This past weekend our good friend was celebrating her birthday with family over in Sea Cliff; a beautiful town that overlooks our neighboring Hempstead Harbor. Naturally we wanted to join in on the festivities and give her a grand entrance so we sailed over, took the dinghy to shore and hiked up the steep set of stairs that leads to the house. A house offering some of the most beautiful views of the Long Island Sound. And one that gave us a perfect view of Celeste at anchor. Aperol spritz in hand, we watched the sun set and Celeste disappear into the darkness.
The alarming sound of Slash’s intro to Welcome to the Jungle enters my ears and then into my brain yet I came to life feeling refreshed in Sleepy Hollow as Axel started his screaming. This was Brett kindly reminding me that I needed to get up because we were about to go tubing down the Delaware River. The sail up here was partially responsible for my good mood.
The southerlies arrived just as expected by my many wind prediction apps, Windy.com and PredictWind being the favorites. I pulled up the main, took a deep breath and eased out of the anchorage into the frenetic entrance of the Hudson River. Soon I realized I would be heading dead down wind so I wanted to drop the main to fly out the genoa unblocked. Of course I picked the worst possible spot to spin the boat 180 degrees into the wind to lower the main. As soon as she swung around two ferries came rocketing out of their berths from opposite sides of the river full throttle directly at me. Of course the dutchman system didn’t guide the main down as it should have so I rushed on deck to secure the main with a sail tie, hauled ass back to the cockpit and spun the boat back around as the the ferries sent massive wakes colliding into the hull. It was a welcoming gesture from their loving hearts. Shortly after this I decided to throw on the main sail cover as to reduce UV damage and in the process a breeze accompanied with some rolling wakes took my prized Celeste hat from my head and into the Hudson it went. I suppose it was my toll.
The entire sail to Ossining was a magical downwind sail. It gives you the urge to yell out loud every once in awhile like you’re cheering for Tom Petty or someone to play another song. Also, you can sing Tom Petty songs or any song as loud as you want and it’s not as weird as it is in a car when you have to stop singing because another car pulls up next to you because there are no cars.
The west side of the Hudson (NJ then NY) is gorgeous green lushy cliffs. The further you go north, the better it gets. As you pass the Tappan Zee Bridge the Hudson opens up and to me it’s just beautiful. I made it to Ossining which is about 6 NM past Tarrytown and I hope to go further next time though it’s perfect distance to Janet and Brett’s in Sleep Hollow.
On Saturday we trekked in cars to Easton, NJ for some tubing down the Delaware. It could have a been a little warmer but at least the water was 79°, the same as the air. Collectively we decided that next time we’ll find a tubing trip with more excitement. I was surprised to see as many Confederate flags in a few hours in NJ as you would expect in some backwoods southern town. I suppose these type of people exist in the backwoods of all directions.
The return trip began with motor-sailing and adjusting the headsail constantly furling it in and unfurling ect ect until I got to the George Washington Bridge. It was like the gate to NYC welcomed me in and I sailed under full sail on a beam reach the entire length of Manhattan. AWESOME!!!
I arrived at the end of Manhattan earlier than expected because of the unexpected perfect wind. As luck would have it, the currents were just about to change direction and start back up the rivers so it made sense to me to just keep going right on up the East River and back to Port Washington, so that’s what I did. The wind was shifty up the East River so I motored at a screaming 9kts. After Hell Gate I threw up the genoa and motor-sailed for home. Welcome back to the jungle.
A storm just passed through with fierce lightning. It was the second storm in less than a day that somehow missed the meteorologists attention. WeatherBug said lighting struck .1 mile away and to seek shelter immediately. I think it may have been closer.
I was fairly nervous about transiting the East River and the a NY Harbor. I took some sailing courses a few years back in the harbor so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar.
The reason for the nervousness is of course being the extreme current that flows through Hell Gate and most of the East River as well as the plethora of boat traffic. There was little traffic actually until I got to the South Street Seaport area where there was plentiful traffic. Without any one on board I was busy looking out for possible collisions and also trying to grab some photos!
59th St Bridge
The journey down was just awesome. It felt reaffirming seeing all the cars on the FDR going to work knowing I was not.
After rounding the southern tip of Manhattan and all the craziness of the seaport I was in view of the Statue of Liberty. I anchored behind her, had lunch and admired the incredible view.
The wind picked up so I had a sail around the harbor evading the massive ferries and sightseeing boats, barges and anchored tugs.
I ended up anchoring a bit further north and it happened I had a first row view of the local sailing races. Two of the gorgeous America II were also sailing around. I can never tell what’s going on but it was still fun. As the races died down and the sun dipped behind Jersey City, the real magic happened. The city lit up and the Hudson got quieter and quieter until I swear I heard nothing…
We shot down the Connecticut River and into the Sound in a fraction of the time it took to go up except for the momentary pause at Old Lyme Drawbridge. In a sailboat or any slower vessel, current and wind make all the difference in the world. The weather as expected was a cloudy misty spritz. We motor-sailed to Port Jefferson with about 6kts of apparent wind on the stern. The genoa out as a crutch to the iron genny.
Granted it was crappy weather but rarely do I encounter many boats on the sound except right by harbors and when it’s sunny. In between is usually quite peaceful which is partially why I began sailing in NY. Flying back into NYC from a trip out of town was usually a not-so-comforting feeling. From the air the only areas where peace seemed to reside was in the empty waterways. So that’s where I went.
A tranqil Port Jefferson.
I’ve heard Port Jefferson was not a very cruiser friendly town but for us it was perfect. We didn’t take the dinghy in but the cool thing is that you can pretty much anchor anywhere as long as you’re out of the main channel which guides the huge ferries back and forth to Bridgeport Ct. We found a cozy spot in the lee of some lush cliffs and settled in for movie night and chicken tacos. Some swans floated over to join us and soon after an Osprey landed on the spreaders and sang us a song.
By the next morning the mist made way and sunshine would see us back home to Port Washington. Sans wind.
Laura spotted a balloon that she had seen all the way back in the Block Island Sound! Without haste she grabbed the boat hook and went to work.
A set of numbers we had spotted many miles away with some hitchhikers.
A set of numbers we had spotted many miles away with some hitchhikers.
As she brought the still inflated balloons on board she screamed, “there’s thousands of spiders all over the boat!” The balloons quickly went back overboard. The thousands of spiders that scurried across the deck were indeed thousands of tiny crabs. These balloons were a habitat for burgeoning crabs and who were we to deprive them of their home? In fact most of the crabs perished shortly after being on the boat. Sadface.
The rest of the day was beautiful and flat calm which helps the 13hp Yanmar push 10,000lb Celeste through the water. Perfect for reading and studying the currents for the next voyage.
Essex to Port Jefferson 46.6 NM. Port Jefferson to Port Washington 37.1 NM.
We sadly departed Block and headed West. With the winds being indecisive for much of the day, we alternated between sailing, motor sailing, and plain old motoring.
We first thought of heading to Gardiners Bay and paying a visit to Greenport, but with the SW winds, heading up to CT would allow for more sailing and less motoring. Rocky had a failed balloon rescue attempt but he made up for it later on by sailing me over to this macdaddy score.
We were making pretty good time and despite the rain, decided to head all the way to the mouth of the Connecticut River. My fearless Captain kept his spirits high. And I stayed dry down below.
Up the River we went. Rocky had been here before but it was a first for me. Essex, CT was our goal. Soon after entering the river we approached Old Lyme Drawbridge which supports thousands of Amtrak passengers every day. Shortly after hailing the bridgetender on VHF he granted us permission to pass and up the bridge went!
Then the real fun began. We’ve noticed a trend throughout this trip. Every time we’re getting close to our destination for the night, conditions take a turn for the worse or something happens that creates a lot of last minute excitement. Usually it’s in the form of crazy wind. This time it was an opposing current that ran much stronger than the charts predicted and thunderstorms that were much closer than we would’ve liked ⚡️. We prefer our dark ‘n stormys in a glass over ice, thanks.
A good hour later than expected we made it to Essex and grabbed a mooring at Brewers Marina with the anticipation of some serious gusts. We took them up on their free launch service and unexpectedly went ashore with a little less than two hours to get back to the launch in time. Essex is rich in maritime and American history and it’s obvious the moment you step foot on the dock.
Happy to be dry and warm we shared the worlds most perfect french onion soup and seared tuna at the cozy Black Seal. Afterwards we hit up an old salts paradise, the Griswold Inn. The Gris. We were greeted by a talented crooner band and a huge gin and tonic.
With a few minutes to spare we made our way through the dark rainy old Essex and back to the ship.
A mariner can get almost everything he/she needs delivered right to the boat in the Great Salt Pond here on Block Island, but
we figured the food would be better and cheaper on shore AND we get to use our dinghy. Weeee!
I don’t know what I expected Block Island to be. Maybe that’s why it was so much better than I hadn’t imagined. We traversed it’s wonder by dinghy, foot and moped.
To me the island was sort of a cross between Ireland, the Caribbean and obviously New England. Maybe I haven’t seen much of New England. We zipped thru it’s lush hills topped tastefully with fine architecture this morning in awe. Even the smell is awesome.
We ventured over to dinghy beach, dropped anchor and walked over to Crescent beach where the Atlantic meets the Sound. There was a seal popping around only a few yards from the swimmers. Before I could blink Laura was down there getting uncomfortably close.
Being able to go anywhere, anytime on our little inflatable is a unique freedom. Laura loved driving it around but as I was about to take a picture of her we ran out of gas. Your humble narrator rowed us in. Almost. The wind picked up something wicked and our new neighbor friend Ian with a sailboat named Blue from NC offered to tow us over to Celeste with his dinghy. I probably should not be telling that story so most likely I will delete this.
Why are light houses so cool? Because of their resident ghosts duh.
2.5 days isn’t nearly enough time here but we should start heading back to real life. Or should we? There were many options tossed around and we’re still not sure of our next destination but we’re probably heading back west early. We’ll leave the rest up to the wind. Friday looks to have favorable winds but a lot of not so favorable rain.
Celeste had her first crossing through the Block Island Sound and sailed on a beautiful beam reach right into Rhode Island. The furthest east she’s been yet.
Crossing the sound was an entirely new kind of sail and showed us what Celeste was meant to do. The swells became wide and deep which is a whole new feeling. We are used to the chop in the Long Island Sound; this is the ocean. Now I can envision the trips that are in our future with her.
When Rocky was at the helm, I stayed on dolphin watch. No luck this time but maybe on the return trip. I remain hopeful.
With the currents working in our favor and a max speed of 8.4 knots, we coasted right up to the entrance of the Great Salt Pond. Our calming state of mind quickly turned to chaos as hundreds of boats came into view.
We were clearly the new kids in town. One nice man shouted from his boat for us to call the Harbor Master. We did, and then patiently waited to be told where to go as more and more boats lined up behind us. As we held steady in a small channel (which is not an easy feat in a sailboat with gusty winds), a miracle in the form of a man on a dinghy appeared. He directed us over to a town mooring rental that had just become vacant. Number 33. We never felt luckier!
We settled in and had the best dark ‘n stormys yet. With chicken tacos simmering on the stove, I took my first shower in three days and felt like a million bucks. Cannot wait to finally take our new dinghy to land this morning and see what Block Island is all about.