Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Gotham weather layover

We are underway southbound in the Atlantic Ocean, offshore of the mouth of Delaware Bay. We left New York City yesterday afternoon at 3:30, and we should be arriving to an anchorage in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia tomorrow morning sometime. We had not expected to spend a full 12 days in the city, but the weather was uncooperative for an earlier departure.

Not a bad view for a night.

Not long after last I posted here, we arrived to Port Washington, and dropped the hook in a familiar part of the designated anchorage, just outside the mooring field (map). In the evening we tendered ashore to the public dock across from the grocery store, and walked to dinner at Amalfi, in the same shopping plaza. They had taken over several parking spaces for outside dining, and it was just warm enough to sit outside and enjoy a meal. After dinner we loaded up on provisions at the grocery, including replenishing the all-important beer supply.

In the morning I returned to the same dock and carted the fuel tank for the dinghy a couple of blocks to the gas station. Filling up in the city is a challenge, versus a short walk here, and no doubt the price is better as well. Afterwards I took a stroll around the waterfront part of town before returning home and decking the tender.

Rounding the Battery in the mist. Top of 1WTC disappears into the clouds.

We weighed anchor when we thought the tide would be favorable the whole trip, but it turned out we were ahead of the turn by a little bit, so we ended up slow-rolling to Throgs Neck. Once the tide caught up to us we had a very fast trip through Hell Gate and down the East River. The channel east of Roosevelt Island was closed as we passed by for the installation of tidal energy turbines.

We rounded the Battery in light mist and low cloud cover which swallowed the tops of the buildings. The tide was unfavorable for continuing up the Hudson, a side-effect of favorable tide coming from Long Island (in the other direction, it's possible to have a fair tide the whole way), so instead of pushing upriver, we crossed over to Liberty Island, worked our way around the back side near Liberty State Park, and dropped the hook between the two (map), with a view of Lady Liberty's derriere.

The view from our anchorage. At times all we could see was the base as the cloud layer descended.

This part of the harbor is very rolly and choppy during the day, entirely on account of wakes from numerous ferries, tugs, law enforcement, and pleasure craft. Between the very low traffic -- a bit more than our last visit in July, but certainly much less than "normal" -- and some protection from Liberty and Ellis islands, we were fairly comfortable in this spot, more so than our previous stops north of Ellis. The view is still spectacular, and the prohibition on anchoring outside of designated anchorages is unenforced here; you just need to be outside the Liberty and Ellis island security  zones.

Even in the mist, the view is stunning. That's the back of Ellis Island in the foreground.

Friday we weighed anchor on a fair tide and made the six mile run upriver to our usual digs north of the 79th Street Boat Basin. They never installed the moorings this season, and once again we were able to drop the hook just north of the docks (map) for a very short tender ride to an empty dinghy dock. We paid up through Tuesday, knowing our Amazon deliveries would be in hand by then and with some hope that Wednesday would present a short window to get to Atlantic City.

It was lovely to be right next to Riverside Park in the fall. Not the same spectacular colors of New England, but still charming. Across the river in the other direction, just as in July, was a conga line of idle Reinauer ATBs anchored waiting for work. Commerce in NY harbor is a mere fraction of normal levels.

Vector at anchor in the Hudson. Riverside Park to the right, George Washington Bridge in the background. Those are the marina icebreakers in the foreground.

That first weekend was very pleasant, and we got out to dinner at old stand-bys like the Hi Life, Senn Thai, and the Viand diner. Hi Life even checked my temperature when I went inside to wash up. I had a couple of nice walks around the neighborhood and through Riverside and Central Parks, and was pleased to see Parks had reinstituted a number of programs that lent themselves to social distance, passing at least two music performances and some individual athletic activities. As I came out of Central Park I ran into the Black Womens' March up Central Park West, with numerous police vehicles bringing up the rear followed by some very annoyed drivers.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, the window we had hoped for on Wednesday had evaporated. In hindsight, maybe we could have endured it for a day and bashed our way to Atlantic City -- I read a report from another, much faster, boat which did just that -- but I think we would then have been pinned there for several days before bashing our way to Cape May. Had we done that, we'd perhaps be making our way down the Chesapeake right now.

I stumbled upon people dancing on my walk through Riverside Park ...

Instead we opted to wait for the next window, and we signed up for another few days in the anchorage. As it turned out, the weather was so bad in the harbor that we didn't leave the boat for two days, so our "landing fees" were for naught, but at least we were comfortable and did not have to move. I turned my attention to indoor projects on board to pass the time.

... listening to this jazz combo. Everyone looked happy to be there.

Unfortunately, almost right out of the gate, I knocked myself out of commission, and was down for the count for three days. I was crouching to squeeze into a tight spot in the engine room to look at something on the generator transfer switch, when I felt a twang mid-back. The resulting muscle spasms sent me right to bed with 800mg of ibuprofen, and I spent the next two days in my chair with a heating pad. It's been a week now and I am still recovering.

Fortunately, the weather situation meant we weren't going anywhere, and I could just relax. I did manage to get one key project done, namely bypassing the internal fluid temperature switch on the stabilizers with an external one I ordered on Amazon. The switch has recently been suffering an intermittent failure that causes an alarm on the control panel and takes the stabilizers off-line. Replacing the internal sensor is a big project involving an expensive part, and is wholly unnecessary; the external one cost less than ten bucks and I had it installed in ten minutes.

A march up Central Park West. Just another Saturday in the Big Apple.

I made productive use of the time confined to my chair by doing extensive research on another critical project, one which cropped up a few weeks ago but immediately rocketed to the top of the fix-it list. Specifically, our hydraulic steering is leaking at the rams. We discovered this when the system went through a quart of hydraulic oil in just a couple of months, sending me down to the tiller flat to investigate.

Because the tiller is hard to access under way, especially in rough seas (you have to un-dog and remove a hatch on the weather deck and descend a straight ladder into a cramped space), we have a camera in there aimed at the mechanism, so I can watch it under way. I have not noticed anything unusual in there. But when I went down to have a look, I found the errant hydraulic fluid in the bilge, atop a couple gallons of rainwater. The small amount of rainwater that makes it through the deck hatch normally just evaporates in there, but it can't do that with a film of oil above it.

Vector's massive steering rams, spattered with paint from the last bilge repair.

The rods on the rams were coated in oil, and I immediately realized we had some damage related to the work in the tiller flat done at Metal Shark a year ago. We had asked them to remediate some rust in the bilge, and within ten minutes of them starting the wort, the boat had filled up with dust before I could stop them and make them put up more barriers.

The tunnel I just walked through on Central Park's Bridle Path. In my youth I would not have gone into this tunnel on a bet.

I honestly could not remember whether they had used blasting media, a sander, a wire wheel, or a needle gun. But my first guess was that dust, or much worse -- blasting media, had gotten into the rams and eaten the seals and maybe also damaged the rod surfaces. But I remembered going in there and thoroughly wiping down the rams when they had finished. Still, blasting media and other dust can linger for a long time and cause plenty of damage after the fact. I was cleaning dust out of the engine room for weeks, and I just gave up on the gear stored in the tiller flat until our next yard period when I can pull it all out.

Having gone back down there to inspect and then measure the rams several more times since initial discovery, I noticed some drips of epoxy paint from the same repair on the rods. Those paint drips would be equally effective at destroying the seals, and now I am hoping this is the true root cause, because it would mean the rods are probably salvageable without replacement or machining.

The changing skyline of Central Park South, as seen over the lake. I once worked in the building at center with the slanted roof, seeming low from this angle.

In any event, we either need new rams, about a grand apiece and probably weeks to get made, or else we need these rams serviced with at least new seals and possibly some work on rods and pistons. Since hydraulic cylinder work is not something I normally do, I'll take the rams to a hydraulic shop to have them overhauled.

I ended up spending hours researching the project. Starting with where we could stop on our way south with inexpensive dockage (we're not going to ride at anchor without a working rudder) and easy access to hydraulic and hose shops. Also, how to empty, fill, and bleed the system, including adding bleeders at the rams, which the builders of the boat conveniently omitted. I'm sure they got fluid everywhere when they initially filled and bled the system.

This tre on W. 79th, which we walked daily, has been "yarn bombed" in honor of John Lennon.

We settled on Norfolk/Portsmouth/Hampton as a good place to tackle this. Dockage is relatively inexpensive, we can get around on our scooters, and there are at least two hydraulic shops and a hose shop. We've used the hose shop in the past and they are good. It's an area we'd pass through whether we came down the outside (as we ultimately are) or around through the Chesapeake.

Another uniquely New York sight. This style of electric bike is ubiquitous, nearly every one belonging to a food delivery runner. Now that it's fall, they're making "hippo hands" for the grips from plastic bags. They will ride these all winter.

In addition to a marina reservation, I now have a bill-of-materials for the bleed part of the project that I will source on Amazon and McMaster-Carr. I have a suspicion that the system has been running on fluid of inadequate viscosity, which might have contributed to the leakage, so when I refill it will have the proper ISO 32 fluid.

When we were shut-in by weather, Louise has something of her own equipment failure. She's grown to love and thus depend on our small Instant Pot, in preference to the slow cooker we used to use. But the first night it refused to finish the dinner, giving the dreaded "Burn" error, and the pot very nearly ended up at the bottom of the Hudson along with wise guys in concrete galoshes and heavy metals from General Electric.

Eleanor Roosevelt has been wearing a mask since at least July when we arrived. On Election Day, her mask read "Vote."

In the end, the pot of pasta e fagioli got transferred to the crock pot to be finished for another day, and we ended up microwaving some frozen leftovers instead. Cooler heads have prevailed and the Instant Pot went back into the cabinet, relegated to non-time-critical duties such as preparing dried beans. Tonight's dinner has been in the crock pot since this morning.

Projects here crop up faster than I can knock them out, and while coming home from dinner early in our stay, the all-around light on the tender became intermittent. Once my back was up to it, I dodged the rain drops to pull the cowl off the motor and bring it inside to work on it. Of course, right in the middle of that was when the Pan Pan came over the radio for a Person in the Water (PIW) at the end of 73rd street.

Sunset over Staten Island as we make our way out of New York Harbor.

That's just across the boat basin docks from us, down where we used to anchor near Pier I. We were the closest mariners, and with no traffic from local responders, we geared up, jumped in the dinghy, I slammed the cowl back down on the motor, and we took off downriver. NYFD has beat us to it (no surprise) with their boat as well as shore-side apparatus. NYPD arrived shortly after us. Since the pros had the scene under control, I snapped a quick photo and we returned home, only a tad wet.

NYFD assists a PIW. The ramp is for the old kayak dock, sunk a couple of years ago, which I discussed here.

After those first few nights, it never again warmed up enough for comfortable outdoor dining, but on Halloween we braved 45° temperatures to eat at a joint with heaters on the sidewalk, Nice Matin. This is actually one of the closest restaurants to the dock, but in six years we've never stopped because French cuisine is not our thing. But heaters are few and far between right now, and so we adjusted our standards.

The food was OK but the heaters could not keep up, so we did not linger. But we enjoyed seeing all the children, and many adults, walking by on the street in costume. It was too cold to fiddle with the phone to take photos. We returned home straight away and put the heat on.

The George Washington Bridge and Fort Lee, NJ from our anchorage in Edgewater.

Whatever our hopes had been for a window to escape New York Harbor evaporated when Hurricane Zeta turned northeastward and headed to New York as a post-tropical depression. Seas remained untenable throughout the week, and just to ice the cake, Sunday evening a nor'easter arrived that would bring gale force winds on Monday.

When we awoke Monday winds were already west at 20, pushing us into the shallows near shore despite the current. Between the fetch of the entire width of the river, and the possibility we'd be grazing the bottom at low tide, we weighed anchor, crossed the river, and headed three miles upriver to Federal Anchorage 16, where we dropped the hook just across from the giant flagpole in Edgewater, New Jersey (map).

Manhattan Skyline from our spot in Edgewater.

While we still had wind to contend with, at times gusting well into the 40s notwithstanding some protection there from the Palisades, at least the water was mostly calm, compared to the whitecaps we'd had on the NY side. We had a good set, and a comfortable afternoon and night.

In this daytime view you can pick out some landmarks, like the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, Riverside Church and Grant's Tomb at left, and the new slender additions. At right is the Edgewater ferry landing.

It was too cold and windy to want to eat outside, and getting ashore was an unknown proposition with the city marina nominally closed for the season even though still full of boats. But I found a well-rated pizza place a couple of blocks from the dock, and we decided to brave the winds and see if we could find a way ashore. We pulled into the marina and ... promptly ran aground.

The entire marina, it turns out, is silted in. Every single boat was sitting on its bottom in the mud. Even the fairway had just a foot of water. We backed out into the river, tried again at a different entrance, and were able to tie up at the very last finger pier just inside the breakwater. We found the gates unlocked, and we walked across the street with our fancy insulated pizza carrier and picked up a large pie and a Greek salad from Anthony's.

When we got to the Edgewater Marina we found all the boats in the mud at low tide.

The marina also houses the terminal for one of the numerous ferries that cross to Manhattan, but the dock was barricaded and it appears the Edgewater route is not running. That suited us fine anchored in NY, because the fast ferry makes a good-sized wake.

We might well have just remained in that anchorage until yesterday afternoon when it was time to depart on this passage, but we're nearly out of water and wanted to fill our tank, and we also wanted to get off the boat for a bit and maybe pick up a couple of things ashore. So we ran the three miles back downriver and anchored in the same spot near the Boat Basin.

Coney Island Parachute ride urging New Yorkers to VOTE. The lights chased to make the word "revolve" around the tower; I had to snap just at the right moment.

We ran ashore and paid for another day (same rate as overnight) and walked up to our favorite bagel shop to pick up a few for breakfast under way. We also hit three different drugstores in search of milk and cream cheese. The line for the actual grocery store went around the block, which we chalked up to people being out and about for election day.

We passed the Skipjack Meteorological Buoy close aboard this morning, about midway across the Delaware Bay entrance.

We passed two polling places, which oddly had shorter lines than we saw for early voting last week. Electronic billboards and posters city-wide urged people to vote; on our way offshore we noticed even the lights on the Coney Island parachute jump spelled out "VOTE." It was interesting to be walking around on Election Day.

I went back ashore for one final walk through the park before we had to go to the dock for water. Just as I returned to Vector, the wind picked up to 30, still westerly, and we realized that if we took the boat to the dock, we might well get pinned there until well after departure time. 30 on the beam is not something that can be overcome with the engine or thruster from a standing start, at least not without damaging something.

A short while later I had to adjust course and speed to safely pass astern of the YM Evolution.

We decided to forego the water, and we'll stretch what we have left until we get to the dock in Hampton. We waited the final hour in the anchorage, and weighed anchor with just enough daylight to clear out of the harbor before dark. That gave us a bit of an early arrival time, but we figured we'd just slow down a bit.

We've had an unusually favorable current the entire cruise, and even though I keep pulling the throttle back, our arrival time gets earlier and earlier. At this rate I will have to cut my sleep period short to navigate into the anchorage. As I publish this post, Louise is already in berth, and we are abreast of Assateague Light. As usual, we will spend a full night recovering from the weird sleep schedule before moving the boat.

Liberty welcomes us as we arrive nearly two weeks ago, looking much the same as when she welcomed my ancestors to this country. As the votes continue to be tabulated in this historic election, let us strive to make this country once again the land of opportunity for all.

How long we remain in Hampton depends on what the hydraulic shop finds and how long it takes them to refurbish the cylinders. I'm planning at least a week, bringing the cylinders in on Monday morning and hoping they can get them done by Friday. But it may well be longer; stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Here's hoping this country can get to calmer waters.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!