Thursday, September 4, 2014

Spa day

Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
and meet me tonight in Atlantic City

-the boss

This morning found us anchored in Atlantic City, in our old spot off the Golden Nugget casino hotel (map).  That's a view from our anchorage, above, of Harrah's casino hotel (no dock, unfortunately).  We arrived Tuesday evening after a very long and somewhat uncomfortable day.  Yesterday's forecast was even more uncomfortable, which we knew ahead of time, and we sat it out right there.  I had expected to post an update here, but we found better things to do, and I knew I'd have plenty of time and good Internet access today at sea.

We knew Tuesday would not be the most comfortable ride -- seas were forecast 2'-4' with a 7-second period, which was upgraded from an earlier 6-second forecast.  Our rule of thumb is that we want a period of at least twice the wave height, so for a 2'-4' forecast we'd have liked to see at least 8 seconds.  We did not want to be pinned down in Sandy Hook until today, though, which would also pin us down in Atlantic city until after the weekend.

I had also figured on a 13-hour trip, but it ended up being 14 after two turn-arounds.  We were underway by 5:20am, which had me driving from the flybridge after weighing anchor so I could see the water (and any pot buoys) in the first bit of twilight.  We rounded the hook before dawn, with a favorable current still behind us.

Sunrise over the North Atlantic, off Sandy Hook.

Unfortunately, my plotted course down the False Hook Channel turned out to be a poor choice.  We had depths in the high teens, heading for charted mid-20s, but instead the depth sounder registered 16, 15, 14, 13, and when it hit in the 12s I turned around and headed back the way we came.  There might have been more water (counter-intuitively) closer to shore, but from the helm we looked mighty close already.  With three feet of swell already bouncing us up and down, we decided to play it safe rather than hunt around for a channel that, post-Sandy, might no longer exist.

Our track is the dashed line.  Sandy Hook is on the left.  "False Hook" is the shoal on the right; there is a channel charted as 24' in between the shore and the shoal, but it's either moved or disappeared entirely.

Of course, the current was against us as we made our way back to the ship channel, and between the extra distance, the delicate U-turn, and the counter-current, the detour cost us a good twenty minutes, plus the route around via the ship channel added a few miles as well.

We had a choppy ride for the first few hours, but things smoothed out quite a bit mid-day.  As we passed Barnegat Inlet, a sailboat drawing 5.5' called for advice coming in there, and he got lots of good information from a local, also heading in, with a 7.5' draft.  I've been avoiding Barnegat Inlet because the Coast Pilot, the official US Government publication which informs mariners of such things, lists the channel depth as only 5.2 feet:
Barnegat Inlet Channel and Oyster Creek Channel are subject to continual change due to severe shoaling. The buoys marking these channels are shifted frequently to mark the best water and therefore are not charted. In August 2006, the controlling depth was 4.4 feet (5.2 feet at midchannel) in the entrance channel between the jetties; greater depths could be carried with local knowledge.
It's good to know that we can get in there in the future if we need it.  Had I known this ahead of time, we might have done Sandy Hook to Barnegat Tuesday, for a much shorter and possibly more comfortable day, and then Barnegat all the way to Cape May today, when conditions are perfect.  The only other inlet we can use along that stretch is Manasquan, where we stopped on the northbound segment, but that's too far north to have made it all the way to the Cape today.  Also, there are no anchorages there, only very expensive marinas.

The ride got lumpy again as the day wore on, and we had four foot seas by the time we reached Absecon Inlet.  It was also very nearly low tide, which is a bad combination.  Once again I had plotted a course through 17s and 16s around the end of a 12-foot shoal, but when the depth sounder registered 12 where the chart said 17, I turned back out to sea, but not before we saw numbers below 11 feet.

The track with the S-curve in it was Tuesday's entry.  The other track to the right was our exit last month, and you can see I had to work my way back to that track, bottom center, where I knew the depths were good.  Track to the left was our departure this morning.

To add insult to injury, and another fifteen minutes on the clock, when we finally reached our intended anchor spot, the chain jammed in the locker while Louise was paying it out.  We had to bring it back aboard and maneuver out into more open water so I could get into the locker and untangle it before we could anchor.

We ended up eating our dinner under way before reaching the inlet, and we managed to get secured for the night just before sunset, so our first adult beverages of the day were literally sundowners. Even though driving the boat is mostly a lot of sitting around, we were both exhausted from the early start time, and we were in bed shortly thereafter.  I mostly slept through the storm that hit in the night, complete with 40-knot winds (we had secured all the deck items and windows ahead of time).

Atlantic city is a different place than when we left a month ago.  For starters, Labor Day marks the end of the summer concert and outdoor event season in town (along with many other places in the northeast), as well as the end of boating season for many.  The parks and beaches were empty, and the marinas are starting to empty out.  But this Labor Day weekend also marked the closing, permanently, of two major casino hotels in town.  The newest and largest, Revel, went belly-up completely, and the venerable Showboat, which is part of the Harrah's/Caesars portfolio, was closed down by that corporation to bolster their other three properties in town, which are newer and larger.  Lots more people are out of work this year than just the seasonal employees.

Revel is the gleaming tower on the left.  Showboat is just behind the nicely restored Absecon Lighthouse.  I took this shot from the Absecon Inlet channel on our way out this morning.

Yesterday I got a couple of things done in the morning, including again repairing the dinghy propeller after banging it up some more in Southold.  I  have a new prop to install, but I am holding off until we get out of the propeller-eating northeast.  I also spent a good deal of time nailing down dates and marinas for our stays in Philly, Baltimore, and Yorktown, so that, among other things, we can start having some items shipped there.

We decided in the morning that, as long as we were going to splash the tender and go to dinner, we'd make a day of it and have a spa day.  The September special at the spa in the Golden Nugget was $20 off massage treatments, and we each booked massages for the afternoon.  We spent more than two hours in the spa, between the massages, the Jacuzzi, and hot showers with an endless water supply.  We then spent a half hour or so in the "Wine and WiFi" lounge, where we did not opt to imbibe, but we both got our cell phone apps updated.

We ended our shore stay with dinner from the very competitive happy hour menu at the Chart House overlooking the marina.  Happy hour runs to 7 in the lounge and may just be the secret dining deal of the whole hotel, which is owned by the Landry's corporation and sports quite of few of their branded restaurants, most of which are very pricey.

The massages were great, and I was overdue.  The technician wisely talked me out of the Swedish and into the therapeutic to help my endlessly knotted shoulder.  The Jacuzzi also helped.  We took advantage of the mini-mart in the hotel to partly restock our depleted beer supply on our way back to the tender.  All in all, a great stop.

Our view from a very calm Atlantic Ocean this morning, after turning south from Absecon Inlet.

This morning we weighed anchor at 8:30 to have a good push back out the inlet from the tide.  In marked contrast to Tuesday, it's been almost glassy out here today.  So far, no detours, either.  We should be in Cape May this afternoon, anchored across from the Coast Guard station.

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