September 23 – 24, 2012
Prior to hauling up the hook from our Liberty anchorage, Wil and I discussed whether or not to put up the mainsail first. The channel between the buoys was just wide enough for our boat, and the mainsail might be an interference. However, the wind was only a slight breeze from a northerly direction, so it would be okay to have the sail up. That is . . . as long as the helmsman (or woman) had paid closer attention to exactly how much breeze there was with respect to our tight quarters!
Wil gave the “anchor up” signal, and I (while drinking my coffee) proceeded to bring the bow to starboard which faced us towards a concrete block wall not more than 75 feet away. The sail caught what little wind there was and began propelling us toward the wall. Holding my breath, I threw the starboard engine into full reverse hoping to pivet the boat faster in the starboard direction. While the boat responded beautifully and I looked like I knew what I was doing, the consequences would have been dire if the boat had not turned on the dime. During the entire maneuver, Wil stood at the bow looking back and forth between the concrete wall and me. He didn’t say a word, but his look said it all. I just calmly smiled back and called out, “I meant to do that!” But, my heart was in my throat!
Shortly after the near miss, we were making our way down the Hudson River and out into the Atlantic. Since we had timed our departure with the northwest wind and outgoing tide, we were sailing at about 8 to 9 knots speed over ground. We sailed past many large freighters and barges that were anchored, waiting for their turns in port.
As we were passing Sandy Hook, New Jersey, there was a small Nonsuch sailing near the shore and going in our same direction. The guy hailed us on the VHF and asked where we were headed. He was solo and aimed for Atlantic City. We chit-chatted for awhile and found that 6 weeks earlier, he had flown from New Zealand to Vermont to purchase his boat sight unseen. He was now making his way to Florida and then to the Bahamas. We offered information about the area, as well as the upcoming Annapolis Boat Show.
The night gradually came upon us, and the wind picked up enough that we were able to turn off the engines and sail peacefully down the New Jersey coastline. From 5 miles off the shore, the Atlantic City lights were a spectacular sight. The sides of buildings had huge screens flashing all sorts of images. It was amazing that we could see such detail from so far!
Simon on Cat, the NonSuch, was making such good time and feeling able to sail all night, so he decided to go as far as Cape May. I offered radio chats every couple of hours, in case he needed help staying awake through the night.
We were also making great time. In fact, we actually needed to slow down! One, our fast pace was going to have us entering the Delware Bay in the dark. Two, we needed to arrive to the bay entrance no earlier than late morning, so we could have the tide in our favor. Three, we would be making a northward turn into the wind, and it wouldn’t be shifting to a southerly direction until later the next day.
Since the seas were calm and night visibility was good, we toyed with the idea of a night time approach to an anchorage in the Cape May area. We looked at the chart, and while Cape May didn’t look good for an approach in the dark, the southern side of the Delaware Bay entrance looked like a possiblity.
Cape Henlopen, near Lewes, has a Harbor of Refuge behind the cape with two breakwater walls and plenty of water depth. There’s a small lighthouse and many flashing buoys to mark the way.
Making this entrance at night seemed easy enough, but we still had to proceed with caution. We were about 6 miles from the Cape Henlopen lighthouse, so Wil took about an hour’s snooze while I sailed the initial part of the approach across Cape May Channel. When I was within a mile of the lighthouse, I woke Wil to drop the main and aid in navigating the harbor entrance. Once behind the first breakwater wall, the water became flat, and it was fairly simple to find our way around the second wall and into Breakwater Harbor.
We dropped the hook, did a position report, and went to bed. Colin was sleeping in our cabin, so I crawled in with Colin and Wil went to Colin’s bunk. It was 6:00 a.m.