We're always learning. And I'm offering this recent MD to NYC trip in exchange for any good ideas or designs you might have lived with, seen or thought up.
The last weekend in May had Joan and me and four friends on Taronga for a trip from St. Michael's MD to our marina in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from NYC. This run calls for 60 miles running north up the Chesapeake Bay, then motoring through the C&D Canal to the east for 20 miles and then heading south down the Delaware Bay for 50 miles. Finally, the route enters the Atlantic and runs around the shoals of Cape May NJ and heads north up the coast for 150 miles to NYC. The weather reports when we left called for light southerly winds followed by increasingly strong south/south-westerlies with potential thunderstorms and hail developing over the next 24 hours.
Delaware Bay is frequented by ships the size of city blocks and ocean going tugs and their deadly looking barges, which makes for interesting piloting at night. To avoid spending 50 uncomfortable miles in the shallow and narrow Delaware Bay channel and the attendant slamming and banging caused by running into strong south/south-westerlies when there, we scooted along, motor-sailing at 7.5 kts from St. Michaels, leaving at 1500. We did the northing, transited the weird C&D Channel with it's yellow highway lighting
and Philadelphia and Baltimore shipping and then motored down to Cape May beating the arrival of the predicted strong southerly headwinds.. Entered into Cape May Harbor at 0930. We took on fuel
, ran aground on the sand outside the inner harbor markers a couple of times, dropped our new and wonderful Rocna hook in the anchorage in front of the Coast Guard Station and promptly got boarded and inspected by the USCG (I suspect that our Aussie flag on the courtesy halyard caused them to ask me to open the bilge and run the bilge pump
– were they looking for dope or for smuggled beer?)
I gave some weather advice (me?) to a Croatian American who dinghied over from his lovely 38' William Atkins double ender looking for guidance. The boat had been renamed "Vagabondo"; in the Croatian American inflection of its Captain, the name rumbled out deep and throaty as "VagaBUNDO!" Dave (his anglicized name) was about to depart from Cape May for Croatia (!!) with a licensed Croatian captain. It was his dream to do this Atlantic to Mediterranean crossing and after two years of owning and rebuilding his boat, his wife had declared that she wasn't up to the seasickness and the anxiety – hence the two person crew. I was impressed with his desire and aghast at his undertaking. I told him everything I could, wished him all the best. I am still worrying about this brave and determined man and his lovely boat – he seemed a tad under prepared, but perhaps that's my own apprehension at the enormity of the Atlantic and the issues of a double handed crossing.
After a nice afternoon on the hook catching up on sleep and after a seriously spicy chipotle meat ball dinner with all 6 of us together around the table for the first time, we slept through the night and got underway at 0730 the next morning. Put one reef in the mainsail and motored out of Cape May inlet bound for NYC. The forecast remained the same, calling for a day of strong southerly winds accompanied by possible thunderstorms, rain and hail. As it happened, there had been a red sky with the morning dawn. As kids we knew what that rhyme meant for sailors.
The outgoing current against the strong 24 kt southerly made for a bumpy run out the inlet to the outer buoy but as we headed north away from the wind, things settled into a rhythmic ride. The sea was a deep dark green and blue and the morning sun shone through the tops of the occasionally white capped waves. After our turn to the north, the wind was now dead astern. With the genoa out and the reefed main, we ran down wind at 8 knots, bearing 120 to 130 degrees off the wind to keep the boat speed up and the rolling down. Despite these efforts, the 6 foot, fast moving swells were starting to change some healthy tans to a pale green; I did my best to assure everyone that this was a lovely point of sail. Despite my assurances, one friend reclining in the cockpit was drenched twice by cross current waves hitting the quarter. After she moved to a less exposed position on the weather cockpit seat, she was tossed off the seat into the cockpit by yet another cross current wave. She went below to a book and a berth.
The waves, still coming up from behind, were white-capped but not breaking to any great degree. One begins to worry when the tops of the waves start to break and crash down their faces, this indicates that the winds have picked up and become nasty. Dolphins appeared, on our port quarter, arching up and out of the waves in syncopated rhythm. After five minutes they disappeared. With nothing now to watch other than the waves, those of us still on deck played NJ trivia, trying to figure out the location of the busy airport (military?) that had so much noisy take off and landing traffic. After fifteen minutes of the game, we realized that the plane engine noises were thunder bursts.
On cue, the sky started to darken behind us and the Coast Guard began issuing tornado and thunderstorm alerts on the VHF radio
. They called for three fast moving storm systems with winds to 80 mph and nickel sized hail and rain. At just about that time a rather sharp roll sent the plates and cups hurling from their cabinet and across the galley into the opposite bulkhead. A serious racket, but no one got plated by the flying objects. I was later told that the plates and cups were "hurtling," and that one of our crew was doing the actual "hurling." So be it.
(The dish rack is two levels of shelves, sitting behind a rectangular door, hinged at two places along the top and secured by a high compression ball bearing unit that fits into a metal retaining device. It is possible that the unit had not been adequately closed.)
I am always appreciative of these CG VHF
weather advisories, but I do sometimes wonder just what one can really do when one is out in the alert area and is underway. We were now 8 to 12 miles offshore with no place to seek shelter. There are only three real possible places along the 140 mile coast that we could enter – Cape May, Atlantic City and Manasquan (and Manasquan is a question mark in heavy weather.) All of them were out of reach. There's little to do in these situations but keep an eye the coming weather and prepare the boat. I think the Royal Navy had an expression for imminent cannon fire along the lines
of "For what we are about to receive from thy bounty, oh Lord, we thank you." In the words of my friend Bill Johnston the expression for coming weather is "Whatever they say, it's going to be what it's going to be."
We took the preventer off the boom, rolled up the genoa and reefed the mainsail down to the third reef. (I made a note to self to change the run of the preventers back to the cockpit rather than finishing forward at the bow. Moving around at the pitching bow, even with jacklines and tethers, is a slow, tiring and wet process.) We headed due east to try to get out of the path of the approaching storm cells. The sky darkened, the radar
continued to show the storm cells directly behind us – they were about 8 miles wide. Two of the crew experienced a touch of mal de mer and the majority went below.
This first storm was preceded by a ten minute hot calm and an infestation of flies that had been blown out to sea by the winds of the storm. Ten minutes after they appeared they were once again blown off to sea as the storm thundered over us taking the winds from low 20's to 30 and with gusts to 38. But not 80, thank you very much. The noise was explosive and crashing right on top of us. The lightening was impressive and nearby, but not right on top of us, thank you very much. I wondered about the radio
attracting electrical impulses. I wondered about the autopilot
attracting electrical impulses. I wondered if my hair would turn white if we were hit by lightening. One of the crew below distinctly heard me spit out "f**k" (true) and heard the noise of huge amount of glass shattering (not true.)
The nearly horizontal rain flattened the white capped waves immediately. I learned that standing with my back against the windward cockpit coaming gave me a good view of the compass
, the wind direction indicator and the state of the tiny mainsail. One of our friends learned that the rain-hood he was trying to pull over his head was actually the top of his inflatable pfd. Joan learned that she always prefers her berth when it is raining. One is always learning.
The boat behaved beautifully, calmly moving along at 1 knot, heading about 40 degrees off the wind. Twenty five minutes later and the storm blew off to the east. We needed more sail to keep us moving and to make progress to the north in the once again rolling seas – we ran out the genoa and raised the main to 2nd reef. This was a nice point of sail for the boat - interestingly, the motion below was so gentle that the horizontal members of the crew couldn't determine whether we were on the port or starboard tack, the boat moved very steadily through the water without a pronounced heel to either side.
One hour later, the second storm came through so we repeated the preventer, genoa and mainsail drill from the first storm. All went well with this one, although the noise was slightly more impressive this time around. Once this nasty bit blew off towards Long Island, we had a lovely downwind run from 1530 onward to NYC and the winds moderated to 15 and 20. As the sun came out briefly at dusk to cheer us up, a couple of the crew came out briefly to enjoy a bit of a sunset cruise. She of the two drenchings and the one tossing even had a celebratory beer.
Although we did sight one commercial fishing boat during the second storm, there had been little boat traffic even though we were in the north/south shipping lanes to/from NYC. The lack of traffic was a good thing as I had been concerned about encountering other vessels during the periods of limited visibility during the storms. At 0115, as we entered Ambrose Channel inbound into NY Harbor, ship traffic started to increase. One of our crew – an admitted luddite and cyber-phobe – began teaching himself to use the radar
and became quite enamored of his ability to track the impressively large array of shipping with whom we were sharing the dark waters. And as the buzz of the city began to intrude upon our consciousness, various crew members rose up from below, blinking and stretching, eager to see the huge ships and bright lights
that are the night spectacle of NYC. As they appeared, they were clad in whatever they found strewn around the cabin that was still dry - towels wrapped as sarongs, shorts worn as foul weather trousers, salt water applied as hair conditioner.
But again, even though we were in from the Atlantic and safely in the Lower Harbor, we began to hear thunder and see distant lightening flashes. My thoughts were "crap, that's probably the third storm with the predicted 80 mph winds and the nickel sized hail." I also thought "the sea gods want to smack us one more time before we get to the dock." But – other than the sound and light show – the third storm stayed inland and then ran out to the east behind us. I quietly thanked the sea gods.
We motor-sailed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at 0300 and past the silently impressive Statue of Liberty. Furled the main and turned into the marina at 0410 as the awakening birds began chirping. It is very odd hearing birds in trees after twenty hours of ocean and sailboat noises. At our marina, we discovered another boat in our slip. Of course. Sigh. We turned back to the fuel
dock and tied up there at 0430. I drank a lovely cold beer in the quiet company of one damp and tired friend and finally ventured below into the interior, now so artfully rearranged by the rolling of the boat and the wet of the storm. I easily dropped into a couple of hours sleep alongside the peaceful dock (and alongside my peaceful wife; she hadn't been sighted since storm number one.)
There are interesting dents and lacerations in the beautiful woodwork of the bulkhead across from the galley. Seeing the dents, I'm glad we swapped the stoneware plates for wood and plastic plates last year. The stoneware would have shattered and we'd have a mess of glass adding to the clutter needing clean up in the morning. One is always learning. I have to figure out a new dish rack. And I must do something about those preventers...
So - my question - for those who have lasted this long... I've seen bins for dishes, I've seen boxes with cut outs in the middle that allow you to lift out dishes, I've seen cabinets... Who has a dish rack that they happily use and likes better than anything else they've seen AND that doesn't "hurtle" (or hurl) dishes in a snap roll?