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.
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.