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Old 07-10-2012
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Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south side

So I am planning a passage on my 1981 Hunter 25 from Liberty Landing to Nantucket in September. I want to take the ocean (south) side of LI and head straight through non stop. The way back will be through the sound and hugging the coast however. The trip will be double handed. About 200 miles, so I figure a little over 2 days non stop sailing if the conditions are good. The purpose of this trip is to practice some serious offshore sailing (without truly going offshore) and learn what is involved in passage making. The mini transat and other small boat ocean races always interested me, and they are part of the inspiration for this trip as well I must admit.

I have been working on my boat for almost a year now, and it is in pretty good shape. It is not modified to go across oceans, but I have made the basic necessary improvements. There are no leaks at all, all the hardware has been rebedded and checked for corrosion, new running and standing rigging last year, latches installed on the cockpit lockers, the new DIY 1/4" acrylic ports are partially through bolted. New lifelines and I installed 4000# jacklines (not the ISAF 6000# but I am told this is strong enough for coastal stuff).

I have two jiffy-reefs in the main, I have a genoa, working jib, and 50% heavy duty "storm" jib, plus a spinnaker. 9.9 hp OB.

As for equipment, I will have one of those personal locator beacons (essentially a 24 hour epirb), a handheld waterproof VHF, boat VHF, a small inflatable dinghy (can't afford a life raft) that will be deflated for the trip, my ipad in a waterproof case as chartplotter (can charge this aboard), backup gps and charts, small 2 stroke generator for battery charging, two cheapish 60 AH batteries with a switch, and I am saving for a tiller pilot. I will probably do freeze dried food since cooking will be difficult. I have westmarine foulies but no drysuits or anything like that.

I would only leave if the weather forecast is good/moderate.

Any advice as to planning? Some parts of this route will be 30 or more miles offshore, is this problematic for a small coastal boat like mine? Is there any other equipment I need to make sure I have? What type of weather should I look for, ideally, and where should I get the forecasts? Is the WX on the VHF a good way of tracking the weather while I am out 30 miles? What kind of shifts/rotations should we do? (BTW of the two of us, I am the only competent sailor. My crew can steer competently and knows enough to blow the sheet in gusts etc, we sail together all the time and he always helms, I always trim. But his trimming skills are pretty much non existent.)

I have been sailing a few years now, I regularly crew on PHRF boats and am confident in my skills up to 25 knots wind strength and smallish swells, but have no experience going out of sight of land or doing anything like this, so please be honest. No advice is too obvious.
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Old 07-10-2012
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

Check the rudder and tiller carefully. Extra gas? Radar reflector. Fishing rod. Cross the shipping channel during the day.
Get your crew up to speed. You need to sleep while he steers. Have a Plan B - Block Island? Newport? Cuttyhunk?
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

You're right to think of your plan as being more intense than Your proximity to land might suggest. There will be few ports of refuge along that route. Technically, your furthest distance from land will be between Block Island and the Vineyard.

You should consider the pros and cons of trying to sail around the shoals between Nantucket and the Vineyard or going up Vineyard Sound. From the sounds of it, you're going to prefer to go south of MV, which can be done. However, you have to be very careful in that area. There are 2 foot deep shoals in what appears to be open ocean and they move a bit. Nantucket is really just one huge sandbar. Vineyard Sound, on the other hand, has sme brutal tidal current, so time it well.

Given the lack of bail outs, you really can't use the logic that anything is good enough, because it's a coastal cruise. While the USCG can respond easier, assuming you are able to alert them, you have to survive long enough for them to do so. Inflating a rollup dinghy is a useless life saving measure. Your equipment suggests you are willing to wait for rescue in your PFD. Look up ocean temps and get a table on how long you can remain conscious. Also, not sure about the logic of lesser strength jacklines being okay for coastal.

Given the inexperience of your crew, I would have to consider that if I did end up in the drink, I would have to save myself. Even if they were able to blow the sails and start the motor, I will bet they would lose sight of you by then. That is a real risk, even with a fully competent crew. You should wear an auto-inflating vest and have a PLB and waterproof VHF radio with GPS clipped to it at all times. You should also have a way to cut yourself free from your tether, because you will only be dragged until you drown, if you slip underway. Even a 3 ft tether on a boat that size is going to allow you to reach the water, if you slide under the lifelines.

The risk decisions are yours to make. It's sounds like a neat adventure. It also sounds like you will essentially be single handing, which wouldn't be a risk I would be willing to take on my first offshore overnight passage. If your friend can't trim, wait till they try to steer in the dark.

Just food for thought. Best wishes.
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Old 07-10-2012
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

Seriously, you will be crossing the submarine channel into CT, and the short version of that is that if you see ANY smoke or buoy come up out of the water--bugout and make noise, there's something very big coming up under you. Volume I of the LNM can give you more specific details but "stuff comes up, bugout!" is the abridged version.

The inlets on the south shore of long island should all be considered dangerous and impassible in bad weather, or with opposing wind and current. Assume that's a lee shore and you may not be able to put in anywhere from sheepshead bay to the east end, unless the weather and light are good.

If you can get to a skipper's meeting for the ALIR, or talk to some of the posted entries, you may get some opinions on how far offshore to stay. There's usually a west-bound current inshore, so you'll make better time staying off a bit. But, also do avoid the traffic lane coming into Ambrose and presume ALL those guys are deaf and blind, they won't see you. Trawlers and commercial alike. This is not to scare you from a beautiful trip, just to let you know, those waters are heavily used and you will have to avoid the traffic.

On food, you should be able to at least freeze two good dinners, in solid blocks, several days before. Then you put the dinners in your cooler where they act like block ice, and #2 will be cold but defrosted by the time you need it. Save the freeze-dried delicacies for later. (G)

If you round the east end and come up into the sound west of Block Island? There are so many shore lights that piloting can be impossible. The bottomfinder (deep central channel) and GPS are your friends here. On Block itself, the north and south lights can sometimes both be seen at once (one is high the other low) making that confusing too.

The problem with "just two" is that most folks need a 6-hour "big sleep" once a day in order to function at 100%. But that leaves one guy on watch solo for six hours, which is longer than optimum. So you might want to compromise, cut your big sleeps to 5 hours, and I'd say to make them in the daytime but between the heat and light, don't know it that would work. If you make the 20:00 to 01:00 and then 01:00 to 06:00 that might be best, giving your friend the easier (earlier) watch and trying to work on getting him to trim better in the meantime.

Besides the safety gear, you might want to find someone reliable and maybe make a cell phone check-in twice daily. Pooh pooh, training wheels, yeah, there shouldn't be any need for it. But calls are cheap and coverage is good these days, I'd call it cheap insurance for a first time trip. Last time I checked, cell phone coverage only reached 2-3 miles off the south shore, so if you're SPOT can send a track or an "OK" signal...might as well test that too.

For practice: Ask the USCG to send you the forms to report a vessel missing/overdue. You'll be surprised at how much information they ask for, and if the person holding your float plan ever has to send that in--it will be way better if they have a set pre-filled for your boat.
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

Quote:
Originally Posted by jsaronson View Post
Check the rudder and tiller carefully. Extra gas? Radar reflector. Fishing rod. Cross the shipping channel during the day.
Get your crew up to speed. You need to sleep while he steers. Have a Plan B - Block Island? Newport? Cuttyhunk?
Rudder is old. Has minor amount of play, and I noticed water intrusion at the haulout but only very minor corrosion of the interior metal parts (I cut into it to check). Should I reinforce the base of the rudder post inside the hull with a few more layers of glass? Should I think about possible emergency steering options on such a short trip?
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
You're right to think of your plan as being more intense than Your proximity to land might suggest. There will be few ports of refuge along that route. Technically, your furthest distance from land will be between Block Island and the Vineyard.

You should consider the pros and cons of trying to sail around the shoals between Nantucket and the Vineyard or going up Vineyard Sound. From the sounds of it, you're going to prefer to go south of MV, which can be done. However, you have to be very careful in that area. There are 2 foot deep shoals in what appears to be open ocean and they move a bit. Nantucket is really just one huge sandbar. Vineyard Sound, on the other hand, has sme brutal tidal current, so time it well.

Given the lack of bail outs, you really can't use the logic that anything is good enough, because it's a coastal cruise. While the USCG can respond easier, assuming you are able to alert them, you have to survive long enough for them to do so. Inflating a rollup dinghy is a useless life saving measure. Your equipment suggests you are willing to wait for rescue in your PFD. Look up ocean temps and get a table on how long you can remain conscious. Also, not sure about the logic of lesser strength jacklines being okay for coastal.

Given the inexperience of your crew, I would have to consider that if I did end up in the drink, I would have to save myself. Even if they were able to blow the sails and start the motor, I will bet they would lose sight of you by then. That is a real risk, even with a fully competent crew. You should wear an auto-inflating vest and have a PLB and waterproof VHF radio with GPS clipped to it at all times. You should also have a way to cut yourself free from your tether, because you will only be dragged until you drown, if you slip underway. Even a 3 ft tether on a boat that size is going to allow you to reach the water, if you slide under the lifelines.

The risk decisions are yours to make. It's sounds like a neat adventure. It also sounds like you will essentially be single handing, which wouldn't be a risk I would be willing to take on my first offshore overnight passage. If your friend can't trim, wait till they try to steer in the dark.

Just food for thought. Best wishes.
I think the September timing is good because the water will be pretty warm. I have a wetsuit would bringing that along in a ditch bag be a good idea? Although it would be a #itch to get into in the water...
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

Peter, when you say you want to do the south passage..do you mean the Muskeget channel ( MC buoy) between MV and Nantucket ? If so, my initial reaction would be to encourage you to take a smaller bite your 1st time offshore. Given what you've told us about your crew, and experience. These are challenging waters even for the most experienced sailors.
Currents run strong in that passage and the seas can pile up as the depths are alarmingly shallow, going from 100 ft to 7 ft in spots. If you get any fog with no radar it could get ugly fast. I've never taken it. Call me Chicken if you want, But, have looked at it on the charts and would only attempt it for the 1st time in only the most benign conditions with Radar and an experienced crew. Once you're there, your only option if conditions are unfavorable is to backtrack around MV for another 50 miles. Or even more daunting around the east end and further out to sea

I would suggest cutting your teeth on a coastal cruise to block I. about 25 hours and within VHF range. Once on Block you can take the jump over to Martha's Vinyard and on to Nantucket through the sounds.

Shifts...when double handed, I've done 4 on 4 off during the day and we usually switch to 2 on 2 off through the night watches. It can depend on conditions too.

I would want to time my landfall or any tricky passages for full daylight and favorable currents....so back out from the desired ..ETA and that will tell you when to leave...

I didn't see mention of jacklines and tethers, you'll want them.

Weather, you should remain in VHF range, even cell phone range if you do the coastal route. NOAA and VHF will give you regular reports.
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Old 07-10-2012
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Seriously, you will be crossing the submarine channel into CT, and the short version of that is that if you see ANY smoke or buoy come up out of the water--bugout and make noise, there's something very big coming up under you. Volume I of the LNM can give you more specific details but "stuff comes up, bugout!" is the abridged version.

The inlets on the south shore of long island should all be considered dangerous and impassible in bad weather, or with opposing wind and current. Assume that's a lee shore and you may not be able to put in anywhere from sheepshead bay to the east end, unless the weather and light are good.

If you can get to a skipper's meeting for the ALIR, or talk to some of the posted entries, you may get some opinions on how far offshore to stay. There's usually a west-bound current inshore, so you'll make better time staying off a bit. But, also do avoid the traffic lane coming into Ambrose and presume ALL those guys are deaf and blind, they won't see you. Trawlers and commercial alike. This is not to scare you from a beautiful trip, just to let you know, those waters are heavily used and you will have to avoid the traffic.

On food, you should be able to at least freeze two good dinners, in solid blocks, several days before. Then you put the dinners in your cooler where they act like block ice, and #2 will be cold but defrosted by the time you need it. Save the freeze-dried delicacies for later. (G)

If you round the east end and come up into the sound west of Block Island? There are so many shore lights that piloting can be impossible. The bottomfinder (deep central channel) and GPS are your friends here. On Block itself, the north and south lights can sometimes both be seen at once (one is high the other low) making that confusing too.

The problem with "just two" is that most folks need a 6-hour "big sleep" once a day in order to function at 100%. But that leaves one guy on watch solo for six hours, which is longer than optimum. So you might want to compromise, cut your big sleeps to 5 hours, and I'd say to make them in the daytime but between the heat and light, don't know it that would work. If you make the 20:00 to 01:00 and then 01:00 to 06:00 that might be best, giving your friend the easier (earlier) watch and trying to work on getting him to trim better in the meantime.

Besides the safety gear, you might want to find someone reliable and maybe make a cell phone check-in twice daily. Pooh pooh, training wheels, yeah, there shouldn't be any need for it. But calls are cheap and coverage is good these days, I'd call it cheap insurance for a first time trip. Last time I checked, cell phone coverage only reached 2-3 miles off the south shore, so if you're SPOT can send a track or an "OK" signal...might as well test that too.

For practice: Ask the USCG to send you the forms to report a vessel missing/overdue. You'll be surprised at how much information they ask for, and if the person holding your float plan ever has to send that in--it will be way better if they have a set pre-filled for your boat.
+1 on that. There are a lot of subs coming and going from New London and they seem to surface right in the crossing route. I have a picture of one from just last year. Once, one surfaced not 200 yds from me. Talk about an awS^!t. I've made the trip directly from NJ to MV in powerboats. It's no big deal. Just don't get too close to the beach. Shinnecock is also an escape route. Fire Island is iffy. Once had to replace a couple of planks on a friend's boat at Shinnecock. It was partially stove in by something, probably a Mola-Mola, maybe a whale shark. There are a lot of them out there. Splintered a plank and knocked off a couple of butt blocks. He almost sank.

Ditto also on the currents in and around the whole area from Montauk, through Block I Sound, and especially when you get into Vineyard Sound and close to Woods Hole and Nantucket. You really need to do your homework! It is a MUST to be riding the currents.

Emergency steering is a must.
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Last edited by smurphny; 07-10-2012 at 07:19 PM.
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

nantucket is my homeport and sail to the vineyard and points west frequently. for navigating, the Eldridge tide table will be useful while planning your trip. I agree with others that the current and sea conditions can change can be challenging in the muskeget channel and you really need to know/hit the current correctly. It is possible, just hit the current and wind direction so that you have a favorable ride.

Your boat is probably big enough, I paddled a 17 Ft kayak with a 21-inch beam from woods hole to nantucket about 12 years ago so your 25 foot boat should work just fine.
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Re: Preparations for a Manhattan to Nantucket straight through passage on the south s

A couple additional things you may want to ponder: PLBs do not float so you probably want to put it in a ditch bag that has floatation. Iím not sure if the USCG antennas in your area can pick up 406 MHz. If they canít, that signal is getting routed through USAFís Space Command in Lakewood Fla before it gets turned over to the USCG. They, in turn, will be notifying the contact persons before they scramble the helio. Something to think about. They have Rescue 21 in your area so a ďMaydayĒ button on a DSC equipped radio is going to get them up in the air that much sooner. I wouldnít count on cell coverage very far out to sea. However, the USCG has some pretty tall antennas and really good radios so you should have over the horizon contact with them. Your running lights are pretty low in relation to a swell and are not going to seen from very far away. Have you considered mounting a masthead tricolor? In September, night running will be about twelve hours and your running lights alone will consume 24 Amps. Do an energy budget. AIS rocks! Even if the other guy canít see you, you can see him and you can radio him to find out about his intentions (I too, transit busy shipping lanes in the dark.) The Wx weather reports are pretty general and may not represent the conditions in your location at a particular point in time. When I do any (longer) passages or offshore racing, I will go on the NOAA website for my area a week or so ahead of time and record the various forecasts. I do this each day to get a feel for the trends. Sort of like looking at the GRIB forecasts for longer passages. I am very interested in wind speeds, wave heights and periods. I donít mind sailing in stronger winds but tend not to go out if the prediction is for the wave periods in seconds are less than the wave height in feet for waves over ten feet. Lastly, give yourself extra time for the passage. Your planning numbers indicates of an average 4.2 Kts for over a twenty four hour period. Fairly aggressive given your waterline, boat type and crew experience (they will be single handing the boat for half the distance.) Can you do 50 nm during a day sail now? Do some pretty long day sails and use that data for a planning number.

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