Sunday, November 1, 2015

Restarting the Blog

After a disastrous unsuccessful attempt at a Gulf Stream  crossing 2 years ago we stopped blogging.  More about that later.  Symphony is on the hard after 2 additional summer cruising seasons.  Here she is in Mattituck this past September.  We always feel a little uncomfortable entering the creek at low tide but our 5' draft has never touched the bottom.  As you can see this is a nice anchorage despite the limited space.  Restaurants, movies and grocery stores are within walking distance.  This is a great area to bike, run and swim (depending on the wind and tide.)

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Monday, December 16, 2013

On the fast track South from Chesapeake City

My crew and I had hoped to make it from Staten Island to Norfolk in a single 2 night run but the forecast of heavy seas on the ocean caused us to run up Delaware Bay to the C&D canal instead.  To make up time we decided to sail the full length of Chesapeake  from Chesapeake City overnight to Norfolk.

View over our bimini on the Chesapeake

For once on our trip we had a favorable wind for our sail down the Chesapeake.  Before the sun set in the West the moon was visible in the East.

 After a sumptuous feast of Maryanne's chicken marbella we set up our night watches.  We had enough ship traffic to keep us busy on our watches while the autopilot did the heavy lifting.

Gary reported that to keep himself from being bored on his 3-6 a.m. watch, he made up imaginary ships to watch and avoid.  I guess he had a little trouble occasionally distinguishing between the shore lights and the ships.  I was happy not to know about his imaginary ship activity before I went to sleep!

While we sailed most of the day, most of the night was spent motoring to Virginia.

The good news from the city marina in downtown Norfolk was that they had plenty of room and there was a wine festival going on.  The bad news is that they charged $3.00 per foot ($120.00/night) and that they had a 2 night minimum.  I decided that Hampton, VA would be a better choice.  We stayed at the municipal marina and returned to one of my favorite little restaurants: "The Conch & Bucket."  The name sounds like the Bahamas - the food reminds me of  New Orleans.  I ordered the Jambalaya.

Symphony's Berth in Hampton, VA
NY-VA in 3 hops.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Great Kills to Chesapeake City (overnight)

We left Great Kills at 9 am and within an hour or so we began rocking and rolling.  The high winds of the last several days left some uncomfortable 4 foot ocean waves hitting us on the beam.  We put the main up but it did little to cut down on the uncomfortable side to side roll.  Gary who says he always gets sea sick the first day out proved to us that he was telling the truth.  Despite the Dramamine dosing he was hurting.  I covered him up with some blankets in the cockpit while he slept and periodically hung his head over the side.

 Our fearless autopilot steered the boat well.  The bright animated lights on buildings in Atlantic City illuminated our way for over 20 miles down the NJ coast.  We split up watches with John on from 9-12, I had the 12-3, and Gary had the 3-6 am watch.  Gary finally had recovered in time for dinner.

By 1:30 a.m. we were ready to round Cape May, the southernmost part of NJ.  I had a dilemma.  A cruiser had given me 3 waypoints that would take us zig-zagging through  potentially treacherous shallows close to Cape May.  The advantage of following the waypoints is that they would save us the 2 hours it would take us to go out to the main ship channel.  The disadvantage is that it would take us very close to shore and I wasn't sure that Superstorm Sandy hadn't changed the depths.  Two years ago when I was sailing back to LI white water was swirling past the shallows.  The white water was unnerving.

Studying the charts I found a compromise.  There was an old channel (unmarked) slightly further outside my original route that didn't take me so close to shore.  It would take a little extra time but not 2 hours - and - it wouldn't scare me to death in the dark early hours of the morning.  I found the channel and although I still had to pass fairly close to some 2 and 4 foot spots I felt a little more comfortable further away from the shore.

I compared the depths on the depthfinder with what I saw on the chart.  I was getting some big differences and not what I expected.  Where the water was supposed to be 9 feet deep I was getting readings of 21 feet.  That's OK but it had me wondering if I was where I thought I was.  All these calculations are running constantly through my head at 2 o'clock in the morning - a time when I'm afraid I might not be at my peak decision-making best.  The dark, the tiredness, and the repetitious bright loom of the Cape May light house in my eyes added to an air of spookiness.  Sometimes it's a little nerve wracking to be on watch at night.  You have to figure everything for yourself - and as captain you are supposed to be confident - your doubts are your own - not to be shared with the sleeping crew.  I felt pretty good about my piloting skills and no one had to know that I was checking and double checking myself - but I was relieved once we got past the shallows into Delaware Bay!

Gary took over and I was able to get a good 5 or so hours of sleep.  When I awoke John found that he was having a problem with our chartplotter and asked me to take a look at it.  It did look a little strange - and it took me a few seconds after seeing the nuclear plant on the wrong side of the chart to realize that somehow John had turned us around and was taking us back to NY!  We straightened that out and entered the C&D Canal within an hour.

After a stop at the Summit Marina on the north side of the canal to fuel up we found ourselves looking for a free berth on the public dock in Chesapeake City by 1 p.m.  We had called ahead to see if there was any room.  We were assured that there was.  Wrong!  The spot that would have been ours had a Tom Sawyer-like raft in it.  Made of logs lashed together it had a tent on top of it - and on the tent was a live chicken.  A young woman dashed off the raft every few minutes to grab a cat that seemed to need some serious shore leave.  The gentleman who shared the raft later explained that he had done this voyage before and that it was being filmed for a possible reality TV show.  Bizarre!  There was also a dog and who knows what other animals shared the raft.  After 2 days and 32 hours of motoring we anchored in Chesapeake City and went ashore for some lunch.

A couple of the cute little houses in Chesapeake City
with one of the bridges that spans the C&D Canal

Monday, December 2, 2013

Good bye NYC

Our first day provided some great views of NY

Lower Manhattan with the Freedom Tower on the left - Staten Island Ferry Terminals far right.

The Verrazano Bridge and Long Island
With strong southerlies we had to motor all but our last half hour when, finally,  we were able to sail west across the bottom of Staten Island to Great Kills Harbor.  We always manage to find space in the NE corner of the harbor.  Our original plan had been to sail non-stop 3 days and 2 nights to Norfolk but a short run to Staten Island first to familiarize the crew with the boat seemed like a better plan.  The forecast had us reconsider our plan to do 2 overnights to get to Norfolk.  We decided to head either to Cape May or the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal on days 2 and 3.

The wave off the bow in the picture below was a sign of things to come when we left Staten Island the next day.
Sailing along Staten Island's South shore under main alone

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bahama Bound II - The Fast Track

OK, we enjoyed the first cruise to the Bahamas,
now we want to do it again without the anxiety of the unknown ahead of us! Here it is we are -


Day 1
Here's Gary fresh from California enjoying the East Coast scenery.

As a compromise - Maryanne and I decided that I would put together a crew and deliver the boat to Florida in November while she continued teaching in Manhattan and Bay Shore.  We would leave the boat there until we rejoined it in January when Maryanne will reluctantly retire.  Retirement isn't easy when you truly love your job.

I invited Gary, my cousin's husband, and John, a biking buddy, to help me get "Symphony" south as fast as we could.  I wanted to give Gary time to acclimate to NY but an all too brief weather window required a quick departure from Glen Cove less than 12 hours after he arrived.  Brewer's Glen Cove was helpful - finishing up some last minute jobs for us before we departed.  

New York Harbor - a Light Traffic Day on my ChartPlotter
AIS signals abound on a light traffic day in NY Harbor.  Each red line and arrow represent the speed and course of a boat.  The boats are represented by the triangles while the length of the red lines shows the relative speed of the vessel.
My boat is the red boat symbol near the center of the bottom of the screen.
AIS or Automatic Identification System identifies boats, their course, speed, time of closest approach, distance of closest approach, their names, sizes, and destinations.  It makes it much easier to hail a vessel on VHF.  If you want to discuss your course with another boat that has AIS you don't have to hail "the boat off my port bow."  You can call him by name.  While AIS transponders are required on commercial vessels over 65 feet it's easy to ignore big fishing boats or other smaller boats that may not have AIS.  For that reason you have to constantly be scanning the horizon ahead, around, and behind you in a place like NY Harbor.  This trip wasn't bad but you can see from the chartplotter that you better stay alert!

Monday, June 24, 2013


The nor'easter following Sandy provided us with an experience we had never had before: boating in the snow.  When power was restored to our home it was too treacherous to leave the boat until I shoveled the docks.  The Espar heater kept us comfortable in the boat until we could return to civilization.  So far our Caliber has worked very well for us.  We plan to take the boat south again for the winter of 2013/14.

A week after superstorm Sandy we had a Nor'easter that delivered a little surprise: SNOW

This was the view we woke up .

The visibility forward from the cockpit was compromised.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Super Storm Sandy

We were a little annoyed that although we had Symphony ready to be hauled Wednesday before the storm she was never hauled.  We put extra lines on her in preparation for the storm with its projected 12 foot tidal surge.  The surge had the potential to lift the floating docks right over the pilings.  On Tuesday after the storm we approached the docks with more than a little trepidation.  Symphony was unscathed as were all the other boats in the marina.  (Brewer's Glen Cove).  Although we had no power at home we had our batteries, solar power, and engine on the boat to generate power.  Best of all, we have an Espar diesel heater aboard, installed thanks to the ingenuity of Jay Lesynski of Merri-Mar Yacht Basin in Newburyport, MA.

We moved aboard Symphony in the marina.  After a few days of cloudy weather and about 3 hours of engine time the Marina's electric service was restored.  We plugged in and have been here for 10 days. We've used about 12 gallons of diesel fuel.

Our home is frigid but our boat is cozy.  Having lived aboard for 9 months sailing to and from the Bahamas 10 days isn't bad  (but it is BETTER IN THE BAHAMAS!).  Unfortunately, tonight we are experiencing a Nor'easter with thick snowfall and 35kt winds.  The docks are too treacherous to walk on.  We are constantly being startled by loud bangs on the deck.  We have figured that these sounds are caused by falling pieces of ice.  It is so strange to look out the portholes to see snow swirling in the lights and collecting on the deck.  This is a completely new boating experience for us.

The major discomfort right now is caused by all the condensation on the hatches.  When you least expect it you get a nice cold drip on your head or down your neck.  The temperature in the main cabin is about 66 degrees - a little colder in our pullman berth forward - and a whole lot colder in the forward head where you have to be highly motivated to take a shower.  The hot water quickly warms the shower stall so it really is bearable.
This gives you an idea about how difficult it was to get around after the Storm.
Hard to see how electric service can be restored anytime soon.
We have utility crews from Nova Scotia, Alabama, and Massachusetts.
Super Storm Sandy was truly a super storm.  The effects have been long lasting.  Our biggest problem right now is getting gasoline.  The gas stations all have power but no deliveries.  People are waiting on lines outside gas stations overnight hoping that there will be deliveries the next day.