Conclusion – Annapolis to Maine and Back

After 62 Days, 178 cruising hours, 1565 nautical miles, numerous calls to Kevin, 1 lobster pot and one grounding, our first long cruise on Curiosity ended.  It has been a great adventure.

A long cruise with a new boat is both an experience in terror and an incredible opportunity to learn the boat.

The Fleming lived up to every expectation we had.  It performed beautifully in all circumstances.  We never felt unsafe or unsure of how the boat would perform.  When we went through high seas, we had complete confidence in the boat.  Nothing rattled, nothing seemed unsecured.  Curiosity just kept plowing ahead.

Curiosity was also a pleasure to live on.  We had space to move around and space to be separate when we needed to be.  I could do a conference call in the pilothouse while Adrienne relaxed in the salon.  In fact, Curiosity was so quiet when running, I did several conference calls in the salon while Adrienne had the helm.  No one on the call could even tell I was on a boat running in the Atlantic.

In addition, Burr Yachts lived up to all the great things we had heard about them.  Kevin and Pat both took our numerous calls with patience and understanding, even when we were asking the most mundane questions.  But more important than the fact that they were there to answer was the great training we received before we ever left.  I can’t remember how many times an issue or question would come up, and Adrienne and I already knew what to do.  Many of our calls to Kevin were simply to double-check what we already knew or had done.

So our first long voyage has come to an end.  We plan to take the Curiosity south for the winter.  It will be another adventure, I’m sure, but that is a story for another day.

Day 62, August 29,2014 – Cape May to Annapolis

We left Cape May just after 6:30 am to catch the current running north up the Delaware Bay.  As we exited the Cape May canal into the Delaware Bay, the seas were choppy with two to three foot waves.  The wind was around 15 kts off our starboard bow, almost perpendicular to the current but not quite.  With the choppy seas and the wind, we were continually pelted with sea spray and the wipers were busy keeping the windshield of the pilot house clear.  Despite the wind and the spray, Curiosity continued to give us a comfortable ride.  In its secure pilothouse, all was good.

The bay was active with commercial traffic.  We saw more traffic passing us then we had in our previous trips, with barges being pulled by tugs, pushed by tugs and in one case being pushed and pulled by tugs.

A Long Tow on the Delaware Bay

A Long Tow on the Delaware Bay

Railroad Cars on Barge - Delaware Bay

Railroad Cars on Barge – Delaware Bay

King Daniel on Delaware Bay

King Daniel on Delaware Bay

Pushing a Barge - Delaware Bay

Pushing a Barge – Delaware Bay

As we made our way north from the Delaware Bay into the Delaware River, the seas calmed, the current picked up, and we sped along at over 11 kts toward the C&D canal.  By noon, we were there and began our transit from the Delaware Bay to the Chesapeake Bay.  We passed Chesapeake City around 1:15 pm, and were glad that we had decided not to stop but to continue on to Annapolis.  We were surprised that even the Canal seemed to have more commercial traffic than we had experienced before.

In the C&D Canal

In the C&D Canal

Barge Heading for C&D Canal

Barge Heading for C&D Canal

By 1:30 pm, we were back in familiar waters as we exited the C&D canal.  Unfortunately we knew it was still a long run back to Annapolis.  Fortunately the current was now ebbing out of the Chesapeake, so again we had the current with us. Also, it was a glorious day on the Bay, the waters were glassy, the winds were light and the skies were sunny and clear. By 4:30 pm, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was in sight.  So close but so far.  It took us another hour to pass under its familiar spans but by 6 pm we were pulling into Annapolis harbor and by 6:30 pm.  We were tied up and home.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge - Almost Home

Chesapeake Bay Bridge – Almost Home

It had been a very long day but both Adrienne and I were delighted that we had decided to make the long trip from Cape May to Annapolis in one day.

We decided we could wait to wash off the boat till morning.  So after showers and dinner at the Annapolis Yacht Club, we climbed into bed for some welcome sleep.

Day 59-61, August 26-28, 2014 – Atlantic City to Cape May

We pulled out of Farley’s Marina in Atlantic City around 7:30am.  The winds were light, between 5 and 10 kts, and the waves were rolling 3-footers.  The day was sunny and beautiful.  We had an easy run to our next destination, Cape May, NJ.  The only excitement during the cruise was a small pod of dolphins that we spotted off the port bow around 10am.  They didn’t stay very long, but they’re always fun to see.

Leaving Atlantic City

Leaving Atlantic City

We arrived in Cape May shortly after noon and tied up at South Jersey Marina.  This was our first time at South Jersey.  At first we were a little dismayed by the tight approach and the condition of the docks.  We were tied up on the fuel dock along with several other mega-yachts and large cruisers.  The wood on the dock was rotting and one of the cleats that we should have been able to use to tie our aft spring line was missing because the dock had rotted away there.

However, the staff was very friendly and helpful.  They gave us a lot of information about Cape May, along with directions to the town via a scenic route and recommendations for several restaurants near the marina.  The marina office looked new or newly renovated and had a clothing line, marine supplies and sundries.  The staff told us to check out the showers, which we did and decided that they were the nicest and cleanest showers we had ever come across at a marina.  We took all of our showers there, rather than onboard.

After lunch and washing off the boat, we wandered into town.  It was a little over a mile into town but it was a pleasant walk.  On our way we passed the Firemen’s Hall History Museum.  Inside was an old 1926 fire engine that had been used in Cape May until 1964.  It was in spectacular condition.  Also, all along the walls were framed collages of badges from other fire departments and rescue squads.  Apparently the fire company trades badges with visiting firemen and then displays them on the wall of the museum.  After a brief stroll through the market place at Washington Square, we headed back to the boat to get cleaned up and have dinner.

Firemen's Hall History Museum

Firemen’s Hall History Museum

1928 American LaFrance Fire engine

1928 American LaFrance Fire engine

Close-up of Fire Engine

Close-up of Fire Engine

Firemen Badges

Firemen Badges

When we were washing down the boat earlier in the day, Jim had started chatting with a woman who was on a boat farther down the dock.  It turns out that she and her husband are members of the Annapolis Yacht Club, as are we.  We traded cruising stories and decided to grab dinner together at one of the close by restaurants.  After dinner Marilyn and Bill were planning on dropping by The Merion Inn in town to hear a jazz trio and invited us.  It was a great idea and we enjoyed the company and music, but apparently a lot of other people had the same idea.  The Inn was packed.  We got seats at the bar, which was right next to the trio.  We could barely hear each other speak.  We tried to grab a table farther away from the musicians, but the restaurant manager wouldn’t allow a group of non-dining people occupy a table.  Nonetheless we had a wonderful time and really enjoyed meeting Marilyn and Bill.

The following day Marilyn and Bill left early to return to Annapolis.  They cruise in a 50-foot Tiara that will run at 20kts.  It would be a 111-mile trip, but definitely doable in their Tiara.

Jim and I did some boat chores in the morning and watched a bit of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.  After lunch we got on the bathing suits and headed to the beach.  The sun was shining, there were no clouds in the sky and the temperatures were warm but not oppressive.  There were plenty of people there, but we were unsure whether we’d be able to go swimming because Hurricane Christobal was passing to the east and stirring up the surf.  We could see that the waves were pretty rough and that the lifeguards had posted red “no swimming” flags.  Despite this, on several sections of the beach, one right in front of a lifeguard stand, people were in the water.  We learned that only the sections between the red flags were off limits.  So we plunged into the water.  It was cool, but not cold and definitely refreshing.  But we didn’t stay too long because the surf was so rough.  It was hard to stand at the edge of the waves without losing your balance.

Big surf - Cape May Beach

Big surf – Cape May Beach

Jim Relaxing on the Beach

Jim Relaxing on the Beach

Red Flags

Red Flags

We returned to Curiosity to get cleaned up and have dinner on board.  We had decided earlier that we should do some of the “touristy” things in Cape May and picked one of the ghost trolley tours for that night.  We hiked back to town and then boarded our trolley.  We didn’t know quite what to expect, which was probably a good thing because the tour was underwhelming.  We drove past quite a few old homes that reportedly had ghosts.  Our tour guide plied us with anecdotes about various ghost sightings at these houses, but the stories were pretty general and she made no effort to enhance the spookiness of any of them.

The “highlight” of the tour was a visit to the Emlem Physick estate, which is a large Victorian mansion that has been preserved and is open to the public.  There we were taken to several rooms and told about creepy things that have happened in the house.  Much of our tour guide’s comments, however, were about the findings of Craig McManus, a self-appointed psychic medium, who detected high energies and voices in the house.  Needless to say, we remained skeptical.  There were a couple of young girls in group, however, who took it all pretty seriously and were concerned about disturbing the ghostly presences.

We had originally planned to leave Cape May for Chesapeake City the next day.  But the marine forecast for the Delaware Bay, a sometimes nasty body of water, was not good.  So we opted for another day in Cape May.

While the marine forecast was less than desirable, the land forecast was spectacular.  It was windy, but another sunny and warm day with low humidity.   We spent the morning on the boat so that Jim could take an LLS call and then we hiked to town to do some window shopping and enjoy the day.  Cape May is full of Victorian houses and Bed and Breakfasts. One inn really stood out as a classic example – the Angel of the Sea Inn.

Sign for Angel of the Sea

Sign for Angel of the Sea

Angel of the Sea

Angel of the Sea

Dinner that night was at the Peter Shields Inn, which is a lovely old inn right across from the beach.  Our reservations were for 5:45 because we were going to be up early the next morning.   I hoped that we would be able to get a table on the Inn’s large wrap-around porch, but the couple ahead of us got the last one.  We were seated inside and had a very good meal.  We had corn soup and salad to start.  Jim had a pan roasted chicken and I had seared salmon with Asian flavors and vegetables for the main course, and then date bread pudding and lemon curd and sorbet for dessert.

We turned in early because we were hoping to leave Cape May by 7am.  The weather was supposed to be good for Friday.  If we left at 7 we would be able to catch the current up Delaware Bay and then follow it into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  Originally we were going to stop at Chesapeake City.  But we’ve been there before and there’s not a whole lot to see.  Plus, we were tired of travelling.  We had been cruising for 2 months at that point and we really wanted to be home.  So we decided to see if we could make it to Annapolis.  It would mean an 11-hour day.  If we decided after we made it through the canal that we needed to rest, we could always drop anchor in one of the rivers or creeks off the upper Chesapeake Bay.  But Jim thought that once we were in the Chesapeake we would keep on going until we hit Annapolis.  So we turned in for perhaps our last cruising night of this trip.

Day 58, August 25, 2014 – Jersey City to Atlantic City

Early Monday morning we left Jersey City for the long run down the Atlantic.  We left at 5:40am, a little before civil twilight and a little after nautical twilight.  Who knew that there were different names for dawn.  Civil twilight is when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon and is described as the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient for ground objects to be clearly distinguished.  Nautical twilight is when the sun is still 12 degrees below horizon and is described as the point when the general outlines of ground objects may be distingushed but detailed operations are not possible.  Because New York harbor is so well illuminated by the lights of the city, we felt comfortable leaving before civil twilight.

As we eased out of Liberty Landing Marina, the city lights shone in front of the rising sun and the Statute of Liberty stood glowing in the harbor.  It was quite a sight.

Lady Liberty at Dawn

Lady Liberty at Dawn

Manhattan at Dawn

Manhattan at Dawn

The harbor was not crowded and Adrienne easily led us under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  We had to dodge a few very fast ferries leaving New Jersey for the city.  There were one or two large tankers leaving New York but Adrienne eased us over to the edge of the channel and they passed us easily.  Nonetheless, Adrienne was not happy.  She does not like to be anywhere close to the big ships.

Just as we exited the Ambrose Channel, we were passed very close by a fast 43 foot Island Pilot, named “Southern Pilot.”  As they passed, the captain hailed me on the radio. It turned out that the captain was someone I had been talking with the night before at Liberty Landing.  He and his wife were planning to go all the way to Cape May if the seas stayed calm. They had passed close to us to get some pictures of Curiosity at sea.

Curiosity In the Atlantic

Curiosity In the Atlantic

Curiosity

Curiosity

The Atlantic was relatively smooth in the beginning with long swells hitting our beam.  Most of the time they were only 1-3 feet.  Every once and a while, we saw a 4 footer or larger.  Overall, however, it was a long pleasantly boring trip.  It just seemed to take forever.  Using the TV in the helm, we watched an episode of Doc Martin on the DVD, some shows on the Food Channel, and the beginning rounds of the U.S. Open.

By 3 pm, we were near the entrance to Atlantic City.  The wind had picked up and the Abescom Inlet was a little squirrelly, but we easily navigated the inlet and by 3:40 pm, we were tied up at Farley’s Marina, in front of the Golden Nugget casino.

Curiosity in front of the Golden Nugget

Curiosity in front of the Golden Nugget

When we pulled into the marina, we were surprised to see that tied up right beside us was Southern Pilot, the boat from Liberty Landing.  I sent Ed and Connie an email and invited them to dinner with us at Vic and Anthony’s in the Golden Nugget.

Adrienne and I then had lunch, rinsed the boat and went to the Golden Nugget pool and soaked in the hot tub.  By the time, we got back and cleaned up, Ed and Connie returned to their boat and we all went out to dinner.

Vic and Anthony’s is a classic steak house, and dinner was very good.  Adrienne had a filet and I had the rib eye.  The rib eye was huge; I ate about half and saved the rest for dinner tomorrow.  The best part of dinner was our conversation with Ed and Connie, a delightful couple who have spent a lot of time boating in Florida.  We pumped them for all sorts of information on the best places to go and where to keep Curiosity.  I am always amazed how friendly and interesting are most of the boaters meet when we cruise.

Tomorrow we are off to Cape May.

 

Day 57, August 24, 2014 – Mamaronek to Jersey City

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday Long Island Sound was choppy with strong winds.  Today Long Island Sound was like an ice skating rink.  The winds were calm.  The water was glassy.  It was a perfect day to cruise to New York.

We left Mamaroneck around 9:30 so that we would arrive at Hell’s Gate around 11.  The current would be going with us at that point, but it wouldn’t yet be at its peak.  That’s what we wanted.

Since it was a beautiful Sunday on the water there were many pleasure and fishing boats out.  Not surprisingly many of them were headed for the East River with us.  But we had no issues, and so passed under the Throgs Neck Bridge around 10:40.

Approaching Throgs Neck Bridge

Approaching Throgs Neck Bridge

Tug Pushing a Barge Up the East River

Tug Pushing a Barge Up the East River

On the East River

On the East River

The current was quite mild at the Throgs Neck, around 0.5 kts. But as we got closer to Hell’s Gate, the current started to pick up, first to about a knot, then about 2 kts.  When we actually reached Hell’s Gate we had about 3.5 kts behind us.  But that was what we expected.

Riker's Island Correctional Facility

Riker’s Island Correctional Facility

New York Skyline

New York Skyline

Over and Under - Ward's Island Bridge and Triboro Bridge

Over and Under – Ward’s Island Bridge and Triboro Bridge

The water through this section of the East River was something to see.  With the current running that strong, the water was boiling and swirling.  Add to that the wakes of power boats doing 20 kts, ferries and jet skis and you get a huge washing machine on full agitation.

Churning Waters - Hells Gate

Churning Waters – Hells Gate

A word about the jet skis.  We had about 5 or 6 guys on jet skis criss-crossing behind us, then beside us and of course in front of us for most of the transit through Hell’s Gate.  What surprised us was not that somebody would want to jet ski through all that turbulent water, but that anyone would want basically to take a bath in the East River.  It’s much cleaner than it used to be, but It’s still the East River.

Jet Skiers in East River Before the Manhattan Bridge

Jet Skiers in East River Before the Manhattan Bridge

As we were approaching the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges the Coast Guard, of all people, hailed us on the radio.  Jim answered immediately, but the CG’s message was garbled.  Jim asked them to repeat and then they just said, “Disregard”.  Okay, we didn’t know why they called us, but we’d rather have them ignore us than the opposite.  Not 30 seconds later, the CG hailed us again.  Jim and I started looking all over for a CG boat, thinking we were going to be boarded or that we had violated some security zone we didn’t know about.  No, neither of those was it.  The CG asked us if we saw the power boat behind us flying a Canadian flag and if we could tell them the boat’s name!  Doesn’t the CG have AIS???  Well apparently not.  We were well aware of the power boat because it was big, followed us through Hell’s Gate and seemed to want to pass us on the starboard side.  We did have AIS and so did the Canadian boat, so we knew the boat’s name.  Before Jim could answer, the captain of that vessel, who apparently was listening in on our conversation with the CG, identified himself.  They then switched to a cell phone conversation, so we couldn’t eavesdrop.  We assume that it was some sort of customs issue.

Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge - One World Trade Center in Background

Brooklyn Bridge – One World Trade Center in Background

UN Building

UN Building

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

Ferry Docks - Interesting Architecture

Ferry Docks – Interesting Architecture

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Battery Park and One World Trade Center

Battery Park and One World Trade Center

With our CG issue behind us, we proceeded into the main harbor, which as always was a maze of ferries and other boats. Jim guided us through the mess into the channel for Liberty Landing Marina, our destination for the night.  We turned down the fairrway that led to our slip only to find that it was directly across from us as a broadside tie.  This section of the marina was basically in the shape of a “U” and we were going to tie up at the bottom of the “U”.  That meant we had to turn so that we were parallel to the bulkhead and then slide in sideways. It was tricky, but Jim got us in without any problems or drama.  We were tied up just after noon.

We grabbed lunch and washed Curiosity down.  Boat chores (laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the swim platform, etc.) occupied most of the afternoon.  We got some down time in before dinner and took a walk around Liberty Park, which is adjacent to the marina.  We forgot to take the camera on the walk and neither of us had a phone with us (how can that be?!) so we have no pictures.  But the park is quite nice.  It runs along the New Jersey side of the harbor and is anchored by the Central Railroad of New Jersey building, which is a beautiful red brick structure that dates to the 1800s. This station played an important role in processing immigrants to the US.  They would arrive at Ellis Island and then board a ferry over to the Central Railroad building where they would board a train that would take them to various destinations in the US.  As far as we can tell, the building is no longer used as the trains that stopped there are no longer operational.  Much damage from Hurricane Sandy is still visible around the building and is in the process of being removed.

The park also contains New Jersey’s 9/11 memorial.  It’s two large walls that run perpendicular to Lower Manhattan.  If you stand between the walls and look toward New York you’ll face the spot where the twin towers once stood.  Not surprisingly, there were quite a few people wandering about the memorial.

As we headed away from the memorial and the Central Railroad building, we saw what looked like a walkway to Ellis Island.  We had always thought that the only access to Ellis Island was by ferry.  Well, we were mostly right.  The walkway does allow access to Ellis Island, but only for authorized vehicles.

We headed back to Curiosity for dinner on board. Tomorrow is our run to Atlantic City, some 90 miles south.  That’s a 9-10 hour day, so it was an early evening.  We planned to be up by 4:45 to get ready for our departure around 5:30, depending on how much daylight we had.

 

Day 56, August 23, 2014 – Port Jefferson to Mamaronek, CT

Saturday morning we left Port Jefferson for Mamaronek, Connecticut.  We timed our departure so that we would leave just after the ferry arrived.  So around 8:45 am, we slipped our mooring and Adrienne took us up the Port Jefferson channel and out into the Long Island Sound.

It was a cloudly, kind of gloomy, day on the Sound. NOAA had predicted that we would have 5 – 10 kt winds and 1 foot seas.  Unfortunately NOAA lied.  The winds were about 17 kts and the seas were 2 – 3 feet.  It was a choppy mess.  Fortunately Curiosity did not care and easily plowed through the seas.  The center console boats around us, however, were rocking and rolling.  It was not a fun day for them.  In fact, we heard on the radio that a boat had capsized in the Sound.

By noon, we were entering the Mamaronek Harbor.  The Harbor is deep in the center but quite narrow.  As you enter, the Harbor splits –  with channels going both to starboard and port.  I had plotted our course to Nichols Yacht Yard, which had us going up the starboard channel.  We eased into the channel but could not see the yard.  Adrienne and I were both confused.  She kept looking at the charts and the Waterway Guide and finally decided that we had gone up the wrong channel.  Our only choice was to turn around and go back out.  I backed Curiosity up and began a slow turn.  As we were almost turned around, I eased her forward.  Unfortunately, we were too near the edge of the channel.  We were only going about 4 kt, when I felt the keel hit bottom. I looked down and saw the depth guage read 4.5 feet; we draw 5 feet.  But before I could even shift into neutral, we had pushed through the sand or mud and were in deeper water.  Everything felt alright but I wanted to make sure.  So we went back up the channel and out into the Sound.  We brought both engines up to speed and everything seemed fine.  I then tried idling one engine and speeding up the other.  Again everything felt fine with no vibration.  The stabilizers also seemed to be working fine.  Just to be sure I called Kevin and told him what had happened.  He concurred that everything should be ok.  At the most we might have lost some paint and possibly the steel plate that helps protects the keel.  Nothing to worry about in the short term.  As he said, “you paid for the keel, now you have used it.”  His other sage advice was that “you haven’t been around, unless you have gone aground.”

While Kevin made me and Adrienne feel much better, I am still pissed with myself for plotting the course wrong and then edging out of the channel.  Adrienne is so glad it was I who made the stupid mistakes and not she.(Amen! – Adrienne)

We then headed back into the harbor and up the right channel this time.  Nichols Yacht Yard was right where it was supposed to be.  Some guys from the boat yard came out and moved up two boats that were on the face dock so they were out of our way, and I eased Curiosity in.  Adrienne and the guys quickly had us tied up.

Nichols Yacht Yard is much more a boat yard than a marina.  While they take transients, it is clearly not their business.  However, the docks are new floating docks, the people were friendly and helpful, and as long as you go up the right channel, it is a great spot to stop.

Curiosity at Nichols Yacht Yard

Curiosity at Nichols Yacht Yard

Travel Lift at Nichols

Travel Lift at Nichols

A couple on the boat beside us were very friendly and asked all sorts of questions about Curiosity.  They also told us about where to go in Mamaronek and the best places to eat and shop.  So after lunch and a wash down for Curiosity, we headed into town.

The area around the Yacht Yard is a very scenic residential area.  It was about half a mile into town.  Mamaronek is not bustling, but there were a fair number of people around. It seemed that every other shop was either a bakery or an Italian restaurant/deli.  The downtown had a number of empty storefronts but otherwise the town seemed to be prospering.  We did pass one very large Episcopal Church complete with a turret and a large rectory and parish area.  We also passed a few historic areas that were a testament to Mamaroneck’s history dating back to the 1700s.

Schoolhouse Sign

Schoolhouse Sign

One Room Schoolhouse

One Room Schoolhouse

Old Town Burial Ground

Old Town Burial Ground

St Thomas Episcopal Church (with turret)

St Thomas Episcopal Church (with turret)

Rectory and Parish for St. Thomas

Rectory and Parish for St. Thomas

After touring for a while, we headed over to the Stop and Shop for some groceries.  We didn’t need much but we did need a few essentials.  The store was about 1.5 miles back toward the Yacht Yard, so it was a fair hike.  It was a nice day but Adrienne could feel the heat and my feet were getting sore.  Nonetheless, it was a pleasant walk.  They had everything we needed and so we headed back to the boat – another 0.8 mile.  By the time we got back to the boat, we had walked 5 miles. Definitely got our exercise today.

We relaxed on the boat for a while, posted our blog on Port Jefferson and got ready to go out to dinner.

For dinner we went to La Piccola Casa, a restaruant recommended by our slip neighbors.  It was a little Northern Italian restaurant, not much to look at from the outside.  However, the food was excellent.  I had vitello romano and Adrienne had vitello piccata; the veal in both dishes was very tender and the sauces were excellent.  The waiter was very friendly and attentive. We were very pleased.  However, we were disturbed that on a Saturday night the place  had only a few diners.  We hope it survives.  It is an excellent place for dinner.  After dinner, it was back to Curiosity and bed.

Tomorrow, we head for Jersey City.

 

Day 53, August 20, 2014 – Stonington to Old Saybrook

Our destination for Wednesday was Old Saybrook, a mere 20 nm from Stonington.  We took our time leaving because Jim had another LLS call at 9am, which lasted a little longer than an hour.  While he was on the call I did the engine check and made sure everything else was ready for our departure.  Once the call and all the follow-up emails were done, we eased out of slip and turned toward Stonington.

It was yet another perfect morning.  We are so lucky that so many of our days have been clear, cool and calm.  We had the relentless winds at the beginning of this trip.  But once we got beyond Nantucket, the winds really calmed down.  We, of course, have had our rainy days, but considering the number of days we’ve been cruising, those rainy days have been a very small percentage of the total.  We hoped the weather would hold because we wanted to have drinks with Anne and Henry up on the flybridge in the evening.

Spectacular Day in Stonington

Spectacular Day in Stonington

Our passage to Old Saybrook took a bit longer than the distance might suggest.  That was mainly because we had current against us the whole way.  There was no way to avoid it because of the tide schedule at this time of the year in Long Island Sound.  It wasn’t too bad.  Most of the time we had a half knot to a knot against us.  The worst was 2 kts for about a half hour.

The Whale Watcher Sails in the Sound

The Whale Watcher Sails in the Sound

Old Saybrook Lighthouse

Old Saybrook Lighthouse

Houses at Entrance to Old Saybrook Harbor

Houses at Entrance to Old Saybrook Harbor

But we made it to Stonington about mid-afternoon and got tied up at the Saybrook Point Marina.  We had stayed at SPM last year when we cruised up the coast on our other boat, Sea BLyS and like it very much.  It’s a lovely marina with slips long enough for a 60’ boat and an Inn with many amenties, all of which are available to marina customers.  We set about washing down Curiosity and then got our bathing suits on to spend some time in the Inn’s hot tub.  It was so nice to let all that hot water bubble around us without worrying about whether any was being wasted!

Saybrook Point Marina

Saybrook Point Marina

The evening was proving to be as nice as we had hoped.  We tidied up, broke out the cheese and crackers and got the flybridge ready for cocktail hour.  About 10 minutes before we expected Anne and Henry to arrive another boat pulled into the slip next to us.  This was a large, old Hatteras with about 15 or 20 people on board.  The people were talking loudly and the music was playing even more loudly.  Worse, the boat sat in the slip spewing out diesel exhaust, which was wafting over onto Curiosity.  This was not what we had in mind for cocktail hour!  As best we could make out, however, the boat was returning from some sort of business outing to honor one or more people who were leaving whatever business they all worked for.  We hoped that meant that people were being dropped off and that the boat and its exhaust would leave shortly.  In fact, that is exactly what happened and the serenity of the evening returned.

We were now ready to entertain.  Anne and Henry arrived; we mixed up some gin and tonics and settled down to enjoy the evening. We had a wonderful time with them on the boat.  They got the requisite tour and then we repaired to the flybridge to catch up on everything since our last visit on Sea BLyS.  Anne and Henry had just gotten back from a week in Tuscany with some other friends and their descriptions made Jim and I want to hop on a plane to fly to Italy right then.

Adrienne, Anne and Henry

Adrienne, Anne and Henry

Adrienne and Jim

Adrienne and Jim

Henry had made dinner reservations at a local seafood restaurant, Liv’s Oyster Bar.  We had a very good dinner of cherrystone clams, mussels, trout, lobster risotto, shrimp and grits and haddock.  Excellent food with excellent company.  What else is there?

The next day, Thursday, would be an early morning departure for us.  We would be going to Port Jefferson on the Long Island side of the Sound.  We estimated that it would take us about 4 hours to make the trip.  Again, we would have the current against us for the middle and latter part of the passage.  So we prepared as best we could after we got to the boat and then turned in early.

Adrienne

 

 

Day 52, August 19, 2014 – New Bedford to Stonington

Buzzard’s Bay has the reputation for being a nasty body of water, given to high winds, strong currents and large seas.  You wouldn’t know it from our cruise yesterday.  We left New Bedford around 7am, and you couldn’t have asked for a better cruising day.  The seas were glassy, the winds were about 5 kts and there were hardly any boats around.  It could not have been more perfect.

New Bedford Harbor - Glassy Water

New Bedford Harbor – Glassy Water

We thought we might have some trouble just getting off the dock in New Bedford but that also proved to be a non-event.  As we mentioned, we were tied up on a very tall fixed dock with our lines wrapped around the pilings.  Curiosity, at times, was sitting 7’ to 8’ below the top of the dock.  We were worried that Jim would have to get off the boat to get some of the lines and then jump back on through the forward gate.  Not ideal by any means.  But when we left we were at about mid-tide, so although we were still below the top of the dock we were close enough that Jim could just toss off the bow and forward spring lines while still on the boat.  We looped the aft spring on a cleat so Jim could just pull it through while still on the boat, and he was able to flip the stern line over the piling from the cockpit.  We were untied in a matter of minutes and easily eased out of the harbor.

Exiting Through New Bedford Hurricane Wall

Exiting Through New Bedford Hurricane Wall

Our cruise to Stonington was calm and uneventful.  There were the usual lobster pots, but by this stage of our journey they’ve become much more infrequent and therefore much easier to deal with.  There were very few boats on the water until we started to approach Newport.  Then we encountered several very large commercial vessels under escort in the shipping channel.  They are impressive to see, but we kept our distance. The views of of the Rhode Island and Connecticut coastlines were spectacular in the late morning sun.

Dumpling Island

Dumpling Island

Watch Hill

Watch Hill

We also had an unusual notice to mariners from the Coast Guard regarding a ferry that was going from Point Judith to Block Island.  Apparently there was a 200-yard security zone around the ferry as it made the transit, and no boats were allowed to approach without first getting clearance from the Coast Guard escort.  At first we thought Obama was aboard, but that didn’t make any sense because he’s still vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard (or is he??)  In any event, we figured it must have been some other muckety muck who merited that level of security.  For us it was all theoretical because we never even saw the ferry.

We had no trouble picking up a mooring at Dodson’s Boat Yard this time.  Well, that’s not quite right.  We had a little trouble.  The moorings have a double line, but on our mooring only one of the lines had a pennant to grab.  The other line had a float that was floating away from the pennant, so I was able to hook only the pennant line and cleat that one.  I usually do this from mid-ships because I’m only a few feet from the water at that point.  If I were to do this from the bow, I’d have to reach down over 8’, which, for me, is very difficult to do.  But that’s what I did to get the second line.  All the weight was at the end of the boat hook as I tried to pull the line in, and at one point I thought both the boat hook and the line were going overboard.  But I managed to get them both in and get the line cleated.

We settled into the mooring and relaxed on the boat.  It was a glorious afternoon.  The sun was shining, the air was clear with virtually no humidity and Stonington harbor was calm and very peaceful.  We sat on the cockpit read and enjoyed the views.

We decided to have dinner at the Dog Watch Café, which is located at Dodson’s.  We wanted to have an early dinner because Jim needed to be back on the boat for an 8pm conference call for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  But we thought we had enough time to stroll around some of Stonington’s neighborhoods.  Stonington is a very scenic little town on the Connecticut coast.  Many of the homes date to the 1700 and 1800s.  Some of these were captain’s houses and others belonged to various notables in Stonington’s history.

We hiked down to the Stonington Yacht Club area and then turned back toward Dodson’s.  By 5:30 we were seated and ordering dinner.  It’s a good thing we arrived early because by 6pm there was a 30 minute waiting time for a table.

After dinner we took the Dodson’s launch back to Curiosity.  The evening was as beautiful as the day, so we went up to the flybridge to watch as boats lazily entered and exited the harbor and the sun set.  It was too bad that Jim had his call at 8, but duty called and we went down to the salon.  While Jim made his call, I puttered around getting ready for our departure the next day.  We would be heading for Old Saybrook , where my college roommate and her husband have a summer cottage.

Sunset in Stonington Harbor

Sunset in Stonington Harbor


 

Adrienne

 

Day 51, August 19, 2014 – Onset to New Bedford

Monday morning brought bright clear skies with a light wind out of the NW.   At 9 am we were ready to ease out of Onset Bay Marina.  Once we started our engines, we had three guys show up and help with the lines.  As I mentioned yesterday, this marina is one of the friendliest we have visited.  This was just another example. Simultaneously all lines but the bow were off.  Adrienne eased us forward, I removed the bow line from around a piling, and we were on our way.

With the current ebbing from the northeast and the northwest wind, Buzzards Bay had only the slightest chop.  While there was some commercial traffic, the waterways were largely empty.  More importantly, between Onset and New Bedford, we saw only one lobster pot.  Smooth cruising all the way.

Calm Buzzards Bay

Calm Buzzards Bay

Commercial Traffic on Buzzards Bay

Commercial Traffic on Buzzards Bay

By 11 am we were in sight of New Bedford.  We turned up the Fort Pierce Reach – the entrance channel to New Bedford.  We passed a beautiful 3-masted sailing vessel and a tug pushing a barge at almost the same time.  The juxtaposition of the new and the old on the water was striking.

Tug Coming Out of New Bedford

Tug Coming Out of New Bedford

Three Masted Vessel

Three Masted Vessel

Sailing Out of New Bedford

Sailing Out of New Bedford

New and Old

New and Old

Entering the channel on our port side was Fort Rodman Military Reservation and then Butler Flats Lighthouse.  From there we could see the massive hurricane wall that was built in 1950s to protect New Bedford and Fort Pierce on the starboard side.  During World War II, New Bedford was heavily defended to prevent attacks from the sea.  In fact my father had been stationed theer in the early days of the war as part of the artillery units designed to protect the harbor.  Other than a German submarine firing on a scallop boat, I don’t know that New Bedford was ever in any actual danger.

Fort Rodman Guarding New Bedford Harbor

Fort Rodman Guarding New Bedford Harbor

Butler Flats Lighthouse - New Bedford

Butler Flats Lighthouse – New Bedford

Entering the harbor through the hurricane wall, I could see the New Bedford fishing fleet off to port.  While several vessels were heading out as we entered, there were a lot of vessels sitting at dock.  Not a good sign.  We headed over to Sea Fuels Marine, a commercial fuel dock, to fuel up for our trip south.  After fueling we went over to Pope Island Marina for the night.  For the first time in a long time, we were at a fixed dock – a very tall fixed dock.  Two dockhands helped us tie up and by 12:30 pm, we were in.

Massive Sea Wall - New Bedford

Massive Sea Wall – New Bedford

The dock was so tall that we needed to use our upper gate to reach a ladder to climb up on the dock.  When docking we had lined up the gate with the ladder so we could reach it.  Thanks goodness, Fleming had the foresight to add gates to the upper bow of the boat.  While we’ve never it before, we were certainly glad to have it in New Bedford.

After a thorough wash of the boat and lunch, we headed over to see New Bedford.  The marina is about 1 mile or more from town, so we took the water launch over to the harbor.  The launch dropped us off right at the City Pier and we headed up Union Street to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  Union Street is an old cobblestone street with beautiful architecture on both sides.  However, what should have been a vibrant business area seemed dead – no tourists, many closed store fronts, and no one really on the streets.

We continued up to Johnny Cake Hill Road, where the museum was located.  Across from the museum was the Seamen’s Bethel.  Bethel is Hebrew for house of God.  In the 1800’s, the citizens of New Bedford were concerned that the whalers were leading dissolute lives – they would come in from sea and within a few days would spend a year’s wages on liquor and women and then with no money and nothing to do cause disorder in the town.  This was particularly disturbing to the town’s Quakers.

Seamen's Bethel

Seamen’s Bethel

The Bethel was created to give the seamen a place to go.  The ground floor had a large room where Quaker women taught the seamen to read.  However, because the seamen were too proud to say that they did not know how to read, the room was not referred to as a classroom but rather was called the Salt Box.  Along the walls of the Salt Box were pictures of the some of the pastors of the Bethel and the women who taught reading.  One wall displayed four or five life rings from boats that had been lost at sea off New Bedford, some quite recently.  The ground floor also housed a small organ and a wheel barrel that the organ could fit in.  The Quakers would wheel the organ down to the docks and play hymns for the seamen.  Today, the organ is still taken down to the dock on Memorial Day and played as part of a service to remember all the seamen who have lost their lives at sea.

On the upper floor was the Bethel Chapel, made famous in Moby Dick.  Herman Melville had attended the Bethel before he had gone whaling for eighteen months (in fact there is a little plaque on the pew he used).  In Moby Dick, Melville describes the Whaleman Chapel, as he called it, having a pulpit shaped like the bow of a ship.  In reality, the pulpit was a typical Quaker pulpit – rectangular and plain.  However, after John Huston’s movie, Moby Dick, was released showing a bow-shaped pulpit, tourists kept showing up wanting to see that pulpit.  So in the early 1960s, the Bethel built a bow-shaped pulpit. Tourists are much happier now.

Seamen's Bethel Chapel

Seamen’s Bethel Chapel

Around the walls are a number of memorial plaques for seamen lost at sea.  Called cenotaphs, they are the equivalent of gravestones for seamen whose bodies were never recovered.  One of the cenotaphs describes a whaling captain who was drowned when the line from a harpoon, which had pierce a whale, wrapped around his leg and dragged him to his watery death.  Sounds like Ahab.

Cenotaph in Chapel (gravestone that are memorials when there is no body).

Cenotaph in Chapel (gravestone that are memorials when there is no body).

Cenotaph - Reminiscent of Ahab

Cenotaph – Reminiscent of Ahab

After the Seaman’s Bethel, we went into the Whaling Museum.  The first thing you notice on entering are the large whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling.  They are massive and fill the entire atrium. One is a juvenile blue whale and the other is a female Northern right whale that was killed when a commercial vessel cut off most of her fluke.  She was 10-months pregnant at the time, and the skeleton of her fetus is displayed next to her.  It might have been a 10-month fetus, but it was massive too.

Juvenile Blue Whale

Juvenile Blue Whale

Right Whale with Fetus Below

Right Whale with Fetus Below

Most of the collection is devoted to whales and the whaling industry in the United States from the 1600s to the 20th century.  One room is devoted to a scale model of the whaling ship, Lagoda.  The original ship was twice the size of the model, but the model is large enough to board and explore.  Supposedly it is the largest model ship in the world.  In any event, it gave you a good idea of a whaling vessel’s size and organization.

There were all types of harpoons and other implements for flaying the whale once it was brought alongside the main ship, as well as all the other implements involved in rendering the blubber, and processing the whale bone, and all the other parts of the whale because apparently very little of the whale was wasted.  I suppose that is one good thing about whaling.

We also watched a video of an actual whale hunt conducted by whalers in the Azores in the 1960s.  It was pretty interesting because the whalers were using hand-held harpoons.  You got a very good idea of what it took to chase and bring down such a large creature.  I think we both appreciated the skill involved but didn’t particularly enjoy watching the whale being killed.

We took in the rest of the museum’s collection, which included a room filled with elaborate cut glass, glass gas lamp shades, and glass bowls and figurines.  Apparently New Bedford became a major glass production center because it was such a large vendor of whale oil that was used in the 19th and early 20th century gas lamps.  The industry started with the lamps and then extended to these other items.  There were also many examples of scrimshaw and walking sticks with carved whale bone handles.   All in all, we thought it was a very well done and fascinating museum.

New Bedford Harbor (from roof terrace of the Whaling Museum)

New Bedford Harbor (from roof terrace of the Whaling Museum)

After leaving the museum we wandered about the downtown historic district.  It was a lovely area and a beautiful afternoon.  Our thought was to grab dinner downtown, but as we walked the streets we couldn’t find any restaurants that looked interesting.  There were one or two pizza places and some fast food places, but not much else.  It was such a disappointment.

We decided to walk back to the boat since it was such a nice late afternoon.  We got back shortly before 5, kicked off our shoes and relaxed with the cruising guide and the chart.  Our plan was to go to Newport the next day and then Stonington, CT the day after that.  We were going to get together with Adrienne’s college roommate, Anne, and her husband, Henry, on Wednesday.  They spend the summer at a cottage in Old Saybrook, CT.  Wednesday was our only day to do this because of other plans that Anne and Henry had and Anne’s commute to work, which is an hour from the Old Saybrook cottage. That meant they would have to drive to Stonington to pick us up and then drive us back the next day.  We realized that if we skipped Newport and went straight to Stonington, we could get to Old Saybrook by Wednesday with ease, avoid the shuttling and have more time to visit with Anne and Henry.  The trip from New Bedford to Stonington would be about 7 hours, but the forecast for Tuesday looked perfect for a long cruise.  If we left early in the morning we would be in Stonington by mid-afternoon.  So we plotted the course, took care of some Maryland chores, did the engine check and then cooked dinner on board.  We were set for a 7am departure the next day.

 

 

Day 50, August 17, 2014 – Dennis to Onset

Sunday morning I was up at the crack of dawn, around 5:45 am.  The sun was rising but Adrienne was not.  We had gone to bed late after a great dinner with Cath, Gary and the gang, and the morning just seemed too painful for Adrienne to arise.  But she did.

By 7 am, we were ready to slide out of our very tight slip.   Adrienne was still not feeling 100%, so I took the helm.  The tide was up and we had no trouble exiting Sesuit Harbor.  We turned east and headed for the Cape Cod Canal.  The sea and sky in front us was a palette of blues – merging together in a hazy blue interface where sky and sea seemed one.  A little mist drifted over the perfectly calm water.  Behind us, the rising sun shining through the sky created a magnificent show as sun rays reflected off the clouds and our wake.

Blue Skies and Seas

Blue Skies and Seas

Rising Sun Over Our Wake

Rising Sun Over Our Wake

By 8:43am we were at the canal and began our passage down.  We had about a knot current with us, so we eased the engines back and cruised down at around 10 kts – the canal speed limit.  It was a calm, pleasant trip and by 9:25am we were past the railroad bridge and exiting the canal.  As we exited, we noticed the Coast Guard stopping all east bound traffic and saw that the railroad bridge was closing behind us.  We had just made it through.

Approaching Cape Cod Canal

Approaching Cape Cod Canal

Cape Cod Canal

Cape Cod Canal

The entrance to Onset Harbor is right after you exit the canal, so we turned up into the harbor and by 9:50am we were tied up in our slip.  The slip was narrow but not as narrow as Northside Marina and docking was not an issue.  We also had an experienced dockhand and several bystanders who assisted with the lines. That’s always a plus. We quickly learned that Onset Bay Marina is one of the friendliest marinas we have visited.  Everyone wanted to chat about our boat, their boat, where we had been and more.  I think everyone was surprised we were in so early to the marina.

After washing down the boat and eating lunch, we went to explore Onset.  Onset is part of a bigger community called Wareham.  The “town” was about a mile away, so we had a leisurely walk into town across a stone bridge built in 1914.  Unfortunately, Onset has seen better days.  There were a lot of shuttered stores and empty store fronts.  Even the library branch had closed.  There was a small grocery store, a hardware store, one or two stores selling cheap clothing, and a police station.  There was an inn and one or two restaurants.

Onset Police Station

Onset Police Station

Inn at Onset Bay

Inn at Onset Bay

As we headed back to the boat, we passed a small public beach that looked very nice but with only a few people out since it was chilly and a little blustery.  The beach appears to be Onset’s best and only feature, and there seemed to be quite a few rental cottages along the waterfront.  Also along the water, the city has placed a number of park benches and Adrienne and I sat for a while taking in the view.

Onset Beach

Onset Beach

Park Bench in Onset

Park Bench in Onset

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, writing and dozing.  We did hear from Gary that it was pouring rain in Dennis, so it was a good thing we had left in the morning.

For dinner we wandered back into town to eat at the Stonebridge Bar and Grill, aka Bistro (the aka Bistro is what Stonebridge has on its website).  Given its name, especially the “aka Bistro” part, we had low expectations but it had been recommended by several people at the marina.  It turned out to be quite good with Adrienne having a spicy shrimp dish and I having a lobster and shrimp sauté.  We were pleasantly surprised.

We walked back to the boat, chatted for a while with the couple on the boat behind us, and went to bed early.  Tomorrow we head for New Bedford.