Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nice visit in NJ

We are at Hoffman's Marina West in Brielle, New Jersey (map), just west of the NJ Transit railroad bridge on the Manasquan River.  It's a very nice marina, with all brand new docks (courtesy of Sandy) and a very friendly and helpful staff.  That said, it's also one of the most expensive places we've docked, at $2.50 per foot plus electricity after our Active Captain discount.  As I've written here before, when dropping $150 a night to stay someplace, that ought to come with housekeeping and room service.  To be fair, they did notarize a document for us at no charge.

We arrived Tuesday just before high tide, around 5pm.  Our original plan was to be at Hoffman's East, which would have obviated the need to come through the narrow and tricky railroad bridge, but there was apparently an issue with the slip there and they put us here instead.  Fortunately the current was pretty low, approaching slack, and the railroad bridge was no problem.  The slip we are in, on the L-head at the end of the dock, is just feet from the bridge, though, and apparently some unfortunate skippers have been swept into it, so they sent two hands down the dock to make sure we got in OK (it was no problem).

The NJ Transit trains passing by just a few yards away are a flashback for me.  I commuted to college on a different line of this same railroad, riding more or less identical rolling stock.  Fortunately, they do not sound their horns right here for the grade crossing just north of us.  The bridge itself, on the other hand, has an old-fashioned mechanical siren which sounds before each closing and opening.  It sounds a bit different each time, as if the bridge operator is cranking it by hand.

We are here in Brielle because my parents live just a few miles away, in Brick, and we wanted to visit with them.  The Manasquan River actually runs through Brick, but it gets too shallow for us just upstream of the highway bridge, less than a mile from here.  They drove down and met us yesterday, and after a brief tour of Vector took us shopping for some much-needed provisions before we went to dinner at local favorite Simko's, which is actually walking distance from here.  It was a very nice visit, and I think they enjoyed finally seeing the boat, even though the stairs were a bit of a challenge.

I was a bit nervous about coming in Manasquan Inlet at all -- the inlet is narrow, the current is wicked, there is a lot of traffic, and reports of Sandy-related debris and shoaling still circulate.  Arriving close to slack, however, we had no trouble at all making our way inside and up to the bridge.  Other than the high cost -- there are no anchorages here, only marinas -- it's a fine stop, and I won't be so apprehensive the next time we stop by for a visit with my folks.

We weighed anchor Tuesday morning at 8am to time our arrival here for slack (and we were still a bit early, due to favorable current).  We wanted to be under way at 8:15 or so, and we've learned to start weighing a good 15 minutes ahead of time, given the occasional hiccup getting the anchor off the bottom.  In this case, we managed to bring up, uhh, OK, I don't really know what this is but it was caught in some fishing line that was in turn caught in our chain.  I managed to reach through a hawse-hole and cut the line with my snips, and the whole mess fell back into the water.

Incidentally, we had our final dinner in Atlantic City again at the Golden Nugget, and on our way back to the docks we saw Vector from the pedestrian bridge, looking as if we had somehow parked it at the end of the block.  The boat is actually anchored a quarter mile off shore, so we were amused to have this view.

We are glad we waited the extra day before continuing north.  Seas were comfortable most of the day Tuesday, but they got progressively choppier at the end of the day.  I had to turn the stabilizers off to negotiate Manasquan Inlet, and we had quite a bit of motion before we reached the protection of the jetties.  I think we would have had a much less comfortable day if we had gone on Monday.

The cruise was pleasant and mostly uneventful, staying just a couple miles off shore the whole way, which afforded us a great view of typical summertime festivities along the New Jersey shore.  On our way past the amusement pier in Seaside we recalled meeting the nice couple who own it, at a waterfront restaurant in Hollywood, Florida.  After Sandy dumped their roller coaster into the ocean and devastated much of the rest of the pier, they turned the business operations over to their kids and headed south.

Just north of the Barnegat Inlet sea buoy, Louise did a routine engine room check and found a large nut loose in the bilge, under the propeller shaft.  Finding random loose hardware in the bilge is never good, but it's particularly not good when it might be part of the driveline.  From that spot we could have easily made Barnegat Inlet (which is navigable for us but leads to almost nothing we can access), but then we'd miss our slack timing here, and we'd have to spend the night there.

We opted instead to disengage the propeller and "lie ahull" right there off the coast while I looked at the shaft coupling to see if we were missing a nut.  Seas were around three feet in light chop, and we bobbed around like a cork, but not so badly that I couldn't move around the boat.  This was a good spot to stop and check, because we knew we could get Towboat US out of Barnegat Light if we needed them.

It turned out that, indeed, this was one of the shaft coupling nuts.  More disturbing, all the nuts were loose, some not even finger tight.  I know they had all been put on with thread lock and properly torqued at the yard, but the forces on the coupler are high, and clearly they all worked loose.  I was able to get a box wrench on all of them and tighten them up well enough to continue, but now I will need to look into jam nuts or some other solution to keep them where they belong.  No harm done, though, and we were back under way in less than fifteen minutes.

Today we will shove off close to low slack, around noon.  We'll have to push our way out the inlet, but, more importantly, we should have a favorable current all the way in to New York Harbor.  In a slow boat such as ours, traveling the Hudson River and New York Harbor can really only be done with favorable tide.  If we had, instead, left on high slack first thing this morning, we'd be fighting our way into the harbor.  With only a few hours of favorable conditions, it will be a relatively short day, and we should be anchored somewhere off Coney Island tonight.


  1. Yea for Louise!
    What a great catch spotting loose hardware in the bilge. If this had gone unnoticed it could have led to a much bigger problem at an inopportune moment. When you get a chance I'd like a photo of the coupling to better understand what & why it loosened up. Thanks for the great blog and allowing us to virtually enjoy your adventures.

  2. Sean
    I would drill and cotter pin or safety wire the nut and bolt, like an aircraft.

    1. Not possible or advised. The studs are hardened -- they take a huge tensile load when motoring astern, and they are constantly under shear. You'd have to have them drilled before hardening. Even if they were not, there's no way to get a drill down there -- it's very tight. So the shaft would have to be partially withdrawn and the whole coupling removed.

      Beyond all that, safety wire only keeps things from falling off -- it does not keep things tightened to required torque. Things falling off is a huge problem on race motorcycles and lightly-loaded critical linkages in, say, aircraft, but something that carries literally tons of load needs a different strategy.

      I've been advised that there are better lock washers available for this application, and I am looking into those.

  3. Yes, I'm a fan of safety wire. I used to road race motorcycles and safety wire was required on critical fasteners. BTW Sean, I don't own a boat and we don't intend to cruise. Your blog is one of my favorites though. I began reading your blog while you and Louise were traveling in Odyssey. It was one of the inspirations for us to begin full-timing a year ago.

    1. Thanks. See my response above about safety wire.


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