Saturday, April 15, 2023

On the home stretch

We are under way in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey, in calm seas but dense fog. I have the fog horn running and the radar on a tight focus, and the plotter is saying we'll be behind Sandy Hook by 6pm, with an option to continue to Gravesend Bay if conditions are favorable.

Foggy view from the pilothouse.

We pushed against the tide the rest of the way to the cape on Tuesday. An enormous group of dolphins was feeding and playing just outside the canal, and I had to do-si-do with a dredge working the canal just inside the jetties. He was very pleasant when I hailed him and moved a bit to let us by.

This photo of a postcard was framed above our table at Lucky Bones. "Dear Louise ..."

Dredging is sorely needed further into the canal, where we found the shallow spot is down to about six feet at low tide. We came in at close to high tide and had no issues. We had the tide behind us after entering the canal, and we had an easy run to the marina in Schellengers Creek. We did have to squeeze past Coast Guard Cutter Sledge, a buoy tender, who was in the channel replacing a pile beacon.

Washington Street Mall, Cape May. No tourists this early in the morning, and the season.

When I called, the South Jersey Marina was very insistent on sending someone out to help us, but we were spun around and tied alongside (map) before they could get around to it, thankfully. We were happy to find good 244v power, as opposed to the 208v we so often encounter that makes laundry take twice as long. The cleats were poorly spaced for Vector, making for a challenging departure.

Cape May lighthouse and South Cape May Meadows preserve to right of fence; public beach to the left.

The marina was pricey, at $3.25/ft plus a whopping $25 for electricity, but they drove me down to the Acme supermarket for provisions, and they gave us a late checkout. In the evening we strolled over to Lucky Bones for dinner. They had a great draft selection, but we were disappointed by the pizza we chose for dinner. I suspect the rest of the menu is better.

The Promenade, and some classic Cape May architecture. Beach is just beyond the dunes on the right.

With the late checkout Wednesday I was able to ride the e-bike around town and take in some sights. There's a cute downtown with a street that was turned into a pedestrian mall a half century ago, before it became popular to do so, and an enjoyable boardwalk-style promenade along the beach, with resorts, shops, and restaurants right across the street. It would make for a very enjoyable stop, except there's no easy way to get to any of it from the boat. I picked up a couple of breakfast sandwiches at Bagel Time on my way home.

The Fishermen's Memorial, one of the more moving I have seen.

We dropped lines right at 1pm and headed out into the harbor, bound for our usual anchorage. We knew most of that was occupied by parked dredging equipment, but we were able to just squeeze in between the Coast Guard station, a day beacon, and a deck barge full of dredge gear (map). At dinner time we splashed the tender and headed across the channel to our old stand-by, the Harbor View.

Fresh tributes, including shells place atop the wall, tell the tale. Some of the names are very recent.

While Google had helpfully told me the restaurant was open to 9pm, after tying up the tender we discovered the place dark, with a sign saying they were open Thursday through Sunday. One of the perils of being this far north before the boating season even opens. We had to go right past Vector again on our way to the other dock-and-dine option, the Lobster House, literally adjacent to the marina we had just departed.

Tucked in next to a moored deck barge. The tug came in late in the day and tied to it for the night. That's the Coast Guard's recruit training facility on the right. We get to hear First Call, Taps, and Reveille.

That proved to be a mistake, and we should have just tied up at the marina and walked someplace else. This place is a relic of the past, with tourist prices, tiny portions, and a dining room that has not changed in half a century, along with the waitress uniforms with mandatory hose. Our seafood "salads" were swimming in mayonnaise and devoid of lettuce. On our one previous visit we ate at their more casual raw bar one building over, and that was better.

Lobster House. Straight out of the 50s.

Thursday morning we weighed anchor for Atlantic City at 7:30, to have a fair tide at both ends. We had decent conditions and an easy passage, and we had the hook back down six hours later at our usual spot in Atlantic City (map). At dinner time we splashed the tender and headed to the state marina, which is open year round and attached to the Golden Nugget casino resort. I would have preferred to go to the Back Bay Ale House, but the docks at Gardner's Basin were closed. Instead we scored a table in the bar at the Chart House and had their very reasonable happy hour menu.

USCGC Sledge replacing an ATON. The cutter is a towboat, semi-permanently mated to a crane barge.

Yesterday's conditions were unfavorable outside, and so we had a quiet day at anchor. We booked massages and Louise booked a haircut at the salon and spa at the resort, where they were able to fit us in back-to-back from 4-6. I went ashore mid-day and walked over to Harrah's to see if there were some better dining options for afterwards, but there were not. We ended up at Vic & Anthony's steak house in the Golden Nugget, making the whole afternoon a resort experience. The casino also has Italian and Asian venues, but they are open to the gaming floor, and NJ casinos are the last bastion of indoor smoking.

Vector looking lonely and diminutive in Atlantic City.

This morning we were up before the dawn for a 13-hour dawn to dusk transit. I plan these transits at six knots, but we've been making 6.7 today, so we'll arrive well before dusk if this holds. This is our final open-water passage, and we will no longer be at the mercy of sea conditions, so now we can relax a little in the two weeks before our scheduled yard visit. We were disappointed to wake to fairly heavy fog, but we did not want to miss the window.

Sunset from our anchorage.

We don't really have any plans for these two weeks. Likely we will spend some time in Manhattan and then work our way to Port Washington to have a comfortable wait until the yard is ready. I will probably get in at least one more blog post before we're in the yard.

A lone dolphin escorts us north off Wildwood beach after leaving Cape May.

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