“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Why Delaware? Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales…mmmm….Beer

20 Off-Centered Years! Dogfish Head Exhibit at the Lewes Historical Society

20 Off-Centered Years! Dogfish Head Exhibit at the Lewes Historical Society

Several years ago, while we were shopping for all of the wines and beers that we bring to friends’ and families’ houses during the holidays, Jesse came across Dogfish Head 120-Minute Ale and immediately popped the 4-pack into the cart. He then very excitedly rambled on about the craft beer and their other craft beers, which apparently are hard to find (at the time). When we were checking out, I was mentally preparing myself for the big bill (since there were a couple of expensive wines in the mix). I was taken aback when the cashier got to the Dogfish Head 120-Minute, he then stopped ringing up the items and began to tell me what a great purchase I was making, and, even though it is quite expensive, it is well worth the price. I then thought to myself – this is a strange conversation, especially since the 4-pack I picked up only listed the price as $14.99 on the shelf. After paying the bill and leaving the store, I was scanning through the receipt when I stopped at the Dogfish Head 120-minute Ale. HOLY SMOKES – those babies were $14.99 EACH BOTTLE!!! We kept the 120-Minute at home in our private stash of beverages that are only busted out for special occasions. The last two that Jesse and I shared was on the day that we signed the papers and officially sold our house to move aboard the boat full-time. To this day, the Dogfish Head 120-Minute is the best beer that I have ever had. Jesse and I also enjoy most of their other brews. Needless to say, when we started to plan our cruise south, Delaware was added to the itinerary so that we could tour the Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales brewery in Milton (the next town over from Lewes – the nearest port of call). I highly recommend to everyone to take this tour – what a great experience – and Bonus – you get free beer!

Heading to tour Dogfish Head Brewery

Heading to tour Dogfish Head Brewery

Our tour guide, the man with the fabulous white-man-fro, Kevin (I think). Ans yes, that is what he referred to as his “sorority girl pose.” 

The Fun, Brew-Loving Tour Guide

The Fun, Brew-Loving Tour Guide

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Stuck on the New Jersey Coast

Note: This post is out of order.  Sorry.  We are still trying to figure out the blogging while cruising thing.

After leaving Liberty Landing we headed for Sandy Hook to anchor along the protected side of the New Jersey coast to wait for a good weather window to head south along the open ocean side.  It was a quiet sail down the Hudson towards the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  There were a lot of large cargo ships anchors but very little traffic on the water.  The winds were lighter and variable but were supposed to get gusty as we got through the narrows.  My Bride was at the helm and sailed us through the field of cargo ships as we watched the New York skyline getting smaller behind us.

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Once we got through the narrows, the east wind started picking up. We also started getting some heavier seas that were very confused. We would have 6 to 8 foot swell approaching us from the port front quarter, but they were spaced out a bit with 8 to 10 second periods.  However, as you were coming down in between those swells we could get 4 foot chop from dead on the bow. The winds had increased from the leisurely 8 to 12 knot winds to over 22 knots consistent with gusts to 30 knots.  We were heeling over 25 to 35 degrees between the winds and waves.  We were making 6-7 knots towards Sandy Hook.

I planned my approach to Sandy Hook a little too close to land. So as we approached the land we started to get a lee shore pull towards the land.  Thank god for a well designed rudder to give us the best chance to climb off that lee shore without having to start the engine. We made it behind the land but it was relatively low so the winds were not decreasing as much as we expected.  As we moved down towards Atlantic Highlands the land got a little more elevation and the winds eventually relented.

We made our way to Horseshoe Cove.  As we approached the cove we planned our approach for the deepest water to get behind the some shallows that should provide some wake protection.  As we slowly moved into the area, we ran aground! It was a soft grounding in the area that was supposed to be at least 10 feet.

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Thankfully we were able to float off the shoal and make our way into the area we wanted to anchor.

We were able to anchor next to Hullabaloo and Radio Wave.  Two fellow blogging cruisers, the Skelton Crew and Mangoes, Marley and Mermaids, we have talked to for over a year but have never met in person. We were excited because this was the first time we would be around other cruisers around our age.  After we got our anchor settled and the dingy set we headed to shore to let Summer run.  Shortly after Jackie and Ron joined us with there dog, Lexie.  Chris and Jim were already on shore. We talked and tried to get the dogs to play but settled for mostly ignoring each other. We made plans to meet on Smitty later for drinks. They came over around sundown and we had some cocktails in the cockpit and talked about our experiences cruising so far. We had a great night that went too late.

The next morning we looked at the weather again and there still wasn’t a good window coming anytime soon.  So we walked Summer on the beach and worked on a few projects around the boat.  Later we checked the weather again and there was a gale forecast to hit the area later in the week with winds reaching the 50 knots range.  We did some searching and found a marina in Great Kills Harbor that advertised $1.50 per foot per night.  Great Kills Harbor looked pretty protected and the docks looked to be in good shape with piles on each finger and between the boats.  We made a reservation to go there later in the week to wait out the gale.

The next morning we went ashore to walk Summer and met Skelton Crew on the beach. It looked like the next 30 hours was a small window to get south of New Jersey.  But that would bean leaving at noon and going through the night all the way down to Cape May.  So we would have to skip meeting up with some friends along the way. Also it would mean getting up after a short rest and heading up the Delaware in order to get to a safe harbor before the gale came in.  So  we would have to skip the stop in Lewes, DE to go to the Dogfish Head Brewery.  So we said farewell to Hullabaloo and Radio Wave and stayed in Sandy Hook for one more night before heading to Great Kills.

Nice moon light night for Hullabaloo and Radio Wave to Make their overnight passage.

Nice moon light night for Hullabaloo and Radio Wave to Make their overnight passage.

In Great Kills we found that things were not quite as advertised. The slip was indeed secure and a good place to wait out the gale.  However, the rest of Mansion Marina was not quite what we expected. From the owner/operator not answering the phone or radio when we were trying to come in, to showers with no hot water since Hurricane Sandy, the owner’s attitude, the rate being a flat rate of $75 per day (that’s a deal for a 40 foot boat but its $2.40 per foot for our boat) and the yard being part junkyard and part boat yard we were a little disappointed.

Smitty unneedly (thankfully) prepared for Joaquin

Smitty unneedly (thankfully) prepared for Joaquin

Our time in Great Kills wasn’t all  bad, we did meet some great people, Marty and Lori on s/v Mako.  We snuck into the Great Kills Yacht Club with them for cheap beers, had some great NY style pizza, and waited to see if Hurricane Joaquin would hit us. In the end, Great Kills provided good protection from the gale as Joaquin turned east and went out to sea.

We left Great Kills with Mako and went back to Sandy Hook to wait for a break to head down to Manasquan Inlet.

Mako on our way back to Sandy Hook

Mako on our way back to Sandy Hook

Thankfully that weather window came after just one night.  The seas still looked a little high but the winds had died so the seas would settle as the days past and we made a break for it.

The seas were forecast to be 4 to 6 feet at 10 second periods.  After we rounded False Hook Shoal the forecast held for the most part with the occasional set of 8 footers. The seas were light and we motored sailed with the mainsail up on our way down to the inlet. The wildlife didn’t disappoint. First we saw a sea turtle.  Then we got a pod of 10-15 dolphins swimming on the waves about 30 feet behind the boat. It was great to slow down the boat and just watch them until they swam off on some other course.

We had a stowaway!

We had a stowaway!

Our first dolphin sighting!

Our first dolphin sighting!

When we got down to the inlet we saw why so many cruisers dislike this stretch of the trip south. The inlet was small and relatively narrow with large stone jetties on either side of the opening. Surfers were out on either side of the inlet.  We had to surf down the ways while shooting the gap between the jetties.  It was a little white knuckle at times but we got in and headed to tie up at Hoffman’s Marina. After taking a hot shower, we met up with a friend of mine from work, Mike.   Mike took us on a tour of the area, showed us were we could anchor if we  came back to the area and took us for a great dinner at a local Italian  place.

The next morning we headed to Atlantic City.  The seas had calmed down a bit and the wind was still light.  So we powered south. Again we saw some dolphins. I don’t think seeing these beautiful animals  could ever get old. The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. We pulled into the marina at the Golden Nugget Casino, took on some fuel and got a slip for the night. The marina was disappointing with lots of bird crap all over the dock.  We walked around the casino and had dinner. The best part of the marina being at the casino was that we got passes to use the roof pool.  So after dinner we put on our bathing suits and headed up to the roof to have a cocktail and soak in the hot tube. We had the place to ourselves.

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The next mooring we got to meet Jack, a fellow C310 owner we had talked to online for a couple of years but hadn’t met in person. We had some great conversation about the boats and about getting out there to cruise.

After  talking with Jack we left for another day of light winds  and motor sailing. Dolphins joined us as we had our moring coffee. We saw dolphins again as we rounded Cape Henlopen heading for city dock in downtown Lewes, Delaware.

It took us longer than we wanted to get past the New Jersey coast. In the end we were glad we waited and got to see some friends along the way.


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New York, New York (well and a little Jersey City too)

Going from Port Washington to New York Harbor involves transiting the East River.  The East River is notorious for strong currents and heavy boat traffic. So for a small sailboat its important to plan your transit through this river based on favorable currents.  But not too favorable, if you hit Hell Gate while the current is fully in your favor you might not have steerage.  So you try to time you passage so you hit Hell Gate at close to one of the slack tides. We chose to time our passage to hit Hell Gate about 45 minutes before slack, when the current was winding down but we could still have the current in our favor for most of the trip.  This meant getting Hell Gate around 1 pm.  To do that we would leave Port Washington around 10:30 and start heading down the East River.

Then we found out about Pope Francis’s visit to the UN.  The UN sits on the west bank of the East River right near Roosevelt Island.  Roosevelt Island splits the East River.  On the west side of Roosevelt Island there is one bridge whose height is no concern for sailboats.  On the east side of the island there are two bridges and one has a height of 40 feet closed but can open to give passage to sailboats with higher masts.  We need 52 feet to clear a bridge; so we would have to get the bridge raised. During high security events like the Pope addressing the UN, the local Coast Guard unit will shut down all or part of the East River.  Wouldn’t you know it that they were going to shut down the whole river near the UN building from 8 am to noon.  After noon the river would be open again to normal passage.  So timing wise everything should work out, as long as they stay on time.  So we had to take it on faith that the river would be open and we would be able to pass when we started down the East River. We called the USCG and confirmed that the plan was still to open the East River at noon before we left and they said yes. As it turned out, they only partially opened the river and forced all traffic to go down the east side of Roosevelt Island.  It wasn’t too much of a hassle but did add some stress to the first part of this passage.

Throg's Neck Bridge with the City in the background.

Throgs Neck Bridge with the City in the background.

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Rikers Island

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Hell Gate

Hell Gate

East side of Roosevelt Island

East side of Roosevelt Island

Raising the Roosevelt Island Bridge

Raising the Roosevelt Island Bridge

Queensboro Bridge

Queensboro Bridge

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The United Nations Building

The United Nations Building

Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburg Bridge

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Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

 

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Governor’s Island

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

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We anchored at Liberty Park behind the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a nice little anchorage with room for about 6 boats on the Jersey City side of the Hudson River.  They have a floating dingy dock and you can walk to the park with great views of New York City and the Statue of Liberty.

View from the anchorage

View from the anchorage

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Smitty in the anchorage

We took a walk in the park at night to see the city light up.

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Long Island

We were watching the weather reports and it wasn’t looking good for going down the New Jersey coast.  It’s the only real open ocean passage on this first half of the trip until we cross to the Bahamas.  A system with strong east winds is just sitting off the coast.  As a result the seas were churned up and it wouldn’t make for a good passage anytime soon. We had touched base with some internet friends, Skelton Crew and Mangoes, Marley and Mermaids, and they were waiting out the weather in the Hudson and at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

With this weather in mind, we decided to take a slower path through Long Island Sound. That same system gave us some great east winds for sailing down LIS.  We left Milford and once we passed Charles Island, we set sails and had a broad reach all the way across the sound in 10 to 20 knots of wind.  It was great to be sailing again.  We hadn’t been able to truly sail since Buzzard’s Bay.  Funny, sailing Long Island Sound is a lot like sailing in Buzzard’s Bay.  There is a strong tidal current and when the wind is against the current it can get really choppy.  It’s also pretty deep all the way to the shore lines on each side, much like Buzzard’s Bay.  We also really enjoyed the lack of lobster pots.  It made for a much more relaxed passage.

Since we were in no hurry to get down to New Jersey, we decided to stop at Lloyd’s Harbor.  A nice couple we met at the dock in Milford have a mooring here.  They told us we could use their mooring as a stopping point on the shore.  Lloyd’s Harbor is like the World’s End of the area.  Great protected anchorage where people go and raft up in big groups with friends.  When got in there on a Sunday afternoon and there were some groups still rafted up.  The weather wasn’t that warm but the water was still in the low 70’s. A great spot to spend a couple of nights hoping for weather to change off the coast of New Jersey.

By Sunday night we had the place to ourselves.  Even the harbormaster went home at 5:30 pm. There is one small beach that you can go to without much of a hassle but the rest of the beach access is from private land.  The area below the high water line doesn’t belong to anyone and the locals will go ashore at low tide much to the dismay of the rich people who want their private beaches.  The little island connects to the other parts of the beach at low tide.  We had a lot of fun letting Summer run on that island and collecting some beautiful sea shell’s for Sea Shine Designs.

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The harbor was very protected from all directions except for the southeast.  It gave a great view to the west for sunsets on an area where the harbor narrowed with a park on one side and some really nice houses all around.

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Did I say nice houses? A better description would be mansions.  We took a trip around the harbor in the dingy to check out some of these places. We even went into nearby Huntington Harbor. Felt a little like the neighborhood in the Great Gatsby.

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Lloyd’s Harbor was a great spot but it was open to a southeast wind.  And wouldn’t you know it but every night, at about 1-2 am the wind would clock around to be from the southeast.  This made for a very rolly sleep.  After two nights we decided it was time to try something new.  A lot of cruisers, including our friend Andrew who is cruising a little ahead of us on his Catalina 310, say that Port Washington is a great spot to hang out for a while.  So we dropped the bridle from our free mooring and headed for hopefully another free mooring in Port Washington.

We had a nice down wind motor sail.  The winds were 5 to 20 knots making just sailing a little slow and unpredictable at times.  Also, we were getting the winds against current driven chop that reminded us so much of Buzzard’s Bay.  We were surfing along with 2 to 5 foot following seas.  But we averaged a good speed and were pulling into Port Washington after three hours of sailing. Port Washington is a very cruiser friendly town with a couple of free dingy docks, 20 free transient moorings (free for 48 hours but we have never heard of anyone being charged for staying longer) and a lot of good shopping right in the area.  Originally we grabbed one of the three yellow mooring on the north side of the mooring field. After the first night the water taxi driver came by and asked us to move to one of the 20 yellow moorings on the south side of the mooring fields.  He uses the three on the north side for long-term transient moorings.

We took the dingy into town and went to grocery store, hardware store and West Marine. There was a liquor store right there as well, but we were still stocked up on that thanks to the many parting gifts we got from friends and family.  We had a sundowner and some raw bar at Louie’s. The restaurants around the harbor were nice but pricey.  We also spotted a pretty big liveaboard community at one of the local marinas.  And they had some interesting ideas on what makes a liveaboard boat. Port Washington also proved to be another great spot for sunsets.  But one of the coolest things we have seen yet was the small, honor library right at the harbor.  Leave a book, take a book. This is by far one of the more cruiser friendly places we have found yet.

Port Washington

We ended up staying for 3 nights before making our break for New York City.  In the five days we were in Long Island Sound after leaving Milford we covered 48.8 nautical miles in 9.5 hours under mostly sail.  (Anyone sick of sunset pics yet? I don’t think these will ever get old for us. I love watching the sun set or rise on the water.)


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The First Week

Admittedly, we have been a bit slow in updating the blog since leaving.  We have been enjoying the transition to full-time cruisers and always mean to get back to the blog but it keeps slipping from the days to-do list.  Now that we are secured in a marina on Staten Island waiting to see if hurricane Joaquin is going to turn towards us or out to see we have some time to get back to the blog. 

On September 9, 2015 at 3:20 AM we “cut the lines”.  Not literally but it’s a common expression used by cruisers for cutting ties to your land based life and moving to the nomadic life on the sea.

We left so early due to the currents in the Cape Cod Canal. The transit of the Canal is something we have done several times before and with a sailboat most be done with the current.  Going against the current with a boat that can only do 6-7 knots doesn’t work when the current is against you at as much as 6 knots.  We have done it once by accident (or mistake by me in reading the tide tables).  So, unfortunately, our first day as cruisers was dominated by a schedule, something we are trying desperately to avoid. 

So up we were before dawn, making a pot of coffee, walking Summer and getting ready for departure.  We left the dock under the cover of darkness and headed out the channel towards Cape Cod Bay.  The forecast was for 10-15 kts of wind out of the southeast.  Not a great direction for our course of travel.  We couldn’t sail without missing our window for the Canal so we were motoring south with a goal of hitting the Canal entrance by noon to make the last of the favorable current.

Since it was still dark, my Bride had to go to the bow to spot for lobster pots as we went.  She  stood out there with our trusty spot-light illuminating the way whenever she spotted a lobster pot buoy.  Around 5:30 AM we started to get a very picturesque predawn and with it enough light to see the buoys from the cockpit. 

First Week Cruising 2015

The wind was a little heavier than forecasted at 15-20 kts.  But the angled stayed just too close to our course to let us sail.  If we weren’t on the time crunch to get to the Canal we could have just taken more time to cover the miles and got to the anchorage a little later.  But in this case that would mean missing the favorable current and having to wait until 7:30 PM for the next turn of the current and setting our anchor in the dark.  So we just kept powering into the wind.

As we neared the canal the winds picked up.  We were now seeing 25 knots consistently and gusts up to 30 knots.  I had thought that once we entered the Canal we would be more sheltered from the wind.  I was wrong.  We continued to see 25-30 knots as we transited the Canal.  What was worse is the wind was opposed to the current and this was causing steep, narrowly spaced chop.  We were getting 3-4 foot waves in the Canal.  We had never seen these conditions in the Canal.

Eventually, we made it through and made the turn to enter Onset Harbor.  I am really familiar with this area from sailing in my youth but had only been on power boats in this area.  The channel was narrow and winding but well marked.  We made it to the anchorage area off of Wickets Island.  A few boats were already anchored in the choice spots in the 10-15 foot deep hole near the island.  So we move over to the second hole that was about a quarter mile from the island.  It took 3 attempts and one small domestic to get the anchor set.  The anchorage had the kryptonite for our Manson Supreme, eel grass.  On the first two attempts it came up covered in large clumps of the stuff.  We had to clean it off and try again.  We had some communication issues that lead to our disagreement. My Bride couldn’t hear me at the helm and my hand signals were not clear enough.  But eventually we got it set and back downed hard at 2,500 rpm.  We were set hard and set Drag Queen, the anchor drag alarm program from Active Captain. 

Once we were set we got a call from my Dad.  He had gone out in his fishing boat to see us come in but had missed us coming down the Canal.  He came over and rafted up.  We had a few beers and took a dingy ride over to Wickets Island to let Summer run.

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Later he left to head home and my Mom came by after she got off work.  We walked around Onset Harbor with her, said good bye and then headed back to boat for early dinner and bed. 

The next day the forecasts were confirmed and it was not a good day for travel.  The winds were still up around 30 knots and seas in Buzzard’s Bay were a bit snotty.  So we decided to stay put and do some work around the boat.  That was actually a good thing.  We didn’t actually have time to store a lot of our last minute provisions and gear.  We had just shoved it below and the settees were filled with stuff making the boat feel a little cramped.  We spent the day finding places to store food and gear.  We made dinner on the boat and started to feel the concept of Cruiser’s Midnight hit us [cruisers tend to be up early and be active most of the day, as a result by 9 PM you’re tired and ready for bed].

The next morning the weather had cleared a bit.  The winds were down to 15-20 knots and seas were forecasted to 2-4 feet.  So we hauled up the anchor and headed over to the Onset fuel dock to pump out and fill up on water and fuel.  Once that was done we headed out for Cutty Hunk, one of our favorite stops south of the Canal. 

We had an excellent down wind sail.  We had the head sail out but no mainsail. With 10-15 knots of wind with gusts up to 25 knots pushing us and following seas we made great time.  The seas built throughout the day and eventually we had sets of 6 foot waves on a short, 5-6 second periods.  Surfing these waves down wind we hit 9-10 knots of speed at times.  We were able to sail on a single tack all the way to the entrance to Cutty Hunk Harbor.

A note on following seas in wide, open transom modern hulls.  I have often heard or read the ol’’ salts talking about their fear of modern hulls.  The transoms were too wide and the open transom would allow following seas to just flood right into the cockpit.  This fear fails to take into account all of the buoyancy in the wide, flat stern.  With this buoyancy the waves just lift up the stern and push you along.  Our first step on the walkthrough transom would get a little wet, but never more than an inch of water.  Instead the stern would lift with the power of the wave and we would surf down the face. Give me a boat with a wide stern any day over a narrow hulled boat. 

When we got into Cutty Hunk Harbor we decided to get a mooring rather than anchor.  The anchorage here is small and notorious for really thick soft mud and tons of eel grass that prevent a good setting of the anchor.  The moorings are great and we don’t mind supporting towns that come up with creative ways to make the most of their anchorages.  The anchorage was almost empty and so was the little town.  We walked around but little was open and not many people were around.  There weren’t even enough boats in the anchorage to justify running the raw bar boat.  So I had a half dozen oysters at the dock and we walked around before heading back to Smitty for dinner.  We ate dinner in the cockpit and a cocktail or two.  Eventually we were treated to a spectacular sunset poking below the line of clouds.

Cutty Hunk

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The next morning was my Bride’s birthday.  She was hoping to spend it on Block Island.  The forecast was for 5 knots of wind and 2 foot ocean swells.  So we left early and headed for the island.  With no wind we were a power boat again. I let the autopilot do most of the work while I read a little, took a shower in the cockpit and tinkered around the boat. As we approached Block Island the winds and seas picked up.  But at this point it was too late for the sailing to really be much, less than an hour.  So we just kept powering into the Great Salt Pond.  All my Bride wanted for her birthday was a good nights sleep so we grabbed a town mooring.  We called the local harbor master but he never came over to charge us. 

We took the dingy to shore and went and toured Old Harbor walking back to New Harbor with several stops along the way. We looked at the beautiful beaches at Ballard’s with their great beach bars. I got a Block Island Cigar from the Block Island Cigar Store.  Great little shop with a guy playing an acoustic guitar and leather couches to sit and enjoy your smoke.  They also have a wooden female pirate out front to advertise the store.  We stopped at the Poor People’s Pub for a relaxing beer on their patio.  We stopped at Dead Eye Dicks for some mojitos and a light dinner.  We got back to the boat after dark and right before some light rain started. We looked at the weather and decided our best bet would be to make a break for Connecticut in the morning.

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Got up the next morning, made coffee, walked Summer and slipped our mooring by 8:30 AM. The weather window for the day was a bit unclear.  We thought we had enough time to make it to Mystic but didn’t know if the conditions would be ok to get all the way to Niantic Bay.  We left Block Island with 5-10 knots of wind with gusts to 25 knots on a down wind run heading for Fisher Island Sound at the Watch Hill Passage.  The seas were very confused with 5 foot ocean swell coming from port and 2-4 foot steep chop coming from our starboard quarter. It was very active sailing for about two hours to get through the Watch Hill Passage (preferred entrance from Block Island Sound into Fisher Island Sound).  We motor sailed our way towards Connecticut.

As we approached this passage we could see why it was recommended. The confused seas began to unify and build as we approached the channel markers.  But they also began to turn so that we had them as following seas. But to our port there was a reef.  You could enter Fisher Island Sound by going over deeper sections of the reef but the seas were really steep and rough in those areas.  We watched on sailboat head out over the reef and we saw that boat’s keel on several occasions as it broached. 

Once in the lee of Fisher’s Island winds calmed to a steady 10 knots and the seas were about 2 feet.  We checked the weather and it looked like we were good to continue on to Niantic Bay.  We continued on and texted our friends Chris and Liz and let them know that we would be into Niantic Bay by 2 PM. 

We passed some great light houses and a tall ship but the rest of the trip to Niantic Bay was uneventful.  Eventually the winds died and we furled in the headsail and just motored on.  We pulled into Niantic Bay Yacht Club and got a mooring. 

The Yacht Club was interesting.  We had never been to a YC before that didn’t have a bar.  This one was setup more for a kids sailing program.  In fact, we came in right during a big event and there were about twenty Optis out there sailing.  Later on, we watched some teenagers launch some 420s to head out for some racing.  But the club had showers with hot water and even a little work shop that I could put to use.  The down side is that nothing was close to this marina and we were completely exposed to the west wind and swell.  We bounced all night while trying to sleep and it was some of the most exposed moorings we have ever been on.

After a shower, Chris and Liz came and picked us up via Chris’s power boat High Life.  They gave us a great tour of the Niantic River.  We could have gone under the two draw bridges and headed up the river to anchor or to a marina. But the charts all looked very shallow and all of the Active Captain reviews said that you need local knowledge to go in the river with anything over a two foot draft.  Of course now that we had people with local knowledge with us they showed us how to get to a very protected anchorage.  The river was really great with some interesting bars and restaurants that you could boat to and a really nice marina.  We continued up the river to what felt like the end.  There was Liz’s house, with a nice floating dock right in front.  Most of the houses on the water in this area had a floating dock, including Chris’ s dad’s house just a few houses down. Some of the docks looked way over designed and you could dock Smitty there during a hurricane if it wasn’t for the shallow water.  We enjoyed a great night with our friends with a fire by the river and eating some great grilled food on the outside patio.  After dinner we got a car ride back to the YC and got a tour of different areas we hadn’t been able to see from the river.  Liz’s parting gift to us was the Good Luck Mermaid that watches over Smitty and crew’s safe travels – to be returned when we meet up again in the tbd future.

The next morning I tried to put that shop at the YC to use.  Our exhaust elbow had started to leak. I had made this exhaust elbow out of galvanized pipe 4 years ago when the original one broke into pieces.  The shop had a nice big vise and I knew from past experience I would have to crank on the elbow to get it apart. So I took the dingy over to the YC, asked to use the shop, put the elbow in the vise and started to crank it apart.  The vise came right off the bench! The cast iron base was cracked and fell apart as soon as I started putting pressure on it.  So now what? I was cranking on it using two wrenches but I just couldn’t get enough torque to get it apart. I tried for several hours. I was eventually ready to give-up and pay someone to get it apart. Just then one of the club members (who is a retired shop teacher) showed up. Working together we were able to get it apart. Unfortunately, all of the cranking on the elbow got the one piece I was trying to salvage out of true. The retired teacher showed me a couple of old school tricks and we were able to get the elbow back to true enough to put the new exhaust system together. I’ll take a rolling nights sleep for help like this any time. 

The next morning we again got up early and headed for Milford, Connecticut.  This is my Bride’s hometown and we were pushing to see some relatives before they left the area.  Unfortunately ,they left earlier than we thought they were going to and we didn’t make it to see them.  Because we were pushing we went to make a 42 nautical mile day under less than ideal conditions. We had a 20 knot head wind, when the current was with us we had 4-5 foot chop and when the current was against us that laid down to 3 foot chop.  It was a long day of motoring with seas too rough for the autopilot.  We were in Block Island Sound for the first time and it reminded me of a bad day on Buzzards Bay.  The chop can be really steep and aggressive. It feels much higher than it is because of the steep nature of the chop and the short periods in between waves, sometimes as short as 2 seconds.  So while sounds like this can be considered protected waters, I find they can be more uncomfortable that open ocean.  Ocean swell is more spaced apart and less steep.  So I would take a 10 foot ocean swell over a 5 foot Buzzards Bay chop any day. 

On our way into The Gulf (opening to Milford Harbor) we started seeing these wooden sticks with flags sticking up everywhere. My Bride had read a comment on the charts a few minutes before we began seeing this that said “numerous oyster stakes present” but we had no clue what an oyster stake was. All we could see is these bamboo looking sticks with colored flags on them.  We didn’t know what the sub-surface structure around these stakes were.  We didn’t know if there were lines or nets connected between these stakes. At one point we found ourselves completely surrounded by them.  We tried hailing the harbor master and other boaters to find out what they were but had no luck.  Eventually we decided to just motor between them and chance it.  Turns out these are just wooden stakes to mark territories for the different oyster fisherman.  We eventually pulled into Milford Harbor, which is really just a dredged creek.  We were headed for the Milford Landing which is all the way down at the end. We pulled up to an empty dock with only two commercial boats on a dock that could hold 30 boats.

We stayed in Milford for 5 days.  We visited with family, spent time working on some maintenance tasks. We did some hardcore provisioning with stops at Costco and Walmart.  I topped off fuel. 

As we stayed in the harbor, more and more boats came in as the weekend approached.  The Friday through Saturday of our stay was the Milford Irish Festival.  A lot of the boats coming in were there for the festival and many were local boats that just wanted to move to a closer stop to enjoy the partying.  We met some nice boaters on m/v Sea Surveyor that very graciously offered there  mooring in Lloyds Harbor, NY for our use.

Connecticut

The first week of cruising is strange to explain. In many ways it just feels like being on vacation. We didn’t have a big break between working and starting this cruise. Plus we still had a bit of schedule to meet family and friends. We weren’t free to change plans like we hope to be a cruisers and we pushed on days like we did on vacation sails.

We covered just under 200 nautical miles in the first week (190.7 nm to be exact). Of those only 50 of those nautical miles were under sail. Of the 5 ports we had visited, 4 of them were new to us. Well sort of. We had been to most of them, just not by boat.  But we are used to exploring new ports on a vacation schedule.  Many mornings I still wake up thinking about work. I think we need more of a time separation from our working life to really know how cruising feels.