As the “Bomb Cyclone” pulled away from Mamaroneck, we got under way again, but we had just a couple of days to make progress before the next gale would shut us down again.
October 18 – 19, 2019, New York City, Atlantic Highlands and Cape May
Days 5 – 6
Mamaroneck, the East River, Manhattan and Sandy Hook
The northwest gale had lightened up by Friday morning. It was still blowing 15 to 20 knots, but we were in the sheltered waters of Long Island Sound and our route through the day would take us down the East River, so a brisk northerly was not a problem. It was clear and sunny: a classic fall day.
The current in the East River would turn with us after 1:30 PM, so we were in no hurry to leave. We had a relaxing morning, walked the dogs, and were stowed and ready by 11:00. Nichols Yacht Yard and Mamaroneck had been good to us: lots of reasons to return.
We pulled out of our slip and turned to run down Mamaroneck Harbor. American Yacht Club was to the East. We headed west, towards the East River and New York City. Once out on the sound we found the wind still gusting strong. There was a regatta under way out of Larchmont Yacht Club, and the boats were struggling under gusts up to 25 knots. Life was good aboard Esmeralde: the water was flat and we were warm and dry in the pilot house.
It was in uneventful trip down the river. We enjoyed the sights: Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy, jam-packed City Island, SUNY Maritime, the Throgs Neck Bridge. Hell Gate was uneventful: we arrived at slack tide and you’d never know why it has any reputation at all.
Manhattan is always a bit of a thrill. It’s just so majestic, especially from the water, on your own small boat. All the city landmarks pop out: Gracie Mansion, The Empire State Building, the United Nations, the Brooklyn Bridge, and now the Freedom Tower. The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is impressive, and the Statue of Liberty, of course, is the icing on the cake. We didn’t get close enough to her to get good pictures, but even in the distance she makes you catch your breath.
We had hoped the breeze would ease during the afternoon, but no such luck. New York Harbor was feisty, making dodging all the boat traffic challenging as spray kept dousing the pilot house and blocking visibility. We headed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and across Lower Bay to Sandy Hook and Atlantic Highlands. That last section was uncomfortable, as the wind piped up again, gusting to close to 30 knots at times over the shallow water. We had it on our quarter, which was much better than having it on the nose, but we surfed and scooted and rolled. We were very glad to slip in behind the breakwater at Atlantic Highlands.
We fueled up and retreated to our slip, sandwiched in between some work boats and a research vessel, across from all the fishing day-boats. The cold and wind made our warm cozy cabin appealing. The dogs got a nice walk, but we otherwise enjoyed a nice evening aboard, dinner courtesy of the fantastic Cosmo & Alex Pisano deli in Mamaroneck. Yes, we are well fed!
Atlantic Highlands & Sandy Hook To Cape May
Since another gale was looming, we planned a long day on Saturday, 115 miles down the Jersey Shore to Cape May. This is a notoriously challenging run. You need the right conditions or it is horribly uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at worst. If you get caught out in bad weather, there are few inlets that are passable without great risk, and even the good inlets, like Atlantic City, are not for the faint of heart.
We got lucky with our timing. The leftover wind that had pummeled us as we crossed from New York Harbor to Sandy Hook had finally laid down over night. The forecast was for a light to moderate northwesterly, with a light and variable southerly in the afternoon. Perfect conditions for the run.
I was up at 4:45. Dark. Conditions were calm, clear and cold. Fall was in the air. The crew of the workboat alongside of us was just arriving. They fired up their big engines and pulled out promptly at 5:00. Coffee, oatmeal. Dogs fed. Stuff stowed. At 6:00, in the pitch black with the moon high overhead and the New York City skyline glittering in the distance, we bundled up against the cold and went for a walk.
It was Saturday. The day fishing boats had their lights on and the crews were cutting bait. Customers were arriving, looking a little uncertain what to do as they met their captains and crew. The parking lot was full of pick-up trucks towing center consoles, jet skis and fishing kayaks, all getting ready for a day on the water. There was a line waiting for the boat ramp. It was a buzzy scene at that oh-dark-hundred hour.
The dogs took care of business and we headed back to the boat. Daylight was just beginning to glow over Sandy Hook, bright orange. We cast off at 6:30 and motored almost silently out past the moored boats. Small fishing boats, visible only by their running lights, moved about. Truly a lovely, classic early morning on the water. It would be an excellent day.
The sun broke over the horizon just as we rounded Sandy Hook. The sunrise was picture-perfect. We took a sharp right and rode in close to the beach, right along the 20-foot curve past Rumson, Long Branch, Asbury Park, and a long list of classic Jersey Shore beach communities.
The miles ticked away. We rode at speed, 15 knots, 3000 RPM, 73% load, headed for Cape May at the bottom of the New Jersey peninsula. Esmeralde likes going trawler speed, eight to ten knots. She can, however, get-up-and-go when we ask her to.
Going fast for long periods, we all wear ear protection. Bruce and I have Bose noise-cancelling headsets. The pups have Mutt Muffs. It was a near-perfect day to be out there, with a light northwesterly going flat calm as we passed the high rises and Ferris wheel of Atlantic City, and remaining light and variable for the remainder of the afternoon.
Now that we are about a week into our trip, contacts through social media and other sources are cropping up along the way. We have been hop-scotching with Laurie and Matt on their Nordhaven 46 First Light, and we passed them a few miles away as we rode down the Jersey Shore. A couple of hours from Cape May we spotted a familiar shape on the horizon, which turned out to be Curtis and Kim aboard their American Tug 36 Blue Rhapsody, who we had met at Trawler Fest in Stuart FL last spring. Meeting and staying in touch with fellow cruisers is a big part of the fun of all this. We look forward to catching up with all these folks while we wait out the storm in Cape May.
By 2:00 pm we were on our way between the breakwaters at Cape May. We motored slowly past the dredge barges that were anchored near the beach, then a few anchored boats, followed by the Coast Guard Station. Finally, we squeezed down the narrow channel alongside the fishing fleet, in port like us because of the coming gale.
We backed into our slip at South Jersey Marina. It was all very familiar, as we have stayed here twice before and it works well for us. The pups were anxious to get ashore after their long day on the water. It’s always good to stretch legs, whether there are two of them or four of them.
Cape May will be home for three days. The gale, otherwise known as the remnants of tropical storm Nestor, will arrive during the day tomorrow. We could certainly head up the bay on Saturday morning in marginal conditions, but the combination of factors – weather tomorrow afternoon, weather in the following days, tides on Delaware Bay, things to do in Cape May, and things we’d like to do later on in the Chesapeake — all conspired to make sitting in Cape May for a few days the most palatable decision. We like it here, and look forward to getting out and exploring.