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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Folks,
I am considering a cruise from the mouth of the Delaware Bay to Block Island this summer--covid permitting. I am contemplating several options:
1. I would always prefer a crew for this 2-day overnight sail direct to Block Island, but that may not materialize
2. I could single hand my way up the New Jersey coast, then sail either along the south coast of Long Island or up the East River into Long Island Sound
3. I could single hand straight to Block Island on an over night passage
I have heard of people doing this run up or back in each of the three ways mentioned above.

My understanding is that the Jersey coast is not the best place to sail, i.e., the harbors are not the best for cruisers. I also know people who make the straight shot to Block Island single handed. They sleep in the cockpit with AIS and radar alarms on for approaching vessels and stay awake at the helm while crossing the shipping channels into New York harbor.

So, what is the preferred approach if I do not round up a crew and have to sail single handed? By the way, my boat--a 2005 Hallberg-Rassy 37--is well equipped to single hand in modest winds.

Thanks in advance for your advice,
Dean
 

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I'm not going to recommend a single handed 36 hr. trip from say Cape May to Block. is it doable sure. The prevailing SW if set in is good in that direction. Returning, unless you get some northerlys or North West, etc. could be a long beat into the wind. Many people return on the inside.via LIS and NJ coast.

Atlantic City, to Sandy Hook can be done in a long day. Both easy in and outs. Then you could decide to overnight the LI coast, or go up the inside through the East River.
 

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I have done the near reverse. About Pt. Judith to Cape May.

Cape May is a good stop especially if you can use the canal. 50’ or 55’ clearance, cant recall.

I did not find a lot of coastal traffic, but still too much.

It is the worst kind of single handing, you need to be sharp because of all the traffic the whole way, and it is a long way.
 
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Jersey coast is not great for stopping over night.
Sailing through NY harbor and down the Sound is nice trip... interesting sights... lots of traffic... Hell Gate passage NEEDS to be timed. There are many places to over night in the sound. Nothing on the LI side east of Pt Jef.
No place to duck in on the south shore of LI.
If you do a straight shot to BI you will cross NY harbor shipping lanes.
BI is very crowded (salt pound) in summer. Shoulder seasons are much nicer. Holding sinks too.

If you want to go there do it in a direct shot from Delaware bay.

However, I would bail on BI and take one crew and sail from Delaware Bay to Montauk and cruise for a few days around Gardiners Bay... Sag Harbor, circum around Shelter Island, 3 mile Harbor, Greenport... Lots of nice stuff on the East end... beaches, culture, dining, shopping...even a nature reserve

Depending on your time...sail north through Plum Gut (not against the current!!!) and cruise down the sound to Port Wash or City Island.... Jump off from there through the Hell Gate down the East River and anchor in Sandy Hook and then next day sail along Jersey shore to Delaware Bay. Get a cruising guide to LIS and plan your stops.
 

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Pick the right weather window, which should be reasonably reliable. Assuming that window appears, I'd much rather do direct that wind my way up the coast. Unless, of course, one wants the experience of cruising into NY harbor, up the East River and hit some New England towns, while poking up Long Island Sound.

Block was certainly open last summer (ie very little compliance), so I'm sure it will open again this summer. However, I did find the outdoor tables at the Oar, which were a good 20ft apart to be pretty safe.
 
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The only problem I see with single handing that trip, and it's a big one, is the amount of traffic you would probably have. You most likely won't get any chance to sleep, and your decision making will decline in relation to your lack of sleep, especially if you aren't experienced with traffic, day & night.
 
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When short handed, I prefer to start at the sun sets, when I'm freshest, and arrive in the daylight, when I'm most tired. I haven't checked to see how this passage would work exactly. My point is, when I'm likely getting most tired is best to be in daylight. The light helps with alertness and, if one is inclined to doze with a timer set, you're more easily seen, if your horizon scan was flawed.

These are passages where a minimum speed should be considered. If you can sail at that speed, you stick with it. If you drop below that target speed for more than X minutes, you immediately turn the engine on.
 
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Delaware Bay to Montauk Point is 225 nm... so plan on 250 - 275nm... which is a two day trip likely. My 36' boat can do 150nm in a day...

To Sandy Hook is about 135nm
 

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There are tons of places to overnight on the LI sound especially on the CT side. It adds time but also adds safety factor.
 

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I would not want to risk getting run down anywhere off NYC or Long Island's south shore sailing singlehanded. Singapore might be a busier place for cargo traffic, but maybe not. Recently, off Japan, a cargo ship didn't notice that they had hit a 275' submarine. (Look up Soryu collision.) Is your boat bigger than that submarine? When you get tired, you make bad choices. That is not the place to make a bad choices. Going up Long Island's south shore is boring. There is nowhere to duck into if the weather turns, and the ship's crews get bored too, so they aren't on their toes, and don't see insignificant little boats... Going up through New York harbor is interesting. There are things to see, like the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, and all the bridges. Long Island Sound has lots of places you can duck into if the weather turns bad, or you get tired, or hungry, or need to pick up crew who might be able to make part of the trip with you. (There's also good train service to CT and Long Island, to help them get there.) There are also more boats around in the event that you need help. What would you do if your main halyard broke six miles south of Jones Beach? Oops. Your 36-hour trip suddenly becomes 48, and the weather window you had turns into a nor'easter, so maybe it takes 72 hours - or more, since you can't really sail to windward without the main. Sound like fun to dodge freighters for that long? The few inlets on Long Island's south shore have the same nasty reputation as the ones in New Jersey, and... can you even get in? How much do you draw?
While the trip outside might be quicker, and can be done, going up Long Island Sound might be the better choice.
 

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As I recall, Cape May to Sandy Hook is about 19 hours. So I'd depart at 11:00AM and arrive at Sandy Hook after dawn the following morning, anchor in Horseshove Cove. Time your departure for the East River for the following morning and continue east to Manhasset Bay or City Island. The Duck Island Roads in CT is a good jumping off point for BI.
 

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Commercial traffic is definitely a thing, going in and out of NY harbor and essentially all along the ocean, south of Long Island. Not that everything is confined to them, but there is a charted traffic separation scheme, so it's clear where to pay most attention. AIS receiver, at a minimum, would be nice to have. Not only do they help identify traffic, but they take off a lot of energy eating stress, by calculating closest point of approach, long before one can do it by eye.

Just to keep balance, if one were to start the engine at Cape May, point the bow at Block island and set the autopilot, the odds would be in their favor that the first thing they hit would be Block. It's a big ocean. I'm not advocating anything nearly as reckless, nor suggesting a guarantee. I just don't want the OP to think it's a shooting gallery off our coast either.

However, staying awake for 48hrs or taking 15 min cat naps, with a LOUD watch alarm, is very difficult.
 

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I think Capta said it, But one of the biggest drawbacks to a single handed trip like that is that you are likely exhausted when you need to be the most alert, making landfall. Getting to Block is one thing, then you have to find an anchorage in summer ( not the easiet thing) . Not to mention that Block gets fogged in often enough to be a concern. Once you get there, you'd probably spend the whole 1st day sleeping, so have you really gained anything. I'd try to get at least one crew member to do the straight shot from Cape May.
 

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Getting to Block is one thing, then you have to find an anchorage in summer ( not the easiet thing)
This is true in July and Aug, but finding somewhere to anchor isn't always impossible. June and Sept are very accessible, or call the HarborMaster on ch12 and ask for a private mooring. Forget going on whatever is most likely considered 4th of July weekend (closest to the 4th).

Another trick, if weather is calm is to anchor outside and just north of the entrance to New Harbor, sleep, then head in and find a spot. Better yet, pass Block and take one more hour to go to the Point Judith refuge, which always has ample anchorage. Back track after sleeping, if Block is desired.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Folks, Great responses! Definitely do not want to single hand this because, as many of you say, you would be most tired just when entering NY harbor shipping lanes. The trip to Sandy Hook from Cape May sounds more doable, then up the East River into LI sound. I gather there is no hospitable stopping place along the NJ coast. Atlantic City looks tight, as does Manasquan. So the 19 hour trip Big Cat mentions sounds reasonable.

Mantauk definitely is a much nicer landfall. Thanks for that tip! I only intended Block Is as a landfall and a days rest. I have heard it is noisy and rather unpleasant during the summer, especially on weekends. I would be off to destinations around Narragansett Bay after resting. But, I like the suggestions for LI sound, the CT coast and especially dithering around Gardiners Bay and Shelter Island for a few days. That sounds lovely.

So, unless there are other suggestions. I will be single handing to Sandy Hook from Cape May on a long day sail unless I can scare up a crew. Any thoughts about running the Jersey coast and entering NY harbor in daytime or dark? Night off the Jersey coast would minimize fishing boats, but entering NY harbor in the dark could be tricky with shipping traffic, although I would be sailing well outside the shipping lanes.

Thanks again for all your suggestions!
Dean
 

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With Regard to the N.J. coast. Cape May to Atlantic City is Roughly 35 miles. AC is a pretty managable inlet. If single handing, I'd go from Cape May to AC, and then Get up and out pre-dawn to head up to Sandy Hook. You could anchor in Horseshoe Cove, or come across to the Atlantic Highlands, To stage a trip up the East River. Personally, I prefer the NY side of the Sound. Port Washington to Port Jefferson, and any stops in between. I would typically cross over to the Connecticut River from P.J. I've also made P.J. to Three Mile harbor in a long day, with the right timing. ( current @ Plum Gut) Many ways to do this trip. I just gave you one of mine. You have many options, and plans can be flexible!
 

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Sounds like you have a plan. Enjoy your trip!! You might want to take your time, each way. Plenty to see and do along the way, but we look forward to having you in Narragansett Bay, when you arrive. If you need any local thoughts, just ask. Plenty of all kinds around: quiet spacious anchorages to party town and all in between,.

If Block was just a layover, it probably isn't worth it. Especially in Jul or Aug. I would not say it's noisy nor unpleasant, but the anchorage fills and you can't make reservations, other than a slip, where they will raft you to another. The little town can get a bit crowded, especially when the ferry's come and go. However, the island soaks up the population and it's a fun place to go in season. Definitely summer revelry to found all around, but always a peaceful spot to be found too.

As you plan your trip on the inside, be sure to examine the current in the East River, but especially at Hell's Gate, where LIS meets the East River. It can be nasty at full current.
 

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All these plans have their perils and pleasures.

A straight shot to Montauk is probably the least stressful in terms of avoid traffic. Fishing boats generally are fair close to the shore and they are out from early in the morning to late at night.

The deal with NY harbor is not only lots of traffic but the absolute necessity to time your passage through NY and Hellsgate. This limits the window which you can make it through NY and into the Sound. So you need to balance the issue of currents and daylight. If you can find dates which give you a daylight passage through NY with a fair tide that would be the optimal time to go. Then of course is the wind etc... much less predictable long way out but the (old) prevailing winds were SW mostly and only from the East on the back side of a low of the NE coast. SW can make for a lovely sail... spinnaker in light air and a lovely broad reach if the breeze freshens.

Once in the Sound you have options but again, you need to work with the currents because if you don't it can add 50% or more of your passage time.

As noted AIS would be very helpful around NY and in the Sound.
South Shore of LI offers no refuge and is not scenic at all.
LI Sound has plenty of traffic.... east-west commercial tows and lots of recreational boats and ferry going north-south... and fishing around every harbor entrance.... but many interesting harbors and towns and anchorages.

At the East end Fishers Island Sound is a lovely place to sail with places to visit and anchorages... leaving you a short RI coast with no refuge until you arrive at Pt Judith. You can make Narragansett bay from FI sound in a pleasant day sail.

Save BI for after the summer madness... then it's quite a lovely place.
 

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At the East end Fishers Island Sound
Agreed, although, be sure to follow charts carefully. Outside marked channels, which are generally wide enough to sail, is probably the rockiest spot in New England, south of Maine. Ducking north of Fishers Island, in FI Sound, also allows one to avoid the Race, which is the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and LIS sound. You never want to be in the Race with current and moderate+ wind opposed.
 
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