Sunday, October 26, 2008

Plymouth MA to New York City - The Big Apple - or how we avoided becoming Apple Sauce



I have been accused of not knowing what I was doing once or twice in my life. I have been accused of not knowing where I was going a few times and I have even been accused of not knowing what was going on around me. At various times the accusations may have had a smidgen of verity, but for the most part I have managed to shrug everything off as the ramblings of lesser mortals. This past weekend however I had to openly admit that I had no idea where I was, That I had only a slight notion of what I was doing, and I could only pray that I was going to be forgiven my trespasses during the latest installment of the Mother Nature’s lessons on life. Indeed this week has been a week of contrasts. Just when there was enough bad stuff happening to encourage a prolonged session of thumb sucking curled up in a fetal position, great things would happen that would cause us to stand tall and go just a little further.

At the beginning of this week we were pinned in Plymouth MA waiting for a Nor’easter to blow itself out. The weather was as cold and as miserable as we have seen to date, and Pat and I were not motivated to leave the boat, except for a quick dash out to see the fabled rock. In fact even leaving the boat was somewhat hazardous as we were out at the end of the dock system and the wind driven waves were washing over. Threepenny Opera was caked in salt spray from the 30 knot winds that blew whitecaps through the very shallow Plymouth Harbor. It wasn’t a huge hardship, but our Espar heater ran nearly full time. We were warm and snug but frustrated that we were stuck.

While the old wives tales promised good weather immediately after a Nor’easter, there was no stipulation as to how long the period of good weather would last. Mother Nature must have been a lawyer! As we were preparing to leave Plymouth on Tueday AM, the revised forecast was for another cold front to sweep through, bringing heavy rain and high winds. Since we had already experienced a little taste of down east weather, we revised our plans to clear the canal and hang an immediate right into a place called Onset Bay. It is hard to imagine a town that closes at the end of the season, but Onset Bay made Summerside PEI seem positively effervescent by comparison.

It occurred to me the other day that Pat and I have been playing a game of cosmic Frogger. Like the little animated amphibian of video game fame, we have been metaphorically negotiating a watery highway that is fraught with hazards, while similarly packed with hidden prizes. In the game of Frogger, timing is everything. There is a rhythm to the game that once mastered will advance a player by several levels. A mistake however will leave a little stain on the road and the life count goes down by one. Since we had become pretty good at timing the cold fronts, Pat and I were waiting for the appropriate gap in traffic to make a run down the length of Long Island Sound for the prize of The Big Apple. It was a shame that we ended up bypassing great sailing destinations like Newport and Mystic Seaport. Actually we stopped in Mystic for the night, but since mother nature had given us a 2 day pass, we did not want to insult her kindness by dallying and playing tourist.

By Friday night we were in Norwalk CT and well within striking distance of NYC. Perhaps it was due to the tantalizing closeness of it all, perhaps it was the frost on the boat or maybe we were just fixated on a single point oblivious of the hazards around it? Like an ill timed frogger jump across the highway, Pat and I dismissed the Gale Warnings that were effective on Saturday PM for the New York and Western Long Island Sound forecast area. I can rationalize our actions by observing that up until now the forecasts had been very precise and that the forecast conditions of 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 after 12:00 noon were becoming fairly routine conditions for “experienced” cruisers like Pat and me! But rationalization is the lament of fools.

Since the forecast was for the weather to worsen in the afternoon, we cast off from Norwalk shortly after sunrise, expecting that a 3 hour trip to City Island in the Bronx would be fairly uneventful. And uneventful it was for the first 2.5 hours of our 3 hour tour! In fact I would go so far as to say that for 2.5 hours it was totally blissful! The seas were flat, the winds were as forecast in the mid teens and coming from our port quarter. We were slicing through the water at nearly 9 knots, absolutely convinced that we were both Master and Commander!

Little did we know that the first 2.5 hours were the climb up to the apex of the roller coaster. When things started to go down hill, they went down hill very quickly! First the wind increased to 20-25 with gusts to 30. Secondly it started to rain, virtually obliterating any forward vision. Then I discovered that despite the latest in electronics I found myself on the wrong side of a mark and of course the furler would pick this exact moment to get sticky and require a winch to bring in the head sail. At times like this you really want to press the reset button and start over, but unfortunately real life ain’t like that. In the end we did not go aground, we did get the sail put away and somehow I managed to put the boat into a slip despite a +20 knot cross wind and driving rain.

When the boat was secured into the slip, Pat and I thought we had been through the worst of it. Little did we know that when Mother Nature teaches a lesson in humility, she wants to make sure her points get across. As the day wore on, the local weather channels started to hint that the convergence of cold fronts in the NYC area was going to create an intense weather phenomenon. Translated it meant that the winds were going to exceed 40 knots, the local airports were going to suspend flight operations for a time, and that thunderstorms would bring flooding and power outages. For Pat and me it meant being banged around at the dock in a way that was positively scary. At the peak of the storm the wind was 47 knots, which was 7 knots more than we saw during Hurricane Kyle.

The boat was leaping and surging in the wind driven tide to the point that we needed to wedge ourselves against the table to remain sitting in an upright position. When I looked outside I could see the rudder of the neighboring boat as it surged out of the water. At about 7:10 in the evening, after we had been hanging on for dear life for the past couple hours, a blinding flash of light followed by what I thought was a carbon arc spotlight illuminated our boat. The source of the light it turned out was a 60Kva transformer melting before our eyes, and about 10 feet from our boat.

Suffice it to say that we are now duly humbled and will repeat 100 times that we will be more conservative in our weather decisions in future. Mother Nature you got your point across!!

The trip through Hell Gate and the East River on Sunday was almost anti-climatic, although it was hard to be nonchalant about sailing past Manhattan under gloriously clear skies and relatively calm waters. We are now in Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club, which is in Weehawken NJ, directly across from the Empire State Building. It is only a 15 minute ferry ride from Manhattan, and we can catch it from the pier just at the end of the Yacht Club. Today we were wandering outside in our shirt sleeves for the first time in weeks. We are in a world class city, and we have a world class view. It doesn’t get much better than this. Our plans are to hole up here for a few days, and let our mail catch up with us. Towards the end of the week we will be off towards the New Jersey Shore …. If Mother Nature thinks it is a good idea.

Have a great week. I will think of you when I chomp down on a Carnegie Deli Super Corned Beef Sandwich!!

Addison

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Addison

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is Pat posing for the Winter cover of Lattitudes and Attitudes?


-Vince

Bruce and Esther said...

wow, never a dull moment on the high seas! No one can accuse you two of moving too slowly, I can't believe the progress you have made. You will be in Florida before we are! We are leaving November 3rd and hope to have the boat in the water on the 6th. We will stay in Marathon until after New Years. Hope to see you there!

JP said...

Hi Addison,

I hope you enjoy your time in NYC - I lived there fore a few years, and then spend the best part of the 1990's in Fairfield CT - (just north or Norwalk.) Sorry to say you missed Mystic - it's one of my favorite places – http://library.mysticseaport.org/

If you are still in Norwalk - be sure to check out the Norwalk Aquarium. . It’s not your normal aquarium full of tropicals –it’s smaller but has sections set aside for cold water and local exhibits. Lots of history of the sound there. When I lived in CT – my local dive club we used to capture specimens from the sound for the museum. I used to dive for lobster all the time in the sound and spent a lot of time on those waters. I did not sail much but did jump a ride a few times on one of thse Jboats scooting around out there.

The city marina in Fairfield is great, but had a long waiting list to get a seasonal slip as the city marina is for residents only and really great value. I think the waiting list was 4-5years. As irony, the same month I moved away from Fairfield (fall 2000) I received my notice from the city I had a slip. A slip in CT was not going to do me much good living in Ohio.

Good luck on that Nor’easter – they can really mess things up.

What a great Blog so far – I’m a dedicated reader!!

-jp

Pat & Addison said...

Hey Bruce and Esther. We will be taking off this week for the Jersey Shore. I can't wait until I get to the Chesapeake. At least we will have some protection from the strings of NE gales that are kicking our butts on a regular basis.

Save us a spot in Marathon!
Addison

Pat & Addison said...

Hi JP

Good to hear from you. Yeah Pat and I have to get back to the CT shore for some additional exploring. SONO in Norwalk was great and in hindsight we should have stayed put in the Norwalk Covew Marina..... see what impatience doeS! I still have to work on the Type A part of my personality....

Odette said...

Bonjour Pat and Addison!
What an adventure! You guys are real troopers. Not sure I would still be onboard (this is Odette speaking), I would have been tempted to take off with the dinghy at the sight of LGA, "get me on the next flight out"!!! Enjoying your blog immensely! Stay safe (and warm). Happy sails!


Richard and Odette (PCYC en Acadie)

Pat & Addison said...

Hi Odette
Thanks for your support. Even if we jumped on an airplane at LGA, sooner or later we have to come home to Threepenny Opera. This week was much warmer and calmer!
Please give our best to the gang at PCYC en Acadie

Addison

matthew houskeeper said...

Wow! What a story. Thank God you arrived safely. Best of luck. I really enjoy your blog.