Friday, June 30, 2017

Exciting Passage Through New York City!

Since we both grew up in the suburbs of NYC, we had plenty of opportunity to tour around and see most of the stand out landmarks of the City.  But today was spectacular, seeing New York from a water perspective and traversing under so many bridges that we crossed over via car years ago.  We did our research about the East River which has strong currents that follow the tidal changes.  So after reading that the best start from the Battery on up the East River should be timed about 2 hours after low tide, we bit the bullet and set an alarm so we would leave our mooring in Great Kills at 6:30ish.  But we both found that we didn't need the alarm because anticipation of such a great day got us up with the sun on our own!  The pictures tell the story.
It was a thrill to approach the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that crosses the  Narrows section of New York Harbor from Staten Island to Brooklyn.

Just under the bridge our view was of choppy water from lots of boat wakes and the beautiful skyline of New York on the right and Hudson Exchange, NJ on the left.  While Al did a great job of dodging fast ferries and water taxi's, my job was to call out what was coming up on either side of our stern.  It was both exciting and mildly frightening to weave around cargo ships  on moorings waiting to off load their wares and avoid big wakes thrown by the ferries!  

And then far off up the harbor we could spot Miss Liberty welcoming us to her enormous city!

The yellow ferries are the Staten Island Ferries that my family would occasionally use as a way to get into the City without having to find parking for our car in the City limits.  Al being from Long Island didn't remember ever being on one of these ferries. 

The skyline grows as we head north. 

This was as close as we got to the Statue of Liberty because at this point, our path took us to Starboard to head up the East River.  Next year, when we continue the actual Great Loop route, we will head north up the Hudson River and get closer to Liberty Islalnd.  

One World Trade Center stands out not only as the tallest building in New York but also in the USA.

In the distance we could see the main building on Ellis Island which a google search noted is acttually mostly in New Jersey!
Along with watching for passing boats, ships and ferries, my job was to use google maps to identify landmarks along the way and snap pictures for this blog!  It was a very busy morning for us so all the wake/wave action never causeda a bit of motion sickness!  

 This is the closest we got to the Battery and the lower Manhattan skyline.  We made it to this spot at about the right time to catch the current pushing east so we moved along smoothly into the east River.  One World Trade Center stands out with its 104 stories.  Someday we need to go up to the top to enjoy the view. 
After crossing under, first the Brooklyn Bridge and then the Manhattan Bridge I took this shot looking back at their grandeur.

As we passed Roosevelt Island, we could spot the Empire State Building in the distance as it stands on 5th Avenue.  It is a mere 102 stories tall so is the 3rd tallest building in NYC. 

Then all of a sudden a small plane swooped down along our starboard side and landed on the water.  Must be some rich person on their way to a business meeting! In the background is the Queensboro Bridge.

We passed by this unique crooked building which is actually 2 buildings created to look like dancing partners with an adjoining walkway.  

This rather dull looking building is the United Nations but when it is not in session, all the colorful flags are put away.  Perhaps we will pass by again in September when it will be in session. 

I had to google "pictures of bridges" and use the Garmin chart and google maps to try and name this bridge and my best guess is that it is the Williamsburg Bridge.  
Our last bridge of the day was the Throgs Neck which I crossed over many times, driving from NJ to Long Island and Al did the same in the reverse but not for dates between us as Al lived in Ohio by the time we met! 

We passed this light house on Long Island Sound as we headed out to our destination of Lloyd Harbor off of Huntinton Bay where Al learned to handle boats.  We had a mooring available for our free use while visiting an old high school friend of Al's, Dale Stokkers and his girlfriend, Nancy. What a wonderful day we had!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A quick Catch Up Because Tomorrow We Head Up the East River!

When I reviewed the last posting I remembered that we met up with a very interesting man in Delaware City and I forgot to include pictures and his story.  The reason I forgot is that we actually took no pictures of his rowing skiff but I borrowed these photos from Carey on Tug LeeLoo.
On Monday, 6/19 we walked along the dock heading to our nightly review of the conditions on the Delaware Bay and we found this packed rowing skiff and wondered immediately about the person who brought her in.  At the meeting we met Jim Brassord and later learned he has been rowing this vulnerable boat all the way from Miami.  So we invited him to join us for docktails on Tug LeeLoo and were instantly riveted by his story.  He has traversed the same waters as we have in a shorter time and using just his own muscle!

How inspiring to meet a man over 50 something who has the stamina to row all the way through so many states to raise awareness and funds for a new health center in his hometown of Amherst, MA!  And we thought we were on the ultimate adventure!  It was humbling to meet Jim and learn about his trip. A most inspiring docktail time was had by all.  

And then the rest of the story... we did go to the pool at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City Sunday afternoon and had this glorious view of the marina where InSpeyered 2 sits in the middle pier in this picture.  Perhaps if the picture is enlarged, our burgundy canvas stands out a bit to find our "home". 

Then on Monday (yesterday), we headed into the Atlantic and cruised north along the Jersey shore in light wind and waves for a very comfortable cruise to the Manasquan Inlet. My first date was to this part of the Jersey shore at Seaside Heights but alas hurricane Sandy stole the primo roller coaster that used to be the focus of this very same view.  Manasquan Inlet lead us to Hoffman's Marina and a horrendous current situation as we tried to dock. 

The water was swirling and the dock hands just hollered for us to "let the current push us to the T-dock" but that was not what the current did.  Instead, the current took us to the opposite shore and in the process of trying to get across the water, we go turned around and began heading directly into the railroad bridge. So Captain Al used his well honed instincts and basically saved us from a catastrophic crash into the bridge by gunning the engines into reverse and plowing the swim platform into the dock.  In a flurry of activity, lines were thrown, and we were pinned into our T-dock with the guys hollering "what a save Captain" while I looked down at this in shock! 

The crunch against the dock still rings in my ears and the vision is not a good memory; but I never saw what Al saw as he faced being pushed directly into the bridge.  He saved our boat and we are completely unharmed!  So we had a  quiet night and enjoyed docktails with the local harbor hosts, Pat and George Hospodar who have been long time loopers.  We continue to make lemonade out of lemons and we will not look back!  So today, we had another nice cruising day and crossed into New York State and are safely on a mooring ball at Great Kills Yacht Club on Staten Island and we have real New York cannolies for desert tonight! 

Another peaceful night swinging in a calm harbor.  Tomorrow we start our adventure around New York City and on to Long Island Sound, Al's old boating waters.  We start another significant part of this adventure! 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Weather and Friends Collide To Create Fun Times!

It has been 10 days since I posted last and in that time we have traveled 4 of the days and have sat waiting for wind to die down on all of the other days.  But it has been fun with surprises we did not plan on.  So I had said in the last post that we planned to stay in Annapolis another night but when I took a look at the 3 weather/wind sights that we use for navigation planning, it looked like moving on Friday 6/16 made more sense because Saturday promised to be a windy day with possible thunderstorms.  Captain Al agreed so we took off late morning to head up the Chesapeake to the Sassafras River to an anchorage we used last summer.  Easy day of travel and always easier to go somewhere that we have visited before.  We dropped anchor and had a peaceful night on Turner Creek.  We woke to a cooler morning with fog and drizzle but up anchored and headed out of the Chesapeake to the C&D Canal (Chesapeake and Delaware).  This is a man made canal dug in the 1800's to shorten the distance for commercial traffic from Philadelphia to the Chesapeake and points south. Normally boat traffic can be busy in the canal but the day turned into the rainy one predicted so day boaters stayed home and we had no issue with the fog since few boats were around.  Just as we left the anchorage, we were hailed by Tug LeeLoo, a looper boat we  vaguely recognized, as they too had just left the Sassafras and were heading to Delaware City.  We exchanged travel information and then met up when we docked at the Delaware City Marina.  Turns out Nancy and Carey on board Tug LeeLoo have traveled extensively with our friends on Sum Escape and we figured out we also had actually met at the Joe Wheeler Looper Rendezvous in October 2015!  Our small world only gets smaller!
So we tucked into Delaware City for what we thought would be a 2 night stay due to wind and waves on the wide Delaware Bay and met up with 2 other looper boats.  This is the view from a great walk/bike path along the C&D Canal.  So with a cute town, a place to walk and new friends, all was content in our world.  The dock master at Delaware City provides a nightly review of wind, wave and current conditions on the Delaware River and Bay and managed to terrify us all with stories of ship wrecks and tough conditions on the Bay.  And we looked at the NOAA reports ourselves and we all voted to wait a 3rd day before tip toeing out into the mighty Bay that would take us to Cape May, NJ on Tuesday, 6/20.  We became buddy boaters with Tug LeeLoo.  

This was the choppy water we traversed for 5 hours on our way south to Jersey.  Motion Eaze got a work out that day but Captain Al was unfazed and got us into the Cape May Canal safely and efficiently!  I would not be on this adventure with a less able captain and am thankful for his skills! BTW this is the Ship John Shoal light house which is about where the Delaware River ends and the wider Delaware Bay begins.

This is the well protected calm waters of the Cape May Canal.  A pushing current was the only challenge along this part of the trip.  We pulled into the Canyon Club Marina in late afternoon and enjoyed docktails with Nancy and Carey later that evening.  I took advantage of the great courtesy van and hitched a ride into the darling town of Cape May and took my daily walk late afternoon.   We have a very good friend from Al's racing days, Joan Farrell, who now lives in NJ, not far from Cape May.  So after looking at the Atlantic conditions for the next several days, we made a plan to stay put for 2 nights and enjoy a visit from Joan and her friend, Matt on Wednesday.  

They took us to the Lobster House which is a combination of 4 different casual restaurants on one big pier that also serves as a place where scallop boats off load their bounty.  This is a crewman carrying a white cotton sack full with 52lbs of shucked scallops.  They had 10 of those bags to off load, bringing in a hefty pay day. And we had the most delicious lunch of fried scallops!  Yum! 

After our great lunch, Joan and Matt gave us a tour of the area taking us to Wildwood beach which has a large amusement boardwalk with the rides that make NJ beaches famous.  We enjoyed looking at the rides and all the gaming stalls.   

It was a lovely day to enjoy the good ol' Jersey shore.  (I grew up in Jersey so have fond memories of family vacations and even my first date which was a day at a beach boardwalk a long time ago!) 

We stopped at a memorial to lost sailors and watched this scallop boat head out to scrape the ocean bottom for scallops.  

The weather was on our side on Thursday, 6/22 so Tug LeeLoo headed out to lead our way north to Atlantic City.  We were lucky to find fairly calm seas and had extra fun because Joan and Matt joined us for this leg of the journey. Matt has spent all of his life in the south Jersey area so knows the coast in great detail so we enjoyed a sight seeing trip as he pointed out all the highlights along the way.  

This was our view passing by the casinos along the Atlantic City boardwalk.  The 3 at the right end of the picture are all sitting empty.   Atlantic City is not thriving any longer since gambling is legal in so many places these days.  On the left side of the picture is the low level, rounded roof building, Boardwalk Hall which is a well known and very old concert venue. 

Since once more, the winds were kicking up the Atlantic, we have been socked in at Farley State Marina in Atlantic City for 4 nights.  Which seemed like a bummer on the first day. Then we discovered the "Jitney" which is a bus system that took us to the boardwalk for lunch with Tug LeeLoo crew on Friday.  It was chilly with the winds off the Atlantic but we had a tasty lunch!  
 Then we enjoyed strolling the AC boardwalk.
Of course Atlantic City is the location for the Miss America Pagent and I posed for my crowning along the boardwalk.   A moment of glory!  So spending time in AC with friends has been a fun experience.  And yesterday, Saturday, Matt played tour guide and drove us to visit Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ.  
She is an historic landmark, built as a tourist attraction and as a way to bring people to the area to buy beach homes by a real estate developer in 1881.  She is 6 stories tall and we enjoyed taking the tour inside her belly and head.  We could look out the windows that cover her eyes and see the ocean.  Apparently that helped to make us young again per legend!  Matt gave us a tour of Ocean City, NJ where they have a rental beach house and we had a great lunch at a local dairy bar.  We surely would not have "met" Lucy if the weather had been favorable for travel!  Then last night we had the treat of all times as Dionne Warwick performed at the Golden Nugget which is the casino next to our marina. We strolled down memory lane as she sang many of her old and familiar songs.  We realized that this was our first concert of this type that we ever attended together!  Thank you wind!  Today is another lovely day in Atlantic City so off to the casino pool we go. Tomorrow promises a good cruising day so we will follow Tug LeeLoo out of here and head north for another leg of the journey!  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chesapeake Fun With Gold Loopers!

When folks doing the Great Loop complete the entire loop of 6,000+ miles, they earn the right to lower the white burgee and raise a gold burgee with the Great Loop insignia, thus they become "Gold Loopers".  The couple on Leilani that we met last week on the Pungo River had completed the loop but chose to raise their gold flag when they "crossed their wake" in Annapolis, their home port and we were lucky enough to be there with them.
Jim and Linda are happy to complete such an accomplishment and sad to end the journey for now.  
We met up with them again when we arrived in Norfolk last Saturday 6/10 as we all chose Tidewater Marina on the Portsmouth side of the Elizabeth River because as luck would have it, Norfolk was celebrating its annual Harborfest weekend and the surrounding waters were loaded with boats on anchor.  We had just learned of the festival so changed our plans to anchor a bit further north and lucked out with a slip at the Tidewater which was right across the river from the huge fireworks display.  The place was hopping with music and food, loads of boats and people ready to party.  We ate out in the old city of Portsmouth and made it back to the boat just in time for the start of the fireworks.
Norfolk's waterfront was decked out with lighted tall ships.

This was a spectacular display that we watched from the bow of our boat.

It was an unexpected great night! Then on Sunday we cruised on our own, not expecting to see Leilani again and picked an easy anchorage at New Point Comfort Bight on Mobjack Bay.  
This is a popular day anchorage so boaters can play on the white sand beach. 
We had a beautiful sunset but you can see the chop in the water.  We picked this anchorage because the prediction was for a calm night but predictions are not always true and the wind picked up through the night making this spot not comfortable as the name implied!  Oh well, another lesson on anchoring learned and we know how to cope with less sleep so on we went on Monday. 

This time we agreed on a protected area that we have been to before on Mill creek off the Great Wicomico River.  Of course it was sweltering hot with no breeze since we had such good wind protection from the trees! And I spotted the first nettles in the water so swimming was ruled out! But I did get my daily walk done by taking the dingy to a little marina that allowed us to tie up for an hour.  Al is walking short distances these days to keep the hip pain to a minimal ache so he enjoyed a breeze under a gazebo at the marina.  

On Tuesday we cruised further north passing by this active navigation light that we never did determine a name for on our way to Solomons Island.  It was a lovely cruising day with a light breeze and some cloud cover to keep us cooler.  We crossed the Potomac so are now in Maryland.  Our stay that night was in Solomons Island Yacht Club because it was the home port for a harbor host who has set up a deal that non yacht club members could use the club as members of the AGLCA.  Thanks, Doug Smith and also a big thanks for driving me to a grocery to restock our larder!  We even enjoyed a free cocktail at their club bar and enjoyed meeting some local boaters.  Solomons Island is a cute little town that has a good walking path for me.  Wednesday started as a lovely day with a light breeze until we poked our nose into the wide open waters of the Chesapeake and for the next 2 hours we plowed into 2-3 foot waves making for a rough ride.  The good part was that the waves were rolling with a north wind so we didn't rock sideways so motion sickness was not an issue.  Eventually the wind and waves calmed so the later part of our trip was more comfortable.   Our destination was Annapolis and lo and behold, we were hailed by Leilani with the news they too were heading into Annapolis and planned to catch a mooring ball in the harbor in front of the Naval Academy.   It turns out, there would be Wednesday night sailing races that end in the harbor.     
Since it was the celebration night for Linda and Jim, we watched the racers on Leilani with their friends and had an enjoyable night. 

Jim raced many sailboats for years so thoroughly enjoyed watching and explaining the ins and outs of racing to Al. 

It was a busy harbor with these beautiful boats racing in to end their races.  They dropped their spinnakers as they came into the more protected harbor because they lost the wind that filled the colorful sails.  These boats are pricey, worth as much as $250,000! 

InSpeyered 2 sits next to Leilani in the mooring field. 

We were treated to a beautiful sunset over the Annapolis skyline.  Annapolis is a lovely city with many old structures that are well preserved.  So today, Thurday, after I walked around the State buildings, we had a great lunch with Linda and Jim at our old favorite, Chick and Ruth's to have our first taste of crab cakes on the Chesapeake.  Yum, they never fail to live up to our expectations.  

After lunch, Leilani headed up the Severn River to their "dirt house" to settle into land life and we had to say goodbye to new friends.  Maybe on the next loop, we will again meet some of the great boaters we have traveled with so far.  Our plan now is to spend one more night here in Annapolis and then continue north slowly.  The Atlanic is not being cooperative with high waves right now and that will be our path around New Jersey.  The inside waterway in NJ is too shallow for our draft so we have to run outside.  We are about 3 days of cruising away from Cape May, NJ but there is no good weather window for at least the next week.  We'll have to figure out what to do with our time while waiting.  There are worse things in life!