Category Archives: Cruising

map of great dismal swamp

Winter on the Intracoastal: Swamps & Canals

The Not So Dismal Swamp

While visiting Virginia in 2009, we took a side trip down to Kitty Hawk, NC. Along the way we stopped to walk along an interesting slough that trickled under overhanging oaks. What was this thing? Not a creek, or a river, perhaps an irrigation ditch?

Later, when we began to plan to move east and cruise down the coast, we learned about the Intracoastal and found that the ditch we’d walked beside was the Dismal Swamp Canal, part of the waterway.  We could go through that little puddle in our boat? Cool!

Dismal Swamp History and Facts

Portsmouth and Norfolk straddle Mile 0 of the ICW. About eight miles south of there, the waterway branches into canals with separate sets of locks. The older of the two is the Dismal Swamp Canal. It passes through the Great Dismal Swamp, a place that you’ve probably never heard of, which figures in more history than you might think.

  • George Washington first conceived the idea of draining the swamp for farm land. (Wait – in a completely undeveloped country they needed more farm land? How did modern planners miss that memo?)
  • He surveyed the route of the canal
  • Slaves dug the canal – and because they came to know it well …
  • The canal became an important part of the underground railroad. Hah hah! Unintended consequences. Take that evil slave owners.
  • The Union tried to blow up the locks and, in the battle of South Mills, the Confederacy stopped them, saving a vital transport line for troops, and a pleasant recreational route for modern boaters. Thanks Confederacy! (First time I ever said those words.)
  • The novel and movie Show Boat, are based on a floating theater that used to ply the waters of the canal.

One more detail about the canal: it has a controlling depth of six feet. That means the Army Corps of Engineers regularly makes sure the center of the channel is at least six feet deep. Hmmm. Did they do that last week? Is it due to be done next week? Inquiring cruisers, with keels five feet deep, want to know.

Our depth sounder, set to let us know when we hit water shallower than ten feet, beeped at us incessantly for the 40 miles of the Dismal Swamp Canal. We learned to tune it out, but cringed at its intrusion in this quiet place. We kept hitting reset to shut off the alarm.

The morning we set out from Portsmouth was still and beautiful and the first thing we saw upon entering between the canal’s narrow banks was a turtle sunning on a half sunk log. Wildlife! Southern wildlife.

Stayed that night at the Dismal Swamp Visitor’s Center. Which I’m willing to bet is the only rest area in the country that sits between two highways, one paved and one water. There’s a dock along the wall of the canal where boats can tie up for free for the night. A really nice arrangement.

Across a foot bridge is a nature center with boardwalks through the swamp and trails through the woods. We walked both. The trees and vegetation were all new and different and we lost track of time. The ranger had to come out and find us because it was time to raise the bridge for the night. Both she and the bridge tender had to stay late because of us. We cost the tax payers extra. Sorry.

Okay, A Little More Dismal

The next morning was drizzly and it continued all day long. So the swamp can sometimes be a little dismal. But it was still gorgeous. We were glad to see both sides. It wasn’t cold, but it was too wet to take decent pictures, so my first cypress swamp was not well chronicled.

Elizabeth City

We dried out in Elizabeth City and then, headed over to the Museum of the Albermarle. Unlike most local history museums, this one is huge, in fact we knew we were almost to E. City when we could see its green roof over the trees of the swamp. They’ve got some great artifacts, arranged by eras in an interesting and fun way.

Tom called our friend Jason to chat. The conversation went like this: Hi Jason. Change your oil. But … Change your oil. Thought I’d wait until … Change your oil. So first thing in the morning we changed the oil. Jason is also our mechanic, and we don’t ever want to have to tell him we burned up the engine.

With oil out and filter off Tom found that our spare filter didn’t fit. The closest auto parts store was two miles away. Walking that would shoot the morning, so we couldn’t make the crossing of Albermarle Sound in the light breeze forecast for that day. As long as we had to take the walk, we decided to provision. Along the way we stopped at thrift stores looking for John D. MacDonald Travis McGee books (required reading for Florida bound cruisers) and ran across Recycled Reader, the best used bookstore I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something.

After the oil change we motored over to Lamb’s Marina on the other side of the bridge to get fuel. On our return, a helpful fellow was on hand to catch our lines. He turned out to be quite a character. OMG the stories! He’d done everything but free the slaves and cure cancer. We finally got away by saying we had to go to the library before it closed. As we were walking across the parking lot a woman stopped us and warned us that that guy was just a bum who wanted tips. “He pries on boaters.” Still not sure whether her mispronunciation of preys was due to her southern accent or Archie Bunkeritis.

There may be a story in this disconnect. Elizabeth City is famous for The Rose Buddies, a group that welcomes boaters. In the summer they’re quite active, giving roses to visiting boats, hosting parties. But in the winter there was just this one guy, and one woman who didn’t like what he was doing.

Jibing Albermarle Sound

Sailed out of Elizabeth City with a forecast for 10 -15 mph winds in the area of Elizabeth City and 15 – 25 across Albermarle at Alligator River Bridge. Like the other big shallow bays north of it, Albermarle Sound was described as horrific when the wind is up and I was nervous.

The winds built and big waves were came at our stern. Then half way across the sound we got hit with a gust and a big wave at the same time and they spun us 180 degrees in an unplanned jibe. (A jibe is when the stern crosses a wind coming from behind the boat, as opposed to a tack, which is when the bow crosses the wind coming from in front of the boat.) Things fell off shelves and out of cupboards. I hate it when that happens. Tom reefed right away and we took down the jib. Another lesson in why we should reef early and often. We also began to suspect our wind gauge may not be as accurate as we’d like.

Once inside the arms of Alligator River the wind settled down. At the entrance to our next canal – the Alligator – Pungo Canal – we passed mile marker 100 and did a high five. At anchor behind red marker 46, we drank a toast to survival, then conked out at cruiser’s midnight – 9PM.

Beaufort Within Reach

Between the AP canal and our destination of Beaufort lay the towns of Belhaven and Oriental, along with the Pamlico and Neuse rivers, both of which, like Albermarle Sound, kick up rough in the wind. And we had wind. The run from Belhaven to Oriental was a challenge. Tom steered the entire time, convinced I was too much of a weenie to handle the wheel. He was worn out by the time we arrived. But the town made it all worthwhile. In friendly Oriental, we watched the Seahawks squeak by the 49ers. Sigh. Looked like we’d have to watch one more football game.

From Oriental we sailed into 20 knot winds and headed up the Neuse River quick as we could, seeking the shelter of Adams Creek Canal. In this very narrow channel with shallows at the edges we first saw the typical boat storage method of the region – lifts that hold boats above the water.

We arrived in Beaufort (boe fort), NC in stiff winds under sunny skies and anchored in Taylor Creek, right across from the public dinghy dock. With what appeared to be derelict boats all around, Sunshine looked better than she had in a month. Looking around at the motley assortment of boats, we began to wonder about the politics of anchoring and installing private moorings. The dockmaster didn’t want to engage on the topic. I imagine he’s caught in the middle of the town council fight between the gentrifiers who want less than pristine vessels banned from their expensive views, and those who champion the rights of the individual to anchor where they damn well please. For a girl from temperate Washington state, the concept of an outdoor fan was strange indeed.

Beaufort – Almost Paradise

The next morning was warm enough to be outside in shirt sleeves. For a few minutes. The wind was blowing and was forecast to blow harder, as another cold front was moving in. But for one day we had 61 degrees, so we dinghied out to Carrot Island, part of the Rachel Carson Reserve, to see if we could find the wild horses.

There were great shells out on the seaward side of the island, gorgeous big clam shells that looked like pink and gray tartan, gnarled oysters, black oysters, cockles, scallops and horseshoe crabs. I walked barefoot in warm sand, put my toes in the ocean. Tom said it felt like a summer day at Washington’s Ocean Shores. The water was warmer, y’all.

Then we walked through a field of tiny cacti and I got their spines stuck in the soles of my flip flops and had to change to my boots. A little pissy about having to pluck thorns from my feet, in true explorer style, I dubbed the depression where they grew the Devil’s Cauldron.

Tom found the horses finally, when we were heading back toward the dinghy. Three of them were grazing on the bank of Taylor Creek. A guy pedaled by on a floating bike. Then a flock of pelicans flew by. A little while later I came up on deck and watched dolphins.

That night Tom put out a second anchor, Bahamanian style – one anchor upstream and one anchor downstream. This is the prescribed anchoring method in Taylor Creek because of the tight quarters and swift current. It’s our first time to use this arrangement and I slept like a baby, not feeling the current at all.

So here we were in Beaufort, far beyond our planned destination of Chesapeake, VA. but still short of our real goal of all flip flops, all the time. Would this be the place to stay for a while? Could we work on the boat here?

Another Attack of Winter

That night the storm arrived as predicted. More wind than we’ve had at anchor – 35 knots at least with gusts over 40. Sunshine sailed around her anchors all night. Sometime around 3 AM we found that the Fortress, our back up anchor, seemed to have dragged and threatened to tangle with the main anchor, which could cause both of them to foul and fail. So Tom wanted to pull it up. After considering methods, he opted for the lowest stress and went out in the dinghy, pulling himself along the anchor line. I held a tether and then pulled him back. The Rocna held with both wind and current headed in the same direction. I worried about what would happen when the tide changed and the two forces were opposed.

The boat closest to us broke loose and washed up on the shore of the island.

It was hard to sleep.

Just trying to stay warm.

Almost paradise indeed.

At noon the next day it was 40 degrees and we no longer felt like ill-fated polar explorers, so decided that that evening we’d go ashore and get social at Backstreet Pub, the locals and sailor’s dive bar we’d heard about. But when the time came the wind was still harsh, and we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat. But the next day the weather finally settled down and we were able to go grocery and propane shopping. I stayed home and worked on a few things while Tom went out on the island again and took pictures of the horses. He even found a foal.

But that was the end of reasonable weather. It snowed and sleeted and blew all the following night. We woke to extreme cold, lots of wind, a world covered in icy snow and … only one can of propane left to run our little heater. Started calling around looking for someplace that had propane. Stores were not open. Even the grocery store didn’t open all day. I worried about how that foal would do in the cold.

The streets of Beaufort were a sheet of ice. Only the Backstreet Pub was open. There there was a roaring fire and nice people to talk to, but one of us had to stay on the boat. With little propane left and no place to buy more, we gave up and headed for the dock. Which was easier said than done. We chipped an inch of ice off the wheel, engine controls and cleats in order to access them. The dock lines were frozen in coils and had to be massaged into workable shape. Jumping down to the ice coated dock was a dicey affair. I managed not to slide into the water.

When Ace and Piggly Wiggly finally opened a couple of days later Tom walked up there to get propane. I melted snow for wash water, pioneer style, as the spigots were shut off. The laundromat was open so I took advantage of the easy access and did a couple of loads.

And so we sat in Beaufort for days and days and days during this winter storm that had the entire Atlantic coast in irons. Beaufort is a great town in a beautiful, setting. But we were still intent on escaping winter, so once the ice melted we couldn’t wait to haul up that anchor and continue south.

But we had one more thing to do before leaving town. On the evening of February 3rd, we headed over to Backstreet Pub to eat bacon wrapped stuffed jalapenos (yowza!) and watch the Seahawks, our hometown team,  beat the Broncos. The game was weird, but the food and company were great.

The next morning, weather and previously scheduled events out of the way, we hoisted anchor and headed for Charleston.

If anyone knows what the red knot I tied at the Deep Creek Lock is, please let me know. Otherwise I will christen it the Nancy Bartlett and submit it to

icy bushes Solomons Island, MD

Winter on the Intracoastal Waterway: The Big Bays

Defining the Intracoastal Waterway

Depending on who you listen to, the Intracoastal Waterway might run from the Canadian Border to Miami, or from New York’s Hudson River to Texas, or from Norfolk, VA to the Florida Keys.

But however you describe its ends, the ICW is not a nice, straight canal, but a series of vaguely linked bodies of water, including large natural bays like The Gulf of Maine, and tiny, hand dug channels like Elliott Cut, just south of Charleston.

For our purposes, the ICW includes Cape Cod Bay, Long Island Sound and the New Jersey Coast. But with our aim of escaping harsh winter weather, it really started in earnest at Cape May Canal where it heads more inland into Delaware and Chesapeake Bays.

Delaware and Chesapeake Bays
December  28, 2013  to January 10, 2014

After years of boating in the Northwest, where the water is deep right up to the rocky shore, and in the Northeast, where rocks jut out of deep channels, the shallows, mud bottoms and marshy shores of Delaware and Chesapeake Bays were a culture shock for us.

We took the Cape May Canal out to the bay, where we found the shallow water quite rough, with the wind blowing against us. But once we turned north, running along, but not in, the main shipping lane, the ride became much more comfortable.

The Delaware is another busy shipping route, but at this time of year we saw few vessels of any kind there or on the Chesapeake. Instead of dodging ships, we spent our days ogling small light houses that looked more like bon bons or chocolate truffles than hazard markers and looking for water deep enough for our keel.

The shallow marshy shores of these big bays meant marinas and anchorages were few and far between. We had to plan our short days carefully to find suitable places to stop before sunset. The first night we made it to Cohansey River, which winds four miles through the marsh to a tiny town that sits two miles from the edge of the bay. Yes, you read that right.

The next morning we left the river in gray, pre-dawn light, headed for the C and D canal, where the rain began to fall in earnest.

We entered the Chesapeake very excited to finally be on the body of water that we thought would be our cruising grounds for the next few months. We’d take a trip up the Potomac! We’d do Annapolis! We’d take a side trip inland to Tennessee to see our son!

The Shifting Realities of Cruising

I’d scoped out a potential anchorage for us at Bohemia River, just past where the canal empties into the Chesapeake. But the entry proved too shallow and we got to feel what it’s like to run Sunshine’s keel through the mud. Spooky. Tom turned around and got us out of there fast and we headed for the next possible anchorage – Sassafras River.

Unfortunately, before we made it there, fog fell on us. We couldn’t see an eighth of a mile. We had to use Navionics on my phone to locate the buoys that marked the shipping lane and the channel into the river. Once inside the half mile wide river we couldn’t see the banks but just trusted that the satellites would keep functioning and keep us off the shore until we could get to the anchorage. When the fog finally lifted an hour later we found we’d dropped the hook in a gorgeous spot. Plus the name – Sassafras – was so southern. We felt like we’d accomplished our main goal of getting “south.”

We sailed to Annapolis with a spanking wind pushing us at over eight knots. There’s no anchoring in the harbor so we took a mooring for the night. I talked to a guy on the city dock who suggested we have dinner at Davis’, a salty, sailor’s pub. That was good advice. Not only were the crab cakes yummy, but the next day we moved over to a dock on the recommendation of sailors we met at Davis’ and also visited a great marine consignment store, Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies which we learned about there.

Heading for Solomon’s Island, MD on a sunny New Year’s Day, Tom noticed the jib stay was fraying. He took down the jib and secured the broken end. We pulled in to a fuel dock and found no one working on the holiday. At the restaurant next door, Stoney’s Kingfisher, we asked about fueling hours and ended up being invited to stay at the restaurant’s dock. We thought it would only be for a day or two while we got the jib stay repaired. But as soon as Tom ordered the new stay from nearby Zahniser’s, winter storm Hercules moved in. Between ice storms and waiting for the repair, we were frozen to Stoney’s dock for eight days. This was not what we’d bargained for.

After the ice was gone Tom picked up the new jib stay and set about installing it. I hauled him up the mast in 26 degrees to attach the upper end of the stay. He could barely move his opposable thumbs to use the necessary tools. Brought him down again and he went to install the lower end.

When using tools on deck I like to tie them to a cleat or stanchion, just in case. Likewise bits and pieces. Unfortunately, some bits and pieces don’t have a convenient tying point and you just have to keep a close eye on them. You can see where this is going, right? Long story short, a very important part went, bloop, over the side and into the murk beneath the pier.

The cursing and swearing make getting into the wetsuit much easier and raise the blood temperature enough that jumping into 41 degree water feels almost good. It took a bit, but the item was recovered, a good thing too, since ordering a new one would have kept us in Solomons for another week.

We got one more surprise while at Stoney’s. Starting out from New England we’d had two goals in mind:
1. To get to someplace warmer than Boston
2. To find a place where we could dock the boat for a couple of months and do some work on her

The original plan identified that place as Chesapeake, VA. at the southern end of the Chesapeake, where our son’s friend had a condo with an available slip. But now we got bad news. Nicole had learned from her HOA, that no one was allowed to sleep aboard a boat at the dock.

What now? All we knew for sure was that we’d stop in Portsmouth, where Jeremy and Tiffany had lived when they first moved from Seattle to VA. We’d visited them once and enjoyed the historic town and were looking forward to seeing it again.

Candid Camera in Portsmouth, Y’all

Tied up at Portsmouth’s public basin where you can stay a couple of days for free and walked up into town, rejoicing at being in the south  and high-fiving for achieving our initial goal.

Portsmouth looked great, The Coffee Shoppe was still there and the economy appeared to be doing well.

Looking for dinner, we stumbled on the Commodore Theater, which was showing Saving Mr. Banks. A couple passing said, “Have y’all been here before?” and told us it was a dinner theater, that the food was good.

Hearing that y’all, made us giddy. We bought tickets for $7 each and had dinner for less than we used to pay for popcorn and a soda in Hingham. Inside, the waiter greeted us with “Are y’all the folks off the boat?” We were mystified how he knew that, but we had a blast and didn’t give it another thought.

The next morning though, when we headed up to The Coffee Shoppe for caffeine, things got a little weird. A guy on a bike rode up to us, said “Morning. Do y’all know there’s a marine supply store just up the street?” and handed us a card for Mile Marker 0.

Moments later we walked into the Coffee Shoppe and an old fellow said hello and told us he had a picture for us. It turned out to be of the Thomas Lawson sailing into Hampton Roads, the opening from Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic. That was the ship that brought Manjiro to New Bedford, a story I’d written for Tidal Life only a few weeks before. At this point I was beginning to hear the Twilight Zone theme music.

Somewhere above the public dock there must be a harbor cam. I resolved to be on my best behavior when on deck, and try not to do anything stupid.

Two Kinds of Football and a Tornado

Did a minimal cleaning, trying to dry the swampy conditions that result from winter on the Intracoastal Waterway. Leaving the salon hatch open a crack for ventilation, we headed out to find a place to watch soccer. We ended up at a great sports bar owned by former Green Bay Packer, Roger Brown. The sky outside got black, and the wind started to swirl and the rain started to dump. While a tornado threatened to fill our boat with water, Barcelona won, then the Patriots lost to the Broncos, teeing up Seattle for the Superbowl.

We couldn’t stop eating Roger Brown’s excellent food. The she crab soup was delicious, and the fried green tomatoes were spectacular. Tom had an oyster po’boy that, while not quite New Orleans, was very good and later an apple cobbler big enough to swallow New York City. By the time we left, at 8 or so, the place was completely packed. Though Portsmouth was not the place we were looking for long term, it was heartening to see a favorite town doing so well.

An icy channel marker, proof that we really did do this trip in winter.

Christmas Cruise: Jersey City, NJ to Manasquan, NJ

the statue of liberty

Couldn’t resist one more shot of Liberty, this time in the light. Look at that arm! It’s worthy of Arnold.

Wednesday Dec 25, 2013
Fuel Dock
Manasquan, NJ

As soon as we could see, about 7 AM, we motored out of the anchorage and into New York Harbor. This was not a place for us to practice navigating in the dark. But then it was Christmas morning and, other than the bright orange ferries in and out of Staten Island, traffic was light.

An icy channel marker, proof that we really did do this trip in winter.

An icy channel marker, proof that we really did do this trip in winter.

There are several channels to choose from going out of New York and we wanted to head toward Sandy Hook via the Chapel Hill North Chanel. Then we planned to veer off into Swash Channel and finally Sandy Hook Channel which would skirt the sandbars off Sandy Hook and take us out to the ocean without putting us in the path of a lot of freighters. I was a 1/4 mile into the wrong channel, the main shipping lane called Ambrose Channel, when I realized my mistake. Luckily the water was still deep enough there that I could simply veer off to starboard and cross the shoal to the Chapel Hill North and get back on track.

It was a chilly but beautiful morning with almost no wind. The rollers were big and smooth. Compared with what we’d been through on Long Island Sound, motoring along the sandy beach of the Jersey Shore the ocean seemed about as threatening as a cashmere sweater. Timing is everything.

Nothing but ocean

Nothing but ocean

A couple of hours out of Sandy Hook Tom came unglued and began shouting at me to get the camera. He’d seen a pod of a dozen dolphins. They’d spotted our boat and came racing across the sea to play. They dove under the bow and I worried we’d plow into them, but make no mistake, they were the ones in control. They surrounded the cockpit and took turns streaking up along the hull and surfing the bow wave. That, along with the calm weather, was all the Christmas gift we could ask for. I tried to take pictures and video but they are so fast and I am not great with the vid, so I didn’t get much.

We pulled into Manasqan inlet about 3 PM. Everything was shut so we tied up to a marina’s fuel dock. We wouldn’t mind buying some fuel, but didn’t really need it, so if someone showed up we’d be glad, if not we’d just head on down the coast.

Mannasquan inlet

Placid waters again at Manasquan inlet

I made Sausage Gorgonzola soup for dinner and we toasted our first Christmas on the ocean with hot buttered whiskey. Which is as good as hot buttered rum.

Fa la la la la la la!

We spent the evening checking all our weather and current information. it looked like our weather window would stay open long enough for us to get to Atlantic City the next day, so we got everything ready for an early departure.

We’ve become used to floating docks and this one was fixed, so we had to pay attention to lines as the tide went in and out, making sure there was enough slack and that nothing got caught up. Some of the bumps and squeaks in the night woke us up and we went to check on what made the noise, but everything was a-ok.

Statue of Liberty

Christmas Cruise: Mamaroneck, NY to Jersey City, NJ

Tuesday, Dec 24, 2013
Liberty State Park anchorage
Jersey City, NJ

To make it down the East River and past Hell Gate on the right current we had to arrive at Throg’s Neck Bridge about 1:30 PM. Which meant leaving Mamaroneck at 11:30, for sure no later than 12:00. We showered fast, fueled up, and I hauled water. We knew our halcyon days of visiting Brewer marinas were coming to an end and we’d be anchoring or pulling up to closed docks for several days. There wouldn’t be any other chance to easily get water, fuel or food until Cape May, NJ.

Tom had to vandalize the marina’s shower by removing the shower head and rigging a hose to fill our jugs, as all other water in the yard was shut off for the season. (He did put it all back together.) Then I had to load the 5 gal jug and a bag full of 1 gal jugs on our folding hand truck and wend my way through the maze of stored boats, railway tracks and various concrete ledges between the shower room and the gangway to the floating dock. I had to load and unload the dolly several times each trip. Back and forth I shuttled while Tom bought oil, checked the oil and the coolant and futzed with the engine. I managed to surprise myself by overfilling the tank sooner than expected. But I also managed to run the wheel of the cart through a glob of the industrial strength grease that they use to lube the travel lift and the clean up job took far too long. That stuff was intense and had squeeged itself into every crevice of the wheel and surrounding brackets. Always do something to increase the stress level when trying to make a schedule, that’s my motto.

All our tasks done, we pulled out of Mamaroneck in the nick of time. And there was a barge and tug steaming toward the opening we were heading for at Execution Rocks. We slowed slightly to let him go first. Maybe too much, it’s hard to judge.

execution rocks lighthouse

Execution Rocks Lighthouse

What a pleasant way to start a day of sailing … heading for Execution Rocks. But it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, we followed that ship through and all the way to the bridge, knowing that if he could go there, we could go there without paying the ultimate price. Unfortunately, when we caught the wake of the tug the compass rolled with our motion, as it’s supposed to – and stuck – uh oh.

a barge on long island sound

Follow that barge

The next day – Christmas Day that is – we planned to head out into the ocean for the trip down the New Jersey coast. No way we were doing that without a functional compass. I found a West Marine in Manhattan and then began the search for a place to dock the boat while Tom sprinted in to the store to buy a new one.

stepping stones lighthouse

Stepping Stones Lighthouse – at the entry of the East River

The one dock that our cruising guide showed on the East River had moved over to the other side of the island. The guy who was manning West Marine – alone, on Christmas Eve – was from Florida and had no idea how to tell me to execute this maneuver before they closed for the holiday.

Tom sweated that compass problem all the way down the river. I could not get any more information on where to dock. Neither of us could really enjoy the sights of New York. We finally gave up and resigned ourselves to the idea that we would have to stay an extra day in order to get a new compass. Either that, or stay up late trying to fix the old one. We do carry a quart of compass fluid – thanks to Paul Dennis.

united nations and chrysler bldg

The United Nations

water towers
The water towers of New York have always intrigued me.

At each bridge and bend of the river there was something new and interesting to see. We’d been warned, copiously, about the shipping traffic and currents we’d encounter going through the East River. We found it easy and smooth. Tom had calculated the currents right, and Christmas Eve turned out to be a grand time to avoid ship traffic.

green art deco bridge

Ward’s Island Bridge

hell gate coming up

Hell Gate coming up

placid waters of hell gate

The placid waters of Hell Gate – we hit it right

first glimpse of liberty

My first glimpse of Liberty – way off in the distance

captain with empire state and chrysler

Captain with Empire State and Chrysler

First Mate with Empire State and Chrysler

First Mate with Empire State and Chrysler

The only place we ran into any traffic at all was right at The Battery, the tip of Manhattan, where the Staten Island Ferries and the water taxis churned up a huge chop. Cresting waves broke on us from all directions. The water taxi drivers lived up to all we’ve heard about Manhattan cabbies, they never slowed down, and they didn’t care if they sent us skyward on their wake. We just accepted the roll and tried to maintain course and stay out of their way. We monitored Channel 13 and nobody cursed us out. They were all busy wishing each other Merry Christmas.

the battery

The Battery – it looks so small …

The cabbies did us one huge service. We hit that turbulence and the wild motion broke the compass free. By the time we motored across the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty it was swinging again as it should.

lady liberty south view

Lady Liberty

liberty and city
Liberty and her city
statue of liberty from New Jersey

Anchored behind the Statue of Liberty

With sunset tour choppers buzzing the statue like bees, Tom dropped Sunshine’s Christmas present, a new Rocna anchor, behind Lady Liberty at Liberty State Park. We enjoyed  a Christmas Eve dinner of Italian sausage linguine and toasted our successful transit of New York. Then the wind picked up and swung us around a good bit, but the hefty Rocna held us fast for a long winter’s nap.

Read about Christmas Day on the ocean – with dolphins!


sailing out of mamaroneck ny

Christmas Cruise: Stamford, CT to Mamaroneck, NY

Monday Dec 23, 2013
Brewer Post Road Marina
Mamaroneck, NY

Here we were nearly to the mouth of the East River and only had a couple more pages to go in our Long Island Sound chart book, which was the only one for the trip we’d been able to buy in Newport. Luckily it was the waterproof version since we’d had lots of spray and rain in the cockpit and I like to have the chart right there with me.

We had to get the charts for New York Harbor and the New Jersey Coast either here in Stamford or in Mamaroneck. I did a quick search and found there was a company called Landfall Navigation right in Stamford, which looked like a place we’d like to visit, but there was also a West Marine much closer – walking distance. They didn’t open until 10 AM, but that was fine as we could only do the twenty mile hop to Mamaroneck that day anyway. To go any farther meant entering the East River, and that has to be done on the right tide.

I stayed on the boat and got everything stowed and ready while Tom walked to West Marine, in the rain, to see if they had what we needed. Score! He came back with a single waterproof chart of the East River and NY Harbor, a waterproof ChartBook of the New Jersey coast and a full size ChartKit of Delaware and Chesapeak Bays. All had been on sale for half price.

We left for Mamaroneck about 12:00, it was raining but warm.

Mamaroneck was a charming village to sail into, they even had swans to greet us. We got there about 3:00 after an easy peasy motor-sail with little wind. The rain kept me from taking any pictures so all I’ve got is us leaving it in our wake the next morning. Stay tuned, the next post will be chock full of images.

sailing out of mamaroneck ny

Leaving Mamaroneck in our wake

Michael had once again called ahead and teed things up for us. The yard was primarily closed but we pulled up to the fuel dock and Tom talked to Paul, the general manager, who was very helpful, including giving some history of the Brewer Post Road Yard, the marina that started the whole Brewer’s empire. Paul said he’d be in in the morning – Christmas Eve – and would fill our fuel tank then.

We walked up into the village to find dinner, meandered up and down trying to decide which of the many restaurants to eat at. There were Chinese, Italian, Sushi and Indian, but what we really wanted was Thai. There was a to die for Italian deli, Pisano’s. I wanted to shop there and stock up on crusty Italian bread, pasta, wine and all the beautiful things Italian chefs put in jars to make your mouth water, but had to restrain myself as there was no more room to store food aboard Sunshine.

We finally opted for pizza at Sal’s Pizza. Slices of white with spinach, cheese, peperoni, chicken veggie, and I took a chance on one Jamaican beef patty. It was like a pastie, but with a flakier crust that had spices in it. Really good. Addictive in fact. I would like to sail back right now and get another one. Maybe they make them with ganja. Definitely a gateway gnosh.

Read about the Christmas Eve leg of the journey – Mamaroneck to Jersey City


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