Making tracks south at last
Days 8-9, October 22-23
It was with great relief that we pulled into Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey on the eighth day of our trip. We had only traveled on four of those eight days thanks to brutal westerlies pounding Long Island Sound, making travel rediculously unpleasant. The run from Port Jefferson on Long Island, through the East River and along Manhattan’s east side, was cathartic for us. We finally felt like we were on our way.
After filling our tanks at the fuel dock, we spent a pleasant evening at the sprawling, well-kept municipal marina. The easy approach and simple enclosed harbor is a convenient stopover. We could have anchored or taken a mooring, but we were anticipating an early departure the next morning so the marina would make things a lot more efficient relative to walking the dogs and hauling up dinghies.
Although a bit stark by initial impression, once beyond the expansive paved parking lots we found tennis courts, basketball courts, park areas and a walking trail. I even discovered that there is a recently added Pickleball Court. I had no idea what Pickleball is, but it is apparently exciting to the folks of Atlantic Highlands. We took a nice long walk through town. It was pretty closed up, as it was a Monday and off-season, but it looked like a nice enough spot for a visit.
Now that we were in New Jersey, we had to face the challenges of running down the long and exposed Jersey Shore. We knew that in the weeks before us, many other boats had been holed up with no acceptable weather for the trip for days at a time. It’s something you don’t want to do in easterlies, and many other factors come into play, like challenging inlets that are few and far between and an inland passage that is a little too shallow for comfort.
Our forecast for Tuesday was for a southwesterly starting light and building during the day. The blessing was the westerly component; the building during the day was a red flag, as were the three to four foot seas. We had the option of a 30-mile trip to Manasquan inlet, or a 90-mile trip to Atlantic City. Cape May was another 30 miles after Atlantic City.
We scratched our heads. Feedback from Facebook group folks was a resounding “No! Don’t Go! You’ll get thrashed.” We were cautious, but we were skeptical of that feedback. So we walked the docks and talked to the various water rats aboard commercial party boats and sportfish who were cleaning up after a day on the water. We talked about the forecast, and what we might expect. Every single person we spoke with said Go! We weighed our options and decided that if the forecast held the next morning, we would go.
And it did. And we did.
I was up at 4:45 and walked the dogs in the cold and pitch black. A stream of traffic was arriving in the parking lots, both for the party fishing boats and the fast ferries into New York City. We were under way after coffee and before sunrise. What a beautiful start to the day. Clear, cold, dramatic skies, and blissfully flat water.
We were not alone rounding Sandy Point, the very northern tip of the Jersey Shore. Fishermen were wading on the point, casting into the current. Small commercial fishing boats were dragging. Shellfish skiffs were out in force and a variety of sportfishing boats were headed farther offshore. The party boat fleet began to trickle out behind us, headed for their fishing spots along the coast. Busy morning. And a beautiful one to be on the water.
We headed south along the shore and stayed in tight along the beach, less than a quarter of a mile out and right along the 20-foot line. The water was flat. We started slow, enjoying the views and targeting Manasquan, but began to feel optimistic about getting all the way to Atlantic City. If we were going to accomplish that distance and get in before dark, we needed to run fast.
We cranked the RPMs up to max 3300, got the boat up on a plane at 18 knots (slow, as we were full of fuel), then backed if off to 3100 and 15 to 16 knots. It was fast and comfortable, but loud. We donned ear protection, knowing it could be a long day at these speeds. The pups got their Mutt Muffs.
We settled in and let her go, plotting our way close along the shore. The breeze stayed surprisingly and blissfully light for a lot longer than we had hoped. We got to Manasquan and made the call. On to Atlantic City.
It was a terrific run. Great distance. Mostly comfortable. Beautiful fall day. The wind began to build in the afternoon, but never to the predicted 12 to 25. It was more like 15 to 18, at least according to our instruments. The sea state did get bumpy around the inlets when we had to head out from under the lee of the shore and the tide was running strong, but when we could tuck back in, things leveled out nicely. A few other yachts were doing the same run as we were, some faster, some slower.
We finally had to back off the throttle after going around Little Egg Inlet, where the sea state became confused and uncomfortable. We could still run at 10 knots, although it wasn’t especially comfortable. Still, it was nowhere near as bad as Long Island Sound.
We did a little surfing as we turned into Absecon Inlet and Atlantic City, but the approach was basically straightforward and not at all difficult. With a bit of relief and elation at having had such a fast and easy trip down the dreaded Jersey Shore, we backed into a large and sturdy slip at Farley State Marina. Whew!
Atlantic City. I’m certain we could have had some fun and done some exploring, but we weren’t really in the mood. We got the dogs walked and the boat de-salted. It was a beautiful late afternoon. The wind eased off as the sun began to set, and we even were able to enjoy our first FlyBridge Evening of this trip. The views were what we are accustomed to enjoying, but they were lovely enough simply because we could enjoy some warmth and fresh air up top.
It was a quiet evening on board, perfect for a simple supper. Lobel’s burgers on the grill were a great reward for a long day on the coast. The moon cooperated, almost full, and gave our supper in the pilot house a lovely sight. We turned in early, recharged for another trip along the coast in the morning.
There were a few good lessons in this day. The biggest was that this boat, when asked, can run long and fast and really cover the miles. We have always thought of her as a seven to nine knot boat, capable of bursts of up to 19 knots for shorter periods. We had never contemplated running all day at 15 knots, as we did that day. We covered 92 miles. Good to know it can be done.
The other lesson, or rather, reminder more than a lesson, is that using crowd-sourcing on the internet is no substitute for your own good sense and judgement. I was skeptical of the near universal sentiment “don’t go”, as my own intuition was that there was a good possibility that we might have a good day. Of course, intuition and judgement can be wrong, but you need to develop your own good radar and listen to it.
Distance: 80 nautical miles
Average Speed: 12.5 knots
Travel Time: 6 hrs 25 min