I made the first part of the vague plan for 2019 which was “Summer in New York”, but so much is happening right now…I need to fly back to the UK to deal with some rental property and pension issues. Hurricane Dorian has made me think about my plans to sail south…I want to leave the boat north of New York City to suit my boat insurance and my own peace of mind. Neither of my boys can make it to the Bahamas for Christmas. So I will stay in Long Island Sound until at least the end of October and then head south to wherever for Christmas…Charleston, Florida, Miami? I will go to the Bahamas when there is positive news about when and where to go. Right now some islands are dealing with the aftermath of Dorian rather than thinking about Christmas!
The featured photograph is Throgs Neck Bridge at the end of the East River which connects New York City to the Long Island Sound. I anchored in Little Bay and watched the sunset. The next day I had to motor for 40nm to Bridgeport, Connecticut and decided to anchor in the harbour for two nights. Then I had a great 55nm sail to New London to anchor in the River Thames…and start planning my trip to the UK, where I go next and getting the boat lifted out to do the usual maintenance.
I anchored in Green Bay for about ten days and used the dinghy dock in Burrs Marina and then organised a 30 day mooring in the marina so I could fly back to the UK knowing that the boat would be safe. Once in the UK I was able to sort out the most pressing issues, meet up with a couple of friends in London and stay with my youngest son, Elliot and his girlfriend Amy in Baildon near Leeds. It’s now October and time to return to Connecticut to prepare for heading south to Miami for Christmas!
A dismal and uncomfortable Norwegian Airlines flight to JFK was quickly forgotten as I was able to have lunch in Manhattan with Alec before I jumped on an Amtrak train back to New London where subtropical storm Melissa was hitting the Connecticut coastline!
I soon had the boat lifted, the bottom cleaned and repainted, and completing the maintenance that has to done with the boat out of the water. Once back in the water I said goodbye to the wonderful folk at Burrs Marina and headed south. I had two overnight stops in Sachem Head, CT and Larchmont, NY before transiting the East River back into the Hudson River…and Hell Gate was very lively! I booked into Liberty Landing marina in New Jersey and organised to convert the boat to propane gas and US shore power. I also took the opportunity to watch (England lose) the Rugby Union World Cup final at 5am with Alec, and then watch Lewis Hamilton win his sixth F1 title!
I’m now waiting for a thread adapter for the gas system, passage planning and weather watching… it’s cold and I want to head south.
I have completed all the work to convert the gas and electric shore power systems on the boat, but an arctic blast that is breaking November US temperature records will keep me here for a few more days!
I finally sailed out of Liberty Landing marina in New Jersey leaving a great gang of people behind! It was a fabulous passage down to Portsmouth, Virginia taking about 40 hours to sail down to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and then six hours to motor up and around to Portsmouth on the Elizabeth River. It was eventful as I clipped a buoy in the river doing some cosmetic damage to the boat….I was tired and being particularly careless in not recognising the changes in tidal currents. I also realised that the boat had a “battery problem” which a service company identified as the engine start battery as being at the end of its useful life….it was five years old and had given great service since leaving the UK. So I’ve replaced the battery and I’m now resting after the 282nm passage. The Olde Towne of Portsmouth was fabulous and there was just enough autumn colours left in the trees to add to its beauty. I stayed for four nights and filled the boat up with even more food, water and diesel, and on a crisp Monday morning I left Tidewater marina for an adventure on a 200 mile section of the Intra Coastal Waterway, including the Dismal Swamp Canal, from Virginia into North Carolina. I entered the Dismal Swamp Canal through Deep Creek Lock and followed the narrow, shallow and tree-lined canal in glorious weather, stopping only at the end of the day to moor overnight at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Centre. I left early next morning to reach the South Mills Lock in time for the 08:30 opening to leave the canal, and enter the Pasquotank River. Mariners Wharf at Elizabeth City was my second overnight mooring and I had enough time to walk the city before sunset. Again I set off early to head further down the Pasquotank River and across Albemarle Sound to anchor in Alligator River. It was a cloudy day marred by some light rain for a couple of hours. I stayed alone in the anchorage for two nights because I was uncertain how the strong winds would affect my passage south. So I spent Thanksgiving Day planning next years adventures in the western Caribbean and South America. I cooked corned beef hash which apparently a traditional Thanksgiving dish! All was fine the next day and I set off at dawn and made good time down to Belhaven, and anchored in the peaceful bay. Yet again I set off just before dawn to witness a most spectacular sunrise! The rest of the trip down to the anchorage in Oriental was cloudy and, at times showery. The final day of motoring down the ICW was short and easy, but ended with a calamity at Beaufort Docks when I unexpectedly and unknowingly had to contend with wind AND current, and ended up pinned against the opposite pontoons! The marina rib pulled me off with just my embarrassment to contend with! I decided to stay two nights to rest and get ready for a long passage to Florida.
The 393nm passage from Beaufort, NC to St Augustine, FL had everything!… great sailing, strong winds and conditions, a damaged mainsail, a long period of motoring because of no mainsail and gradually stripping off layers of clothes as the temperature increased. Northsails have a sail loft in Ft Lauderdale but it means I will have to complete my trip to Miami on the ICW. More on the mainsail saga once I’m in Ft Lauderdale. The short passage through the St Augustine inlet was nerve-wracking in the shallow entrance and I was able to pass through the bridge and drop anchor in the river.
I really needed a good nights sleep and I got it! I had the anchor up and was away as the sun rose heading to Daytona Beach. I followed a Canadian flagged sailing yacht Sea Jay all day as the warm sunshine accompanied us along the ICW to Daytona…I then turned in to Halifax Harbor marina and they continued on to somewhere else!
Daytona Beach was glorious and no more so than lunch with friend, Katrina. Then came six continuous days of motoring the shallow and often narrow waters of the ICW, and anchoring every night. Many bridges along the way have to be called on the radio to open at set times. On the seventh day I reached Fort Lauderdale and anchored in Sunrise Bay for two nights. At times it had been fraught and at other times the scenery had more than compensated for a tiring adventure along the IntraCoastal Waterway of Florida. It was now mid-December and most marinas were either full for the Christmas period or ridiculously expensive, but I found the community-owned, Cooley’s Landing marina on New River in Fort Lauderdale. It was a short passage up the narrow New River with a following current and four bridges to negotiate…but I was able to moor at slack water next to live aboard sailors, Claude & Sophie who became good friends. I loved Fort Lauderdale, and spent Christmas Day cycling down to the beach in glorious sunshine.
UK friend, Caroline joined me on 30 December and on New Years Eve we motored down to Hollywood Beach where I had eventually found a mooring at the Suntex Marina. There was a wonderful live aboard community and we were invited to their Mexican-themed New Years Eve party and to welcome in the New Year with four distant firework displays….2020 is here!