September—Sailing Long Island Sound, Visiting with Thoreson Relatives, Visiting Other Saga Owners, Learning How To Use the Tides and Currents To Our Advantage and Arriving In Annapolis
Carl’s nephew, Jerome Tufte, joined us in New York City on September 1st. Jerome had just completed the mandatory sophomore summer semester at Dartmouth College so he was ready to rest and relax by cruising with us. He met us at the West 79th Street Yacht Basin where we were at a mooring. We did not have a final destination in mind when we dropped the mooring line other than to make it into Long Island Sound and then find a spot to anchor for the night.
The route to Long Island Sound is down the Hudson to the tip of Manhattan, under the Brooklyn Bridge up the East River, past the United Nations and Roosevelt Island, past Riker Island (another huge prison sitting on some prime real estate) and La Guardia Airport (jets taking off over our mast) and then out to the sound itself.
The first picture is of the skyline of Manhattan as we traveled south on the Hudson River. The second picture is the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River.
There is a place on the East River past the United Nations Building and northeast of Roosevelt Island called Hell Gate. Earlier in the summer, I listened to stories about different passages through Hell Gate (mostly by sailors with high blood levels of testosterone). At Hell Gate, tidal currents are funneled into a narrow space and then deflected by several land masses. The currents are strong with whirlpools and crosscurrents forming standing waves. At my request, Carl studied the tide and current tables so that we passed through Hell Gate under “whimp conditions”. It was something to see even at "whimp level"---like a pot of boiling water. The price we paid for using “whimp conditions” was having to sail against the current for several hours.
We had a great sail once we entered Long Island Sound. In fact, we were moving so fast we missed two of the anchorages we had identified as possible overnight stays going all the way to Oyster Bay. When we were close to Oyster Bay we started noticing all the lobster pots which should be avoided. It is not a good thing to have a lobster trap tangeled up in your prop. Oyster Bay has some interesting history…..it served as the British Headquarters during the Revolutionary War and was home to Robert Townsend, George Washington’s famous spy. Teddy Roosevelt’s summer home, Sagamore, is in Oyster Bay. Finally, one of the restaurants in Oyster Bay claims to have the best hamburger on Long Island. Jerome and I validated this claim! I think they can extend the region to the East Coast1
The following picture is sailboats racing in Oyster Bay right off our stern. I was sitting in the cockpit, reading when all of a sudden boats are trying to out maneuver one another at the mark.....lots of shouting at each other and sail noise.
Wanted to be in Sag Harbor for Labor Day weekend. We needed to pass through Plum Gut in order to get to Sag Harbor. Plum Gut is a deep, narrow passage through which the sea surges with tremendous force at maximum current. There are scary tiderips and standing waves. Frankly, if the place on East River is called Hell Gate…..then Plum Gut is Hell Door. Plum Gut made Hell Gate seem like a cake walk.
At Sag Harbor, we anchored with about 25-30 other boats (sail and power). One of the motor yachts had a helicopter on the top deck. I just could not get over the number of large luxury yachts (100 plus feet). Carl tells me that I will see bigger yachts as we head south to Florida. Carl’s cousin, Karen, has a cottage in Amagansett which is on the south shore of Long Island. Karen picked us up in Sag Harbor so we c ould join her and her friends for dinner Saturday night. It was also a treat to use her shower (did not have to conserve water) and laundry facilities! We stayed for a delicious dinner before going back to the boat for the night. On Sunday, Karen and her friends, Helene and Mitch, joined us on DISCOVERY for appetizers and cocktails. Monday, Jerome went back to school so we were on our own again and ready to move to another harbor.
Our next destination was Mystic, Connecticut (yes, we had to go through Plum Gut again…timing the passage so the current helped us). Mystic is a picturesque New England community. Mystic is also home to the Mystic Seaport Museum which is a living museum…..people in period costumes acting out parts; restored whaling ships; and an entire whaling community. Yes, Mystic is also associated with the film "Mystic Pizza". Mytic Pizza shop is open....the waterway guide suggests you stop by to look but go elsewhere for good pizza.
The following picture is of the “MYSTIC WHALER” that was sailing around as we entered Mystic River. This ship takes passengers out for a sail that includes lunch. Boy were there some fantastic aromas when they passed us. This would not be true of original whaling vessels!
Made arrangements to have some minor repairs completed on our two headsails plus the larger of the two sails was modified so that the sail doesn’t rub against the navigational lights when sailing downwind. In Mystic, we rafted off Keith and Rose’s Saga (CAMELOT) that was tied to a mooring. One evening, we watched a sailboat (SPITFIRE) come in right at sunset. We thought they had run aground because the engine was revved up and there seemed to be some commotion going on. Carl went over in our dinghy to see if he could help. No, they were not aground but in the process of setting 3 anchors to hold them tightly in a small space where the water was deep enough and they were out of the channel. Linda and Denny (owners of SPITFIRE) deliver sailboats. Denny was leaving the next day to deliver a boat to Washington DC. Since Denny was away, Linda offered to take us in her car to run errands. What a treat! We went to the grocery store where I bought heavy items. Later in the week, Linda needed help to deliver a 60 foot Hinckley from Westport, CT to Newport RI. This boat when new (1986) was a $4 million boat. It was being moved to Newport to be sold…..they hope to get close to $1 million for it. Carl helped Linda sail the boat over to Newport while I stayed on board DISCOVERY.
Just about the time we were ready to leave Mystic, our friends, Rex and Susan arrived in their Saga (BAYOU BABY). Rex and Susan had their sailboat trucked from Houston, Texas to Door County, WI last April. They sailed all the Great Lakes, then followed the St. Lawrence out to the Atlantic and finally down the east coast. We ended up staying for two more days so all the Saga owners could share sailing stories and discuss modifications and future sailing plans.
We kept close tabs on Tropical Storm Ophelia's track. If a tropical storm makes it past the Carolina capes without touching land, there is a good chance that the storm will continue to move up the east coast to Long Island. Therefore, we had contingency plans in place to protect the boat (move up the Connecticut River as far as we could possibly go). Thank goodness the storm passed about a hundred miles off the coast just dumping buckets of rain on us.
When we left Long Island Sound our route took us though the East River and then out of New York Harbor to Sandy Point, New Jersey. The United Nations was in session so a security zone was set up that prevented us from using the West Channel at Roosevelt Island. We had to use the East Channel that has a lift bridge. It was a bit more challenging to pass through Hell Gate and then wait in a fast current for a lift bridge to go up for us. We ended up doing circles in front of the bridge waiting for it to open.
From Sandy Hook we went on the outside….offshore for the first time on this trip (the first time for me). As we left Sandy Hook, the US Coast Guard was practicing their life rescue maneuvers. For a brief second I thought I was in Pentwater for Homecoming when the Coast Guard does a show for everyone. It was so calm when we left Sandy Hook that the ocean was like a mirror. As DISCOVERY cut through the water, I could see hundreds of jellyfish floating at the surface.
The following picture is of the Coast Guard helicopter completing rescue maneuvers.
The first offshore passage started easy but by early afternoon the wind picked up and the waves started to build. We pounded through rollers over the bow of the boat from 1:00 PM until 7:00 AM the next day. By the time we arrived in Cape May, NJ, both of us were ready for some breakfast and a long nap. Cape May is noted for its Victorian homes, home of the US Coast Guard Training Center and is a large commerical fishing port. Walked downtown to check out the houses and shops. Rex and Susan pulled into Cape May so we joined them one evening for dinner.
The following picture is one of the cute Cape May Victorian houses.
The route from Cape May took us up the Delaware Bay to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D Canal). This is a long run especially if you follow the marked shipping channel. Carl heard about people who go real, and I mean real close to land at the Cape May point. You need electronic charts with GPS to stay in deep water. This short-cut saves about 10 nautical miles and we followed it saving time. I decided to take a picture of the Cape May Lighthouse since we were so darn close. Just after finishing the shot, I looked at the water and there were 6 dolphins surfacing. It was so neat.
We have traveled over 2000 nautical miles since leaving Pentwater July 13. When we left, we identified 3 travel milestones. First, we wanted to be in NYC by September 1…..we arrived August 30. Second, we wanted to be in Annapolis, MD by October 1…..we arrived September 25. (The third milestone is to be in Vero Beach by Thanksgiving). DISCOVERY is currently at a mooring in Weems Creek where we plan to stay until after the Sail and Power Boat Shows the first two weeks of October. The advantage of Weems Creek is that it is quiet and secure. The disadvantage is that Weems is about a mile from the area where the boat show is held (this could be an advantage depends how you look at it). We take our dinghy to a beach and then walk or take the bus to get around.
So far our adventure, it has been a great experience. We have met so many great people and spent time in some beautiful harbors. We will stay in the Chesapeake Bay until the end of October.
Written by Marilyn Thoreson
September 26, 2005