…AKA THE BITTER END
Day 21 – Stonington, CT to Stonington, CT in more slow wind-driven circles, 0 miles (super educated guess), all day
After reading, and rereading, and loving with a true passion, the works of absolutely my favorite author, Patrick O’Brian, you can’t but help absorb something.Tons of somethings actually. He is simply brilliant, and his intellect shines through his words in a way that pains me for my own paltry writing. But beyond that, the seafaring world he writes is a study in etymology, the adoption of nautical terms in everyday language is quite surprising. But there’s one phrase in specific that I want to deal with tonight.
The bitter end.
Technically, the bitter end is the part of a rope that’s tied off. And from that definition has sprung more dire meanings. But for Amy and I, its meaning is something else altogether. Touch wood, but tomorrow we will be home. We will create several bitter ends as we secure Sequel in her new slip in Portsmouth, RI and then we’ll pack up the car and head back to Boston – after being on our boat for 25 days and being away from our home and “the kids” for 27 days. It’s going to be bitter sweet for sure. We miss our home and our dog Bella and our two cats Sal and Jersey. And we can feel the pressures of “real” life beginning to weigh on us – demanding our attention. But it’s been one hell of a great trip – experience – and we’re sad to see it draw to a close in a mere collection of hours.
However, It’s not over yet! It’s been a beautiful day here at our mooring off Dodsons Boatyard in Stonington, CT. Clear skies, gusting winds, and warm dry air. We were originally planing on heading to shore for a dinner out, but as the day started drawing to a close we simultaneously realized we wanted to spend our last night aboard Sequel. There’s so much life going on in this harbor, it’s fun to just sit and watch. Blue water sailboats abound and there’s at least a dozen DownEast style cruisers like Sequel. It’s our kind of place.
So I’m about to set up the grill and we’re going to enjoy the last sunset of our trip. I thought perhaps I’d leave you tonight with a tour of the home we’ve lived in for almost a month…
Till tomorrow, when we head home…
One of my fondest childhood characters growing up is that of Babar the Elephant, created by Jean de Brunhoff. I loved that trouble-making elephant in a green suit, loved his world, and the characters that populated his world. And I still love elephants today, including Babar, Celeste, wrinkly old Cornelius, and Arthur. So how could I be worried about a hurricane named Arthur?
Day 20 – Stonington, CT to Stonington, CT in slow wind-driven circles, 4 miles (uneducated guess), all day
I woke up around 5:00am this morning and checked the marine and terrestrial forecasts for Stonington. It was saying wind speeds of 40 mph and torrential rains.
Humm. Could be interesting.
Then, later on, when Amy and I were watching Budapest Hotel in the saloon, both our phones started emitting a crazy tone and we both had this on our screens.
Okay. And then when we looked at the Weather.com radar we saw this heading for us (with ‘us’ being the blue dot sorta in the middle)…
Right. So today’s post is simple – we’re going to present you with a short montage of Weather On The Hour, By John and Amy Hanzl. Was Arthur all that he threatened to be, or was he gentle like a properly dressed French elephant? You be the judge…
My mind is in a fog…
Day 19 – Sag Harbor, NY to Stonington, CT, 28 miles, 2 blind hours
Though to be honest, my mind is usually in a fog, so why should today be any different? Regardless, we made the dash from Sag Harbor to coastal Connecticut in order to find a good refuge for potential future weather. We’re tucked in good at Dodson Boatyard, behind two breakwaters and on a good strong mooring. Plus when we arrived this morning we fueled up, pumped out and loaded in 100 gallons of water. We’re stocked!
And to keep things par for the course, we had to arrive in a complete fog, everything shrouded in a swirl of mystery. It would have been awesome if it wasn’t so damn stressful. But awesome. And stressful.
(Yeah, I look a bit like Popeye in that sequence, but it was just that kind of light!)
Anyway – we’re a mere collection of miles from Sequel’s new home in RI. We’ve traveled an umpteen number of miles (don’t really know how many that is, but it’s a LOT), and we just can’t seem to make that last bit to complete the voyage. I don’t know – perhaps it’s kismet. Maybe we’re having too much fun. Regardless, we’re here. Tucked in for Arthur (Amy just pointed out that I spelled it ‘author’ – ironic). Or whatever remnants Arthur has to throw at us. All we know is that we don’t want to deal with seven to ten foot seas, so we’re here. Sorry Bella. But soon, we promise!
So today was all about zero visibility and the density of fog – which ironically isn’t dense at all. If you were to use our dinghy’s gas tank as a barometer for the weather we’ve been dealing with, it would have gone like this…
HOLY CRAP! The gas tank is about to explode it’s so puffed out…
OMG – WTF!? – The gas tank is so sucked in it’s permanently deformed. Looks like a Kardashian’s cheeks.
YIKES!! – Freekin’ thing is huge! Well, guess it’s a good thing the tank’s so puffed out again – it’s no longer deformed…
Point being – it was FOGGY on the run to Dodson today. As in “I think this damn autopilot is turning us in circles but apparent;y it’s not” foggy. As in “I now fully believe in ghosts” foggy. It was that foggy. And we crept into the harbor in Stongington in complete blindness, with a huge anchorage to navigate, all blind. It was cool!
So our trip is almost over – but it’s not done yet. Amy’s sitting beside me watching a Facebook video of a dog who is now cancer free getting to unwrap a huge box of toys, and she’s crying. Life is good and we still have tomorrow to look forward to…
And we had fireworks tonight! TWICE!
Oh boy – the skies just opened up! It’s pouring out – Sequel is finally going to get a bath. Night all…
LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS
A day of leisure…
Day 18 – Sag Harbor, NY to Sag Harbor, NY, 0 miles (unless you count dinghy miles), 0 hours
So – I opted to delay my post of Sag Harbor for a day because I wanted to relate my trials and tribulations with the mooring ball at Oyster Bay. But that’s behind us, we’re at a mooring in Sag Harbor in the Hamptons (fah fah fah) – a place may I add, where they charge by the foot for a MOORING! Two dollars a freekin foot at that. I’ve never been to a place where you don’t pay a fixed (and small) fee for a mooring. But not here. Oh no, we called in advance several days ago and Amy had to give a credit card number and prepay. For a mooring. And they don’t even sell ice here! We had to do a separate dinghy trip to shore and walk to a bagel shop and have them bag ice for us, and then we had to carry 30 lbs of melting ice six blocks back to the dinghy dock (which, might I add, is banished to the very edge of the harbor – so as not to tarnish locked and posted docks that line the harbor with the 150 foot plus yachts), Anyway, good boat watching here, even if the winds have been ripping.
But I digress. We had a long run east from Oyster Bay yesterday – with pretty much nothing on the horizon or radar. Not even land. We did, however, see the Port Jefferson ferry (and by ‘seeing’ I mean actively work at not getting run down by it) – which has a very close personal connection to me, as I had ridden that very same ferry several years ago when I went to dive the Andrea Doria – known as the Mount Everest of scuba diving (to find out more about my experience with that, you can watch a presentation I gave that’s posted on the WGBH Forum network on that incredible trip).
And we also ran past a research vessel – Seawolf – that I saw as an AIS target miles before we came up on her.
AID indicated she was moored in the middle of the Long Island Sound, which was rather unique, so I hailed her on the radio to make sure our passing wasn’t going to interfere with any operations she had going on. Here’s the conversation…
John: “Seawolf Seawolf Seawolf, this is Sequel on one six.”
Seawolf: “This is Seawolf, go ahead Sequel”
John: “Hey Seawolf, we are approaching you on your port stern and wanted to make sure it was okay to pass. I see you’re moored.”
Seawolf: “Sure thing Sequel. Actually, why not run right pass us and give us a good wake.”
(Amy and I exchange surprised glances)
Seawolf: “We actually have a wave buoy deployed and would love the data.”
Oh – cool! I reach forward and rotate the knob on the autopilot towards Seawolf. Fun! (By the way, I feature a ship by the name of Seawolf in my novel Out of Hell’s Kitchen, which you definitely should check out…)
Beyond that, it was just a long run with not too bad conditions. Until we ran through Plum Gut into Gardiners Bay between the “forks” at the eastern end of Long Island. Things then grew a bit unpleasant, but still not the worst we’ve experienced on the trip. And we timed the run through the Gut so that we did it at slack tide – we’re learning!
So Sag Harbor. Did I mention that’s it’s great boat watching? – and the accompanying people watching that goes with it. Last night we met up with Amy’s Aunt Joanne and her husband Mel. What fun people. They’re spending the summer in the Hamptons (but honestly, they’re down to earth people!) and they took us out to dinner. Great night – with the only downside being that both Amy and I were experiencing the “sways” after being on the boat for so long. But that’s okay.
And today – well, as I mentioned, we bought ice. We actually took the dinghy to shore three times today. The first time was to go for a run, which was great as we were planning on spending the rest of the day drinking rum concoctions and hanging out on the bow – which is exactly what we did.
That’s about it – though to be honest, the big story is something that I’ve not even talked about. Arthur, aka, “the storm”, or to put it more colloquially, “oh crap!”. But that’s a story for tomorrow. At least, I hope so. As long as we can make the planned early morning dash.
For now, enjoy the sights and sounds…
DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME
Today was a long day. Which was surprising, as we just ran east along Long Island Sound. Simple – but not so. And yet, it was an awesome day!
Day 17 – Oyster Bay, NY to Sag Harbor, NY, 76 miles. 4 hours 15 min
Day 17. Let me just marvel on that for a moment. Wow. Amy and I have been on Sequel for twenty nights – living on this little triangle of floating space for twenty two days. Shouldn’t we be freaking out by now? Straining at the perimeter of this relatively small space for our own individual spaces? If Sequel was a strip of land paced off at forty feet by thirteen and a half, perhaps. But our footprint is so much larger than the cubic feet of water we occupy at any one time. I suppose our space is more defined by the spread of our wake as we travel through this experience. Without waxing too poetic, I suppose our footprint is infinite and therefore that’s why we are so happy within it…
Right – well, the wind has been screaming around Sequel all afternoon. We’re in Sag Harbor at a mooring, with a crescent moon shining over us and the glow of at least twenty megayachts shining along the docks a quarter mile away. We’ve double run the mooring lines with this wind, and are happily living within the security of Sequel (with one of us tucked into bed and the other one writing this blog – eh hem, Amy…). But that reminds me of last night – and of the title of this post.
When a buoy becomes a man, aka – the haunting of John…
Last night – at Oyster Bay – was another wicked windy one. And another night at a mooring (we do love a mooring!). We had climbed into bed, with the slapping and gurgling and bouncing and jinking that I love so much while free floating at a mooring. My eyes were closed and the blissful peace of sleep descending on me like a blanket. Ah…
TAP tap tap TAP!!!!!!!!!
TAP TAP TAP!!!!!!!!
Damn it all to hell. The buoy that’s tied to the large pennant lines run from the mooring – the buoy that makes picking up a mooring so much easier – was floating beside the bow of Sequel, it’s long fiberglass rod politely knocking on the hull for attention. Ugh.
I crawl out of bed, slide open the door from the stateroom, stumble through the saloon and up the companionway steps. Slide open the hatch and fold open the door. Stagger across the helm deck, unzip the door to the cockpit and creep around the side deck and work my way up to the bow. Damn buoy. I drag it up onto the deck. Problem solved. I work my way back through the Get Smart maze of obstacles and back into bed, feeling a little proud of myself. Eyes closed I drift off…
The buoy is dragged off the bow (just beyond my resting head) and into the water – hitting every noisemaking protrusion on a fairly protrusion-laden bow.
I look at my phone – 11:00pm. Sleep John, sleep.
TAP TAP TAP TAP!!!!!!!
Up I get – back through the sleep-deprived obstacle course and out to the bow. I’ll teach it – I’ll let out more line and get it away from the side of our hull. Hah!
Back to bed. Ahhh…
DING DING DING DING!!!!!!!
The stupid thing was now ringing our anchor (a rather nice 35lb QCR anchor on 25 feet of chain and 400′ of rode, but I digress). UP, OUT, CURSE, MORE SCOPE LET OUT, BED!
DING DING DING TAP TAP DING TAP!!!!!
Holy crap! I’m up – laughing. Crying. Swearing. Contemplating just casting the entire cursed thing off and letting Sequel drift into the world at her whim. But I also knew what I had to do – what I always needed to do. I had to set up the mooring lines properly, which we didn’t do from the get go because someone previously had tied the two large pennants together with the pickup line and we didn’t fix the issue when we picked up the mooring. When I resolved it – it was now just after 3:00 in the morning – and crawled back into bed, I smiled. The buoy knew it needed to be fully on our deck and it wouldn’t rest until it got there. It won, and it got a good night’s rest, as did I, eventually…
I think I’ll post more about today, tonight, and tomorrow, well, tomorrow…
Till then, when you can learn what Sag Harbor is like…
But first, the numbers (for two days):
Day 15 – Cape May, NJ to Jersey City, NJ, 124 miles, 7.33 hours (including NYC touring time)
Day 16 – Jersey City, NJ to Oyster Bay, NY, 34.7 miles. 2.5 hours (you’ll see why in a moment)
Okay, 1424. Well, in the year 1424 King Wladislaus III of Poland was born. And, according to el Goog, Angel Number 1424 is a message from our angels that they are currently assisting us with keeping our thoughts light and positive (who knew!?). But 1424 is also the number of miles we’ve traveled since we left Blowing Rocks Marina in Jupiter, Florida sixteen days ago. To me, that’s a pretty large number! And we’re not home yet…
Yesterday was pretty thrilling. Leaving Cape May around 6:40am, we ran the inlet with some pretty wild currents and standing waves, knocking Sequel’s nose one way then the other and giving us a bit of concern about what the Atlantic would hold for us. The sport fisherman ahead of us was pounding through the swells with spray exploding up over her bow. Uh oh… But then we were through and to our relief the seas were slow gentle rollers that never gave Sequel a shudder or crash. We ran north at our full cruising speed of 2200 RPM, giving us about 19.5 knots and we never throttled back until New York Harbor. The seas got pretty confused as we neared Manhattan, but I mean, who’s surprised. Nothing moves slowly in the city that never sleeps.
It was great running into (not literally) the city – watching the skyline grow, seeing the Lady appear, marveling at the scope of the new Freedom Tower gleaming from the area that had brought both Amy and I such personal pain. Amy worked at the Financial Center and we both lost friends on that fateful day in 2001. But here we were, arriving in the city where we had met fourteen years ago on a blind date – and arriving in our own boat, experiencing it from an entirely unique angle. Awesome!
So we toured around for a bit – dodging high speed ferries, tour boats, sail boats, megayachts, jet skis, and security vessels of all shapes and sizes – and then eventually feeling our way into Liberty Harbor Marina on the Jersey side of the Hudson. We’d been calling all the way up from Cape May to try to secure a slip, but Amy was getting a voicemail message that they were CLOSED Sundays and Mondays! What? Fortunately someone did answer hours later, although Amy got, “please hold” and after waiting for an eternity she hung up and tried again. “Please hold”. Aargh! Again, after an eternal hold Amy hung up. A third time was the charm.
Amy: “Hi – I was wondering if you had a slip available for tonight. Possibly for two nights (more on that in a second)?”
Wanda (I just made that name up): “Yes”
Amy: “Great, so what kind of a slip is it – side tie, back in, …?”
Wanda: “I don’t know anything about the marina.”
Amy: “Oh, okay. Well, do you know what side we should rig?”
Wanda: “No, go to C55”
Amy: “Um, where in the marina is that?”
Wanda: “I don’t know anything about the marina. Go to C55 and park it there.”
Amy: (I’ll delete her internal discourse) “Okay, thank you.”
So… Yeah, it was an interesting place. And not even (really) a city view because it was tucked behind a large apartment building. And the place was a bit of a dump (sorry LHM, but it was). Still, we were in Manhattan (kinda) and it was a good feeling. And then Deborah, Amy’s sister, came for a visit. We chilled on the boat with margaritas, caught up, and then took the dinghy out to dinner (and no, I didn’t actually take the dinghy out to dinner. I may like our RIB, but not THAT much).
Now I’m back to today. We left Manhattan behind this morning after fueling up (choke), and have gone as far as we can go. Literally.
We are at a mooring in Oyster Bay on Long Island, and, as you can see in the picture below, our electronic charts go no farther. We’ve known about this predicament for a while – there was a miscommunication and we didn’t have the final chip for our ‘plotter to get us home from Long Island Sound. So long story short, Peter to the rescue again. He is overnighting us a chip to this marina and it should be here tomorrow morning. Cutting it close, or perfect planning – you choose.
(I feel like a modern day Columbus at the edge of the known world)
That’s it. Tomorrow I want to chat a bit about our thought process for go / no go with regards to mother nature – as there will need to be some decision making in the very near future. But before I forget – I wanted to give a shout out to our friends Deb and Scott. Deb, thanks so much for looking after our garden! And I wanted you to know that in Annapolis we saw these huge chicken statues all over the place during our cab ride to Whole Foods (like the cow statues that were in Boston), and I got excited to get the camera off the boat and take a video of me saying, “Hello Chicken!” to one of the six foot tall cluckers (inside story), but to my chagrin the art installation didn’t extend into the waterfront area at all. Still – Hello Chicken!
Good night and enjoy the sights and sounds of these past two days…
BUT DON’T CALL HER SNOOKI
Jersey Shore, there ain’t no denying it…
First off, technically we are on Day 15 of the adventure. I tried to post last night, but per usual, we had no cell service and the WiFi was imaginary. So here I am, sitting on the settee in the helm deck, three miles out on the Atlantic – with, of course, full cell service. But more about today’s journey this evening.
Day 14 – Annapolis, MD to Cape May, NJ, 131 miles, 7 hours
We made a break for it. Or, alternatively, the best made plans are the first to be tossed overboard…
We left Annapolis after an exchange of fluids – we added 196 gallons of diesel, about 75 gallons of water, and removed 30 gallons of the less desirable stuff. Our plan was to do a quick and easy run to Havre de Grace, which is some quaint town on the Chesapeake right by the C & D Canal that leads to the Delaware Bay, pick up a mooring and chill for the day. Instead, after looking at the weather, we opted to push on through the canal and run the entire Delaware Bay down to Cape May in one day. The advantage being that the Atlantic is looking a little foreboding Monday and into the near future. By making the push today we can tackle the run from Cape May to Manhattan in possibly one day. The down side is that our trip is almost over, and we kinda don’t want it to end.
Regardless, another interesting day. This morning I spent a half hour scrubbing off the salt and grime the had been dashed on poor Sequel during our trip up the Chesapeake two days earlier, while Amy worked on scrubbing the tons of bug poop off Sequel – perhaps literally. Then we departed, along with Navy training ships from the school. And best of all, the northern Chesapeake and the bulk of the Delaware Bay were kind to us today. We almost made it the entire trip without stuffing a wave and dousing the topsides with salt. Almost.
The run down Delaware Bay was filled with huge commercial traffic – and a pair of Mylar balloons. We ran past the balloons just floating around looking for a turtle to choke, so we decided to stomp on the breaks (for the record, for those thinking of purchasing a boat, they don’t actually have breaks) ad go on a rescue mission (see video). Finally, after a fairly long, but not too hot, day, we ended up in a slip at Utsch’s Marina (and I ask you – how on earth do you pronounce that when hailing them on the VHF? Not fair). And at the marina we met Wes on his Sabre 42 – the big sister to Sequel – who is bringing his Sabre up to Tiverton, RI for the summer from his home in MD. So we’re boat neighbors! And we also met Edie and Joe – who have a Tiara named Seaquel (sic). We actually heard them hailing another vessel while we were running down Delaware Bay and at the time I was sort of like, huh? Did I just hail someone? Nope different Sequel, different spelling, same small world. They are taking their Seaquel to Martha’s Vineyard.
So I’ll let the pictures and video compilation speak for the rest of today’s post. We’re getting up early to make our next push – so with any luck Lady Liberty will be greeting us at the end of tomorrow! (And by that, I mean Amy’s sister AND the statue…)
Oh, and here’s our neighbors for the night. And they are from Gloucester! (Can you spot Sequel through all the rigging?)
Till the Big Apple…
AND ON THE THIRTEENTH DAY, WE RESTED
Down day. How nice!
Day 13 – Annapolis, MD to Annapolis, MD, 0.0 miles, 0 blissful hours
We’re sitting on the bow at our mooring, drinking a glass of wine and watching the dazzling array of watercraft motor, steam, paddle, sail, everything – pass. Again. It’s fantastic. Amy’s reading up on the next leg of the trip (and the one beyond that), and obviously I’m working on the blog. The weather is looking good for the next two days, but then, just as we expect to come out of the Delaware Bay into the Atlantic for the run outside along the Jersey coast, seas are looking to be three to five feet. We’ll have to play it by ear (inner ear?) when we get closer to that point.
But for now, it’s just relaxing. We got up, made coffee and toured the harbor in the dink before running it to city dock in Annapolis where we took a taxi out to Whole Foods for some much needed provisioning. It was amazing to see seven and eight year olds running large center consoles and sailboats through the incredibly busy harbor, with six and seven year old crew – all professional and serious – and probably more competent than us. After we returned from our provisioning expedition I worked down in the engine room (aka Holy Place – we’ll address that in a few) while Amy did some course plotting and planning. Then we showered, put on our shore going rigs, and took the water taxi back into town for some meandering and sampling the of the local brew and crab dip. Oh – and apparently prestocking the boat with two cases of wine wasn’t enough for us so we stopped at Mills Fine Wines and Spirits and picked up a case of wine and two four-packs on Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA for the water taxi ride back to Sequel. The taxi captain appreciated our taste in both boats and wine. Compliment accepted.
But before I forget – a quick story from yesterday. During our run up to Annapolis it really did get pretty rough. The boat was pitching and rolling all over the place. It was kind of fun and kind of nerve wracking because it was OUR boat. I thought of a story my folks told us when we were in Hilton Head. Years ago they had traveled to England with another couple – the Smiths (literally the Smiths) – where they ran a 62 foot narrow boat in the canals there (like father like son I guess!). Well, my folks love to dance – again, father / son thing – and so when they went to visit the Smiths before the trip at their old (and narrow) home in Maine, my parents suggested they practice dancing in a particularly narrow and long hallway, to ensure they could do it on the canal boat. That is so my parents. So while we were underway yesterday, with no land in sight and our Sequel bucking like a bronco, I cajoled Amy into an impromptu dance party on the helm deck. Thanks Jean and Zeke – it was fun, and it took our minds off the conditions for a while!
Okay – so tonight I present you with a tour of our Holy Place, a picture of Amy drinking a bottle of Raging Bitch IPA (no comment), and the general sights and sounds of the evening. I hope you enjoy!
I PRESENT – A QUOTE FROM OUR BROKER…
Day 12 – Deltaville, VA to Annapolis, MD, 90.5 miles, 6.5 (looong) hours
This one is going to be short but sweet. As no doubt you already know, we left Deltaville late – around 11:00am – in order to find a better weather window for our 95 mile push north to Annapolis. Everything was looking good as we left the protected harbor of Deltaville and turned north. Unfortunately mother nature had other plans. For those who’ve never been on the Chesapeake, it’s big. Really big. As in, when you’re cruising in it, you can’t see shore to shore. It’s more like a sea than a bay. Anyway, the waves were nose on, about three feet, and according to my observations, had about a four second dominant period. And that was the average. Toss in some nice sharp four footers that were closely spaced and rolling over on themselves and ol’ Sequel took a good pounding (as did we), with spray and sometimes entire sheets of water cascading up over the entire helm deck. At one point Amy became airborne while sitting on the head (yes – she’s going to kill me for saying that).
During the run I texted our broker Peter, complete with a short video of the conditions, and asked him if I was driving the boat too hard. His response was awesome – and is the title of this post. He said, “Drive her like you stole her”. Enough said.
Our plan was to make Annapolis by day’s end, but at the reduced speed we were forced to do it was looking pretty dismal (and not like the swamp). According to our ‘plotter we weren’t slated to get in until after 11:00 at night! Ugh. Fortunately the seas laid down after 2:30, as we were hoping, and we were able to let Sequel run at a nice 19 knots for the second half of the trip, letting us make landfall at a much more reasonable 5:50pm. We ran through the mooring field and picked up a mooring amongst the dazzling array of boats. J boats sailed past us on the way out to a race, megayachts toured around the harbor, crazy rowing things rowed past, and everything you can imagine that can float and costs money ran past our “back yard” as we sipped martinis prior to an excellent grilled meal.
We’re going to have our second “down day” tomorrow, and play in Annapolis. Now I am ready for bed!
Oh, and Jeff our excellent dog walker and house sitter, sent us some encouragement from home…
Here’s all the video I managed to snag…