In my last post for New York City, I forgot to mention that weâ€™d had a few boat items sent to Derekâ€™s apartment; our interface box for our GPS system and a new VHF radio, complete with a microphone for our cockpit. Weâ€™d been having problems with our existing microphone for awhile (Blair thinks â€œone of usâ€ talks like a teenager and stretches the cord halfway â€˜round the boat but regardless, the thing is broken). We really depend on both these items so we were happy to pick them up and after leaving Derek and Wendyâ€™s apartment on Saturday afternoon we headed back to Strathspey to install our new toys.
Before leaving terra firma though, we stocked up at the renowned Zabar’s deli on 80th and Broadway, a short three blocks from the 79th Street Boat Basin. We’d only spent one night actually sleeping aboard Strathspey at the Boat Basin but that was enough for us to appreciate both the strong Hudson River current and the neighbourhood. The Boat Basin is located in the Upper West side of New York. In this upscale area, rents run $6-7000/month but you can easily join the ranks of Yoko Ono and Robert De Niro for $900/month if you lived on your boat year round at the 79th Street Boat Basin. The downside is that thereâ€™s not a lot of shelter here. In fact, Boat Basin is a misnomer for this marina; it’s basically a few long rows of mooring balls lined up along the Joe DiMaggio highway, exposed to all but east winds, with a strong current and boat-rocking waves kicked up by all the passing ferries and tugs. Its redeeming feature is that it’s cheap and close to the subway and of course Zabar’s.
We left the Boat Basin and headed down past the tip of Manhattan into NYC harbour. It was rough, with huge waves, ferries crossing every which way and the challenge of staying between red and green buoys while at the same time managing a photo-op with the Statue of Liberty. We had a good fast sail out of the harbour and under the Verrazano Bridge down to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. We anchored in the lee of the hook, opposite the coast guard station directly under the flight path to Kennedy International. We could see and hear the really big planes passing overhead, 747′s, A330′s, A340′s, so definitely not a quiet anchorage. Yet, around 7 pm, we started hearing a sort of pitter patter, almost like hard rain starting to fall. The water surface showed small fish breaking the surface – we’re not sure if they were there to feed or were scared up by other bigger fish. So, a backwater sort of place with fish jumping, yet jets soaring overhead. It was lights out at 7:30 pm in anticipation of a 3 am start the next morning in order to make a long run to Atlantic City.
Leaving Sandy Hook, we had a long slow pound out in big waves through the Sandy Hook channel but as soon as Strathspey turned south, we pulled out our foresail and quickly sped up to 6.5-7 knots. The sun came out around 7 am as did all sport fishing boats, roaring out past us to their favourite fishing grounds. New Jersey, from the ocean side, looks like one long beach. Behind these beaches are swamps though, sometimes five miles wide and itâ€™s here in northern New Jersey that the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) begins. The ICW, built by the US Army Corps of Engineers, provides a calm inland water route south to Florida, well away from the big ocean swells and high winds. The section in New Jersey is for shallow draft boats only though and if we tried to use these waters in Strathspey, weâ€™d be singing the line from from Springsteen’s Rosalita: â€œâ€¦my machine sheâ€™s a dud out stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jerseyâ€¦â€.
The sand beaches make for really shallow waters all along the New Jersey coast. Even out at the three mile limit, we were only in 50 feet of water. In fact, many of the inlets that we could have used to duck into to find an anchorage are too treacherous due to the constantly shifting sand. That meant that we had to make a long run to Absecon Inlet, a safe entrance into Atlantic City, but a distance of 77 miles from Sandy Hook; a long 13-hour squawk. We had a good sail down the coast but the ride through the Absecon Inlet was as wild a ride as we ever hope to have on Strathspey. As the depth decreased, the rollers increased and once we started through, we were committed. We made it through in one piece and anchored in front of Harrah’s Casino and when night fell, the light show on the side of the buildings entertained us over dinner. This is quite likely the ugliest anchorage we’ve been in, mostly because it is in the middle of the channel with casinos and parking garages on one side and condos on the other. Looks aside though, we were grateful to be in safely through the big surf and after leaving Sandy Hook at 3 am, that night we slept like it was our job. The next morning when we pulled up the anchor, there was an overwhelming odor of eau de sewage. Who knows what else there was in that primordial sludge â€“ after all, this is the east coast gambling capital and no debt goes unpaidâ€¦.
Our exit through the inlet was uneventful, we heaved a sigh of relief and once again pointed Strathspeyâ€™s bow southward to Cape May which was the last harbour before making a sharp right into the Delaware Bay and then on into the sheltered waters of Chesapeake Bay . At this point, weâ€™re seeing a different sort of boat out sailing with us. They look like theyâ€™re making tracks south, adorned with wind generators, extra diesel and water jugs strapped to their decks and many of them are flying the Maple Leaf.
The trip down to Cape May was without much wind and big rolling swells (the kind I like so muchâ€¦.. not!). It was a quick trip though and by early afternoon we were snaking our way into the tightest marina weâ€™ve ever shoehorned ourselves into. We filled up with diesel and squeezed out past all the big fishing boats to find ourselves an anchorage, yet again in front of a coast guard station. This station was a big one and is where newly enlisted coast guard cadets are sent to do their basic training apparently. Just before dusk, Blair played his pipes and shortly after we were witness to two companies of cadets marching by four abreast and smartly dressed in navy. Here our weather turned summery again and Brooklyn says it was 31 with the humidex in Ottawa so we must all be experiencing the same weather system. Gotta love that Indian summer!
We left Cape May the next day at 8 am to catch the flood tide up the Delaware Bay. This is a big, muddy, shallow bay with a deep ship channel up the center and not a whole lot else. We had to cross one short section in 10 feet of water where we couldnâ€™t see bottom, just muddy swirls as we coasted over it. Once across, we followed the main shipping channel north and saw a steady procession of big tankers heading back and forth to Philadelphia at the head of the Delaware River. That day, October 3rd, at 2:26 pm, in the middle of the bay, we were exactly due south of our backyard in Ottawa (374 miles due south that is) after having traveled almost 2100 miles to get here. It gives new meaning to the phrase â€œitâ€™s not the destination, itâ€™s the journeyâ€ but weâ€™re happy to have swung wide through the St Lawrence, the Maritimes and New England to get here because of the spectacular scenery and not a little bit for the bragging rights associated with having gone â€œthe long way â€˜roundâ€. That day too, we thought often of our friends Mireille and Christian, from Nomades, a 37 Endeavour who had planned to meet up with us in this area, but had to postpone their trip. We are wishing they were traveling with us as planned, rather than where they are now and the tough times they face ahead.
After cruising up the Delaware Bay for most of the day, just after 4 pm we anchored behind Reedy Island, a nice little anchorage with only Madcap and Strathspey tucked in that night. We had planned to leave at 7 am the following morning to catch an ebb current through the canal to the Chesapeake but awoke to a dense fog; a fog as dense as anything we ever saw in Nova Scotia. Once the fog lifted, we headed north and entered the C&D canal and got a good taste of what it will be like heading down the ICW I think; the steady drone of our engine, watching beautiful scenery drift by at a pace slightly faster than a quick jog and the constant search for the next buoy. The leaves had started to turn along the banks of the canal which seemed a bit out of place as the temperature hovered in the mid-80s and the humidity was stifling. Once through the canal, we headed up the Sassafras River to Georgetown. This river is relatively wide and winding yet there is a fairly narrow channel right up the center which often showed depths of as little as 10 feet. We anchored at Georgetown in fresh water – yippee!
The next day, we moved Strathspey into the Georgetown Yacht Basin where we stayed from 8:30 am til 6 pm, plugged into 30 amp power to charge up our batteries, got groceries, and scrubbed the boat from stem to stern. What a treat and all this for only $15; money well spent. I can highly recommend this marina; their facilities are spotless, the dock help are courteous and go the extra mile and one of the best things is that they have old-fashioned bikes with coaster brakes that their customers can borrow.
We rode into town for groceries and stopped at E&E Seafood and ordered a dozen blue crabs. E&E Seafood is owned by Jerry Craig, a former waterman (aka crab fisher). He and his son Aaron buy crabs and oysters from the Chesapeake Bay watermen and sell them to restaurants and anyone else who wants them. Along with the crabs, freshly steamed in Old Bay spice, Jerry gave us instructions on how to catch crabs in the river, how to cook them once we caught them, how to eat them (really messy!) and most importantly to the watermen, how to avoid running over their traps. We were only going to get six crabs but Aaron, an earnest 18-year old, said that wasnâ€™t enough and pointed out a customer standing behind us and said â€œhe could eat a bushel, themâ€™s finger food and you wanna have enoughâ€, so we did as we were told and asked him to steam up 12 of them and weâ€™d come back in an hour. Along with the crabs, I bought a little crab pot so Blair could try his luck at catching crabs.
We spent three nights in Georgetown, cycling, swimming (yes!), exploring up all the little creeks off the Sassafras in our dinghy and eating steamed crabs, crabcakes, crab sandwiches (12 crabs definitely goes a long way ….). Madcap has continued on to Baltimore and the Annapolis Boat Show and we’ll catch up with them later this month. We’ll pull up stakes today and head up the Chester River for a while.
In the last few weeks since we left Portland, weâ€™ve traveled close to 500 miles and it will be nice to relax for a bit, soak up some sun and catch our breath. While in this area, we also need to receive our replacement VHF radio and microphone. After spending the good part of an afternoon and evening in New York, installing the new radio and stringing cable for the microphone through lockers and lazerettes, we werenâ€™t happy to find that the radio has a major bug in it. Every time we press the transmission button, the radio turns itself off so although we can still listen, we canâ€™t talk to anyone. Blair jury-rigged a radio setup when we got to Sandy Hook and a quick call to West Marine resulted in a new system being sent off immediately. However, it had to be sent to Derekâ€™s NYC apartment because thatâ€™s where the first one had gone. It’s been forwarded on to us in Chestertown on the Maryland side of the Chesapeake Bay and hopefully will be there on Tuesday for us.
As well, we need to haul Strathspey out of the water to replace the sacrificial zinc anodes on her saildrive. For the non-sailors, the zinc anodes are little blobs of zinc attached to either your engine or in Strathspeyâ€™s case, her saildrive. Theoretically these blobs will corrode from salt water before the saildrive corrodes. The idea is to keep checking the zinc anodes and as soon as you see major corrosion, you replace the anode before the corrosion proceeds on to your saildrive and starts eating away at it. Most other boats have these zinc anodes on their engine where they can easily be checked and replaced. Unfortunately, Strathspey has a saildrive setup, which although it allows us to spin on a dime, it requires a haul out of the water to check and replace these anodes.