The ICW – Fall 2018 – Spring 2019
Day 1, Monday 10/15/18
The fall has flown buy and we are on our way. Florida and the Keys, and maybe the Bahamas, here we come!
The plan is to run down Long Island Sound, through Hell’s Gate, down the East River, around lower Manhattan, down the Jersey Shore, up the Delaware Bay, down the Chesapeake, down the Intracoastal Waterway, and ultimately to Key West. Repeat, generally, in reverse.
We had a nice family send-off at our marina last night, then early-to-bed for an early-to-rise morning.
Wait: why not stay up all night before leaving?
Our intent was to get a good night’s sleep after the hectic pre-departure panic. It wasn’t to be.
At about midnight I noticed that our new Webasto diesel-fired hydronic heat, which Bruce had installed in the spring, stopped cycling on and off. At 0100 hrs Bruce woke up and wondered why it was getting cold. Long-story-short, he spent the next three and a half hours in the engine room fussing with the system. It has had some “issues” since it was new so this was not a big surprise, although disappointing on the planned departure day. He got back in bed 15 minutes before my 0445 alarm went off. It was time to make coffee, feed and walk the dogs, and get moving.
Shall we start with a few gales?
Fall has arrived in force, and with it, some windy and aggressive weather. We are facing a week of in-your-face conditions, so we had a healthy discussion this morning in the dark 45-degree pre-dawn hours about how to negotiate the weather pattern.
Notably, gale warnings are up across southern New England for this afternoon and tonight with more gales later in the week. We wanted to get going, but honestly, gales? In the end we decided to take advantage of the brief morning weather window. At 0652 hrs we cast off our lines at New England Boatworks in Portsmouth, RI, bound for Stonington, CT, confident we could reach a safe mooring before the weather really fell apart.
It was a beautiful morning with classic calm-before-the-storm conditions. We pushed the throttle down, running at a fast (for us) ten or eleven knots in order to cover ground while the going was good. It stayed flat for about an hour. Then, by 0800 hrs, just past Beavertail, a breeze began to fill in. By 0845 we had 20 knots on the bow and the sea began to kick up. As we rounded Point Judith it began to get nasty and we pushed the throttle down further to stabilize the ride.
We were running at about 15 knots, a thirsty and expensive speed, but one that would get us out of the muck much faster. Water was coming right up over the flybridge, blinding us as it cascaded down the windshield. The building waves were on the beam and we had an, um, lively ride. We saw true wind of about 25 out of the south, which was pretty much what was in the forecast for late morning. We didn’t particularly want to be out in the 35-knots called for in the afternoon and overnight.
Our stalwart fuzzy crew members were not impressed, and buried into the salon settee as best they could. We put their Mutt Muffs on. We aren’t sure how much this helps, but since running fast is noisy and gives me a headache, I suspect it’s pretty hard on them as well. Mutt Muffs were developed by a pilot and are used by the military, search-and-rescue, and private pilots. We do our best for our crew.
It was a great relief, once past Watch Hill Passage and Napatree Point, to run down into the calm waters of Stonington. The folks at Dodson’s Boatyard were ever-pleasant and helpful. They might be a bit pricey, but when it comes to service, they’ve got the goods. We were safely on a 1000-pound mooring by 10:45.
Stonington was originally home to the Pequot Indians. Early colonists settled in 1649, and the town became wealthy in the late 1700s from a vigorous seal trade industry. It suffered serious bombardments by the British during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. It has a welcoming feel with manageable scale, and history written into the buildings, streetscapes, leisure and commerce.
Our first project was to give the dogs a well-deserved walk ashore, which we all enjoyed. Stonington Borough is a lovely little town with tall old trees, stately mansions, and a pleasant Main Street lined with shops and eateries. While it can be busy and clogged with tourists and seasonal residents in the summer, it was very sleepy, half-closed and pleasant during our rainy, windy visit.
Bruce spent most of the afternoon in the ER (Engine Room) talking on the phone with the makers of our heating system. After countless tests and tricks and stabs in the dark, somebody’s lightbulb went off. A new water pump is being overnighted from California under warranty.
With that job done, we rewarded ourselves with an early supper at one of our favorite watering holes, The Dog Watch Cafe. A lobster role, kale salad and bouillabaisse did the trick, and bartender Lisa, who feels like an old friend, took great care of us.
We’re going to try that early-to-bed thing again tonight. We’ll let you know how it works out.
Trip Engine hours: 3:45/3:45. Trip miles: 40/40
Wind: 0 – 35. Temp 45 – 65