Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chesapeake Bay

Yesterday we left Cape May at 8am, and made it to the Sassafras River in the Chesapeake Bay in 9 hours. The currents were strong, so we averaged 8.3kts with a 10.4kt max under power all the way. The wind was light and on the bow the whole way, but we are pleased to have made so much distance in one day.

Today we will head for Rock Hall, only 30 miles away. We want to get there early so that we can go ashore and have a Halloween trick or treat evening with Rachel.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Delaware Bay

Nice weather arrived today with less wind so we finally made it out of the Black Hole. Our sail started off well as we cruised south along the Jersey shore. A little sparrow landed on the boat just inches from us, resting after an arduous journey. Perhaps he was blown out to sea in the stormy weather we just had. He stayed with us for half an hour, and then when Kathy tried to feed him some sunflower seeds, he flew away towards shore.

The wind was forecasted to be NW 10-15 but it dropped off to nothing, so we motored the rest of the way to Cape May, rounding the cape, and dropping the hook just offshore in the Delaware next to the canal entrance. With light winds forecasted for tonight, and after having light to no wind during the day, I figured we’d be ok in this exposed position for the night. We want to up anchor at 7:30am to catch favorable currents up the Delaware tomorrow morning which would be difficult from the protected anchorage in Sunset Lake on the other side of the cape. But the wind is piping up now and Stardust is dancing to the rhythm of the seas. Hopefully things will calm down later tonight.

With a good following current, we may be able to do the entire Delaware, and the Delaware-Chesapeake Canal tomorrow, which is about 75 miles.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rescue from The Black Hole

This graph shows the wave height during the past several days at the nearest bouy in the Atlantic. We access the NOAA bouy data all the time, since it is so useful.

Yesterday the wind switched from south to northeast, and continued blowing 20-30kts, so we remained here at Rum Point, in Atlantic City. This little bay has room for about 10 boats, and there are 5 of us here. There aren’t any other anchorages near here. Since the boat swung through 180 degrees with the wind change, I rechecked the anchors which weren’t in the most favorable positions relative to each other (only 10 degrees apart with 80 feet of chain and 20 feet of nylon rode each, in 12 feet of water) and the new wind direction, but looked good enough. Well, I have a different opinion now.

Mid-day, one of our neighbor boats dragged his anchor during the intermittent rain and strong winds. They powered up and drove back upwind, just before running aground, retrieved their Danforth anchor, and set it again. We kept the gps close at hand to warn us if we started to drag. It has an off course alarm which can be set to 60’, 120’, 180’, etc. During windy periods we sleep with it next to the bed, but rarely have it on during the day. Since our neighbor dragged, the bottom might be poor holding material, so we were on high alert.

At 2pm, we started dragging. Kathy started the engine and I began retrieving the 35 pound Bruce anchor. The wind blew us sideways and onto the mud bottom. The boat listed 10 degrees to starboard. We ran the engine at high rpm for about 20 seconds, but we were stuck too hard. This happened to be low tide, a favorable thing, since we had the possibility of floating off as the tide rose, but we had to hold the boat against the strong wind which was not at all certain given the wind and the fact that we had already dragged both anchors. If we blew further ashore, we could end up in a terrible position to recover from. So we called Boat US with whom we have unlimited towing coverage ($139/year). The nearest tow boat was in Ocean City, 30 minutes away (according to the dispatcher on the phone), with 8 foot breaking seas to plow through to get to us.

I reeled in the 45 pound Delta anchor with the windless, with no resistance on it at all. Both anchors came on board covered in slimy oily looking black muck. Kathy lowered the Bruce down to me in the dinghy, and I kedged it out as far as possible, then we did the same with the Delta. Using the windless, both anchors were snubbed as tight as they would go, and seemed to be holding.

The tow boat arrived an hour and a half later. I was pleased to see a huge 40 foot ex-Coast Guard boat arrive, rather than the small boats with outboard motors you usually see on the water. This baby had some power! My next thought was “Will Stardust’s cleats hold?” Our position had not changed; we were still aground and nowhere near floating off. High tide wasn’t till after 7pm and it would be dark then, so getting this situation resolved now seemed a good idea, especially to Kathy. But the two men pulled us back into deeper water slick as could be. I retrieved our anchors, we separated from the towboat, and re-anchored, setting the anchors 45 degrees apart. They pulled alongside for the paperwork, and I asked about their return trip home. The captain replied, “It wasn’t too bad getting here with the wind on the stern, but there’s no way we’re going back against it. We’ll stay here overnight at the Coast Guard Station.” Looking over the paperwork, our location was listed as “The Black Hole”. This name isn’t on the chart, so maybe it’s a local name, or maybe it’s what this skipper calls it. I almost choked seeing the $1640.00 tow bill. That’s right, 1600 smackeroos! If you are one of our boating friends out there, you might want to think about the unlimited coverage option. The usual tow coverage for Boat US membership is $50. I suspect that 50 bucks might cover a wave from the towboat captain as he goes by.

All’s well that ends well. I’m gunshy now, sitting here typing on the computer with the gps beside me, since it is raining and blowing 20kts. My hands are stained black after repeated washing using Goop hand cleaner. Black Hole is right! My back hurts from all the anchoring, but nothing Advil can’t cover. My yellow foulies are all cleaned up, and the rain is washing Stardust clean again. I haven’t seen any of our neighbors go ashore today (Canadian flagged vessels) as I’m sure they saw yesterday’s episodes. I won’t be leaving the boat until things settle down either.

The front has stalled over us and the bad weather has been extended through tomorrow (Saturday). Maybe someday soon we’ll escape from the Black Hole!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Photos from Port Jefferson to Atlantic City, NJ

View from the top of the Port Jefferson dunes. You can see Stardust in the distance. Click on any photo to see the enlarged version.

Kathy, Rachel, and Whitefoot race up the dunes

Another dune shot

10.8kts, speed over ground approaching Hell Gate. We saw 11kts.

New York City

Blurry shot of Atlantic City last night with it blowing 30kts
It rained early this morning, and now it is calm and cloudy with a light mist. But it is supposed to blow 20kts today, so we'll stay put and do laundry. Tomorrow looks good for the 50 mile run to Cape May. Then we'll head north up the Delaware, through the Delaware-Chesapeake Canal, down the Chesapeake, up the Potomic, and into Washington D.C.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Atlantic City, NJ

As we left Sachuest on the 16th, winds were north 15, a good direction to continue down the coast so we bypassed Newport, and sailed on to Stonington, CT. As the day progressed, the wind veered to the west at 10kts, slowing us down a bit, but we still averaged 5.3kts for 40 miles. We picked up 50 gallons of diesel and filled the water tank, and they let us have a mooring for the night.

On the 17th, we motored with no winds across Long Island Sound, covering 60 miles at 7.6kts average speed, to anchor in Port Jefferson. There are some nice sand dunes there which Whitefoot and I romped on just before sunset. All of us made another trip up the dunes the next morning. Then we motored again with no wind to Port Washington, 30 miles away. We got a free mooring from Port Washington Water Taxi (the first 2 nights are free, then you pay $40/night) and waited out another day of rain and wind. Our mail was waiting for us in the West Marine, complements of the manager, Joel, and Mom and Dad for sending it there. Now we have a new batch of letters, flying magazines, and sailing magazines to go through.

We left at 7:30am to catch favorable currents through New York Harbor. It was fun seeing 11kts as we cruised through Hell Gate. Exiting the Narrows into the harbor, the wind was favorable for a change, and we sailed the rest of the way to Sandy Hook, NJ, making 7-8kts before having to reef the sails in the 20kt+ winds. We anchored, and I changed the oil in the Yanmar. I used a tiny pump powered by the electric drill, with the hose down the dipstick tube and man did that work sweet. Way better than the almost useless hand pump I’ve used before. According to the news the next morning, 4 men in a speedboat hit the towing cable between a tug and a barge at 11pm out in the harbor. The boat flipped, throwing one man clear, who survived. A Coast Guard diver swam under the boat, and found one body. As he was looking for the others, he got the fright of his life when a hand grabbed him in the dark water. Turned out, one man was breathing in an airspace under the boat, and he survived too! Unfortunately, the other two men died.

We sailed out of Sandy Hook on the 21st, but had to motor after a couple of hours due to decreasing wind and the necessity of covering 50 miles to Barnegut Inlet. On the 22nd, we motored against the wind to Atlantic City, NJ in building seas. We fueled and watered up and returned to the small protected cove around Rum Point. We had pizza and watched “The Guardian” on DVD. Today, the wind has blown 20-30kts from the south, and storms are due tonight. If the wind veers to the north as forecast, we’ll leave tomorrow bound for Cape May.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cuttyhunk to Sachuest, NH

When we left Martha’s Vineyard, the current was with us but the wind was straight on the bow which produced 4 foot swells which the bow plunged through over and over. The fuel was 7” high in the 14” high tank, so we had 50 gallons of fuel, which I thought was plenty. But plunging through the waves, the fuel sloshed in the tank enough to starve the fuel pick-up for a second, which killed the engine. Guess where we were? In the Graveyard (named for all the shipwrecks in the area), just about to squeeze between the rocks in the Quicks Hole channel into Cuttyhunk Harbor! The 3 of us scrambled to hoist the sails and veer away from the channel, back into Vineyard Sound. Kathy and Rachel were awesome, no theatrics, just down to work getting the sails up. I bled the air out of the fuel line, and with the help of the sails keeping us heeled towards the fuel pick-up, we motor sailed through the channel, and into a nice little harbor in Cuttyhunk.

It is ridiculous that the 100 gallon fuel tank doesn’t have baffles in it to keep fuel over the pickups. I mean, a 100 gallon tank with only 50 gallons of useable fuel in it?

We anchored in Cuttyhunk Harbor, off to the side of all of the moorings which had “$40-Town Mooring” painted on them. At 11pm I heard a strange noise and went up top to investigate. We had dragged, and the noise was Stardust bumping the bottom. After putting on a few layers of clothes, Kathy and I moved the boat back where we came from, and tried to reanchor 3 times, unsuccessfully. But I did manage to snag the Delta anchor on something, as it wouldn’t come up. We put out the Bruce anchor just in case the Delta came loose in the night, and went back to sleep.

The next morning, after pulling the Delta from all angles, and driving in circles around the obstruction (with another pull after each circle), the anchor was still stuck fast. Time for the scuba gear. The girls helped me get psyched up for the cold water, and I plunged in and swam fast for the anchor chain. There was a steel pipe sticking up from the mud, with the anchor chain wrapped around it, and the anchor nestled up against it. It was easy to unwrap it, and Kathy pulled it into the boat with the windless. Are we having fun yet?

The wind was strong from the NW, our desired direction of travel (and it took me a while to warm up), so we stayed put and had school and watched football since it was Sunday. An hour before sunset we went ashore with Whitefoot and had a great walk around town and watched the sun go down from a hilltop.

This morning, the wind direction looked more northerly, so we left the cozy harbor, headed west for whatever destination the wind allowed. But it veered back to the west with sustained winds over 20kts and left us pounding through the waves again, but with sails up and engine off to avoid the previous problem. We tacked 4 times with reefed sails to cover 15 miles to Sachuest, NH, just east of Newport, but sailed twice that distance in 6 hours. We picked up a mooring in this open bay with good protection from the west and north winds. It was a nice sunset, Kathy fixed a baked chicken dinner, and the boat is very still. Kathy and Rachel are watching Dancing with the Stars. Tomorrow we’ll head for Newport and a fuel stop, 12 miles away, as long as the wind abates or turns.

Oh, I almost forgot. Dennis, we've sailed slightly more than 4000 miles.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Vineyard Haven

Stardust is out of place, surrounded by wooden masted schooners.

This is the stern of some old boat. Our dog likes the name.

This is the home of Black Dog clothing. There are black dogs everywhere.

The cold fronts have gone through, leaving it clear and cold. The fronts brought winds up to 30kts, but this is a nice mooring behind a breakwater so the boat was relatively calm. The temp was 55 degrees when we woke up this morning, so the generator and heat were the first priority, hot coffee the second. With the sun shining, it has warmed up to near 60, and the boat is comfy, especially the sun room (the cockpit enclosure). Whitefoot took me on a long walk around Vineyard Haven this morning, and she soaked up some sun while I browsed in a bookstore.

We’ll get water at the town dock, and then sail for Cuttyhunk Harbor 20 miles away in the Elizabeth Islands. I shouldn’t have told Kathy that the nickname for the area we’ll be traversing is The Graveyard due to all of the shipwrecks there from the wild currents. The currents around here flow upwards of 6kts and the direction of flow is all over the place so there is no figuring it out without the Eldridge Pilot Book. The favorable flow begins at 2pm, so that’s when we’ll leave. Block Island was going to be our destination, but the winds and seas do not favor that route, so we’ll head for Point Judith, RI instead, and then follow the mainland for protection from the strong north winds forecasted for the next few days.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Boston Photos

Stardust at anchor in Boston Harbor

Navy ship in Boston Harbor

We had burgers and beers in Paul Revere's favorite tavern

Then we climbed the Bunker Hill Monument. Should have done it the other way around.

Great view from the top of the monument

Constitution (Old Ironsides, because the cannonballs bounced off of her oak sides). Never lost a battle.

Rachel at the helm of Old Ironsides

Church steeple of "2 if by sea" fame

This is the Revere Monument

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Martha's Vineyard

We just arrived in Vineyard Haven after a great sail down Buzzards Bay from Onset. It's off season here too, with free moorings available. Yea hoo! This is the right time to be around here, for sure. But, bad weather in the form of 2 cold fronts is on the way tonight, and the tv weathermen are saying this is the end of summer. Yikes!

So this is a great place to hunker down for a few days till the weather settles down. There is a wifi available from the boat, so we'll catch up on e-mails too.

More soon, dinner is ready.....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Onset, MA

The Boston Boatyard Marina allowed us to use their dinghy dock, gave us a gate key, and didn’t charge anything! We anchored outside of their moorings, and Paul at the marina said there was good holding, but we could use their mooring for free too, if we wanted, because it was low season, and not many were in use. But we stayed on the hook instead. Boston Harbor is very busy, and we were right next to the docks serving the ferries, so during the day it was rock and roll, but it would quiet down about 10pm. We walked several miles taking in the sights, and lucked into a street market selling fish and veggies for cheap, just before returning to Stardust. The lights outside our “backdoor” at night were dazzling.

On Saturday the 6th, we motored against the wind out of the heavy harbor traffic to Scituate. It didn’t appear to be off season here, as almost every mooring was taken, and no anchoring allowed in this packed harbor. It was going to blow 20 that night so we wanted a good harbor; a mooring was in order for the night.

Light rain was falling and the northeast wind was blowing 15-20 as we departed Scituate before breakfast. We rolled hard in 3’ swells exiting the harbor before the sails were up, and Kathy hadn’t completed securing the cabin due to my rush to get going in order to make it to the Cape Cod Canal with a favorable tide. Rachel’s piano slid off the settee, hitting the floor with a bang, and knocked a chip off the flooring. But the piano was tougher than the floor and wasn’t damaged.

With full jib and a reefed main, we headed for the canal at 7-8kts with the wind on the port beam. During gusts to 25 we would see 9 and 10kts speed, with one burst of 10.4. The lobster pots have thinned out so this was a great sail. Arriving at the canal ahead of time, we enjoyed 2kts of following current, giving us 9kts speed through the 5 mile long canal. Following a narrow channel into the Onset harbor, things looked different from our last visit here in early August.

Onset is definitely “off season” so we are on a town mooring with no one around. It rained during the night, and today as well, so rather than head down Buzzards Bay for Martha’s Vineyard we are staying put, and will leave tomorrow provided the forecasted 25-30kt winds drop off a little mid-day.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boston, round 2

The trip south brought us through the narrow and shallow Blynman Canal. At high tide it was no problem, but the narrow bridges were somewhat disconcerting. Two nights in Gloucester got us caught up on errands, then on to Boston.

We’ve had a couple of nice sightseeing days on the Freedom Trail in Boston, with a climb up the 300 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument, an onboard tour of The Constitution (Old Ironsides), and sights like the church tower where the two lanterns told Paul Revere of the attack of the British and graveyards with dates from the mid-1600’s on the headstones.

We’ll sail out of Boston this afternoon, heading for the Cape Cod Canal over the next 2 days. The weather has been spectacular, with summer-like temps. That will end soon with a couple of cold fronts coming.