With Hurricane Ian ripping up the Atlantic coast, we have had a lot of people ask if and how our location in Cape May is safe. We are at the South Jersey Marina and at least seven other sailboats sought shelter here from Hurricane Ian. Wild Horses and Brise arrived here on Thursday September 29, just in advance of the storm. Other boats had arrived a day earlier and a few more boats came in before the wind really picked up on Saturday.
Our marina is nestled within the Cape May inlet. It is well-protected from the stronger winds and swells of the Atlantic and it thankfully has floating docks that rise and fall with the tides. All forecasts had Hurricane Ian being downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it reached the Carolinas, with our area being mostly affected by hurricane remnants, which covers a very wide area but has less force than an actual hurricane. We were expecting big wind and rain by late Saturday and through to Tuesday. Warnings about strong winds, rip currents, high surf and flooding, have littered our local forecasts. We are happy we made the choice early to get Wild Horses docked at a marina that is outside the strongest path of the storm.
The actual weather did not disappoint. The wind, reaching almost 50 knots, was the strongest we had experienced. From inside the boat, we could feel and hear the wind but it wasn’t uncomfortable or scary. Most importantly, we stayed inside the boat during the worst of the storm. There is a tendency to re-check lines and gear but the biggest risk is not from what is happening with your boat, it is debris flying through the air. We had already secured or removed any loose items from our boat deck and dinghy. We had tripled run our dock lines. We knew Wild Horses was safe and we knew we were safe.
Besides storm-dodging, we have kept ourselves fairly busy for the past week. We are in walking distance to a few marine stores so we were able to do some much-needed boat repairs. The first was our shore power plug that got fried during a power surge at Hop-o-Nose Marina. Since we have been on mooring balls or anchored for the last few weeks, we have relied entirely on solar power to keep our boat batteries full. But with a forecast of several days of rain and clouds, we needed to get our shore power plug fixed and operational. Once we had the parts, it took Mike less than an hour to get us back in business.
Then there was the newly found leak under our bow thruster. You read that correctly, we had saltwater slowly coming into the boat from under our bow thruster. Yeesh. Now, it wasn’t enough water intrusion to sink the boat but it was enough that we wanted to slow it down, or even better, stop it 😉. The marine store had the perfect solution – an epoxy putty stick that works under water. It took two full sticks to stop the leak. Whew.
But it hasn’t all been work for us. We have walked Ocean all over the pretty little town of Cape May and even took the Marina shuttle downtown to do some grocery shopping.
The last few days have turned a little chilly. We don’t mind pulling out our fall jackets for walks and our boat heater keeps the temperature inside the boat nice and cozy. The downside of the fall chill in a boat? Condensation. Boat hatches are not insulated so the cold-glass-meets-warm-humid-air situation means our hatches start raining.
It looks like the weather will cooperate for us to leave Cape May on Thursday Oct 6. We will finally head up the Delaware Bay and, within a few days, we should be in Annapolis, Maryland, where we will stay until the better part of hurricane season is over.
One bonus side note - Remember the crazy swells on our journey from Atlantic City to Cape May? A tiny but important plastic piece of one of our boat hooks lasted the whole time on deck. We thought we had lost it to Neptune during the swells but, nope, there it was on deck, ready to be attached back on the boat hook. Wild!
One of the things Mike and I try not to do is to have boat stories about some boating thing we have survived. Weirdly enough for those who think this whole trip is crazy, we are risk adverse. We love living and travelling on our boat but we choose, often, to do it only in the safest situations. That doesn’t mean, however, that we live only in our comfort zone. The last two days has been a great example of that.
Yesterday we started the Jersey coast leg of our trip. This was always planned to be a one-two-three shot from New York City to Atlantic City to Cape May and then, finally, up the Delaware Bay to the C&D canal.
The day began in the wee, very dark hours of the night. At 0400, we let ourselves loose from our mooring and started to pick our way out of Great Kills Harbour and towards the main water channel. Our early morning departure was intentional. We needed to hit Sandy Hook Point when the current was close to non-existent. Wait an extra hour and we would be fighting a 3 knot current as we made the bend south towards the Jersey coast.
Mike was at the helm and I was at the bow, with flashlight and handheld radio in hand, talking him through the mooring balls within the harbour, then through the red/green buoys that marked our exit from the harbour. This was our first time navigating in the dark and it was definitely an eye-opener. All you have laid out on the water to guide you are lights. Red and green flashes are for directional buoys. This is helpful but you see ALL of them. I mean, you see the ones close by that you are trying to navigate through and also “the others” that are for other routes, near and far. Then there are the white lights. These could be other vessels (moving or stationary) or even something on land.
Oh yes, and then there are the amber lights. Just as we rounded Sandy Hook Point, we got a call on our VHF. “Um, Wild Horses, this is commercial vessel XXX. I am dredging and have long cables across the channel that you are going to want to avoid”. Our response “This is Wild Horses. How do you suggest we proceed?”. “Yeah, Wild Horses, I have amber lights marking the end of my cables. You are going to want to let those amber lights pass you on your port (left) side”. Amber lights? There is only one amber light and it is on our starboard (right) side. Yikes! One quick maneuver and we are good as gold. Whew. Just a note – our Automatic Identification System (AIS) was essential through all of this. We can see all other vessels on our instruments and they can see us (and our boat name) on theirs.
Once the sun came up, the rest of our 12.5 hour journey was easy. We had light winds and a beautiful fall day all the way to Atlantic City. Life was gravy.
Today? Well, today was a little different. We knew the winds would be strong (20 knots) but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t experienced in the Thousand Islands. Well, hello, Wild Horses. Have I introduced myself? I am the Atlantic Ocean. Yeah, that’s right. We got schooled. As we made our way out of our anchorage, the 5 foot ocean swells right on our beam just knocked us around like we were its little play thing. Thankfully, we had most things in the boat well stowed. The only item that we thought was secure (but wasn’t) was Mike’s tool box that sits under our navigation station. For this, I quickly made a pillow barricade. It was actually quite eloquent.
Once we were out of the channel, the swells were 5 to 8 feet but were at our stern. Instead of getting knocked about, we were surfing, with a twist of churn 😉. Mike found it challenging to steer at first but soon found a rhythm with the waves so that it smoothed most of the hard edges of the steeper waves. We actually found some comfort in the uncomfortable.
And, we have new-found confidence in Wild Horses. She handled the sea state like a champ and we had extra belief in her because of the care she got from the crew at Loyalist Cove Marina in Kingston – a big thanks to Scott for ensuring our engine could take a beat down and win. And Ocean? She slept through it all. What a sea-dog. We actually realized our entire crew was pretty hearty. No one panicked and no one got sea sick. That is a big win!
With the weather we faced today and seeing forward to the next Hurricane Ian-fueled weather weekend, we decided that a safe harbour was necessary. Both our buddy boat Brise and ourselves checked into a delightful marina in Cape May (note that Sensai is one day ahead of us and has already traversed Delaware Bay). We will be here for several days, waiting for reasonable weather to make the journey up Delaware Bay. But, truly, we could not be stuck in a better place. Cape May is really a sweet town. Plus, it is littered with marine stores, grocery stores, restaurants and sights to see. Despite the weather, it will be a nice little break in our trip. And when the weather improves, we will be ready for our next leg. A little more rested and a little more seasoned.
It has been a crazy series of days. It is hard to believe we left Hop-o-Nose Marina, near the beginning of the Hudson River, just a mere four days ago. We have been tired, overjoyed, frustrated, relieved, inspired and, now, after transiting New York City Harbour and the upper Atlantic, we can add “delightfully salty” to that list 😊.
Our trip down the Hudson started with a leisurely river cruise. Our sails are on but it wasn’t in the cards to sail on the Hudson. It is a narrow, busy waterway and, more importantly, we are destination bound and a leisurely sail just didn’t fit in.
Our first stop on the waterway was Poughkeepsie Yacht Club. We were able to get a mooring ball there and it was a good thing as the wind was really up. Trying to anchor would have been doable but challenging. And, as it turns out, luck was on our side at Poughkeepsie. As we always do when moored or anchored, we tie our dinghy to the boat’s stern so that it is ready and waiting for Ocean’s shore trips. In the Thousand Islands we had gotten into the (bad) habit of using a single tie up to secure the dinghy but with the wind hitting us hard while moored, we decided to add a second tie up to secure the dinghy to Wild Horses. Only a few hours later, Mike noticed that the original tie up (with a brand-new shackle) was hanging limply in the water. Yikes! Our second tie had saved us from losing both dinghy and motor down the Hudson.
After Poughkeepsie, our next leg landed us in Nyack, NY. Oh my gosh. Nyack is a beautiful and quaint town with lovely boutiques, restaurants and wonderfully friendly people. Once again, having Ocean by our side means interaction-city. People seem to come out of the woodwork to meet her, or go out of their way to say how pretty she is (I mean, “I” think so but I’m her mom 😉). The town felt like home. To get our energy levels back up, we stayed in Nyack a few days.
But today, wow, today. We left Nyack at noon and headed for The Big Apple. It did not disappoint. The city was grand, for sure. We had visited New York City by land several years ago but to be going by in our sailboat…there are no words. Still, New York City wasn’t content to just be a pretty landscape. No, she had to be dramatic. We were handed a very strong 25 to 30 knot wind on our nose that had Wild Horses bucking through the 5 foot waves. Add to that some big boat and ferry traffic. Add to that the heavily guarded and enormous HMCS Queen Elizabeth being anchored in our path in the harbour. Through a salt-encrusted windshield and breaking waves Mike maneuvered Wild Horses past the NYPD and military police boats guarding the 100 yard perimeter of the vessel. It was tense. At one point I mentioned that I might have to open a bottle of our good wine tonight. Mike’s response was “me too”. Ummm, I meant share a bottle…or did I? 😊
It was an incredible experience to transit the New York City Harbour and when we popped out from under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, an even more incredible scene laid before us. The Atlantic Ocean. Wow.
We are now very cozy on a mooring ball in Great Kills Harbour, Staten Island. Tomorrow will be spent exploring the town but also prepping for our first leg of the New Jersey Coast. We are planning to head to Atlantic City on Wednesday. It will be a 12 to 14 hour trip, Ocean’s longest on the boat. We think she will handle it perfectly, as she always does. A little salt is only going to make her, and all of us, more confident and definitely more happy.
One of the things that this sailing life naturally gives us is a sense of appreciation. We are constantly checking the levels of various things that matter to us – weather, batteries, water, waste, diesel, laundry and, yes, our own energy levels. When one of those things is on the positive side (be it “full” or “empty”), life just gets a little easier. We definitely appreciate those small moments.
Enter Hop-o-Nose Marina. This marina was only supposed to be important to us because it was where Wild Horses would become a sailboat again. But, really, we were able to use our time here as a real rest stop. We had the luxury of shore power which meant that we could use our on-boat laundry machine plus our boat batteries could get totally topped up. We also had (free) dockside water usage and pump out. Best of all, Thursday’s stormy weather meant we had an extra day to get some boat things done. It also meant we could sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast. Wow. Our own personal battery levels were able to get filled up. We got some energy back.
Of course, the last few days weren’t exactly about relaxing with a good book and a cocktail. We arrived at Hop-o-Nose on Tuesday afternoon and were placed in the queue for an early morning mast stepping. By 1100 hours, we were a sailboat again! Ten days after her mast was laid on deck at Oswego Marina to transit the New York State Canalway (Oswego and Eastern Erie), it was put back up. The whole process went smoothly thanks to the expert staff at Hop-o-Nose. They definitely made it all look easy. They also were very sweet with our pup Ocean, who stayed on deck to supervise the mast stepping.
Once the mast was up, the work for me and Mike started. We had to tune the rigging (i.e. all the wires that keep the mast in place), reattach our boom and all of our halyards, get both sails hoisted and furled, reconnect our electrical wires for our instruments, and reattach our solar panels. Whew. And, in amongst all of this we pumped out the boat’s waste tanks, filled the boat’s water tanks, did a few loads of laundry and walked our pup Ocean. This is the nice thing about having a pup on board. She made us stop our work and get into the cute little town of Catskill nearby. It is a very artsy, zen-loving, lovely town with very friendly people. Nice!
The last few days was a lot of work but we appreciate that we have now been able to reset all of our “levels”. We feel refreshed and ready to take on the next leg of our trip. We also love that we can, once again, sail Wild Horses. Oh, and for the NFL fans out there, yes, we are watching Thursday Night Football tonight from the comfort of Wild Horses. That does wonders for Mike feeling like all is right with the world 😉.
We are off to Poughkeepsie, NY tomorrow morning. This will be one of two stops on our way to New York City Harbour. We have a few exciting days ahead of us. And it is hard not to appreciate that 😊.
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.