October 30 We’ve had a few great days on the Chesapeake, admittedly, we did a lot of motoring, but we also got in some great sailing days. We left Georgetown Basin and headed to Baltimore. The weather was unseasonably cold and the rates at the marina in Baltimore were a little more than we thought we should have to pay. Our moods were turning ugly with the weather and we had decisions to make. Neither one of us wanted to continue down the east coast to Florida and make the passage to the Bahamas. We can’t traverse the ICW due to the height of our mast and the depth of our keel. So we would be making our way down the outside if that was the route we took. The passage to Bermuda was looking interesting, but we thought we’d try our chances on being accepted into the Salty Dawg Rally. We knew we’d be late to the party, but it was worth a shot. The organizers were fantastic and accepted our application and we’ve now spent the past few days concentrating on getting ourselves to Hampton, Virginia to join up with the rally and readying ourselves and s/v Somewhere for the passage from Virginia to The British Virgin Islands.
Baltimore was cold, but we took a train into Washington DC and visited the monuments and memorials and took in some of the Smithsonian offerings together. Both of us had been to DC several times, Jim on layovers and me as an organizer of several 8th grade trips, but we had never been together. It was a chilly day as we walked miles from the Jefferson Memorial to the Capitol and all points between. I was disappointed in the renovations at the American History Museum, but it doesn’t look like they’re quite done yet and by the time we wandered around the Natural History Museum we were both overwhelmed and too cold to wander around in the wind anymore. We grabbed a cab and went to a fabulous restaurant to meet my niece, Jessalyn, for an amazing dinner with wonderful conversation and catching up.
Transportation limitations again gave us a curfew. We were encouraging our cab driver to speed and then running to catch the last train back to Baltimore. It was a great day, but we knew that we’d have to get up early the next day and start moving toward the end of the Chesapeake. From Baltimore we anchored in Selby Bay and the following day we entered West Basin Marina at Naval Air Station Pax River. Being retired military gives us a few benefits. One of those is an affordable slip in a nicely maintained marina. We were up early the next morning motor sailing further to drop anchor near Fishing Bay and then faced another early morning as we made our way through Norfolk to Hampton.
The weather is now amazingly warm! I was actually sweating yesterday in a t-shirt as I polished all the stainless on the decks (Have I mentioned that salt water is a pain in the arse?) Jim hired a diver to check out the zincs and the prop. Both looked good and the bottom of our hull looks great-no barnacles have been able to attach themselves since we’ve been on the move almost constantly. We’re here now with our fellow 127 Salty Dawg boats and crammed in like sardines in this marina-it’s going to be some logistical accomplishments and lots of cooperation will be required as we all leave on November 4th.
I have to admit that there is a lot of trepidation as we have just a few days to prepare for the passage. Somewhere is ready. We are ready, but there are a lot of tasks to be done before we head out on the longest passage we’ve ever made. We should be able to make it to Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda in 7 to 9 days, but it could take up to 2 weeks depending upon the wind. We’ve toped off our fuel tank and decided against taking jerry cans of extra fuel. I sat down with a cook book and put together a menu of meals I can cook while we’re in port and freeze for meals underway. We have some paperwork to complete for the cats, but since they are quarantined to the boat there shouldn’t be issue with their entrance to the BVIs. We are renting a car today in order to provision.
We have weather briefings daily and seminars and parties to attend this week. We’re both very excited and itching to get out there, but once we leave our cell phones will be off and we’ll be dependent upon our sat phone for contact with home. It’s unsettling to not have my cell phone. It’s causing me some stress that I know will decrease with time as I get used to not having my little electronic gadget attached to me. It’s just making me jittery.
Many people on this rally have crew members to break up the watches on this trip, but Jim and I will be splitting up the duties on Somewhere. I’m not concerned about watches. We’ve both made promises to each other that we will be tethered to the cock pit-as much of a pain as that is. We’ve discussed how to handle situations that may arise and we’ve got a plan for sleeping while underway. The worst conditions should be in the first three days as we cross the Gulf Stream and we’ve talked to others that said that the sailing can be fantastic after that.
We’ve got some busy days ahead as we prepare-the weather is looking great for an on time departure. I can barely contain my excitement, but first we’ve got to take care of all those lose ends.
October 21 Sometimes in travels you will find a special place that is a gem-the weather will be perfect and the residents so inviting and gracious that you don't mind at all that you're waiting for a package to be delivered and you're "stuck" for a couple of days. That's what we have found at Georgetown Yacht Basin on the Sassafras River. The hospitable Kitty Knight House was our introduction to the area. The Kitty Knight House is a historical spot-Ms. Knight is credited for saving the town from being burnt down by the British during the War of 1812. Locals told us later that it was rumored that the Inn was actually a brothel and the British stopped their inferno inciting because of that. Whatever the true history, it's a great story.
It was after our first dinner of crab cakes at the Kitty Knight that we met John and Sal. They invited us to their Autumn Festival to be held between their antique stores in Galena. We were so glad that we took them up on the invitation. We met so many wonderful residents of Galena and Georgetown that proudly told us stories from which buildings George Washington slept in to how they are recovering from devastation of hurricanes and a derecho that did much damage to the marina and the tourist industry in the town. Neither Jim nor I progressed to the third round of the Pumpkin Olympics-there was some sketchy math as a result of pumpkin ale, but we had a fantastic time. My first impression of the Sassafras River was that this was a special place. It really is. The people are warm and inviting, the river is gorgeous, and both Jim and I have had an excellent stay. I would highly recommend the Kitty Knight Inn for a romantic getaway weekend. The food is excellent, they have eleven gorgeous guest rooms, and the view overlooking the marina is stunning. If anyone takes my advice, visit John and Sal's awesome stores in Galena a mile and half down the road. The marina rents bicycles to make the trip easier. And tell them hello from us. Thanks Galena/Georgetown for the hospitality.
October 17 All I can do is utter “Ahhhh” this morning. It’s been a crazy, whirlwind couple of weeks and for the first time in a long time both Jim and I are decompressing and relaxing. We had set our alarms (yes, plural-one for backup) to wake us up at 2:30 AM so that we could pull anchor and leave Cape May, New Jersey in a timely manner to catch the currents in our favor for Delaware Bay and the C&D Canal. Before we had gone to bed we had called the boat that anchored very near to us and warned him that we were leaving at a risible hour. His French was thick, though, and he pretended that the spacing between our two boats was of no issue. I have a feeling that he may have rethought that decision when I had to hit the insanely loud bow thruster in the wee hours of the morning to prevent a collision when we freed our anchor. All was fine and we made our way out of Cape May in the dark. The guidebook states that Cape May is an easy entrance-we must disagree with the guidebook, though. In the dark it’s scary. There are navigational lights that are inoperative and the break wall becomes a hazard. This time of year has many boats from the north making their way south and the anchorage isn’t as large as the guidebook claims. It’s atight area to maneuver around and in the dark hard to see other boats especially those who neglect to turn on their anchor lights.
We made our way to Delaware Bay in calm seas and light wind and followed the shipping channel to the C&D canal. We had a bit of fog and a few freighters, tankers and a barge being pushed by a tug pass us in the lane, but it’s wide and deep and there were no issues other than the inability to get good pictures in the dark. By the time we reached the C&D the fog had lifted, we had a bit of sunshine and much warmer temperatures than we’ve experienced in many, many days. I don’t know if our moods are changing because we know that we have finally reached the Chesapeake or that the peaceful shores of the Chesapeake have changed our moods. Maybe it’s a combination of both, but there is something about the fall colors of the trees, the graceful herons gliding through the marina, and the beauty of the coastline that has us agreeing that this is a special place.
Once we completed our journey down the canal we started to see crab pots and fishing stakes, but nothing as miserable as the lobster pots in Maine. I may be speaking too soon since we’ve just entered the Chesapeake, but they weren’t too much of an issue to navigate around . We meandered our way down the shallow, but lovely Sassafras River and found Georgetown Yacht Basin where we’ll be tied to a dock for three relaxing days. The marina provides bikes with baskets so we’ll explore and pick up some groceries along the way. The cat crew is finding that the bird population is fascinating here. Buddy Bosun and Mia exhausted themselves chasing ducks away from the boat-or so they thought they were. Some of these water birds are bigger than Buddy and I swear that they are making fun of his efforts to show his cat like dominance over their species.
After a delicious dinner of crab cakes last night at the gracious Kitty Knight House-which we will be frequenting often while we’re here, and sharing a bottle of wine, both Jim and I were ready for a peaceful night’s sleep. We haven’t experienced such a lovely, warm evening since we left Quebec. We have often felt that we missed summer since we were in such high latitudes through August and September and the October chill was already hitting us in the places we’ve been as we’ve moved south. Last night felt like the summer we missed-humidity, warmth and a pretty moon with a lot of happy birds serenading us. I like it here!
October 15 I’m in bed with three exhausted cats cuddled up to me. I’m trying to edit and update this bog since I finally have a strong internet signal. But I’m as exhausted as these cats. (Please forgive grammatical errors and confusion of past and present tense: I’m working from notes that were quickly jotted here and there the past few days and I'm sore and tired from a rough day on the water) We left NYC yesterday morning and decided to sail as long and as far as we could go. We had the main sail up before even clearing the Statue of Liberty and by the looks of conditions we thought for sure we’d make it to the Chesapeake by the time we ready to quit. I had made a huge pasta salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing and had sandwich fixings ready for a long passage.
Ahhh, the best laid plans….the galley got a nice balsamic vinegar bath as the waves grew and threw us and my lovely pasta salad around. By the time we caught view of Atlantic City, we had decided that we had had enough for the day and set our sights on throwing the anchor out in Cape May. We reached our destination at the creepy hour of 1:30 am under a fairly bright moon which illuminated about 10 other boats in the anchorage. We really didn’t have much of a choice in anchorage real estate, so we dropped where we could even if it was closer than we felt comfortable to another boat. All was well, though. The wind wasn’t whipping and we had enough room for Somewhere to swing and allow us to get some rest. It’s noon now and that’s just what we’re doing: Resting. We are watching other boats headed for southern latitudes come and go. We’ll be seeing some of them again and others with shorter masts and shallower keels than us will be taking the Intercoastal Waterway. We're certainly not alone out here.
October 13 Finally, sunshine and a beautiful day. Jim and I headed into the city again, this time with an agenda. I wanted to hit the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. This ended up being a great spot to get away from the crowds of Time’s Square and to do some fun people watching and deal discovery. The market is a mix of antiques, collectables, and hand crafted items. I bought a pretty silk scarf-I always try to find a unique scarf at places I want to remember. Jim found a cute nautical bracelet for me and I scored a new handbag. We had a lot of fun looking through vintage clothing and picking through antique costume jewelry. We breakfasted on doughnuts from Dough (a Brooklyn based bakery and restaurant) that were right up there with the best doughnuts I have ever sunk my teeth into. Jim agreed. He had two. We ended up spending the day, enjoying the weather and strolling through Central Park with coffees in hand. We had a late Italian lunch, wandered some more and made our way back through the subway system, into the Financial District and got our ferry back to the marina. Our boat neighbors were live aboards that we ended up chatting with and having drinks on the pier until we realized we had all forgotten to eat dinner and that it was too late to fix that. I had shared some cheese, crackers and fruit and after that was all gone we decided to call it a night after some great conversation and lots of laughs.
October 12 From Liberty Landing Marina our view of the city was beautiful. There is no doubt that New York City is impressive. It’s simply magnificent and no words can describe traversing the East River into the Hudson and catching sight of Lady Liberty as we rounded our route to the marina. But that being said, we have been in relatively secluded anchorages, restful marinas, and tied to untroubled mooring balls. Hoping on a ferry, rushing our way on foot being pushed by the pace of other pedestrians and navigating our way through the NYC subway system was a blitz to our senses.
We spent our first day in the city people watching, shopping without buying anything, and taking in Time’s Square and Rockefeller Center. We had a fantastic late lunch at Tony’s Di Napoli, but Jim was more interested in getting back to the boat and spending a quiet evening in the marina. The ferry from the financial district to Liberty Landing marina stopped service rather early in the evening which imposed a curfew on us that I’m sure Jim appreciated. It was a chilly, drizzly day in the city anyway.
October 10 The trip to NYC was actually quite uneventful. The traffic we expected didn’t materialize and the currents weren’t as wicked as the ones we experienced in the St. Lawrence. The wind meter quit working again, though. This is really frustrating. Jim took two trips up the mast-once to replace the entire cable. We’re working with Ray Marine to research the issue. Just a pain.
But on a better note, we had a great time with the crew of s/v Summertime Rolls in Port Washington. Brian and Rebecca are a lot of fun. They are former New Yorkers who have tossed off the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and gotten themselves on a pretty catamaran and are sailing south. Great couple and a fantastic time.
When we arrived at Liberty Landing we were greeted by the crew of Baccalieu. We had dinner with them at the Liberty Landing restaurant and reconnected. It was a lovely meal and great to see our friends again.
October 8 There’s an old adage that describes sailing as "hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror." I can’t say that I have ever been bored while sailing. That probably has something to do with my Dad’s shaming adage: “Only boring people get bored.” I usually have something to do to occupy the time when we’re motoring or sailing along at a leisurely pace. There’s always something to read-a good book, a guidebook, or an instructional manual on boat systems. There’s always something to clean, polish, or scrub on board and if that’s not enough, there are enough creative knots to learn to tie that will keep your fingers busy. I knit, write, chat with Jim, entertain the cats, clean, pluck my eyebrows, dream up movie plot lines, and read. It’s the moments of stark terror, though, that keep us coming back for more.
We left Port Jefferson yesterday and it was a bit breezy. We set the sails and we were clipping along at a fantastic 9 knots. We knew that storms were forecasted, but the bulk of the deluge wasn’t supposed to hit until late afternoon. The wind started to grow an hour into our short passage to Port Washington down Long Island Sound. Then we had gusts in the 40 knot range. The tugboat towing a barge that we had been tailing suddenly made a sharp change in direction just as I was saying to Jim that we ought to pull in the headsail. We also reefed the main and took care of the drastic heel and over powering problem. The tug was anchoring his barge and pulling up next to it in anticipation of the hell that was about to break loose. I calmly told Jim, “I’m now terrified.” We then went with naked poles. It was good timing. We were hit with a squall, gust…whatever you want to call it. The wind meter reported 76 knots, but we’re not sure that was accurate because it totally quit working at that point. The wind meter at the top of our mast that feeds the display that keeps us informed on wind speed and direction had screamed “Uncle” and quit. Then the driving rain came. We hadn’t outrun the storm, but it was an exciting, fast and exhilarating sail.
We had great information from a friend on my Women Who Sail forum (Thank you again, Anne!) to grab a yellow mooring ball in Port Washington’s harbor and settle up with the harbormaster later. Jim and I donned our headsets and foul weather gear and with the ability to talk to each other despite the howling wind and driving rain, Jim was able to get the bow close enough to the mooring ball, even though he couldn’t see it, and I was able to grab the line with the boathook on the first try. The wind was insane and even with a chafe guard, the line cut into our toe rail in just an hour of rocking and rolling on the mooring ball. And then, after several hours of wind and rain, it all came to an abrupt stop. We watched the local news and it was reported that several trees had been uprooted in the area and much of northern New Jersey was out of power from downed power lines. It was stark terror for a bit, but we made the right decisions at the right time. The only casualty was our wind meter and she was going on five years old and had been put through quite a bit the past few years. We have a spare and Jim will be installing it this morning when I finally get dressed and hoist him up the mast in the bosun’s chair.
We decided to stay put today to do the wind meter chore, meet up with another Woman Who Sail member that will be arriving today, and plan our approach into the Hudson River. Apparently, there are monster currents we need to consider and plan our timing exactly to prevent a really bad time.
October 6 I will have to admit that I heard the twangs of homesickness starting to pluck at my heartstrings last week. It was great spending time with Trevor in Boston and especially Salem. We had a fantastic time cooking, visiting museums, traversing Boston Harbor, shopping and eating at some great restaurants. Maybe my heart was hurting for all the past falls and Halloweens we’ve had in Kenosha or maybe it was knowing that our time with Trevor was short. Maybe it’s just because it’s fall and the changing of the leaves and cooler temperatures usually signals that it’s time to go home, haul Somewhere for winter storage and concentrate on our land home. Whatever the reason, both Jim and I felt it. We sailed (motored, really) back to Boston with Trevor in a day that started out in heavy fog. We explored some more of Boston, hugged Trevor goodbye as he boarded the water taxi that took him to Logan to the airplane that would take him back to Chicago. It was sad to see him go, but after he left we found a grocery store, re-provisioned and got ourselves prepared to leave for Provincetown in the morning.
When we arrived at Provincetown we found that they had already begun to pull mooring balls and had discontinued their launch service for the season. There were very few boats in the harbor and since all the mooring balls we saw were marked private, we decided to throw out the anchor. From Provincetown we left at daybreak for Newport, Rhode Island, From Newport, RI we headed for Block Island and it seemed as if the sun, the favorable wind, and the pod of dolphins diving around the boat all reminded us of the adventure ahead and made us forget our homesickness a bit.
Prior to our visit at Block Island, we spent some time in Newport on anchor in their very busy harbor. Some of the old America’s Cup boats are moored there and there is a fascinating array of sailboats of every kind. We did some shopping and got some great deals on end of the season summer clothes that will be perfect for our voyages south. We toured the Tennis Hall of Fame and wandered around looking at the mansions of the likes of The Breakers and the Marble House which were built for the Vanderbilt family as their summer “cottages”. We had a fantastic meal at the Clarke Cooke House. Their website boasts, “We've been hosts to royalty and yachting stars, captains of industry and charming scalawags, to occasions whimsical and outrageous.” Not sure if we’re scalawags or if we’re considered charming, but we did enjoy the food, the service and the ambience of the restaurant.
From Newport we had a fantastic day on the water. The sailing was perfect, the weather was fine, and it’s easy to see why so many sailors call this port their home. We grabbed a mooring ball at Block Island which had already stopped their water launch service, but they allowed us to hang out on their fuel dock to wander the island and explore. Jim was disappointed that I had allowed our parmesan cheese supply to dwindle. Disappointed to the point that it nearly caused our first spat on the trip. Needless to say, we went on an expedition of the island to find parmesan. After a healthy hike and one wrong turn we found a small grocery store that sold fresh parmesan-not the stuff in the can. The island, however, was pretty much vacant. The resorts and restaurants were closed for the season. The harbor master told us that the weather changes quickly here and that we should head south soon. It was funny, though, that while I was checking the forum I frequent for Women Who Sail, a member had posted a link to her blog. I clicked on it and saw a picture of the marina sign off our starboard side. I sent her a message to look across the mooring field and wave! We’re both headed south although possibly taking different routes to get there.
After all the great sailing this week, we left Block Island to aim for a 10 hour passage to Long Island Sound. We were told about the currents and the rip tide in Long Island Sound and by golly, they weren’t kidding. We could see where the tide started the action with an amazing washer machine effect. We picked up a few knots running through it, but once we were blocked by land masses of Connecticut on one side and Long island on the other we totally lost what wind we did have and motored to Port Jefferson. We’ve been on anchor here since yesterday. We had planned to leave this morning, but it’s dreary and foggy. Neither one of us felt like enduring fog in places foreign to us, so we stayed in our PJs, read a lot, did a few boat maintenance activities and entertained the cat crew. I baked an apple crisp and we’ve just hung out watching the ferry boats disappear in the fog as they leave the harbor.
The homesickness seems to be subsiding a bit, but I’ll admit to missing my kids. Hopefully, planning the next few visits will help silence those twangs.