Monday, October 8, 2007

City Island to Annapolis

October 8, 2007

Hi Everyone:

Sorry about the delay, but we're happy to report that all is well with Sogno and her crew. We are now in Annapolis, MD finishing up our annual US Sail Boat Show gathering visit with some old friends and some new ones we made this year. The weather has been great, although we are still getting used to the Chesapeake humidity and heat. Hope the lingering summer weather has been good to you back in your area.

On to the news! We last left you when we were in New York on Sept 25, with Homeland Security blocking our exit, and Brian furiously typing away to finish our first blog installment before the City Island library branch would kick us out. We made it to Annapolis. But what about the "rest of the story."

Sailboat Maneuvers in the East River (Wed, Sep 26)

We had gotten so many stories about the United Nation security zones in the East River, that Brian decided to check one more time and got up at 5am to do that. Both by cell phone and VHF, with a bit of prompting, we confirmed that it was a go. Recreational vessels were going to be allowed down the East River on the EASTERN side of Roosevelt Island. The WESTERN side of the island (nearest the UN) was still closed to everyone except authorized commercial vessels under escort.

Sounds simple, right.? We had to arrive at a famously turbulent spot in the East River called Hell Gate at slack water at 9:12am, when the current is calm for a few minutes and then proceed down with the ebb tide (out going current), admire all the sights of Manhattan's east side and proceed into New York harbor, Statue of Liberty, etc.

Among the sights of course were all those big suspension bridges: the Queensborough, Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn, etc. No problem for Sogno's 53 foot mast to pass under. HOWEVER, the EASTERN passage of Roosevelt Island. had a lift bridge (a type of draw bridge) that was only 40 above the water in its normal position. Most sailboats normally avoid it by going down the UN side of the island (WESTERN passage), but we didn't have that option this time. But everyone from the Coast Guard to the bridge operator assured all the sailboats that it would duly lift when requested to.

Well you guessed it - when the lift bridge got its moment of glory around 9:15, it wouldn't budge! Now there were around 10 sailboats, and some larger power boats all circling around in the rapidly building current waiting for the bridge or Coast Guard to do something. In the meantime a tug and ugly scrap barge were approaching and the skipper was telling us to be sure to get out of the way, because he was coming through and could get under the bridge in any event. Things then got even more interesting.

We were ordered by the Coast Guard to go around and wait on the WESTERN side. They planned to escort us through soon, but until "plan" was all approved, be sure NOT to go past the Queensborough Bridge. That was easy to figure out since there were USCG boats with 2 machine guns each, clearly blocking that area.

We all then sped off at max speed into the ebbing current to go around the north end of Roosevelt I., and then got out of the way of the tug/barge, which was escorted through the west side after all. The CG then said the lift bridge would be fixed, head back to the EAST. Then the NY PD said, we could go back down the WEST side, but the machine gun boats didn't get the word, and all was a big mess for a while. Finally it was all straightened out (after nearly 2 hours) and we all motored as slow as we could, in a single file past the UN, trying to stay separated by 1000 yards!

We were out into the Harbor by 11:30, but some of the boats near the end of our Conga line were stopped again, by a new security zone set up around the heliport at then end of Manhattan. Pres. Bush had decided to leave an hour early and they got trapped again.

All in all, everyone acted reasonably, but the need for disciplined communications by all agencies, commercial vessels and all the recreational folks was never more clearly illustrated!

The rest of the day was much more uneventful, and we motored in light winds to Great Kill harbor on Staten Island. The Richmond County Yacht Club provided us with a mooring, some showers, and a great little bar. We were ready to hit our second NYC borough. We ended up at a very unique happy hour, with a bartender who did magic and card tricks between drinks. He cleverly took Sue's marked dollar bill, made it disappear, and then reappear inside a fresh lemon he produced and cut open to reveal the bill. A pizza under the stars at a simple restaurant got us pack to the RCYC. There we hooked up with many of the East River sailboat veterans and discussed the (now) many funny things that were said and done that morning.

Hang a right at the Hook, and straight on to Barnegat Inlet (Thurs, Sept 27)

We got a nice early start and were soon rounding Sandy Hook and heading down the Jersey coast. There are only a few good inlets along the coast. Plan A was Manasquan – no room at any of the marinas. There is some room to anchor, but we decided to press on to Barnegat Inlet, motoring, sailing and motor sailing along the way as the winds changed speed and directions. At 5.5 to 6.0 knots, this 51 mile trip can be a bit boring, but we at least had a few times to practice some navigation in the patchy fog along the coast. We arrived around 6pm, and just had enough time to successful anchor on the second try.
We had our first Dark and Stormy to celebrate the event, and tucked in for the night with Barnegat light and another cruising sailboat for company.

AC Here We Come! (Fri, Sept 28).

This leg started out with great winds and fair tides, and we were sailing in bursts of 7 knots, which is well above our average sailing speed of 5.5 to 6.0. This of course couldn't last all day, and by the time we were off Little Egg inlet, the winds died, and we got one of our first attacks from some flies. How they can find us 2 miles off shore is always a puzzle, but we motored on and arrived in Atlantic City. Our marina was opposite the Trump casino, so we had a nice backdrop of large motor yachts, and LOUD music at night. We fueled up (our first one since Marblehead) and tied up at their bulkhead. (Lots of practice with fender boards, and adjusting dock lines to keep us from hitting the boat ahead of us). We got our showers, and headed off to the Gardner's Basin area where the last of the local clamming fleet is. There was quite a lot of residential development going on along the water (townhouse units), so some of the casino money seems to be reviving this area. Our f
ish and chips dinners were a disappointment (the fish came from Gloucester, via Gorton's we think), but we found some hospitable Phillies fans at the establishment next door, one of whom gave us a ride back in his van. We even found out that the Sox had made the playoffs!

Rolling the dice to escape our Atlantic City Berth (Sat, Sept 29)

We awoke to forecasts of 15 to 20 knots, with gusts to 30, but the good news was they were from the East. We knew Sogno could handle this and really fly. We thought we were up to the task, but our basic concern was leaving our bulkhead berth with out spearing the large Egg Harbor ahead of us with the anchors we have mounted our bowsprit rollers. The winds from directly astern didn't help, but after much talk in the increasingly gusty morning, and much movement of dock lines we were ready. We cast off, put it in gear and gave it the gun – we were committed. We cleared the trawler ahead of us, circled in the basin, and made a clean getaway. It was good to see a few more sailboats proceeding out with us, and we were soon making good speed off the coast – until the winds died again. Yikes – where are those 30 knot gusts when you really want them!

We eventually had to motor the last 10 miles to Cape May, and had some adventures going into our first slip of the trip. The second attempt was the charm, but we still had a lot of neighboring boat skippers watching us closely as we finally tied up. Laundry, navigation planning, and time out for dinner kept us pretty busy. Lights out early – we had an early departure to catch the tide.

Two hours after low tide is the secret (Sun, Sept 30)

After spending an hour planning our departure from Cape May for Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, Brian figured the best time to leave was around 6:30 to 7:00 am. Low tide was at 7:00 am, and this would allow us to get our 53 foot mast under two 55 foot bridges in the Cape May Canal with plenty to spare during a spring tide, AND catch the incoming tide in Delaware Bay. A quick look at one of our cruising guides, revealed that everyone knew that leaving 2 hours after low tide was the way to get a favorable current up Delaware Bay and then have a favorable current through the C&D canal. I guess it pays to read ALL the material if you go the trouble of buying it in the first place!

The short story was we had some great winds at the start, and a whole gaggle of sail boats joined us in an unofficial race up the Bay. We were easily sailing 7 knots over the bottom, with 2.5 knots from the current in the Bay alone. The trip was over 50 miles, and we were way ahead of schedule so we kept on motoring through the C&D canal and anchored in the Bohemia River with only 1 foot of water under our keel. We were in the Chesapeake Bay in September!

Heading North Already? (Mon, Oct 1)

Finally we were in cruising territory, and we had a few days to spare, so what do we do? We tried to connect with two Marblehead friends, John and Barb, who were in Annapolis for two nights, but couldn't figure out a meeting place in between that made sense. We finally decided to head up the head north to the Susquehanna River, the river that originally formed the Chesapeake Bay estuary. The destination was Havre De Grace, MD, actually named by Lafayette, but pronounced by the locals – HAVE a duh grace. Brian spent six months in the area at a nearby naval base, and was interested to see how it was now. We sailed around our first crab pot area, so we felt more at home dodging those little floats. We arrived around 3:30 and anchored after two tries. The wind was making things a bit choppy, but we were eager to get in and at least check out the dining possibilities. It took us a while to find where to tie up our dinghy, but soon we were checking out all the menus. We found out
along the way that Brian's naval base (Bainbridge) was completely closed and an environmental disaster!

We ended up at a very popular Irish pub and had Maryland crab soup and two crab cakes. We finally knew we were in Maryland! As it got dark, we beat feet for our dinghy, as the Monday Night football crowd began to arrive. Unfortunately the gate to the marina was locked. We circled the marina and began to debate jumping the fence or asking the police for help, when we found out that we could just yell at one of the boaters still in the yard, for the security code to get in. We got back to Sogno, let out some more anchor rode and watched another X-Files DVD episode as the 15 knot wind blew. Life was good!

Which way to Witchcoat? (Tues, Oct 2)

Our next destination had to be somewhere within 30 miles of Annapolis. We took the easy choice and picked Back River, MD. Actually there are more Back Rivers and Back Creeks in MD and VA than there are Dunkin Donuts in MA, and this one was just east of Baltimore. We had read about a good anchorage off Witchcoat Point, so we headed there until the depth was less than 1 foot under Sogno. The first anchor attempt seemed to be a bit tight (0.5 feet), so we tried a second time and managed to end up in about 2 feet under our bottom (suggested by helmsman Sue). We backed down on the anchor and everything was cool. It was very quiet with only the local watermen leaving any wakes as they went about their crab business.

Sue created "Chicken Witchcoat" that night and we hit the sack well fed and looking forward to Annapolis. Three days anchoring in a row also felt like we are really getting into a cruising mode.

Back River to Back Creek (Wed, Oct 3)

The forecast said a chance of rain, but it was mostly overcast and no wind when we carefully motored our way down the Back River. We were now seeing more large ships as we passed by Baltimore – staying out of the ship channels was the easiest way to deal with these guys, but it was still fun to practice with the radar to track them as they stayed in their assigned "traffic lanes." We arrived in Annapolis around 12:30 and could not resist a little drive by the Sailboat Show which was opening the next day. With all the flags and banners flying and all the boats packed in the inner harbor it was quite a sight. Sue and I had been going to this show since 1976, but this was the first time we had seen it from the water, so it was the first time we realized how many visiting sailors were anchored in every available space in the harbor, in Spa Creek, Back Creek and any place that could be found to drop the hook.

We then went to our marina in next door Eastport, fueled up, pumped out, and got into our slip on the first try! We were getting better at this thing, although getting all our dock lines straightened out and keeping our bowsprit from blocking the dock walkways took an hour of assorted cleat hitches, round turns and clove hitches! We had arrived: showers, water, electricity, Wireless internet (sort of) for the next four days!

We launched our inflatable dinghy and although it took a while, with help from a local tourist "chart" and two teenage girls we found the Sixth St. public dinghy dock. We were able to grab a bite to eat at Davis Pub and then join in the sixth birthday of another local pub. Tomorrow it was time to hit the show!

A Drinking Town with a Sailing Problem (Thurs Oct 4 – Sat Oct 6)

Annapolis advertises itself as America's Sailing Capital, and to be honest it is a great for a boater of any persuasion, with hundreds of marine businesses that can help you dispose of your "boat units" (a boat unit is $100) at an amazing clip, plus give you a super selection of cruising destinations to visit up and down the Bay.

Sue and I used to live down in Hampton and Newport News at the mouth of the Bay (Hampton Roads) and we have continued to attend the show since we left in 1978. Our good friends Mark and Nancy from Seaford, VA (near Yorktown) get together with us and over the many years we have stayed in a variety of "value" motels. This was the first time we would be bringing our own lodgings.

We lucked out and got a marina slip at Annapolis Landing in Eastport, on Back Creek, which was easy dinghy/walking/water taxi distance from the show at the Annapolis inner harbor. The weather was great, and despite the overcast early mornings, by 11am, everything had burned off and we had plenty of sunshine. As always it was fun to go aboard all the boats in the water, and prowl the tents looking for "accessories" for Sogno.

We also get a chance to connect with friends among the exhibitors, especially the builders of our boat, Gozzard Yachts. We get to see the new Gozzards boats and see what's new in improvements, plus ask questions about particular items we need help with fixing and/or improving.

Needless to say there are plenty of pubs, restaurants, shops and historical places of interests in Annapolis, Eastport and outlying areas. We especially recommend Galway Bay (pub), Mike's (streamed crabs), Davis Pub (atmosphere and cheap food), and Parthenon (Greek). The State House, Naval Academy and Paca House (garden) are also good places to go when the boat show gets a bit overwhelming.

This year we also attended the Seven Seas Cruising Association "Gam". A gam is an old nautical term for getting together to talk and exchange news, which usually occurred when two sailing ships encountered each other out in the open sea. We joined 2 years ago, and the group is a fantastic resource for finding out about cruising anywhere in the world. They had an excellent set of seminars Sat. morning on: medical kits, electronic charting, and dealing with marine head "issues". We wish we could have caught the whole meeting, but "so many boats, so little time!"

That's about it for now, but we'll try to post another segment soon.

Coming attractions: Our exciting adventure in backing out of our slip on Sunday, drifting under the Annapolis Bay Bridge, and a fire at the slip next to us in Rock Hall, MD.

We'd love to hear your comments and ideas for what to include (or leave out) in future postings.


Brian and Sue Schanning
Buds at Sea


Anonymous said...

So all I'm thinking as I'm reading your account of trying to make your way around the UN is that, "This government should be in charge of health care?"
Glad you made it through it all. Obviously, this is not something for the novice boater. As you've discovered, it's been very hot here, not to mention we're going through a drought.
Dave and I were very close to you during the boat show. We went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, which is just down the road from Annapolis.
We would love to meet up with you guys on Sunday the 14th. (We're moving Emily on the 13th.) Just let us know place and time, 4:00 or so in the afternoon works for us.
Take care and keep up the good parking jobs!

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