High tide for the trip out of the inlet wasn’t until early afternoon, so I made a point of staying in bed until I was bored of it and then making an oversized dinner for breakfast. I went outside to take in the sunshine knowing it would be too hot for mosquitos or no-see-ums and was immediately beset upon by a very aggressive variety of deerfly. Rather than hanging out and waiting for my guard to be down for a chance at a bite like other biting flies, these little terrors immediately attacked as soon as I came through the door. They were like angry bees and their bite was very painful. I retreated back inside, armed myself with my trusty fly-swatter and came back out swinging. The only thing good about these flies were that they were slow enough to be easy to swat. I would attack every one I could see for about ten minutes. This gave me five minutes of relative peace and quiet until the next swarm found me. I repeated this cycle until the tide was high enough to leave.
I followed my inbound GPS track and the trip out of the inlet was uneventful. The depth and buoy placements had absolutely no correlation to the chart. I couldn’t help but think I could have navigated just as effectively and a lot more cheaply with a road atlas to tell me which gap was which inlet, and then finding my way in with buoys or by following a local. Prudence wouldn’t let me do it, though.
Once I was clear of the breakers in the open sea, I was thrilled to turn downwind and have a fast, comfortable sail along the coast. Since the wind was coming from seaward, it also had no bugs. I watched the sunset and the moonrise. I made a pot of coffee and was perfectly contented watching the lights on shore slowly scroll by and the mast tracing irregular patterns in the field of stars above.
A ship passed a little farther offshore, prompting me to take an inventory of coastal shipping on our AIS. I was surprised to find that one of the targets several miles back was tagged as the Irish Sea. They were still way over the horizon. The Irish Sea is the oceangoing tug where our former roommate Angie serves as Assistant Engineer. The AIS predicted that they would be overtaking me in about three hours. On my next position update text to Maryanne, I added a little note about Angie’s boat.
The wind increased through the night, boosting my speed and keeping the time of our closest point of approach steady at three more hours. Just after midnight, my phone rang. It was Angie. She had received a message from Maryanne when she started her watch and was calling from the bridge, where she reported she could see me on radar. She told me they had been underway non-stop since Houston and this was the first good weather they’ve had since.
I spent the wee hours of the morning engaged in a futile John Henry style race between my wind-powered boat and a tug driven by two huge locomotive engines. The constant trimming helped keep me awake and I was holding my own respectably until I got close enough to shore to be in the wind shadow of Sandy Hook, when my speed started falling. The Irish Sea was now getting noticeably bigger and closer.
I held them off by taking the shallower South Channel as a shortcut towards the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. When I rejoined the main channel, they were only a couple of tug-and-barge lengths behind me. I called Angie to tell her about our upcoming meeting. She works in the engine room and would not have been able to keep track of me from there. While still on the phone with me, I could see her come out on the lower deck and start snapping pictures of Begonia (None of them came out. It was too dark and there was too much motion). We eventually got close enough that we could have easily tossed a tennis ball back and forth.
The Irish Sea is a huge boat, particularly while pushing a barge. The upper bridge, from where the tug is steered while in harbor, is probably thirty feet above Begonia’s masthead. As they passed, The Irish Sea blocked my wind and I slowed down. I expected the passing to go quickly, but it seemed to be taking forever. Angie suggested I get on the radio with the guy at the helm and find out what was going on.
Night time meetup with The Irish Sea
It turned out his plan had been to get a good look at me, then to drop back and pass behind me to anchor on our right. My slowing down was messing up his plan. I had no way to speed up, but I told him I had enough room and wind to turn toward him and pass close behind since Angie reported that the engines were at idle. He seemed happy with that plan. I made my turn. Once I was on the upwind side, I picked up speed and was able to pass them at the same distance on their left before they peeled off for the anchorage. When they did, I high-tailed it out of the channel to make way for the steady stream of shipping coming up astern.
About half an hour later, after passing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, a cruise ship very brusquely ordered me to turn to starboard to give him more room. I was already well out of the channel in twelve feet of water, which I’m sure wasn’t even close to what they needed, but I made a point of turning as far as I dared without jibing just so that my predicted course on their radar would leave no doubt that I would be any where near the deep water channel. I was ¾ of a mile to starboard of the ship in front of him.
When he passed me, he called me back and went on a long rant about how I had come so close to that tug that it looked on radar that I was their barge. This is a busy harbor and I need to stay away from shipping, etc. I thanked him for his advice periodically, but it only seemed to encourage him to rant more. He finally shut up when I explained that the tug and I knew each other and we were taking pictures of each other, I wasn’t just some clueless sailor oblivious to shipping. When he passed, I saw that the cruise ship was the exact same ship Maryanne and I had seen in Santorini almost exactly a year earlier aboard Footprint. By then, any urge I had to “catch up” had been squashed.
They pulled into the cruise ship piers just past Chelsea, I continued to 79th St Basin. By then, the sun was up. I called the dockmaster to find out which mooring he wanted me to use. He told me they no longer allowed catamarans to use their moorings. This was a shock. We had stayed there on Footprint and Prydwen and had always had the company of a few catamarans. He seemed apologetic and offered to let me anchor on either side of the mooring field if I could find a spot I liked. I tried for a while, but I eventually couldn’t. The shelf was too steep to give me any confidence in the strong current.
Defeated and exhausted, I called Maryanne for help. 79th St. is New York’s only reasonably priced option during the April to October season. Moorings there were $180/week. Liberty Landing Marina had previously told us the rate was $5.25/foot/day with no weekly or monthly discount. Other marinas were similar. Maryanne made a few phone calls and was eventually able to get us a slip in the marina where we planned to winter. The rest of the month would cost as much as the whole winter. That was actually a bit of a deal considering the other alternatives, so she told them to expect me. Sweetly, she also told them to help me tie up and to let me go right to sleep when I got there. She would handle the bill later when she joined me.
I showed up just as it started blowing hard and pouring rain. I got tied up without incident and was soon enjoying a fitful sleep in the lurchiest, swelliest marina I have ever docked.
I awoke late afternoon when Maryanne arrived from the apartment and emerged to have a look around. The first person we met was the guy in the boat next door, Nick. Nick is short for Nickolai. We became immediate friends when we bid him “Kalispera” and he noticed the Athena nameplate on Begonia, his hometown.
Nick turned out to be the best guy we could have ended up alongside. The jerking back and forth in the marina was severe enough to worry us about the possibility of having our cleats torn out of the deck. Nick’s boat and many others nearby were equipped with several robust looking springs between docklines and dock. We asked about them and it turns out he manufactures them. He had another lot coming in from the factory tomorrow and he would see that we got some. We augmented them with new, stretchier docklines and a few more sturdy fenders. We now ease to a stop rather than jerking in all but the worst cases. The swell turns out to be caused entirely by wakes on the Hudson. At night when the ferries stop, the marina is calm and comfortable. During the day when they’re running, not so much.
Night time Manhattan skyline view from Begonia
Apart from the omnipresent daytime swell, Maryanne and I love our new neighborhood. We are right across the river from the Empire State Building, which is lit up with different colors almost every night. We have a million-dollar view right from our cockpit. Our neighborhood is beautiful and vibrant and if we want more excitement, Times Square is only one bus stop away. As Maryanne and I take exploratory evening walks, she is constantly interrupting the conversation to beam at me and proclaim again and again, “I really like it!”