Friday, October 16, 2009
Well I'm sitting at home now - warm and dry despite the wet weather that Baltimore has been having the last couple of days. I've been home 2 weeks now so I thought I would update you all on the final leg back to Baltimore.
The Northwesterly showed up as promised on Wednesday so I was up early and cleared the breakwater at Atlantic Highlands at first light-I was one of the first boats out but as I was leaving I could see other cruisers getting ready to take advantage of the favorable breeze for a run down the NJ coast. The wind had enough west in it that I was able to set my reefed main sail outside the breakwater and motor sail up to Sandy Hook- doing a good 6 knots along the way, but also getting wet as the boat punched through the waves. Rounding Sandy Hook I set the working jib, shut off the engine (I had wanted to charge my batteries) and rocketed away down the NJ coast. Being in the lee of the coast the waves hadn't had much chance to build so it was great sailing and the Pagan Baby was scooting along. When I looked behind, I could see a parade of cruising boats making the turn around Sandy Hook and accelerating down the coast.
I went through a couple of sail changes as the wind moderated and then built again but all in all it was a delightful sail. Evening found me off Barnegat Inlet and decision time- sail into Barnegat Bay and anchor for the night or continue down to Cape May? I must have been in a hurry to get home because even though I would rather be anchored when night falls I decided to continue down the coast-I had a fair wind and the moon being just past full would be up for most of the night. So I heated up some of the beef stew I had made the previous night and settled in for a pleasant night sail down the NJ coast. The wind lightened up around midnight just as I was approaching Atlantic City and a couple of larger boats that had been trailing me in the early evening and night caught up - the boats I had seen behind me as I left Sandy Hook had long since passed me and disappeared over the horizon. That's one of the frustrations of sailing a smaller boat, and I guess reflects my racing background. Oh well, the alternatives are getting a larger boat and that's not happening anytime soon!
The night passed without event and I was off Cape May inlet in the early morning hours-I even slowed down some since I wanted to enter the inlet with at least some light. I passed through the inlet breakwater just as the sun was coming up, and made my way up the channel and found a spot to anchor. I didn't spend a lot of time putting the boat away since my plan was to get a few hours sleep and then hopefully catch a favorable current going up the Delaware Bay. The wind was forecast to shift to the West from the Northwest so I wanted to use that as well and hopefully not have a situation where the wind and tide were opposed to one another which in the shallow waters of the Delaware Bay can make for some nasty short waves and wet sailing.
After a few hours sleep, I took off from Cape May and headed out through the Cape May canal and into the Delaware Bay. The westerly winds that were being forecast turned out to be Northwesterly so I was stuck motoring against it, although I was able to motor sail for a short while right after I left. I stuck to the shallows to hopefully minimize the wave action, but still the Pagan Baby was forced to punch her way through the short waves. What makes these waves so painful is that they are so close together so that the boat doesn't have a chance to ride over them but instead has to bash through them, so it was a pretty unpleasant ride up the Delaware.
I thought about anchoring for the night in Cohannsey Creek, but again my impatience to get home got the better of me so I decided I would continue through the night and get through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and into the Chesapeake Bay by first light. So I slowly worked my way back to the shipping channel. The current and wave action were a bit easier outside the channel, but the shallow Delaware Bay is littered with unlit, poles and stakes marking oyster grounds, land since I really didn't want to hit one in the middle of the night I decided the lesser of two evils was to stay close to, but outside the channel and follow it up the Delaware river to the entrance to the C& D canal. I did have a few anxious moments when I realized that I wasn't exactly sure where I was but after plotting my GPS position on the chart I was able to get a clear picture of where I was and more importantly where I needed to go. Now if I hadn't been in such a hurry to leave Cape May and stuck to my usual practice of laying out my course and way points along the way I wouldn't have gotten in this mess. None-the-less I was soon feeling better once I had my position nailed down. Plus as I got farther up the river the wave action did ease a little bit.
I cruised into the canal about midnight and luckily still had the current with me which would hopefully make a quick passage. It also got cold, quickly! It was surprising how fast and how dramatically the temperature dropped once I entered the canal. The sea smoke on the surface of the water and the orange glow of the sodium vapor lights lining the banks of the canal made for an unworldly scene as Pagan Baby made her way home. Except for a lone freighter coming the other way I had the canal all to myself that night and with a fair current to boot! I passed into the Chesapeake around 2 in the morning and quickly found a spot to anchor in the Bohemia River.
Morning broke to overcast skies and a Southerly breeze so it was brew the coffee, haul up the anchor and set sail for a quick close reach down the bay. The breeze built, and after a reef and head sail change we were banging away into a head sea, sending spray flying, but making good time nonetheless. It was one of those great sails, the wind was up, the boat was galloping over the waves like a horse headed for the barn and I was in shirt sleeves, staying dry behind the dodger.
We finally made Baltimore Harbor and the Baltimore Yacht Basin (Pagan Baby's home) about 6:15 - about 60 hours from when we had set off on Wednesday, and 94 days from when we had departed in July. The sails were furled, lines secured and sea cocks closed as I called Sue and packed for home.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I left Newport on Sunday in a light Southwest breeze headed for Point Judith. It was an easy day sailing upwind, and I didn't have far to go. Monday would be a much longer and earlier day as I wanted to catch a fair current through the Race, or Fishers Island Sound. I hadn't decided which route I would take, Fishers Sound offered a short cut through to New London although the coast pilot characterized Fishers Sound as "extremely treacherous" not a description to be taken lightly from a publication not known for its hyperbole. I figured I would play it by ear and map out two routes one through the Race and the other through Fishers Island Sound and choose depending on the conditions at the time.
The skies were clear Sunday night and for some reason I woke about 2:00 am and looked out and saw Orion rising above the eastern horizon. I hadn't seen this harbinger of Fall since last Sprint and it really drove home how long I had been gone.
I ended up motoring most of the way from Point Judith and through Fishers Island Sound. I was able to pick up a significant current push by staying close to the shore and as I got closer to Fishers Island the push became greater and greater pushing me along at speeds of 7 and 8 knots! Since at the engine rpms I was running I would normally only be doing about 5 knots I was getting between 2 and 3 knots of push from the current.
Well the conditions were pretty calm and clear so I headed through Fishers Island Sound, saving even more time and before you know it I was off the Mystic river and it wasn't even 11 in the morning. New London was just a few more miles so I decided to take a detour up the Mystic River and possibly stop at the seaport. Unfortunately there wasn't going to be another bridge opening into the seaport for another hour, so after motoring up the crooked, marina flanked channel that serves as the Mystic River I turned around and headed back out never seeing Mystic Seaport.
I continued on into New London where I took on fuel, water, and ice and then headed over to Niantic River to spend the night. I had arranged to meet my father-in-law, Dick Whinfield, in New London on Tuesday so the Niantic River was a convenient place to stay. I could have stayed in New London on a mooring but didn't want to spend the $35.00 it cost for the night.
The entrance to the Niantic River is through this narrow opening only about 50 feet wide and bounded by two bridges, an Amtrack railroad bridge and then a highway bridge. And to top it off the opening makes a sharp turn in the 100 yards separating the two bridges. I had spent a couple of nights in Niantic River on the way out and was familiar with the opening but what I hadn't taken into account was the current. Whereas earlier in the day I had the current with me, now I had the current against me-and man was it against me, it looked like a white water river flowing through that opening. Well Pagan Baby made it through with the little Westebeake engine wide open and me with a cast iron grip on the tiller as the current kept moving the boat around and trying to send it into the bulkhead. There was a group gathered on the pier watching and probably hoping for some entertainment as I fought my way up the current but unfortunately I had to disappoint them - maybe some other boat fellas!
I spent a pleasant night at my old anchorage on the Niantic River where for the first time I noticed trees changing colors - some oranges and yellows on the river bank.
I was back in New London the next day to pick up Dick and go for a short sail. The following video is a short clip showing Dick at the helm as we headed out of the Thames River and into Long Island Sound.
After sailing back into the dock and saying goodbye to Dick I bled the fuel lines and it being a bit late and hoping to leave early in the morning for Port Jefferson and a rendezvous with an old college friend I decided to spend the night on a mooring in New London. The mooring was about a 100 yards from the Amtrack train tracks, so for the first couple of hours I heard the frequent whistle and clatter of trains coming and going. Fortunately for me the train traffic stopped and didn't start up again until about 5 the next morning where it proved much more effective at waking me up then my wrist watch alarm.
I was soon under way for Port Jefferson, unfortunately motoring. I shot the following video soon after leaving the Thames River describing the route, but the engine sounds overpower my voice.
The rain soon cleared and the motoring I had done proved beneficial as I had powered directly upwind (instead of heading directly for Port Jefferson) so that when the wind finally arrived I was able to hoist the sails and sail directly for Port Jefferson. I shot the following videos under sail and as you can see what started off as a rainy motoring kind of day turned into a glorious sailing day!
I had made arraignments to meet a friend of mine from college in Port Jefferson. Since the town marina had showers available, I cleaned myself up and picked up some ice while I waited for Kevin to arrive. Here's a video I shot of Kevin as we were sailing along out of Port Jefferson and bound for Oyster Bay.
The wind died not long after I shot this video and we were motoring along when all of a sudden the motor st oped and you could see diesel fuel over the cabin floor down below. It turned out that the fuel line had broken between the primary fuel filter and secondary. The lines were copper and should have been replaced with flexible lines in order to eliminate whats known as wear hardening of the metal line. The constant vibration over who knows how many years had weakened the metal and it finally broke.
I made a temporary repair of the fuel line using a bit of water hose, some clamps and tape to seal it all off, bled the fuel lines of air, and then proceeded to clean up the mess of several gallons of diesel fuel and bilge water that I was able to pump into an empty fuel container. The engine ran fine and we continued along to Oyster Bay under power with plans to stop at the Oyster Bay Marine Center which my guide book indicated had a marine parts store.
I can't emphasize how lucky I was to have the fuel line break when and where it did. The seas were flat calm, I was in the middle of Long Island Sound and I had plenty of daylight. I also had Kevin along who could put his finger over the leak while I rounded up the repair materials. I hate to think what would have happened had the fuel line broke while I was motoring through the entrance to the Niantic River-it wouldn't have been so pretty.
Kevin and I made Oyster Bay around dusk and after dinner sat around catching up and reminiscing about old times-all the while making sure that we were properly hydrated with our favorite hoppy beverages! Morning came way too early and we were off to the Oyster Bay Marine Center where I was able to pick up a length of fuel line and the appropriate end fittings to replace the broken fuel line. The staff at OBMC were sure helpful, lending me some permatex and allowing me to stay on their fuel dock while I made the repair - I know that other places wouldn't have been so accommodating.
We were soon off and headed down Long Island Sound under a blustery Northeaster that had us doing an easy 5-6 knots over the ground. We had decided that I would leave Kevin off in Flushing Bay, right near Shea stadium (excuse me, Citi Field) where he could easily get a subway to his home in Brooklyn and I would be in a good position to catch a fair current through Hells Gate and down the East River in the morning. Kevin and I said our goodbyes and I motored out into the bay to find a spot to anchor for the night.
Below is a short video I shot of the anchorage in Flushing Bay. Luckily for me the plane traffic into and out of Lla Guardia seemed to stop after 9 or so and I got a nice nights sleep undisturbed by the comings and goings of jet aircraft.
I got an early start in the morning and before you know it was through the Hells Gate-doing at one point over 10 knots over the ground! The West channel of the East river had been closed the previous week for a summit at the UN so I was concerned that it might be closed today, but a security call on channel 13 and 16 brought no response from the coast guard so I continued into the West channel (a security call - pronounced sec ur itay- is a general announcement made to give notice. In this case I made the call before entering Hells Gate in case there were any tugs or other vessels with limited manoeuvrability coming from the opposite direction). The Coast Guard was out in force and I had a very seriously looking escort from a armed and manned inflatable that made it very clear I was not to get any closer to the U.N.
As I was proceeding down the East river I heard the Coast Guard contacting other vessels that were south bound letting them know that the West channel was closed so I can only assume that the channel was closed beginning at 8 and that I just made it through. Anyway the current push continued as I made my way down the East River and I was soon passing under the Verizzano Narrows Bridge en route to Sandy Hook and Atlantic Highlands. What had taken me 6 hours on the way up took 2.5 hours on the way back- all because of current!
The wind was up from the SE so the sail across New York Harbor was a bit of a thrash with good size seas. However the seas soon moderated as I made it into the lee behind Sandy Hook and I had a nice sail over to Atlantic Highlands where I dropped the anchor about noon.
Below are some of the video I shot going through the East River and New York Harbor.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Here are some videos of leaving Kittery, one in which I tried to capture the swell that was rolling in on that windless day.
And some video of the trip from Gloucester to Plymouth, including some footage of a pretty boat, that I think is a NY 40, heading upwind through Cape Cod Bay.
Well I was a little peeved, but also thankful that nobody had been hurt, or that no significant damage was done. Even so, just to be on the safe side, I later called the Coast Guard and reported the collision. My peevishness moderated through the day as I sailed down to the canal from Plymouth -thinking about all the dumb things I had done in boats ( and dumb things I would undoubtedly do in the future). I've definitely made my share of bone headed moves, although I've never done any significant damage to another boat (there was a boat house that I once put a nice dent in though). So I hope the owner of Firefox learns something from this, and becomes a better sailor because of it.
The trip down to the canal was uneventful-I was able to sail the whole way, which I wasn't sure I would be able to do since to make it in time for a fair current I had to average five knots the entire way. But with a strong westerly wind I was doing 5.5 and 6 knots the entire way. the wind was pretty gusty, plus I had a pretty narrow window to sail to make it past some rocks without going too far out into Cape Cod Bay so I hand steered most of the way. I made the canal with about 30 minutes to spare and flew with a fair current kicking my speed over the ground up to 9+ knots at times. I was through in a flash and pulled into the little town of Onsett to eat some lunch and decide if I would push on that day or stay put.
After lunch and a short nap I decided to head down to woods hole since I would be able to catch a fair current through the pass that separates Buzzards Bay from Vinyard sound and the islands of Marths Vinyard and Nantucket. So I motored down Buzzards Bay. The extent of the current into Woods Hole was pretty incredible with the pass looking more like a white water river then a coastal sailing route, but luckily I had the current with me and I was soon able to turn into the harbor and out of the main force of the current.I decided that I would stay a day in Woods Hole and pay a visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory ( I had once been accepted into a course offered there and one of the few regrets I have is that I didn't attend) and the Wood Hole Ocenographic Institute (WHOI) home of the deep sea submersible Alvin and discoverer of the Titanic wreck.
After a day of playing tourist I was ready to leave Woods Hole and the weather forecast looked like I would be able to make fast passage out of Buzzards Bay with 15-20 knot winds from the NE . The complicating g factor was the next stage of the journey-back into Long Island Sound through the RACE, a narrow passage at the East end of Long Island Sound through which considerable amount of water funnels. Again, timing my passage through the Race would be important, just as it was on the way out. The problem however is that I had to be there either early in the morning or just before dark and there isn't any convenient port through which I could stage myself so as to get a daylight passage through the race with a fair current. There is an alternative route into Long Island Sound through Fishers Island Sound, but I didn't happen to have a chart of Fisher Island Sound. Well Newport was on the way, and there just so happened to be a boat show that weekend so I knew I could get a chart at the boat show-as well as spend some time looking over boats I will never be able to afford.
So it was off to Newport the following morning. I couldn't leave until 10, again because of the current through Woods Hole, but with the wind forecast I was pretty sure I could make the 40 miles to Newport before dark. Below are some videos I shot of the trip from Woods Hole to Newport.
I arrived early in the evening and believe it or not was able to obtain a mooring in crowded Newport Harbor only a few hundred yards from the boat show docks! Again the advantage of having a smaller boat! So here I am in Newport, RI. touring the boat show and updating the blog. Tomorrow, Pagan Baby and I will head West into Long Island Sound and meet up with my father in law for some sailing and then linking up with an old college friend before heading through NYC and the penultimate push down the New Jersey Coast and up into Delaware Bay.
Friday, September 11, 2009
To give you some taste of the differance between sailing upwind and sailing off the wind or with the wind compare these following videos which were shot on the way to Kittery and Richmond Island to the orginal Down Easting Video I posted. There's the wind noise, and because you are going against the wind and are creating your own wind by your movement the wind seems stronger. Also the boats heeling (leaning) over from the force of the wind against the sails, which are drawn in close to the middle of the boat-hence the name sailors use for this point of sail Close Hauled. And then thers the waves, generally gowing in the smae direction as the wind, you are now crashing against the waves with consequential sopray flying and the pitching and bouncing as the bow rises over the crest and then plunges down into the following trough.
So here are somke upwind videos-the wind and waves in all of these is not two strong or steep, only about 12-15 knots of breeze and 2-3 ft seas at the most. As the wind gets stronger I can reduce the sail area on the boat by reefing the mainsail, and changing down to a smaller jib-I have 4 jibs to choose from. The idea is to change down so that the boat stays "balanced" meaning there is equal or almost equal forces acting at the front of the boat as are acting at the back of the boat. In this way the steering is easier and the windvane is able to effectivly steer the boat. If the boat is unbalanced (like the skipper), its hard to steer and actually slows the boat down.
So I had decided it was time to head for home. I hadn't made it as far North, or as far East as I had originally planned, but I had a feeling that to linger too much longer here in Northern Maine would not be the prudent thing to do, so early Tuesday morning I took down my outward bound flag, hauled up the anchor and started for home.
Here are a couple of videos I shot entering as I went across Jericho Bay and Merchant Row
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Sue left for Baltimore early Monday morning and after taking her to the airport I spent the morning updating the blog ( a much earlier update-get used to the fact that this won’t be posted in real time). The thing is I was really feeling kind of blue by her leaving. It’s a funny thing sailing (or I imagine doing anything) by yourself-at first your concerned about all the details of the trip and excited to be away, then you miss those people you have left behind, and then you enter a new phase where you are comfortable being alone-in fact enjoy it. Well with Sue arriving and then leaving I was back to stage two.
At least I was in a good place for it- turns out that there were some “good old boys and girls” hanging out at the marina drinking beer and just relaxing in the Portland sun. So, not being in the mood for leaving just yet I hung out with them and had a great time with Blaine (the unofficial dock master at Portland Yacht Services, Heinrich (a Dane who knew Vegas, and was a professional yacht delivery captain and all around boat pro), Paul (a mergers and acquisitions attorney from Washington who was taking some time and getting a boat ready for sailing following a messy divorce), and TL and Diane (two school teachers from Lewiston who lived on their boat in the summer and explored the coast of Maine). Any way we had a great time sitting on the dock and then later at the Snug Tavern, where I learned that CCR had recorded a song titled Pagan Baby and the true difference between Jamisons and Bushmills Irish Whiskey, which has nothing to do with the taste. Needless to say we made sure that we were all well hydrated! To cap it off Heinrich and I had a dinghy race about midnight-me in PB2 and he in his inflatable with a 15 horse outboard. Being a bit outmatched I decided to even the odds a bit and managed to disconnect his fuel line while he was in the head (bathroom). So off we went, unfortunately, the course wasn’t long enough and he had just enough fuel in his carburetor to last to the finish. Oh well, next time I’ll swipe the kill switch! Anyway great fun was had and none of us could stop laughing as we said our good nights.
So early the next morning (not too early though) I was up, had breakfast and prepped the boat to leave for Seguin Island. It was a great sail and along the way I made the video that was posted earlier.
Approaching Seguin Island with the light visible on the top of the island:
The light on Seguin Island has existed for a long time. Gerorge Washington actually signed the papers to create a new lighthouse on the island in the early days of the republic. A 1000 watt bulb now shines through a first order Fresnel lens (the largest size) over 7 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter that amplifies the light to somewhere approaching 700,000 candlepower! The caretaker told me that the light is insured for over eight million dollars due in part to the fact that the formula for fabricating these lenes was lost in WWII, they haven't been able to be replicated.
The light and Island are now a Park and a caretaker is hired for the summer months to live in the lighthouse keepers house and maintain the park. Anyone can apply for the position (and they only let people do it once, so there is a new opening every year)-so if you want to spend a summer on a Maine island this could be your opportunity! This year it turns out the caretakers were from Ocean City, MD and the day that I was on the island there family was visiting with -you guessed it, a member from Catonsville, Maryland-the same town I call home. Mike and I had never met, but we lived only about a mile apart and met on a remote island off the Maine coast-what a small world!
Mike from Catonsville (us Catonsville people really get around)!
The caretaker had some great stories about past lighthouse keepers. A lady in her 90's who grew up on Seguin came out that summer and told her all about life on the island. Sounds like an interesting life from another era.
One thing I found interesting was how the indentations seen in the below photo were used to store a days worth of oil for powering the light so that the keepers wouldn't have to go outside to get more-that says something about the winters on that island.
Here's a view from the top of the light house with the oil house in the foreground and the Kennebec river in the distance. The caretaker said that on a clear day you could see all the way to Mt. Washington in the Presidentail range of northern New Hampshire!
I said my goodby to Seguin about 12, and like clockwork, the southwesterly came up and blew me along to Port Clyde. Here's a view of the lighthouse from astern-the long ramp is actually a tram that is used to haul supplies up to the lighthouse-in earlier years it was used to haul oil and coal up to the light to power the lamp.
Here are a few pictures of Port Clyde, the town that hosts the ferry that runs out to Monhegan Island-a popular spot for artists during the summer months.
From Port Clyde I headed offshore and outside to enter Pnobscott Bay. The winds were almost nonexistent that day so I motored the 20 miles or so into the Bay and to a small little archipelago called the White Islands. Along the way I ran into some staff from the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School and since I had the P flag (outward bound) flying from the port spreader they came over and said hi.
Hurricane Bill was moving off shore and the seas were predicted to get pretty big, so being a bit exposed where I was I decided to move over to Rockland Harbor where there would be more protection. The sail over featured fog, and so there I was sailing along-not being able to see anything, but hearing the engines and fog signals all around, and blowing into my little plastic fog signal every two minutes-some fun! The fog lifted just as I made Rockland Harbor and the rest of the day was warm and sunny.