We took 6 days to go from our marina in Jersey City, NJ to Fairhaven, MA. We could have done it more quickly but we were in a combination of vacation mode and ohcrapwecantbelieveweareactuallydoingthis mode. So, with that in mind, here is a recap of our trip:
Day 1: Jersey City to Oyster Bay, NY.
We didn’t sail at all as the little wind we had was almost completely on the nose the entire day. It was beautiful and sunshiny otherwise. The kitties settled down-ish once we were underway. Lola goes to sleep in whatever small, protected place she can find. Winston comes into the cockpit, yells at us, and usually settles down on my lap.
We motored up the East River and out into Long Island Sound.
Once in Long Island Sound we noticed that the bilge alarm was going off. We didn’t think much of this because it has a tendency to fall into the bit of water that’s always in the keel. Peter went down to investigate and found that we had a leak, which was exciting. We have a super-duper bilge pump that is capable of pumping out a sinking boat so Peter hooked that up to the batteries and pumped the flood of water overboard. For a while we thought we were going to have to stop early and fix a major leak. Not what we want to deal with at any time and certainly not in our first hours away from the dock!
It turns out that the hose on the exhaust port for the original engine (located in the Hell Hole) had come loose and was letting in a good bit of ocean each time the port was under water. Unfortunately it was hard to see what was happening because of all the crap that we had stored in Narnia which had gotten wet and gross. So that was fun. It was an annoying problem but perfectly manageable.
We got to Oyster Bay just after 5:30 that afternoon and dropped our anchor on our new windlass for the first time ever! The anchorage was beautiful with calm and clear water.
Why Oyster Bay, you might ask? There’s a song written by Cole Porter called Let’s Do It; one of the verses is:
Romantic sponges, they say, do it
Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love
I have a song for everything; even anchoring!
Day 2: Oyster Bay, NY to Milford, CT
The day dawned sunny and cold. I conveniently made apple muffins for breakfast to warm up the boat. Warnings on our propane stove state to never use the device for “comfort heating” and it’s a good thing I wasn’t doing that. I was just heating up the oven.
We got to see oyster fishermen in their small boats raking the bottom of the bay for oysters while we ate our breakfast in the sunlight. Peter fixed the exhaust leak while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes.
We have charts and maps that show Milford to be a nice harbor with good anchorage spots. This was not exactly the case. There were two anchorage areas: one just inside the harbor entrance and one on the lee side of a tiny island. The tiny island spot was a no-go; just way too exposed to the Sound. In the other anchorage there was another sailboat anchored quite close to the deepest part of the channel.
They were having sundowners in their cockpit and watching us. We motored over, keeping to the deep water on the charts. When we were about 100 yards away a very grouchy man climbed out of the cockpit and walked to the bow. He stood watching us, fists on his hips, as we continued to head in his direction. We turned toward where we were planning to anchor which was well away from them. The grouchy man on Phoenix (the other boat – we knew this because it was painted on their boom) watched us until we had our anchor set. Now, we are not anchoring experts by any means, but we know that if you’re anchored in the channel it’s possible people might have to get a little close to go around you. This man may have had a previous bad experience with unfriendly anchorers before so we will give him the benefit of the doubt. However, unless he had let out 400’ of anchor chain, there was no way we were close enough to cause concern. Hmph.
We set our anchor and Peter took out the binoculars to see what the kerfuffle was aboard Phoenix. The man had resumed his sundowning.
I roasted a chicken for dinner and made up a recipe for cheese biscuits, which were delicious! The boat warmed up nicely after our chilly sail.
Day 3: Milford, CT to Fishers Island, NY
The passage was only remarkable for the fact that we broke out our new foulie pants as the wind turned chilly. When we arrived in the anchorage who should we see but Phoenix! What? They had left Milford before us and we had no idea they were coming here. Again, they were anchored in one of the channels in the harbor. We headed toward the anchorage area marked on our chart and gave them a wide clearance so as to not have another display from grouchy-pants man.
Fishers Island is beautiful and quiet; many boarded up summer vacation homes and lots of seals in the water.
I made chicken enchiladas for dinner – the little propane oven does a good job
warming the boat baking.
Our anchorage was nice but we think Phoenix suffered. Fishers Island has an active fishing fleet and every time one of the boats would race along in the channel Phoenix would rock with wake. A few of the boats even made it a point to cut very close at a high rate of speed. Our book on the area specifically said not to anchor in the channel but maybe they didn’t have that book.
We heard what we thought were loons after dark but, since neither of us had ever heard loons before, what do we know?
Day 4: Fishers Island, NY to Cuttyhunk Pond
Our original plan was to head for Newport, RI – a 5-hourish sail from Fishers Island. As fun as Newport would be to visit we were feeling a bit of pressure to get a move on so, when we realized we would make Newport by 3 in the afternoon, I scouted for an alternate. Cuttyhunk sounds like a made up place and it looked good in our book so we headed there.
The seas started to get lumpy and uncomfortable but there was a stiff, favorable wind so we put the sail up. Sailing along we noticed a very large container ship coming up behind us, way off the shipping lanes. He was off to Port but moving fast and headed through our path. He kept getting closer and closer. And closer… We were just about to radio to ask him what was up when he straightened out then turned sharply in front of us to get into the lane. Thanks, NYK line, for the massive wake. Once in his shipping lane he quickly outdistanced us. Unfortunately he then cut the corner off the shipping lane at the next turn and nearly ran down a fishing trawler. The trawler actually had to reposition to get himself out of danger. I have heard these things happen all the time but it was my first time seeing a sea-bully in action.
The wind continued to increase and the seas to match. We put on our complete foulie-wear (that would be the new pants and jackets, hats, scarves, gloves, and gaiters) as well as our life jackets. Lots of breaking waves and spray. We furled the jib. We reefed the main sail. Then we reefed it again.
Peter steered while I kept a lookout for fishing floats. Cuttyhunk has a well-marked channel that twists and turns through rocks and reefs. There is a straight, semi-shallow cut that leads from the ocean into the Pond which is dredged and full of mooring markers. We found a place to anchor toward the edge of the Pond, noted how the water became markedly shallower just outside of the dredge markers (yikes!), and dropped our anchor at sunset.
We looked around and…was that Phoenix?? We grabbed the binoculars to check. No, thank goodness. It was a boat tied up to a marina pier across the pond. If it had been Phoenix we would have had to go over and make friends.
Although Cuttyhunk is supposed to be tremendously busy in the summer we had the Pond to ourselves.
Internet was sketchy; if the bow was pointing East we could get reception in the cockpit. I made chicken soup for dinner and people in a small cottage on the shore set off fireworks in honor of our arrival.
Day 5: Cuttyhunk
We don’t trust our diesel gauges. They read 1/3 tanks but the needle also bounces around a lot when you tap the indicator. The morning was sunny though the weather radio noted that a Small Craft advisory was to be issued for the afternoon. We would like to get some diesel just in case 1/3 tank actually means empty. There were waves on the Pond but it’s much more tranquil than the ocean that we can see through a gap in the hills. We don jackets, hats, and foulie pants and launch the dinghy, headed to shore with two empty jerry cans. (Yes. We didn’t fill our jerry cans before we left. Feel free to berate us but we just didn’t think of it. Now we will.)
We beach the dinghy under the fuel dock and look at the pumps. These are not self serve pumps. There’s no one around. We walk toward the peopled part of the island. A pickup truck comes bouncing down the gravel and stops next to us. We meet John and Ace who tell us that there is no marine diesel and the pump is broken anyway. Maybe Wayne has a key to the diesel truck that’s parked in the fenced lot there. They tell us that Wayne drives a white truck and can be found at the electric station. We walk up the hill where the views and scenery are stunning. It’s hot. I wish I wasn’t wearing my foulies.
We arrive at the electric station, see Wayne’s truck and are heartened. We look at the generators inside the station, circle around to the back, and see a man in an outbuilding who tells us Wayne may be inside. We circle it again and see someone moving behind a window. We knock. Wayne? No, shouts the man over the din of generators, I’m just picking up a part.
Not being able to hang around the electric station all day we continue our quest for Wayne. There are just a few roads on this island and we walk most of them. We meet Lisa, Paula, and the school teacher whose name escapes me. No one has seen Wayne but he drives a white truck, they say helpfully. Ace drives by (this time on a 4-wheeler) to ask how we’re doing. Not well, we say. We found Wayne’s truck but no Wayne.
The island, full of marvelously friendly people, is closed. There is one store, which is closed. The fishing club is closed. The marinas are closed. A sign on the city hall says that the season opens in late June. We are two months early. Paula tells us that there were 9 people on the island over Christmas this year.
We give up our quest for Wayne. Though we walked the entire island we failed to find him. The diesel in the truck he could unlock for us is most likely heating diesel and it’s surely been sitting there for a while. We are not desperate and decide to chance it but not until tomorrow. The Small Craft advisory has been issued and we don’t want to slog across the bay this late in the afternoon.
I am grateful for the cold weather gear on the way back to the boat.
We listen to the weather report. Small Craft advisory will be issued at 11 tomorrow and finished at 3:00. We could make it over to Fairhaven by 11:00, it should take just over two hours to get there. The wind is supposed to be favorable so we can sail and won’t have to rely on the motor and the potentially empty diesel tanks.
Dinner. Look at the stars. Go to sleep.
Day 6: Cuttyhunk to Fairhaven, MA
We leave Cuttyhunk Pond by 9:00 to catch the most favorable tides. We can’t make a straight run Northwest to Fairhaven; that’s the way the waves were coming from. Though we could meet them straight on it caused a tremendous amount of spray; burying our bow. Plus the wind was coming from that direction so it was impossible to make headway. We headed west, then a little southwest. Then tacked back northeast. Then back again. The sailing was difficult. There were many fishing floats in the bay. The birds looked like floats until they moved. The wind gusted up more. No pictures; we were too busy.
It didn’t seem like it took more than a few hours but we arrived in Fairhaven at 2:15, 5 hours after we left. We didn’t run out of diesel; the engine didn’t even sputter. We didn’t break our rig in the strong gusts (it would have been more than a little ironic to break the rig while we were on the way to fix it). Peter and I were covered in salt, windburned, sunburned, hungry, and tired but we made it. We tied up, checked in, then found ourselves some food and beer.
And that’s how we got to Fairhaven.