Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Highs and the Lows

The Block Is North Lighthouse is beyond those cliffs.

It would be a new record for me—14 lighthouses seen in one day!  Granted, some of them were too far away to photograph, but still—I saw FOURTEEN!  We started out the day on Block Island, Rhode Island, so that was my first, the Block Island North Lighthouse.

We saw this lighthouse as we arrived on Block Island.  
Because we were seeing wind gusts to 22 knots while still in the harbor, Carl had put a *double-reef in the mains’l before raising it.  Then we put up the smaller of the two headsails, the jib.  Out on the ocean, the mains’l just didn’t look right. Too baggy. We went into the wind again so I could sheet in the mains’l and snug up the reef line again. Still not looking right.  That was when we realized that the reef line was no longer attached to the sail.  %#@!!  Our options were, 1) raise the sail to the first reef or 2) drop the mains’l altogether. Wind now gusting to 25 knots. We dropped the sail. Motor sailing once again; just using the jib and our trusty Yanmar engine.

S/V Northern Star underway
The primary consideration for the day’s travel plan was to get to the Race by **slack tide.  The Race is an area at the east end of Long Island Sound, where the water exits to the ocean. As the outbound tide water flows east through Long Island Sound it becomes more funneled as the exit narrows, which in turn makes the current notoriously fast.  We don’t want to be trying to enter Long Island Sound against a fast current.  The trick is to time our entry at slack tide or at the start of a ***flooding tide so that we would have the fast current helping us along instead of holding us back. 
Race Rock Lighthouse, 67'

One of the closest lighthouse encounters of the day was on Race Rock. That was also where the water was visibly “confused.” Large areas on the surface looked as though it couldn’t decide whether to go forward, turn back or just spin in multiple confused eddies.  
Montauk Pt Lighthouse, 168' tall

My list of lighthouses was growing fairly quickly as we approached the Race. I was busily documenting the names of the lighthouses and their heights (with the help of ****Active Captain) when Carl asked, “Didn’t you see these lighthouses when we came through the Sound going up the coast?”  Perfectly good question. Here’s my perfectly good answer.  “No, because I was too busy having my bed sheet crisis.  I could only see ‘RED’.”  The reader is referred to a previous post called The Troubleswhich I think will explain to anyone’s satisfaction, why I was oblivious to my surroundings when going through Long Island Sound previously. 
Alas, I am not sure which lighthouse this is.

We were making good time and decided to go all the way to New Haven, CT in the Quinnipac River before anchoring for the night.  We had made a stop or two on the coastline of each state as we went up the seaboard, but Connecticut was missed, so I said I wanted to step ashore in CT, if only for the silly reason that I could then say I’d been there.  We anchored off of New Haven but were so tired by then we opted not to put the dinghy in the water to go to land.  Jax would have to conduct his business on the bow.
I think this is the Abandoned Lighthouse on Morris Creek.

Next morning we readied ourselves to pull anchor, intending to travel the 43 miles to Port Washington, NY.  A landing in Connecticut would be missed after all.  From there we would stage to go through NYC, again timing it so that we would not be fighting against a flooding tide and therefore a strong current. 
This old lighthouse is actually in Gloucester, MA.

Carl turned the key to start the engine.  Click click.  Nothing. After a cursory examination of the starter it looked like we would need to get to a full service marina to help fix our issue. The wind was only 4-5 knots and the river current was in the wrong direction.  Sailing out of this river would be a fairly hopeless endeavor.  We have a boat towing insurance policy with unlimited towing through TowBoat U.S. (think  AAA on the water.) Unfortunately, TowBoat U.S. had no representative in that river.  (SeaTow did but we don’t have that insurance policy. Something more to consider.)  
A previous challenger for the tallest lighthouse I've seen.

We were told we would have to pay out of pocket for a private towing company and then get reimbursed by TowBoat U.S. later.  Earlier this year, we were towed just 12 feet when we ran aground on the ICW.  We paid nothing but the insurance paid $700+.  This time, we were several miles from a full-service marina.  I had visions of fistfuls of $100 bills being gobbled up by our boat. 
Northern Star being towed by S/V SeaScape.

It was then that the one and only other cruising sailboat anchored near us, S/V SeaScape, offered to tow us out of the river and back into the Sound where we could sail to the closest port with services.  The wind could pick up a little, and then we’d at least have the benefit of the current helping us along while traveling west out in the Sound. We gratefully accepted their kind offer and in the process made some new friends that we may be buddy boating with later on. (We find this sort of kindness between sailors happens a LOT).  After sailing several miles up the Sound towards another river mouth, TowBoat U.S. was able to come get us. From there it was at least an hour under tow at a good clip of 5 1/2 knots down the Sound and then up the Housatonic River to a marina in Stratford, CT. 
TowBoat U.S. towed us for several miles.

So, the end of this tale is this.  I did get to put my feet on Connecticut soil alright.  And here they will stay until a part is shipped to us on Monday afternoon.  We could grumble about the expensive cost of our slip here for the next three to four days but it won’t help anything. Hopefully, we will be able to leave under our own power on Tuesday.   
Jax made friends with the TowBoat driver. 

I read something when we first started living aboard that rings so true from time to time.  It was this phrase about living on a sailboat.  “The highs are high (14 lighthouses!); and the lows are really low.”  And sometimes both in rapid succession.  
Stratford, CT hosted a parade of lights on the river.  

*Double-reef:  Mains’ls are often designed so that they can be shortened (become smaller) using a single, double or triple reef.  A triple reef would only be used in really ugly weather.

**Slack tide:  The period of time when the tide is changing direction, producing a period of relative calm and minimal current.

***Flooding tide:  The hours during which the tide is filling in and therefore producing a measurable current in that direction.


****Active Captain:  A crowd sourced wealth of information about travel on the water—marinas, anchorages, local information useful to cruisers, etc.

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