After having a rather long stretch of fair weather and the only hardship being deprived of a shower for too long, we were due for a few more difficulties. We had stayed in Port Jefferson, Long Island, and been fairly comfortable for over a week, and decided it was about time to head to the next port, and have yet another adventure.
On October 25, we left Port Jefferson and headed for Port Washington, New York. The day started out pleasant enough; the winds were sufficient, the seas weren’t bad, and the promise of a shower lay ahead. But, unfortunately, things would not continue this way. About midday, the winds began to pick up and everything was drenched with salty brine, even below deck. One of the many corners that had been cut in order to leave Maine in a timely fashion had been fixing deck leaks. It just happened to be my rotten luck that I would happen to have the wettest cabin. It wasn’t necessarily the leakiest cabin, but was furthest forward, and therefore received the most spray.
On its own, my cabin leaked quite a bit. Most of the time things would just magically get wet and I couldn’t find where the water was coming from. To make matters worse, my father had drilled more holes in the deck to run wires for running lights and, unbeknownst to me, hadn’t gotten around to making them water tight. I also had this wonderful little spot underneath a step in my cabin that I could put all my shoes and not worry about them getting wet, so I thought. As I soon found out, the holes my father had drilled leaked tremendously and the water ran down between our two hulls and drained out right in that great little spot I kept my shoes in. So now, all my shoes, except the ones on my feet, were soaked.
Seeing as the spray wasn’t enough, thunder showers had been predicted and the foreboding, overcast skies added to the threat. I tried to further prepare my cabin and air out my soggy shoes as best as I could. My brother and I put on our foul weather jackets just incase we would be getting wetter. My parents suited up completely, for they would have to be out in the elements in order to steer. We nervously watched the sheets of rain coming down from the grey, ominous clouds. Of course, since we were ready for it, we did not get rained on. But something we were not ready for did.
It had been very windy that day, and all the sails were under a good amount of strain. It was too much for the old glue joints in the staysail club and it split in half. When we found it, there was one half attached to the sail, and the other half somewhere in Long Island Sound. We could still use the sail with out it, it just wasn’t nearly as efficient.
Finally, after a very rough and unpleasantly eventful sail, we reached Port Washington. We anchored near sunset in heavy winds in a spot that we later decided was too close to a submerged wreck, so we decided to move to a spot with more swinging room. Since it was getting dark and very windy, my father wanted to move as soon as possible, he did not bother to wash off the anchor chain, to my great annoyance. In the semidarkness of the chain locker, I could just barely see the thick, grey, gloppy mud encasing the anchor chain. I could feel the sickening stuff squish between my gloved fingers.
Flaking that chain was a pretty nasty business, but things would only get worse after the job was done. Since my gloves were now encrusted with this grey goop, I had to haul up a bucked of seawater and rinse them off. It was rather fortunate that I was up on deck while my father was dropping the anchor, because the mud that was on the anchor chain splattered all over the chain locker and forward head. These great sticky globs of muck now covered the walls forward of my cabin.
Since it was so rough out, and darkness was quickly approaching, we were not able to go in and take showers, as we so greatly desired. We would have to wait until tomorrow, when we hoped the weather would be better.
The weather was not any better the next day, if anything it was a bit worse. We heavily debated going in to take showers, for it would be a nasty ride in, but we felt so disgusting we decided we were up to a rough ride in order to be clean. So, we all suited up in our rubber boots and foul weather pants and jackets, and piled in our little boat. This trip brought back memories of Mattapoisett Massachusetts, where we also had a very rough and wet ride. Although this time it was a lot rougher we stayed drier because we were prepared. The waves crashed over the tiny inflatable and the water piled up in the boat. The wind howled and the seas rolled, but we all stayed dry under our waterproof mantles. But we all ended up with wind-burned, spray-stung faces. We finally reached shore and went directly to the showers. There is nothing like a nice hot shower after going days without one, and it was definitely worth all the trouble we went through to get it.
We stayed in Port Washington for two more days in order to get the last few things ready for the overnight sail. Then finally, on October 29th, we left Port Washington and we would not stop until we reached the Delaware Bay.
That morning, I got up to a bright and sunny, yet cold and windy day. At this time, we were approaching Hell Gate. It was given this name because it has incredibly strong tides. We had heard that a schooner even bigger than ours had been completely turned around by this monstrous current, and almost crashed into a dock. Fortunately, we timed it just right so that we got there at slack tide and we went through quite easily.
It was quite strange seeing New York City from such a different perspective. From my vantage point, it looked very different from when I had seen it earlier that year. From the water, the buildings looked much smaller and strangely older. Perhaps it appeared this way because of the recent tragedy. As we passed ground zero, it was even stranger to see nothing but a crane where I so vividly remembered the twin towers standing. Since this devastated area was inland and I was on the water, I saw no mare than this. But, I could smell an acrid burning odor as we went by Manhattan Island.
It was kind of neat to sail by Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. I wish we cold have stayed in New York City a little while longer, but the cold of winter was chasing us south. Also, the insanity of September 11th prompted us to bypass a stay in New York at this time. So, we headed out the East River and towards the Delaware Bay.
I didn’t think sailing over night would be that bad, I’d just go to sleep and just wake up and we’d be there. I had no idea how wrong I was. It started off not so bad, lying down in my bunk, starting to drift off to sleep. Then suddenly, a gust of wind hit, causing the boat to heel, and I was thrown into the bulkhead next to my bunk. I tried to wedge myself in and go to sleep. But, at one point I stretched out my legs and felt something cold and wet. I bent over and felt the foot of my bunk, it was soaking wet. So, I had to pull off my comforter (which I practically had to wring out), blanket, and sheets and hang them up in the main saloon to dry. Since all my bedding was now unusably soaked, I had to take my pillows and spare sheets into my brother’s cabin. He was sleeping in my parents’ cabin because it was more comfortable, and they would only be taking cat naps in the cockpit that night. So, I had no other choice than to use his blanket and comforter, which wasn’t warm enough for me. There weren’t any easily accessible, unused, dry blankets, so I had to curl up in a ball to try and keep warm, which worked eventually. At the same time, I had to twist myself into a pretzel because of the heeling. I also stole my brother’s pillows and put them next to me because I was basically sleeping on the bulkhead next to me rather than in the bunk. I got precious little sleep that night, but my parents got even less. Although, they said it wasn’t really that bad, and it wouldn’t have been bad at all if we had just had inside steering.
By the time the sun was dipping down below the horizon we were half way up the Delaware River, and decided to press on to the entrance of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. This would allow us to transit the canal in the morning with the tide in our favor.
Going through the C and D canal the next morning was almost like going by car rather than by boat. The canal was fairly narrow, so when you looked straight out there were fields of tall grass on either side. This looked quite strange to my eyes that were used to seeing mostly water with only a few specks of land here and there. Once the initial shock wore off the rest of the passage through was really quite dull.
Once we were finally out of the canal there was a noticeable temperature change. It was slowly but surely getting warmer and warmer. By the time we entered Baltimore Harbor the following afternoon we had shed our layers of jackets and were all in t-shirts. I couldn’t believe that it was November 1st and I was in a t-shirt and jeans.
We were all happy to be warm and in civilization again, but my spirits would soon be dampened a bit. We had planned to anchor inside the inner harbor, right near all the big attractions. But, we didn’t realize it would be that small, because they had decreased the available anchorage area. We started out in one spot and tried to put out a stern anchor to keep us from swinging into the channel. This didn’t really work, and my father wasn’t happy with the spot we were in, so we had to move. We were in a bit of a hurry because other boats were coming in and we didn’t want them to take our spot. So, yet again, my father did not wash off the anchor chain. I was extremely thankful for my diving gloves because this black goo that was coming through the deck was some of the nastiest stuff I have ever dealt with. I had to handle it very gingerly because this mud was very watery and could easily splatter all over me. In addition, this stuff smelled like rotten eggs. The festering stench wafted about the forward section of the boat, which included my cabin. But, the worst was yet to come. Yet again, it splattered all over the forward head, but this time it crept into my cabin. Without the smell, this ordeal would have been bad enough, but the putrid odor that accompanied this tar-like muck made it unbearable. Very soon after my father installed a wash down pump.
After the mud was cleaned up and the malodorous smell began to dissipate things really began to look up. We would be staying here about a week, and there was plenty to do here and a pleasant climate. It was at this point that it started to feel more like a vacation and less like work. I can only hope it will stay this way.