29 September, 2014
Morning of the 24th, and we’re headed in to New Bedford. The 3 cylinders in the outboard get together for a meeting to decide whether or not business will move forward. 2 members constitute a quorum, and the vote is 2 aye, with 1 abstention. The motion is off the table, and proceeds slowly through committee. We make it to shore with some coughing and spitting. First things first, we head to the National Park Services’ information center, get a walking map of town, the schedule for the showings of the N.B. whaling history video, and Whaling Museum hours. The museum is exceptional. It covers the founding and growth of New Bedford, the whaling (and fishing) industry here, and the natural history of whales, complete with skeletons of several species of whales. After the museum, it’s back to the Park Service for the video. Among other facts, it informs us that New Bedford, aka “The City that Lit the World,” was the center of the whaling industry in 1830. Whale-oil form N.B. ships lit much of the world from the 1830’s until petroleum alternatives like kerosene and gas replaced it in the 1860’s. In the present, N.B. is all about fishing, and it was just announced that for the 13th year in a row, New Bedford is the number one moneymaking fishing port in the United States. I think that the fact that the main catch is scallops (pronounced skollups), a very high priced seafood, helps. Our day is finished off with a self-guided walking tour of historic houses, including the one where Frederick Douglas finished his trip on the Underground Railroad (and picked the name Frederick Douglas).
Thursday morning. Leaving the whaling capital for the boating capital, Newport, RI. After a short, 5 hour run under overcast skies and sprinkles, we’re on the dock by 1330. We’re smilin’ ‘cause the weather radar looked like we’d get a drenching, and it’s just intermittent sprinkles. Enough seafood, we’re thinking sin. The dock guy says the watering hole “Pour Judgement” is where the locals go for a burger and a beer. Ya Mon, dey be good. Our favorite mode of transportation, the City Trolley drops us off at “The Breakers”, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s summer cottage on mansion row. The following day, we visit 4 more cottages on Mansion Row, all built by American industrialists during the so-called “Gilded Age”, which ran from just after the Civil War until the advent of personal income tax in 1913 (which put a real crimp on amassing personal fortunes). Most of these homes have either been demolished, or donated to the Newport Historic Preservation Society, which now gives tours of these “white elephants” to pay for their upkeep. These folks had an incredible amount of money. The Summer season was about 6 weeks long, and after the season was over, the cottages laid empty for the rest of the year, as their owners moved to another of their 3 or 4 homes. The audio tour of Tessie Oelrich’s (Comstock lode heiress) cottage claimed that her budget for the Seasons’ parties at her place ran around $300K (that’s about $7.2 million in today’s dinero). At another cottage, the tour reported that Vanderbilt was worth around $1.75 (b)illion in now dollars-makes my head spin just thinkin’ about it. Newport has provided us with some gorgeous weather, and as the day wore down, we walked the “cliff walk” along the ocean back to town, digesting the day’s events along the way. Long term weather doesn’t look so good, though, so we’ll have an early morning call, and get as far down Long Island Sound as possible.
At 0700, we’re ready to leave, but The Girl is backed up into the crotch of an “L” shaped dock, with another boats’ (that came in late last night) swim platform literally under our anchor pulpit. Some imaginative rope handling by the Admiral, no wind, and a helpful bow thruster ease us out straight sideways. We’re out without rousing our new neighbors, who, by the way, have about 100 feet of empty dock in front of them. A sunny, 75 degree day with virtually flat seas, some good tunes, and we’re enjoyin’ the Life. We pick Joshua Cove, in Connecticut, as our overnight anchorage. It is open to the southwest, but the winds are dead calm, and aren’t forecast to be much over 5 knots tonight. There are some nice summer shacks around the bay (not quite comparing to the cottages in Newport), but they’re all pretty much buttoned up as it’s the middle of the week, and Summer is over. Suz is scanning them with the binocs as we’re having our sip. Some of the architecture is pretty interesting, and sure, don’t you have a full-sized replica of Stonehenge in your yard? We figure these folks have a pretty fun party at the summer solstice-gotta get an invite. We’re sure there’s a story. We’ll try to get it along the way. Sunset scores a 9.5 (after throwing out the American and Russian judges 10.0 and 8.5 scores). Sandy Hook, NJ is tomorrows’ destination, and after calculating tide and current through Hell Gate in the East River, New York City, a 0600 departure is planned. Another superb, sunny day, so we’re sitting on top of the pilothouse, autopilot remote in hand, tunes on the Bosemachine soakin’ up some Autumn rays. Along the way, we pass through a couple mile stretch of really weird looking water. The wavelets are standing straight up, and the tops are falling off. I figure the water is shallow there, as it’s clearly delineated from the calm, flat seas around it. Chart says no appreciable difference in depth, but the area is labelled “The Race”. Must just be a vagary of tide and current. Welcome to the ocean, fresh-water boy. On the way down the East River, The Admiral is reliving childhood memories. She grew up in NC, but all the extended families on both sides lived in the City, and she spent every Christmas there running around with her cousins while growing up. Hell Gate is a breeze, we hit it just right, and squirt through on a 3 knot current. A thousand yards upstream of the United Nations building we see the first of 6 Coast Guard boats with (I presume) 50 caliber machine guns on their bows, patrolling the river and creating a cordon around the U.N. Guessin’ we’re on high alert for terrorists since the bombing in the Middle East has started again. These guys are very serious about their job, and we give them a wide berth. The new building on the site of the Twin Towers is spectacular, and the Admiral is snappin’ away. I’m just trying to avoid crashes, as it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, and besides the normal ferries and commercial vessels, there’s a sailing race going on, and the harbor is lokkachokka with pleasure craft of all shapes and sizes from jet skis to large yachts. On our way out of the harbor, we detour to pass the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, reminiscing about Alizanns’ first Big Girl voyage, when we brought her home to Michigan from Annapolis with our buds, Andy and Jody (see 1,000 Islands, 2014) as crew. As we pass under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, we’re chuckling about moving our daughter, Alison, out of her apartment in lower Manhattan after her year in NYC. She lived inside the security No Drive zone around the former Twin Towers/Wall St, so we had to get through the police perimeter with our truck and trailer (which she irreverently refers to as “the Clampett trailer”-Hey, I saved a lot of money by building that trailer!). Once we cleared through, however, we could park in the middle of Broad Street to load up the aforementioned, maligned trailer as there was no vehicular traffic there-Bonus! Anyhow, back to business. We’ll anchor just to the west of Sandy Hook, New Jersey after a 12 hour ride. The reviews say that the area is pretty rocky-rolly, but hey, been there done that, and it’s the perfect spot for our jump to Atlantic City. There are about 20 or so identical, 2 story buildings on shore, most boarded up, and all looking like they were built quite a few years ago. Suzanne’s Googling, and finds that this was Ft Hancock, an active military base from the early 1800’s to the middle 1970’s, most recently acting as a Nike missile base, and weapons testing facility. The military is currently selling the buildings for $1 apiece, with a free long term lease. The only condition is that you renovate the property. Sounds like a good deal for oceanfront property. Might be worth looking into, but we don’t need more STUFF. Well, the night is a bit rolly, but worse, there is no wind, so the anchor chain is rattlin’ and bangin’ all night. I wake up at 0030. I’m excited, and can’t wait to get underway. At 0230, MDO rolls over and changes her breathing pattern. Sensing my opportunity, I enquire “You awake?” She is now. “Ifyouhelpmegettheanchorup, wecangetunderway,youcangobacktosleep,andwecangettoAtlanticCityearlyenoughtowalkaround”. (I didn’t even come up for breath) “Okay” (what a good sport). Anchor up by 0300, and it is dark as the inside of a pocket. No Moon and a bit cloudy. I get to practice some Captain stuff, identifying commercial vessels and barges by their light schemes (“three in a row, tug and long tow”, “red white red restricted in ability to maneuver”-nerdstuff). Three hours later and the sunrise is rivalling sunset at Joshua Cove, but I don’t have the guts to wake up the Admiral. Seas are good today, 2-3’ swell, but the forecast still looks pretty iffy for the day after tomorrow, making this hard push look like a good decision. The ten and a half hour trip is made shorter by watching “Master and Commander”, a Russell Crowe film. Even if you’re not into boats, I’d highly recommend this gripping film about the Captain and crew of the brig, “Surprise”, set in the early 1800’s, during the war between Great Britain and France. The last time that The Girl was in Atlantic City, we never saw the port due to pea soup fog, so it’s like entering a new town. It’s sprinkling a bit, but otherwise clear. The Admiral tells me we are there, so gotta wrap this thing up.-later.