Ah that old devil, the Long Island Sound. There must be a song about that.
Not that Buzzards Bay, Rhode Island Sound, Block Island Sound and Long Island Sound aren’t – in their own right – beautiful stretches of water. They most certainly are. But for a boat – particularly a sailboat – with a desire to actually go somewhere, they are proving to be a most challenging and awkward set of mini-seas.
We are so done with the Sounds.
The reasons we’re ready for something different are Three: Depth, current, and population. Let me explain.
Depth: This area between Cape Cod at the east end and New York City to the west is, on average, very shallow. In Buzzards Bay we found depths less than 35 feet in areas where we were nearly out of sight of all land, and there are much shallower areas – sometimes alarmingly shallow – out in what we Maine sailors would think to be “safe” water.
This isn’t a safety issue, as we have good charts and maintain a watch on our position as a matter of course, but shallow water has other vices, particularly when combined with:
Current: We have currents in Maine, but not like they have here. In Maine waters, there are generally two currents in a day – in and out – and they follow the rise and fall of the tides within an hour or so.
(A brief aside to define terms: Tide – the cyclical increase and decrease of water depth caused by the gravitational effect of the moon and – to a lesser extent – the sun. Current: the movement of water horizontally through an area as a result of the change in the tide and – less often – the effect of wind.)
But not so in the Sounds, where each tide change seems to be nearly divorced from the current it produces. The current charts in my “Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book” look like a pot of pasta gone bad, and reference a tide as much as five hours prior or hence – madness!
But in addition to dictating our movements (it’s not worth sailing against a current over a knot – you get nowhere), current over a shallow bottom crates waves and rips and eddies that make life miserable, rough and wet, and current against the wind creates waves completely out of proportion to the wind itself. You can quickly find yourself at a complete standstill as each wall of water slams the bow of the boat and reduces your speed over the ground to a crawl. It’s just not pleasant, though the resulting salt bath can be very refreshing!
It was never like this back in dear old Maine.
Population: There are people down here. Lots of people. And power boats. Lots of power boats. They all seem to want to go from point A to point B very fast, and they almost never seem to think about what the wake they’re creating is going to do to other boats and people on shore.
Now I recognize that this is something I’m going to have to accept, or at least learn to deal with – the ICW is chock full of boaters who’s total knowledge of nautical lore and boating etiquette is how to turn the key – they’re completely clueless. Are powerboaters truly a lower form of life than sailors, as many suggest? Well, the jury’s still out on that one. I hope not, but some days I wonder…
So the last four days have consisted of lots of motoring. Depart the anchorage at a time that should give a favorable current, sail as long as there’s wind AND the wind against current hasn’t created a ludicrous chop, then give up and motor straight into the chop to the next anchorage. In the process we’ve discovered a slow leak from the raw water pump for the engine cooling system that’s going to require a replacement pump. Getting parts to a yacht in transit is the subject of an entire post, but we’re hoping to rendezvous with a new pump in Manhasset, NY in a few days so we can install it before our transit of the East River and New York Harbor. With luck, the new pump will also cure the old ones habit of eating drive belts – a maintenance two-fer!