Chesapeake Bay (Norfolk, VA) through New York City - 6/15 through 7/6/03:
After nearly a month at home visiting the Great Grandmas, with "Souvenir" safe in wet storage at Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake, VA (a suburb of Norfolk), we were ready to get back to boating. This was expected to be an entirely different kind of experience. First the cruising environment is very different from the Gulf Coast and East Coast (southern & mid-Atlantic). We would now be heading up the Chesapeake Bay, across the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and down the Delaware Bay, then up the Jersey Shore to New York City; then up the Hudson River and across the Upper New York Canal System to the Great Lakes. We also had our son to visit in New York, and lots of friends along the way. And finally, our crew would be expanded to include our 11 (almost 12) year old twin grandkids, Paige & Blake, who had just finished their 5th grade school year.
So the five of us (including Billie Jo, our "purty dawg" Golden Retriever) packed into the one-way rental van for the two-day road trip to Washington, DC. We wanted to do some once-in-a-lifetime sight-seeing in our Nation's Capitol with the twins; and we did it up right! It was very hot and humid, and we had no choice but to leave Billie Jo in kennel in a Virginia suburb. I had made arrangements through the office of our new Senator from Minnesota for a "staff-led tour" of the capitol building, followed by an appointment for an "audience" with Norm-himself (Coleman, former St. Paul Mayor and friend from my last ten years at 3M as Director of Community Affairs). It was a thrill, and Norm was at his usual personable best, making us feel very special. The rest of our two-day visit (6/11 & 12), we did all the memorials and monuments (even Nana got to go up the Washington Monument thanks to a new, modern elevator and a kind Park Service employee who let us go without preplanned tickets - who knew?), and the Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian.
Click on More Photos and scroll down to more pictures of our Washington, DC visit....
One evening, we were invited for a long-promised, home-made, world-class, crab cake dinner in the home of a retired 3M friend, Harvey Ernest and his wife Pam; and our twins had a ball with their newly adopted son. And finally, as we departed the DC-area, we stopped for dinner with a Delaware high school pal of Diane's, Sally Ann Davis and her husband, Ed. Another wonderful visit! And then we were back at the boat, planning our exciting trip up the Chesapeake Bay. It was good to be back to the serenity of "Souvenir," after an arduous road-trip and sightseeing adventure. Only one week after they finished school, Paige & Blake felt like they had started their summer vacation Big Time! On 6/14, we moved "Souvenir" from the wet storage area back to the transient dock, and made final preparations. It was HOT, and the twins cooled down with a "dip" in the canal behind the boat. We were READY!
Day 1, 6-15-03: At last, we are departing Atlantic Yacht Basin (mile marker 12 on the ICW)! And we have a slip reservation ALL the way up at the Waterside Marina in downtown Norfolk (mile marker Zero!). It's a gray, overcast day, and we time our departure for the 1:00 pm opening of the Great Bridge Lock & Bridge. Six sailboats and a trawler have been waiting in line for the lock, and we're about to learn that our 12 mile trip is going to seem a lot longer than expected. While in the lock, it starts to rain, and as we depart about 30 minutes later, it's a pretty heavy down-pour with visibility limited to about a half mile. As we ease out of the lock, we make it past all the other boats. And though the canal is lined with homes, we find we can push our speed up to about 9 knots without having our wake cause problems. We soon find that we are faced with several lift bridges, and quickly learn that each bridge tender wants to wait for ALL the sailboats and trawler to arrive before opening. And for some reason, the last sail boat is not moving at anywhere near 9 knots. So, in fact, our 12 mile trip does take a LONG two hours. We finally have Waterside Marina in sight, and radio for approach and docking instructions. With minor traffic congestion in the marina, we wind through the boats, hold for a departing vessel, then ease up to the tie-along assigned. Though the rain has diminished, it's still a very dreary, damp day. But we have plenty of time to check out the local sights.
After getting oriented, we decide that the twins and I will spend the major part of the next day, touring the Nauticus marine museum, and the US Navy battleship, USS Wisconsin, permanently docked on display next to the museum. It is a very interesting experience, and both kids enjoyed calling their mother from onboard USS "Wisky" with it's 4 acres of teak decking! Unfortunately, it's another gray day, and a very "gray boat," that doesn't photograph very well for our website. But, as we always say, "It's a record!.' Meanwhile, Nana does some shopping in downtown Norfolk, and after several hours at the museum, Blake and I find an excellent Chart store nearby, to fill the gaps in my inventory as we move up the east coast.
Day 2, 6-17-03: The forecast was for light rain and E winds at 10-15 knots with 3' seas on the Chesapeake Bay. So we decided it was to time to get our Chesapeake cruise underway. As we eased through the ship channels of the Norfolk area, past four aircraft carriers and dozens for "mothballed" Navy ships, we gradually became exposed to the east wind in the entrance channel. We crossed the Hampton Roads/Norfolk interstate highway tunnel we had come through from DC, and headed out toward the major marker at Thimble Shoal. There my plotted waypoints up the Chesapeake turned north toward Crisfield on the eastern shore of Maryland about 90 miles away. The wind was, in fact, straight out of the east as expected (we could see the long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on the horizon, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond), but it definitely was more than 15 knots! And waves were easily 3-5' (with what I believe was conservatively an occasional six footer!). Our new crew (especially Paige) was not enjoying their first ride on "big water."
As we passed Thimble Shoal, it was obvious we couldn't turn north with this beam sea. But to get to Crisfield, we didn't have to go straight north all day. So I tried to see how close to north I could go. As we bounced up and down for a few minutes at about 8 knots, I watched our "bread crumb" track on the GPS-plotter. It wasn't very straight; and it sure wasn't very north! About the best I could sustain as a track was ENE. Not good enough to reach Crisfield this day....maybe the Ocean! No thank you! So I decided to abort (with the enthusiastic support of the entire crew), and picked a couple 3 footers to make a quick U-turn. Yielding the helm to the First Mate, and slowing to a reasonably comfortable speed with a following sea, I scanned the cruising guide and charts for a safe haven. It looked like Bluewater Yacht Club in Hampton Roads, just to the right, inside the channel break-water, could be the best bet. A cell phone call brought good news! They could take us for the night, so we headed back to calmer waters. Our northbound cruise would have to wait another day. Bluewater turned out to be an excellent stop, and the restaurant at the marina set the standard for the best crab cakes (according to our Aficionado Nana) in the whole Bay area!
Day 3, 6-18-03: It's a gorgeous day!! The dreary weather has finally past, and we're good to go! It's hazy with a sunny glare, high thin clouds, wind light & variable, seas calm, water and air temperature 77 degrees! We depart Hampton Roads before 9 am, meet US Navy "Warship 51" at the channel entrance, turn north past Thimble Shoal, and set the auto-pilot for good cruising! We're abeam Cape Charles in an hour, past the Rappahannock Shoal Channel the second hour, and cruise past the southern tip of Tangier Island toward the MD Eastern Shore the third hour. Shortly after 1 pm, we're turning into the Little Annemessex River, and by 1:30 we're entering the harbor of the self-proclaimed Crab Capital of the World, Crisfield, MD, to dock on an end-T at Somer's Cove Marina.
With plenty of afternoon left, we dropped the dinghy and took Nana, Billie Jo, and Blake for a tour of the harbor. On the way in the entrance channel, we thought we spotted a narrow beach out past the G1 marker. So we took Nana back to "Souvenir" and talked Paige into going with us to explore the beach. It was a nice ride, but not much of a beach. Just enough for Billie Jo to get nice romp, and for the bugs to find Paige! Back at the marina, while I filled the dinghy's gas tank, the twins got acquainted with a boy named Jack from a nearby boat from Annapolis. Jack took them "crabbing" in the marina. It was a large marina....probably 300 boats....and a long walk around it. After the twins had been gone "too long," I set out to find them, with no luck. By the time I got back, Jack's father and a couple other kids showed up at their boat. He scanned the harbor with his binoculars and spotted Jack, our twins, and a couple other kids way over on the opposite side. Yelling and arm-waving did no good, so Jack sent his two younger kids on their scooters around the marina to retrieve them. Nana headed for main street and the recommended Side Street Restaurant while I waited. Finally the kids returned with a bucket full of crabs, which I convinced them to release back into the wild. Then we headed for the restaurant to meet Nana for dinner.
Blake wanted to try real steamed crabs, and the women servers were very accommodating. They had an all-you-could-eat special, but suggested he start with just two. They demonstrated how to break and pick one, which he enjoyed eating. But when it came time for him to break and pick the second one, he seemed very forgetful, or reluctant. It turns out, after spending a couple hours catching live crabs in the marina, he just couldn't bring himself to break the legs off the steamer. So with a little help from Papa, he finished the second crab; but had no interest in ordering more. But it was "good eatin'" at the Side Street, and soon we were ready to call our first day cruising the Chesapeake a big success.
Day 4, 6-19-03: So much for gorgeous weather. It was rainy, with one mile visibility, but calm, about 10 am when we headed back out the entrance channel from Crisfield. As we approached Tangier Island, our planned route turned north, then west through Kedges Straits between two islands, out into the main Chesapeake Bay ship channel. The depth charts and markers through the Straits looked a little "tricky" (as the locals say). So with limited visibility and some boat traffic, we took it easy till we cleared the Straits with no problems. It wasn't a big challenge, but our radar and GPS certainly gave us some comfort. Without them, it could have been a little "testy."
We rounded Holland Bar Horn, and set the auto-pilot to cruise up the main channel as the rain diminished. By noon the skies were clearing, and by 2 pm we turned up the Choptank River toward Oxford, MD, and it was sunny and warm again. Through the long approach to Mear's Yacht Haven at Oxford, we had to slow for a disabled boat that was hooking up to a tow boat, then passed through the middle of a whole "flock" of mini-sailors (kids in about 20 tiny sailboats, scurrying around the channel like a bunch of mosquitoes hovering around an instructor boat. By 3 pm, we were docked at Mear's Haven in a very pretty little harbor.
With the twins on board, two items were now high on our priority list for marina slip reservations: a pool, and cable TV (unfortunately our dish went berserk, totally non-functional -- what a pain!). Mear's Haven had both, so it was a great stop. With the hot sun and humidity returning, a dip in the pool was a very welcome treat, even though the water was about the same temperature as Lake Superior!). And this was the much-anticipated stop where we could visit with another high school pal of Diane's, Judy Holland and her 95 year old mother, Bea. They drove about an hour to have dinner with us at Schooner's Landing, across the harbor from our boat. It was a wonderful reunion. Judy is the younger sister of Peggy (Diane's Maid of Honor at our wedding 37 years ago, and whom we would visit later up in Buffalo), and we hadn't seen them for over 30 years! Our twins really hit it off with Bea, and we all had a great evening. After Judy and Bea left, Paige and I took Billie Jo for a nice walk along the shore past the well-known Robert Morris Inn and Tred Avon Yacht Club. Another 3M friend, Mike Edgell in Washington, DC, (whom we were unable to connect with -- he isn't retired yet, and had some of those unreasonable "job conflicts!") is a veteran sailor on the Chesapeake Bay, and plans to build a retirement home in Oxford. I could see why it was the place of his dream, and the Yacht Club looked like a great fit for Mike!
Day 5, 6-20-03: Back to the dreary weather again; cloudy, hazy, winds NE at 10 knots, 1' seas. About 8 am we moved to the fuel dock for a fill, departed Oxford, and were out of the Choptank River before 10. By 11, we were cruising up the main Bay channel, and the Chesapeake Bay bridge (connecting Washington/Annapolis with the eastern shore (Delmarva Peninsula) was in sight. Many times over the years since the mid-60s, we had driven over these (twin) bridges. Before my 3M years, I was in the USAF stationed at Dover AFB (where I found my bride). So this has been the route to visit home in the Midwest, or vice versa, the relatives and friends in Delaware for 40 years. During those early years, we actually "watched" the building of the second span, as we passed back and forth over the original. So it was truly an awesome sight to be passing under those bridges in our own boat. I did get a great photo, but unfortunately, the gray day had darkened with increasing rain and wind, so it probably won't show up very well on the website.
Soon after passing the twin bridges, the rain and wind began to be more than a "photo-problem" The waves out of the NE were beginning to reach 3'+, and the rain was reducing visibility below 1/2 mile and blotting out the radar. The good news was, we were approaching the mouth of the Patapsco River headed for the Baltimore Inner Harbor, so we anticipated more protected waters. However, we were turning NW, so the beam sea was a little rocky before it began to calm. More importantly, the heavy rain continued as we headed up the river channel, reducing visibility below 1/4 mile for a sustained period. With the radar useless, we slowed to a crawl (5 knots max!), which made it a LONG 10 miles to the big bridges approaching Baltimore. Fortunately there was very little boat traffic (we wouldn't have been there either, if we'd had a choice!). Finally, as we approached the Inner Harbor, the rain diminished and visibility improved. But it was 2 pm by the time we had Harborview Marina in sight, and radioed (is that a word?) for docking instructions. Unfortunately, several attempts got no response, and the cell phone worked, but directions were hesitant, and very confusing. I thought I was being directed through the north entrance to the marina, but once we got inside, it appeared I was heading for a very tight space for a smaller boat. By the time I backed out with a cross-wind, and connected with someone on the radio, I spotted two dock-hands in yellow rain gear pointing to the tie-along on the outside wall....Hallelujah!
A cold front had obviously gone through, as evidenced by the drop in temperature. And it was still raining enough for our docking crew to get wet and cold. While tying up, we got our first close-up look at the water in the Inner Harbor. It was disgusting with debris; covered with trash and actual garbage! Diane said the only thing she didn't see floating, was a body. The next thing we learned was the distance from our docking space to the office/facilities........a LONG walk. Then we learned the pool and fitness center was actually in a residential building a block away. Diane totally struck out with the rental car! And the marina office staff had an "attitude." The clincher was the water intakes for the air-conditioners/heaters clogged. So we concluded our introduction to Baltimore's renowned Inner Harbor was not living up to our vision. Another quick search of the Cruising Guide located an alternative marina back at the mouth of the Patapsco River, Pleasure Cove Marina in Pasadena, MD. A phone call caught the Dockmaster who claimed their harbor water was calm and clear of debris, and they could accommodate us for the weekend. Plus he arranged to stay after hours till we got there, and to give Diane a ride to get a rental car. So I hiked ALL THE WAY back to the Harborview Office in the rain, and explained our decision. I did get a full credit, but not without calling in the manager.....and the "attitudes" were in full force; it was like we were the first people to ever complain, and we should feel lucky to be there!
So we cut out in record time, and hauled 10 miles back down the Patapsco River, and 3 miles up a pretty little "no wake" tributary, the Main Creek, to lovely Pleasure Cove Marina....with a pool! And it turned out to have Cummins certified service, so it was perfect for an oil change before we left. It was about 6 pm. What a day! But we were set for a weekend in Baltimore, and our son and his room-mate were planning to join us from New York City by train. Things were looking up! We did enjoy our time at the Inner Harbor, but it was MUCH better by car than by boat! (...a funny thing to say about a harbor!). We wound up for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, where Paige enhanced her nickname, Hoover!
Click on More Photos and scroll down to a couple more pictures in the Baltimore Inner Harbor.
Day 6, 6-23-03: The gorgeous weather is back! The wind is expected to be light and variable, the Bay calm, and mostly sunny with a high of 75 degrees. And we have a modest cruising objective for the day; only 52 miles to the middle of the C&D (Chesapeake & Delaware) Canal. So we do take time for the needed oil change and battery check. Then after a stop at the fuel dock for another necessity (a pump-out), we depart Pleasure Cove a little before 1 pm. We're abeam Poole's Island by 2:00, past Shad Battery Shoal at 2:30, arriving at Sandy Point an hour later. This is the confluence of several marked channels at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, and the reds & greens get a little confusing. And it isn't helped any by a difference between the marker numbers showing on my chart-plotter compared the paper chart for the same channel?!?!? But there is adequate deep water, and depth soundings around islands and shoals that appeared accurate. So we made our way into the Elk River which leads to the west end of the C&D Canal. It was very nice cruising on a beautiful day. In fact the river reminded us somewhat of our beloved St. Croix River back home (with lower wooded bluffs/hills); quite a surprise I'd never heard about. The canal itself was easy-going, with virtually no boat or ship traffic, and we soon approached our destination, Summit North Marina in Bear, Delaware (never heard of it either!).
It was a big marina; probably 300 boats. And we were stuck on an end-T, WAY out by the entrance; an even longer walk than the one in Baltimore. They had a nice pool, but it was up a zig-zag walk-way at the top of the "little" hill. The twins enjoyed a nice swim, and we connected with our long-time friends from my Air Force days, Jim & Charlotte Dugar. They had about an hour's drive to meet us, and it was great seeing them again after several decades! We were disappointed to find that the restaurant at the marina was closed that day. But Jim more than made up for it when he announced he was going to take us to Grotto Pizza in Middletown, Delaware, just a 15 minute drive away. WHAT A TREAT!! We had all been "raised on" (so-to-speak) Grotto Pizza down at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where we all met back in the late 60s. And there's something about Grotto Pizza. It's just better than any other pizza! Talk about Memory Lane! It was a grand reunion.
Day 7, 6-24-03: A sunny, calm, STEAMBATH (95+ degrees & % RH!!). ACs cranking!! Time to head down Delaware Bay. We departed Summit North Marina a little after 10 am. By 11The C&D (Chesapeake & Delaware) Canal took under the "new" bridge and the old St. George's bridge. It was a much anticipated passing, as we had crossed over the old bridge many times over the years; in Diane's case, all her life. Then we were out of the east end of the Canal, southbound. With the familiar shoreline of Delaware on our right, we followed the Road Atlas, as we reminisced about the little towns, bars & restaurants, and of course, Dover AFB and Rehoboth Beach. A couple of years before, when visiting Delaware by auto, we had finally taken the Cape May/Lewes Ferry across the mouth of Delaware Bay. But now we were doing it our own boat, a very special perspective.
A little after 1 pm, we made the turn east at Brandywine Shoal toward the Cape May Canal which cuts through the very southern tip of New Jersey. As we entered the west end of the canal, we passed by the Ferry Landing. Just before reaching the Atlantic Ocean side, there is Cape May Harbor which is home to several marinas. Our reservation at the Canyon Club Resort & Marina turned out to be one of the highlight facilities of our trip up the east coast. They had a great swimming pool, and we rented a car to provide easy access to the nearby "historic village mall" (a pedestrian-only, collection of restored shops and restaurants), and the board-walk on a nice ocean beach.
Click on More Photos and scroll down for pictures of Cape May, and the twins swimming with their new friends.
Since our reservation in the NYC area at Liberty Landing carried an exorbitant price-tag ($5/ft/day on the Fourth of July weekend, WITH NO SWIMMING POOL BEACH OR CABLE TV!!), we were in no hurry to get there early. So we decided to stay an extra day here, then move up the coast to Atlantic City for a couple days (a "bargain" at ONLY $4/ft/day, with a pool, beach and cable TV!). The summer heat continued, and the twins and I were very grateful for the beach time where there was a decent breeze. Unfortunately, Nana wasn't up to the heat and the effort to make the ride/walk to the beach, so she kept Billie Jo company in the air-conditioned boat. With a little cooling in the evening, we all enjoyed some shopping at the mall (yes, I enjoyed people-watching from the boulevard benches while the others shopped), and dinner at the Pilot House the first night. The second night, a home-made taco casserole on the boat was a big hit.
Day 8, 6-26-03: As it turned out, we kind of wished we had stayed a couple more days at Cape May. But we feel we should take advantage of the calm seas and get up closer to NYC. So we made a lazy departure about 10:45 am, for the 45 mile cruise up the Jersey coast, off-shore. It was sunny, hot, and humid again, but we entered the Absecon Inlet about 1:30, and eased into the Farley State (Trump) Marina. It is a large, upscale facility, owned by the state, but operated by Trump, adjacent to the hotel/casino, off the beach. We had read the boater reports about the outrageous pricing, but under the circumstances, decided to spend the weekend. It did seem ridiculous to spend $200 for a "hole in the water" when we could probably get a room in the hotel for half that. We did have to make a choice of slips. We could dock a LONG walk out with the necessary twin-50 amp plugs so we could run all our ACs, or right up next to the head pier by the facilities with only one 50 amp plug (so we couldn't run ACs on the bridge & aft deck). Thinking the long walk in the heat would be difficult for Diane's asthmatic condition, a little generator time, and hoping for evening cool downs, we chose the short walk.
So the kids and I headed for the pool (on the 6th floor roof of the hotel atrium) which was "nice," but not very interesting (in terms of size, depth, and playmates). We decided the next day we'd head for the boardwalk and beach. That evening a decent light meal at The Deck cafe by the marina, and sufficient cool down to be comfortable with only the living quarters ACs, and Nana hitting the quarter slots for $180 (a first!) made for a good first night. More sun and heat, called for learning the municipal transportation system called the "jitney." It was really hot and breezy, but the twins loved the battle with a modest surf, while I rented a chair & umbrella.
Unfortunately, the next "lesson learned" was about the marginal voltage on the shore power at the marina. In the most stifling heat of the day, the CO alarms on the boat started beeping, so Diane had to shut down the generator, and try to conserve cool air below. When the kids and I returned, she had learned that slip F38 (only about 3/4 of the way out toward the end of the longest dock), with two 50 amp plugs, was available, so we decided to move the boat. There was a pretty stiff cross-wind, but we got "Souvenir" settled into the new spot, and all hooked up for full ACs. It was refreshing, and we were docked next to "Ocean Explorer," a government contract boat spending the summer making depth soundings up and down the Jersey shore to update NOAA charts. It turned out the friendly Captain (Frederic) was a good neighbor to have, when late in the evening, all our CO alarms started beeping again. This time, it couldn't be a real indication of CO, since the generator wasn't running. After some expert diagnosis with Frederic's help, we determined that a low house-battery condition was being caused by the low voltage shore power, which was an inadequate source for the charger. Frederic was very familiar with the low voltage power causing problems on his boat. By shutting down the main DC switch for the night, we found that the CO alarms were alive but not beeping, and the house batteries could recharge to a normal state. Another frustration with the high price of dockage at Trump Marina! But at least we did enjoy the beach, meals at The Deck, and Nana's $180 winnings for the weekend. And our last walk back from the beach, we strolled down the boardwalk to the carnival atmosphere of the Steel Pier, where we gawked at a couple girls riding the "sling shot" Rocket high above the ocean, and through the casino and garish lobby of Trump's Taj Mahal.....every kid ought to have that experience once!
Click on More Photos for (you guessed it!) more photos of our Atlantic City experience.....
Day 9, 6-30-03: We had dropped the dinghy and explored the small beach across the Absecon Inlet from the hotel/marina the previous day (Sunday) when it was crowded with weekenders. We learned that dogs were not allowed on the beach (a municipal park), but early on a weekday, there probably would be no one around. So the kids and I were up early for a romp on that beach with Billie Jo before 7 am. We had it all to ourselves. After that refreshing exercise, we hoisted the dinghy, departed the marina and Absecon Inlet by 8:35, northbound for New York City! It was a beautiful day running 2 to 3 miles off the Jersey shore, with no more than one foot, following seas. We passed Little Egg Harbor and Barnegat Inlets, and by 11 am we were abeam the mouth of the Tom's River. I placed a cell phone call to Nancy Donnelly, the woman who wrote our feature article for the Carver magazine, "Waypoint," last summer. She lived near there, and we had a nice catch-up chat about our voyage and her dog and horse. In fact, she was planning to head out to Pulaski, WI, the following week for the annual Carver dealer meeting where Dan Faulkrod had mentioned our trip to her the previous year.
Then we passed the Manasquan and Shark River Inlets, and by 1 pm we were past Shrewsbury Rocks and Sandy Hook, on a short cut from my planned route straight north to intersect the Ambrose Channel; the main ship channel from the ocean into New York Harbor. Though we did pick up some ship traffic, including the tows literally towing barges on long cables (unlike the "pushers" on the Mississippi), it wasn't a problem navigating the Channel. Soon we had the Verazano Bridge (connecting New Jersey with Brooklyn) in sight, and as "advertised," it was an inspiring experience approaching the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty in our own boat. Though the day was hazy, we snapped a lot of photos! Traffic in New York Harbor picked up with all the "water taxis," ferries and tour boats; and none of them seemed concerned about creating wakes. It was a very bouncy harbor. We passed Ellis Island, and I soon determined we also had passed the channel on the New Jersey side leading to our destination at Liberty Landing. So we did a 180 in front of Chelsea Piers, and back-tracked about a mile to the inlet. Shortly after 2 pm, 107 miles from Atlantic City, we were docked in slip D43, and settling in for a much anticipated, patriotic week of celebration with our son, DJ, in New York City. What a thrill!!
Our slip was actually very handy to the gas dock, marina office, and the little red Light Ship, permanently stationed by the Manhattan water taxi shuttle dock, casual restaurant on a barge, with marina rest rooms and facilities. However, we stuck back in the corner of a bay behind two rows of 30' slips. I soon learned that they were booked full for the big weekend, and a few boats longer than 30' would grid-lock us in. So I requested the possibility of moving to another slip before that happened, since we hoped to take "Souvenir" out for a cruise or two, on the 4th. The first "re-acquaintance" to occur was Captain Ray from the 80' Sunseeker, "Atso," which we'd been parked next to for three weeks in Ft. Lauderdale in April. They were also docked at Liberty Landing, and we enjoyed seeing Ray and his crew person, Matthew, again. That first evening, DJ came over from Manhattan on the Liberty State Park water taxi, for a welcoming visit and a hamburger on the barge. We were delighted that his long-time friend Amy Kenefick, originally from St. Paul, now also in NYC, could join him before heading home for the Holiday. It was a beautiful evening, gazing across the Hudson River, as the lights of the City began to twinkle.
On Tuesday (7/1), DJ had to work, so we used the time for some cleaning and washing (the boat, our clothes, and ourselves). In mid-afternoon, the four of us made our first trip across the Hudson, and found a taxi to go across Manhattan to the east side, up to 4th street, for a barbecue at DJ's apartment. He had moved since our last visit, so were eager to see the new flat on the 5th floor (with an elevator!), and a spiral staircase to a patio (with a hot-tub and a grill!!) on the roof. What a spectacular view! A ring-side seat for mid-to-upper Manhattan, with the Empire State and Chrysler buildings as center-pieces. DJ's room-mate, Derek, came home and joined us for a wonderful grilled chicken/hamburger/hot dog dinner, with watermelon! Then it was back to streets to hail a couple cabs and head to the Astor Theater, to an off-Broadway, really "off-beat" play, Blue Man Group. It was a hoot; and perfect for a family that included 12 year old grandtwins; definitely one of those "you had to be there" experiences! By the time we were ready to head back to the boat in NJ, the water taxi had terminated it's shuttles for the day. So we took the risk of leaving our New Yorker son, getting in one cab to The Path (the subway train to NJ), and finding our own way. After lots of fumbling with coins at the automated token machine, some good help from friendly passers-by, we got on the right train -- and just as important -- got off at the right stop. However, the station in Jersey City was north of the river/canal, and our boat was on the south-side. So a phone call, and about a half hour wait, finally brought us a cab that got us back to our beds; much later then we were accustomed to "retiring." This celebrating was hard work!
On Wednesday (7/2), DJ had another work-day, and our plans were pretty much to "lay back." But by early afternoon, and some mild jogging a walking, Paige & Blake were ready for some action again. From our marina, we could see the Liberty Science Museum about a mile away, so off we went. It was an impressive, quite new facility, and we really enjoyed the afternoon exploring all their displays and activities. The site of the marina not only had the spectacular view across the Hudson, but had a lot of history as the former train station for all the immigrants who came ashore from Ellis Island. It had been made over into a very nice, spacious park, with landscaping and walks and benches right along the river's edge. We learned that it was expected to draw a huge crowd the night of the 4th, and was the site of a major fireworks display that would carry out toward the Statue of Liberty. Most boater's in the marina, transient and resident, were planning parties on their boats to view the display right from their slips. In fact, many were of the opinion that only "the crazies" would consider taking their boats out into the Harbor that night!
Thursday (7/3), DJ actually had the day off, and planned to spend it all in Manhattan showing us around, especially the twins. Their first priority (as a "tourist" attraction), was FAO Schwarz!. So we met DJ at the Manhattan end of the water taxi shuttle, which was in the "bouncy" little sea port, right in front of the World Trade Center site and financial complex. So of course the first stop was to enter the huge glass arch atrium that served as a "foyer" for the complex. On the ground floor were displays focusing on the recovery effort and rebuilding plans for the WTC site. Models of the winning and competing proposals for the new structures and memorial gardens were fascinating, and a pictorial history of the original WTC, including the tragedy of 9/11, was very moving. Then up on the second level, a glassed observation area of the site itself was cause for a long, solemn pause. One of the most striking perceptions was the size of the empty space. It seemed so small!! Having been there when the mammoth towers were standing, it was hard to believe their "foot-print" hadn't required more space. But it was actually just two square blocks, and now the hole in the ground, with tall buildings all around, didn't seem so big. And of course, a couple of the buildings still standing across the street to the south, were charred with boarded windows, and covered with huge black shrouds -- one was hung with a giant painting of the "heart" of America and Lady Liberty, stating "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart."
We walked around the WTC site to catch a subway uptown near Central Park where we did FAO Schwarz and Tiffany's, then found a deli for a soup and sandwich lunch in the Rockefeller Center area. Next, the plan was for DJ to take the twins to see the new movie release of Finding Nemo. So Nana and I grabbed a cab back downtown. I jumped out around 34th Street to find a West Marine where I could do some "chart-shopping" for our next leg up the New York State Canal System. Diane went on her own back to the water taxi to Jersey City, to get some rest on the boat. By the time we reconnected with DJ, he had secured three tickets to the play 42nd Street (4th row, center!), and "they" had decided the twins would stay overnight at his apartment. Meanwhile, we were advised that a resident's slip (G14) had opened up for the weekend, just as the smaller boats began to threaten our corner spot. So we moved "Souvenir" to a new view of the Manhattan skyline, and met an interesting family parked next to our new spot. They were from Palm Springs, CA, and had just purchase a used Carver 450 Voyager in Buffalo, NY, which they had found on the internet. They had driven it down the Canal System to NYC in one week, and after the 4th were heading down the east coast, across the Gulf to Texas, where they planned to have the boat trucked back home to California. They were Cameron and Teri Nevins, with their two young sons, and we became instant friends. They were very interested in our experience coming up the east coast, and Cam was eager to learn about all the routes we followed and places we stopped. A great example of the people you meet on a trip like this.
Day 10, 7-4-03: It was time to realize one of my "sub-dreams" for this retirement dream boat trip: literally circumnavigating Manhattan Island with my family, on my own boat, on the Fourth of July. I had studied the charts, and acquired the "local knowledge" to do the deed. DJ had invited a couple of his NY friends (Rolf & Trina, soon to be married!), and we had invited our new neighbors, the Nevins, to join us. First DJ and the twins, AND his two dogs, Henry & Moses, had to make it from his apartment to the boat. Apparently the "doggie-taxi" wasn't working on the Fourth, so the five of them WALKED, at a brisk pace, in the HEAT, across Manhattan, down from 4th Street to the financial district, to catch the water taxi across the Hudson. They all burned some calories on that one! Rolf and Tina showed up with their watermelon as a contribution to the "pot luck" we were planning after the cruise. Then we cranked up "Souvenir," with 7 adults, four kids, and 3 dogs aboard, and set out across New York Harbor. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, and we turned around lower Manhattan, up the East River, and crossed under the Brooklyn Bridge. As the skyline passed by our port side, our cameras were clicking, and we approached the entrance to the Harlem River which takes us west across to the Hudson River between Manhattan and the Bronx. Right at that juncture, called Hell's Gate, I had been warned of substantial current turbulence and unmarked shoaling. It was where the East River empties Long Island Sound with an ebb tide, and makes a twisting bend before splitting around a couple of islands. No problem. I carefully eased "Souvenir" into the Harlem River under complete control. We must have had good timing with the tidal effect, as well. The next once-in-a-lifetime experience was cruising right by Yankee Stadium. Very cool! I had called the Coast Guard about bridge clearances on this route, and was relieved that, with the exception of a couple of bridge construction (aka painting) areas requiring "no wake" cautions, we should have no trouble with the standard 24' minimum clearance. As we approached The Cloisters neighborhood on the west end of the Harlem River, the scenery changed from "inner city" to beautiful, wooded bluffs, with large homes and traditional college towers. Then we were through an old railroad pontoon bridge that was open, and into the Hudson, heading south back to Liberty Landing. It was about a 32 mile, three hour cruise, added to the "great adventure."
Next, it was time for our "pot luck" dinner on the boat. After some difficulty with a couple of gas grills, Diane broke out the fry pan, and we got the hamburgers going! Nevins' brought their own steaks over, and we all shared in the many side dishes, concluding with lots of juicy watermelon! Then came another big decision -- what's the plan for the fireworks? Again, in the once-in-a-lifetime category, we dedicated boaters could not accept a landlocked viewing of multiple fireworks displays all around New York Harbor. So Cam invited us all aboard his Carver 450 to take a chance with "the crazies." And what a gorgeous evening it was. The boat traffic really wasn't all that bad, and Cam found a good spot to "hover" somewhere between Lady Liberty and Brooklyn, so we had a perfect 360 degree view. The first large display went off back by our marina, toward Ellis Island, where thousands of people had gathered along the shoreline. About half-way through, we began to see other displays at some distance, both further up the Hudson River, and to the south, apparently down toward Coney Island. Finally, the most spectacular began up the East River somewhere around the Brooklyn Bridge. And every shot that was fired for at least 30 minutes, was a "twin" (two identical fireworks, side by side) which we surmised was a memorial to the Twin Towers. It still sends shivers up my spine. And here we were, bouncing in the warm night breeze, in the middle of New York Harbor, just below the Lower Manhattan skyline, in a new friend's boat. WHAT A COUNTRY!!
As we eased back into the Marina and tied up our neighbor's boat, we realized we hadn't thought about how DJ's friends, Rolf and Trina would get home. Getting a cab into our marina was totally hopeless. The thousands of people leaving the Park after the fireworks, created a steady stream of barely moving vehicles for several hours (well after we went to bed!). We offered floor-space on our boat (with a total of 7 people and 3 dogs?!?!), but they preferred to find a way home. The only solution was to get them across the narrow canal from our marina to the north side where they had a "few blocks" to walk to a train station. Our neighbors had a tiny inflatable dinghy (a little light on air!) with two paddles. We gained their permission to borrow it, and DJ began the precarious paddle across the dark canal -- fortunately, there was no traffic. About twenty minutes later, he had deposited his passengers on the far-side (at a bar that was rocking the night away!), and returned to the safety of our slip. We later confirmed Rolf's and Trina's safe arrival at home. Our Fourth of July celebration was a huge success.......and the 8 of us left on "Souvenir" were really ready for bed.
Day 11, 7-5-03: Another one of the "objectives" of our New York visit was inspired by DJ's interest in cruising Long Island Sound with us, and ultimately going to Block Island or Montauk, at the eastern tip of Long Island. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks was not enough lead time to make reservations for dockage on the Fourth weekend. I tried every reasonable marina at those two destinations, and practically everywhere in between along both the Connecticut and Long Island shore. The ONLY decent possibility I found was actually recommended by an acquaintance we had made while coming up the SE coast earlier in the spring. Ray Hayes, the "lone sailor" in the Bayliner named "Takin' It Easy" (left for repairs at Palmer Johnson near Savannah, GA) was from Long Island. He was interested in getting together, and suggested Brewer Capri Marina in Port Washington (on Long Island, just outside Queens, east of Laguardia Airport). As it turned out, they accepted a reservation for Saturday, 7/5. So our plan became a day cruise up the East River into Long Island Sound, up as far as Greenwich, CT, with the possibility of stopping somewhere in that area for lunch, before returning to Port Washington for the night.
After our huge day on The Fourth, we were a little sluggish this morning, and didn't even "pull up stakes" and get over to the fuel dock until noon. So it was after 1 pm when we finally departed Liberty Landing, headed for Long Island Sound. It was still hot (only 93!), humid, and hazy, with a light breeze and "surface chop" on New York Harbor. We again cruised up the East River, under the Brooklyn Bridge, past Roosevelt Island, and through Hell's Gate. This time, we found the current turbulence. It was actually just above the entrance to the Harlem River, in a tight bend of the East River. The previous day, we had turned left before we got to that point. It truly was a nasty, boiling, swirling stretch about 100 yards long with plenty of water depth. Idle speed was not the right approach, but about 1500 rpm's pushed "Souvenir" through the area with sufficient control. The shoaling I had been warned about, no doubt was on the junction point between the East & Harlem Rivers which our tracks had avoided both days. Soon we were winding our way past LaGuardia Airport and Riker's Island. Across the river from Riker's, a huge old ship was berthed at a pier. It was all painted a drab greenish color, and on the top deck (many decks above the water) we could see men playing basketball in what appeared to be large "cages." We learned later, as suspected, that it was a prison annex for Riker's. Then we cruised past Manhasset Bay and our destination for the night, Port Washington, and on into the open waters of Long Island Sound. By this time, my regular crew (Diane, the twins, and Billie Jo) had drifted into La-la Land, so my new First Mate, DJ, and I set the auto-pilot on course for Greenwich, CT. We really enjoyed the scenery, solitude, and serenity. It gave us a chance to catch up on our trip progress and his activities and plans. And I did a little reminiscing about the first years of my 3M career when I traveled a sales territory in Connecticut back in the 60s.
As it was Saturday of the Fourth weekend, there was a lot of boat traffic. As we approached the NY/CT state line, several yacht clubs were apparently holding their holiday regattas. Large flotillas of sail boats of all shapes and sizes dotted our path. And of course, right at the entrance of the marked channel through the offshore islands at Greenwich, was the largest group with boats going every direction. We slowed "Souvenir" to high speed idle, wound our way through the crowd up the channel, approached land within about 1/4 mile, viewed the crowds onshore, did a 180 at 2:25 pm, wound our way back out to open water, and set the return course for Manhasset Bay. We had "done" the Sound and Greenwich, CT! We entered Brewer's Capri Marina at Port Washington, and were docked in slip 20 by 4 pm. We had made prior arrangements to meet Ray Hayes and his friend, Maria, at DiMaggio's on the Bay for dinner. It was a delightful reunion, and a wonderful meal. Unfortunately, Ray's boat was still down in Georgia with major engine repairs. He was hoping to fly down within the next couple weeks to finally bring it home, three months late! And when we first met him in April, he thought we were "slow" talking about getting to NY in July!
Day 12, 7-6-03: Our exciting week in NYC was coming to a close. We had tried to identify a dock in lower Manhattan where we could drop off DJ and his dogs, but to no avail. It appeared the best option was to return to Liberty Landing where he could take the water taxi back across the Hudson, where his room-mate, Derek, could meet him with a car. So we departed Port Washington about 11:30 and arrived back at Liberty Landing around 1 pm. It was chaotic at the fuel dock on this Sunday of the Fourth weekend, but we waved goodbye to DJ, Henry and Moses as they boarded the yellow water taxi, topped off our fuel tanks, and headed up the Hudson River. We passed under the George Washington and Tappan Zee Bridges, and arrived at our next destination, Haverstraw Marina. At this point, confusion reigned on our reservation, slip assignment, and docking instructions. But finally about 4 pm we got squared away on an end-T, and strung out all our 50 and 30 amp cables on the Y-adapter to get full power to keep ACs humming (it was still 93 and humid!). The twins got a swim in the pool to wash off the last of our salt water, and I put in a call for Jack & Ginger. They were the couple from Haverstraw that we befriended down in the Florida Keys last February. We actually followed through on their invitation to "stop and see us when you get to Haverstraw!" And another grand reunion it was.
They had some friends who owned a Chinese restaurant nearby, and the change in pace from all the sea food, steak houses, and fast food joints sounded terrific. Jack ordered a couple of exotic appetizers, including steamed clams in a black bean sauce. Ginger was astounded when Paige & Blake "gobbled" it up. She said none of her grandchildren would think of eating such a thing! Then we had about five assorted entrees served family style so we could all share in the variety. What a feast! Again, Paige lived up to her nickname "Hoover" in honor of her vacuum-style approach to anything resembling food. She was very good-natured about it; maybe even proud of it! After dinner, Jack & Ginger took us back to their lovely condo-home for a nice dessert, and a little computer time for e-mail catch-up. Plus Blake was assigned the task of duplicating all the photos we had taken at the restaurant into Jack's computer. A joyous evening wound up another big day, with our New York City visit committed to our journal of fond memories.
Thus endeth Stage 6 of our Great Loop Adventure!!