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New Jersey Shore to Home
August 30, 2005
By Colby Munger

As I write this log we are home in Crownsville just outside of Annapolis, Maryland and MYSTIC ROSE is secure in her slip in Salt Works Creek on the Severn River.  We are watching the new reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the surrounding areas and feeling thankful that we are safely home.  Our trip down the New Jersey coast had some unpleasant aspects but nothing compared to what people are experiencing on the Gulf Coast.

On Wednesday, August 24, We left Haverstraw on the Hudson River and headed south through New York City.  The weather was great as you can see in the picture above showing the Ferry Terminal, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty all lined up in beautiful afternoon light.  We left the harbor and crossed to Atlantic Highlands for diesel fuel where fuel prices much cheaper than in New York.  Afterwards we returned to Staten Island's Great Kill and stayed at Nichols State Park Marina for the night.

A cold front had passed through New York on Tuesday and settled across the Carolinas.  We always look for a high dome over the New Jersey coast because it has the best promise for light winds.  If you can catch the end of the northerlies before the wind turns southerly behind the high, there is also a reduced chance of fog around Cape May.  NOAA had promised northerly wind at ten knots with 2 to 3 foot seas on Thursday.  The wind was to go variable and fill in from the south on Friday.  Thursday looked promising for a run south along the coast to Cape May.

In the Great Kill the wind died down at sunset and we felt that was a good sign.  At 4am I was awakened by small waves lapping at the bow.  I got up and checked the wind instrument and there was 11 knots out of the northwest.  I convinced myself that it was probably just a catabolic offshore breeze caused when the land cools below the sea temperature and an offshore circulation can develop.  We were up for a sunrise departure.  The wind was up 13 knots.

Heading South

We rounded Sandy Hook and headed south.  The seas were 3 feet and confused.  Confused seas are typical around Sandy Hook.  We were heading off seas at 17 knots when we felt a shutter pass through the boat.  We slowed and backed the boat to shake anything that might have fouled the prop.  We came up to 15 knots and everything seemed fine.  This is the second time we had felt the shutter and believe that it can happen in confused following seas and the boat is overtaking the seas at too high a speed.  It's possible that as the boat crests a wave the confused seas astern can can force air under the stern and allow the prop to ventilate.  Props really don't like an air-water mixture.  After slowing slightly we never experienced the shutter again and though we didn't know it at the time, the seas were going to get worse.

The wind build to between 15 and 17 knots with gusts to twenty.  The seas were now three feet with occasional four footers.  The autopilot dealt with the steering fine and the ride was tolerable.  Twenty eight miles south of Sandy Hook is Manasquan Inlet, one of the possible harbors of refuge.  With these conditions Carol and I decided to press on.  Most cruisers consider Absecon Inlet at Atlantic City the next chance to get off the Ocean.  Absecon Inlet is approximately 65 miles further, more than four hours south of Manasquan Inlet.

Within an hour the winds built to a steady 20 knots out of the northeast with gusts to 27.  I had to slow the boat speed so that the boat would not surf down the large waves to bury the bow in the next wave.  Good boat speed is needed to keep reasonable steering control as the quartering seas also try to broach the boat.  I found a speed that balanced these two competing needs and was glad that the autopilot was dealing with the conditions.  I was willing to hand steer but given the distance we needed to cover, I wanted to save hand steering for when and if it was really needed.

The seas were now four to six feet with occasional seven footers.  Carol informed me that she wasn't having fun.

Six miles to the south of us and 30 miles south of Manasquan Inlet is Barnegat Inlet.  This is one of the inlets that shows no buoys on the chart marking the entrance channel.  A look at the notes reveals that the channel shifts so quickly that the marks are always being changed... swell.  It explains why most cruising guides ignore Barnegat Inlet as a refuge.  I was looking at Barnegat Light thinking it would be nice to pull in here and get out of this yuck when a heard a call to the Coast Guard from a sailboat.

The sailboat was asking about conditions in the Inlet.  SeaTow answered the call and said the Inlet was easily managed and described the channel marks and gave directions to an anchorage and an available marina.  I was all over it.  We contacted SeaTow, said we heard the conversation and planned on coming in also.  They put us in touch with High Bar Harbor Yacht Club which could put us up so in we started.

The inlet runs northwest which put the seas on our beam.  MYSTIC ROSE handled it fine though the skipper had left the hatch over his head in the first detent which provides a 3/8 inch opening for some breeze.  A seven footer crashed into the starboard beam.  The boat shrugged it off but it's amazing how much water can pour through a slightly open hatch.  Carol had no sympathy for my dampness or stupidity.

Inside the inlet all was calm.  In all, five boats took advantage of guidance from SeaTow and came in during that hour.  We really appreciated the courtesy and professionalism shown by their crews in Barnegat Inlet.  We were tied up in a comfortable slip in time for lunch.  We had only been underway for five hours though the skipper felt a few years older.

A fifteen minute walk from the marina there is professional fishing fleet dock with an attached Deli.  I had the best tasting grilled scallops I have ever experienced.  Food always better after a good thrashing though being thrashed is not a recommended method for enhancing the pallet.

Barnegat Inlet to Cape May

Friday dawned calm with a four knot wind out of the west, not like the wind in the Great Kill the day before.  This was a real catabolic land breeze.  The high dome was on top and the real weather window had arrived.  We were out at sunrise for the 65 nautical mile run to Cape May.  What a difference a day can make.  It was calm giving into a slight southerly at less than six knots.  This kind of boating is nice.

While heading south we reviewed the weather NOAA promised for the next day on Delaware Bay.  The winds were to fill in from  the southeast and increase to 15 knots generating 3 foot seas in the lower bay.  If the winds arrived early it could provide a lumpy ride.  We decided that if the wind was still calm when we got to Cape May we would refuel and continue on to the Chesapeake Bay that same day.

We entered the Cape May breakwater at 10:30am The seas had been calm the entire way.  We pulled into the Canyon Club fuel dock and took on 150 gallons.  They let us stay tied while we ate lunch and at 12pm we were underway heading out the back channel to Delaware Bay.

Continuing on to the Sassafras River

The Delaware Bay was calm and the flood tide was just beginning.  As the tide changes come later as you proceed northwest up the Bay we had a favorable current all the way to the C&D canal.  For half the time we were making 19 knots over the ground with only 17 knots through the water.  As we turned into the C&D canal the tide went slack and the current was neutral all the way to the Sassafras River on the Chesapeake Bay.  By 5:30pm we were tied up at the Sassafras Harbor Marina 85 miles from Cape May.  We had made our longest single day run, 150 nautical miles.  With our thrashing the day before and the long run today we were a little tired.

After a nice dinner at the Granary Restaurant we were soon asleep.  The next morning we awoke to the sunrise at the right and considered whether to do the last 42 miles home this  morning or lay over.  Showers were promised for later in the day with thunder showers on Sunday and Monday.  The remnants of Hurricane Katrina were promised for mid week.  We thought we would clean up in the morning from our last two days and head home.

Water Spout off Pooles Island

Shipshape, we took in our lines at 9:30am and headed out the Sassafras River watching local storm cells building north and south.  It looked temporarily clear west towards the mouth of the river.  After reaching the Bay we turned south.  The wind built to 20 knots and the the sky looked ominous to the west.  The clouds were moving north and it looked to clear us.

When we were abeam of Pooles Island a boater announced that a water spout had touched down just north of Pooles Island.  The Coast Guard came on in a few minutes and passed  the warning on to everyone on the Bay.  We were beginning to wonder if we had annoyed Neptune by being out cruising for only three months.  Our weather and cruising conditions had been pretty much ideal up to the last few days.

We couldn't see the water spout that was suppose to be pretty close to our position but we checked the charts quickly for a safe haven.  Whorton Creek was just to southeast so we headed toward there until the storm resolved itself.  We hadn't gone far before the cell continued north and the southern horizon brightened so we continued on towards the Bay Bridge.

In less than two hours we were maneuvering around three sailboat races and weaving through crab pots at the mouth of the Severn River.  A light rain was falling and our homeport never looked so good.  We were soon tied up in our home slip in Salt Works Creek off the Severn and making lunch.  The trip home from Essex, New York on Lake Champlain had taken eight days.

The last three days won't go down as the favorites of our cruise but the cruise will go down as the best cruise of our lives so far.  I hope you have enjoyed traveling with us through this online log.

We have begun to settle into living in the house again but after Katrina passes by we are planning three nights and four days cruising the Eastern Shore over Labor Day weekend.  In the end you can't get enough cruising.

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