Thursday, the winds were still from the SW and west, but light, so we were able to make some distance under motor, awaiting the promised NW and north winds. We got as far as south of Long Island when the sun went down. The winds did shift after dark, and we were able to pull out the jib and motor sail, sort of downwind. And we flew. It was really an exhilarating ride, between 6-7 knots all night. We just had to watch for other boats as we were passing the shipping lanes in and out of New York. Not too much traffic though - that was good.
When dawn broke on Friday morning, we were about 100 miles from our goal. But the old saying is true, “red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” The skies were red hot. The clouds were going in all directions. And the seas woke up like lions. They were fierce. The waves were huge, looking to us like 8-10 foot swells. “The tiny ship was tossed.” We had too much sail for the winds, so the jib came down and the staysail went up. (Note: Hank on the staysail before leaving port! Our hero, John, almost fell off the boat, almost broke a rib, and took quite a beating getting that sail out of the bag and flying.) Keeping the boat on course was harder than we ever imagined. The waves just had their way with us. Everything below deck that wasn’t nailed down was on the cabin sole before the day was over. However, miraculously, nothing broke. We altered our destination to Atlantic City, to get into port before dark. We just didn’t think we would make it to Cape May and were changing duty at the helm every half hour because it was so tiring. And, being out in the ocean with land at least 45 miles away, we had no reference points to view to congratulate ourselves on our progress. Blips on the GPS just don’t do it. We had sailed previously on the Chesapeake Bay in winds as high as we encountered (15-20 with gusts to 25+), but had no appreciation for what those winds would do to the ocean waves (even though the forecast was for 2-4 foot seas). Live and learn.
Weird wildlife note: If you didn’t have to be out on the ocean yesterday, you wouldn’t have been. So why were there land birds 50 miles from shore? A yellow-shafted flicker circled our boat, then finally landed on a backstay and seemed to think it was a tree. It left and came back about a half hour later. Then some small, perhaps 3-inch brown birds came by, landed, then left. Birdwatchers, let us know what this means.
Would we do this again? Yes. But we would be more careful about the wind/wave forecast and try for something a bit tamer. It would have been nice to have some leisure time on the passage, which we weren’t allowed because we had to work so hard to keep going. And it was so cold! We had all our foulie gear on, hats, gloves, and neoprene booties. It is definitely time to go south. Where are those turquoise waters?
Atlantic City, NJ: +39° 22' 53.46", -74° 25' 18.72"
We are spending lots of quality time on Block Island, waiting for a good wind to start our voyage south. Yesterday, our first Saturday here, we saw our anchorage increase from 5 to 25 boats. We were getting really used to being sort of alone out here and it was a shock to have so much company. But, you can see why people want to come to this beautiful place. And, it was the first not-crazy-windy day since Wednesday. We had become caricatures, walking stooped over into the wind as the gusts went up to 30 knots. We’ve been re-provisioning, taking long walks to town, visited the Island Cemetery -- another place with 250 year-old graves -- and just relaxing. Today, Sunday, was a gorgeous day with no wind, so we took the opportunity to kayak out of the Great Salt Pond and into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. It takes your breath away to be in those rolling waves. We kayaked up the west side of island to the northern point and back again to the Pond. Tonight, the anchorage is settling back into the weekday numbers (just 7 boats) and then a BIG surprise. Its always a little intimidating to have a yacht with a helicopter pull up alongside...
We started the day again with a paddle on the Great Salt Pond. Part of it is a wildlife refuge, and we enjoyed seeing the birds feeding at low tide this morning -- especially the oyster catchers with their huge orange bills. On another wildlife note, a couple of fish have adopted us and swim around our anchor chain. Research in our fish books and on the internet seem to indicate that they are juvenile black drum. Cool, huh? Today we decided to walk north to the Block Island North Light. On our kayak trek we figured out where to beach our dinghy so that we could save a couple of miles of walking. The road north, like the road south yesterday, has lots of wonderful houses along the way. It is pretty unusual to be a walker here -- most of the other tourists seem to favor the rental mopeds, screaming up and down the hills. The brave visitors that rent bikes are huffing and puffing as the roads can be pretty steep at times. Yet, for a place that is supposed to attract hikers, we find we are the only ones walking around. The northern shore of island was also gorgeous, though the beach was much rockier than the eastern shore. Interesting new sound of the water ‘crackling’ as it returns to the sea after breaking on the rocky shore. Wish there was a way to bottle that sound.
Block Island is beautiful and the weather has been summery. We started the day with a kayak trek around the Great Salt Pond, which is not as big as we thought, and has clear water and provides a fairly protected area. In the afternoon we walked to town at the Old Harbor, then along the beach on the east side of island, and onward to the southern end where the Block Island Southeast Light is located on the Mohegan bluffs. Along the way we saw beautiful old Victorian hotels, houses with incredible views, and gorgeous scenery everywhere we looked. We returned (exhausted) to the boat to barbeque.
Saturday morning we finally left Cutchogue for Sag Harbor. Great sail through the Little Peconic Bay, judged the tacks right and made it back like we knew what we were doing. Anchored between three megayachts and headed into town to see what the annual HarborFest was like. We had hoped to thank the team from WLNG (local radio station) for providing hours and hours of entertainment. Great oldies format, excellent local information, lots of fun -- and we had hours to listen while confined to the boat by weather! Unfortunately we didn’t see them. Hope they see this ‘shout out’ anyway.
Early start Sunday (Patti loves those 5:30am wake ups) and motored out of Sag Harbor to Gardiners Bay. Excellent sailing across the Bay to Gardiners Island. But, once out past the marker into Block Island Sound, the wind died!! (Why does this always happen??) Anyway, we were able to motorsail to Block Island reveling in the SUN and warmer weather. It was terrific being on the ocean again - nice rolling waves, beautiful water color, and that great sense of going somewhere new. Anchor down in Block Island’s Great Salt Pond among other cruising sailboats. Tomorrow the exploration begins. Glad to finally be here.
Great Salt Pond: +41° 11' 29.22", -71° 34' 42.54"
Cutchogue Harbor: +40° 59' 39.12", -72° 28' 0.48"
We are still in Sag Harbor enjoying this town, though we were challenged by one night’s high winds and swells in the anchorage, and then by the cold! We have worn long pants and long sleeves this week (Patti even wore neoprene to kayak one day.) But we have had a great time doing touristy things like visiting the Whaling Museum and other things like buying tomatoes from the lady at the end of Main Street. But the most unique activity was attending the last Sag Harbor Community Band concert outside the American Legion Hall. This band has been playing outdoor free concerts for 52 summers. We took our beach chairs in the dinghy and set up like the rest of town to listen. Cold, but fun! Today (a warmer day) we did a marathon kayak from our boat to the nature preserve at Mashomack Point on Shelter Island, over to the abandoned lighthouse at Cedar Point, circumnavigated Northwest Harbor for some mansion gawking, around the sand cliff at Barcelona Point, and finally back to Anhinga - a good 7-8 miles. Tonight we barbeque again as we watch all the crewed mega-sailboats come into the anchorage. Most of them seem to be flagged in the Cayman Islands. Hmmmm.