'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch


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After the rush, the waiting…

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…by Keith, Oct the 14 ’16

We’ve written a bit about the events that brought us here to an unplanned, extended stay in Hampton, VA. Of course, life is often composed of the unplanned, and indeed many of our most significant experiences are a result of going off-script, whether intentionally or forced by circumstances. And so it is with us.

The short update is that my brush with blindness in my right eye has – like our encounter with Hurricane Matthew – been only a brush.  The emergency surgury to re-attach a detached retina was successful, I have full light sensitivity again, and we wait now for the after-effects of the procedure to dissipate and restore normal function to the eye. 

We wait, impatiently. Going into the operating room was all a rush and blur, with little enough time to calm frayed nerves, much less ask all the questions and digest all the answers.  So it’s understandable that we’d miss the part about ultimate recovery time following the operation.  Turns out that a return to a functional level of vision is expected to take about 6 weeks, and totally “normal” vision may take as long as a year…

Or not.  I have a long history of healing faster than expected, often confounding the expectations of the few doctors I’ve worked with, so I remain optimistic that we can continue our travels sooner, rather than later.  But in the mean time I’m beginning to feel – and probably act – like a caged lion. 

Pacing, pacing…

The biggest factor in my impatience is not – as you might expect – my eagerness to continue our cruising. That’s a little of it, but only a little.

No, the real issue for me is lack.

Lack of silence. Lack of darkness. Lack of wildlife. Lack of motion.

You see, we’re in a marina that’s located just downstream of a highway bridge that’s 24 feet above the water, so there’s almost no boat traffic and no wave action. We may as well be living in an apartment in town for all the “boat motion” our floating home exhibits. 

By the same token, we’re parked in downtown Hampton, VA. Street lights, traffic sounds, car horns,  and the conversations of passing pedestrians are all a constant presence, always in the background, sometimes in the foreground. Rarely we hear a single call of a gull or a heron, but frequently we hear the trucks going through all 13 gears as they climb the grade to the bridge. 


And light? True darkness is a memory. If you wake in the night, you have no idea – from the light level – whether dawn is breaking or still hours away, and there will be no sound of morning birds to help you decide.

I’m most appreciative of the place to be while we work out my vision issues, but I’ve realized that I’m not sleeping well, not resting, not comfortable in this very urban environment.  It provides shelter, but no solace. A place to be, but not to live.

A cage, but not a home.

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Escape From New York

I wrote this post the day after we made the transit from Long Island through New York City’s East River, and down to Sandy Hook, NJ. That was nearly two weeks ago, but it seems I never posted it – as pointed out by a friend of ours. Thanks Matt!So here it is.
                                                                                          Escape From New York
Not that I’m suggesting that one should necessarily “escape” from New York City, but I will admit that I am NOT an urban dweller. A big city, to me, is Rockland, Maine – population 8000 in the winter, 28,000 in the summer. That’s as big as I can handle comfortably.

So naturally I approached the passage from the Long Island Sound to New York Harbor with some trepidation. I mean, that’s a BIG CITY no matter how you slice it!

And for those that don’t know about such things, yes, you CAN take a boat from the Long Island Sound into the Hudson River and thence, the Atlantic Ocean without going all the way around Long Island. You just have to be ready for some serious currents and some even more serious boat traffic.


In retrospect I think we’d both agree that it was “no big deal”. Yes, you need to time the current correctly. The change in tides between the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound means that a HUGE amount of water is moving either northeast or southwest through Hell Gate, and currents can exceed 5 knots at peak times. Given that 5 knots is Sionna’s maximum practical speed under power, trying to go the “wrong” way is only going to waste a lot of fuel – current is always King.

Or Queen. Anyway, you can’t go if the current isn’t favorable. You just can’t. Doesn’t matter if you have a dentist appointment that it took you a year to get and you simply MUST make it to Manhattan against the current – you are not.
We left our mooring in Manhasset Bay promptly at 7:30am, allowing 2 hours to get to the Throgs Neck Bridge at the forecast slack (zero) current time of 9:30. I’m one of those people who is paranoid about being late, so of course I build in extra time for important arrivals. Which predictably got us to the Throgs Neck 45 minutes early, and gave us a quarter-knot of current against us for the first bridge.

First bridge – Throgs Neck!

No biggie there – by the time we got to Rikers Island, the current had turned, and we were riding with almost 3 knots of fair current, and FLYING along at 7 knots, 8 knots, 8.8 knots! Nicki got the award for fastest speed to date at 8.8 knots. She wouldn’t let me near the helm until we cleared the south end of Manhatten, actually, so I’m not sure the award should stand…

By the way, we weren’t alone. There were at least 5 other sailboats in Manhasset Bay with us, and though we were the first boat off the mooring, those other five – who have more money for diesel fuel than we do – caught up with us shortly before we passed Rikers Island, and we ended up the last in line for the trip south.


Last in line again, as the other boats pass us by.
From Rikers Island, the next feature is Hell Gate. It’s not as bad as it sounds, actually, though in an under-powered or pure sailing vessel it must have been very interesting indeed! For us, it was just “watch the channel markers” and keep her in between the navigational beacons. No big deal. Except the tankers. Did I mention the tankers? They’re very big. VERY big. And they cannot stop, they cannot turn, they cannot do ANYTHING except blow their very pretty and loud horns if they’re not sure what you’re doing. Of the six boats going head-to-head with this particular tanker, we were the ONLY boat to contact him on the radio and agree how we would pass. The only one. Silly me, guess I’m just a stickler for standard procedures. The tanker skipper was most cordial and seemed to appreciate our effort.


The East River is the next thing after Hell Gate, and it’s just cool – no other way to describe it. You see a side of the buildings that nobody on land ever sees, and you’re on this kind of magical mystery tour along the waterway that takes you along at it’s own pace… 


We saw the UN, of course – in fact there were rumors that the whole East River could be closed due to the UN General Assembly going on, but today there were no closures, and we sailed on by in comfort. The only thing identifying the building now is the flag outside, but I remember seeing it from the air, those many years ago when I was a pilot. 
Speaking of “those days” – I stopped flying in February, 2002, having spent much of that career flying into the New York airports, especially LaGuardia. I was supposed to fly to LaGuardia the afternoon of September 11th, 2001…

So I haven’t seen Manhatten since the area around the former World Trade Center was rebuilt. I’d never seen the rebuilt skyline of New York. 

It looks… Different.

So tonight we’re in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, anchored of Sandy Hook Point with two of the boats that made the passage south with us. Tomorrow we’ll probably continue south to the Manasquam Inlet – but that’s another story.  

It’s a lovely beach – or would be, if it weren’t for all the plastic trash that litters every square inch above the high tide line. And if you aren’t already worried and angry about plastic pollution – particularly in the oceans – you need to get that way. You wouldn’t believe how bad it already is.

Really, wonderful trip, do it if you can. 

But stop buying plastic crap, ok? It always becomes a problem for somebody.