Thursday, September 25, 2008
The weather since we arrived in Norfolk has moved from Summer to Fall/Autumn, and now we have a Nor'easter set in for a few days - enough rain, and an exceptional high tide, to flood the boat yard we are in. We're keeping an eye on things and don't expect it to get high enough to float us (Let's hope we got that maths correct). We will of course have to pull out our wellies!
With exceptionally heavy rain today we just loafed in the dry boat, but the previous day we did a WHOLE LOAD of jobs from the maintenance list; all made easier with the boat out of the water: changing the drive leg oil, greasing the through hulls, cleaning and waxing the hulls, that kind of thing (Oh the boat life!).
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
[Maryanne]Just look at my husband.. How could you ask for more? No seriously: here's a guy that can have fun, doesn't take himself too seriously (those teeth are mini-marshmallows!) and even in jest is pretty good looking.
But enough of that slushy stuff. I know I've not posted in a few days, so just wanted to check in, let you know we are all fine. We've been working hard and running around with various projects for the boat and our next long journey (Just-in-case Medical supplies, bottom painting, etc) and of course trying to catch up with friends too.
Angie could not join us but she made us Dinner last night (Sushi - WOW! Thanks Angie).
Despite having to-do lists that seem to grow faster than I can tick them off, I met up with Liz (friend from my EMT days), and together we spent some time volunteering for the Obama campaign this week. I was very proud of myself, but totally humbled by the many folks that seem to have given up work completely, traveled across country and thrown themselves into 20 hour days working for change. Virginia is a critical swing state, although I will be voting from Arizona, my official home. This will be my first presidential election as an American citizen, I'm very excited and am desperate to see that we can have a democratic President, especially one so eloquent and obviously intelligent as Barack - one we won't have to feel embarrassed about on the international stage.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Finally we managed to meet up with our good friends Kate and Mark, and were spoilt with great food and company (and spent a couple of hot nights at their home, with air conditioning), celebrating the joint birthdays of Maryanne and Mark. AND becuase we arrived so much earlier than we dared to hope, we also got to meet up with our good friend Angie.
Cool Mark and manic Maryanne prepare to eat our Birthday Cake - made by the wonder cook Kate - it was Yummy!
A busy and friendly welcome to Portsmouth, the place that was home for so long. It's great to be back. Now however we have a HUGE list of jobs to get done, and a host of friends to visit with, before we set off for our next leg. Hopefully we manage to mix work and pleasure in the right proportions. :-)
Farewell New York
[Kyle] The weather forecasts for the trip from New York City to Portsmouth, VA indicated that we would have a two and a half day window of nice tailwinds once a cold front went through on Tuesday night, the day after I arrived home from work. This gave us an unexpected part of a day in the city before getting a quick pre-departure nap. We had a handful of jobs to complete in order to put Footprint in offshore mode. We got through those in pretty short order and just as we were walking out the door, the skies opened up and it just dumped. We continued on, doing every possible indoor job until there was nothing left but to step across the line into the pouring, splattering rain when we both looked at each other and simultaneously decided that nothing we were going to do had any appeal whatsoever anymore, so maybe we should just stay in.
Something else we had planned to do didn't work out either. The night before, I had been really looking forward to taking a helicopter from Newark airport into Manhattan to get home from work. As airline crew, I get a discount with one caveat: there had to be a full fare passenger or at least two at the airline rate on board the eight seat helicopter for the flight to leave. By the day of departure, no one had booked. I called Maryanne, who was doing research at Columbia University and left a message saying that if she got done early enough and she wanted to join me on the helicopter ride she could take the train to Newark and we could take the helicopter home. Well, dear woman that she is and knowing how much I was looking forward to it, she rushed through everything and raced toward the airport. Once she got there, we were told that the guy I spoke to earlier had misinformed us and they would only go if a full fare passenger booked in the next fifteen minutes, which was not likely. Now worried about losing the favorable current for the row back to Footprint in the dinghy, we raced back to the train station in order to get back to the boat in time, which we did just barely.
It poured and poured all afternoon from low, gray, depressing clouds while the wind howled from the southwest. In order to make the most of the small weather window and the current, we had to leave two hours before the forecast frontal passage into the teeth of the wind on faith that the forecast would be right. Like leaving Portsmouth five months before, conditions seemed miserable for going to sea. I got a bit of deja vu from the last time we left New York in Prydwen in 2003, also in a downpour, also thinking this was nuts.
We tacked a couple of times to get through the Verrazano Narrows bridge just as it got dark. I went off watch for some sleep and before I even drifted off, I could hear Maryanne easing the sheets and feel the motion smooth out. The tailwind had arrived. The wind had been forecast to clock from northwest to northeast during the passage, so rather than follow a direct route that would have kept us within sight of shore, we made a long, curving arc that eventually took us sixty miles offshore, but let us keep the same fast point of sail the whole way.
By the time I came back on watch at 1 a.m., the tops of the bridge and the buildings of Manhattan were still just visible over the horizon, but not for long.
The whole sail itself was pretty uneventful. We stayed on the same point of sail pretty much the whole way and it was usually cloudy so at night there were no stars to see. On the second day in the early morning, A pod of dolphins and yellowfin tuna came racing up to the boat, jumping out of the water. They seemed to be more interested in feeding than visiting and quickly left.
We passed through the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel on Maryanne's watch just as it got dark the second night and finally tied up in Portsmouth at 4 a.m., feeling strangely like we've been gone for both a long time and hardly at all.
[Maryanne]The sail was quite uneventful, and the passage relatively quick, so either we are getting used to it, or it really was an easy passage for a change. We arrived in Portsmouth and hung out at the Town Dock for a few days, while busy performing research and cost benefit analysis of where best to stay for what perks (free anchorage, but row ashore and pay $12 a day dinghy dock - or pay for a dock and be able to step ashore and make use of permanent power?). Eventually we went with a dock at our previous home of Ocean Marine.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Saturday the rain held off longer than expected. I'm not quite sure what I had expected of the area ashore, but on a quick inspection it seemed WAY more interesting than I could have hoped for. I collected my bicycle and went for a tour. I started off heading for the College Point area - here Chinatown begins for the district of Flushing, it is also FULL of single shack car mechanics (I wish I'd taken a picture, it was hard to believe there would be enough cars to keep them all busy) - all with signs mostly in Chinese (We'll how would I know? but definitely covered with those Chinese looking symbols! I'm assuming). I eventually found a route to the park, but all the while being "redirected" by swarms of traffic police. Something big was happening and I had no idea what, I thought it might be a Mets game. Once at the park the event became clear, it was the US Tennis Open - and the place was packed with people arriving for the day's tournaments. Large areas of park lawn were temporary corporate hospitality tents; police were everywhere. The park had gone into winter mode (paddling pools drained, etc) the museums appeared closed, but I managed to cycle around and between most of it. I especially liked this huge globe!
The weather was threatening, and it was too early to eat. Other Gemini owners had recommended Chinatown, but I didn't want to hang around too long and risk the weather, they also suggested the golf, but despite finding at least 3 golfing (pitch and putt) places in the park, I didn't feel there was much fun in playing on my own. I made my way back to the boat to wait out the rain, and the coming storm. The storm was pretty much a non-event; I'm now pretty sure I didn't need to move.
So today, I made my way back; this time with the luxury of picking the right tides and slack water for the most dangerous parts of the route. There was a little challenge as I heard the SECURI-TAY on the radio that the Hudson river (the bit I needed to pass through to get back to the mooring) was going to be closed for several hours for the NY Super Boat Grand Prix Race. I was sailing and it looked as though I'd make it through before the river closed, but don't you know it, the wind died on me with 3 police boats and a coast guard cutter trailing me! I had to motor to get out of the security zone before I was in trouble.
I'm back on our mooring ball, and managed to get one a little closer to the Marina today, so tomorrow's row won't be so tough.
Although I'm a little frustrated about being asked to move, I'm also really pleased, it forced me to take the boat on my own, further, and in more challenging conditions that I would have done if left to my own pace - I made it there and back, all on my own - I feel my boat confidence has just risen at least 5 notches (lots) on some imaginary scale. Very happy. I still want Kyle to come home though, so I can resume my more leisurely role on the boat :-)
Friday, September 05, 2008
However, having been specifically asked to move (and offered a free dock) we felt we had to move. Since Kyle was at work, I got to move the boat (good Job I had that recent practice in Boston!)
It took me over 5 hours to get here, but I made it, I'm safe, the boat is well tied up and I don't have to row to shore. It is supposed to be very heavy rain from this evening onwards, but if there is a break I'll explore the area. I'm right next to the Mets stadium, and close by to La Guardia airport. Once the storm has passed through I'll return to the mooring, hopefully in time for Kyle to return from work.
The next day Kyle wanted a run in the nearby Central Park; so we grabbed my bike and I joined him. We have both been to NY several times before and I don't even feel guilty that we didn't rush around, do a show, and all that jazz. It was nice to spend some time exploring together without any schedule (except the tides!).
The marina (79th Street Basin) has gone a little up market since we last were here, we now have a shower and a washing machine and dryer available - Whoa! Otherwise it is much the same, and pretty rough (but such a great location!). Lots of the long term marina residents live and work in NY and have done for years; many of the boats are a little the worse for wear, and owners have improvised a LOT - e.g. this floating deck tied to the back of one of the house boats (Lots of points for recycling the surf boards!).
Thursday, September 04, 2008
We Made It!
[Kyle] So we finally got to start at a normal time of day (11 a.m.) for the last day to New York. The day was beautiful and clear and the wind was blowing just the right direction for us. We left Larchmont Harbor under sail. We had everything out and we were chugging along nicely for about...oh....a minute. Then the wind clocked around to a direction that wasn't completely bad for the trip except for this one little clump of rocks we had to get around first. We spent the next 15 minutes thinking we might make it. No, wait. We're definitely not going to make it. Well...actually, we might make it. Eventually, we decided we could just baaarely make it, so we gybed everything around (we were using our screacher, which is wonderful for its great size but is not so user friendly in close quarters situations) because we don't like cutting things that close.
We sailed across to the other side of the sound, which at that point is only about 3 miles wide, redid everything back the way it was in the first place and went gliding by the rocks in safety. Then the wind did a couple of staggering circles around us before dying completely. Man, that's what we get for leaving later. the wind had been steady and strong all morning until then. We could still see Larchmont!
So...fine! We'll use the engine! Actually, the breeze generated by our forward motion felt pretty good on the hot, now windless day.
We got just past LaGuardia airport and the wind came up again! Yay, wind! Maryanne, get everything back out, we're sailing again! Well, as you could imagine, all dem buildin's create quite a lot of turbulence, so we had wind reversals, dead spots, strong spots, everything. Our average wind was good but we were incredibly busy setting and resetting the sails. We were both (well, okay, mostly Maryanne but I was doing my part, too and someone had to steer) running from one side of the boat to the other and as soon as everything was set, we'd have to do something else. Steering was especially difficult because we were going through....dun, dun, dun...HELL GATE! Hell Gate is a part of the East River that all of Long Island Sound tries to drain through and the currents are fierce (we saw 6 knots at times). This meant that we were just zinging past Manhattan, trying to negotiate the river and its bridges, dodging ferries and water taxis, all while performing constantly changing sailing maneuvers. Ooh, it was fun!
Kyle Sails through Hell Gate
Then the wind died down and started swinging all over the place again. At first this was merely irritating. The second twenty seconds, it got frustrating. Then, with the help of a geometric increase in the ferry traffic (we were drifting past the terminal) it started to become stressful, then frightening. We weren't moving through the water anymore. I couldn't even keep the boat pointed in the direction we were heading. The only plus was that we were still going six knots in the general direction we wanted to go.
We rounded The Battery at the South end of Manhattan and ended up directly in the teeth of both the wind and the Hudson river ebb current. No more sailing. Honestly, with all of the traffic, it was a relief to get the sails out from blocking huge fields of view and to make the boat go where I pointed it.
Killing time while the current reduced a bit, we motored over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island before topping up our tanks at a marina and heading to our mooring just as it got dark.
[Maryanne]First a little about our whole journey from Boston - NY. For me it was a GREAT journey. We mostly arrived where we were going in daylight and several times before noon - that never happens; wind and currents were unusually favorable for the most part, and although we had some early starts, arriving so early where we were headed made it all seem pleasant - like a holiday.
Arriving in NY is an obvious highlight, this is our second time here by boat (previously in Prydwen) and it is (as you might imagine) a special (and very large) city. It has lots of waterfront, and as we entered from Long Island Sound and the East River, and moored in the Hudson River, we saw plenty of Manhattan (from both sides). We saw plenty of the "usual" boat traffic: jet skis, power boats, luxury cruisers, ferries, taxis etc. but we also saw plenty of less common (to us) transportation modes: gondolas, helicopters, air-ships (blimps), and sea planes - it is a very busy city.
When we anchored in Larchmont, we arrived just ahead (and gave away a great anchor spot) to a large motor vessel called the Blue Guitar. Later we discovered it is owned by Eric Clapton (Kyle had to remind me what band he played in!); I spied with my binoculars (could not help myself) and saw Eric hanging out on his boat, and being whisked off to shore (presumably for lunch) and back. We were surprised to see the Blue Guitar leave before we left Larchmont, and then discover it also at 79th street Boat Basin where we are moored. I hope they don't think we are following them (although that would hardly be possible at our speed)!
There were plenty of highlights on the trip, but mostly (for me) it was the time spent hanging out, enjoying good food and great views with my wonderful husband, Kyle.
One final picture - Kyle was hoping this was a bug free marina - but it turned out the nets were for a city driving range for golfers!
Monday, September 01, 2008
Our anchorage is off a beautiful park with lovely stone buildings and manicured paths leading around big boulders to the beach. The harbor is full of moorings so we are basically just anchored in the open sound, but it's relatively narrow here and we have good protection from the waves while keeping a nice breeze for the night.
[Kyle] We left Duck Island just before 4 a.m. during the new moon. It was dark, but it was clear, and for the first time in 5 days we had real wind. I only made Maryanne get up long enough to help me with the anchor, then she went back to bed. Once the sails were unfurled, Footprint dug in her port hull and shot across the widest part of the Sound. It was just like day 1. We had our biggest sails just a couple of knots under their limits and we just flew! No bugs, just going fast in the direction we wanted to go! it was great! What had been planned as a nine or ten hour trip took less than six.
We arrived on the Long Island side of the Sound just before 10 a.m at Port Jefferson. The harbor was about the same size as the one on Block Island and already almost as full. The weather was so clear that we could see Connecticut on the other side of the sound clearly. It was so crisp that nothing had any depth, visually. It all looked like it was right in front of us. Those days are pretty rare out East. Being a beautiful Labor Day Saturday, the harbor was packed with all sorts of water stuff going on. There were dingies zooming around, people being towed from boats on various water toys, sailboats of all sizes under sail, fishermen trolling, kayaks, you name it. The beaches were full of people playing and splashing around. the piers had people fishing from them. We watched a beautiful sunset from the cockpit with a nice glass of wine. A pretty good day.
[Maryanne]We have been practicing with our sextant every day during this trip, and made pretty much every mistake you can (especially with the many calculation steps) - finally today we got a good sight (while underway in rough seas) and Kyle triumphed with a calculation getting us no more than 1.5 miles off position. Not exactly GPS accuracy, but we were very happy.
Also since we ended up with the afternoon to spare, Kyle decided the bottom needed cleaning AND he managed to get a nap in (well deserved, as mostly he lets me sleep in or return to bed once the anchor is up).
[Kyle] Our next morning leaving Fisher's Island we had to get up really early. We left at 4 a.m. There was a little bit of wind and we had a strong current helping us along. We also, not surprisingly, had the whole place to ourselves, at least for a while. It rained off and on all day but we never did see any appreciable wind. We had so much help from the current that at the end of the 22 mile trip, our knot meter said that we had only gone through 12 miles of water to get there.
We arrived at Duck Island, CT just as the current started to change and then increase. With a speed of 50 feet per minute (that was our real speed) we crept up on a good spot and dropped the anchor. I was so pleased. We managed to sail the entire day without starting the engine. I had my doubts during that nail biting last part.
Maryanne wasn't so happy. From up at the bow, she could see that our trip line had become tangled in our rode and prudently wanted to pull the whole mess up and start all over. As she was untangling, I was trying in vain to get the sails to bite and get the boat moving and under control before we were carried by the current into the boat behind us or blown by the wind into the breakwater. Eventually, I had to start the engine to keep things from getting worse. I was so disappointed. The streak had been broken. Oh, well. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Duck Island is really just a clump of dirt and trees with long breakwaters extending away to the north and west. It was Labor Day weekend officially now and the whole little island and anchorage was filled with people who, from the sounds of it, were enjoying their first beer.
Breakfast pastries from Aldo's delivered to the boat
[Kyle] Our morning started off well. As we were preparing to leave in the morning quiet, we heard a call: "AN-diamo, andia-MOOOO!,AN-diamo, andia-MOOOO!" It was Aldo's Floating Bakery - a skiff with breakfast that comes right to your boat. Even though we had already eaten, we got some stuff for the "road".
Weaving our way in and out of boats with people getting ready for the day, we saw a ferry come in with somebody on the top deck running on a treadmill going through what I guess was their morning routine.
Once out into the sound, Maryanne spotted a flipper of some kind in the water. It didn't look like a shark. Our best guess was that it was a wingtip on some kind of ray. When we finally snuck up on it, it turned out to be the fin of a huge Ocean Sunfish. The guy was about as big around as a breakfast table and with the fins was about as wide as the boat and almost a foot thick. It gave us a cute, dopey, scared look and dove before we could get a picture. Upon resuming our course, we hooked another Striped Bass, Which had Maryanne grinning from ear to ear, chuffed at being able to provide for us again.
A third day of slow speeds from light winds got us to the Watch Hill Passage to the East of Fisher's Island, NY late and at just the wrong time for the current. The wind finally came up just as we got there but we needed sails and the engine to make it through at about a slow walk. We anchored in West Harbor on Fisher's with only a handful of other boats. It was nice to have some peace and quiet along with expansive views of Fisher's Island Sound.
[Kyle] Our next day to Block Island was a repeat of the practically windless day before. At some point, we got descended upon by biting flies. I've never understood why in the middle of a body of water 20 miles wide, there are suddenly hundreds of these horrible little monsters waiting to attack as soon as the wind dies down. The same thing happens on the Chesapeake and in the Great Lakes. I'm sure they just rest on top of the water on the surface tension for some unsuspecting boat to come by, but where do they go when it's windy? Plus, that's an awful long trip for a fly to make when there is no wind. Anyway, Battle of the Flies - very ugly, we lost.
As we approached Block Island, it became apparent from the trajectories of all the other boats in sight that they were all heading there too. There isn't anything else within miles of it. When we finally entered the harbor at Great Salt Pond, We saw what must have been 2000 boats moored and anchored in the harbor. Even though it was only Thursday, the Labor Day weekend had already started here. We were pretty exhausted from the early start, the battle and all of the blood loss so we just followed our usual strategy of finding a place too shallow for anybody else to want and relaxed for the rest of the day. Going ashore and joining the mob scene had no appeal.
[Kyle] By the second day out from Boston the winds were still from a favorable direction but much less strong. We spent much of our time crawling along on a flat sea in wind that we could barely feel. For most of the day, the current comprised about two thirds of our progress to our next anchorage. Poor Maryanne usually has to put up with getting up at some ridiculous hour because I always plan trips to be with a following current as much as possible. For some reason, these never seem to occur during the middle of the day so the requirement is either get up really early or stay up really late. Since we don't like going into an unusual harbor at night, and since pretty much all the harbors that we go to are unusual for us, really early usually wins. It's not so scary leaving a harbor in the dark of morning that we came into the day before. On days like this one, our planning really pays off because we don't need to resort to the engine in order to make progress against a foul current, particularly if the wind is light or in the wrong direction for us. We can just drift to our destination, which is pretty much what we did.
We arrived just as the tide was changing back at Westport Harbor, Massachusetts, named, I suspect, because it is the westernmost port in Massachusetts. The harbor entrance winds past beautiful beaches and big boulders that are really pretty once you're past them and on the inside. Inside the harbor itself, the currents were strong and variable. Long Island Sound/Buzzards bay has weird tides. Maine has huge tides but they're all pretty much the same at the same time. Chesapeake Bay uniformly has small tides and pretty weak currents. Here in Long Island Sound, it's not unusual for two harbors that are right next to each other to have dramatically different tidal ranges. This causes all of the water to slosh back and forth much more rapidly than you would expect by just looking at the tidal range.
Anyway, we found a spot over a sand flat with good holding against the current that must have been too shallow for anyone to have considered putting a mooring on and spent the rest of the afternoon watching all of the activity in the harbor. One thing that got Maryanne particularly wound up was a boat with four fisherman on it that kept landing one or two fish every time they went by. All we had that day was one lure with the tail bitten off right behind the hook. Damn!