Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A half-step ahead of the weather

I am typing under way in the North Atlantic, a dozen miles or so off the New Jersey coast. Typing is about the most I can do right now, as we're bouncing around in five to eight foot seas. Even moving from one end of the boat to the other is a labored affair.

Last night's sunset over Connecticut, from Rhode Island Sound.

I really should have posted an update yesterday, while we had good connectivity off the coast of Long Island, as I had suggested I would in my last post. But the day got away from me, and now I have no connectivity at all, so this will get uploaded this evening when we are close enough to shore to get a signal.

We had a wonderful night anchored just north of the canal entrance Sunday night (map). It was a bit rolly there when we dropped the hook, but by the time night fell it was flat calm. It was also a bit warmer than it has been, and we had a nice dinner on the aft deck, with a view of the state park beach and its denizens, no doubt wondering what we were doing there.

Super moon eclipse, as seen by my Samsung.

We were also blessed with clear skies for a spectacular view of the "super moon" lunar eclipse. I no longer have a camera capable of capturing these sorts of images (nor do I think I could hold it steady enough on a moving boat even if I did), so you get a cheesy, out-of-focus phone snap-shot instead, but by now I'm sure your feeds have been flooded with much nicer eclipse photographs anyway.

As luck would have it, the Regent Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator was just exiting the canal during the eclipse. My phone can't do justice to these kinds of photos, either, from a moving boat, but you get the idea.

Seven Seas Navigator departing the canal for Boston.

Our departure time to have favorable current through the canal was 10:30am, which let us have a relaxed morning and gave us plenty of time to delve into the latest forecasts. The offshore weather for our planned route had actually improved a bit for Monday, but more importantly, it had deteriorated dramatically for later in the week. A big nor'easter is brewing, followed up by whatever will remain of Tropical Storm Joaquin. We decided to make a run for it -- now or never. We'd check the forecast once more before passing Montauk Point, our last bail-out to the inside route.

We had a smooth trip through the canal, whizzing through at ten knots, and had a good push down Buzzards Bay as well. We were on the other side of the bay from our northbound track, so we even got some new scenery. Everything was calm and flat, even to the point where Louise went downstairs to sew, right up until we passed the lee of Cuttyhunk and Marthas Vineyard. The swell continued picking up all the way to Block Island, giving us some pause about continuing.

Even with the swell, I was able to grill a couple of burgers for dinner, a nice change from our usual under-way fare that we reasoned we could not pull off later in the voyage.  Somehow we neglected to factor the occasional eight-footer into the process of actually eating dinner, though, and mid-meal a rogue wave sent Louise's beer toppling into her food and all over the pilothouse table, including her cell phone. We salvaged the phone and the table but not the last of her burger. We have a new rule now (over and above the only-one-light-beer-at-dinner-under-way rule) that beverages must be secured in Octopuses when dining under way.

Absolutely everything else in the boat is dogged down for passage, from the tender and scooters on deck to the drawers in the galley and the doors on the fridge. As if to underscore both the need for this as well as the fact that we made the trip across Cape Cod Bay just in the nick of time, another trawler just a day behind us got beat up on the same route slamming into seas and had a few things, move around, a fact which they documented in a post on social media.

The aftermath of heavy seas on a 49 Grand Banks, just a day behind on our same route.

Another check of the weather as we crossed from Block Island to Montauk confirmed what we already decided: we'd have a safe if not entirely comfortable passage if we pressed on, but we'd be pinned down by the storms for at least a week and probably longer if we did not go whole-hog and make the full passage to Cape May in one go.

While it is a straight line from Montauk Point to Cape May with no intervening obstacles, that line would take us far enough out that we'd be in much bigger waves. We opted to inflect the route slightly towards New York Harbor, making a single turn south of Fire Island. This added just five miles (out of our total of 271 for this trip) to our route, for a marked improvement in comfort. It also meant bailing out would be easier if needed, and as a bonus, we had cellular coverage for much more of the trip.

Unfortunately, we passed all of eastern Long Island in the dark, so I have no photos and I could only make out a couple of well-lit resorts and the Montauk Light. The full moon made for easy horizon scanning without ever leaving the comfort of the pilothouse.

Louise took the 0200-0600 watch, and whereas I had seen no other traffic, she had to steer around some fishing vessels. I came up at 0600 but Louise opted to remain on the bridge for another hour. No sooner had she retired to the stateroom to sack out, than I was sounding the general alarm on the ship's horn and altering course to intercept what looked to me like it could be a life raft or else a very small boat a long way from anyplace.

Is that a boat, sinking?

I had to divert about a quarter mile, and we got right up close to it. I tried to stop alongside, but as soon as our speed dropped below a few knots we could not even stand on deck in these seas -- the stabilizers are ineffective without forward way. Instead we circled it slowly until we were sure it was not a vessel or part of a vessel in distress. Our best guess is that it is a windsurfing or kiteboarding rig that came loose from someplace. Louise snapped these photos while I conned the boat.

Still not sure what this is, but it's synthetic canvas with inflatable gussets.

We resumed course and immediately contacted the Coast Guard, who took a detailed report and asked us to send them the photos. Louise had just enough of a signal there to email them s-l-o-w-l-y. We never heard any sécurité calls so presumably they deemed it not enough of a hazard to navigation.

So far the rest of the trip has been mostly uneventful, if a bit bouncy-jouncy. Vector is handling it without complaint, except for her port stabilizer fin, which is now squeaking exactly like one of those creaking doors in a haunted house. I think it is the fin's way of telling us we are overdue to service the bearings and change the seals, a task which will require the boat to be hauled out of the water.

Even though we just discharged our waste a few days ago, as we left Maine, we decided to do so again today as it is our last opportunity outside the three-mile limit for the foreseeable future. When we engaged the pump, it made an awful sound, then popped its breaker. I suspect it has eaten its own impeller. I have a spare pump, but this is an unpleasant task. Oh well, better to find out when the tank is 15% full than when it's 90% full, and at least this project can wait until November -- we'll be using pumpout stations until then, anyway.

Update: We are now back in cell coverage; I'm alone on watch, and I can see the lights of Atlantic City in the distance. Things are a bit calmer now that we are close to shore. We had a nice dinner with nary a drop of beer spilled, thanks to the cupholders we ought to have been using all along.

We should be arriving in front of the Cape May Coast Guard station just before dawn. While we may be dog-tired and decide we have no choice but to stop there and call it a day, there is a good chance we will press on through the canal and as far up Delaware Bay as tide will allow. Cape May is a terrible storm anchorage, and this system coming in could very well pin us down there if we wait even one night. We'll be much more comfortable if we can get further inland before the brunt of it hits us.

1 comment:

  1. Could that object in the water be the kite from someone's kite surfing rig?


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