Bringing the Boat Home - Portsmouth, RI to Chesapeake Bay, Short Version
I haven't posted in a while. Been busy with all kinds of things. Some of which involved getting the 1971 Cheoy Lee Clipper 42 ready to sail south to her new home here in the Chesapeake Bay.
Short Version of the story:
First trip didn't work out. We intended to sail down over Easter weekend. Couldn't find a fourth crew member (my brother a little loathe to just "pick up" someone he didn't know), and the previous owner bailed at the very last minute for unknown reasons. Our uncle, an ex-coastie Bosun's Mate, with lots of experience, had just volunteered to come along and help us. Without that, we wouldn't have bothered.
So, we set out on a cold Sunday morning - into 5-8' seas and 30 knot headwind. In the RI Sound, that's not a pretty picture. After making only 4.2 knots/hour, and making it just past Watch Hill, we called the trip and returned to the yacht yard. Good thing too, our uncle suggested checking the oil and we found instead a massive leak that later turned out (after mechanic's inspection) to be the front seal and cover. That effectively ended that for a bit.
So, we set out again this past weekend (we finally arrived this afternoon at 1600). We set out Friday evening around 19:00, four crew total (including uncle and one of his sons), engine appearing to be repaired. Good weather was the forecast. Friday and Saturday went by fine. Saturday night, however, started to go south quickly enough. Biggest mistake we made was not checking the weather. At just past Atlantic City, NJ, a gale started blowing up (it had been building gradually). At 0400 it roared in full force. We were attempting to get into Cape May. At 0500-ish the engine stopped - we had run our full tank dry (it is diesel). We had previously switched tanks, believing we had only 5 gallons left in our starboard tank, and believing we had ample hours in the center tank (it is the same size allegedly), we did not realize the danger. We couldn't check it anyway (we have to "stick" the tank) due to the overly rough weather. So, we woke our uncle who advised raising the staysail, which we did. That gave us control enough to snail into the Cape May area, having already placed a call to BoatUS Towing. The tow had agreed to meet us at the entrance buoy (can't remember how to spell that word darn it, so sorry if it is incorrectly spelled). We creeped along against 40 knot winds and 12-20' seas, surfing and holding on, lashing the sails down when necessary. Doing that was very much like wrestling a bear (not that I've ever done it, but it sure seems a good analogy!)!
When we got to the entrance buoy, the tow wasn't there. Wonderful, we thought. As we sat nervously in the gale, waiting, we couldn't help but drift further from the entrance. Finally, they arrived and many tense minutes later we got hooked up and began getting towed in. We arrived at dock at the 2 Mile Marina around 1200 or 1300 (can't recall at the moment). I noted the lower triatic had come off the mast and was flying in the breeze. Ate lunch and stayed overnight (a cold overnite in which the turnbuckle of the lower triatic fell to the deck, missing the ocean by two inches!).
We called a mechanic and got the engine restarted. Good thing, as the explanation for the racor changeover and the bleeding procedure was a wonderful necessity.
We moved from there to the other side, having shoaled once due to lack of knowledge of the channels, and picked up fuel. We were getting blown around by the 25 knot winds, and that made life very interesting indeed. As we couldn't stay there, we moved across the canal to the other side and moored up at the Lobster House, where we ate lunch from the take-out counter. We decided to wait out the winds until later that evening. We took a look, through the binos, at the upper standing rigging and determined none of the bolts in any of the turnbuckles had been pinned. We were, and are, very lucky the rig didn't crap out on us in the gale! We called the rigger responsible for the job, who said "I can't think of any reason why they weren't done." Gee, thanks. Also, our uncle informed us the turnbuckles really should use stopnuts and not cotter pins to secure the turnbuckle positions - we agreed that was a far better method (one of the many lessons we learned on this trip). However, we were informed at 1630 we could no longer moor there (there wasn't anyone else waiting to moor up and the place was not busy in the least). So, we headed out at 1700 into the Delaware Bay, spending nervous moments crossing under the bridges (at low tide, thankfully) - which we believed we barely fit under and it sure looked it!
The bay was not as bad as we feared, so we proceeded up to the C&D canal. At 0130 I was awoken by a very loud "BANG!" (We were on two-man, four-hour, watches, my brother and I were attempting to get sleep). Turns out we had grounded on the rocks of the dike outside the entrance to the canal. After a half-hour of rocking the boat and sawing off a crab pot that decided to keep us there by tethering to out dolphin striker, we freed ourselves and proceeded through the canal. We were almost hit by a cargo ship that turned at the last minute. I then replaced our port light (after noting it was out and determining how to replace it). From there down to Tollison Marina (where we took a break, topped off the fuel to ensure our arrival at home port, and ate breakfast), we had no further incidents. We left Tollison at 10-1030 and motored on down to Herrington Harbour, docking at 1600 today.
Phew, what a trip! Exciting, excellent, and full of learning many lessons!
/s/ Jon C. Munson II