Friday morning, our plan was to leave around 8 AM for the 49 nm run to Great Kills Harbor. I was up in the helm around 7:30 AM, turning on all the instruments. I was shocked to see that the depth gauges were reading between 5.8 and 6.2 ft. Somewhat disturbing given that Curiosity draws 5 ft.
Steve had assured us that there was over 9 ft at the dock even in the lowest tide, although he later stated that it was 7.5 ft. Well, it wasn’t that deep Friday morning! The tide was rising, so we waited until 8:30 am. At that time our gauges were reading 7 ft. Adrienne eased us out of the slip, and while we churned a lot of mud, we were soon away from the dock and in 10 ft of water. Thank goodness.
Once in the Hudson, we were on our way south. In about an hour, we reached the Tappan Zee Bridge. We had heard on the radio that the western half of the central span was closed to traffic but that we could use the eastern half. We checked with the tugs at the construction site who confirmed that we could ease by on that side. At 5 kts, we passed under the bridge, marveling at the coordinated dance of the tugs moving the cranes and barges into the correct positions.
Just past the Tappan Zee Bridge, the current turned against us and we slowed down to a turtle’s pace. At the George Washington Bridge, we had two knots of current against us and were doing only 7.5 kts.
As we got closer to the New York Harbor, the traffic once again dramatically increased with tankers, ferries, sailboats and jet skis crisscrossing the harbor. Amazingly, we were able to hold our course through most of it and watch all the traffic cross in front of and behind us, as if we had a protective barrier around us. Hard to believe that our timing was that perfect.
Just south of the Statute of Liberty, we saw a group of about 8 jet skis (possibly a tourist group) heading across the harbor. Jet skis are supposed to yield the right of way to all other vessels. The first six skis passed easily in front of us, but the last two were lagging behind. I saw the leader of the group turn and yell something to the two laggards. The two skis could have easily gone behind us, but they continued straight across. Adrienne had to slow Curiosity almost to a stop to let them slide in front of us. I can’t imagine what would have happened if they had tried that with one of the ferries or other commercial ships.
As we passed under the Verrazano Bridge, we turned toward Great Kills Harbor. There was no charted route and no marks, so we followed the directions given by us by John Calascibetta of the Great Kills Yacht Club, where we were going to be docking for the next two nights. Basically we were to head toward a pile of rocks, which used to be the Orchard Shoal Lighthouse before Hurricane Sandy destroyed it, turn toward the Great Kills Harbor before we reached the light, follow the channel while avoiding the shoaling on the red side and then avoid the shoaling on the green side. It was a little crazy, but we were soon in the harbor heading for the Yacht Club.
John and another yacht club member were waiting for us. The good news was that we would be on the face of a large t-dock right along the channel. The bad news was there was a large rock just beyond the end of the dock that we needed to avoid, and of course, as soon as we reached the dock, the wind picked up and was blowing at 15 kts. I was able to turn Curiosity around to make our departure easier, and used the wind to blow us onto the dock. We were soon tied up.
The Great Kills Yacht Club (GKYC) is a volunteer run yacht club. I don’t think we have ever been in a friendlier marina. From our first call to them about slip reservations, John C. was great – highly responsive and incredibly helpful. We had asked him if he could recommend a diver to check Curiosity’s bottom because we had been noticing that our speed through the water was slow. Not only did John have a recommendation but he arranged for the diver to meet us Friday afternoon. He provided detailed and clear instructions about the best course from the Verrazano Bridge to the Great Kills entrance and potential shoaling at the entrance. As soon as we were tied up, John gave us a run down on all the restaurants in the area. Several other yacht club members wandered over and we all had some enjoyable conversations about boating. As we were talking, the diver showed up and we arranged for him to clean the bottom first thing in the morning when it would be high tide with better visibility.
We decided we needed some extra cash to pay the diver in the morning and also to pay the GKYC which only takes cash. So Adrienne and I hiked to a local bank with an ATM machine to replenish our cash supply. One of the members offered to give us a ride but it was less than 1 mile so we decided to get some exercise. In fact, every time we started to walk, some member or the other offered us a ride. As I said, everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful.
Great Kills is a seaside community with small well-kept houses and several restaurants along the waterfront. We assumed that the area had sustained extensive damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and we were both right and wrong. Some of the marinas and restaurants were totally destroyed. The storm surge topped the pilings at the Great Kills Yacht Club and jumbled up all the boats that had been removed from the water and winterized. But John’s boat, which was in the water close to the shoreline, was undamaged. In addition the Great Kills Yacht Club Clubhouse, which is just across the street from the docks, only had an inch of water in its basement.
We decided to have dinner in town on Friday night and eat on the boat on Saturday. We planned to be up very early on Sunday for our departure for Atlantic City, so the dinner on board seemed to make sense.
We ate at Fiore di Mare, an Italian seafood restaurant, but that’s not where we started out. We wanted to eat at Cole’s Dockside Restaurant because they had a $23 fixed price dinner that included three courses and a bottle of wine and John highly recommended it. We arrived and were seated right away. After about 5 minutes we got a basket of bread. After another 5 minutes we got some water, but there was not a waiter or waitress in sight. There were plenty milling around, but none of them approached our table and all seemed to fade away every time we tried to find out who had our table. After 25 minutes we left and informed the hostess. She seemed surprised, but didn’t apologize or try to rectify the situation.
So, we ended up at Fiore di Mare, right next door. Again, we were seated right away but this time we had a waiter who was attentive and took our orders. We split an appetizer of fried and stuffed zucchini blossoms. Good, but lacking a bit of flavor. I had Lobster Fra Diavolo and Adrienne had Soft Shell Crabs ala Meuniere. My dish consisted of a whole split lobster, mussels, clams and calamari over pasta. Adrienne had three sautéed crabs with a lemon butter sauce. It was a massive amount of food, perhaps a bit overcooked, but very tasty.
On Saturday at 8 AM, we welcomed, Larry, the diver. He suited up and then jumped in to begin inspecting the bottom and cleaning it. About 2 hours later Larry emerged and told us that we had had a rag jammed into one of the stabilizer fins and a layer of slime on the bottom. He thought there was enough slime to cause us to lose about a half knot of speed. All the running gear and transponders were in good condition. Excellent.
We did some boat chores and then hiked over to Frank and Sal’s, another establishment recommended by John. Our plan was to make a frittata for dinner and needed a few supplies. We were tempted to scratch our plans when we saw some of the prepared food at Frank and Sal’s, but we resisted. With our groceries in hand, we returned to the boat.
Our afternoon was filled with Olympics coverage because Adrienne is a huge Olympics fan (me not so much, but it is Adrienne’s passion), blog writing, chatting with yacht club members, and getting ready for our departure the next morning. We were in the midst of all that puttering when a small sport fisher pulled up by our stern clearly wanting to dock in the 30 feet or so that was left on the face dock we were on. I hopped out to help them with their lines. Because of the position of the remaining cleats and the shortness of their lines they ended up half on and half off the dock. Then another small boat rafted next to them. About 10 people piled off the boats and headed off to a gathering, we later learned, was being thrown by the Staten Island Yacht Club. Around 5 PM on of the boaters returned, puttered on his boat for a bit and then turned on some heavy metal music cranked up to the max. We endured until the rest of the people returned around 7:30 and left us for the evening.
The rest of the evening was considerably quieter. Our frittata was good and gave us some leftovers for my breakfast. We turned in early, well at least I did. Adrienne stayed up watching the Olympics until the women’s swim team got the silver in the individual medley. She loves the swimming! I love sleeping!