This is the part of the trip I was most worried about, open ocean sailing – the trip down the New Jersey coast…
Last Sunday after checking the weather forecast (multiple sources – over and over and over again), we decided to make the jump. The winds looked great, 11-15 knots, with no real gusting. The waves were forecasted to be 6-9ft with a period of 9 seconds between waves. We’ve read online that the closer the two numbers are to each other (9 ft waves and 9 seconds apart) the less comfortable the ride. So we debated leaving the protected bay of Sandy Hook – should we stay or should we go? Since there was some really nasty stuff forecasted for later in the week we decided to make the jump and try to get to Delaware Bay before the end of the week and hide there from the more rough weather to come.
So, out we went…
FOURTY-FIVE MINS later we turned back. The waves were HUGE. Well, maybe just 6-9 feet, but for us those were the hugest waves we’ve ever been in. It was not only uncomfortable (it was just on the verge of kinda tolerable) but, we kept hearing crashing noises coming from down below. We thought we had stowed everything properly, maybe things were just moving around within the lockers? It was too rough to go down and check on things (poor Poppy was down below with whatever chaos was happening there) and we were in the mist of discussing our options and possibly turning back when the boat went bow down into a rather large wave…
The wave broke on the dodger…
And the dodger broke…
Salt water filled the cockpit and poured down below into the salon. We were sitting in water up to our knees soaked, stunned and in disbelief. I looked at Tim and asked if we should turn around, he looked at the torn dodger and said, “I think that’s a great idea”. Immediately, the motion was WAY better with the waves now behind us and pushing us back towards New York. As it turned out, the wind wasn’t really coming from the direction forecasted, nor were the waves. We were pretty close to the Jersey shore, so maybe if we’d gotten a bit further off shore we would have found the conditions forecasted and our decision might not have felt so stupid? We’ll never know. Since then we’ve heard a story of another boat who headed out down the coast that same day and lost engine power due to the tossing about (likely stuff from the bottom the fuel tank clogging the filter) and were being pushed towards shore by the waves as the wind dropped. They eventually made it to the Chesapeake after an overnight run. The couple that made this trip are much more experienced cruisers and likely would not have been FREAKING out like I would have. Our decision was the right one for us and I’m super happy we made it so easily and quickly together.
Soon after we turned around we also dropped the idea of moving further south this week and have come to terms with staying put for a week or more. (With Hurricane Joaquin making an appearance since, we’re both glad we did.) We consulted our charts for a protected harbour and decided to back track to a comfortable place to make the repairs to the dodger and clean the boat. We found Great Kills Harbour on Staten Island and made our way there.
Anyone who passed our boat later that afternoon in the anchorage must have wondered if we’d just crossed the ocean! The deck was strewn with wet gear, clothes and cushion covers. We used a ton of fresh water from our tanks to rinse the salt out of the bilge (where thankfully most of the water drained to immediately after “the wave”), the salon table and floor, off clothes, shoes, the entire cockpit (especially electronics) and hung everything to dry before crashing down below for the night.
Because we picked a pretty protected harbour, we had the best sleep we’d had in days. The boat did not move all night – it was such a relief after the stressful day before. In the morning, Tim made the coffee and tea and we got to work repairing our dodger. I just happen to have some outdoor canvas on board (slated for another project) and my sewing machine! Tim told me later in the day that he thought, when we left Toronto, I’d never use the sewing machine, ever, and couldn’t believe how happy he was I had it and how we were able to make repairs to the dodger ourselves. Now I just have to keep proving it’s worth – I have a few projects in mind, I’ll just space them out to ensure the sewing machine always has a home on board.
With the dodger repaired and so much clothing and upholstery soaking wet we decided a trip to the local Laundromat was in order. We set out with three large IKEA bags filled with wet salty gear. The walk was only 1.5 miles there and the same back – no biggie. We each took a bag on our outside shoulder and walked with the weight of the third shared between us. I kept telling Tim that it was going to be SO much lighter on the way back when all the clothes were dry. By the time we returned to the boat, we both had bruises on our shoulders from carrying the bags. We need to find a way to add pads to the bag handles!
Tuesday morning found us with everything clean and repairs completed. What do we do now? Why head into Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry of course! We planned to join a walking tour at 10 am, which necessitated a departure from the boat at 7:30am. Yep, that’s right! Two and a half hours allocated to getting to a 10 am walking tour. You see, we needed 20 mins to get to shore and lock up the dinghy. Then another ½ hour walk to the Staten Island Rail Station. From there, it’s ½ hour to the Ferry Dock. Add another ½ hour for the Ferry ride and now we’re in Battery Park at the south end of Manhattan. We estimated another ½ hour to get to the meeting location.
We didn’t make it, we never had a chance.
While I was getting ready, Tim came into the cabin and said, “there’s a delay”. “What delay?” I asked. He said “I don’t know where shore is.”
We were fogged in. We had no idea which way we were facing and therefore didn’t know which way to the launch ramp where we planned to leave the dinghy. Sigh.
It took about an hour for the fog to lift – I have to say the harbour was very beautiful both with the fog surrounding us and as it began to clear. We made the trip into Manhattan later than anticipated and spent another day eating pizza and wondering the streets.
The most memorable part of the day was departing the Ferry terminal and being accosted by some official tourist ‘helper’ who insisted on helping us. I was looking at my phone trying to decide which way to go when he asked if we needed directions and help. Of course I said “no thanks” as I’m prone to do – I like to figure things out for myself. He persisted and told us he’d lived here in NY all his life and he could help us. He’d been taking the Staten Island Ferry back when CARS were allowed on it. “Before the bridges were built?” I asked – “Lord No! There were bridges, I’m not that old. I’m just 50 and think I look like a young 50.” It was true, he was a very young looking 50. I decided to give in and let him help us. I asked where to get the best pizza in New York. “Brooklyn” was the reply. We had no intention of walking to Brooklyn on this trip, but let him give us excellent directions and went on our way.
We walked up Broadway from Wall St to 34th. It was a part of Manhattan we’d never explored before. The best find of the day was the Strand Bookstore! We spent over an hour in the store – there was so much I wanted to buy! But, being on a budget, I settled for picking up a few gifts and nothing for myself. They claim to have 18 miles of books!
We made it to Macy’s before jumping on the Metro and heading back to the Ferry Terminal and Staten Island. Once back on the island, we took the opportunity to pick up some beer, groceries and had a cab take us back to the boat. It was well past sunset when we set off in the dinghy to look for Grace V in the dark.