Friday, June 13, 2008

Yesterday we trekked to Sachem Head CT - another horseshoe-shaped coved lined with beautiful trees, homes and a grape arbor. We've had a few leisurely days now - departing at 10:00, running for 3 hours and anchoring with fair skies, moderate temps, flat seas - lovely!

Today was another short trek to Essex CT. Friends Ken and Judy recommended a stop here and it was a great choice. Small town with one main street lined with homes dating from the Revolutionary War and artsy shops and (Pat) a Talbot's store. The Griswold Inn, where we stopped for a cocktail, dates from 1776 when Essex was a major shipbuilding center -- you can picture the shipbuilding moguls meeting there to fret about whether the port was safe from the redcoats--well, it wasn't during the war of 1812 when the British burned 28 ships for a total loss of $160,000. The cruise up here, while short was a bit nippy. So, Vicki doned the outerwear you see here. We're going North?????? [After posting this, friend Rick called to say Vicki looks like a terrorist in this pic!]

Exercise aboard is a challenge. This morning the great room (ha!) was turned into the gym. Pushing back the cocktail table made room to roll out the exercise mat. Norm stretched and Vicki did pilates to a DVD. Tomorrow we'll call the launch (we're on a mooring ball and many have complimentary launch transport services between boats and shore) early to take us to shore for a run.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Now We're Talking!

We spent yesterday anchored at ‘the Gulf’ outside of Milford CT-- a horseshoe shaped cove between a treed island and a long sandy beach framed by beach homes. What a great place! Very picturesque. We took the dinghy into town where we had incredibly delicious gelato, and Norm is now sporting a new haircut courtesy of Bob the Barber. Then back to the boat to fire up the grill for its maiden voyage – we’re happy to report that it produces exceptionally tasty food. A little wine with dinner overlooking the island, rocking gently in the cove – now we’re talking!

Vicki said that yesterday was the first day she really enjoyed. (Notice the number of superlatives in this posting.) We finally had a fun and relaxing day. Also, she’s finally getting the hang of determining where to stay and finding anchorage, mooring ball or marina, depending on the weather forecast. She’s now figured out a process, so now it takes much less time and frustration! Gotta have a process – and no, Bob, it doesn’t involve a spreadsheet J. Our destinations are now planned for the next week – tonight Sachem Head, then Essex, Mystic, Block Island and Newport.

This morning we took the dinghy to the long sandy beach, put the anchor in the sand to hold it and went for a 40-minute power walk. Well…we were greeted with this picture when we returned -- the tide was receeding and the dinghy was mostly out of the water and resting on the skeg (never a good thing)! Norm lifted the motor and we were able to skedaddle having learned another lesson. Hope all of our lessons have a soft landing like that – so far, Neptune has been kind to us. (See, that boat renaming ceremony is paying off!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Some Serious Fear Last Night

A big line of severe thunderstorms passed through the northeast last night. We learned a few things about preparedness. We'll be doing some emergency drills! And our sense of respect for weather and vigilance about the forecasts are heightened - maybe we shouldn't have been where we were for that particular forecast. We're not sure - we'll have to consult the members of the mother ship about that when we reunite.

Vicki took a pic (after the storm) of Norm checking radar on Weather Underground - with his life vest on - that's something we hope not to see again!

While Norm was cool as a cucumber under pressure, Vicki was pretty scared. He said later that his only concern was the anchor. While we have a good anchor that is known to be very effective in many situations, there are some that are referred to as "storm anchors". Norm said "we're getting one of those--soon". Here are excerpts of a note Vicki sent to friends Lynnie and Rick last night at 11 p.m. - it conveys the essence of the experience...

"It looked like armageddon approaching us on the radar on Weather Underground.... the emergency weather station on the VHF was reporting a storm with 70 mph winds west of here....we tried to reach the coast guard on the radio just to inform them of our location and were unsuccessful.... Norm took the antennas down because of the lightning threat so we didn't think we could use the regular VHF radio and switched to the handheld and it's battery was low.... luckily we had another one, but we don't think it works as well.... we got out the life vests and I discovered that I had no idea how to activate it. OH MY GOD -- literally - I was praying mighty hard.
The storm that hit us was reported at 38 knots of wind, some rain, and lasted about 30 minutes. Could have been a lot worse. Norm started the engines as soon as it arrived and we both put on our life vests and Norm put the EPIRB in the ditch bag. Before the storm arrived, we talked through what to do if the anchor didn't hold. Remember we've never tested this anchor before - this is our first night anchoring without Jim and Robin and our 3rd night total -- talk about trial by fire! The anchor held just fine. Thank God, literally. Then we heard that the coast guard was searching for a 25 foot boat that lost its radio and contacted the coast guard by cell phone. The people are all out of flares and have only a flash light to signal the coast guard. Made me feel pretty lucky. Think I'll start praying for them now."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June 10: Another Easy Day

Today marked another significant event for us. Oh, not the cruise. We installed the new video camera on our laptop computer sucessfully and had a great wireless video chat with our friends Rick and Lynnie in NC on SKYPE. And the best's free!! (The camera was $29 at Circuit City.)

We cruised another short 15 miles north to Cockenoe Harbor (anchorage, actually). This was our second day separated from the "Jim and Robin Mother Ship". We're just inside the embankment and about 200 yards from the lighthouse that marks the entrance to the harbor. It's not the most protected anchorage, but the chance of storms was reduced by the weather service and we expect a calm night.

June 9: Short, Slow Run to Greenwich CT

It's a bit hard to see but the pic at left may give you an idea of were we are. (Norm will try to figure out a way to make it more clear.)

Getting off the mooring ball was much easier--just toss it in the water! At 0830 we were untethered and began a short slow run to Greenwich CT. Greenwich is only 12.2 miles from City Island. The Long Island Sound was clear as glass and very little traffic--only a few fishermen. We arrived Greenwich Town Dock at 1130 and were met by Wayne, the dock master. Wayne went above and beyond. He was waiting for us when we arrived and helped us dock. He loaned us a 30Amp/50Amp Shore Power splitter and drove us to a marine supply store to purchase one and some other stuff. Then he made a return to the store for us when we purchased the wrong item. And, we would not take a gratuity--so we forced one on him. Nice little harbor-very well protected but only a short distance off the Sound.

When Norm returned from the store, Vicki surprised him with a happy birthday banner, cupcakes with a birthday candle, and cards.

Then the work began. Norm washed the boat, pumped out the waste tank and filled the on-board fresh water tanks. Vicki did laundry, ironed and vacuumed and other housekeeping jobs and began to research the next few days' anchorages.

Stacey, Norm's niece along with her two children, Eli and Kiely, picked us up about 5PM. She took us to their home in Stamford where we met up with Ian her husband. After some cocktails and snacks at their lovely home, we were off to dinner. Ian and Stacey treated us to a great fish dinner on the water. We had a chance to get "caught up". Norm had a very nice birthday!!!

Today we will make another short run to Norwalk Islands--just another 15 miles. We'll anchor there before this afternoon's predicted rain.

New York Harbor, Hell Gate, and Our First Mooring Ball

We cruised into New York Harbor on Sunday. What a thrill to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as many immigrants did (including Norm’s grandmother). We also cruised up the Hudson River for a while and took in the sights on Manhattan's west side. The traffic was heavy with commercial boats, ferrys and sailors (those sailors!). Anyway, we manuevered through the maze and made it to the entrance to the East River. We worked our way up, taking in Manhattan's East side to........................... HELL GATE!!!!!

Hell Gate is an area known for treacherous currents. In a slow boat like ours, the currents can actually push the boat around, even backwards if traversing that stretch at the wrong time. Jim timed the tides perfectly so that we had a few knots of current pushing us through. As Norm said, “It was a non-event”. Perfect.

Jim and Robin are staying at City Island on the west part of Long Island Sound for 5 days to spend time with her parents. We will meander slowly up the coast and they will catch up with us later. (Testing out our wings a bit.)

We spent last night on a City Island Yacht Club mooring ball. It was the first time we’d touched a mooring ball. Norm snagged it on the first try! OK, he got an assist from the Yacht Club tender, but only because our boat hook was too short! We’ll be investing in a super-size boat hook to guarantee future success (and because we noticed that Robin and Jim have one about as tall as a giraffe).

Prior to grabbing the mooring ball, we had actually anchored on the other side of the island. We felt pretty good that we didn’t panic while anchoring with lighting flashing and thunder booming in close proximity. We had just settled in on the back porch with a cocktail when a Tow Boat U.S. boat pulled up to give us some “local knowledge” that if the wind shifted our boat would swing into rocks that weren’t shown on the chart. YIKES! We swung into action, after finishing our cocktails and waiting for the squall of wind and a few clouds to blow over, hauled anchor and headed to the moorings. Good judgment, eh? We learned that even when an anchorage is listed in the cruise guide as a good anchorage, it pays to get local knowledge before anchoring. As Norm always said on the Great Circle Route, "local knowledge is the best chart".

Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy 64th Birthday Norm!

We're traveling to Greenwich Connecticut today. It'll be about a 2-hour trip (short, thank goodness). We'll be in a marina before noon. Going out to dinner tonight with Norm's neice Stacey and her husband Ian.