Sunday, April 30, 2023

Comfort in the familiar

We are anchored in Manhasset Bay, at Port Washington, in a now all-too-familiar spot (map). We've been here two weeks now, and Friday morning the yard committed to being ready for us tomorrow. Once we leave here for the yard, it will be days before I can get back here to post -- yard periods tend to be quite busy -- so I thought I'd best update the blog before we weigh anchor.

Sunset on our calmest night here. Nordhavn 50 Grey Goose, whom we've seen before, is on a mooring.

The fog we were in when last I posted here stayed with us all the way to New York Harbor. At times it thinned enough that we could stop running the horn for a while, and, incredibly, we even saw a boat or two. And I happened to be looking in just the right direction at just the right time to briefly spot a right whale, perhaps a hundred yards from us, just as we were passing Atlantic Highlands. Louise managed to catch a glimpse, too, but he was gone before I could snap a photo.

Other than the fog, conditions were perfect, and we were well ahead of our planned arrival due to favorable current. With light traffic and good pictures on both AIS and radar, we decided to press on through the fog, now so dense we could barely see 200 yards, all the way to Gravesend Bay, where we knew from radio reports that it would thin out.

Coney Island Light on Nortons Point appeared out of the fog at just 1/4 mile.

I dialed New York Vessel Traffic on one radio and the bridge-to-bridge channel on the other, relegating the distress watch to a handheld, and we crossed the Sandy Hook Channel and made our way toward Romer Shoal. Just past the shoal, which we must avoid, is the Ambrose Channel, the main shipping lane into NY harbor. We knew from the AIS that we would encounter the cruise ship Norwegian Gem there, and I made arrangements with the pilot -- we'd stay tight to the shoal, outside the channel on the green side, until well past on two whistles (starboard to starboard).

The Norwegian Gem is 965' long and fifteen stories tall. Like all cruise ships, she's lit up like a discotheque in anything short of broad daylight. We passed her 500 yards away and never saw a thing. Not one light or even a silhouette of a ship, though I am certain I could hear the music of the sail-away party. If we had not been in and out of this harbor a dozen times, it would have been quite the moment. One thing we did not hear, from anyone other than ourselves until much later, was a foghorn.

The Coney Island Yellow Submarine, and the remains of a wooden barge, on Coney Island Creek.

Not long after crossing Ambrose we were making our way past Coney Island and into Gravesend Bay. As we had heard, visibility improved, and we could see the Ikea on shore after rounding Norton Point. We dropped the hook in a familiar spot in the bay (map), just outside the commercial anchorage, and immediately sat down to dinner, which Louise made under way.

In Coney Island I replaced this pelican hook on the dinghy lifting harness, which let go with a bang and deformed as we were decking the tender in Atlantic City.

We were hoping to have a quiet night here, but it was not to be. Swell rounding the point built steadily -- confirming our choice to make harbor this evening rather than put it off to the morning when seas would be bigger -- and by 9:20 it became clear Louise was going to have a miserable night. We weighed anchor and made our way through the narrow channel into Coney Island Creek, where we dropped the hook in the middle of the estuary (map) and had a very comfortable night. On a cold, damp evening in early spring, the beach parties that can make this anchorage miserable were nowhere to be found.

Clear in Coney Island Creek, but socked in just a mile away at The Narrows; you can barely see the bridge.

In the morning two enormous ships had taken up residence in Gravesend, waiting on Coast Guard inspections. Tide was not favorable for us to pass through the city until the afternoon, so we had a quiet morning and enjoyed the scenery, such as it was, from this new-to-us anchorage in the daylight. We weighed anchor at 1:45 for a fair current all the way to Long Island Sound, in light fog for the first part of the trip.

Approaching Manhattan. Hard to tell.

That put us in Hell Gate with five knots behind us, and we whizzed through at over 11 knots. Our Starlink stayed online the whole time, so they are not yet enforcing the prohibition on in-motion use, which would take it offline around 8.7 knots. Once clear of the downtown ferry traffic we had the rivers mostly to ourselves.

The Statue in the fog, left, and Jersey City, from Buttermilk Channel near Governors Island.

We arrived to a very empty Manhasset Bay just past 5pm, and had the anchor down in this very spot before 5:30, in plenty of time to splash the tender and head ashore to old standby Amalfi's for dinner, follow by a quick trip next door to the Stop & Shop for some essentials, and a stop at the Shell for dinghy fuel. We've been here ever since.

The cherry trees on Roosevelt Island were in spectacular bloom.

Our decision to press on and arrive here early has proved prescient, as conditions off the NJ coast have been miserable for the past several days, and there is no sign of it letting up. I know folks who figure to be pinned down in Atlantic city for over a week. We alerted the yard when we arrived, in case they could take us early, but frankly I feel lucky just to be getting in tomorrow as originally scheduled, as yards often get behind.

It's a bit eerie being here so early in the season. We've had the entire bay mostly to ourselves. Most of the moorings had already been placed when we arrived, but many lack pendants. A couple of boats have come and gone, and the ones that used the moorings were even able to get launch service. Even though the harbor is empty, we're unable to get any closer to town than usual, as the empty moorings take up the entire area.

My attempt to show an empty harbor with a 180° pano from our anchorage.

In the two full weeks we've been here, our longest stay not involving a hospital, we've been ashore almost daily at three different landings. In addition to our usual over near the grocery store, we landed at the town dock for the half-mile walk downtown, and a new spot for us, Morgan's Dock Park, featuring the eponymous dock which just re-opened in 2019. That provides access to another couple of dining venues and the very nice Manorhaven town park.

The Manorhaven Preserve is a short walk from Morgan's Dock.

In addition to Amalfi's which is casual and unremarkable, we sampled Finn McCools, which is decidedly not the Irish pub atmosphere that one might imagine and was actually quite good with a nice prix fixe, Nikkei Peru, which is Japanese cuisine and not at all Peruvian, Bosphorous, perhaps the best of the lot with Mediterranean fare, and Salvatore's which is famous for coal-fired pizza, which was good but did not live up to the hype. Mojito's had some of the priciest Mexican food we've ever encountered, Pepe Rosso is Italian and perhaps our new local favorite, Toscanini's merited a repeat visit from five years ago, Andy's Pizza  was close to the dock but not worth going back, and finally we tried Nino's Beach, which has a dock along with overpriced yupscale fare.

What you can't get in this town is a burger or similar casual fare with a beer. Every restaurant, it seems, is either Italian or Turkish, with the odd Mexican or Asian place thrown in. We did have one mid-day meal ashore, wherein we might have tried one of the delis (where you can buy a beer but not drink it), but we ended up at burrito joint Cactus Cafe instead. Where we enjoyed a Corona with lunch.

There was a concert at the waterfront band shell, but it was too cold and damp to want to attend. We heard the music a half mile away on the boat.

One of the reasons we often return to this harbor is convenient access to services, and on this visit we had need of Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Target, West Marine, Ace Hardware, FedEx (inside Walgreens), the UPS Store, the post office (inside Ace), and recycling, at the Manorhaven park. All of these are an easy walk from the dock, as is the grocery store, a True Value hardware, and several other handy businesses.

The West Marine stop was necessitated by our sudden desirability to a nesting pair of osprey, who made several efforts to start their nest on a nice, tall, flat platform right smack in the middle of the harbor, with no competition in sight. I ended up buying one of those inflatable balls with six eyes, which we've nicknamed the Eye of Sauron (though neither of us is a Tolkein fan; a nod to popular culture I suppose) and a roll of flashy Mylar tape for streamers. It seems to have worked; we eventually found them building their nest atop a different boat in a much less attractive spot. That guy is in for a rude awakening when he comes back to find a federally-protected nest on his boat.

Osprey deterrence deployed. The flashy streamers are hard to make out.

A couple of days after we arrived we noticed a large sailing cat that had been moving anchor spots around the harbor, and we recognized the name, in very large letters: Grit. It took us a few minutes to place the memory and realize we had seen it at Cape Negro Island in Nova Scotia, just before Hurricane Fiona, and prior to that at PEI. We had chatted with her skipper, Paul, who was single-handing the boat from Nova Scotia straight to P-Town on Cape Cod.

On our next trip ashore we swung by to say hello, whereupon we got to meet Christine, the other half of the crew. With both boats in the harbor for a while, we agreed to meet for cocktails on a convenient evening. When the appointed time came we tendered over to Grit, cocktails in hand, and had a lovely evening in their salon, over hors d'oeuvres that Christine prepared. We found a lot of common ground and look forward to seeing them again somewhere along the line; they are on their way back to Nova Scotia.

Starlink cable, run through four new 7/8" holes and two cable glands.

It has been mostly cold, and often windy, and sometimes raining the whole time we've been here, and I've not made as much progress as I had hoped. But I did start taking hardware off the exterior, and I knocked out a major, two-day project that needed to happen before paint, to wit, running the permanent wiring for the Starlink terminal. Heretofore that's been running on a jury-rigged cable zip-tied to the upper rails and exiting through a hole that really belongs to something else. And the permanent run involved drilling a bunch of holes in the aluminum superstructure, which needed to happen before prep and paint.

Last Saturday a storm blew through here with 49-knot winds, officially a "severe gale." We added another 40' of anchor chain before it hit, Louise exclaiming that she will never drag in this harbor again. Just one of several days, including yesterday and today, where we were pinned on the boat. That gave us a good opportunity to work our way through the provisions, which we're hoping to finish before we move off the boat in a couple of weeks.

Big blow. 57 mph is 49 knots.

Also on those down days I whiled away the time by pulling gear out of the "to be sold" closet and listing it on eBay. I had figured most of it would languish there for weeks, which is why I waited until we'd be in the yard. As it turns out, several items were snapped up right away, necessitating the aforementioned UPS/USPS visits. I'm glad to have the stuff off the boat, because we'll need the room as all the outside gear comes inside during the painting.

The two weeks have really flown by. It's been great to have the comfort of a place where we already know where everything is and it's easy to get ashore, and we're very glad the harbor was already functional enough this early in the season to accommodate us. And it's been nice, in a way, to have the place mostly to ourselves.

Sunset on a calmer evening.

In the morning we'll squeeze all the stuff that's now loose on deck, including the life raft, life ring windscreens, deck lights, deck shower, ship's bell, and other gear along with all their mounts, into the most out-of-the-way corners and make our way across the sound to Mamaroneck. It might be a bit of a lumpy ride. The pumpout here is not yet operational, so our first stop over there will be the town dock before we head over to the yard.

I expect to have my nose to the grindstone for the next couple of weeks, and I won't get back here for an update until I can come up for air. That might be after we've already moved off the boat into the AirBnB we've booked starting mid-May. But once we've settled in to the yard, I don't expect the boat to be going anywhere until July.

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