We Didn’t Think Long Island Sound Would Be The Hard Part

Well, wasn’t THAT Fun.

Day 3, Stonington, CT to Essex, CT, Wednesday 10/17

We had a really pleasant two-night stopover in Stonington. We were safe and secure on a Dodson’s mooring for the gale, we got heater parts (that didn’t fix the problem), the Dog Watch Cafe was delightful, and we had wonderful blustery fall walks all over town with the pups. It was time to move on.

The weather forecasts for this week have been, um, not ideal. When we were getting ready to leave home over last weekend I had been watching the forecasts for the first week of our trip. They were a little bit unbelievable. Gale warnings every other day as cold fronts swept through, and the “lulls” between fronts were Small Craft Advisaries, 15 to 25 with higher gusts. Sheesh.

We really wanted to get going so we figured we would play the lulls as best we could. We hoped that the continuous string of northwest gales would somehow not materialize quite as forecast, and we speculated that at least we would be in the Sound rather than open ocean (once we got beyond the Rhode Island coastline) and might benefit from a windward shore if we got things right. Hope springs eternal.

On Monday we got to Stonington OK. It was bumpy, but not for that long, and manageable. We stayed an extra day on Tuesday in Stonington because it was very pleasant stop, Bruce wanted to get our Webasto heating system fixed, and the weather supported a layover. Then we planned to take advantage of one of the “lulls” on Wednesday morning to get to Essex.

Wednesday started out with a cold! pre-sunrise walk with the dogs, then back to the boat, hoisted the dinghy and cast-off at 0730 hrs. Clear crisp air, calm sea, overcast skies. The forecast was for 10 to 15, increasing to 15 to 20 out of the west. “Gusts to 30 late.” We had a short 20-mile run to Old Saybrook and felt we would do OK getting it done early, before the wind increased in the afternoon. We expected “bumpy”. The current was foul, but it was with the wind which we liked. A warm pilot house. Coffee. Looking good.

Until it wasn’t looking good any more.

Within about half an hour the wind was up to seventeen knots and the sea state was kicked up to a sharp, steep three-to-four feet. It was lumpy and wet on the nose, but tolerable. Another half hour and it was full-on four-to-six footers, with cascading water over the pilot house on almost every wave. The dogs… Not.Happy. Pepper eventually threw up all over Bruce. Twice. Mattie just quivered.

This video doesn’t show the worst of it. (If the video doesn’t display you can see it at https://youtu.be/uiyDLV9JDVU )

Our instruments were showing solid 20 knots, with gusts to 25. I kept looking at the conditions and thinking “that’s not right — this is more than that.” We hammered into it, playing with the throttle to try to manage the ride. But in the end, it just really s*cked. We felt so badly for the poor dogs.

How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?

The Connecticut River.

It took us three hours to get to the entrance of the river at Old Saybrook. The final approach was a bit of a thrill ride as we had to turn beam-on to the seas charging at us from the west, kicked up even further by the shallow bar. We pushed it up to full-throttle, took a heavy roll or two, and went surfing at 16 knots into the blissfully flat water between the breakwaters. RELIEF.

The lovely ride up the river to Essex was an ideal opportunity to decompress and try to get the dogs to relax. Fall colors were in near-full display and the marshes and homes along the river banks were lovely. The dock staff at Brewers Dauntless Marina were ready for us and welcomed us warmly. It is a good feeling to be safely tied alongside after a rugged day on the water.

Later that evening I checked the buoy reports along our course. We know our wind instruments are in a compromised location on our mast, so I have always been a little skeptical of our readings. However, they did match with the forecast, so I wasn’t really certain what we were seeing. The buoy reports confirmed why it was so rough.

The first image is about a mile north of our course. The second is about three miles south. We were “out there between 0800 and 1100 hrs. No wonder it was snarky.

Happily, Essex is a lovely refuge. Bruce hosed the boat off. Heater parts were waiting. The pups got a long walk ashore. Life is good for now.

We are looking at weather for the next three days and it is, unfortunately, more of the same. Stiff westerlies generally 15 to 30 knots. There is a small window on Friday when the wind starts out SW 10 -15, but increases to 25 during the day. That sounds a lot like yesterday’s forecast, which ended up seeing 30 by 1000 hrs. We aren’t sure we want to risk that again. We will have to make a call early in the morning.

Progress is slow.

5 thoughts on “We Didn’t Think Long Island Sound Would Be The Hard Part”

  1. Cathy and I were on a Ferry from Vinalhaven to Rockland Tuesday morning. We were thinking of you during our windy trip, without envy, for the first time. It’s so odd to have a clear beautiful day – with bad weather. Yikes. Glad you are safe.


    1. Yes, this persistent weather pattern is getting old. We are moving more slowly than we had planned, but making the best of it. Maine must have been beautiful — great time of year!


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