Sunday, August 3, 2014

   On the morning of June 28 we left New York City. And three hours and 20 miles later we were still leaving New York City. :) That is a huge city. As we headed farther north on the Hudson River the scenery began to change. The banks became cliffs on each side and heavily wooded. We anchored the first night in a bay off the Hudson at Haverstraw, NY. There were several boats rafted together that afternoon, but some of them left that evening and it was quiet for the night. I looked at our atlas and it showed that we were still at the very edge of what's included in the New York City area. Amazing. Late that afternoon we were sitting in the cockpit and I was on the phone with my mom, when there erupted a really loud "scream" and smoke that went on for a couple of minutes from the smoke stack of the nearby power plant. Scared us to death!! We assume they were either letting off excess pressure or cleaning the stack. We were just glad there was no huge explosion like we first expected. We took the dinghy to shore on Sunday morning and walked about a mile to a small Church of Christ for worship services. There were only about 20 people but it was a very friendly church. The young preacher has only been there about 2 months and the focus is reaching out to the low-income area around there. The church meets in a portion of a strip mall, thus the sign. :) Randy thought Fred Burrow would love it. 

Shore line of the Hudson River.

Power plant that we hoped wasn't exploding!

Church sign. Income tax?

   The next morning, still heading north. It was interesting to us that there are train tracks on each side of the Hudson along this area. On the east bank are commuter trains and on the west bank are freight trains. It's beautiful country here. We traveled as far as Hyde Park and "picked up a mooring ball" at Hyde Park Landing. That's boat speak for tying a line from your boat to a floating ball that is anchored to the bottom of the river. The river is so deep here that there are few places to actually anchor. This was the first time we've moored to a ball and we caught it on the second try. Yea, us! This town is known for the Frederick Vanderbilt summer mansion and for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's home. We took the dinghy to shore next morning and spent the entire day visiting these sights. 

Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Garden pool at Franklin Vanderbuilt's summer home.

Gardens at Vanderbuilt summer home.

Fredrick Vanderbilt's summer home. Two people lived here only a couple of weeks a year. It truly was the "gilded age".

   The next couple of days we spent at Riverside Marina in Catskill, NY. This marina had been recommended to us as a good place to have the mast of the boat removed. To traverse the upper Hudson River and the Erie Canal the height of your boat from the water line must be less than 15 1/2 feet. This is because of the low bridges all along this route. Randy spent the first day and a half (in between thunder storms left over from Hurricane Arthur) constructing three "cradles" to support the mast above the bimini of our boat. There was a pile of lumber left there from other sail boaters that had their masts put back up at that location and had no further use for their "cradles", so we only had to purchase a few things for our rig. When we removed the front sail, we noticed a few small tears in the fabric and found a sail-maker, James Dobb from Athens, who was nice enough to take a short-notice repair job. He came and picked up the sail and even worked on the 4th of July holiday to finish it for us. After we had left the marina and were back onto the Hudson River, we realized that with all the mast wiring disconnected we no longer had a communication radio. Not good. So we made an unplanned stop at a marina along the way to buy wire and a connector to temporarily hook up our radio. I'm certainly glad Randy knows how to do these things. :) 

The mast goes down.

This is how we carried the mast on up the Hudson and on the Erie Canal.

This lady and her son have been feeding these ducklings at Riverview marina since they were born.  Very cute.

   After this delay, we weren't able to make it to the Troy lock before they closed, so we anchored at the edge of the Hudson River, out of the channel. The next morning our anchor line was wrapped around our keel -- again! This had happened to us earlier in the trip. It's when the reversing current and wind swing the boat over the anchor line instead of pivoting from the anchor point. This time it really didn't want to come loose. After trying several things, Randy was able to get the boat swiveled around and pulled the anchor straight up from the side of the boat. This meant he wasn't able to use the windlass (winch) to help and he pulled his back, as well as the anchor. But we were free and proceeded on to the Troy Lock. This lock is just south of the junction of the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. We docked at the public (free) dock at Waterford, NY and stayed there 3 nights to give Randy's back a rest and get groceries and do laundry before starting up the Erie Canal.

This big boat passed us on the narrow section of the Hudson. JP and Karen Hulett, is this your next boat? :)

Saw it again later. That's one big tourist boat. He left a wake that rocked us around.

     Hopefully, in a few days I'll be able to post about our trip along the Erie Canal. Very different from what we had done so far.

Monday, July 7, 2014

      When I last posted on this blog, we were sitting in Annapolis with an engine that wouldn't start. As it turned out, the new starter that Randy put on was defective. After checking and double checking everything, he figured it had to be that. So the marina got in another starter and Randy installed it, and "bingo" it started right up! Since we had been there for almost 3 days, we decided to head on out instead of doing any sightseeing. Maybe next time around. J That day of motoring was our last day on the Chesapeake. We anchored in a little bay just into the Elk River. 

This is about all I saw of Randy for 2 days. He's in the cockpit locker working on wiring.

   The next day, we timed our trip down the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal so that we were running with the current (which, we're learning, is dependent on the tide stage -- which is elementary if you ever considered it). We made good time; even hitting 8.4 knots at times. That's good for a sailboat without any sail out (the canal is too narrow). We saw a bald eagle early that afternoon. Once we got to the Delaware River, we anchored behind Reedy Island so that we could catch the down-river current the next morning. 
   We had been told that there were very few decent anchorages or marinas the entire length of the Delaware and it was best to just run it in one 10 hour stretch. So we tried to time it to get the least current against us at the beginning and end of the trip, and use the down-river current to our advantage. Luckily there was good wind, so we put out the sails and left the engine running. We were making 8.5-9.5 knots a lot of the way and made the trip in 8 hours. We did have one "blood pressure raising" incident that taught us a good lesson. We had both sails out and I was at the helm. Our jib sail (the front sail) is very large when it is completely unfurled and, from the wheel, you can't see under it. It was flying on our starboard (right) side. I was watching the channel markers and had seen the green marker ahead of us that I wanted to keep on our starboard side, and I was well away from it. Randy and I were looking at the chart plotter discussing something about our route, when he suddenly looked up and shouted. Because of the look on his face, I jerked the wheel to turn us left and we skated by the large concrete based green marker! It looked really big from 10 ft away! Two lessons learned: 1. Even though the bow of the boat is pointed in one direction, sideways drift can put you in another position (and we had been warned about that!) and 2. When the jib is limiting the helmsman's view, the other person has to be in a position to watch that area. Whew! God is good!

Just barely caught this dolphin in the Delaware River near Cape May, NJ. There were several behind our boat.

Another Delaware River lighthouse
Lighthouse along the Delaware River


 We headed into Cape May, NJ down the canal that cuts across the southern tip of the state. We passed under a couple of bridges with 53 ft of clearance. With a mast listed with a 47.5 ft bridge clearance, that surely looks close! J We anchored near a coast guard base and could hear reveille and taps. The next morning we took the dinghy to shore and got a few groceries at a convenience store. A man told us the post office was just 6 blocks away so we set off to mail some things. Those were 6 long blocks. Quite a hike. The middle of that afternoon we set sail into the Atlantic Ocean.

Coast Guard ships. We thought the names were interesting.
Cute little cabins in Cape May, NJ close to the marina where we refueled.
   The Intracoastal Waterway does run inside the NJ coast line, but it has gotten very shallow in some areas over the last few years. With our boat having a 4.5 ft draft, we were advised not to try it. The only other way to NY is to sail north in the ocean. Because of the difficulty and time of sailing into harbors along the way, most people just make it a nonstop sail. We tried to time our departure so that we’d get into Sandy Hook in the morning. We sailed along the “3 mile line” on our chart plotter so it was easy to keep track of where we were. We could see lights and the shape of buildings the whole time. The most disconcerting thing is not really seeing where you’re going. A sailboat doesn’t have head lights. There is a small light on each side of the bow (front), red on one side and green on the other, a white light at the stern (back) and a white light part way up the mast. These are not to see by, but for other boats to see you and tell which way you are moving. You navigate by your chart plotter and watch for lighted buoys, and just hope all the other boats on the water have their navigation lights on. Your eyes adjust to the dark and you watch for shapes around you, just in case. We alternated at the helm every 3 hours. While one of us kept watch and piloted, the other slept in the cockpit.  Atlantic City NJ was very conspicuous.  It was visible for over 20 nautical miles in both directions.  We passed it near sundown.  One building was very notable, both large faces of it were lit with lights that slowly changed from red to yellow to orange to green to blue to violet and then cycled through again - continuosly.  I assumed it was one of the casinos.
   We have an AIS transceiver (transmitter and receiver) on our boat which transmits our location and boat information to other boats that have AIS receivers. We also receive their signal if they have a transmitter. While I was at the helm from 3-6 am, I received a call on our radio. “Sailboat Aleta Jewel, Aleta Jewel, traveling north. This is fishing boat …(I don’t remember his name). I just wanted to be sure you saw my lights.” He apparently didn’t have a transmitter because I didn’t see his signal, but he had a receiver and saw mine. I told him I had seen his lights for quite some time and he said if I was staying on track and speed we wouldn’t be in each other’s path. Good to know! J Kind of a nice feeling to communicate with someone else out on the ocean in the middle of the night.

New Jersey coastline from 3 miles off shore.
   We were anchored in the bay at Sandy Hook before noon the next day and spent 2 ½ days there. First because we were tired and then the weather turned bad and we didn't want to try NY harbor with wind and waves. 

Coast Guard inspection.
I'm glad we stopped for them. Note the 40 cal. gun on front. 
On Thursday morning we finally headed into NY harbor. Just about the time we were enjoying seeing the Statue of Liberty greeting us, we were hailed by a coast guard boat that was requesting a boarding. We throttled back to an idle and they came alongside of us and two people hopped to our boat. They were doing a routine inspection and were really polite. The young lady in the picture was a new recruit and this was apparently a training exercise for her. 

Coming into New York Harbor by boat is impressive. First there are a lot of big ships coming and going through the Verrazono Narrows Bridge. Then you see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on your left and the New York City skyline on your right. And all the while you're dodging the ferrys and water taxis.

Verrazono Narrows Bridge

Lady Liberty. To visualize how large this is, there are people behind the wall on the first level.

Ellis Island

New York City skyline

That afternoon we took care of housekeeping duties (groceries, laundry, cleaning) and then the next day took the passenger ferry from Liberty Landing Marina, NJ across the Hudson River to New York City. We just spent that day in the city. We went to the 911 Memorial, Times Square, Grand Central Station, The Empire State Building, and Bryant Park. We had lunch in an Irish Pub just off Times Square. Very cool. J

911 Memorial. It is very impressive and touching.

The Survivor Tree. A Callery pear tree that survived the attacks and was nursed back to health.

Times Square. I believe there's always construction going on here.

O'Lunney's Irish Pub. 
Chrysler Building in background.

Grand Central Station.

Inside Grand Central Station.

Empire State Building tour.
Empire State Building 86th floor observation deck.Just to prove we really were there. :)

From 86th Floor of Empire State Building
For being such a huge, busy city, we were surprised by how many nice parks we saw; some small and tucked away and some really large. We rode the subway and, of course, walked for miles. Most people we dealt with were very nice, but afternoon rush hour was just that – rushed. The sidewalks were packed and people just kind of shoved through. I just stayed behind Randy. He’s a pretty good battering ram. J All in all, it was a good day and we got to see some of the “Big Apple”. Of course, it did reinforce our conviction that we are really not city people. Give me a beautiful sunset any day. 

New York City at sunset. Taken from across the Hudson River.
Sunset from our boat in Liberty Landing Marina.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

   On Saturday, June 7, we headed on up the Pasquotank River toward the Dismal Swamp Canal. The upper part of the river and Turner's Cut (which connects the river to the canal) are beautiful, but they are just preparing you for the Dismal Swamp Canal. I'm going to copy what Randy wrote in our sailing journal (Jonathan, Justin and Tanner: we are using the journals!).
   "God's creation is spectacular! This kind of beauty can take your breath away at times, but it always soothes the soul. And, as Patti pointed out, this is just a speck of heaven. Garden of Eden? Went past a few kayaks and I thought of how we relish the slower more sedate pace of this voyage compared to trawlers, and thought that these kayakers probably think the same about us. :) This and the cypress trees made me think of Fred and Sherry. A little ways back, I noticed what looked like pots (in the edge of the water) with plants growing out of them. Mental flash: "Wow that will take a lot of loving care." Then I realized that they were cypress stumps and the flowering plants were just taking the opportunity for life. Lots of Carolina wild roses grow out of these stumps. Also realized that these "stump pots" did take a lot of love--God's love for us. Very humbling and thank you, God. We're passing a few floating logs and debris. The helmsman must keep a sharp eye out. Surprisingly cool for what I expected. "I could live here!" Every once in awhile you catch the sweet aroma of flowers. What a joy!"
Carolina Roses

Reflections along the Dismal Swamp Canal
   And I second that! Very quiet and beautiful. There was no wind and the water was so still that, at times, you couldn't tell what was real and what was reflection. We docked at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center and Dick and Libby Mills caught our lines. They were the couple we met in Elizabeth City and had come in earlier that day. We took a hike along a boardwalk into the swamp at the State Park and can tell why it was named the Dismal Swamp. I can't imagine trying to hike through it. It's, of course, swampy :) with tangled growth everywhere. The slaves that dug the canal must have had a really hard time of it. That evening we shared a supper with the Mills and they headed on north early the next morning. We enjoyed visiting with them. We left about noon and only went a couple of hours farther along the canal to tie up to a wharf and get the dinghy unloaded. We took a dinghy trip down a feeder ditch toward Lake Drummond, which is in the middle of the swamp. The feeder ditch was like a smaller Dismal Swamp Canal. At one point, there is a lock (that's how they control the water levels in the canal) and we had to portage the dinghy up over a short section of land back to the ditch. Then we got to the lake. WOW! The water was completely still and we were the only people there. It was almost eerie.
Dismal Swamp Canal

The Dismal Swamp Visitors Center

Opening from feeder ditch to Lake Drummond.

Lake Drummond
   After getting back to our sailboat, we went on to the end of the canal. There is a low, opening bridge at that point that only opens when the lock beyond it is ready to open, which was 8:30 the next morning. We tied up to a landing there and worried at first about the area. We were in a city and right next to an abandoned restaurant and a house with a barking dog. There were a couple of young men fishing when we came in. They were nice and helpful about shopping and restaurants nearby. They even hushed the dog. :) Anyway, no problems there.
Locking through. And, yes, we wear our life jackets whenever the boat is moving.
   The next day we traveled through Norfolk, VA right through the "big boys". Norfolk has a big naval yard and is a large port city. We sure seemed small compared to the ships around us. We came out of the Elizabeth River and into Chesapeake Bay.
Norfolk, VA

One of the many naval ships we saw.
   We anchored for the night in a creek off the York River in a very developed housing area. No cruisers' baths here. :) Going out of the creek the next morning, I was at the helm and got mixed up as to which side that green marker should be on. I grounded us. As we were trying to back off, a couple of men came out onto a dock of the nearby yacht club and said they called a skiff from the boatyard to come help us. Two men showed up and hooked a line to us and pulled us off. They were very nice and at least didn't laugh at us while we were within hearing distance. :)
Osprey nest on the navigation markers. Sometimes you can hardly read the numbers.

Point No Point Lighthouse.
  That day we mostly motored because the wind was directly behind us. The following day we had more favorable wind and were able to sail for awhile. Toward late afternoon we tried to find the inlet to the anchorage we had planned on stopping at, but even after calling the marina there, couldn't be sure of our approach. So we moved to plan B and sailed on toward Coan River. The wind had been at 10-15 knots most of the day, and the waves were at 3-4 feet. We were doing okay as we turned up the Potomac River until the wind increased to 20 knots and we had to turn 90 degrees to reach Coan River. Then the waves were hitting us broadside and it had started to rain. Not really my idea of fun! Randy kidded me and reminded me that next time would seem easier. :) How is it that "Asbill Adventures" are so often scary?!
   We stayed put the next day because it was stormy all day. The following day looked like more of theame so we decided to move to the nearby marina to get fuel, do laundry and have a real shower. While getting docked we started having an engine starter problem. So Randy spent the rest of that day and part of the next chasing that problem. Eric and Ellen, people on another boat, loaned us their car to go get parts and groceries. They're in the midst of transitioning from boating to RVing. The boat is for sale and they have an RV and a car ready to go.
Saw several rays. Randy just caught his "wings" out of the water.
Stormy day and more to come.
   We left there on Father's Day and just kept heading up the Chesapeake for a couple of uneventful days. Last night we anchored in Harness Creek off of South River which is just south of Annapolis. We did a 45 minute hike through pretty Quiet River State Park to get to a West Marine store for some items we needed; like a replacement boat hook since I lost our long one over the side. :(  This morning our engine wouldn't start and we ended up calling Boat US for a tow. We are now at Port Annapolis Marina and Randy replaced a starter and did some work on the battery systems, but it doesn't look like that fixed it. We'll have a mechanic look at it tomorrow. It's kind of expensive to stay here, but it's a nice place so we're glad to be here right now.
   As my beloved father-in-law used to say, "Every day's a good day. Some are just better than others."