Friday, September 17, 2010

East Haven, CT - Cape May, NJ

038 57.00 N 074 53.10 W

After a nice week catching up with friends and family (including a wedding) we departed Farm River on Friday 9/10/10. We’ve come to be a little superstitious about starting a sea voyage on a Friday but we really wanted to take advantage of a nice weather day to shove off. So we gave a generous libation of champagne to the sea gods hoping that would make amends.... only to have our 1st hiccup… Mark had cleaned the engine raw water strainers and checked the impellers earlier and as we fired up the port engine it refused to pull in the sea water that took multiple attempts to rectify. It was a dreary drab day with low clouds and once again, stronger-than-predicted gusty winds that generated that infernal Long Island Sound wave chop. Perhaps the $75 bottle of champagne was not to Neptune’s liking that day.
Never the less, we sailed a fast run to Huntington Bay Long Island with the 1st reef in the mainsail anchoring in well protected Northport Bay Friday afternoon. After spending over a week tied to a dock it did not take us or the cats long to get back into our cruising mode.
The only disappointment with Northport was it appears to be very popular with water skiers and two ski boats took to towing their skiers past us beginning around 7AM Saturday morning, leaving us rocking in their wakes every time they looped around the bay. We were underway by 9AM and a strong north wind was blowing across the Long Island Sound directly into Huntington Bay forced us to motor quite slowly through deep choppy swells for 1-1/2 hours before we could raise sails. As we neared the extreme western end of LI near City Island the winds dissipated and we started motoring again as we need to maintain a certain speed / timing to transit Hell Gate near slack current. We caught the ebb current down the East River, out into Upper New York Bay, past the Statue of Liberty, under the Verrazano Bridge and into Lower New York Bay.

United Nations and city skyline
along the East River



Other boats transiting East River

Lower Manhattan skyline from
Upper NY bay 


Statue of Liberty 

Our destination was Sandy Hook, NJ where we anchored at a place called Horseshoe Cove. Sandy Hook NJ is used by many boaters as a staging location for transiting the NJ coast. Rather than hopscotch down the NJ coast, we had decided to do an overnight trip down the entire coastline to Cape May… a distance of about 120 miles. Allowing for a daylight arrival and an average boat speed of 6.5 knots the trip would take 18 hours, so our departure time was going to be around 3PM. What we did not expect was that we would be stay in Sandy Hook for 4 days while waiting for a decent weather window. It was rainy and cloudy all day Sunday. Monday winds were from an unfavorable direction and severe T-storms were predicted (and did occur) for evening.

A nasty T-storm front approaching
our Sandy Hook anchorage.

Tuesday was supposed to be our go day but the winds were too strong and still building through the afternoon for us to feel comfortable beginning an overnight passage. At 3:30pm after reading the just-released NOAA weather (which is always so accurate – Ha Ha!!) we decided to wait one more day as winds were predicted to calm slightly. However, where we were presently anchored offered us no protection from the wave fetch across Raritan Bay that was stirred up by the 20 kn NW winds so we upped anchor and motored about 2 miles south and re-anchored behind the breakwater at Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina.
We awoke on Wednesday morning to more of the same gusty winds and nasty chop but decided today was the day because NOAA weather was calling for diminishing winds that afternoon into evening (Ha ha!). We raised anchor at 2:15pm, tucked in the #1 reef and motored straight into 15-20 knot winds and 3’seas in Raritan Bay as we made our way around the tip of Sandy Hook. Once in the open ocean the winds and seas moderated to a very comfortable northwest breeze with 2’ seas on our stern quarter. We had a course laid-in to stay about 3-5 miles off the Jersey coastline. We motored–sailed, getting a slight lift with the sail but keeping one engine on to maintain our 6.5 kt boat speed for a daylight arrival at Cape May. Life was good until just after sundown, when off Manasquan Inlet, the “predicted” steady northerly winds suddenly turned SE. The winds gradually increased to a steady 10-15 knots off our port bow and the wave height increased as well which not only slowed down our forward speed but started making our ride uncomfortable. Catamarans sail fast because they’re light displacement boats but in rough seas that you’re beating into they bounce around like a cork in water. We fired up the second engine and reluctantly bashed our way down the coast. Our “boys” – Barnacle and Sinbad were not happy sailors as they endured the “washing machine” like confines of the cabin all through the night. Sinbad gave pleading little meows to “stop this” but Barnacle was much more vocal in his protests. If we could translate cat speak I’m sure he was saying “get me off this *%^*! boat”. There was just too much motion and boat slamming noises from wave slap or sail rigging for either of us to feel like “napping” on alternating watches so we both forced ourselves to stay awake…. as we counted down the hours and the miles-to-go… to the next way point… to sunrise… to our destination. We passed Atlantic City around 2:30 AM but the bright lights of all the casino buildings were a beacon visible from 30 miles away.
Needless to say we all survived and after 17:45 hours / 125 nm we dropped anchor at 8AM in Cape May Harbor, exhausted but relieved it was behind us. We consoled both cats, took showers, had breakfast and then fell asleep until the afternoon. 

Anchorage area along the
Cape May Coast Guard Station
 The designated anchorage in Cape May is just off the shoreline of the Coast Guard station. It's a fairly sprawling and populous base and we are awakened each morning around 5:30am by the sounds of morning calisthenics followed by the National Anthem and the raising of the colors at 8AM. Sunset is heralded again by the bugle call signaling the lowering of the flag.

Beach Ave in Cape May
 We had been aboard Carina for the past 8 days, since departing Farm River and today we finally got off to take in the charming seaside town of Cape May. After a clambake lunch at the Lobster House we walked into town for a much needed frozen custard and sightseeing. The walk turned into about a 5mile hike - not to comfortable in flip flops - but we certainly burned off the calories consumed.

We're planning to leave Cape May tomorrow to make our way up the Delaware Bay and through the C&D canal bound for the Chesapeake.

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