Saturday, July 18, 2015

Avon calling

This morning found us in the designated anchorage basin on the Shark River, in Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey (map). Other than hauling up pounds of seaweed and dozens upon dozens of tenacious juvenile mussels when we weighed anchor this morning, it was a surprisingly pleasant stop.

We had moderate seas and a bit of a push throughout the day yesterday, and we arrived at the inlet right around 7pm. We opted to have dinner en route, so we wouldn't be tackling a challenging inlet on an empty stomach. The Ocean Avenue bascule bridge is immediately inside the inlet, just a few feet past the jetties, and, with a couple of knots of current behind us, we'd need the bridge fully open well before we got to it.

Shark River Inlet and the Ocean Avenue bridge from our anchorage this morning.

The bridge tender is very responsive, and I only had a brief moment of pucker outside in the roiling current, with a brief delay between the traffic gates lowering and the spans raising. Nevertheless the bridge was well open in plenty of time.

I had arrived armed with US Army Corps of Engineers depth surveys from January, which showed just nine feet on the north quadrant of the entrance channel. We found closer to 20' for the whole width instead, and I confirmed with the tender that they've been dredging the inlet over the past few weeks. We had noticed the CoE dredge Currituck, which we've seen before, moored inside the river on our AIS, so we were only a bit (pleasantly) surprised. We passed the Currituck shortly after clearing the bridge.

Within just a few minutes we were dropping the hook. The anchorage basin is also part of the federal project and carried 11' or so throughout, plenty of depth for us. The current here is swift in both directions, so we made sure we set the anchor well. The basin is surrounded by quaint houses on both sides of the river, giving way to a small marina on the Belmar (south) side of the channel just before the Route 71 bridge.

The three bridges to the west of us, and the small marina on the Belmar side. The big municipal marina is on the other side of the bridges.

On the northwest side of the anchorage, also adjacent the bridge, we noticed a brand new set of docks in front of a civic-looking two-story building. The docks were empty, unlike the marina across the way or the ones we could see on the other side of the bridge. The docks were not listed at all on Active Captain, and even Google showed, at this writing, an empty parcel of land there.

These docks beckon us to land the tender. We'll see what the Borough has to say.

A bit of sleuthing on the Internet revealed that this is the brand new Riverfront Park and Marina, owned by the Borough of Avon-by-the-Sea, with a two-story "multi-purpose" building on the grounds. It was constructed in part with state boating funds, but other than that I could find nothing about who can use it, what it costs, or what the rules are. It would be great if the borough plans to let anchoring cruisers use these to get ashore for dinner or shopping; I sent them an email inquiry about it.

We got an early start this morning, weighing anchor at quarter to nine so that we'd have a fair tide most of the way here, to a familiar anchorage just inside Gravesend Bay (map). Unfortunately, we did not expect to be cleaning cozze-fra-alga marina off the entire chain and even the anchor, so we were out the inlet delayed by a good fifteen minutes or so, just enough for us to have an uphill climb for the final two miles of our cruise today. Even with the extra time cleaning, some of the mussels and seaweed ended up in the chain locker. Yuck.

We had a pleasant cruise today as well, diverting out to the three-mile limit for our last macerating opportunity for the foreseeable future. Between yesterday and today we also made another 75 gallons or so of fresh water, but with laundry piling up it's not enough and we'll be looking for a spigot in short order.

Today being a weekend, I played small-craft pachinko on my way out the inlet, and we had to dodge a few in open water as well. I only had to call two big boys on the radio; a dredge, which was running dead slow while suctioning sand off the bottom and told us to hold course and speed, and a giant bulker for whom I had to speed up so as to cross the channel well ahead of him. I simply opted to do my daily 80%-power run-up at that time.

That same bulker, not even a minute after we cleared the channel, had to give the five-blast danger signal for a small boat that was just drifting, center-channel, with three shirtless guys blithely fishing off the back. As much as we hate moving the boat in busy harbors on weekends, I can really feel for the professional pilots and towboat skippers who have no choice, and just endure it for two days every week and sometimes three.

We were once again hailed on the radio by a blog reader, this time a boat with which we'd crossed paths in Georgetown, Bahamas. Somehow we never met in person there, but we finally chatted on the radio, at least, and perhaps we'll cross paths again. The cruising community is small and tight-knit; we end up seeing the same boats over and over again across thousands of miles of water. It's really quite remarkable.

Unlike our last stop here, this time we anchored quite a bit closer to Coney Island, in anticipation of S-SW winds tonight. In this spot we can hear folks on the beach, fishing, swimming, and generally enjoying their weekend. The water's been flat since we dropped the hook, and I expect a comfortable night. We should have a nice view of the lights of Manhattan and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as the sun sets, with a pleasant dinner on the aft deck.

The Narrows from our aft deck.

Tomorrow we'll leave on the flood, for a fair tide up the Hudson and past the George Washington Bridge. We're trying to connect with family somewhere along the Palisades State Park, after which we'll spend a night or two at the free dock in Yonkers, where we can probably get some more fresh water.

Update: We've been watching Marine Corps Ospreys flying around since we arrived, an unusual site here in Brooklyn. Well, just now two VH3-D presidential white-tops flew over us, with an escort of Ospreys. Obama is in town, heading out to the Hamptons this afternoon. The white-tops usually fly in threes, in a shell-game designed to keep everyone guessing which one holds the President. I'd figure he was in one of these two, with the third bird out for some reason. Cool.

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