Long Island Sound to Barnegat Bay: A Day of Contrasts

Starting with sunrise on a glassy calm East River, we enjoyed the awe of Manhattan, a placid Atlantic Ocean along the Jersey Shore, some crazies in Manasquan, a summer-like day on Barnegat Bay, and a unique ride up the Forked River.

Friday, October 15, 2021
City Island, New York City, Manasquan and Forked River, NJ
Day 4

We started out with coffee pre-dawn, and watched the morning glow develop on the eastern horizon on a warm, clear, glassy calm morning. Just beautiful. The plan for the day was the classic run down the East River, which is always a thrill, then ending up somewhere in New Jersey, depending on our progress and conditions.

Dawn breaking over City Island as we prepared to drop our lines.

As we pulled out of City Island, we passed a small parade of sailboats in the orange dawn light, and made our way beneath the Throgs Neck Bridge just as the sun broke over the horizon. The scenery was incredibly beautiful, even as we passed along the industrial shorelines of the Bronx and Queens. There was little commercial traffic on the river other than the fast ferries that were getting the day started for commuters. Airplanes flew directly overhead, landing nearby at LaGuardia.

We hit Hell Gate with about four knots of favorable current, and ran down along Manhattan as the sun rose to the east. The various riverside parks and walkways were alive with runners, walkers and dogs doing their morning thing. We had no excitement on board — which is a good thing — and were able to simply soak up the views.

Images of the Brooklyn Bridge Bridge and the Freedom Tower never get old.

Things were a little chaotic at The Battery and Governors Island, with countless ferries going every which way, police and coast guard vessels hanging out, and a few barges under way to and from various ports. The current and wakes created a bit of a fuss, but beyond the anchorages everything flattened out and we proceeded under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in more glassy calm.

Lady Liberty standing tall.

The southerly was expected to fill in by late morning and build during the afternoon. Our three options were to run in to Sandy Hook/Atlantic Highlands if it got feisty, proceed to Manasquan if the Atlantic looked calm, and then either stay in Manasquan over night or run up inside to Barnegat Bay and The Forked River, where we had friends to play with.

Benign conditions led us to bypass Sandy Hook and head for Manasquan. We stayed close in to the beach and ran fast for an hour or so on the smooth sea, hoping to arrive at Manasquan before the breeze filled in and, hopefully, at slack current. The ride under the two bridges at Manasquan can be a thrill if the current is running hard, and we like to avoid thrills when we can.

Glassy calm conditions as we ran down the Jersey shore towards Manasquan.

Getting inside was also a goal because the forecast for the next day featured 20 – 25 knots out of the south, and we didn’t want to be running along the Jersey Shore in those conditions. We could, however, run inside, and we wanted the option of another travel day.

We nailed slack current at Manasquan. Good thing, too. It seemed half of New Jersey was out boating, even though it was a weekday in October. With summer-like conditions, flat water and temps in the high 70s, it might as well have been mid-August. The railroad bridge was closed when we approached and there were a dozen or so boats waiting on each side to get through. When it opened everyone made it through without incident, but to a newbie it was definitely controlled chaos.

It’s a tight squeeze at the Manasquan railroad bridge.

As we headed for the Point Pleasant canal, the center consoles whizzed by at full throttle in the narrow, shallow channel. In the canal itself we pushed against a three-knot current. The bathtub effect was like the North Atlantic in January. We had to run between seven and eight knots of boat speed, which is definitely not no-wake speed, but we had no choice in order to maintain steerage. The last time (and only time) we have been through the canal was in March 2020 while the country was in lockdown for COVID and we were the only boat on the water. What a difference.

Once through the canal we proceeded about 20 miles along the ICW route through Barnegat Bay to the Forked River. It was a lovely, calm ride and there were plenty of other boats out enjoying the warm weather. There were some shallow spots: we were happy with our 3.5-foot draft and I wouldn’t recommend it with more than 5-feet. We had never been to Forked River before. It was a fun ride all the way to the end of the north fork to the Silver Cloud Harbor Marinas, where our friends Brendan and Julie had organized a slip for us.

Forked River was a delightful stay. The folks at the marina were terrific and we were warmly welcomed. It was close to all kinds of services — I picked up a few supplies at the Rite Aid just two blocks away, and there was even a vet within a block, but fortunately we didn’t need one. Brendan and July took us down the river in their tender for dinner at the tiki hut at The Captain’s Inn, where there was a great band playing. After dinner we walked to the main drag for some delicious home made ice cream at Mrs. Walkers Ice Cream, where they even had dog-friendly pup-cups for Maisie and Ollie. What more could we want?

There is a lot of angst among southbound boaters about the Jersey Shore and the Jersey ICW. We have done the inside twice now, and we rather enjoy it. The waters are protected so you can run even when it’s blowing, and if you have shoal draft, and know how to follow the channel carefully, you should be fine. We haven’t visited many towns but Forked River was delightful and we will most certainly return.

The following is a video of our early morning run down the East River.

And another video of Manasquan Inlet and the Point Pleasant Canal.

And a final video of our run up Forked River to Silver Cloud Harbor Marinas:

7 thoughts on “Long Island Sound to Barnegat Bay: A Day of Contrasts”

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