Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Full Foulies and a Ditch Bag

We awoke Monday morning and checked the weather report. Hmmmm, Sandy's projected track is a bit closer to us now. Hmmmm, and the wind forecast is now 30-50 mph with gusts to 65. For Neala, it was a no-brainer: "Every man for himself! I'm going to a hotel!" Grady and Jeff had to agree, so we packed our ditch bags (thanks for the bags, Bill Hertel), called a cab and headed to a Best Western on higher ground. On the way out, we were interviewed by the WBAL TV crew that was covering the storm from a bluff overlooking the marina. Not sure if we made the news, but Jeff thinks we were live at the time (our 15 minutes of fame!). Jeff worked as Neala and Grady watched WBAL keeping track of Sandy's progress as she approached the NJ coast. It was comforting to see an occasional live flash from our personal marina TV crew and we could at least see shots of Serenity in them.

 Not "abandoning ship" but...

In the morning we had breakfast with Ted and Shirl who had also decided to retreat from the storm's fury. As it turned out, Annapolis was in the SW quadrant of the storm and we saw very little of the havoc that Sandy brought to the rest of the East Coast. We were saddened by the damage we saw in New York, where we had been only a week ago, and in Atlantic City where we had passed during our night passage.

In Annapolis, the main concern was the storm surge that threatened to flood the downtown area. The bridge over Spa Creek was closed due to downtown flooding. Grady rented a car to get to the airport for a 3pm flight, because the shuttles were not reliable, and drove us all back to the boat about 10 am. Northern Lights, wet but in pristine conditions, was sitting where we had left her. We went aboard, powered up the heaters and spent the day chillin' as a dreary rain fell all day.

Northern Lights just as we left her and a fond bye bye to Grady!

Its all good!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On to Annapolis and Our Date with Sandy

Sunday, October 28 - All Dressed Up and Ready for Our Date With Sandy!

Grady and Jeff are ready for something!

But seriously, we have done quite a bit of preparation since yesterday. We took down the dodger and bimini canvas, wrapped halyards around the roller furling, prepared the dinghy, reversed the boat to point into the N winds and generally got everything ship shape for the expected 35-45 blows with gusts to 65 mph. Thanks to Ted & Shirl for helping us turn the boat around in the gusty conditions. Sandy is currently on track to hit Atlantic City where we were less than a week ago. Local restaurants and local businesses have sandbags standing by expecting some flooding due to Spring tides and surge associated with Sandy. We have a ditch bag and contingency plans if necessary but plan to hunker down as she makes landfall sometime tomorrow. For now we are chillin' with Kracken & Neala with her Bombay Sapphire. What, us worry?

At 1600 the five of us (Jeff, Neala, Grady, Shirl & Ted) headed out in a breeze and light rain to search for the happy hour crab feed at a bar in town. Alas, they were closed due to impending flooding so we went instead to McGarvey's Tavern for drinks and food. We finally hooked up with "Sandy" - turned out to be our server - and had a great meal again. After dinner we got ice cream and chocolates then moved to the Annapolis Yacht Club for some after dinner drinks before returning to our boats at 2000 in somewhat more rain but hardly any wind. Tides were higher than usual and many businesses downtown had already put out sandbags.

Grady's last supper

Saturday, October 27 - Annapolis with Friends & Family

Neala and Shirl headed into Annapolis for a shopping trip and Grady & Jeff spent the morning installing a vented loop on the heat pump and the turning blocks for the whisker pole up on the mast. Jeff's cousin Megan arrived after noon and the three walked into Annapolis to meet up with Neala for lunch at the Middleton Tavern. On the way, we passed several groups of Midshipmen (& women!) from the Academy. After lunch, we all met up with Neala's old friends, Beverly & Ned. Neala & Beverly stayed in town to wander through art galleries and Ned joined Megan, Jeff & Grady for another trip to Fawcett's. Remember this little Fawcett tidbit: When buying boat hardware, always buy in 3s - one for the bay, one for the bilge and one for the boat!. Later, Ned & Beverly took Neala & Shirl grocery shopping to get supplies for the impending Frankenstorm. Then Neala's life-long girlfriend Barb joined us all for happy hour on Northern Lights before walking to the Chart House for a fine dinner that included lots of laughs, a great dinner and yummy Molten Lava Cake dessert! It was great to have Barb stay over in the salon as the winds began to blow.

Neala in Annapolis with NL in background

We ran into Melissa Trost, a former EYC sailing instructor and crew-mate on SchockTop, getting ready for 55 AYC small boat races

 The girls: Neala, Shirl, Barb & Beverly

The guys: Jeff, Ned, Ted & Grady

Ted, Grady, Ned, Beverly, Barb, Neala, Jeff and Shirl at Chart House

Friday, October 26 - Cruise to Annapolis YC

Left Fairlee Creek carefully navigating our way through the narrow and shallow channel followed closely by Serenity, then turned south and motored towards Annapolis in clear, warm conditions. After a couple of hours the wind built over our port quarter so we hoisted the sails to sail on a broad reach until we got to the William P. Lane Bridge, just north of Annapolis. Good to be sailing again! Heading into the harbor in Annapolis, we passed the 2012 J-24 East Coast Championships - 35 boats from the East Coast, Canada & Bermuda - to port. We enjoyed the scenic ride into Annapolis harbor past the Naval Academy and many marinas then waited for the Compromise Street bascule bridge to open. We followed Serenity under the bridge before motoring to our slip, just yards up the Spa Creek from the bridge. Jeff was totally obsessed with getting to a real chandlery to buy a serious anchor for Northern Lights, and after a couple of calls they were picked up by a representative of Fawcett Marine. They returned an hour or so later with a really big 45 lb Manson Supreme anchor and 120 ft of 3/8 BBB chain (Boy, was Jeff excited!). Jeff & Grady spent little time installing the new anchor on the boat with the help of the friendly Fawcett representative. Later, we all went to diner with Ted & Shirl at Rockfish enjoying local crab-fare and our first night in Annapolis.

 Cruising towards Annapolis

 Sailing to William P. Lane Bridge

William P. Lane Bridge

J-24s Starting a Race

Bascule bridge at Compromise Street, Annapolis MD

 The BOMB aka Manson Supreme #45

 Jeff & Grady installing the BOMB

 Closeup of the new anchor

Thursday, October 25 - Cruise to Fairlee Creek Anchorage

We left Summit North Marine with Neala at the helm while Jeff took more MiHIN calls and she & Grady navigated their through the rest of the C&D Canal. Once in the Chesapeake Jeff rejoined the quarterdeck and we motored, along with Serenity, in calm conditions towards Fairlee Creek. About 6 miles out the wind built a little and we hoisted sails for the last leg of the passage. The harbor entrance to Fairlee is quite narrow and shallow so we tip-toed through the tulips (channel markers) on our way to anchor for the first time on the trip. We anchored in their broad, calm, tree-lined cove resplendent in fall colors and enjoyed watching a Bald Eagle perched on a nearby scraggy tree along the shore. Serenity anchored nearby and we all dinghied over for a visit. Grady stayed on board (because they had beer) while Jeff & Neala motored to shore to go exploring and collect meaningless pieces of gravel (according to Neala, priceless treasures of peach-colored quartz!). Jeff & Neala returned to Serenity for cocktails & Shirl's specialty hors 'd oeuvres. We eventually returned to Northern Lights and grilled some fine steaks on the barbie to accompany Neala's stir-fried veggies.

Ted & Shirl on Serenity

 Neala loves to drive!

 Beachcombing in Fairlee Creek

 NL & Serenity are actually in the background

 Enjoying another great sandwich creation by Neala in Fairlee Creek

 The Group: Neala, Jeff, Grady, Shirl & Ted aboard Serenity

 Steaks in the salon in Fairlee Creek

 Accompanied by hugs & a nice Zin

 Chillin' after dinner - Fairlee Creek.

Wednesday, October 24 - Lay Day at Summit North Marina

Today was a work-day. Jeff spent most of the day on the phone doing MiHIN business and Grady spent the majority of the day topsides with a bucket of Oxy Clean, a hose and a brush. He took off all of the canvas and eliminated all of the Erie Canal goop along with a few spiders that had accumulated over the summer making Northern Lights sparkle like new. The weather was beautiful with sun shine and temperatures in the 70s. Starting to feel like Florida already! Neala & Shirl went on a power walk for an hour or so along the marina docks. Later the three of us went to Aqua*Sol, the marina's restaurant, where we enjoyed delicious cuisine, excellent service from Mary Kate, and desserts beyond our wildest expectations. Grady had a caramel cheesecake, Neala had bread pudding drizzled in caramel sauce & whipped cream and Jeff had a huge warm chocolate brownie cake with vanilla ice cream. Never mind the chocolate martinis after! Neala was sure glad she had gone for that power walk as we waddled back to the boat. 

Neala on power walk. What does she see in him?

Guess Shirl sees the same thing...

Tuesday, October 23 - Heading Up Delaware Bay

We rounded the southern tip of New Jersey threading our way among the shoals via the local-knowledge inside passage a quarter mile offshore before heading north in calm conditions towards the C&D canal about 50 miles away. We had heard lots of horror stories about treacherous waters and quirky currents and fast-moving commercial ships on this passage. Fortunately for us we encountered none of this and had a very calm passage up the Delaware Bay encountering only one barge that was anchored, one small tanker, one large car carrier and a couple of pleasure yachts. We passed the Ship John Shoal light after sailing for a couple of hours in a nice 10 kt SW breeze, then motored past the nuclear power plant before turning into the C&D canal around 1700. Continuing on, we proceeded to the Summit North Marina, recommended to us by Jim McBrier, for the night. The marina turned out to be a beautiful, serene location with numerous herons, hawks, ducks & geese surrounded by brightly colored fall landscapes. Great docks, nice people, Serenity a couple slips down - its all good.

 Grady fishing in Delaware Bay

 Jeff & Grady studying the GPS

 Nuclear power plant makes an interesting reflection on the Delaware Bay

 Heron at Summit North Marina

Off the stern, Northern Lights at Summit North Marina

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Neala's First Night Passage

Sunday, October 21 Departed NYC for Cape May
We left Liberty Landing at 8 am with Serenity and headed out of the New York harbor. Skies were clear and we had an 8-10 knot westerly breeze in the forecast for the next 3 days. Perfect conditions for a night cruise (Neala's first - Yikes!) down the New Jersey coastline to Cape May. We buddy boated with Serenity and Bentana, a ketch owned by friends of friends who were heading in the same direction. The harbor was not so busy as when we arrived as it was Sunday; however, the ships were much bigger as you can see below.

Northern Lights Departing NYC

Serenity Hoisting Sails Against New Tower
Grady At Statue of Liberty

Jeff and Grady Against NYC Skyline

Jeff & Neala Against NYC Skyline

Container Ship in NYC Harbor

Sailing out Verrazano Narrows Bridge

 Container Ship Entering NYC Channel

The winds held true to forecast as we reached down the coastline, staying a steady 10-15 until nightfall. After that, they built to 15-20 but kept from the west. As darkness fell we reefed the jib and eventually dropped the main so that we would not arrive at Cape May to negotiate its channels and shoals in the middle of the night. It was a beautiful starlit night and, once the moon fell around midnight, the stars were spectacular. We saw several shooting stars and Atlantic City lit up the coastline for miles.

Off Atlantic City after Dark

Monday, October 22 - Rest Day in Cape May
As the sun rose and our eyelids began to droop, we all decided that a visit to Cape May Harbor was in order to recharge our (human) batteries. We got a slip at Utsch's Marina. Serenity went into the marina first and we saw them slowly back out. They had grounded on the minus tide and wanted to give us a chance to get to our slip first. Of course, we really grounded as well and had to get some help from the marina's push boat. Once plowing a furrow into our slips we tied up and promptly went to sleep. Neala decided that night trips were not for her!

 Sunrise off Cape May While Heading into Harbor

Coast Guard Station Cape May

Northern Lights at Utsch's Marina

After resting until after lunch the three of us walked into town in search of a grocery store. After wandering for a bit among the picturesque Victorian homes of Cape May we found a store and picked up a few needed items.

Grady & Neala in Cape May

We had another nice dinner at the Lobster House with Ted & Shirl then made plans to head up the Delaware Bay the following morning. We had heard horror stories from several people about the big ship traffic in the main channel, heavy seas during westerly winds, and the many shoals. We had gotten some local knowledge from fishermen we had met at the marina that the inside passage around the point was clear and easily navigable in calm conditions with a good chart plotter so we made that our plan. They also recommended we enter the channel at mid-ebb tide so that, by the time we got to the really narrow parts of the bay, we would pick up the flood and would avoid the large ebb currents there. Consulting our tide tables and charts, we planned to leave at sunrise.

Tuesday, October 23 - Passage of Deleware Bay.
We left Utsch's Marina at daybreak in calm conditions to motor out and around the tip of New Jersey. Here we are departing Cape May Harbor. Beautiful sunrise, calm waters and a new day.

Northern Lights Leaving Cape May Harbor at Sunrise. Thanks Shirl!