Some of you know that we purchased our 1984 Sabre 34 this winter, and in May we sailed her home from Essex Connecticut to the South River on the Chesapeake Bay. I promised a full account and some pics, so I've put them together below. I did not
promise it would be entertaining, but I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we got out of the trip ourselves.
A little background, we divided up our trip into two "legs". The first leg was from Essex, CT to Norfolk, VA. My 3 crew (4 of us total) were all from the Norfolk area, so logistically this worked out best. Cape May was a back-up landfall point if we needed it, but we did not.
Leg 2 was Norfolk to home in Valinor's new slip on the South River. For that leg, my wife and our 14-year old joined us.
Let's start with Leg 1:
May 2, 0600 - After a couple days of prepping the boat, provisioning, etc., we departed just after 6am. It was very cold, heavily overcast, and raining, as it would be most of our trip. Fun fun!
Here's Valinor just before pulling out of the slip.
Winds were light as we motored South down the Connecticut River, and the rain continued. You can see the Old Lyme railroad bridge in the background. We heard from the locals that if you don't refer to the bridge correctly over the radio, the operator will not answer, or will most definitely correct you. We made sure we used the wording provided by Essex locals!
Saybrook Breakwater Light marked our exit from Connecticut River, into Long Island Sound at 0714, May 2.
Originally, I had been considering heading East, straight "outside". However, even though winds were light, there had been strong Southerly winds for several days beforehand, and the waves were out of the SW at 9+ feet with a very short period. With little or no wind to drive us through that, and a new-to-us boat, I chose to head through NYC instead. I think we made the right choice.
Long Island Sound was glassy for a good while, and we continued to motorsail.
Around 1330, the sky cleared up, sun came out, and the wind piped up! Hoorah! We unfurled full sail, lowered the centerboard, and started beating up the Sound. You can even see where we had to tack across the Sound on our track (far below).
Of course, it only lasted a couple hours at best, but we were happy to enjoy it while it lasted. Here's a pic of one of my crew at the helm, which I'm posting mostly just to prove it was sunny for a few minutes (both to you and ME).
We were able to motorsail the rest of the way to Throgs Neck. We watched the sun set as we approached the bridge.
This is Throgs Neck Bridge at 2048 on May 2. We anchored after 2100 right next to the bridge, just as the light disappeared. We used the new Rocna for the first time, and it grabbed right away and held all night. I can't remember the name of the basin on the south side of the river, but we'd traveled 83 nautical miles in 15 hours. A long day.
May 3, 0500 - We got up early and were underway after heating up some hot water and filling our thermoses. We departed in time to make the trip with the current, ever-so-important for this transit through NY. We have a ton of pictures of running through New York, but I'll only post a few. The weather was rainy again, cold, and not much wind. We motored all the way through the East River, doing as much as 10-11 knots over the ground.
On a side note, we filled thermoses with hot water whenever we could. So we could always drink coffee, eat oatmeal, or make a cup of soup. It worked very well for us.
Here's the old orphanage at North Brother Island. I had been this route before, but had previously passed north of the island and had never seen this building before.
Here's Valinor with the city skyline in the background. You can see the Empire State Building in the clouds, along with the Chrysler Building, which my wife affectionately calls the "Baby State".
Behind the dodger, you can see my father behind the video camera.
And the Empire State by itself.
At 0819, here's me at the helm with a look back at downtown.
We continued to head South, dodging ferries, ships, and as many raindrops as we could.
By this time, we were thinking it would be a good idea to take on some diesel, since we'd used up a good bit already, and a fill-up would mean we could motor all the way to Norfolk if we had to. However, it was still Sunday morning, and it never occurred to us that it was so early in the season that many fuel docks would not be open. We eventually found one--Atlantic Highlands Municpal Marina.
This is where the pictures start to drop off. After filling up with diesel, we made our way into the Atlantic, and between the rain, waves, watch changes, and oh--did I mention the rain?--we didn't take many pics. We motorsailed most of the way, but did get some sailing in from time-to-time.
About watchkeeping - We always had two crew on watch. Each person was on for 6 hours, but rotations were staggered by 3 hours, so every 3 hours there were fresh eyes on deck. That also meant we each had 6 hours off between watches, and it worked very well for us. We wore inflatable PFDs and harnesses at all times, with everyone clipped, especially when on deck.
Winds were on the port quarter most of the way, and we had the main with a single reef and a preventer rigged at all times. We had so much rain, that every hour or so we had to go on deck (even at night) to empty all the collected water from the reefed main. Big "balloons" of water were created between each reef tie. Without emptying, I'm sure the main would've been permanently damaged or ripped. Doing this at night, with the boat rolling on a broad reach in the rain, was less than fun.
This pic (note the visitor on the stern rail next to me) should give you some idea of the visibility. If you think it's tough to see things here, image it at night! We were very happy to have radar for this trip.
A few noteworthy events, by the way:
- When we were still in the Sound, we discovered a fresh water leak. At first, we thought we were taking on water! But it turned out it was coming from the head foot pump, which had failed. We were able to stop the leak by disconnecting the hose from the footpump and plugging it up.
- The first night offshore, May 3 - May 4, the wind came up but we also had a confused sea. Hand-steering was tiring, and it was difficult at best to anticipate boat motion with such low visibility.
- We had a few somewhat close encounters with commercial traffic and a research ship, but radio communication and vigilant radar use helped.
- We had (on loan from one of our crew) a Garmin GPS with XM Weather. It would come in VERY handy on the last night.
On the evening of May 4, as we made our way Southwest off the Virginia Coast, some extremely severe thunderstorms sprang up in Suffolk, VA, and made their way across Tidewater, up across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and then out into the ocean. Their track brought them right up our intended trackline towards the mouth of the Chesapeake. In fact, a tornado touch-down was reported. Storms just kept coming, and every time we thought it was over, more were springing up.
With the XM Weather, we could watch the forecasted vectors for each cell. With that information, and a whole lot of luck/guessing, we were able to pretty much dodge all the worst storms. The strangest part was the very heavy lightning combined with fog. I had not seen that before--it was eerie at times. I was on watch for most of this, and a lot of it was simply processing the info and going with your gut. If we didn't have XM though, I believe we would've run into the heart of some of the cells.
At 0300 on May 5, I came on watch just in time as we approached the mouth of the Chesapeake and the Bridge Tunnel. We crossed through the tunnel around 0430. There was very heavy traffic in both directions through both entrances, and we had to cross one lane of traffic to get to the southern entrance. We actually crossed over the bridge tunnel along with both a large tanker and a tug boat, all at the same time. Needless to say, we stuck to the edge of the channel.
By 0530, we were in our slip in Norfolk, VA. We cracked open some beers (our internal clocks didn't care if it was morning), and toasted to our success.
Here's Valinor at 0633 on May 5.
The cabin was very damp down below. We'd essentially been rained on for nearly 72 hours, and each time we went below we brought water with us. I cannot convey to you how wet we were, though I must say our foulies kept us mostly dry underneath. When we left the boat on May 5, we wiped down as much as possible, flipped up all cushions for air, and left two large moisture absorbing buckets from West Marine in there.
We had a SPOT on board for Leg 1, and here is the route we ended up with.
All in all, it was a successful trip because we made it in good time, covering 328 nautical miles in 71 hours, which included 9 hours at anchor the night of May 2. Everyone was safe, the boat in good condition (although wet), and I learned a lot about our boat.
I will say that it was a very cold, wet trip, without much sailing. Deliveries can be that way, I suppose. If I had to do it again, I might wait a few extra weeks until it warmed up more before trying it. But we wanted to get Valinor home to MD as soon as possible. On the plus side, because we got her home earlier, we've enjoyed several extra weekends on the Bay.
Nevertheless, I was excited to have Valinor in the Chesapeake Bay.
If any of my crew reads this, I just want to say "thank you" to them for all of their help in getting Valinor to the Bay. I couldn't have asked for more reliable and experienced crew on board, and because of them, I was able to sleep soundly when off watch, knowing Valinor was in good hands.
I'll post a bit about Leg 2 in my next post.