Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jersey Shore

We are anchored north of Absecon Island, where Clam Creek empties into Absecon Inlet (map).  Both the northern end of the island, and the inlet itself, are more popularly known as Atlantic City, the casino capital of New Jersey.  (The cities of Margate and Ventnor -- yes, the one from Monopoly -- are on the southern end of the island.)  We dropped the hook here just after 5:30 yesterday, right in time to catch most of the free Morris Day and The Time concert a few hundred yards from us at Gardner's Basin -- the parking area around the aquarium there was packed with partiers, despite the lousy weather.

We made a last-minute decision yesterday morning to weigh anchor and head north, in what the forecast said would be the last reasonably acceptable weather for a few days.  Seas were forecast at three to four feet with a period of eight seconds, just at the limit of our go/no-go criteria (one of which is a period no shorter than twice the wave height forecast).  The anchorage at Cape Henlopen, while pleasant and protected, was not appealing for a potential three-night stay, particularly as we were running out of provisions.

The early part of the trip was decent, although I realized halfway across Delaware Bay that I had considerable current against me, and what I had figured to be an eight hour cruise would be more like ten unless I cranked up the RPMs.  As we got closer to Atlantic City, though, seas built to four to five, and we were slamming up and down over the sharpest of them as 15-20 knots of breeze whipped the tops into whitecaps.  The ride became so uncomfortable at one point that we turned twenty degrees to port and made a big dog leg out of the last straight section of the route, which got us into an attitude to allow the stabilizers to null more of the motion.

Driving in the inlet in these conditions was something of a challenge, but having a few knots of ebb current against us allowed me to crank it up to our highest normal engine setting, which makes all the controls, as well as the stabilizers, more responsive.  I was relieved to see that this little corner of the inlet is far enough out of the current that it was mostly calm, even with froth in the main channel.  We were very happy to get the anchor down and the engine shut off.

Since we were entirely out of fresh food aboard, we dropped the tender shortly after arrival and went over to the Golden Nugget Casino for dinner.  This casino is adjacent to, and manages under a lease agreement, the Senator Frank S. Farley State Marina here, and offers courtesy dockage for patrons of the casino and  its tenants.   The latter includes some half-dozen restaurants, and we chose the Grotto, an Italian offering from the megalithic Landry's restaurant empire.  The food was good and we had no problem getting in, in contrast to the Chart House which had a line out the door.

Long-time readers know that we are no strangers to casinos and their dining venues.  While Atlantic City and most of Las Vegas are notable exceptions, the vast majority of casinos welcome RV patrons to spend a night, sometimes longer, in the parking lot, and, though we don't gamble, we've been more than willing to reciprocate by dining inside.  This is the first time we've managed the same trick in the boat.  The casino has, apparently, vastly improved the marina since taking over, and we would consider a stay there under  different circumstances.  The yacht Triple Eight mentioned in the linked article is one we've seen before, and we saw her come out the inlet Saturday and turn north.

Atlantic City remains an odd juxtaposition of over-the-top excess, embodied by the casino resorts and the handful of businesses surrounding them, with blue-collar industry (we are a stone's throw from the commercial fishing docks) and even abject poverty.  Casino gaming was to be the tide that lifted all boats, but that dream never materialized, and now the industry here is in decline, with three casinos planning to shutter in the next few months, victim to more liberal gaming laws elsewhere in the country.  The Golden Nugget here is the resurrection of a failed property in the Trump portfolio (the original Trump casino is one of the three slated to close), and the ill-advised and likely ill-fated Revel was the most prominent landmark beckoning us to the inlet, the Absecon Light having been long-since eclipsed by surrounding development.  I can't help but be reminded of Springsteen's lyrics -- "Everything dies baby that's a fact."

Atlantic City skyline from the ocean.  The tall building to the right is the Revel, bankrupt ten months after opening.

We're still out of fresh food, as we have no access to a grocery store here.  So this evening we headed over to Gardner's Basin, which has the same courtesy dockage arrangement, and had dinner at the Back Bay Ale House.  We may well be doing something similar tomorrow, too, if the weather does not improve.

Today's ocean weather was, in a word, lousy, and a small craft advisory is in effect.  We've even had some chop right here.  Notwithstanding rain, wind, and generally crummy conditions even inland, folks who can only use their boats ten weekends a year were out in force today, and even the local fishing charters had full boats, with folks huddled in their foul-weather gear, rods in hand.  The beach across the channel in Brigantine had plenty of beach-goers, too, similarly bundled up save for the children, who seemed more than happy to splash around in the 70-degree water.  Brr.

Tomorrow's forecast is again for three to four foot seas with an eight-second period, and we have reservations in Brielle at the only marina we can reach inside the Manasquan inlet.  Tuesday's forecast is for two to three feet, though, so unless tomorrow improves (or Tuesday deteriorates) we will likely just spend another day here and call the marina to postpone by a day.

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