29 September, 2015
So, one of the things that we love about boating is the dynamic nature of the lifestyle. Eight hours into our cruise to Joshua Cove, the new weather data was up on the ‘Net, and as usual, we worked up a new forecast. Tropical Depression 11, was forming down the coast, and threatening to become a tropical storm. A massive High was parked over the Great Lakes. If it moved, it might push the Low further East, but things looked kinda iffy. Not to bore you with the details, but our weather window looked like it was moving up 24 hours or so. Okay. We made a left turn, changing our course from Joshua Cove to Port Washington. ETA 21h45, 17.5 hours after our departure from Wickford. Suzanne took advantage of the opportunity to cook up a tamale pie (we like microwaveable dishes for potentially rough passages), cut up veggies for snacks, and prepare some tuna salad . Along the way, the group of Krogens hunkered down at Sandy Hook, NJ, just below Manhattan, called us on the phone. They were all having sips, and had us on speakerphone, asking what our plans were. When we told them, all we could hear was laughter, and someone exclaiming “No way!” They had just gotten off the phone with 2 different professional weather routers who told them that they weren’t going anywhere for a week or so. The call did nothing for our morale. After we hung up, we talked about where we wanted to be stuck for a week. As we thought about missing the Krogen Rendezvous in Solomon’s, MD, our spirits sunk even lower. Can’t dwell on things that you can’t control, so we went back over our weather data-still looked like a small crack for us to slip through. When the data was updated 6 hours later, the weather window looked like it had enlarged from a crack to an inch or two opening. Suz and I determined that we’d go through the East River on the tide in the morning. If the weather was snotty when we got to Sandy Hook, we’d pull in, rent a car, and drive to the Rendezvous. If it was okay, we’d push on. Needless to say, the “Sandy Hookers” were in contact, and wanted periodic reports.
Lest you get the wrong idea about our attitudes, let me say categorically that the Admiral and I are both “Weather Weenies”. We’re not masochists, and our first consideration on any trip is SAFETY. Our trusty little ship will handle much worse conditions than her human crew will.
We pulled into Port Washington at a few minutes before midnight after a spirited discussion about pushing through NYC(in the Dark) or stopping here. The pros-the current was just right for going down the East River, while we’d have to wait until 10h00 in the morning for the 4 knot current to change, and the seas along the NJ coast were reported to be reasonable. The cons-we were both tired (hadn’t prepared for a long passage), and going through NYC at night might be confusing with all of the lights on shore. Leaning toward the side of caution, we grabbed a free ball and agreed that we’d leave at 07h00, bucking the current into the river. On our way to Throg’s Neck Bridge, the “Notice to Mariners” delivered a crushing blow. Obama and Putin would be at the United Nations today, and the East River would be CLOSED from 09h30 until 18h30. A quick computation revealed that we could not reach the restricted zone until 09h40. We called the Coast Guard, and were informed that we’d be turned away. I dejectedly turned the Girl around, heading back to P.W. The Admiral was not to be deterred. She got on the phone and called the Coast Guard commanders office. Not sure what she said, but he said she should talk to the Captain of the cutter on site (USCG “Sailfish”), as he had the ultimate decision. Our VHF would not reach through the concrete canyons, so the USCG base said that they’d relay our call. After some discussion, “Sailfish” said that if we could reach the start of the zone by 09h30, he’d permit our transit. I turned our trusty little speedboat around and Suz “firewalled” the throttle. Minutes later, an alarm was shrieking and the ECU for the motor told us it wasn’t happy (high temp and excessive fuel consumption as near as I could tell). Throttling down, the alarm soon cleared. I edged our speed slowly higher, but held short of the max. Bucking the current, our ETA edged slowly backward. As we rounded the bend above Roosevelt Island at 09h36, we were greeted by a USCG patrol boat with a bow-mounted machine gun, and blue lights flashing. They didn’t say a word, but fell in beside us as we transited the East Channel past Roosevelt Island. 400 yards later, another RIB raced towards us and we were handed off to them. The dance continued until we passed astern of the “Sailfish”, anchored at the south border of the zone. Suz and I looked at each other in disbelief, wondering “How did that happen?” As we continued out into the harbor monitoring the VHF, we heard several other vessels being denied passage. You know me and omens-I KNEW that the seas would smile on us through Cape May. As we passed the “Sandy Hookers” we gave them a call as promised to give them a report. 2’-4’ seas on 6 seconds with a 10 knot wind. What we didn’t know was what things would look like 14 hours later-that was the question. They decided to stay put, in fact some were arranging for rental cars. They requested regular reports on our way down, and we were on our way. The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. The wind and seas rose from time to time, increasing the “pucker factor”, only to fall back to 2’-4’ with a few 7 footers thrown in. I took the first watch, and saw Green Bay dismantle Kansas City on Monday Night Football. I had just hung up the phone when the game ended and Suz got up for her watch. The gang had decided to leave Sandy Hook at 03h00.
Suz woke me up 2 hours later so that we could both be on watch as we transited the Cape May Canal (Kinda skinny, kinda shallow, kinda twisty at the beginning) at dead low tide. Besides that gut-grabbing feeling that you get as the boat rises under you when you run aground (I cut a corner too close but powered though the mud), the 5 mile run was smooth. Delaware Bay was a mill pond, and I went back to bed. We changed watches at around 06h30, continuing up the Delaware. Arriving at the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal just as the current (which can be substantial) was changing favorably, we decided to push on, as we both felt well-rested. After exiting the Canal, the fatigue started setting in, and we found a quiet anchorage in the Sassafras River. It was a little early for bed at 15h30, so we read for a bit, checked to make sure that the 7 other Krogens were nearing Cape May, and watched a movie before turning in at 20h30.
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