'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

The thing about Inlets…


There are many aspects of our travels along the northeast coast which are memorable in a good way: Incredible sunsets, new bird species to identify and marvel at, great holding for our anchor. 

But perhaps the most memorable thing for us, and the thing we’ve had to learn about by experience, is the currents: The flow of water into and out of this land which is, basically, one big estuary.

On Friday the 16th we sailed from Sandy Hook – at the state’s north-eastern tip – south along the coast to the inlet where the Manasquam River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Now, the Manasquam isn’t very big, as rivers go, and while we’ve read lots of advice about “running an inlet” (as they call going to or from the ocean), and knew in theory to time our transit of the inlet for a slack current, we got there early.  

That’s what sometimes happens when you make pessimistic estimates as a matter of course – sometimes things go much smoother than you expect, and you actually get somewhere – say the Manasquam inlet – 2 hours earlier than expected, and instead of slack water, there’s a current flowing out against you.

But how bad can it be, right?

Bad. Worse than bad. Really awful.

The books are right – don’t arrive early. The ride through the inlet was horrible, with 6-8’ standing waves that made it feel like we were pointing first straight up, then straight down, and slowed our forward progress from 5 knots to less than 2. It felt like it took forever to clear the ¼-mile long inlet, and being passed by powerboats going 15 knots and leaving a churning, tossing wake behind did NOT make it easier. Really? Passing in an inlet? Please!

And no, I’m sorry to say that there are no pictures of the process. I had all three hands and my front teeth on the wheel trying to control a boat, and Nicki was hanging on for dear life and warning me when boats were about to pass us because I didn’t dare try to look behind us myself.

But we made it through safely – if not wisely – and we won’t be putting ourselves in that situation again, even if we are early. 

Inlets, it turns out, really are not to be trifled with. They are memorable in a bad way.

 But then, I’ve heard swans can be pretty nasty too, pretty as they are.

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

3 thoughts on “The thing about Inlets…

  1. Welcome to the world of tidal flow 🙂

    We had a lively incident when arriving in Beaufort NC. We watched an exiting 50′ sailboat slam over the waves and thought, oh crap do we have to go through that. Then, we realized we were in it. 25k winds against a 4 k current with temporary chanel markers due to dredging. Oh yeah – living the dream.

    Speaking of crazy inlets – be sure to stop at St Augustine, FL – it is an awesome spot. Pick up a mooring in the city field and explore the beautiful city – plan on a week (we spent 5 weeks there). Also a good provisioning stop.

    And, Fernandina Beach FL is a great stop. Much smaller than St Augustine but offers Cumberland Island (all national park) and a quaint downtown. Plenty of spots to anchor.

    When you get to the Bahamas you will really watch tide times (which are not published anywhere) and winds. They have channels that are known to “rage”. They have cute little names for them like The Whale and Current Cut. In one of these cuts it was the first time we buried the bow of our boat and had water run up the deck above the cabin top. That was fun. And, it was only blowing 15 knots – can’t imagine what it would have been like on a windy day.

    Mark and Cindy
    sv Cream Puff


  2. Reminds me of Cattle Point at the foot of San Juan Island. Oh, we do know currents around here! But you made it. And your boat made it. All to the good.


  3. Pingback: “Newly Salted” & The Interview With a Cruiser Project | 'Til the butter melts

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