Thursday, October 21, 2021

Playing Monopoly

We are under way northbound in the Delaware Bay, headed toward the C&D canal. It's been a whirlwind three days running down the New Jersey coast, a trip that we might easily have made in one overnight hop, if not for the fact that I am still recovering from heart surgery and we have decided that pressing round the clock is not a good idea.

Limited daylight at this time of year meant three segments down the coast unless we wanted to run dawn to dusk, which we also decided was not the smartest idea. With Vector's draft, there are only a handful of inlets we can use. So after departing our anchorage off Staten Island Monday morning, we set our sights on Barnegat Inlet, with bailout options at Shark River and Manasquan. We knew we had only until today to transit the entire coast.

King Neptune guards the entrance to Gardner's Basin, Atlantic City.

After leaving New York Harbor on a fair tide and passing Sandy Hook, we were disappointed to find ourselves doing less than six knots, due in part to crabbing against a 30mph crosswind the entire day. Even at that speed, we knew that if we did not make Barnegat, we'd be pinned down somewhere along the NJ coast until the next outside weather window arrived. At this time of year, that can be a week or more. So we increased RPM and ran at 1600-1650 most of the day, burning an extra few gallons of diesel.

We'd not previously transited Barnegat inlet. On our first few passes along the NJ coast, we simply did not have good enough charts to safely navigate the inlet and find our way to an anchorage. The inlet was widely known as requiring local knowledge. In the last couple of years, however, a combination of tools have become available that made both the inlet and the anchorage safe to navigate on our own, specifically Corps of Engineers hydrographic surveys overlaid on a navigation chart, and crowd-sourced depth soundings inland. (For the boaters reading, those tools are respectively Aquamap Master and Navionics Sonar, both running on an Android tablet.)

Coming in the inlet and making our way to the anchorages was straightforward enough. But we were disappointed to find that both anchorages were chock full of mooring balls, mostly unused. This despite numerous comments in the crowd-sourced anchorage makers stating "plenty of room." One particularly delusional commenter wrote there was "room for 20-30 boats"; this in an anchorage that, had it even been devoid of moorings, was just 750' across. We found no room in either spot for Vector to swing safely at anchor; one of the two had room for just a single anchored boat, and that spot was taken.

Sunset from Barnegat Light, NJ.

After circling around both anchorages for ten minutes, we ultimately found a spot in a small cove across the channel, and dropped the hook with just enough swing room on a 3:1 scope (map), just before sunset. Had the winds been any stiffer overnight, I'm not sure where we could have set and still been outside of the channel. We could easily have gone ashore here, but with temps in the 50s and a late set, we opted to just eat aboard. I'm not sure anything would even be open on a Monday night in October; Barnegat Light is a beach town, and they roll up the sidewalks after Labor Day.

As if to put a finer point on the need for local knowledge or excellent resources, sometime after dinner we heard a Sécurité call from the 92' motor yacht Bella Tu offshore, which was approaching the inlet. After they passed the lighthouse we could see them, being led in by a small boat with flashing red lights, likely one of the tow boat companies on pilot duty. They ultimately went all the way past the NJ ICW and up the Forked River to a marina; we can't pass through the Oyster Creek Channel to get to the ICW, and are limited to the area near Barnegat Light.

Barnegat Light as we headed back out to the inlet. Best I could do while driving.

In the morning we weighed anchor and headed back out the inlet with the tide. We followed our track back out the north cut, rather than following the buoys, because we had seen Bella Tu come in the same way the night before, even coming from the south, and reasoned the pilot boat had good cause to choose that route.

Winds were even higher on Tuesday, and in the westerlies we hugged the coast, running just a half mile offshore. The stabilizers were pegged the whole trip, and we crabbed a good ten degrees, making just over 5.5 knots. With a shorter day to Absecon Inlet the lower speed was not an issue. Thanks to an updated Corp of Engineers survey, we were able to enter the inlet just off the north jetty, shaving a mile off the trip, and we had the hook down in our usual spot near the Coast Guard station (map) a little after 4pm.

That was in plenty of time to head ashore for dinner, and I went upstairs to splash the tender. That's when I discovered our center windscreen was completely missing. We looked all over the decks, but it was nowhere to be found. We had head a loud clunk on Monday, which we assumed to be debris in the water hitting the hull. I even shifted out of gear in case it had been a pot float, but we saw nothing and continued on. In hindsight, this was probably the sound of the windscreen hitting the port rail on its way to Davy Jones' Locker. The relentless 25-knot crosswind had worked on it until all the screws backed out, and then ripped it right off the boat.

Pic I took of our anemometer on Monday. 33mph gusting to 39 on the starboard beam. Took the windscreen right off the boat, umm, without passing "Go."

We tendered ashore to the Farley State Marina, attached to the Golden Nugget, and ate in the lounge at Vic & Anthony's steakhouse. The Deck, the outdoor eatery near the docks, was closed for the season, and the Chart House, which has a decent happy hour lounge menu, is dark on Tuesdays. Fortunately the steakhouse also has a reasonably priced lounge menu (including a completely unadvertised burger), and we ate in a large, airy space with three-story ceilings that felt nearly as safe as being outdoors.

In the morning I took the e-bike ashore for the first time since I landed in the hospital. I needed to go a mile and a half to the CVS, where I had the next month of scripts sent -- the only accessible chain pharmacy on our route for the next week. I landed the tender at Gardner's Basin and then took a ride down the Monopoly board. My ride took me down Baltic, the cheapest name on the game board, and ended up on Boardwalk, the most expensive, passing a number of other familiar names in between.

Missing windscreen. I will have to find plastic to match the tint, and somehow find a way to replicate the curved shape with no template.

Once you get a block away from the casino districts, Atlantic City is a tired city full of shady characters. The somber lyrics of Springsteen's eponymous ballad always run through my head here -- "everything dies, baby, that's a fact." The shopping plaza where the CVS stands was no exception, with enough unemployed young men standing around that every store had a prominent security guard. I locked the bike to a railing and picked up my scripts, then ran into the Save a Lot grocery in the same plaza to pick up a handful of provisions before beating a hasty retreat.

Rather than return via the most direct route through a dilapidated city, I instead headed directly down New York Avenue (mid-priced in Monopoly)  to the boardwalk, where bicycling is permitted at this time of year. I rode all the way to the inlet, around the corner, and back up to Gardner's Basin on the boardwalk, passing such landmarks as the Central and Steel piers, and numerous casinos and name-brand establishments like Margaritaville. On a weekday morning in the off-season, everything was either shuttered or dead quiet, a stark contrast from my previous visits to the boardwalk.

Best my phone could capture of last night's hunter moonrise, from the restaurant. Lights at far right are Vector's.

When I returned to Vector we decked the tender and departed immediately on a fair tide. Once again we had strong winds, hugged the shore, and made less than six knots. That put us in Cape May a little after 5pm, by which time the anchorage was mostly full. We ended up dropping the hook at the very east end, outside the no-wake zone and nearly to the turn from the inlet (map). In the off season late in the day, the wakes were no problem, and we tendered to the Harbor View restaurant and ate on the deck, as we had done on our way north.

This morning we got an early start to have a fair tide most of the day. Even though we were up with the sun, the anchorage was already mostly empty. The majority of sailboats can not transit the canal, and instead must go back out the inlet and around the cape to enter Delaware Bay, which makes for a long day. We whizzed through the canal with the tide behind us and an extra four feet of depth, and have been making good time up the bay all morning.

Sunrise at anchor this morning in Cape May.

Our tidal push will run out around 2pm, shortly after which we hope to be in the vicinity of Reedy Island where we can anchor for the night. We could easily make Chesapeake City by day's end, but with so many cruising boats ahead of us, both the anchorage and the city dock will likely be full, and now that the ocean is behind us, we have no schedule until the first week in November, when I have a follow-up appointment at Johns Hopkins.

Between now and then we will do some leisurely cruising and maybe make some new stops. When next you hear from me we will be in the Chesapeake Bay.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Departing New York

We are under way southbound in the Atlantic Ocean, just a half mile off Sandy Hook as I begin typing.  There is a small craft advisory, but winds are west so we are hugging the shore for a mostly comfortable ride. Winds have been 25-30 all morning, and we did have to bash our way across the lower bay, with the full fetch of Raritan Bay well to the west.

George Washington Bridge with her tower lights on for the holiday, as seen from Vector.

Before I move on to catching the blog up for the past three weeks, a quick health update: I am alive and well and recovering nicely. Louise removed my sutures using our emergency surgical kit, and I have been to a lab for a blood draw that shows the markers improving significantly. And I have been checking my vitals daily using the pulse oximeter and blood pressure cuff from our medical kit. I also purchased a device that can produce a 6-lead EKG and have been checking my heart rhythm a few times a day.

Coming down the East River we passed this ACL cruise ship, which we also saw go up the Hudson twice.

When last I posted here we were still in Port Washington, while I recovered enough to drive the boat. We rode out another windstorm, this time on sufficient scope to keep us from moving even an inch; sadly, we lost one of our Textilene exterior window covers, which must have blown right over the side without landing on deck. Louise has already bought some more Textilene to sew a replacement.

Crystal Symphony on the Hudson, making a port call.

That Wednesday we went ashore for my first dinner out in nearly two weeks, pizza at Amalfi's. Thursday we called for the pumpout boat, and while I was out dealing with them the marine patrol swung by and asked how I was doing. They were very helpful during our stay. That night we went to fancy white-tablecloth place La Piccola Liguria (eating under their outdoor tent) to celebrate our imminent departure.

Jules the duck is something of a pet at the Boat Basin. He'll be on his own in a couple of weeks.

We left for New York Harbor the next morning, timing our departure to have a fair tide all the way to the Battery. I was off by a few minutes, and we ended up pushing against it once we passed the United Nations. We then had a slow cruise up the Hudson to our usual anchorage north of the mooring field for the 79th Street Boat Basin, where we dropped the hook just past the last mooring (map). Cruise ships have returned to the city, and we passed the Crystal Symphony on our way upriver. From our anchorage we could see Norwegian Breakaway come and go three times.

Vector at the Boat Basin dock for the last time, taking on water mid stay. Alchemist ahead of her, and the oldest Trumpy at right. That's been a fixture at the basin for decades; no idea where he will go.

The Boat Basin as it exists today is closing for good at the end of this month. A massive renovation is scheduled to begin in 2023, so the earliest they will reopen is 2024 -- we're not taking any bets. We had been making tracks here for a mid-September arrival before we were waylaid in Port Washington, for what we expected to be our last hurrah on the Upper West Side. We thought we might stay for two or three weeks, and I had been amassing a long list of things I wanted to do on this final visit.

Fireboat 343 testing pumps and monitors upriver of us. FDNY does not have 342 other boats; it's named in honor of the firefighters lost on 9/11.

We did end up staying a full two weeks, owing in large part to some very pleasant early-October weather. But my list was right out the window, mostly because the combination of my recovery and medications has seriously limited the amount of walking I can do, especially with a big hill at the start of every venture as we climb from the waterfront to street level. Still, I got at least some walking in every day, and we went to dinner almost nightly in the neighborhoods around the marina.

This car is always parked across the street from the Hi Life. This is the first time we saw the sign illuminated; they just run an extension cord right across the street under the traffic.

Walking further afield to some of the things on my list was out of the question, as was hoisting the e-bike into and out of the tender twice a day. (As a side note, the reason for that is that it has to come back to the boat each time to be charged; whenever I replace this bike I will look for one that has a removable battery that can be charged elsewhere). And the change in the pandemic situation since our previous visit in June made riding the subway less attractive, especially in busy hours.

This kit came in our extensive offshore medical kit ...
and included suture scissors. I've also been using the BP cuff and pulse oximeter.

Still, we enjoyed wandering the city streets and eating at tables on the sidewalks, watching the people go by. We took some dry cleaning ashore, shopped at the local grocer and wine merchant, and strolled a street festival on Broadway. In the river, we were treated to a bit of a show from FDNY's Fireboat 343, and we got to see the towers of the George Washington Bridge all lit up, something that happens only nine times each year.

No more appropriate gate for me to enter Central Park.

We did have a little unplanned excitement when we noticed from the boat that one of the sculptures in the temporary exhibition in the park had been ripped from its based and thrown in the Hudson, immediately abreast of Vector. It had landed on the rip-rap and was partly exposed at low tide; Louise did some sleuthing on the Internet and emailed the artist and the curator, while I phoned the parks department and left a message.

Getting lines on the sculpture. Our engine is raised and we are using a paddle to avoid the rip-rap. Photo: David Shaw

The artist, David, called while we were out at dinner. While the exhibition had ended in September, several pieces were extended, and his was slated to move directly to a museum in just a few days. He was understandably distraught. He showed up the next day with a small crew to attempt to fish it out of the river, but ended up waiting most of the day for the tide to fall. We went over in the dinghy and secured lines around the ~300-lb stainless steel sculpture, and they were able to lift it out with a backhoe. It sustained too much damage, mostly from salt water, to make the next show, and is back at the studio for repair instead.

Lifting the sculpture from the river, as seen from our tender.

You may remember me mentioning this exhibition when I posted here in June. After this incident we went to the West Side Rag web site to read the write-up, here, and were amused to see Vector in the background of the photo of this specific piece, just under the tree off to the right. David was very grateful for our help, and took us out for a beer the following week. He also gifted us one of his (two dimensional) pieces, which we will frame and hang when we get the chance.

Summit rock is the highest point in Central Park; these steps are hewn directly out of the rock.

Our other big adventure, such as it is, was getting back to Port Washington for a follow-up appointment with the arrhythmia doctor back at the hospital. Fortunately it was mid-day and well out of rush hour, and we had a pleasant uncrowded trip on the subway down to Penn Station and on the LIRR out to Port Washington, where we took a Lyft for the final leg to the hospital. Many cruisers take the LIRR to visit the city from Port Washington, but the station, in the old downtown, is a very long walk from the dock.

The controversial Roosevelt sculpture still stands in front of the American Museum of Natural History.

To avoid making this trek again, I scheduled my follow-up blood tests at Quest Diagnostics, walking distance from the Boat Basin. It's right at Central Park, so on my way back I got in a few block walk through the park and then back along the museum.

Norwegian Breakaway in front of the Manhattan skyline as we departed. Intrepid museum at right.

On the restaurant front we hit all our old favorites, including Fred's, Viand, Salumeria Rosi, Betolla's, and Il Violino, where we ate for Louise's birthday. We tried some new-to-us places, too, including Playa Betty's and Cilantro, both good, and Cafe Luxembourg, which was overpriced and not worth it but they had heaters when we needed them. We also tried the brunch this time at Fred's, which was excellent. We ate outdoors at all venues, and were never asked for our vaccine cards, which are mandatory here to dine indoors.

This message came in on our AIS as we motored down the Hudson. Must be a new automated system, as we've never seen this before.

Thursday and Friday would have been the best days to continue south, as it was flat calm out here. But my blood test was on Thursday, and a Friday departure would have pinned us down along the coast for the weekend, and so we opted to remain until yesterday, when we made the short two-hour cruise down the Hudson with the ebb to pre-position for today. Stiff northwesterlies would make our usual stop at Gravesend Bay a washing machine, so instead we turned to starboard after passing The Narrows and dropped the hook just outside the cable area off South Beach, on Staten Island (map).

Sunset over Staten Island from our anchorage.

From here we had a new perspective of the city, as seen beneath the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and also a different vantage of the ship channel. We were passed by the gargantuan Royal Caribbean cruise ship Oasis of the Seas as on its way out to sea from its departure point of Cape Liberty. A couple of Ro-Ros, several container ships, and a handful of offshore tugs rounded out the entertainment lineup. I could just make out the top of the Coney Island parachute jump, so prominent from our more usual anchorage.

Oasis of the Seas, all aglow as she leaves the harbor.

As I wrap up typing it has been a challenging day. Winds have never dropped below 20 and have often been close to 40. Crabbing from the wind combined with the stabilizers trying to keep us level has cost quite a bit of speed, and we're now running at 1650 to get to the inlet before the current builds above a knot. With any luck we will make Atlantic City tomorrow and Cape May on Wednesday. My next post will probably be from Delaware Bay.

A different view of The Narrows. The Empire State Building is just right of the left tower.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Live, from Port Washington, NY: The Arrhythmics

We are anchored in a familiar spot in Manhasset Bay (map), near the village of Port Washington, NY. As of today we have been here just over a week, and therein lies a tale. Let me catch you up from where we left off, at Truman Beach, our first stop in Long Island Sound.

We had a very calm and pleasant night there off the beach, but in the morning seas were starting to pick up. Nevertheless, we waited until the tide was favorable for westing, weighing anchor just before 11. Even with the favorable tide, winds and seas slowed us down and we arrived at the next safe harbor, Port Jefferson, nearly seven hours later, just a little before 6pm, for a speed made good of just 5.1 knots. Winds were high enough that we dropped the hook in a new spot, off the powerplant on the other side of the harbor (map).

Getting ashore in Port Jeff is something of a challenge, with the dock we normally use closing, sometimes by locked gate, at sunset. So instead we tendered ashore to Danford's hotel and marina and ate at their on-site restaurant, Waves, on the lovely outdoor patio. They do also have a day rate of $10 for the dinghy if we wanted to walk into town.

My constant companion for the past week: a Philips IntelliVue Patient Monitor

We were now in a part of the tide cycle where the current would not be westbound until well into the afternoon, and so we had a relaxing morning in the harbor and I tendered ashore just to get in some walking. Our favored dock now seems to be completely occupied full-time by a schooner and a pair of dragon boats, and there was no place for me to squeeze in, so instead I landed at the boat ramp, which nominally has a ten minute limit. I checked in with the attendant, who allowed that it was not busy so I did not have to rush too much. I got in a walk of about 15 minutes before heading back to Vector.

Fortunately, the harbors get much closer together west of Port Jeff, and after weighing anchor at 2pm we made a very short hop to Huntington Harbor and the village of Northport, New York, a new stop for us, where we dropped the hook just outside the mooring field, off Bluff Point in Northport Bay (map). We splashed the tender and made our way to the free town dock, which provides easy access to the quaint business district with several restaurants and other shops. We strolled until we found a nice patio with available tables, at the Feed and Grain restaurant, which was quite good.

On my morning walk I experienced some pain in my upper sternum when my breathing got deep, something I attributed to having man-handled our heavy anchor on deck back at Truman to effect repairs to the roller. I had to take it slowly on our evening walk for the same reason, and on our way home from dinner I was starting to become concerned that it was something more serious than muscle pain.

Throwback to our bus days: doing all the laundry at once.

We knew we'd be pinned down in Northport for a couple of days with high winds, and after seeing the village just briefly at dinner time, I was looking forward to returning ashore stag in the morning to explore on foot, and trying one of the numerous other restaurants for dinner. But by Friday morning my breathing had become painful enough that I immediately started spinning my wheels imagining that I had contracted COVID-19, which is, after all, a respiratory disease. I spent the day obsessively checking my pulse oximetry, which was always perfect, and researching whether this sort of inspiratory problem was a possible symptom. In consideration of the possibility that I could be contagious, we refrained from landing ashore at all and had a nice dinner on board.

Among the many things that I researched was exactly where I could walk in and get a test. As we learned when we were in Maine, the vast majority of testing sites are "drive through" -- you must remain in your car and there is no option to walk inside. I did find an urgent care facility run by Northwell Health just a few minutes outside of town that would let me schedule an appointment, but transportation would be a challenge.

In the course of weighing anchor after dragging across Manhasset Harbor, the anchor brought up this pipe. Louise knocked if off with the boat pole. Photo: Stacey Guth

In the process of looking up Northwell Health, we learned they also have a location literally right across the street from the dinghy dock here in Port Washington. We had vaguely remembered seeing it before, as it's next door to the grocery store we use on every visit. I made an online appointment for Sunday afternoon, the first available.

Saturday we had excellent travel weather, and by this time the tide schedule had advanced to where an early start was favorable. We weighed anchor first thing for Port Washington. I was feeling crappy enough on the way out of the harbor that we had a little spat about driving while under the weather, and Louise took the conn for most of the trip. En route I called the clinic to see if an earlier appointment might be available. They told me I could come in any time and sign up at the lobby kiosk for a first-available slot.

We dropped the hook here just after noon. Knowing that even going out to dinner was off the table until I had been seen, we immediately tendered ashore. Louise went into Home Goods and then the grocery store to stock up on provisions, while I walked into the urgent care to get myself on the waiting list. Before I could even get my details into the kiosk, the intake desk asked me  my symptoms and they stopped me in the middle and whisked me immediately into a treatment room.

The sailboat that Vector came close to tangling with, in the calm aftermath. This trio of swans visits all the boats in the harbor, looking for handouts. They woke Louise in the middle of the night, pecking the growth off the hull.

The doctor was very good and very efficient, and within a very short time of her initial exam they were breaking out the portable EKG. My strip showed normal sinus rhythm, but with a couple of blips in the signal that gave her some concern. She felt I should get an immediate blood workup and further testing, both beyond the capabilities of the little clinic. The good news? One of the best heart hospitals in the country was just ten minutes away. She wanted to put me in an ambulance, but I declined, choosing an Uber instead.

I had texted Louise when they first brought out the EKG, and she abandoned her half-loaded cart of groceries at the Stop and Shop to come to the clinic. We're both nervous about hospitals during the pandemic, and so we asked the doctor what other alternatives we had. On a Saturday that was more or less none, and she felt very strongly that it was an immediate and urgent need. After a quick pow-wow we agreed to head there directly via Uber.

The hospital is modern but has been here a very long time. This old façade now faces an inner courtyard.

As promised it was just a ten minute car ride to St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center, where the EKG and referral I was carrying expedited me through triage to an exam room. A few minutes later I was on a gurney with a heart monitor, getting blood drawn and a chest X-ray. Within an hour of walking through the door, the ER doctor had an initial diagnosis: pericarditis. This is an inflammation of the pericardium, the lining around the heart. Needing more tests for a more definitive diagnosis, they decided to keep me overnight, and after what seemed like an interminable wait in the hallway of the ER I was moved to a room in the observation ward.

Louise, in the meantime, was booted out of the hospital as soon as they put me on a gurney in the ER. Visitors are not allowed in the ER, which is overcrowded and divided up to keep the COVID cases separated from other medical emergencies. And let me just say here that the selfish boors refusing to be vaccinated are literally killing the rest of us -- time-critical resources are delayed or unavailable due to the influx, and the extra precautions slow everything down. We may never know how many non-COVID deaths have been directly or indirectly attributable to these trickle-down effects. On several occasions we heard PA announcements that there was "high census in the ER." In any event, Louise waited outside on the hospital grounds until I texted her that they were keeping me, when she got an Uber back to the dock.

Current state of many ERs. We're lined up on gurneys down the hall.

As it turned out, I would remain in the hospital an entire week, a possibility we had not deliberately prepared for when we dropped anchor. Louise found herself thrust into the role of primary dinghy driver (her skills have increased markedly in a week) and also suddenly in charge of making electricity and managing all of the other demands the boat makes of us on a daily basis. We had arrived in the harbor with only a few days' supply of water left, expecting to whiz through Hell Gate and the East River the very next day, just ahead of the closure of the river for the United Nations General Assembly, and top up the water at 79th street before anchoring there for a couple of weeks. Instead, she would have to make do on what she had left in the tank.

By 9pm my heart rate was through the roof and I was in atrial fibrillation, and I was very glad to be on a heart monitor tied to a nurse station down the hall. We had arrived at Port Washington not a moment too soon, and were just incredibly lucky to be a stone's throw from a major heart center. They put me on rate control and anti-clotting meds and scheduled another battery of tests, including an echocardiogram and an MRI. I joked with Louise that heart problems "take machines many, money more."

Philips has a lock on the heart market. They wheeled this echocardiogram machine up next to my bed.

I will not bore you with the blow-by-blow on diagnosis and treatment over the next six days, but will skip to the result: I had not just pericarditis, but a pericardial effusion, which is a buildup of fluid between the heart the pericardium. In my case it is idiopathic, which means of unknown origin, although we tested for hundreds of possible causes from bacterial infections to cancers to viruses. It is an acute rather than chronic condition, and idiopathic pericarditis is typically transitory and does not return.

The effusion was quite large and was thus stressing the heart, causing both the inspiratory chest pain and the arrhythmia. The simple solution was to go into the pericardium surgically in a procedure known as a pericardial window, drain the fluid, and insert a post-operative drainage tube to make sure there was not a constant inflow of additional fluid. Both the fluid and a small piece of pericardium were sent for testing and culture, which thus far has been negative for everything. The surgeon drained 500cc of fluid and an additional 100cc eventually made its way through the drain. To put this in perspective, imagine having a half-liter water bottle implanted in your chest.

In one of the more amusing twists of this story, Louise and I had been briefing pretty much every nurse and doctor, and there were over a dozen in all, that we live on a boat and how that impacts how we will receive meds and follow-up care and so forth. Most were wide-eyed and either incredulous or envious, but the one doctor who grokked it right away turned out to be the cardio-thoracic surgeon, who is himself a sailor and used to keep a boat right here in Manhasset Bay, and nowadays crews on other racing boats. While he was laying out for us the procedure and follow-up, he allowed that we could do follow-up on the phone and the "office visit" to remove the surgical sutures could easily be handled by us on board without any assistance. A few minutes ago he passed Vector on a fast racing sailboat (it's race day), called out to me, and we exchanged a few words as he zipped on by.

Distant shot of my cardio-thoracic surgeon zipping past on a race boat.

Wednesday afternoon our good friends and fellow boaters Stacey and Dave arrived in the harbor, en route, like us, to points south. Knowing I was in the hospital, they very generously offered to stay a few days and help Louise with any boat issues. One possibility this raised was for Dave to help Louise get Vector to the dock to load up on water, or. alternatively, to deliver some water to Vector using their own tanks, to be refilled at the dock. I think it was also just a huge emotional relief for Louise to have some friendly faces with her in the harbor.

Visiting hours were noon to eight every day, and Louise made the trek each and every day by dinghy and Uber to be with me, which was an enormous boost. The surgery took place Thursday morning at 7:30, and special exemptions for surgery meant she could come early and be with me during recovery. She left Vector early and was at the hospital by 9am. As it turns out, Thursday was also the day the winds in the harbor picked up to 30 knots.

30-knot winds had not been in the forecast when we dropped anchor last Saturday, and we scoped for more normal conditions.  And in all of the emotion and logistics of dealing with me being in critical care and undergoing heart surgery, neither one of us was particularly thinking about this situation or the need to add scope. And in 30 knots of wind and a soft mud bottom, Vector very gently swung back and forth in a series of successive arcs, plowing her anchor some 500' through the mud.

We started at center bottom, making a nice semicircle until the SE winds picked up. Vector slowly sawed for 500', ending up in the semicircle at upper left. The grey circle with the boat icon in it is where they re-anchored Friday morning and where we still are today.

At some point in this process our unattended boat passed an anchored sailboat that got very concerned about a collision, and they called the harbormaster. Louise had checked in with the harbormaster and the marine patrol and given them the details of our situation (they were very understanding and helpful), and around 2pm he tried to call her to inform her of the issue. As it turned out, neither one of us had any cell signal at all inside the hospital, although my calls were coming through over WiFi. Louise never got the message until she left the hospital at the end of visiting hours, 8pm.

Suffice it to say that she arrived home to quite the mess, at first wondering why the boat was not exactly where she left it. The sailors flagged her down with a flashlight and explained the situation. They were thoroughly convinced that Vector had ensnared their ground tackle and all would need to be untangled, and they had deployed a second anchor. With winds not forecast to shift further overnight, Louise put out more chain to add distance from the sailboat, and had a fitful night of sleep. All I could do from my hospital bed with a tube sticking out of my chest was wish her well.

The good ship Stinkpot rafted to Vector, preparing to transfer water. Captain Dave is on our side deck. Photo: Stacey Guth

The following morning Dave and Stacey tendered over to Vector first thing to assist with the supposed disentanglement. In fact there was no tangling at all and likely neither boat, through sheer luck, had ever been in jeopardy. Vector's impromptu crew moved a short distance to a new spot and re-set the anchor, on storm scope this time. All's well that ends well, and we were fortunate that there was plenty of room downwind and we could have dragged a very long time. After the dust settled, Louise tendered over to the sailors with a friendly bottle of wine, in recognition of the few hours of nervous watchfulness we had put them through, and they seemed appreciative.

I would very likely have been released Friday after the drain was removed, were it not for the fact that one of the numerous IV catheters inserted in me over the course of a week had gone bad, creating a thrombus in my elbow. It was hot, swollen, and hard when they wheeled me into the OR, and the medical team became nervous enough about it that they sent me for an ultrasound. That determined it was superficial and not a deep vein thrombus that could dislodge and cause problems. My arm is still swollen and tender four days later.

In my room I watched "A Tour of Manhasset Bay with the Port Washington Water Taxi" on the community channel. Sort of a boatman's holiday.

The discharge orders came so late yesterday afternoon that we arrived at the Walgreens near the dock, where we had the scripts sent, after the pharmacy had already closed. Louise returned this morning, across heavy seas, when they opened at 10, only to find they were out of stock on all the important heart meds. Fortunately the Stop and Shop pharmacy in the grocery store had everything we needed and we called the hospital and had the scripts re-sent.

It was good to finally sleep in my own bed last night, after a full week away. I'm improving rapidly, with the biggest issue being pain from a 3cm incision below my xiphoid process from the surgery and a separate stab incision for the tube. Between the six or so IV catheters and over a dozen blood draws, my arms look a bit like a junkie's, and of course one arm is swollen, but I am expected to make a full recovery with no long-term effects.

I am extremely grateful to the doctors, nurses, and other staff at St. Francis. I had a great team and everyone was not only knowledgeable, but also pleasant and accommodating. I am also grateful to Stacey and Dave for their assistance, and of course to Louise who had to do my job every day and still managed to spend every visiting hour with me. And the outpouring of love and support from our friends and families all over the country.

The hospital was fantastic, but there were some hiccups. You got your three squares a day by picking up the phone and calling "room service" just like a hotel, and placing an order. Here I ordered Raisin Bran but ended up with... raisins.

As it stands now I am in no shape to drive the boat, and so we will remain anchored right here in Port Washington until such time as we both feel it is safe to get under way. Our mail and several other packages are already at the 79th Street Boat Basin, and we hope to still find them there when we arrive. Amazon has extended my Manhattan package locker to the middle of the week and I will see if they will extend it some more. Dave and Stacey brought us enough water to get by for another week, and Louise ran all the laundry ashore to the laundromat for the first time since we moved aboard.

Whenever we do leave here, there is no opportunity on the cruise to Manhattan to update the blog. The next time you hear from me will likely be when we depart New York Harbor for points south, sometime next month.

Everybody listen to me
And return me my ship
I'm your captain, I'm your captain
Though I'm feeling mighty sick
 -- Grand Funk Railroad

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Arrivederci New England

We are under way westbound between Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound, with the great State of Rhode Island receding behind us. We are bound for Long Island Sound and will be anchored at day's end in New York waters, bringing to a close our two month cruise of New England. It is an eight hour passage, affording me ample time to catch up on the blog.

Headed out of Narragansett Bay. Jamestown at left; you can just see the top of Pell Bridge behind.

We had such a good push on our transit of the Cape Cod Canal last weekend that we ran straight past Onset and all the way to Mattapoisett harbor, where we dropped the hook in our usual spot (map) after checking in with the harbormaster by radio. We knew we'd be pinned down for two nights wherever we went, and, while Onset would have offered more services, we wanted to make the extra miles while we still could.

We splashed the tender, tied up at the town dock, and walked the three long blocks to Nick's Homemade Pizza House. The pizza was excellent and the draft beer was inexpensive, so we were glad we made the trek. We were the only patrons dining on the covered outside patio for most of our meal.

Century-old Clingstone Mansion, on a rock off Conanicut Island.

As predicted, outside conditions had us in the harbor all day Monday, and I got a few things done around the boat. It was drizzly all day, foiling my plans to go ashore and walk around some. We had a gap at dinner time, but absolutely everything in town is dark on Mondays, so we had a nice dinner aboard instead.

Sunset over Battleship Cove, USS Massachusetts, and the Braga Bridge

Tuesday we had another brief window for westing, and while it was a bit of a rough ride as Buzzards Bay yielded to Rhode Island Sound, we gritted our teeth until we made the starboard turn into the relative calm of the Sakonnet River. Winds and seas out of the south meant running upriver until we could tuck in behind Fogland Point, where we dropped the hook in calm water (map). The winds rushed right over the point, and the harbor filled with windsurfers in the morning.

Wednesday we weighed anchor with the tide and rode the flood all the way to Fall River, Massachusetts, on the Taunton River, where we had previously planned to ride out the long-distance remnants of Hurricane Larry. Knowing that Borden Flats would be too rough, I was hoping we could squeeze in to anchor in Battleship Cove, or, if not, pick up a town mooring there.

The old armory, Fall River.

We found there to be insufficient room in the cove between the last moorings and the nearby dock for the scope we needed in the 20-knot winds. Due to some political drama in the harbormaster department, it was impossible to reach anyone for a mooring, and so we left the cove and continued upriver through two more bridges to drop the hook in Breeds Cove (map), on the other side of the river in Somerset, Massachusetts.

Sunset over the Braga Bridge from The Cove restaurant.

While that made for a mile-and-a-half tender ride back to town, it was otherwise a perfect anchorage, very calm even in the high winds, with good holding well off-channel. It was quiet, even being so close to a major bridge. From the boat we could see a nice patio eatery in Somerset, but with no way to land the tender on that side, we bashed our way back to the Cove restaurant in Fall River, which has a courtesy dock. Dinner on the deck was a wind-swept affair, but at least it was warm, and we really wanted to get off the boat.

Thursday, as anticipated, the remnants of Larry had us pinned on the boat all day. We succumbed to pandemic acedia and mostly did nothing all day, but we had a nice dinner aboard and looked forward to a more pleasant Friday. And pleasant it was; I tendered ashore to the dinghy landing at Battleship Cove just after lunch and walked all over town, since we never left the marina on our previous visit here.

The old Congregational Church, which the infamous Lizzie Borden attended. The cloister was briefly a restaurant and is now an event venue.

Fall River is a town frozen in time, sometime early in the 20th century. Its industry now mostly silent, most of the buildings nevertheless still stand. The downtown sports a handful of restaurants and a few shops. I dropped a couple of packages at the post office, also frozen in time, and then hoofed it across town to the grocery store to top up our provisions.

Fall River public library, inscribed "The People's University."

In the afternoon we tendered a little over two miles down to Borden Light Marina, where we had stayed in 2015, to meet up with our Bostonian friends Erin and Chris aboard their lovely Selene, Barefeet. It was wonderful to see them and catch up; they had literally been the last people we hugged before the pandemic put a damper on things, as we crossed paths in the Bahamas. They drove us over to the Tipsy Toboggan for dinner on the patio (not to be confused with the Tipsy Seagull, right in the marina, where we ate last time). A final cocktail aboard Barefeet finished off a very pleasant evening.

Saturday we weighed anchor with the tide and headed to Naragansett Bay. We had one good day of weather on the bay before we'd be pinned down again for two nights, and we wanted to make some progress and maybe see another town. It was just a two hour cruise, but it was absolutely miserable, with more sailboats than I've had to dodge in a long while. For the uninitiated, in open water and with few exceptions, power vessels must give way to vessels under sail. Sailboaters are notorious for not answering the radio, leaving me to try to guess their speed, course, and intentions in order to avoid them.

Warwick Light, on our way from Bristol to East Greenwich.

This is one of the key reasons why we try not to move the boat at all on weekends, and especially nice weekends in places with a short boating season. Weather trumps all, and it was Saturday or nothing. We swung up toward Bristol, one possible stop, but with the harbor open to the south, the anchorage was untenable, and instead we proceeded on to East Greenwich, were we dropped the hook in a lovely anchorage right off the beach at the Goddard Memorial State Park (map).

The quaint downtown of East Greenwich, RI.

This was a great anchorage to ride out high winds from the south, and it was calm our entire stay. The anchorage is popular with cruising sailboats, because you can dinghy to the beach where the state park has restrooms and showers available. We splashed the tender for the ten minute ride to the town dinghy dock instead, where it was a short walk through the pedestrian tunnel under the high speed train tracks and up the hill to town. We had a nice dinner on the porch at Besos, the first place we came to. By contrast, the waterfront joints were all packed to the gills when we passed them.

Sunday I returned ashore stag to explore, this time landing at the yacht club dinghy dock, a much shorter ride. There are perhaps ten restaurants along the main street, many with at least a few outside tables, and some shops including a CVS and a c-store. Overall a very nice stop and an excellent place to wait out the weather. We returned ashore in the evening for pizza at Twisted Pizza, which had a very nice patio.

King Street, one of the few ways to get from the waterfront to town past the tracks. This old New Haven Railroad bridge now carries the electrified Northeast Corridor tracks from NY to Boston. Not Odyssey-friendly.

Yesterday the weather on Narragansett Bay was once again suitable for travel, but we would again need southerly protection overnight. We considered running down the west side of Conanicut Island to Dutch Harbor, but it looked like we could not tuck in far enough with the harbor full of moorings. Instead we headed down the east side and dropped the hook in Potter Cove (map), just north of the Claiborne Pell bridge and across the channel from Newport, where boats are arriving in great numbers for the big Newport International Boat Show this weekend.

At one of the marinas, the docks seem held in place by twigs. Not Vector-friendly.

We splashed the tender and headed to the town dock at Jamestown, around the corner and under the bridge, about a mile and a half. Most of the town is dark Monday, and neither of the two open restaurants had outside seating. But the Narragansett Cafe was mostly empty, save for the bar itself, and had high ceilings, so we picked a table away from everyone and enjoyed our first indoor meal in quite a while, with pub food and draft beer. We enjoyed strolling around the quiet town before returning to Vector and decking the tender. We had the anchorage to ourselves overnight, with a spectacular view of the bridge and Newport in the distance. It was quiet, notwithstanding being right next to the toll plaza.

Block Island Sound, which we've been crossing most of the day, is exposed to the North Atlantic. Today's weather was perfect for a crossing, but as so often happens, it's a one-day window before things starting picking up out of the south again. That meant setting our sights on the north shore of Long Island, rather than an earlier stop along the Connecticut coast. We should have the anchor down by cocktail hour off Truman Beach in Southold. As I finish typing, Montauk is some ten miles off our port, and we are approaching The Race, where I will steer by hand with nearly four knots behind our port quarter.

The overnight view from our anchorage. Claiborne Pell bridge with Newport behind.

Update: We are anchored in our usual spot off Truman Beach (map). Louise made a big batch of pasta e fagioli today and we've been smelling it cooking all afternoon; I'm looking forward to dinner. Tomorrow we will continue along the north shore for points west.