professional tries not to show it. Yeah, right. Servers and bartenders everywhere had no desire left to be kind to tourists. They were just done . . . and so were we. So instead of sticking around for another day of indifference, we decided to move on up the sound to wonderful Newport. Boaters’ paradise. Nautical Mecca. But first we had to get there.
So it should have been a sweet ride up the sound. The forecast was for quite a bit of wind, and that there was, and not downwind. What does all of that mean? We got slapped around a bit that day! If you’re not familiar with the term “fetch” (not as in what you say to Fido) it means, “a) an area where ocean waves are being generated by the wind; b) the length of such an area. There was a fair sized fetch meaning fair sized seas. Interesting that fetch rhymes with “retch.” Happily, we did not, but it crossed my mind once or twice. We could have bailed and stopped at a closer location, but we really wanted to end up in Newport and so resisted the urge. About six grueling hours later, we were in Newport. In my head I rate the comfort level of days as to “how would family members like being on the boat today?” As I told one of my sisters, NO ONE would have liked being on the boat that day. But . . . we were there, safe and exhausted.
Last year we were in Newport over Labor Day Weekend and in not such great weather – and still loved the place. We also got wise to the good anchorage there. Now we were going to see Newport in all its glory. Newport is a good sized town and there are blocks and blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and pubs. There are museums and historic mansions. There’s tons to see and do. Go there if you ever have a chance.
Day 1 – Walked and walked and walked. Frank had a mission: we had determined an appropriate belated birthday present for me: a GoPro camera. Online, he had scoped out local retailers and we were going shopping. Long story short, after many miles and three stores, we finally got the camera and necessary accessories. A new toy! Scouted out the Midtown Oyster Bar for lunch and met Timmy, our MVP bartender for this trip. It would not be our last visit to Timmy.
Day 2 – Laundry Day and “time alone” day. Yes, we all need to have a little time alone, so Newport provides the perfect opportunity for us to go our separate ways for a while. I was stationed in the Boater’s Lounge laundry (GREAT facility for cruisers) with the plan to go actually walk IN some shops while the clothes were spinning around. Frank’s plan was to rent a scooter and see some other parts of town. Earlier he had asked me if I wanted to tour with him on the scooter. I pretty quickly answered a resounding no! I confess, I’m not a fan of open road two-wheel transportation. I did ride on a motorcycle with him a couple of times and lived to tell about it, but I was pretty much praying to come back in one piece the whole time I was riding. Yeah, I’m a chicken. Cut me some slack, I’m living on a boat, okay? So back to Newport – an hour after we’ve split up, Frank calls me and says, “I’m riding this scooter around and this is a GREAT way to see the place – it’s beautiful! Do you want me to come back and get you? You really gotta see this.” How nice was that? So I grabbed the last articles out of the dryers, we threw the finished laundry in the dinghy and off we went. I got over my nervousness pretty quickly and he was right . . . it was spectacular. And I managed to talk Frank into stopping for a tour of one of the mansions. A mansion tour is “something you should do” while you’re in Newport – at least that’s what people have told us. Ours was a self-guided tour that should take about an hour. Yup – we did it in 28 minutes.
It so happened that the scooter rental place was right beside the Oyster Bar, so of course we had to stop and visit with Timmy. It would be rude not to.
Day 3: Woke up to a foggy day in Newport. We weren’t going anywhere so we didn’t care, but there were a number of regattas planned for the day. It cleared up enough to watch some stunning boats go by on their way to compete. We went in to town and THIS time, we went our separate ways for a while. I did girl things like go in shops and look at clothes and flip flops and then went to the International Yacht Restoration School. We visited there last year and I wanted to see what progress they had made on restoring the 151 foot “Coronet” – the oldest wooden yacht still even a little bit in existence. It is being rebuilt/restored at the school – a project that will go on for years and years.
Frank went to boat yards. A couple of hours later, we met back up at – uhm, er – the Oyster Bar to hang out with Timmy on our last day in town. Yes, we’re in a rut considering how many cool places there are in Newport to explore. But the Oyster Bar was just that good.
Newport is way up on our list of favorite stops. Great town! And if you go there, please say hello to Timmy.