Friday, September 13-Thursday, September 19th, 2013

My older son suggested I share details of daily life aboard DOVKA.  Below is a log of our trip home from the 13-19th of September: 

1330 The grey skies and rain are slowly being pushed out by sun and patches of blue. We are motoring out of Mattapoisett Harbor after taking on fuel, water and  ice.  Dovka is ship shape: no garbage, full tanks, clean galley and head, and everything properly stored for rolly seas. Two days before, we had a lovely sail out of Scituate, down the coast of Massachusetts to the Cape Cod Canal, timed it just right and whizzed through.

 Then we spent two hours going 5 miles into 25 knot winds blowing all the way up Buzzards Bay with a very strong current against the wind coming out of the Canal, causing a huge, uncomfortable chop. We were very happy to enter snug Marion Harbor.  

 We spent two nights on a friend’s mooring in Marion, waiting out unfavorable weather. We were not sure their mooring was free, but knew there was also a CCA guest mooring in the harbor that we could use.  As we picked up our friend’s pennant, we noticed that the CCA mooring was right next door and was already occupied, so we were glad our friend’s was available in this lovely, but very crowded harbor.

 Shortly, we heard a dinghy engine and a knock on the hull. “You must be Rebecca.” Surprised look from me…”I looked you up in the CCA Members’ Handbook.” Lovely couple just finishing a 14 year circumnavigation. So, we had company for our spaghetti dinner.  And a lovely evening: once again, highlighting the ease with which one connects with people and more often than not, good and interesting people, in this cruising lifestyle.

 The lore is never start a voyage on a Friday, but Sid says we started last Sunday and this is a continuation. I can buy that, but not quite sure of Friday the 13th AND that tonight is Kol Nidre, the start of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur. I shall play a CD of the haunting and powerful Kol Nidre chant tonight, but our prayers of repentance shall be meditations while standing watch as we sail into the Atlantic from Buzzards Bay towards Cape May. This is the first time I can remember not attending services for the holidays. Right now as we head down Buzzards Bay, we revel in the dry sunshine and await the arrival of the northwesterly winds.

 1800 The late low afternoon sun is shining, but the winds are still southwest and on the nose. We are out of Buzzards Bay, leaving Rhode Island Sound, pounding into the open sea. We fell off 40 degrees and put out some jib. It has helped our speed, but we are still hobby horsing along. All weather forecasts still calling for northwest winds.  We await them.

 2045 The wind has very slowly come around and we are finally sailing with 15 to 18 knots just forward of the starboard beam!. Dovka is rolling along respectably.  We had a nice dinner in the cockpit. Afterwards, we listened to the I-Pod as Jacqueline Dupres played the Kol Nidre with piano accompaniment. It was very moving as we sat in the cockpit across from each other, each of us immersed in his/her own thoughts, as we listened to this magnificent rendition of the ancient prayer melody.

 I am on watch until midnight. I feel a bit selfish, because I get the moon.  We are southeast of Block Island, the lights of which I can just see 45 degrees to starboard on the horizon. Otherwise, we are alone right now. As I sit under the dodger, the wind that reflects is surprisingly warm and gentle. The whoosh of the water on the hull as we push through is soft and deep, a comforting sound.

 2215 The business of a night watch is to keep an eye on everything on the boat, to make sure everything is in order, and to keep an eye out on everything on the sea, specifically, for ships. The advent of the automated information system, AIS, on all commercial and many private vessels (for some reason, not fishing or ferry boats) is a godsend.

  Previously, one watched, took bearings continuously, tried to make out the running lights (often very difficult among all the extraneous lights aboard, especially on cruise ships) to determine the direction etc. Now, the AIS display tells all: distance, bearing, speed over the ground, course over ground, closest point of approach, time at CPA, and takes a lot of the worry out.

 But I just watched a large ship for about a half hour, not fully secure that the info I was getting meshed with my eyeballs. Fortunately, I was just over cautious and the AIS was right!   The closest point of approach was 4 miles, but at night that actually seems very close. Now I have something 7.7 miles on my bow. At 4 knots, it may be a sailboat, or a tug and barge. It shall be revealed.

 2330 We are 12 miles south of Block Is and 15 mikes southeast of Montauk Point on the southern tip of Long Island. Two fishing boats have kept me busy trying to figure out where they were going. They use phenomenally bright lights for fishing, which make it impossible to see any red or green running lights and they change course continuously. They do usually go slowly, at least.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ah well, perhaps we should not have left on a Friday. A few minutes after I wrote the above, one of the fishing boats changed course. In an attempt to get away from him, I started the engine and fell way off the wind, but the engine died. Sid came up to help. We stayed off the wind, called the fishing boat and asked if we were a problem for him. He said “no” and then graciously changed course away from us.

Sid checked out the engine and is quite concerned. Enough so, that we have turned around and are heading for Montauk, about 25 miles away, rather than continue to Cape May. We are harder on the wind and it is even bouncier, but manageable, so far. We will give up hard earned miles…but it seems the wisest thing to do.

We are on a mooring in Block island, relaxing so we can go to sleep. It was a busy night. We beat our way back towards Montauk from 0300. I was very happy to see dawn and clear, sunny skies. At about 7:30, we called the Coast Guard for information on TowBoatUS. We were concerned that there was little likelihood of diesel service for our engine in Montauk and spent a lot of time studying the charts to weigh our options. After all, we are a sailboat and we were sailing just fine. Sid ‘s concern was that we needed a tow into whatever harbor we finally reached because of narrow entrances and strong currents, but the question was “where to?”

We decided to try the cut between Montauk and Block, even though we were arriving at the height of a strong adverse current, sailing close hauled on jib alone. Then we could go west to Long Island Sound or east to Point Judith in Rhode Island, north of Block. Dovka pointed well and sailed nicely thru the cut. Somewhere along the way, Sid spent some more time with the engine and very hopefully came to the conclusion that he may have been over reacting with his concern that there was something really wrong. His fear that if we ran the engine and it actually kept running, we might do irreparable harm, was slightly allayed. In the light of day, with slightly lesser seas, the engine looked fine! We now think the problem is dirty fuel that stirs up the crud on the bottom of the diesel tank when we get bounced around.

We came through the passage between Montauk Point and Block Island easily and sailed up to the entrance to Great Salt Pond on Block Island, turned on the engine and successfully motored to a town mooring. It is a beautiful day. We will spend it napping. Looks like we resume our voyage early tomorrow morn.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

We left Block at 0600, motoring into light winds from the WNW. We are about 1.5 miles off Long Island, motoring west sightseeing the Hamptons. We are close enough to see a few folks on the beautiful beaches and get a good look, though the binoculars, at some of the huge summer “cottages.”. We just had a lovely french toast breakfast with all the trimmings: maple syrup, applesauce, cinnamon and sugar. And now suddenly a little wind has come up as well. So, life is on an even keel again, although we are heeled 18 degrees to port right now.

My watch again with the same hobby horsing as the other night, only this time the wind is on the nose, exactly the direction we want to go. We lost our weather window…so we are motorsailing on a pleasant night, heading much further west than our course, to get some speed, but still pounding through the seas, which have built as the wind has picked up to 20 knots apparent.

Our hope is the forecast will be accurate and it will lessen after midnight. This is getting old. Or I am. But the engine seems fine, for now. We had a nice Thai peanut noodle dinner and blue cheese salad and it is not cold ( must be the southwest wind), so I cannot complain. And the New York shipping lanes should keep me alert.

I just killed a rattle. Stuffed a piece of paper in the glass right inside the companionway where we keep a boat knife at the ready, as well as nail file, and chapstick, also urgent emergency accessories. I am pleased that my stowage system is in good order and there are no extraneous rattles and bangs as we bounce along. On a boat it really is true: “There must be a place for everything and everything must be in its place.” That and good handholds make life on a moving boat much nicer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

So, we are now on a mooring overlooking the New York skyline from the Atlantic Highlands, Sandy Hook, New Jersey: a wonderful harbor of refuge. When I came on deck for my 3-6 am watch, Sid said we were now heading west for Sandy Hook, rather than continuing to beat our way southwest to Cape May, into 27 knot winds and big seas. I concurred it was a great idea! We were rewarded for this diversion, by a wonderful sight. As we came into the NY channel just after dawn, we passed a large freighter going out. Sid said he had just seen a strange thing: like an underwater explosion between us and the ship. Then he realized it was a whale blowing and we watched him breach, tail slap and blow for several minutes.

We arrived about 11 am in dreary rain, but the sun came out in the afternoon and dried up all our wet gear. We slept, showered in the marina, had a nice dinner and will have a good night’s sleep and be ready to try again tomorrow.

Tuesday and Wednesday, September 17, 18th 2013

Tuesday Morning

We had a good night’s sleep. The front came in with strong northwesterlies during the night. They are calming now and we hope to take off shortly before noon.

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Dovka is rolling down the Atlantic coast of New Jersey. The elusive Cape May, our destination last Sunday, is only 15 miles on our rhumb line. I still have the almost full moon shining a path for us. We have had the jib in and out numerous times, but the engine has always been on and right now we have no wind at all. The very lumpy seas of this afternoon have laid down and most rolls are gentle now. We had another sailboat just behind us, but we think he ducked into Atlantic City.

The coast of NJ is flat and farther north, mostly barrier islands with beautiful beaches and few lights. Then suddenly, in the distance, Atlantic City rises out of the dark sea. It looks like an imaginary, Disney cartoon movie of old, of a magical kingdom, seen from afar. It glows with colored lights and I notice one large building has moving lights. With the binoculars I can read, from 7 miles away: ” Four Ways to Win!” And then “PLAY.” Now the magic kingdom is behind me and its brightly colored lights are fading as the light of dawn arrives.

We passed Cape May early morning and kept on going up the Delaware Bay. A catamaran , Tiger Lily, fighting the same current as we are plowimg up the Delaware Bay, on a beautiful, dry sunny windless day, just called on the radio to commiserate. Brit chap, delivery crew. The full moon causes the adverse current to be at its strongest, but we will arrive at the C and D Canal in time for a favorable current. We, both, are tired, after three overnights in 5 days. Short overnight passages are much more fatiguing than a long passage, where we get into a pattern and our bodies adjust to the short sleep cycles.

Our course is just along the edge of the ship channel. There is a steady stream of freighters, tugs and barges, tankers, north and south. I don’t mind passing them close by in this controlled daylight situation. Doing so at night is a different matter. Even a half mile seems too close in the dark.

Thursday, September 18, 2013

Last night, just before midnight, we anchored in a little anchorage basin about 3 miles short of the western end of the canal and fell into bed, after a good, uneventful 35 hour run from New York Harbor. The only real ‘event’ was that Sid changed the propane solenoid, which failed, kindly, just after I had heated lunch. He did his usual problem solving and found the switch in the galley was fine, so he had to go to the anchor well at the bow, where the propane tank is installed, and work, very carefully, in very rolly, but not wet, seas. But, as usual, he was able to fix it! I had already figured how we might make do with meals and no fire for the next two days: not a bad drill, anyway. I did bake a cake to celebrate though.

And now we are on our last leg home, rolling down the broad, beautiful tree lined expanse of the upper Chesapeake Bay. I have cleaned the head and galley and started to organize what will come off the boat with us tonight. I have rationed well and we have few perishables left. We just had milk and chocolate cake as a mid morn snack. Need to finish both…

DOVKA slid into her slip on Crab Creek in the South River at 1600 Thursday evening. Our friend Dave was waiting on the dock to take our lines. Within a half hour we were in our kind friend’s car heading back to Falls Church and our land home. We are tired, but pleased with another successful sailing summer.

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