Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Annapolis MD

We are in Annapolis MD getting ready to continue down the Chesapeake Bay.

We hung out in Atlantic Highlands doing exciting things like shopping at the farmers market.  We got some of the best fresh tomatoes and after a quick run to the store for bacon we have been eating a lot of BLT’s.  Cori had an opportunity to catch up with one of her co-workers and I got to do problem solving with the outboard.  After bringing Cori to shore I was on my way back to the boat when the outboard just quit, sort of like running out of gas.  It would restart then kill.  I knew I had at least a half tank of gas so that couldn’t be it.  I was lucky to get a tow back to the boat then started thinking it through.  For some reason if the tank was more than half full it would run.  We had a problem with the fuel pump last winter and had not replaced it since it was running fine.  I decided that it was a pump issue and started to look for a pump.  I finally got connected with Gateway Marine.  They had what they thought was the right pump but the part number was different.  Their top mechanic verified that the new part replaced the old one and it was the correct part.  Next problem was they were about 5 miles away and we had no transportation.  Richard Ketchow, the owner drove over to the marina to pick me up and bring me to the shop.  After verifying with the photo I took of the part on the outboard we had a match.  They also made sure that I had a replacement O ring and a replacement screw and washer in case one went overboard.  Then they gave me a ride back to the marina.  That is OUTSTANDING customer service and I greatly appreciate it.  If you are in the Atlantic Highlands area and need help with an outboard five them a call, 723-787-2212.  I am rethinking all of the nasty things I have said over the years about New Jersey.  We had a couple of days of intermittent rain while we were there waiting for a favorable window.  We had a group of boats traveling from Canada come in and anchor around us when unexpectedly a boat that had been there for several days started to drag it’s anchor.  I would like to say thing happened but it and one of the Canadian boats got together and caused some bent parts on both.  The marina was able to contact the owner and bring him out and he got his boat re-anchored securely.  That is one of the big worries, no matter how well you do your job you are under the mercy of other boats around you.  We have spent more time here then we had planned but traveling by boat is all about choosing your weather window.

Monday morning and two things happened: the forecast was favorable for a trip south and it was 56 degrees.  It was time to move south.  The winds were forecast to be 15-20 with winds out of the west to northwest with gusts to 25.  This put it on our beam or slightly behind us with the wind coming off the land and only building 2-3 foot waves.  We pulled anchor motored out of the bay and set sail.  We had several inlets that we could duck into but we were planning to go all of the way to Cape May, the mouth of the Delaware River, in one shot.  We had a great sail all day and during the night we fired up the motor when the winds dropped.  We continued to motorsail through the night and arrived at Cape May at sunrise.  As the sun came up we motored into the harbor, passed through and caught the Cape May Canal into the Delaware.  Going up the river the winds were light and on the nose so we motored up the river and anchored near the entrance to the D & C canal.  In the morning we slept late to catch up on sleep and to wait for a favorable current.  At noon we entered the canal and motored through into the Chesapeake Bay and anchored for the night in the Sassafras River riding a favorable current all of the way.  In the evening we got the charts for the Bay out and started planning the next couple of days.  We planned to stop another night before going into Annapolis but once we were underway we decided to continue on.  We need the boats bottom cleaned and we started making calls to dive services to find someone available.  We found one that could “maybe” get to us on Monday.  We planned to stay over the weekend so that was not a problem.  We arrived in Annapolis and motored up the river to Weems Creek.  We had heard that the cost of the moorings in Annapolis had gone up so we were looking for a place to anchor.  It turns out that the Navy has moorings in Weems Creek that they use for hurricanes and they are available for use.  We tied to one of their moorings and settled in.

Saturday morning we walked to Enterprise to pick up our rental car and as we walked by the stadium we discovered that they were playing ECU that afternoon.  Once we had the car we made a run to Bacon and Fawcett’s, two marine supply stores, Trader Joe's and then to Red Hot and Blues for ribs.

Sunday, the 20th, we planned to make a trip into Washington DC.  September 20 is the anniversary of my brother’s death while serving in Vietnam.  Being this close to Washington I wanted to make a trip to the Wall.  I have visited there many times when I am in the area but this was the first time to be there on the day.  It is always a moving experience.  We walked over to the WWII Memorial then back to the car and drove over to Georgetown for lunch then back to Annapolis.

Monday Cori took the rental car to Glenn Burnie to pick up a replacement solenoid for our starter.  The present one is causing a problem.  It is a hard part to find and we have found prices run from $50-300.  Obviously I am not going to pay that high of a price.  One shop we called looked it up and said there was no way they would sell it to me for that price.  An honest dealer, he knew that what his catalog showed him was far more then it was worth.  He did give me the name of a shop to call.  They have the part, just under $50 but they are not open on Saturdays.  The diver was going to try to make it later in the day and clean the bottom.  We didn’t hear from him until the end of the day and he will put us on the list for first thing Wednesday.  Cori got back at lunch time and after lunch I started on the starter problem.  I was able to get the solenoid loose from the starter but not off of it.  Next I tried removing the starter.  There are three bolts and one is just about impossible to reach.  By adding extensions onto the socket wrench I was able to get to the last bolt and remove it.  Now that the starter was off life was going to be better.  When I compared the two solenoids side by side there was a difference. One had three connections and the new one had four.  I called the dealer and he explained that that particular solenoid came in two versions, if my old one had three connections I just had to use those connections and didn’t need the fourth.  I decided to trust him and reinstalled everything and made the electrical hookups with only one bright flash when I shorted the battery cable.  We gave it a try and it all works.  The real test will be when we try starting with a less than full battery charge which is when we were having the problem.

Tuesday and it is overcast again with a threat of rain later in the day.  We took the dinghy to shore and walked up to the coffee shop to use their WiFi.  The forecast is better for traveling on Wednesday so we are planning to continue on once the diver has the bottom clean.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Atlantic Highlands NJ

We are in Atlantic Highlands NJ, just inside an area called Sandy Hook.  We are staged here to wait for a weather window to take us offshore to Cape May and the Delaware River.

We left the Thimble Islands on Wednesday 9/2/15 with plans to stop for the night at Port Jefferson on Long Island.  With the winds on the nose we decided to change our course and move further west to Huntington Harbor.  If we have to motor we might as well get as far each day as we can.  This is the payback for the leisurely downwind sails we had going east, now we need to go against the prevailing winds.  Last time we went all of the way into Huntington Harbor to anchor but this time we stayed at a nice pond off of the entrance with about 12 feet of water and protection from all directions.  We saved several hours by not going into the harbor and we had better protection.  In the morning we took our chances with the tide and motored out of the pond, with about 3-4 feet of water under the keel and headed back to Port Washington.

The trip to Port Washington was uneventful, no wind and flat calm water.  Once into the Bay we picked up one of the moorings and settled in.  Friday we were planning to take the train into NYC but just as we got ready to get into the dinghy it started to rain.  We called off the trip and spent the morning on the boat.  In the afternoon we went to town for groceries and then back to the boat to relax (nap).  I wasn’t too sure about going into the city on a holiday weekend but Saturday morning we decided to go anyway.  We caught the train in then took the subway to the South Side Seaport.  There is a ship there called The Peking which is rather famous.  It is one of the last of the steel hulled clipper ships.  We had seen a movie about the ship and took the opportunity to go aboard for a tour.  Once we finished there it was pass lunch time and I wanted to go back to Katz’s for another pastrami sandwich.  Instead of catching the subway we walked there.  This took us through Chinatown and the Bowery.  I really like walking around in Chinatown, everything they sell there is so interesting.  At Katz’s there was a long line but it moved quickly and we got to know a nice couple from Boston and had lunch with them.  From there we went to the 911 memorial and then down to Battery Park to see the new carousel.  We have seen a lot of carousels this trip since many towns have them but this was the firdt with fish instead of horses.  From there it was subway to Grand Central and a walk to Times Square to watch people.  From there we walked to Penn Station for our trip back to Port Washington.  A lot of walking but there is a lot to look at.

On Sunday morning I took the dinghy to a marina to buy some gas and get advice on where to anchor.  Port Washington offers free moorings for 48 hours and we were beyond that.  We needed to move off the ball or start paying.  This is a no-brainer for me, I am a cheap sailor.  We dropped the mooring and moved up the bay and anchored.  We had a lot of company, this being a holiday weekend, and a lot of locals take their boats to the area and anchor and raft up for the day and play in the water or just kick back on their water loungers.  The entertainment at the end of the day was watching a sailboat drag their anchor.  Normally this would not be funny but these guys deserved it and they didn’t cause any damage.  When they came in he chose the spot, told her to drop the anchor, backed up and at some point yelled for her to cleat it off.  I doubt very much that he actually knew how much rode he had out and what his final scope was  (how much anchor line in relation to the water depth).  Then three friends came out to tie up with him and spend the day.  Mid-afternoon the wind shifted 180 degrees and the tide came in, an additional 7 feet of water.  The wind shift meant that the pressure on the anchor was wrong and it would have to either hold as is or turn itself around and reset.  The extra weight from the boats rafted together and the extra depth from the incoming tide caused the anchor to come loose and could not reset.  Four boats tied together floating away.  It was quite the fire drill watching them scramble to get everything disconnected and the floating toys brought aboard.  Karma will probably get me for laughing but I’ll take the hit when it happens.

Monday was a quiet day, Cori took the Kayak to town and I chilled out on the boat.  We planned to leave on Tuesday but stayed another day to give us better currents while going through NYC.  We went to town to send off some mail, do a little shopping and have lunch.  Then it was back to the boat to get ready for the next day.

We got up early get started, we had a schedule to keep if we were going to make the trip down the East River.  The currents in the area called Hell Gate are severe, running over 4 knots at its highest and there are only a couple of times a day when you want to pass.  We made it through Hell Gate with only one problem, the autopilot locked up and would not let me steer when we had to make the dog-leg turn.  Quickly dropping down below to turn it off solved the problem.  What caught us by surprise was the current and sea-state after that.  The river splits when it gets to Roosevelt Island and with the wind on the nose we had 2-3 foot waves to beat through, not something I was expecting.  Going with the current pushing us an extra 1.5-2 knots it was a rough ride.  Once past the island things calmed down again and we had an uneventful passage down the harbor and across to Sandy Hook.  We proceeded down to Atlantic Highlands and dropped anchor behind the seawall.  Since we got such an early start we still had a lot of the day left so we took the dinghy to town.  After wandering around for a while and nothing else to do we stopped at a barbecue place for a couple of orders of ribs.  Once out of the restaurant we hurried back to the boat to get things closed up before the rain arrived.  It rained most of the evening and off and on during the night.

This afternoon we took the dinghy back to town for lunch at the bagel shop, bought some fresh roasted coffee from the coffee shop (fresh out of the roaster) and a trip to the grocery store for some eggs and a few other provisions.  It has been raining off and on during the afternoon and evening and is supposed to continue into the weekend.  We are staying here until we get a good forecast for the trip offshore to Cape May and the Delaware River.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In the Thimble Islands

We stayed a couple of extra days in Greenport.  While at Shelter Island I found that the service station next to the docks would refill our propane tanks so on Monday I brought two over to be filled.  I got what I think is a real good deal in that they filled two for what I had been paying for on back in Havelock.  On Monday evening we went back into town for dinner and a free concert in the park.  The return trip to the boat in the dark was uneventful, even when the ferry was shining its light on us.  We decided to leave on Wednesday so on Tuesday we made another trip into town for some special provisions.  I had bought some fresh tomatoes at a farm stand in the town parking lot and we needed to go back for more and a trip to the grocery for bacon and lettuce.

On Wednesday we headed out.  The currents here are strong and I am getting a better handle on timing them so we had an option of leaving at 7:00 am or a little after noon.  We chose noon.  After our BLT’s we headed out to an area called Plum Gut.  If we timed it right with the current we would have an easy pass through, if we got there too early we would be fighting the current and the waves.  We hit it just about right and had an easy passage, then turned to New London.  We had a real nice sail across the sound and tied up to the yacht clubs mooring again.  Dan and Marcia and Sandy and Chuck were excellent hosts taking Cori to stores for provisions, including us in the Friday evening cookout and going walking.  We returned the cruising books we had borrowed and spent our three free days on the mooring.

On Sunday we dropped the mooing line early to take advantage of the currents and headed out again.  We made an attempt at sailing but the wind was not favorable.  We had to tack either out into the middle of the sound or towards shore, neither in the direction we wanted to go.  We ended up motoring most of the way but we were able to charge the batteries and make water along the way.  At the Thimble Islands we had to make a decision on where to anchor.  The cruising guides listed several, the first spot I wanted to check just looked too small for us to have adequate swing room, the second looked good until we hit a rock going in.  This caused some raised heartbeats.  We ended up going into the anchorage area that is reported to have a lot of moorings which makes it hard to anchor among since we swing different when the wind shifts or current switches.  We tried finding a spot at the far end of the anchorage but since it was low tide we went aground, fortunately moving very slowly.  The chart showed more water there then what we found.  As we backed off and started looking for another spot something did not sound right and we had a lot of vibration.  We moved back a little and dropped the anchor.  Things were running and sounding alright until we put it in gear, then it started again.  Something was wrong with the propeller.  It would have to wait until the next day, we had covered 38 nautical miles and it had been a long day.
Monday morning, and it was another beautiful day.  I put on my mask and fins and dove down to check the prop.  I have a buoyancy problem and have to work at diving below the surface instead of just floating.  This makes it hard for me to get under the boat and stay for any length of time.  What I found was a cable wrapped around the propeller and shaft.  We picked it up when we were aground.  I tried several times to dive down and cut it off but was not able to stay under very long and only got a couple of pieces and it was wrapped tight.  Plan B: hire a diver.  We made a number of calls, including one to a marina that told us then could take care of it if we came in.  Unfortunately that was not going to happen since we couldn’t use the engine until the cable was removed.  After several more calls we got the name of a diver and gave him a call.  We explained the situation and got his assurance that he could make it out to us later in the next day or the next.  When he showed up he explained that he had just broken two ribs over the weekend and was not supposed to be working.  He was able to cut all of the cable off, it turned out to be an underwater phone cable, and also cleaned the growth off of the propeller and shaft.  I will upload photos to the gallery later.  If you are in the Stony Creek and Branford CT area and need a diver give Edward Say a call.  We took the dinghy out for a tour of the island and then hung out for the rest of the day.

The Thimble Islands are granite outcroppings uncovered in the last ice age and all but one is privately owned with a variety of houses on them.  According to Ed there is a lady that owns a number of them and is building reproductions of Victorian homes on them.  Some of the housed are spectacular.  According to the Internet, and you know it has to be true if you find it there, Jane Pauley and her husband Gary Trudeau have a house here.  One of the islands has been given to the government and has been converted to a National Wildlife Refuge.

This morning, 9/1/15, we made a run to the refuge and walked the trails.  Now we are back on the boat running the generator, making water and defrosting the freezer.  We plan to leave in the morning when the currents are favorable.