New London, CT to Newport, RI;
The best departure time from New London to Newport is 5:00 AM. By leaving early we will have favorable currents for the trip to Newport. We are up and ready to leave at 5:00. The fog has started rolling in. We wait about 30 minutes and now the fog has completely engulfed us. We can not see 10 feet in front of us. We continue to wait and wait. The fog finally starts to lift around 8:30. We are able to get underway at 9:00 AM. With this delay, the currents will be against us and it looks like our 4 hour trip to Newport will now take about 5 hours due to the fact that we will be fighting a 2 mph current almost the entire trip.
We work our way out of the New London Harbor only to find ourselves right back in the middle of fog. We cautiously continue as we do have radar and two different electronic chart sources, Nobeltec and Furuno. The visibility is about one mile. As we continue east through Fisher Island Sound, the fog continually worsens. We soon find ourselves in dense fog with ¼ mile visibility. We constantly scan the radar for any approaching vessels. We spot a target coming directly towards us on the radar. A few minutes later, just a few hundred feet ahead of us appears a sailboat. We quickly divert to our starboard. We also have to keep a constant lookout for the many lobster pots in this area. We do have a line cutter on our prop but it is still best to avoid them. There are several rock ledges along this passage which we have to weave between. After about an hour, we exit the Watch Hill Channel into the Atlantic and the fog lifts. I am much relieved to be out of the fog. The ocean is nice out today with only 2-4 ft. swells. As we reach Point Judith, we run right into another fog bank. We soon find ourselves encircled in fog. Again we pick up many small fishing boats which show up as dots on the radar which we have to avoid. As we round Point Judith, we can hear the fog horn every few seconds off to our port. It is a little eerie not being able to see but just a few hundred feet and at the same time hearing this fog horn warning of the shoals off Point Judith. Once around the point, the fog disappears as quickly as it appeared. I guess I had better learn to get used to the fog as I am sure there will be much more of this the farther north we go. Unlike me, Jeff says it is good practice and enjoys the opportunity to use the radar.
As we enter the east passage of Narragansett Bay, the shoreline dramatically changes from that of Long Island Sound. What were sandy beaches are now jagged granite cliffs.
There are many sailboats out in the harbor taking advantage of the nice breeze. We weave our way between the multitudes of boats to the Naval Yacht Club located on Coasters Island just to the north of downtown Newport.
Good friends of Jeff’s family, Mike and Motria Benson, have graciously offered us the privilege of being their guest at the Navy base yacht club. Mike and Motria keep their sailboat, Agape, at this marina.
Mike and Motria are great hosts for the next few days, showing us the sights of their lovely Naval Base, town, and also driving us all around to replenishing our depleted supplies. We spend an enjoyable afternoon with Mike and Motria visiting “The Breakers” which is the largest of Newport’s mansions and once belonged to railroad-magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. The 70 room estate is quite impressive.
One can only imagine what it would be like to spend a night inside these opulent walls while overlooking the majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean. We also enjoyed a nice walk along the “Cliff Walk” a four mile path which winds its way along the rocky headlands of the Atlantic. We get magnificent views of the many mansions from the ocean side while enjoying this serene path.
Jeff especially enjoyed our meals at the Naval Base in their cafeteria called the Galley. For $3.50 you get a home cooked meal with unlimited soup, salad bar, and desert. The food and price were both great. I am sure they lost money on Jeff. Mike and Motrial thank you again for your hospitality and friendship. We had a great time in Newport.
Total Miles Traveled New London to Newport: 48
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 677
Shelter Island to New London, CT:
We have a short trip of only 25 miles from Shelter Island to New London. We again have to time our exit out of Plum Gut. We determine that 7:00 AM will be the best time as we will have a flood tide pushing us out and the current will only be 1.9 knots. There are quite a few fishing boats at the entrance to Plum Gut. This is supposedly a prime area for blue fish and stripped bass. It is reported to be one of the best areas on the east coast.
The seas out in the sound are a little confused today. We have about a 15 mph wind. The 10 mile trip across the sound is uneventful except for a few ferries passing us. We soon see the two lighthouses marking the entrance to the Thames River. The New London Ledge Light is a square brick house built in 1909. It is quite an unusual looking lighthouse.
We travel four miles up the Thames River to the town of New London. We are hoping to find a mooring at the city pier. We had called earlier in the week trying to find out about moorings. The lady at the town office said to just pick up a mooring and someone would come by to collect the $25.00. She did not seem to know much about the moorings and we are a little unsure about the location and availability. We soon spot the town pier and six moorings just off the pier. There are no other boats at any of the moorings. We select one and are quickly secure. There is a sign on the town pier that says “Town Moorings $25.00 per night”. It also says someone will be by at 8:00 AM to collect the money. The moorings are very nice and there is also a nice floating dock just ashore for tying up the dinghy.
We spend the afternoon exploring the town. It seems the downtown waterfront is trying to revive itself. There is a lot potential but it still seems to be struggling to attract the right mix of businesses. The Amtrak train station and ferry docks are conveniently located just one block away. We enjoy a wonderful docent guided tour of the U.S. Customs House. This is the oldest continuously running Customs House still in operation. Our guide was excellent and gave us about a three hour tour.
There much history to the New London waterfront starting from the Revolutionary War to the present day. At one point during the 1800’s the city had the second largest whaling fleet in the nation. Just across the river is the town of Groton. It is know as the “submarine capital of the world”. The first nuclear sub, The U.S.S. Nautilus, was built here. From our mooring we can see General Dynamics Electric Boat manufacturing facility where the subs are built. There is even a sub in the bay that they are working on.
While in New London, we have a chance to visit with Sandy, a friend of Jeff and his parents. Sandy is a research scientist here at the University of Conn. Sebastian once again manages to get in some quality lap time.
We have a nice lunch with Sandy at the local Mexican restaurant. When we returned from lunch, there was a note on the dinghy from the town dock master. He had come by to collect our mooring fees. There are also two old wooden schooners pulling into the town docks. They are used as floating classrooms for students wanting to learn about the ocean and sailing techniques. They dump their most recent graduates onto the docks where they are quickly loaded onto a waiting bus and whisked away. It’s nice to see such sailing traditions being carried on to a younger generation.
Total Miles Traveled Shelter Island to New London: 25 miles
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 629
Port Jefferson to Shelter Island, NY:
We have a 64 mile trip from Port Jeff to Shelter Island which is at the eastern end of Long Island. This area is known as the “Fish Tail” as the island splits into two flukes with Gardner’s Bay separating the two flukes. We must time our departure to arrive at Plum Gut, our entrance into Gardner’s Bay, at slack tide. The current can run up to five knots through this cut. This deep narrow passage acts as a funnel through which the sea surges with tremendous force at maximum current. By leaving Port Jeff at 10:00 AM we should reach Plum Gut at slack current which should be around 3:00 PM. It is a clear sunny day with only one to two foot seas out in the sound. We see and hear very little boat traffic and have an uneventfully trip up the sound. At 3:00 PM we see the lighthouse marking Orient Point and our entrance to Plum Gut.
We pass over a huge hole in the ocean floor and the depth drops from100 feet to 335 feet in the matter of seconds. Even arriving at slack tide, we can see the water boiling around the entrance. As we make the turn from Long Island Sound into Gardner’s Bay, our speed drops from 11 mph to 7 mph, all due to the current. We can feel the current trying to grab our keel and push us towards the shore. Just as we start to enter the cut, the car ferry from New London is rapidly barreling down on us.
Talk about timing! We are soon inside Gardner’s Bay safe and sound. From here we have about 9 miles to Shelter Island.
Just after passing the town of Greenport, we see the entrance into Deering Harbor and The Shelter Island Yacht Club on our port side.
We radio the yacht club for directions. They send a launch out to direct us to our mooring. We are thinking that the launch will help us pick up the mooring. Wrong!! He points to the mooring to show us its location and then quickly leaves. We soon find out why. As I grab the float, green algae slime covers the entire mooring bridle and gets all over me and the boat. We must be the first to use it this season. Yuck!
We spend several days here at Shelter Island. It is hard to believe that this is still part of New York. What a special place it is. After spending the last few days in Port Jefferson, we can’t believe how quiet it actually is here. There is a small-town charm to the island like one would expect in some of the New England towns. The town is connected to both the north and south forks of Long Island by ferries. The north ferry connects to the town of Greenport which is just across the harbor from our mooring. We watch from the boat as the ferries come and go every few minutes. The south ferry, about 5 miles across the island, connects to North Haven Peninsula. From here you can reach both the Hamptons and Sag Harbor. We bring our bikes onto the island and ride this route.
From New Haven Peninsula, we ride another six miles to the village of Sag Harbor. Jeff was born and lived in Sag Harbor as a child. After several phone calls to his mom, we were able to locate his house on Main Street and also the Whaler’s Church where Jeff was baptized.
We also visited the Whaling Museum which houses many artifacts of scrimshaw, harpoons, and other whaling items which tell the story of Sag Harbor’s hey day in the Whaling Era.
In the mid-1800’s, most of the towns people served on whaling ships. Jeff also did his good deeds for the day by helping an elderly gentleman change a flat tire and also helping a local restaurant owner fix a water problem. In return, the restaurant owner gives us free drinks with lunch. We see a local pet store and of course have to stop in. We spot a yellow rain slick which we just have to purchase for Sebastian. We enjoy our time in Sag Harbor and arrive back to the boat after biking 27 miles round trip.
Sebastian had a chance to try out his new rain jacket as it rained all day on Tuesday. He looks very spiffy in the bright yellow slicker.
Daisy is jealous. The rain let up in the afternoon and we took the ferry over to Greenport. The dogs went along and this was their first ferry trip. They did very well and enjoyed the short trip. Afterwards, we walked around Shelter Island admiring all of the old homes. Most seem to be summer homes and are still vacant. Even though it is June, the season has still not started. Schools are still in session until the end of June. The island population in the winter is only 2500. This grows to over 8000 during the summer months. Shelter Island has quickly become our favorite of all the places we have visited so far. We will be sorry to leave.
Total Miles Traveled Port Jefferson to Shelter Island: 64
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 604
Northport to Port Jefferson, NY:
We have another easy trip from Northport to Port Jefferson. The seas are again flat calm and we see very few other boats out on the water. As we enter the basin of Port Jefferson, we see the P.T. Barnum car ferry pulling away from the docks. This ferry goes from Pt. Jefferson across Long Island Sound to Bridgeport, CT. The ferry was originally started by P.T. Barnum in the late 1800’s to carry his animals back and forth from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, CT. We pull out of the channel and give the ferry plenty of room. He is big.
We soon spot the bright yellow mooring balls of the Setauket Yacht Club and have an easy time snagging one with the boat hook.
From the yacht club, it is only about a blocks walk to the downtown village. There are many nice restaurants and shops. This also seems to be the local hangout for motorcycles, car enthusiast, or anyone wanting to be seen. Everyone seems to spend their Friday and Saturday evenings just hanging out on the street corner eating ice cream or drinking Starbucks coffee. We spend Saturday afternoon visiting with Jeff’s cousin, Tim, his wife, Annette, and their son, Timmy. We have a good time catching up with them. Sebastian even manages to get in some quality lap time.
Their home, Bellport, is only 20 miles away and they drive us over and give us a tour of the town and their house. We also get a chance to visit the grave site of Jeff’s Grandparents and Uncle. They even take us to a garden center so we can buy a new piece of sod for Sebastian. Ours was not doing so well.
The dogs have had a great time here in Port Jefferson. The beach just off the yacht club is a great place for them to run. Many people bring their dogs here to play. Daisy has enjoyed retrieving the ball each evening. The dogs also visited the local pet store and were given all kinds of goodies.
Although we have enjoyed our time here in Port Washington, we are ready to move on. It is very noisy here. Just across from the boat, there is a power plant which is constantly making noise. The car ferry comes and goes through the harbor about every 30 minutes and we get a good rocking from the wake each time. Even the people in town are boisterous, very friendly but boisterous. We are ready for some piece and quiet.
Total Miles Traveled Northport to Port Jefferson, NY: 26
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 540
Port Washington to Northport, NY:
Before leaving Port Washington, we pulled into the Manhasset Yacht Club docks to fill up our water tanks. We hold 400 gallons of fresh water. This should last us for about 10 days. We then have an easy 29 mile trip to Northport along the north shore of the Long Island Sound. We admire the many fine homes lining the shores and also the nice old lighthouses which also mark the channel.
We are soon in Huntington Bay which leads to Northport Harbor. We have an easy time picking up a mooring ball at the Northport Yacht Club.
The harbor is filled with boats on moorings. There is very little unoccupied space. It seems that everyone on Long Island keeps their boats on moorings instead of at docks. I guess this is because of the 8 ft. tides. We call for the yacht club launch to pick us up. We are getting spoiled with the moorings and launch service.
We walk into town and quickly spot a pizza restaurant. We order a large pizza and have lunch on the shaded grass with the dogs. There is nothing better than NY pizza. The town is much more active than Port Washington. The streets are full of people. This town also seems much more dog friendly. In Port Washington, there were signs everywhere that said “No Dogs”. Here there are dogs everywhere. Many adults and children stop to pet Daisy and Sebastian. Having the dogs along seems to always invite a conversation. The village still has that small town atmosphere. Everyone is very friendly. They all ask where we are from. As soon as they hear our accent they know we are not from these parts. We spend the afternoon on the boat enjoying the quiet harbor.
Total Miles Traveled Port Washington to Northport: 29
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 514
Sandy Hook to Port Washington, NY:
New York City here we come! We spent several hours yesterday planning our route through the busy New York Harbor. It is critical that we transit one section of the East River know as Hells Gate with a favorable tide. The current here can run up to six knots. Our cruising guide books recommend that we arrive to the Battery at two hours after low tide there. This should put us at Hells Gate at the beginning of flood tide there. After checking and rechecking, we determine that the best departure time will be at 7:00 AM. Another Krogen, Molly Blossom, pulled into the anchorage last night. They are leaving a little after us this morning, at 7:30 AM. They have been through the harbor many times and are waiting to catch a faster ride through Hells Gate with the flood tide.
We listen to the weather once again and debate for about an hour whether to make the crossing today. It is nice now but a front is approaching for this afternoon. There is a small craft advisory out for after 3:00 PM. We should be to Port Washington by 1:00 PM. The forecast for the next two days is worse than for today so we decide to give it a try. We have a little trepidation about this after getting beat up so badly in Delaware Bay. Even in the best of weather, traveling through the New York Harbor is a little intimidating. After pulling anchor, we exit the Sandy Hook Bay and enter the Chapel Hill South Channel. There are many different shipping lanes coming into NY which are called channels. They are like highways for cars. Today is Memorial Day and we are hoping that the ship and ferry traffic through the harbor will be less than normal. We soon merge with the Wash Channel which leads to the Ambrose Channel. The Ambrose Channel is the main shipping lane for the harbor. We don’t hear a lot of traffic on the VHF so maybe it will not be too busy.
As we near the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, we can see the Statue of Liberty way off in the distance. It is a clear sunny day and so far the seas are calm and the wind only 10 mph. The Verrazano Bridge is the seventh largest suspension bridge in the world.
This marks the dividing line between the Upper and Lower Bay and links Staten Island to Brooklyn. We pass under the bridge at 8:30 AM. This bridge has two decks for car and truck traffic. The upper deck is for trucks and busses where the lower deck is for cars only.
We recheck our estimated time to arrive (ETA) at Hells Gate. Our computer now estimates that we will now arrive there at 10:30. We are still within a few minutes of our planed ETA. The current at that time should be 1.9 knots flood (going with us).
As we pass through the Narrows, the panorama of the Manhattan skyline looms into sight.
We soon pass the Buttermilk Channel. You wonder where they get some of these names. This channel would have much less ship traffic but would not pass the Statute of Liberty. We opt to stay is the main shipping channel. So far the traffic is minimal. Most of the barges seem to be anchored just off the channel.
We are soon passing in front of the Statue of Liberty. Standing 300 feet tall on Liberty Island, it is wonderfully lit up from the morning sun.
What better way to spend Memorial Day than a cruise by the Statue of Liberty. It is hard to believe we are here on our own boat. We next see Ellis Island just a few hundred yards north of the statue. A quick look back and we see the orange Staten Island Ferry rapidly approaching.
This ferry is as big as a barge and moves three times as fast as us. If you don’t get out of their way, they will run over you. We quickly make a turn to starboard and head to the edge of the channel. The lower tip of Manhattan, referred to as the Battery, is now directly in front of us. Every square foot is jammed with skyscrapers except for a gaping hole where the Twin Towers used to stand. It is sobering to think of these huge buildings crashing down on Sept. 11, 2001.
At the Battery, we turn starboard into the East River.
Had we continued north, we would have entered the Hudson River which would then connect with the Great Lakes. The Hudson River is the route which the Great Loop follows. We will save this for another year. The East River is much more industrialized with big factories on the South Side. We soon cross under the world famous Brooklyn Bridge which was built in 1883.
We see the United Nations and many apartment buildings on the North Side. Seven Miles up the East River, we are approaching Hells Gate. We are within five minutes of our ETA. As we near, we can see the surface rippling with currents in every direction. It looks as if we are going to run a rapid. We watch as three sailboats in front go through. The current grabs their keel and moves them sideways several feet within a matter of seconds. As we go through, our depth recorder goes from 30 ft. to 100 ft. and back to 30 ft. within seconds. Jeff gives IT more throttle to help control the boat. We are out of the gate just as quickly as we entered. From here we have an easy cruise along the remaining seven miles of the East River to Long Island sound.
As we enter Long Island Sound the winds begin to pick up. At 11:00 we arrive to Manhasset Bay and soon see the town of Port Washington. The harbor is very busy with sailboats as everyone is out enjoying the nice Memorial Day weekend. We hail the Manhasset Yacht Club on the VHF to get directions to our mooring. They tell us to pick up any yacht club mooring which has a blue stripe. We are a little nervous as this is our first try at picking up a mooring with IT. This wind makes it even harder. Jeff comes along side and I able to grab the float which holds the tether for the mooring buoy. We quickly have IT secured. That went much easier than we thought.
The winds soon pick up to over 30 mph. We are happy to be securely attached to the mooring. Several hours later after we are settled in, the yacht club hails us on the radio and apologizes but says we have to move as this mooring belongs to the rear admiral of the yacht club and he wants it NOW. We can’t believe that they are asking us to move in these winds. How will we ever be able to manage picking up a new mooring in 30 mph winds? We have no choice but try. Surprisingly, we handle it very well and are quickly attached to a new mooring ball. The dock master calls back to apologize once again and tells us that the next nights mooring is for free courtesy of the yacht club. I guess it was worth it after all. Plus it was good training. If we can do it in these conditions, we can do it anytime.
We spend two days here in Port Washington enjoying both the Manhasset Yacht Club and also the charming town.
The yacht club was established 1891 and is one of the oldest yacht clubs in the country. We wander around the grounds admiring the well manicured lawns, swimming pool along the waterfront, and the magnificent old club house. The members and staff could not be friendlier. They also operate a launch service which will come to your boat and take you ashore. This is a nice service. It has been really windy and we don’t have to put down the dinghy.
The town has only a few shops. We quickly find a pizza restaurant, Salvatore’s, and have our first NY pizza. We eat the entire large pizza. There are also three Greek restaurants and a Greek deli here in the town, all owned by the same family. The deli is the best Greek deli we have ever seen. We stock up on many appetizers and snacks for the boat. What a feast we have!
Each evening the yacht club fires off a cannon just after sunset. It just so happened that Jeff took Daisy and Sebastian ashore for their nightly walk at that time. Just as he unhooked Daisy from her leash, the cannon went off. Daisy was gone! Jeff quickly grabbed Sebastian and the two of them took off on foot running through the town. He asked everyone he met if they had seen a Sheltie. No one had, but they all started looking. He knew he could not come back to the boat without her. It was now 9:00 PM and the launch service stops running at 10:00. He wondered how he would get back to the boat but knew he had to find her even if it meant staying out all night. After about an hour, he spotted a couple running down the street yelling Daisy. They had spotted her. She was soaking wet. Evidently she had jumped into the bay and swam down the shore line to the town docks. Jeff was in luck as it was only 9:30 and the launch was still running. Daisy is like a cat with nine lives. Through the many adventures and close calls we have had with her, she has not been injured or lost Will the saga never end with Daisy and loud noises.
Total Miles Traveled Sandy Hook to Port Washington: 44
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 485
Cape May to Sandy Hook, NJ
We pull out of our slip this morning at 4:30 AM. Today we have around 130 miles to travel and need to leave early in order to reach Sandy Hook before dark. There are very few inlets along the NJ coast which we are able to get in. Most have shoaled in at the entrance and are too dangerous to enter. If the seas are bad, we can go in the Abscon Inlet to Atlantic City which is about 40 miles north of here. Low tide today is 5:30 AM. There is a five foot tide range here at Cape May. We are a little concerned about the depths getting out of the marina at low tide but the manager assured us we would have at least 8 ft. We only show six feet here at the dock. We make it out into the harbor with one foot under our keel. It is still dark and we slowly navigate from buoy to buoy until we reach the Cape May Inlet which is very well lit. By 5:00 AM we are out in the Atlantic. It looks like we will have good weather today. The winds are only about 10 mph and the seas are about 1-2 feet. Let’s hope this holds.
There are many fishing boats out today.
We also see several schools of porpoises playing. At 10:30 AM we can see the casinos and sky scrapers of Atlantic City ahead.
We still have great weather and are happy to bypass this stop. The weather continues to improve. At one point the seas were flat calm. Maybe this makes up for our trip down Delaware Bay. We have a long but uneventful trip to Sandy Hook. As we approach Sandy Hook, we can see the New York skyline in the distance. What a sight! It is hard to believe that we will be going through the New York harbor in a few days in our own boat.
It is almost 7:30 PM when we drop anchor just behind the breakwater in Atlantic Highlands. Today was one of our longest days with almost 15 hours of travel. There are about 100 sailboats either at moorings or anchored just off the town. We are the only power boat in the anchorage.
From our anchorage we can see the Verrazano Bridge and New York City in the distance.
Total Miles Traveled Cape May to Sandy Hook: 131 miles
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 441