Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Easy Life of a Cruiser

We are fortunate to be able to borrow daughter Beth's car when we are around. UNfortunately, Beth leaves the car in NJ where a free garage is provided. Soooo, we need to get there to pick it up and deliver it back. Only retired people would have time to do this: We picked our way through the rain drops as we arrived in Morristown. As we were topping off the gas, we arranged for a cab to pick us up and get us to the train station with little time to spare. Fortunately, J&J Cab arrived promptly and we had time to buy our tickets. (The last time we did this we missed the train while trying to figure all of this out.) So far, we are nearly two hours into our journey.

We had hoped we would make it back to City Island before the severe thunderstorms predicted would hit. Not so lucky. While on the train to Penn Station from Morristown (usually a 79 minute ride), power was lost on the rails. So we sat for an eternity until we had to switch tracks to grab another NY bound train fortunate enough to be under power.

We accomplished the train switcheroo at 4:45 at South Orange. By now, we are hungry, thirsty, and cranky.
My leg is swollen up like a balloon (the doc said to avoid steps, try doing this at a train station).

We finally get there, right around commuter time of course. Why is this man smiling? Because he has no idea what it is like to ride the subway with a trillion other commuters who have had a long hard day and will fight you to their death to get into the car and for the last seat.

So now, we catch the E train until we get to Lexington Ave for the change to the 6 train. (Have you seen Pelham 123? I can't get this flick out of my head as I board.)

By now, Peter is getting the picture. He does not yet fully understand that elbowing your fellow passengers is permissible, and necessary, if you intend to ever make it home. How did I do this day after day, year after year? But finally, we arrive at Pelham Park, just as the 29 bus to City Island was pulling in. Do you know that if you have a Metrocard and have used it for say, a subway ride, that day you get a free transfer to the bus? Ah, what a country.

Twenty minutes or so later, at 6:45, we are dropped off at Pilot Street for the short walk in the thunderstorm to the yacht club, in time to see the more spirited members gearing up for the Wednesday night races. And they call us looney.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

City Island, New York

We are back at the City Island Yacht Club, on a mooring, in anticipation of going ashore for land visits. City Island is the first land you will come to on your left after coming eastward from the Throgs Neck Bridge. Our yacht club is not high-fallooting, but is lovely; in particular, the view from the vernanda while dining is spectacular. The moorings (currently $35/night) and the dining are open to the public. 24 hour launch service is provided. There is 5 feet of water at the dock at low tide (with a seven foot range). Our most famous member was America's Most Trusted Man, Walter Cronkite. I wish we had met, and traded cruising stories.

A long walk away is a laundromat and decent grocery store. There are several typical shoreside seafood restaurants and small bistro-type places.

To learn more about the club, go to Come visit!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mr. Franco does Hair in Manhasset Bay

After missing out on the Sand Hole, we headed back to our new anchorage at Manhasset Bay. The next morning, we saw a familiar boat anchored in the distance, and sure enough, there was Cloverleaf. We dinked over and enjoyed great conversation, "discussed" the nationalization of healthcare, and were provided with a luscious lunch-dinner. Bev and David are incredible and we so enjoy their company.

The next day Peter and I walked the town, landing our dinghy at the Town Dock, which, incidentally, is NOT within 10 minutes of grocery shopping. It is walkable but be prepared. The second best discovery was Shields Hardware, a large, well inventoried old time store where the proprietor, Patty, greeted us with "heh, you guys look like boat people", and we got to talking and found her very likeable. When she told us a customer overheard her telling another that she wanted to dye her hair to match her dog's, and volunteered for the chore, we got a real interesting story. Mr. Franco, who did indeed provide a perfect color match for Patty and TJ, is somewhat retired, but in the past travelled as Jackie O's beautician, invented the highlighting technique many of us paid fortunes for, and provided daily shaves to Governor Rockefeller. Patty phoned Mr. Franco and said I was a nice boat person looking for a cut, and Franco took us in immediately, becoming the best discovery in town. Note that while Mr. Franco is not (presumably) charging Jackie O pricing, his charges are equivalent to an upscale New Jersey Spa. I got a great cut.

Mr. Franco can be reached at 516-883-6869 and is located at Four Third Avenue.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oyster Bay and The Sand Hole

We swore we would never come back here, the place where we got struck by lightning, dragged anchor (twice, and the only times on First Edition), and Peter "got arrested" for speeding, in the dinghy no less. But we found ourselves sailing into the harbor nevertheless. With a week of rain predicted, we decided not to stray too far from City Island where we need to return by the weekend.

On entering the harbor you will pass the Seawanka Yacht Club, which we have never visited. This is the yacht club that the fictional hero from DeMille's Gold Coast belonged to. Isn't it grand?!

Not surprisingly, we had difficulty setting the anchor. What is with this place? Peter says the bottom is soupy mud, and obviously, Buster does not like it. We planned to be here but one night (no t-storms in the forecast), in order to make high tide at The Sand Hole, a popular gunkhole at the entrance to Oyster Bay. Years and years ago we took In Recess, our first boat, in and found a peaceful hidey-hole after a hair-raising entry, laden with mosquitos. We now have screens, and courage.

The following morning while approaching The Sand Hole Peter took out the binoculars to read a large sign found at the entrance. It read: "Inlet not navigable". Oh well. The lesson to this story: don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today, go for it, life is too short. Don't believe the cruising guides (the Waterway Guide 2008 "it offers an easy anchorage"). And, proceed with caution.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Manhasset Bay

After 15 medical appointments and a visit from our Granddog, we headed off to Manhasset Bay for fuel, water, and R&R, until we return in a week for another appointment with a new rheumotologist. I am pleased to report (especially to Mooch's father) that I have Jayne Mansfield legs (again) thanks to daily prednisone. I wonder if Jayne had daily aches and pains though.

We are anchored in the South east corner of Manhasset Bay, where there is at least a seven foot tidal range. There is relatively good protection and great holding. We used to get a mooring at the Port Washington Yacht Club, which in our past has had a great restaurant, but now we are cheap.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New York, New York!!!

After a restful night at Sandy Hook, we gave ourselves about 2 hours to hit the Verrazano Narrow Bridge at slack before the flood, and our timing was perfect.
The New York Harbor can be a little intimidating but we have boated here for years, and arriving was like tucking in with a warm blanket. We motorsailed up the Harbor and into the East River, at one point seeing 9 knots of speed over the ground.

Transiting the NY Harbor and the East River is an amazing experience. No matter how many times you see it, the Statue of Liberty never fails to delight. It is awesome to look up and see all the buildings at the Battery, the absence of the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and on and on. I remember sitting at my desk on the morning of 9/11 while the towers were burning watching a lone sailboat motoring up the Hudson River, wondering if they had any idea what they were about to approach.

We hit Hell Gate at the confluence of the East and Hudson River with the favorable flood current right around max, and saw 11 knots. For each of the years Peter and I have passed through Hell Gate we have never failed to crack open a bottle of champagne, initially to calm my nerves and then to celebrate our long standing tradition. With only one bottle remaining aboard and reserved for a planned get together with my friend Kristin, we transited without incident and without bubbly.
For those that have never passed through Hell Gate, there is absolutely nothing to it if you ride the favorable current. At max, it can be exciting with a few whirlpools, so I prefer to avoid max. Having said that, it seems that is when we always arrive to the Captain's glee.

This picture gives you an idea of how fierce the current can be. Never approach Hell Gate with an opposing current any more than an hour after slack.

We had a nice ride up the East River and ended up at the City Island Yacht Club, which we used to call home for First Edition. From here we will support the medical profession back in NJ before I head off to Florida to visit my aunt and Peter continues to do boat chores.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sandy Hook, NJ

We departed Cape May at 0605 after having discussed the weather with Sojourner, who decided to stay put for another day. Since we had A Schedule (one thing you never want on a boat), we decided to deal with the forecasted choppy seas and chance of storms. Fortunately, the former flattened out and the latter never happened.

We made great time once again, usually exceeding 7 knots while motor sailing with 8-12 knots of breeze. At 2100 (9 pm), we reached the tip of Sandy Hook, and at this time of the year, we still had a bit of light. By the time we reached the inside of Sandy Hook, it was pitch black, and the trillions of channel markers were twinkling away, mixing in with tiny fishing boats and monster cargo ships. I hate arriving here after dark.

We have been boating in these waters for 25 years, but the confusion of activity is overwhelming. We had placed waypoints for the approach, but, nevertheless, a little runabout yelled "you're headed for the beach a-hole" (abbreviation provided here to keep it clean). After making a hard right, we were back on track and soon almost ran into three sailboats anchored right in the channel, and 3 sets of new and improved fishing wrays. We are familiar with these sticks protruding out of the water, we boated here for years, always sailing at night. But in the 2 years we were gone they assumed gargantuan proportions.

Until the next morning when it was light. We were just too damned close to the shore. We can't believe we motor sailed through two sets of wrays that now, in the light of day, don't seem passable.

If you can avoid it, don't arrive here at night. We really know these waters and could have rammed into various and sundry wooden and fiberglass objects. And, we had the spotlight in hand.

If you do, however, don't anchor in the middle of the freaking channel. Anchor by the coast guard station, or better yet, at Atlantic Highlands or Horseshoe Cove (see the charts). The Cove has been changing with erosion and the waters are not predictable, but we followed our long established practice of putting the radio tower on the west shore behind us with a bearing of 047M, and found 10 feet of water at low tide. Not great for a lot for protection, but good holding, and this night, a great place to be.

Cape May, NJ

Playing the current right on the Delaware Bay led to a successful transit, and we averaged 6-7+ knots the entire way. It wasn't until we reached the Atlantic Ocean at the entrance to the Bay that we ran into "stuff", crappy, choppy, angry seas and 20+ knots of gusty wind to shake up the boats and toss its contents about. Reaching the breakwater at the Cape May inlet was very welcomed, and fortunately the current was flooding and we had a good ride in.

We anchored 9 1/2 hours after departure in front of the Coast Guard station where holding is good and there is sufficient room for maybe 10 boats. We sat out rain and threatened t-storms for a day after arrival, parked the dinks at Utsch's which offers a free tie up and garbage disposal, and walked the town to the grocery store (a good long walk, maybe 1 1/2 miles each way). At cocktail hour we were greeted with fog creeping in on little cat's feet. The next day we planned to arise at 4 am to review the weather for a 0530 departure.