Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New York, New York; Do I Want To Wake Up in the City That Never Sleeps?

Moorings at the 79th Street Boat Basin, NYC
     After enduring opposing currents and winds in excess of 25 knots blasting down the Hudson River and a seemingly endless night of hobby horsing on a mooring ball at the 79th Street Boat Basin, at dawn all I wanted to do was sleep in the city that never sleeps!
     The previous day we'd arrived at the Boat Basin and picked up a mooring around 11:00 AM. The forecast called for heavy northeasterly winds in the evening. We assumed the Boat Basin would offer some protection from the forecast winds. Conditions early in the afternoon were benign with light winds from the south and a relatively flat Hudson River with the exception of the occasional wake from a barge or Coast Guard boats.
Central Park

      At noon we dinghied ashore and spent the afternoon exploring areas around Central Park and hopped the subway to Greenwich Village where we enjoyed an afternoon of exploration that reminded us of our college days in Boston. An early dinner was savored at the Greenwich Village Bistro where a jazz trio entertained us during happy hour.
The Greenwich Village Bistro


      When our visit to Greenwich Village came to a close the return subway ride back to the 79th Street boat Basin took about 15 minutes. The dinghy ride back to Simple Life was quite a distance from the marina and Joe was concerned about the current and negotiating our way back to the boat in the dark.
Subway riders on the Red Line

      The river was fairly calm and flat when we hopped in the dinghy headed for home when all hell broke loose after 10:00 PM. The northerlies had kicked in early. The wind generator began spinning at an alarming rate. It was freewheeling! This usually indicates wind speeds in excess of 30 knots. Joe shut it down. Then the opposing current began rocking the boat violently. As the late actress Bette Davis said,"Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night." Somehow we managed to sleep, though sporadically. At dawn the coffee colored waters in the Hudson River were boiling. Simple Life's full keel caused her to sit to the current with winds barreling in from the stern at an alarming speed. A nearby Beneteau sailboat (a much lighter vessel) "sailed" around on her mooring and repeatedly came precariously close to Simple Life's stern. It was before dawn when Joe called me on deck. He shouted, "Michele get up! I'm going to need you! This Beneteau is really close and I think we're going to need to get off this mooring!" I'd been having a bout with vertigo for a few days. Mornings were the worst time. Somehow, I managed to get my clothes on and climbed into the cockpit. Everything was spinning. I didn't want Joe to think he couldn't count on me in a pinch but, he caught on when I staggered as I tried to get up.

     At dawn we'd settled down after some much needed coffee. It seemed the heavy currents were driving Simple Life with her full keel against the wind. She was sitting to the current. It didn't appear that the two boats were getting any closer. By 10:00 AM the current slackened and the wind turned off. It was safe to leave Simple Life unattended and once again head up 79th Street into the city to salvage the remainder of the afternoon.

John Lennon's former residence at The Dakota
     The afternoon's itinerary consisted of visiting The Dakota, John Lennon's former residence to take a few photos. I spotted what appeared to be a group tour of Central Park! We meandered into the crowd crashing an obviously organized event. Within a short time it was evident that the tour was led by a French speaking guide! We tagged along and discovered many of the highlights of the park. The tour brought us to several well known must see areas of Central Park such as Strawberry Fields in honor of John Lennon, the Bestheda Terrace and the Angel of the Terrace Fountain. The Mall in Central Park and the Trefoil Bridge. We left the tour hoping to make some discoveries of our own.

Imagine at the entrance to Strawberry Fields
The south gate where John Lennon was killed


Actor Michael J Fox
     Our first unexpected event was stumbling upon the filming of Michael J Fox's new TV show in Central Park! The number of people involved in the production of the show was astounding. Editing was done in real time on the set with elaborate portable computer stations and editing software. Joe and I watched several takes of the same scene for over an hour. When the director declared the scene a wrap it was time to move on to explore more areas of the park.
Production editing of the Michael J. Fox Show
Musicians performing at the Bestheda Terrace
     The Mall in Central Park is one of the more recognizable places where we walked. It also leads back to the Bestheda Terrace where Strains of Bach's Air on a G String filtered from the lower level. The Terrace is a quintessential venue with an inspirational design after the Palace of Versailles. Two marvelous musicians were performing on viola and double bass under the archways on the lower level. The couple from Kiev, Ukraine performed Bach's Prelude from 1st Cello Suite, Air on a G String BMV 1068 and "Intermezzo" from Cavileriara Rustiicana as well as several other classical pieces. It was a moving experience that nearly brought me to tears. Our love of music always seems to lead us to unexpected treasures.
The Bestheda Terrace Fountain Central Park
     Our day in the Park came to a close it was nearly sunset and time to head back toward the 79th Street Boat Basin. Conditions were calm when we hoisted the dinghy onto the davits for the following morning's departure. Our itinerary for the upcoming week would take us down the coast of New Jersey to Cape May, up the Delaware River, through the C and D Canal and into Chesapeake Bay where we hope to enjoy the remaining warm days of September before heading farther south for the winter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

No Reservations: Cruising Narragansett Bay to Long Island Sound

     One of the best features of sailing with no reservations is that you can take your time. While sailing  Simple Life along the north/south route of the eastern seaboard we anchor nearly all the time unless there are free docks or town moorings available.

     A week ago when we left our home port of Pawtuxet Cove in Narragansett Bay our first overnight anchorage was at the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge off Sand Hill Cove in Narragansett, RI. As we made our final approach through the eastern entrance into the harbor a squall blew through with strong winds that lasted throughout the night. The massive boulders that encompass the granite breakwall at Simple Life's stern made for a less than restful night's sleep. At dawn the following day the wind had subsided necessitating a motoring day to an anchorage at Ram Island in Fischer's Island Sound near Mystic, CT. The anchorage with its shoreline deposited with eroded boulders from the recession of glaciers offered scenic beauty quite different than upper Narragansett Bay's marshes and pastoral panoramas. It also offered ample protection from most wind and wave directions with the exception of easterlies.

Simple Life with staysail and main in the Race
     There was no shortage of wind the next day when we set sail west toward Essex on the Connecticut River. Winds gusted in excess of 20 knots from the southwest. Of course this was the direction we were traveling. Currents were favorable but, since we had to tack back and forth up Long Island Sound the tacks brought us into the fringes of the notorious Race. Wave size and wave periods increased dramatically when we encountered depths of over 130 of water in the Race with cresting seas breaking over the bow and subsequently rolling over the dodger and bimini. That evening after negotiating the Connecticut River entrance and safely anchoring in Hamburg Cove near Essex reflecting on the experience over cocktails was great fun. Why does it seem that every nasty incident related to sailing seems like fun when it's over?


The Griswold Inn, Essex
     The motoring trip to the town of Essex was a short distance from Hamburg Cove.  Essex was recently declared one of America's great small towns. Even though its location is six miles up the Connecticut River it looks much like any seaside village in New England. Joe and I wandered around town stopping in various antique shops and strolling along the historic waterfront checking on the locals crabbing on the town dock. The most popular attraction in town is the Griswold Inn also known as The Gris. It seems that it is a local hangout as well as popular among tourists. It was Sunday afternoon and a jazz quartet was entertaining the brunch crowd. Later in the afternoon a singer-songwriter's talents filled the Tap Room with listeners.
Michele enjoying afternoon music 


     When it was time to dinghy back to Simple Life for the evening we took notice of the strong current in the river. It can run at over 1.5 knots at its peak. It's definitely not the place to jump off the boat for a swim. That evening we witnessed the current's fury first hand as a young man who'd been out with friends for a daysail jumped from the boat and within seconds was swept a few hundred yards away. It was dark and after trying to swim unsuccessfully against the current a nearby yacht club launch spotted the shaken boy and plucked him from the water. It seemed that disaster was diverted and we settled in for the night.


Saybrook Breakwater Light
     I'd researched the Essex/Old Saybrook area and discovered that Katherine Hepburn spent summers at her family's large waterfront home at Fenwick on Long Island Sound. The home located on Long Island Sound was easy to spot as we sailed out of the river and headed west around the Saybrook Lighthouse. It was sold and remodeled after Hepburn's death in 2003 and was recently listed for a mere 30 million dollars!
Katherine Hepburn's home at Fenwick


Execution Rocks near the entrance to Port Washington, NY
     We headed across the Sound toward our intended nights' anchorage at Port Jefferson, NY. There were no obvious amenities for cruisers so we planned to anchor only one night with a morning departure for Port Washington, NY. We'd heard numerous cruisers checking in on the Cruisheimer's Net on the SSB radio and assumed that Port Washington offered  more amenities for cruising sailors. The city offers free moorings for 48 hours and free pump outs. There's a Stop and Shop across the street from the dinghy dock and a West Marine within a couple of blocks. We also found a laundromat on Shore Road across from the West Marine. You know you're a cruiser when your day is complete after finding all these shoreside conveniences.
How can you make a cruiser's day? Put a grocery store across
from the dingy dock!

     This evening Simple Life is anchored in Little Neck Bay in Queens near the Throgs Neck Bridge. The anchor will be up at dawn and we'll be motoring down the East River heading for Hell Gate at slack tide...I'll bet that sounds like a great way to start the morning. Any sentence with the word "hell" in it makes me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head. But, after Hell Gate who knows...we might head out to sea or we may turn up the Hudson River and check out NYC for a couple of days.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Home is Where the Heart (or Boat) Is

Conimicut Point Lighthouse, Narragansett Bay
     Cliches are memorable, thus their propensity for endurance throughout time. The word home conjures all kinds of images. A house, family, a neighborhood, and in our case a boat. This summer Simple Life's homecoming to Rhode Island was sweet. It was everything that epitomized the word home. The familiar surroundings of our harbor and neighborhood, numerous family gatherings both bittersweet and heart-warming, reuniting with old friends and family and realizing, "This is where we're from, this is where we're most at home."
Family members John and Mike enjoying Simple Life


     In the cruising community there's a saying, "Home is Where the Boat Is." That becomes true when traveling. Cruising friends are a tight knit community that become an adjunct family offering support, camaraderie and lasting friendships.
Friend Jean waves good bye aboard Dawn Treader
    Yesterday, Simple Life's mooring lines were liberated and now she's bound for sea. Our autumn southern migration has officially begun and we're underway. As we sailed out of Pawtuxet Cove we bid farewell to neighbors and friends Ted and Jean aboard Dawn Treader. I glanced back somewhat wistfully as they sailed north and we sailed south. Somehow the plans we'd made during our travels north last spring eluded us. We didn't visit the Vineyard or visit many of our favorite harbors in New England. Simple Life needed more attention after her journey north and chores took longer than expected. The time spent at home reminded me of the importance of a place. For us Narragansett Bay is that place and regardless of where we may wander it will always be the place we call home.


Dutch Harbor Lighthouse, West Passage, Narragansett Bay

      We hope you'll join us this fall and winter as we sail Simple Life on another adventure south via Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway to the Florida Keys and Bahama Islands.