NY to VA: Wonderful, Weird, Wild and Wicked Weather!

October 4, 2010

We’ve started several blog postings only to get distracted by one thing or another, but we finally decided we need to post something, anything, so everyone knows we are still around and all is well!  We have much to share about the summer’s adventures, including videos, but we’re having some technical difficulties in getting them posted.  Evidently, our new camera is too good or we aren’t good enough… In any case, you will have to wait awhile for our cinematic extravaganzas!  In the interim, we’ll let the following bring you up-to-date- 

Erie Canal Storm Debris

We left central NY the day after Labor Day, and the title of this posting aptly summarizes our southward journey thus far!  We have experienced just about every kind of weather one might imagine, and unfortunately, much of it has been of the “not fun” but incredibly impressive, challenging and memory-making variety… Threatening skies and gusty winds combined with extremely high water levels to create turbulence all along the Erie Canal and made the 20+ locks a real challenge.  We stopped at Ilion and Amsterdam, our “regular” haunts along the canal, and then decided to complete the locking experience before stopping at the end of the third day.  Of course the Tug Roundup at the Waterford Free Docks where we would have stopped encouraged us to continue on that last day as well!!-  Locking through the final lock, the only one in NY operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, brought us to Troy, a place we had not visited before, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!  The city’s large and sturdy floating docks line the Hudson River right downtown so while we had no access to typical marina facilities (bathrooms, showers and the like), we were but a short walk from several intriguing restaurants and other downtown amenities.  We finally chose Jose Malone’s for dinner, yes, a combination of Mexican and Irish cooking.  Susan had Mexican and Carolyn tried Irish, and both were really very good!  At Troy, we shared dock space with Marine 1, the brand new fire boat built in Kingston, ONT for the Jacksonville FL Fire Department, but more on that later! 

Huson River Rainbow

From Troy, we headed to Catskill and a rendezvous with friends Susan and Slade of Sojourner NY.  Unfortunately, Susan was quite sick; so Slade treated us to a provisioning trip to the grocery store and we continued down river.  After an overnight stay in Haverstraw and an incredibly beautiful rainstorm and rainbow on the Hudson, we arrived in NYC.  We picked a different marina, searching in vain for a docking safe from the rocking and rolling of the big city river traffic but still with stunning views of that stunning skyline.  This time we stayed at Lincoln Harbor, right next to the water ferry station, not a good idea!  The rocking and rolling finally subsided around 11 pm, but it began to rev up again around 6 am.  We spent a delightful half day as “Power Tourists” in NYC, travelling by every form of transportation (water ferry, bus, cab, subway and walking) as we visited the new Hayden Planetarium and the Empire State Building.  At the former we saw an incredible show:  Journey to the Stars about the creation and life cycle of stars, including the earth’s sun.  At the latter, we paid a fortune to travel all the way up to the 102nd observation deck, originally built as a waiting room for dirigible passengers who never came! 

Sojourner's View of NYC

Fearing we could not out of the marina once the turbulence of the daily river traffic resumed in earnest, we left NYC at sunrise and had a beautiful, though surprisingly traffic-filled trip through the harbor, under the Verrazano Bridge, and into the Atlantic.  Our first thought was for a short day by stopping at Atlantic Highlands near Sandy Hook, NJ, but we arrived before 8 am…  After some hesitation, we decided we just couldn’t waste a beautiful travel day on the Atlantic and headed on to Manasquan, one of our least favorite stops.  We arrived at the Manasquan inlet around noon but by then, we were becoming increasingly concerned about the 2-3 day weather forecasts…  So, from a very short day, we changed our plans and ended up with a very long one, travelling all the way from NYC to Atlantic City, NJ, about 12 hours, much of the time at speeds well in excess of 8 knots.  And we are very glad we did!  We had good weather all the way, tho’ the ocean got increasingly choppy the last couple hours, and we were exhausted by the time we pulled into Trump Marina.  We knew we would so much rather be there for an extended down time than anywhere else on the Jersey coast!  It is both the safest and most entertaining place to be, but we had no clue how long we would end up being there.  We stayed 8 days, our longest “weather down” ever!!  It was very weird:  the sun shone every day, the temperatures were moderate, and even the wind wasn’t too bad.  And yet, this was a weather-mandated stop.  About the 4th morning, NOAA posted 3 weather warnings for the Jersey portion of the Atlantic seaboard:  high winds (gusting to 25 knots);  high surf (waves in excess of 10 ft. and ocean swells from 10-12 ft.); and high fire danger along the coast because of low humidity.  The last wasn’t of much concern for us, but the first two kept us tied securely to the floating docks of Trump Marina!  Where was all this weather coming from??  Hurricane IGOR!!  VERY fortunate for us, he did not come within 300-400 miles of shore.  Nonetheless, his presence was certainly felt!!  Trump Marina actually cancelled its annual Offshore Power Boat races because of high seas and extreme water turbulence.  Finally, IGOR’S remnants departed, and we had a seemingly safe weather window for the run to Cape May, our last day on the Atlantic.  Unfortunately, a conflict between wind and current made for a very rocky ride, and Susan spent most of the day glued to the fly bridge floor!! 

Igor Beats the House

Heavy fog delayed our departure from Cape May the next morning and being prudent mariners, we waited until there were no reports of visibility problems anywhere near where we would be travelling.  Carolyn had looked up the Cape May NJ – Lewes DE ferry schedule so even with the fog delay we did not encounter any arriving or departing big boats as we entered Delaware Bay.  The weather prediction included a south wind in our favor and the current was running north; we anticipated a beautiful, if rapid, run up Delaware Bay and an early landing, hopefully in Delaware City, a stop we had missed on our 3 previous visits to the area.  Wel-l-l… this is where the wonderful and weird weather began to take on wicked proportions.  About an hour into the bay, the sun faded and within minutes we were completely encased by a virtually impenetrable fog bank.  We turned on the radar and the automatic fog horn (a 5 second blast every 2 minutes), and for almost 2 hours we slowly “felt” our way, not able to see 100 ft. beyond the boat’s railing.  At one point, we watched a little “spot” on our radar come closer and closer, only to have a small fishing boat with about 5 guys aboard pop out of the fog some 50 feet off our bow.  Our plotted course kept us well out of the main shipping channel, but that provided little comfort when we heard the low and intimidating growl of a very close, very large fog horn-  we could only assume it belonged to a very large vessel because we never saw a thing, but we did experience a rather large wake as the reverberations of the fog horn moved further and further away.  Because of the slow, fog impeded travel, we missed the tide window to go into Delaware City, and the day ended at Summit North marina in Bear, DE, again, not a favorite stopping place.  But it was certainly a welcome one on this day!  The strange weather there had fostered an infestation of stink bugs and before leaving the next morning, we had to spend a couple of hours ridding the fly bridge of literally thousands of the pesky and smelly insects!! 

Pink in the Morning Warning at Sassafras

New acquaintances at Trump had encouraged us to take a trip up the Sassafras River, off the west side of the upper Chesapeake and so after leaving the C&D Canal, that’s just what we did!  We had a beautiful day for cruising; the trip the river was delightful, and by early afternoon we were settled into the Sassafras Harbor Marina in Georgetown, MD, ready to enjoy a delicious dinner of Maryland crab!  Instead of staying a second day, we decided to cross the Chesapeake over to Baltimore.  We had never been there and Carol, one of training captains, was just finishing up Trawler Fest.  What a great decision!  The Baltimore Inner Harbor is really quite wonderful and we had a terrific time!!  From more scrumptious Maryland crab at the harbor and indescribably delicious pastry (including take home cannoli kits) in Little Italy to a Science Center IMAX show about the Hubble, we enjoyed Capt. Carol’s company and had a splendid time!! 

Storms Threaten Baltimore

From Baltimore, we headed south thinking we would make a short day by stopping in Annapolis.  Yet again, the weather predictions worsened as the day progressed so as we approached Annapolis we decided to go on to one of our favorite places, Spring Cove Marina at Solomons, MD on the Patuxent River.  If we were to be stopped for weather, the sheltered harbor, great facilities, close-by restaurants and nearby grocery store all made Spring Cove a good place to be.  The weather deteriorated rapidly, and we travelled in moderate to heavy rain the last hour or so.  At the end of that day we did our very first docking in pouring rain and from the lower helm (!!) before we settled in to wait out what turned out to be  Tropical Storm Nicole and the really wicked weather created when she met another low pressure zone moving in from the west.  Solomons experienced gale force winds and record rainfall;  flooding developed all along the Chesapeake; and still the storm raged!  The water level kept rising, through both high and low tide, as the south wind blew water up the river.  By the second evening, it appeared the docks might flood so we tied Sojourner in a virtual spider web of lines, unplugged her electric and headed for higher ground.  We spent the night at a nearby motel.  We checked on her at 7 and 10 pm and then at 6 the next morning… She rode out the storm in much better shape than we did!!  The next day, the rains diminished but the winds increased;  Marina staff decided to move us to a more protected slip.  Susan wasn’t keen about the prospect of moving in the weather but the transfer occurred without incident and the new spot was really a much better one in which to weather the remainder of  the storm. 

View from our Deltaville Safe Haven

That brings us to Deltaville, VA where we are waiting out yet another incredible storm!!  We arrived mid afternoon two days ago after a delightful day of cruising on the Chesapeake!!  It was sunny, warm and the water was quite well-behaved.  Dozier’s Regatta Point is a neat little marina tucked off a channel on the south side of the mouth of the Rappahannock River, and we slid easily into one of the wide floating dock slips very near the office and facilities.  It is a great overnight stop before our last day of the Chesapeake.  As night fell, however, the weather worsened and we rocked and rolled all night.  It was clear first thing the next morning we would not be moving on to Norfolk…  It is now Monday and we HOPE we’ll be able to leave by Wednesday or Thursday!!  About 10 am Sunday morning the marina manager came by and offered to move us into a more protected slip… in one of the covered sheds at a very different angle to the channel, the river and the wind.  We jumped at the chance and the rain began in earnest just as we were making the move.  The winds are at gale force for much of the time with gusts even higher and the rain comes down in buckets!!  The channel off the river has white caps; the river has white caps and “overhead” (6-8 ft.) waves are predicted for the Bay itself!  Two sailboats arrived shortly after we did and both had plans to leave the next morning; only one did, and we wonder how they fared in this storm…-  We and the other remaining sailboat have now joined two trawlers who have been here for almost a week already!  Interestingly, the remaining sailboat docked next to us at Cape May and one of the trawlers was at Oriental NC earlier this year when we were there with friend Tanya waiting for that illusive weather window needed to cruise to the Outer Banks-  One of the many really interesting aspects of this grand adventure is the meeting, re-meeting and often re-re-meeting of folks and boats in many different places!  The other trawler is owned by a couple who have been cruising full-time for 10 years and they’ve owned their boat for 21 years.  They bought it new and had it shipped from the west coast through the Panama Canal to the east coast when they retired and moved into full-time cruising!  We are all headed south and our paths are likely to cross several more times before we each reach our own destination… 

Perhaps one of the most fundamental realizations we have gained on this journey is the power, in all meanings of that word, of the weather.  We have experienced indescribably intense wind and rain; we’ve witnessed the damage both can do.  At a minimum, we have waited… and waited…  for weather “windows” through to travel, e.g., “40 days and 40 nights” at Palm Coast,  the 2-3 days at each stop along the Atlantic seaboard last year, and all the stops thus far this year.   For those of us accustomed to living on land in well-constructed permanent shelters and traveling in vehicles on roads that don’t move with the wind or become choppy in the rain, weather can be an inconvenience, but under normal circumstances, it doesn’t preclude completion of daily routines or fulfillment of future plans.  On the water, however, weather is the absolute force.  It influences every element of the living environment and it can, and often does, cause complete changes  in a day’s (or week’s ) planned activities.  Neither of us believes we will ever be so cavalier about weather again.  Some day we will certainly appreciate not having to “tie down” our living space and secure everything inside it whenever bad weather comes.  For now, we remain profoundly impressed by the power and majesty of weather.

more NY and NJ pix         more MD and VA pix