Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Running for cover

This morning found us anchored in a familiar spot, just off the Coast Guard Station in Cape May, New Jersey (map). The CG conducts basic training here, so all day long can be heard the sounds of recruits doing drills and calisthenics, from before Reveille to after Taps (both of which are played over loudspeakers). Unlike our last visit, the anchorage was nearly empty this time, and we had no trouble finding a spot well shoreward of the channel markers.

We had a nice cruise from our spot at Miah Maull. We had a little push from the ebb, but were mostly traveling obliquely to the current until near the end of the crossing. Still, we made good time, and were able to enter the Cape May Canal before the end of the ebb, so we had a fair current with us all the way to the anchorage. The down side to that being that we transited at very nearly low tide, and the depth sounder squawked as we passed over the well-known trouble spots at the western end of the canal.

We had the anchor down right at noon, which gave me plenty of time to make some phone calls, splash the tender, and head ashore for parts. Utsch's Marina had the best price in town on a replacement bilge pump, convenient because it had a dinghy dock. Tony's Marine Supply right next door had a float switch that looked like it would fit. Neither place had a horn solenoid.

I managed to get the horn working just by banging on the solenoid a bit, but I still need to find something more reliable. The shower sump problem proved to be more about the switch than the pump, but I replaced both. The old switch, a completely solid-state model, went right in the trash, whereas the pump is now set aside as a spare. The new switch has a float, but is electromagnetic and so requires a three-wire hookup (power, ground, and load). Importantly, the mounting holes were spaced identically to the old switch, and the form factor was close, only a bit larger. I had the sump back together and working in time for our evening showers, after a bit of re-wiring for the new switch arrangement.

As long as we had the tender in the water, we rode over to the Lobster House for dinner. This is a tourist-trap of a joint, but it has the key advantage of free dockage for patrons. There are actually four dining options, including the main restaurant, a "raw bar," the deck of an old schooner floating behind the restaurant, and a large open patio area with no table service and an order-at-the-window arrangement. We wanted table service; the restaurant was a 45-minute wait, the schooner serves only cocktails and apps, and so we opted for the raw bar which had no wait. Each of the table-service options has its own host stand, so we spent the first few minutes getting it all figured out.

We decked the tender after dinner in anticipation of an early start today. Louise has been watching the forecast, and today would be the last good chance for an outside run for at least the next several days. Today's forecast called for conditions to deteriorate throughout the day, and so we wanted to get the earliest start that favorable tides would allow.

We weighed anchor just before 9am, which gave us a nice push out the inlet. With ebb tide against an offshore wind, we had a bit of a rage at the inlet itself, with quite a bit of chop and perhaps 3-4' seas, but that moderated as soon as we turned north out of the jetties to an easy motion and 2-3' seas. Most of the day was a comfortable run.

Once outside we ran the watermaker for the first time since arriving in Beaufort a full month ago. We also macerated our waste outside the statutory three-mile limit, which fortunately happens to be on the straight-line route to where we are now, in a familiar anchorage in Atlantic City (map). We're pretty good on tankage for the next couple of weeks, but we will need more water sooner rather than later.

True to forecast, as the day wore on, the seas got progressively larger, and we were bouncing around a bit by the time we were four or five miles from Absecon Inlet. We had the seas behind us, so we were doing much better than the couple of fish boats we passed going the other way, or even the tour boat that passed us as we cruised by the amusement pier, which was bouncing over the waves so hard that it was burying the bow. The tourists looked a bit green around the gills.

We arrived at the inlet just as the flood began (avoiding the ebb was the reason we did not leave earlier in the morning). Once well inside the jetties things calmed down considerably, and we were pleased to find the anchorage completely empty, so we had first choice of spots to drop the hook. We were happy to find the WiFi signal from the nearby Golden Nugget has improved since our last visit.

That's a good thing, because we'll be here for a while. The forecast for the North Atlantic here is miserable for the next few days. I think Tropical Storm Claudette, while far offshore, is having an impact on the coastal weather.

As we often do when under way for several hours, we had the crock pot running all day. Louise made homemade chili, and we had figured to eat aboard this evening. Tomorrow's forecast, though, is for rain all afternoon and evening, and so it looks like we will save the chili for tomorrow and instead tender ashore this evening for dinner.

We were amused when the aforementioned tour boat, on its next voyage, passed us here in the anchorage. The skipper was narrating over the loudspeaker, and it seems we are now officially on the tour: "...and this vessel on the port side is called a 'trawler' -- you can see it has a dinghy on deck with an outboard motor, and a pair of scooters..." It cracked us up.

There are worse places to be stuck for a few days than Atlantic City. The Golden Nugget has a dock, five restaurants, and a spa, and maybe this visit we'll even manage to get on the jitney and venture a bit further afield. The soonest we could leave, given current forecasts, is Friday, and more likely Saturday, for the long day's outside run to Sandy Hook. From there, at least, we can make New York without leaving protected waters if need be.


  1. It seems I followed your path - in reverse - just a few weeks ago. My son and I helped crew a neighbor's sailboat from New York last month. We anchored at Sandy Hook after an evening sail from the 79th Street Boat Basin, continuing on to Atlantic City the next day (though we took advantage of a marina slip). Yes, we heard the same Coast Guard training sounds while at anchor the next evening at Cape May. I wish that area allowed for a water view of the recruits!

    1. We sometimes saw the recruits on daily runs around the base. But mostly we heard them. At least we did not have to deal with them training to wrangle boaters, as we did last time...


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