Friday, September 30, 2016

Alligator River Marina - at a dock

Miss Wanda's house
The storm clouds parted this morning enough for us to reach the Alligator River Marina with the famous Miss Wanda. Whenever we visited the marina we would always get a Christmas card from the owner, Miss Wanda. She lives in the house with view of the river by the entrance and now knows us by name.

Surprisingly, we're all alone in the marina
The crossing of the Albemarle is always a little chancy. It's a shallow stretch of water but it's 12 miles wide and can be really nasty with winds over 15 kts. Today was no such day. The winds were 5 to 10 kts and the thunderstorms were all around us but not on top of us. So we had a leisurely start and were the last ones to leave the dock, as usual. We're in no hurry.

A sunset peeking through the woods
We're fond of the Alligator River marina after we had a bad experience several years ago when we anchored out nearby. When we awoke in the morning the boat was covered in "fuzzy bills" which look like mosquitoes but don't bite. If that's all they did it wouldn't have been a problem but when they expired, they left a green goo all over the boat. It took me five hours to clean it off, nothing much would touch it except bleach at full strength. So now we just avoid the problem and take a slip. Many people have no problems. It's only bad if you just happen to hit their spawning time. Otherwise, it's just a pleasant anchorage.

We will head for either the Pungo anchorage or RE Mayo depending on the weather on Saturday and then take another look at Matthew.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Coinjock - at their face dock

Leaving the free dock next to Atlantic Yacht 
Not 65 ft!
We dodged storms all day long but finally got caught in rain as we were approaching Coinjock. The water level seemed higher than normal but it was my first time through so I had no real comparison experience but the bridge clearance was not 65 ft.

I've been in a dialog with several readers on the pros and cons of the Dismal Swamp route vs the Virginia Cut. I put together my personal observations below:

Dockage: Dismal Swamp is free all the way. Coinjock is pretty much the only game in town for a stop over, it's $1.75/ft. If you stop at Atlantic Yacht Basin area you can use the free dock across the way but it's a long trip to go straight through to the Alligator River from there. Besides, I also like visiting Elizabeth City with its free docks too and many restaurants. We're more limited than most since we also need shore access for Hoolie.

Protection from weather: there are long stretches of wide open areas on the Virginia Cut which is not a problem with winds less than 10 kts or even up to 15 but it would get lumpy above that. The Dismal Swamp is very protected.

Depths: No problem for the Cut, an eye opener for the Dismal. We've never gone through the Dismal without hitting something, usually about 3 to up to a dozen and that is with our 4 ft 9 in keel. Mostly they are from logs on the bottom that float up to give you a thump on your keel. This is the biggest negative for the Dismal and the reason you don't see many powerboats there although they do get a fair share.

Scenery: I prefer the Dismal which also has a free park with displays of local animals and plants. You are close to shore all the way through, lots of turtles and an occasional snake in the water and ospreys. The section from the south lock to Elizabeth City is especially beautiful I think.

Rain behind us with rainbows
So there you have it, a thumbnail view. Depends on what you like or what you want to avoid. We'll move on to the Alligator River Marina on Friday and then take a look at the storms. We would like to tuck into RE Mayo for any major storm. It's completely protected and only $0.40/ft.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Great Bridge Free Dock - tied up for the night

Some strange looking ships along the way
The forecast was not good with thunderstorms predicted all day long. However, we looked at the radar and although storms were coming they appeared to move more to the north of us and they were at least several hours off. So we finally got our act together and left around 11:00. 

In the Great Lock, one side has rubber fenders
We had intended going down the Dismal Swamp but it was still closed due to high water from all the recent rain, up to 17 inches we heard. So we passed by the turn off and pointed south. What a difference in depth! There were no worries about hitting something on the bottom. 

The free docks by Great Bridge, what a great place to overnight!
We had intended picking up a dock at Atlantic Yacht Basin but when we arrived they had no room left on the face dock but offered an internal dock without electricity. Then we looked across the canal to the opposite shore and saw what looked like a new dock for a park that allowed overnight docking. Why pay for a dock when you can get one free at the same place? We're starting to like this route. On Thursday we'll head for Coinjock and maybe try their steak. 

PS, I'm using my old XP notebook until I can get my Win10 laptop working again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hampton - Gordon Johnson comes for dinner

View from parking garage
The weather is still not looking good. Thunderstorms are now predicted through Friday. Rain I don't mind so much but rain with lightening is another matter. Every fourth day here is free so there's no particular push to leave. Getting Hoolie to shore in an anchorage is no fun in a thunderstorm.

I still haven't had a chance to work on my laptop. It seems I need to download a Windows 10 image to a USB drive so I can boot my laptop from the USB port. Maybe from there I can undo whatever caused the problem by reverting back to a previous backup, at least I hope so. One wonders whyWindows products have to be so difficult. I'm still working from my iPad.

                          A view of old downtown, many shops and restaurants

Meanwhile we've met several boaters in the marina with the same problem going south. The Dismal Swamp route does not look good  especially with the additional rain expected over the next three days. Even after the water level subsides it will take at least a couple of days for the lock gears to dry out which were under water. We've never been through the Virginia Cut, first time for everything.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hampton - at a dock

The  Virginia Air and Space Museum 
Rain is in the forecast for the next three days so we'll probably be here at least until Friday. Meanwhile I've lost the use of my laptop. After updating to the latest version of iTunes the laptop will not boot into windows. According to the internet I am not alone in this problem but the solution is not obvious so I have my work cut out for me Tuesday. So for the moment, I'm working with the much reduced capabilities of the iPad app.

Meanwhile we provisioned with a trip to the nearest Walmart and I found a replacement house water pump after listening to ominous sounds out of the present one. However, it's still working but it doesn't sound so good so I now have a spare. One cannot be without house water!

The marina is right next to a seven story parking garage which presents a great opportunity for inspecting your upper rigging with a telephoto camer! You're at eye level with the top of your mast. It's apparent that I may need to replace the UHF antenna soon, it looks very corroded.

So Friday looks like our next moving day. After all, why move o days with 70% chance of a thunderstorm!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hampton - at Downtown Hampton Public Piers Marina

For us sailboaters, it always nice to see a sailboat under full sail
As predicted the winds did calm down today but not until the afternoon. After that it was smooth water all the way to Hampton. We have friends in Hampton, Gordon and Etta, how used to own a Beneteau 423 but sold for a trawler which he's currently working on for a cruise next year. We were invited over for dinner which was welcomed. Needless to say, the dinner was great.

It's so great to meet friends along the way south!
Gordon is in the middle of transforming a 44 ft trawler from a boat that used to have a helicopter pad (both previous owners were pilots) to one more suitable for a cruising couple. It is a massive overhaul, one I would not attempt. The boat has active stabilizers when moving and flopper stoppers when at anchor (to prevent rolling at anchor) along with two gensets and more accessories than you can name.

We're settled into the marina for the next three days at $0.75/ft which doesn't dent the pocketbook too much. We'll rent a car Monday for provisioning and key supplies. The Dismal Swamp route is still closed and even when the waters subside they will have to check out the dock motors so it may not be a quick fix. Our other option is to take the Virginia Cut which we may do, we'll decide Wednesday morning.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mill Creek - at anchor, day 2

The shoreline provides oportunities for pet relief
Instead of going from here to Deltaville and then on to Hampton we decided to just stay an extra day here and move on to Hampton on Sunday. It's a 57 Nm trip but we can make it in 8 hours or so. The winds were predicted to be 10 to 15 with gusts to 20 and waves of 2 to 3 feet so we just stayed put. Sunday is supposed to be calmer with 5 to 10 kts of winds and waves of 1 to 2 feet.  Besides, this is a very pleasant anchorage with lots of room and great protection. We were the only one in our cove and Hoolie relief is nearby on a deserted beach.

Meanwhile I had fun with waterworks. I had a leaking fitting and I had been in a marine store and bought every fitting they had - but they didn't have a 3/8 inch female hose connection. Guess which fitting I needed?! So I rummaged around and found a plastic hose connector of the right type and cobbled the connection together. I will need to replace the fitting the first chance I get with a solid brass connection. It's amazing the variety of connections and hoses you may need while underway.

We are all alone in our cove
We'll leave around 8:00 am or so and should be in Hampton by 3:30 pm at Downtown Hampton Public Piers. We heard that the Virginia Cut was just opened but the Dismal Swamp was still closed due to high water. There always seems to be something although I can't complain about the weather. It's much better than last year when it was so cold and rainy.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mill Creek - at anchor

The anchorage has only a few modest homes nearby - it's a  beautiful setting
I had a lifeline give way when a fender got caught between the boat and a piling. I went to see Zahniser's Yachting Center in Solomons for a fix in the spring this year but they didn't have the right part in stock. I visited several places on the way north but I found it remarkably difficult to find the exact, right parts for the repair. Giving up, I brought the assembly back with me south to Zahniser and went for the complete replacement which they completed in 1/2 hour. I have to say that they are very good! They did what they promised and at a reasonable price.

When I reinstalled the lifeline I checked the other lifelines on the boat and to my chagrin, three were missing retaining rings. They could have failed at any time with at least the loss of the end fittings not to mention perhaps putting me overboard if I was leaning against them at the time. So my advice is to check your lifelines to be sure all the fittings have ring retainers in place. It's not something you think of everyday, I certainly didn't.

There's six boats in the anchorage but there's plenty of room
The ride across the mouth of the Potomac will go down as the calmest ever for us. The wind was out of the north at 5 mph with little current, just a perfect passage. We're anchored in Mill Creek and will probably be here Saturday too. NOAA has a small craft advisory issued for Saturday with winds of 10 to 15 and gusts to 20 kts but on Sunday everything is supposed to calm down to 5 to 10 kts out of the north so we plan on reaching Hampton Sunday afternoon. At the moment the ICW is closed on both the Virginia Cut and the Dismal Swamp route due to high water. Hopefully it will subside by Wednesday, our projected departure date from Hampton. There always seems to be something happening on the ICW!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Solomons Island - at anchor by the Holiday Inn

Peaceful anchorage, no crowds
Grib once again was correct. We had a following wind of about 10 kts all the way to the Solomons. We stopped by for fuel at our usual place, the Solomons Island Yacht Club. There was a spot on the dock but it was between a large powerboat and and other boat down the dock. Ann placed Fleetwing into the slot and we refueled. Getting out of tight quarters was another matter. We had a wind pushing us into the dock and we would normally counter that by doing our usual bow in maneuver (see ICW Tips) and backing out. However, the powerboat was much wider than us and I was concerned that we could clear the boat. Adding to the problem was the close spacing of the pilings which interfered with our bow pulpit preventing getting a good angle for reverse. So with that we did the alternate  technique of tying a line from the aft cleat to a mid cleat on the dock and putting the boat into reverse with a large fender between us and the dock. The bow swung out and when it reached 30 degrees or so, Ann put the boat in forward and we escaped the dock.

Douglas and Victoria Peterson
We anchored in our usual spot by the Holiday Inn who has a dinghy dock for pet relief. We were invited over by Douglas and Victoria Peterson for wine on their Catalina 445 so of course we took advantage of the offer and arrived around 4:30. As you expect we traded boating stories and headed back to Fleetwing later on.

Another beautiful sunset along the way south
We are the only boat in the anchorage tonight and we're headed for the Mill Creek anchorage on Friday. We plan on being at Hampton Sunday through Tuesday where we will rent a car and provision. The weather so far has been great for traveling south.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rhode River - at anchor

Flat Island usually used for pet relief (with pickup)
We're the beneficiaries of some very nice weather for going south. The temperatures are in the 70's and the winds are out of the north but no more than 10 kts. We will ride the weather down to Hampton, VA where we will spend a few days and provision. Boat projects are going well. I got the TV antenna to work and in the anchorage we have 68 channels to chose from. With the flat land of the area and the ICW, that's pretty typical.

A new sign was posted
We left this morning at 7:00 to have enough depth to exit the anchorage area. There's a neck of slightly deeper water you have to find (see yesterday's chart) on the way out. After that you just hug the east bulkhead within 10 ft for 8.l MLW. By the way, yesterday's chart of the Chesapeake City anchorage is corrected to MLW. When you chose to compile a chart, you're asked the nearest tide station and the programs automatically corrects all readings to MLW and outputs a chart. It's amazing what modern software and hardware can do. I used Navionics software to do the chart and it's been uploaded to their website for use by anyone with a Navionics app. It should appear under the "Sonar Chart" option. It may take a week to be refined by Navionics but then it should be available to anyone.

Another great sunset
We plan on moving on to Solomons Island on Thursday and anchor by the Holiday Inn. They have a $2/day dinghy dock that we like to use and a completely protected anchorage in 10 ft of water. There's a Food Lion about a mile east and a West Marine about 1/4 mile west. There's also a ton of fast food places and a BBQ place that's not bad. We've got to take advantage of the good weather for going south.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chesapeake City - at anchor

As we exited the canal, we surely wanted to stay away from the main channel for the best current
We went to bed Monday night not encouraged by the weather report of thunderstorms all day long but when I got up at 5:00 am the forecast had completely changed. Now there was no rain predicted and light winds out of the northeast, ideal for going up the Delaware Bay. We made it out of Utsch's Marina at a dead low tide and saw 5.1 MLW on the way out by the bulkhead entrance. That's enough for our 4 ft 9 in keel. Since we were at low tide, the bridge height was plenty at 57.5 ft for our 55.3 ft mast.

Here's a chart of the anchorage I made this afternoon
We've traversed the bay about a dozen times and have found that the ideal time to leave Cape May is on a rising tide just after a low with either no wind or wind from the south. The current in the bay will be turning to give you a boost to Chesapeake City. However, you don't want to immediately go over to the main channel. Anyone who has experience with tides on a river will realize that the current reverses first on the sides of the channel before the middle. So I kept east of the main channel until the power plant for a 0.5 to 1.0 kt boost all the way. The current in the main channel didn't kick in until Reedy Point. As we approached the entrance to the canal we found slack water and it gradually turned in our favor the rest of the way to Chesapeake City. We left Cape May at 6:00 am were anchored by 2:10 pm. By the way, don't ever allow yourself to  be caught in a wind against current situation on Delaware Bay if the wind is above 15 kts. It is not just rough, it's life threatening. The 2 to 3 kt current will produce standing waves that are very short and will break over your bow and down the length of the boat as your bow plunges into green water.

One of the two ACOE boats docked in the anchorage
Our next challenge was in getting through the shallow entrance to Chesapeake City anchorage. The free town docks are no longer used, take one at any time. Of course there's only two feet of water there but if you withstand that, then they are a great bargain. You enter the anchorage by hugging the east bulkhead within 10 ft (not 20 or greater!) for 8 MLW. As you exit the bulkhead, you'll see a white house off your port bow and you can head for that in a gradual turn and a 4.1 MLW passage for about 200 ft.  When abreast of the two ACOE boats at their docks,, turn sharply to port and pass both boats within 20 ft. After you pass the last boat of the two, you are then in the deep water of the anchorage, 8 to 12 ft everywhere, see the chart I made this afternoon for a sounding of the anchorage. All readings are at MLW.

ACOE draft gauge. This is why there's a 4.1 MLW channel!
A fine day capped off by a beautiful sunset
The afternoon enjoyment was watching a small sailboat trying to take a town dock, no dice, too shallow! We're headed for Rhode River on Wednesday with a 7:00 am start to have enough tide to exit the anchorage.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cape May - Still here

We had our 58 ft at low tide today
Oh hum, still in Cape May. Today was nothing but heavy rain, all day long. Our plan is to leave the dock at 6:00 am to make it through the Cape May Canal bridges at low tide. That depends on what kind of day Tuesday turns out to be. If it's like today, we'll sit out yet another day. If it's only drizzle or a light rain, we'll leave. I had at least four inches of rain in the dinghy (lots of bailing). Looking at the radar, there appears to be no letup in the downpour. We've seen all we want to see of Cape May, it's time to move but not in a downpour.

The downside of trailing a dinghy

Meanwhile, I walked out to check the bridge height at low tide and saw 58 ft as expected, even the heavy rains didn't affect the height so we'll have plenty of clearance even with 2 ft of tide. We moved over to a face dock since we only had 2 ft 6 inches at low tide where we were at. When speaking with the dockhand he said that dock was not dredged but the ones on either side were and offered to move us over. We opt'ed for the face dock, easy to get out of by ourselves in the early morning hours. You can follow us on Spot tomorrow to see if we actually left or not.

We have 62 Nm to go for Chesapeake City so we would really like a nice day but that's balanced against being here so long. I've done enough boat projects!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cape May - we visit Wildwoods

I can't imagine the scene here at the peak of the summer season
We're sitting in the mud here at low tide with a reading of 2.8 ft and I have a 4 ft 9 in keel. The guy next door has 4.5 ft at low tide so not all the slips are the same, I guess I happened to get a shallow one. Since we want to leave at 6:00 am on Tuesday morning which is right at low tide, we'll move to a face dock for deeper water on Monday when the tide is high.

I repaired the connections to the main VHF so now we have two working radios. Most of the day I was doing routes that incorporated the ACOE waypoints into my Garmin 492 chartplotter. So who ever is at the helm will see the ACOE waypoints come up automatically without having to switch over to the specific route through a shallow spot. All of this information is available for anyone willing to learn how to use GPX routes. It's nothing more than a computer file that contains waypoint and a route that any navigation program can download and display. You can download to an app on your iPad which includes the Garmin Mobile app, Navimatics Charts and Tides, Aqua Map USA and several others with the exception of the otherwise excellent Navionics iPad app which does not accept route downloads in any format per their help desk input.

They have some very original blue palm trees here, never saw their like anywhere in Florida
Downloading and installing a GPX route is easy. Just follow the directions on the blog site under "ICW Tips" in the page "GPX Routes". As the surveys and information changes, this page will be kept up to date. Look for the route with the highest number at the end (e.g., "2" or "3", etc.) for the latest file. It's easier and less error prone than trying to enter the waypoints manually.

We explored Wildwoods today, it's just up the beach from Cape May. We've always taken a condo at Ocean City, NJ during the summer with our kids but I was interested in seeing what Wildwoods looked like. For one thing it's much more built up, many three and four story highrises right on the beach. You don't see that in Ocean City with their maximum of three stories and mostly two story houses. It's well kept but it's got to be very crowded in the summer with all the multiple story hotels right on the water. We'll take Ocean City.

We have one more day here before moving on. Tuesday looks good for getting under the 55 ft bridges and into Chesapeake City which we'll try at a 2 ft and rising tide. The path from the entrance to the deeper water in the eastern part of the anchorage is shoaled in but we ought to be able to shimmy in with a 2 ft tide. On Monday it's thunderstorms followed by showers on Tuesday but with light winds which is good for us going north on Delaware Bay.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cape May - Lobster Roll!

Want to go around the cape?  Be ready for a little rough wind against tide waves
We haven't been to Maine for a number of years and Ann especially missed the lobster rolls along with the outstanding anchorages. We couldn't do much about the anchorages but we could try out the local answer to good lobster rolls. The local restaurant with the best reputation was Quincy's Original Lobster Rolls. We cruised in Maine for three years and Ann graduated from the University of Maine so we really enjoyed the Maine version of the lobster roll.

So we ordered our roll with extra lobster and it was not bad. Lots of lobster. However, it was not a Maine roll. In a Maine roll, you can see the lobsters being boiled from the window. The lobster is absolutely fresh and when served on a roll, you get the entire lobster although it's only 1 lb usually but it includes not only the claws but also the tail. It's served warm since it was just cooked but it's only lobster meat with very little dressing. The Cape May version is served cold, it was obviously cooked previously and refrigerated and there's no tail meat, it's all claw. Now that's not especially bad, it's just not a Maine lobster roll but we enjoyed it.

The summer houses are very well kept, typical of the one pictured above
We took a tour around the tip of Cape May to look at the intersection of the outgoing tide and the incoming wind. With wind against tide you get some strange waves with a lot of whitecaps. The wind was not very strong, around 10 kts but when it gets blowing, the waves get square and can provide some unexpected enjoyment for those going around the cape. We like our passages a little dull in that respect so we'll take the canal but not until Tuesday when the tides are right.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cape May at Utsch's Marina

A lot of boats in the Coast Guard anchorage at Cape May
The tide just was not right for going up the Delaware Bay. We prefer to use the Cape May Canal to reach Delaware Bay and tides were just out of phase for that. Looking ahead it appears that Tuesday will be the first good day for going north. One is always free to go around the Cape and we've done that in the past but now we prefer a more moderate path so we'll be here awhile.

Cape May has a fleet and it shows in the local restaurants - fresh!
For the weekend entertainment we rented a car from Enterprise for $49 from Friday to Monday.It's their weekend special at $10/day with taxes and other fees. We went shopping today for groceries and Ann wants a lobster sandwich on Saturday. Meanwhile I've been following the postings from on the latest shoaling problems encountered by the memb'ers. In reading through them the common thread is "I ran aground right in the middle of the channel" (Mason Inlet, Little River Buoy 22A, Shallotte Inlet, Minin Creek, McClellanville, Fernandina Beach, etc.)  I've been through these areas a dozen times and they don't vary that much but you do have to really watch what you're doing relative to the buoys and the charted channel. Most of the time the channel shows what was originally dredged but it is usually not centered in the buoys (off-set from the centerline of the channel). The chart makers just can't seem to get the ICW channel to be accurately shown on the charts. The locations of the buoys. on the other hand, are usually (not always) accurately shown. You can see the discrepancy by looking on the chart and seeing the depicted channel not centered between the buoys (which it should be).

The Lobster House has a great fish market
The above areas mentioned all have good paths through them to at least 6 MLW but you have to know the path (unless the latest storm did something exceptional which I doubt - but them I'll find out and let you know when I pass through). I'll be posting on Active Captain along the way and if I find good routes through some of the tough areas, I'll add them as a GPX Route on the blog site.  At least 90% of the paths are stable based upon my experience of the last six years, they don't change much which led me to publish the Guide with guidance on passages through the shallow spots. Given the cost of a grounding it would seem prudent to have all the information possible at your fingertips from all sources.  If there's a grounding I would want to know where relative to the nearest buoy (angle and distance, not just distance or a statement that "I was in the middle of the channel") I would also want to know the tide level and the depth of the captain's keel. I try to provide such data in my posting.

And a moonrise to end the day
From here we'll head to Chesapeake City anchorage which has silted in but then there is a 4.5 MLW path to the deeper anchorage if it's the same as in the spring. If it is, I'll publish a GPX Route on the blog on where to turn for the deeper water. I suspect the two ACOE boats keep the passage open to the depth of their keel (4.5 ft) but it's very narrow and you have to hit it head on at low tide.

On Saturday it's time for the bow repair with 5200 to prevent further leakage into the forward cabin followed by a repair of the VHF cable between the remote in the cockpit and the base station down below - then it time to have some fun by touring around Cape May and having lobster sandwiches!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cape May - Leak Repair

Now that's a proper hatch
Today was the wind day. We even had whitecaps in the anchorage although we were safely tucked into Utsch's Marina. We counted seven boats in the Coast Guard anchorage by the entrance and one other boat anchored in front of Utsch's. Nobody moved today. The wind is predicted to abate somewhat over the next few days but the tides (current actually) is not right for going up Delaware Bay. We'll watch the weather but moving day may not be until Tuesday of next week. We made great time coming south but now we wait.

Cape May has a fishing fleet and there are marine stores to support it. Everything looks about 10 times too well built with prices to support the extra sturdiness. This photo was at a nearby store, Sea Gear.

I leaned out over the bow with a long arm to get a shot of the underside of the bow puplit
Meanwhile, a forward leak had to be addressed. So Ann was down in the forward berth and I was on top with the hose. No leaks were apparent until I sprayed the hose directly on the bow. The pulpit hangs over the bow supporting the anchor and when sprayed with water, it permitted seepage into the forward bunk. This finding meshed with our experience of only seeing water after waves crashed over the bow. The oncoming seas evidently forced their way through whatever opening existed, however small. Finding that, I got some 3M 5200 fast cure adhesive and I will attempt a repair Friday. By the way, having a small camera on board is extremely valuable. The bow pulpit hangs over the bow so far that I could not get a good look at the potential leak path. However, reaching over with my camera as if I was taking a selfie and snapping multiple photos provided all the evidence I needed to find the leak, much better than trying to hang over the bow with a mirror to see under the pulpit! I'll wait a day to let everything dry out and do the repair on Friday.

With the boat washing also done today and the inspection of the bow, I've crossed off two of my 15 boat todo's, such is cruising.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cape May - at Utsch's Marina

The first of two "55 ft"  bridges on the Cape May canal
We had fully intended staying in Atlantic City until Saturday morning but we happened to look at the latest forecast around 9:00 am. The forecast went from 10 to 15 on the nose with 20 kt gusts to only 10 or less kts of wind. PocketGrib and SwellInfo were in agreement but the NOAA coastal forecast was still out to lunch.We put our faith in grib and were not disappointed. The wind was still on the nose but at 10 kts or less, it was no problem. The wind wasn't strong enough to build up the type of waves that cause pounding heading into them. In fact, the wind shifted eastward just enough to put wind in the sails for a little stability, we were quite comfortable. It pays to always look at the latest forecast.

So we made it to Cape May and now we'll sit for awhile to get good weather and current for a run up the bay. We would always rather go through the Cap May canal but that requires a low tide for us and the low tides are all in the afternoon for the next several days. You might consider going around the outside but then the current up the bay doesn't start until the afternoon anyway. With that we'll wait a few days for better weather and more favorable tides.

58 ft at low tide
Meanwhile I took a walk over to look at the first bridge on the canal. It's a short walk from Utsch's Marina.; You can see from the photo that there's no way the bridge has 55 ft of clearance at high tide. Today's tide was 5.5 ft so it is higher than normal. If you're familiar with the Cape Cod height formula in the 2016 ICW Cruising Guide then you know that the starting point for bridge clearance is 58 ft figured at low tide. With today's 5.5 ft of high tide, that works out pretty well (52.5 + 5.5 = 58). We will time our passage at near low tide for our 55 ft 3 in of mast.

Our home for the next few days
My list of boat projects has grown over the last few days to include fixing a leak at the bow into the forward cabin (when waves crash over the bow), head work (ugh...), fixing the VHF which decided to stop working today, replacing the handheld (doesn't  receive anymore, transmits fine), fix TV antenna which somehow loses the signal, clean boat of all the salt, and about a dozen other smaller items. Cruising is not a vacation, it's just living on a boat instead of a house but it is a lot more fun!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Atlantic City - at The Golden Nugget Marina

You can tell we're in Atlantic City by the size of the boats. This guy was right in front of us. 
We looked at the forecast for the trip to Atlantic City and although it was predicted to be calm in the morning, the afternoon may have stronger winds. With that we chose to leave Atlantic Highlands at 5:00 am to beat the increasing wind predicted for the afternoon. It was certainly dark at 5:00 am. I took Hoolie ashore at 4:30 am and he did his business. After spending most of his life aboard a boat with only short sojourns ashore in our house, he knows what to do and quickly.

One has to be careful leaving in the dark. Things look differently and it's easy to get confused. We didn't have a moon up so it was really dark. However, there was no fog and the windows had no dew so we could see reasonably well. Of course radar and AIS was on as well as a lookout outside the enclosure my yours truly. Most boats now have AIS which makes things easier.

Nice and calm, good dock with cable
For once the actual conditions matched the forecast within 1 mph! As we headed south the wind gradually increased but never more than the predicted 10 kts. The passage will go down in as a first for us in forecast accuracy. PocketGrib and SwellInfo nailed the forecast but the NOAA Coastal Forecast was way off on the high side (20 kt gusts later in the day).

We arrived at our dock in Atlantic City 10 hrs 55 min after leaving the Atlantic Highlands. It was a good trip and we're glad to have it behind us. With SW winds predicted on Wednesday and gusts to 25 for Thursday, we'll most likely be here until Friday morning when the weather moderates. Our next stop will be Cape May, just a short hop down the coast.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Atlantic Highlands - at anchor

Hard not to be amazed at the sight of southern Manhattan
As we've experienced in the past, the anchorage at Haverstraw Cove was dead calm during the night, wakes and wind just can't get into the cove. Once again we saw 6.4 MLW on the way out. Just follow the waypoints under "GPX Routes" in and out and you'll be fine.

I always do this, a photo of Lady Liberty
As luck would have it we caught the end of the flood tide and it turned to an ebb shortly thereafter which we rode all the way from Peekskill to the Atlantic Highlands. We cruise at 7.3 kts but today we were averaging 8.5 to 9.3 kts with the tide. The timing was purely by chance since we had to be at Atlantic Highlands on Monday night to catch the window for Atlantic City on Tuesday. Everything just worked out (that'll never happen again).

I'm the black triangle, everybody else is out to get me
The Tuesday weather window is interesting. It's predicted to be calm in the morning but then kick up in the afternoon with some variations between forecasts by different sites. It looks like it will be a timing thing. If the front speeds up, we'll have a bumpy ride in the afternoon. If it behaves as predicted by grib, then we'll be fine. Normally it takes us 11.5 hours to reach Atlantic City so in view of the forecast we decided to leave at 5:00 am to take full advantage of the morning prediction and an ebb tide out of New York Harbor. We've been fooled before but you've got to go with the forecasts.

Goodbye NYC until 2017!
Once at Atlantic City we'll take a dock at the Golden Nugget which is $2.25/ft if you have a Marina Life membership but it's not honored Friday or Saturday. The first chance we get we'll head for Utsch's Marina in Cape May and wait for weather going up the Delaware Bay.