It’s Friday morning and I am under power, running Pandora up Long Island Sound, from Black Rock CT, near Bridgeport, on the final leg to the Connecticut River, the Essex Yacht Club and our “other” home. Last evening we arrived at Fayerweather Yacht Club to tie up for the night. You may recall that Brenda and I spent the first night of our journey there way back in September. Being fastened securely at the dock was a welcome change after nearly 5 ½ days underway from Marsh Harbor Bahamas. I slept like a log. Actually, like a bowling ball. As you may be aware, when you toss a bowling ball into a bed, it rolls to the center and doesn’t move. Me too. And, when my friend Christopher, who crewed with me for the run, showed up today at around 7:30, I had to drag myself out of a fog to greet him. After nearly a week with a few hours of sleep, off and on, it was nice to have a (sort of) full night of rest. I say “full” night as I did not actually get to bed until after midnight, a bit late for me and way, way past the “cruiser’s midnight, or the 9pm, that I had become accustomed to over the months aboard.
Arriving at Fayerweather YC was just so great as Brenda was at the dock to greet us along with Chris’s wife, Pat and their other son Travers. It was a bit of family reunion. Very nice. Between the two of them “documenting” the occasion, I thought I might crash into the dock given all of the camera flashes that totally blinded me. So much for night vision. It was terrific and happily, I guess that I can sort of dock Pandora with my eyes closed, which I had to do because I was pretty much blinded by the flashes. What fun… After greetings in the rain, we were whisked us off to a great dinner that Pat had prepared. What great way to wrap up things from a great trip.
While the trip was a long one, some 950 miles, the wind was largely cooperative and we made excellent time. We calculate that “door to door” from Marsh Harbor to Sandy Hook, mostly under sail, we averaged 8.2kt. That’s nearly 200 miles a day! How great is that? For me, the goal of a 200 mile day is a big deal. I would have liked to sail the entire way but in order to stay ahead of the approaching bad weather that arrives tonight, we had to motor sail some even though there was a good deal of (favorable)wind much of the time. Happily, the wind was from the stern the entire time, usually plenty strong at that and we were going with the waves instead of against them. Trust me on this. Going with the flow is a lot easier than bucking the current. As a meta-fore (sp?) for life, so it goes on the open ocean too.
I had allowed two weeks to make the trip so having a good weather window that stayed open for nearly a week,and long enough to make the trip in style, was a great opportunity. Thanks to Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, for helping make the trip so great.
Speaking of weather, it was plenty bumpy, as you would expect in the ocean, or “blue water” as it is often called. Brenda, like so many others, suffers from sea sickness and in spite of years on the water, she still feels queasy, or worse, when the going gets rough. I was fascinated to watch Ian, the youngest of the crew, who didn’t feel well at all for the first few days, seemed to miraculously get over it after several days and, toward the end of the trip, was able to easily read a book while the boat was pitching all over the place. I have heard that most everyone is “cured” after a few days, but I had never seen it first hand. The body adjusts, it seems.
Really interesting and good because being sea sick isn’t fun at all. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the “cure” is only good for that particular voyage and you have to go through the adjustment anew each time you head out. Bummer about that.
While I have sailed thousands of miles over the years, this was certainly my longest voyage as most of the time long, to me, means a few hundred miles and mostly day runs from place to place . From Marsh Harbor, I covered nearly 1,000 miles, with all but about 100 in the open ocean. The last major run that I took was many years ago when I helped bring a boat back after the Bermuda race. That run was about 2/3 the length of this run and as crew, I had much less responsibility. Of course, now, with my own boat, it was a bigger deal as keeping things under control, the boat floating along and making sure that the crew was well fed and happy.
It’s easy to make the statement that we “live in a connected world” but that was particularly the case for me yesterday when we were a few miles out from Sandy Hook and I heard someone hailing me on the VHF radio. As a rule, vessels have to monitor channel 16 while underway. In any event, here comes the hail, “Pandora, Pandora this is Kalunamo”. It seems that Bill had seen my “spot” message on this site, which he follows periodically, and saw that we were coming into NYC and were probably within VHF range. While we weren’t able to hear each other well on the radio, I pulled out his boat card and called him on the cell phone, “can you hear me now?”. Indeed, he could. It was so great to talk with him and catch up.
Bill and Maureen live aboard Kalunamoo full tome and we had spent the better part of a month “buddy boating” with them in the Bahamas. We hope to see them this summer, perhaps in Essex. They are great fun to spend time with and Maureen, in particular, took Brenda under her wing to help her get the most out of our first winter in the Bahamas. It was fitting to be greeted by Bill as I approached home waters.
I won’t bore you with the details of our last day or so out at sea except to say that as we came up overnight past the Delaware River and the mouth of the Chesapeake, ship traffic increased a lot. At one point, in the dark I might add, we had some five ships in the 950ft range on our plotter and it seemed that all of them were pointing right at us. Welcome back to civilization Pandora.
This shot I took of the plotter screen when we were going through NY shows just how many ships there are in the harbor. It’s a busy place. Each of the black triangles are the coordinates for particular ships as they show up on AIS a location monitor system for ships, like the air traffic control system is for commercial aircraft. That’s a lot of shipping vying for space in a busy area of water. Speaking of massive chunks of steel that can go bump in the night, or day for that matter , none can rival an aircraft carrier for shear bulk. For two days this ship was conducting live fire expercises in the area where we were traveling. To see something this big come out of the haze was a spectacle to behold.It was also interesting, and a bit intimidating, to have a navy helicopter fly overhead, and they did perhaps a half dozen time in two days, to keep an eye on us. They would fly toward us, circle around close overhead and then fly back to the carrier. They were near enough for us to see the faces of the crew. I guess that the wanted us to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that “we see you”. Actually, I hope that they took an aerial photo of Pandora under sail. Perhaps they did. I wonder who I should call to get a copy sent to me. The Pentagon? I have sailed the waters of the New York area for many years and it was nice to enter Ambrose Channel and head up into NY Harbor. No, this isn’t the very first bouy in the channel, but it was one of the first markers, of any sort, that I had seen after months of sailing in the Bahamas. Even when there are buoys shown on the charts, they aren’t actually there. To see so many leading us up the harbor I felt like saying “Nice bouy, bouy.” Oh, I guess that means there is a rock nearby. Perhaps we wouldn’t need them here either if the water was clear as in the Bahamas where everything is easy to see. Sort of…Wait, the harbor pilot passed us right by. What about guiding US home?Perhaps he had bigger fish to fry?Lady Liberty did give us a wave. That was really very nice.Over the years I have always told our boys, Rob and Chris, that they have to watch out for what they do in public as it’s very likely someone they know will see them. Yesterday, as we made our way up the east river, against the tide I might add, which runs really fast, I was given a first hand dose of my own medicine. As we were passing up the East River by Roosevelt Island and the UN building, I thought about my friend Margo, who lives nearby, with a view of the river. Just for fun, I called her on the phone to say HI. After months without a cell phone that I could use without running up massive charges, I called. Amazingly, she picked up the phone to say “Bob, I was just picking the phone to call YOU as I saw Pandora going by”. It is indeed a small world.
Today, when I was checking my blog, I also saw a comment from my friend Roger, a fellow SAGA 43 owner, who also saw me on the river, in the vicinity of the 40s. He was driving south on the FDR and there was Pandora. Roger and his wife Ilene sailed to Grenada and back over two seasons. Quite a trip. They chronicled their voyage on their blog.
Remember, don’t do anything in public that doesn’t pass the “red face test”… ever. Someone will see you and tell your mother! So, in the space of just a few hours, I was greeted by three friends that knew I had returned. Just how great is that?
Speaking of returning to home waters, I was fascinated by the process of clearing customs and returning to the US. As we were approaching the coast, and were within cell range, I called customs to find out where I should dock to be visited by the customs officials to “clear” me back into the country. After a few calls to several offices, I was greeted by a very nice officer who asked me several questions and then, to my utter amazement, welcomed me home, told me to have a good weekend and to stay out of trouble on the water. That was easy! Wow.
Last May, when I returned to the States with my friend Bob on The Abby, we waited at a dock in Beaufort and were boarded by a US Customs official along with someone from the Department of Agriculture. They spent perhaps a half hour aboard. While one was checking our documents, the other was rifling through the fridge and freezer, perhaps looking for errant pests or contraband cabbages. Anything that looked suspicious was sealed in a yellow plastic hazmat bag. Having experienced that a year ago, I was just stunned to complete the entire process in a few minutes over the phone.
Just for once, it would be a boost to my ego to be looked at as a potential threat. “oh, that’s Pandora and Bob… Just wave them by. They’re perfectly harmless”. What a legacy… Perhaps I need to eat more ice cream and bulk up a bit. Yeah, that works. Then, I’d be scary. Perhaps not.
As I finish this post up the breeze has picked up ever so slightly, the tide has turned in my favor and I am sailing along toward the mouth of the Connecticut River and home to Essex. Today’s easy run is a fitting way to finish up on a wonderful trip. While some might describe this as a “once in a lifetime trip”, I won’t as come next fall Pandora will again be going south and into the Bahamas for the winter.
Perhaps I too should take a cue from the Weather station folks who are always hyping some “storm of the century” and call this instead “the trip of a lifetime… of the year”. Yes, a trip of a lifetime, every year would be perfect. So, what next?
Pandora is to be hauled next week for some work and while everyone else in New England is just getting out on the water, I’ll be preparing for our next year of cruising.
Me? I am very much looking forward to a vacation away (sort of as I’ll be working on her part of most days) from Pandora and some time “on the hard” myself.
I have just a few miles to go and it’s turning out to be a beautiful day. On top of that, there’s a gentle breeze at my back.