Saturday, November 8, 2008

What a ride!

Well, we left Branford a bit late on Friday. We needed to install a new bilge pump, put on a new anchor, load the dinghy on the foredeck, fill the water tanks and provision. I'm an idiot (yeah - I know everyone is going to comment on that one!). We arrived at noon and had to leave by 3 at the latest. Yeah, uh huh. The new anchor couldn't be fastened down, the new bilge pump needed the hoses to be rerouted, the dinghy needed to be pumped out and re-inflated, we had to move the boat to fill the tanks and the grocery store was 5 miles away, which took about 20 minutes to get to.

We finally left at 4pm, which was still pretty impressive. We pretty much ran onto the boat, untied the lines and flew out of our slip. We had been pretty set on going from Branford to Montauk and then, on the open ocean, direct to the Delaware Bay and Cape May. From there we would go up the Delaware, through the C&D Canal, down the Chesapeake and finally get to Annapolis. We would leave on Friday afternoon and arrive in the morning on Monday. The forecasts looked pretty good, until Friday morning. In the morning, they upped the wave height forecast and the wind forecast, so we decided to take the safer "inside route" - Branford to City Island, through Hell Gate, to New York Harbor, out the Ambrose Channel, and then south along the coast to Cape May and beyond. We're glad we made this decision!

The trip to City Island was uneventful. We motored there and arrived around 11:30pm, grabbed an empty random mooring and slept until 5:40am. Actually, we slept until 5am, when someone who shall remain nameless's cell phone alarm started going off. It would ring 4 times, and then repeat in a minute. I was in the V-Berth, and three others were in the main cabin, feet from the phone. Did any of them stir to turn it off?? No! I had to get up from the forward berth, stumble around in the dark until I found it, and turn it off. Everyone made sure to thank me though. Bunch of lazy pieces of.. anyway...

We left City Island around 6am with the current running with us. We actually reached 12 knots (about 13 mph - would you look up the conversions already??) "over land" speed when we passed through Hell Gate. Not bad for a 40 foot sailboat used to moving at around 7mph. Yeah, I know. It's still only 13mph, but on a sailboat it's a big deal! OK OK... I'll move on.

When we reached New York Harbor it was shrouded in dense fog. We couldn't see Lady Liberty or the many boats zipping around the harbor. Fortunately it was Saturday so things were fairly sedate. Passing under the Verazzano Bridge was interesting. We could see the eastern footing, but all we saw of the span was a ghostly outline, even as we were passing directly under it. As we left the "safety" of the harbor, the wind started increasing as did the waves. It didn't take long for us to regularly pass over 8 foot waves. You might not think 8 foot waves are that big, but think of being 6 feet tall and not being able to see over a wall. Now, think of a series of walls, all a few feet from each other and hurdling over them. 8 foot waves are big! The wind increased to 20 knots, and we were regularly taking water over our bow. At one point, one of our crew came up to inform me that some water was entering into the V-Berth. I told him not to worry - I'd deal with it later.

As we rounded Sandy Hook, we put a smidgen (great word, isn't it?) of sail up to stabilize Pelican. It was sometime shortly after this that one of our crew became violently seasick. I mean violently! Every 30 seconds his head was over the side heaving, and the moans escaping from his mouth when he could actually take the opportunity to breathe were, well, not sexy. Imagine drinking an entire bottle of tequila yourself in a short period of time, and then experiencing both the drunken stupor, the nauseous effects of alcohol poisoning AND the hangover, all at the same time, but for 10 hours. Yep - this was our crew member. It wasn't pretty. I was also feeling fairly green, and listening and watching him heaving didn't help.

Life went on like this for quite some time. We never made lunch (I'll share our $550 provisioning list with you another time) and we barely left the cockpit. Going below was out of the question. At times, our bow was up over 40 degrees and would come down with a sickening crunch. Being below while this occurred would, at best, cause some major pain as you floundered around, and, at worst, make you completely seasick. At one point I managed to scarf down a corn muffin. It helped me feel better, but then I ate 3 pieces of salami and I was back to being miserable. We found a few boat "flaws" during the day, including the fact that the bolt we used to secure out new anchor had bent so far out of shape from the pounding of the seas that it was impossible to remove. In addition, our engine started having a few issues, randomly decreasing in RPM's. With our crewmember so sick, all I could think about was that our engine would fail 5 minutes from Manasquan and we wouldn't be able to stop there. In addition, our GPS kept flaking on us every time we needed to make a decision as to where to go.

As we approached Manasquan, NJ we made the excellent decision that we'd taken enough of a pounding, and that our sick crewmember would either die from his seasickness, or shoot himself in his head with a flare gun - whichever came first. Manasquan is an interesting harbor - the entrance to which can only be made through jagged rock jetties separated by 100 feet of water. The rocks looked like the crystals from Superman's Crystal Palace - just not green, more jagged, and much less fragile. We realized that if our engine failed on the way into Manasquan that we'd be in a world of hurt, and then realized that we would need to do something to free the anchor. Two pliers and a lot of strength later, the bolt was free and so was the anchor. I'm still glad we had something securing the anchor - I can just see us pounding through the waves, having the anchor drop off the front and coming to a screeching halt trying to figure out what the heck was going on, while being pummeled by wind and water. I wouldn't have seen us continuing with either the anchor or chain still attached to the boat. "Hey guys, sorry, I tried to pull it on but somehow all 150 feet of chain fell off the boat and I lost the anchor. So sorry."

We arrived in Manasquan, land of 4 knot currents and narrow drawbridges, and managed to tie up to a gas dock at a marina. At this point we were all happy to have safely made it in - none of us more so than our sick crewmember. I went down to my berth to "check things out". Let's see... We have a small vent above the right side of the bed to allow air in. Water had poured through it and drenched that side of the bed. There was a leak on the left side of the bed that left it rather soaked. On top of that, water had entered the chain locker which is at the foot of the bed, drenching the whole bottom of the bed. The only dry spot was dead center! Oh well, at least we made it in. Oh yeah - did I also mention that my duffel bag of clothes was under the small vent? Yep! Cool... it kept a portion of the bed dry by capturing all the water in my clothes.

Anyway, we went out and had a nice dinner (did I mention our $550 provisioning with food stuffed in every locker of the boat?) and then retired early. It's 9pm and I'm hitting the sack. Tomorrow we're going to send our sick crewmember home, and then try for either Atlantic City or Cape May. We'll get to Annapolis yet!

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