Friday, June 1, 2007

An Unexciting Offshore Passage (Hooray!)

Ventnor City to Sandy Hook
Tuesday May 29th, 2007
(written mostly by Doug)

We were anchored in a small pocket between Shelter Island and Great Island, both of which are small & marshy, just west of Ventnor City NJ. It’s noted in several waterway guides and is just barely off the IntraCoastal Waterway main channel. Kathie and I had discussed the pros & cons of continuing on the ICW or going “outside” in the ocean. The weather was a big factor because the NJ-ICW stops at Manasquan (everybody has to go outside from there to Sandy Hook), and we had very favorable weather. It would take several days to travel the “inside route” and we might then have to wait for good weather; or we could take the good weather we had now, go into the ocean from Atlantic City (Absecon Inlet), and be in Sandy Hook that evening.

Arising earlier than usual, at 6:05am the engine started up and I began weighing anchor. This is a nice bit of exercise and there was no wind or current demanding fancy boat-handling. Next thing we were headed down a canal that leads straight into downtown Ventnor City. We met four men in a rowing shell, having their morning exercise; they were going much faster than us in their arrow-like craft and pulling together smartly as a team. It seems rowing is popular here, not only did we see other rowing teams in shells that morning but also saw numerous Jersey beach skiffs, with their distinctive clinker hulls shaped for handling surf, tied up to private docks.

We had to go thru several low bridges but the bridge keepers were also early risers and handled road, train, and water traffic very professionally. We had a short wait for a passenger train pulling pulling into Atlantic City but the bridge opened for us promptly after it went by.

The channel looping around behind Atlantic City borders on a less glamorous part of town, and one of the sights is a sunk sportfisherman still tied to a broken down dock. Then we went past five large wind turbines, turning the light morning breeze into electricity (to power the slot machines, no doubt!).

Now we were in the channel between Absecon Bay and the inlet. The IntraCoastal Waterway turned north-west, but we kept going under the highway bridge and out the sea channel.

The wind had been westerly, and swung around to a barely-existing northerly. I had noted the barometer reading and monitored the weather radio; the wind was predicted to clock around to easterly and then south-easterly. This could develop into a strong sea breeze, as often happens along this stretch of coast. As a boy I’d sailed on Barnegat Bay and remember well the daily afternoon hurricane. This would make an offshore passage rough. But the forecast was 5- 10 mph winds and the barometer was rising slightly.

Even in light winds, the boat was rocked & tossed about by waves leftover from wind earlier in the week, and also by the ground swell. The ocean is always moving and as deep water movement meets the slope up to the beach, there is a constant surge or heave that is not dependent on wind. This is familiar to coastal sailors and is called “the ground swell.”

The sea channel at Absecon is well marked and since we don’t need 40 foot deep water, we turned northward before reaching the end of the shipping channel. Now we just put on the autopilot and kept a lookout. It was much easier to put miles behind us, although the scenery was not as interesting. Basically all we had to do was not run into any bouys or nets, check the engine gauges & the compass, and keep an eye out for other boats. It was easy, rather boring in fact…. although with the ground swell, it was also necessary to work at keeping one’s balance.

By 8:00 AM we were heading northeast in the open Atlantic, around noon we were passing by Barnegat Inlet and its famous lighthouse. We reached Manasquan Inlet at slightly before 3:00 PM, probably two days before we would have if we’d stayed in the ICW. The autopilot steered us well, the winds stayed light as predicted, and we aimed straight into the Sandy Hook channel just south of the entrance to New York Harbor, anchoring in Horseshoe Cove around 6:30 PM.

There was a fellow Great Looper anchored in the cove so we chatted briefly about our trips so far, and where we might meet up again. Then we had a nice dinner, watched the sunset, slept soundly… not the most exciting day of cruising, but we had made excellent progress in safe conditions. And we were poised on the threshold for great adventures in New York!

Mapquest link to Sandy Hook anchorage, Horseshoe Cove

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still following along - I'm surprised at the progress so far. Not surprised at the skill involved, but that a "slow boat to China" made such good time. :>)

Now that you are closer to me, drop me an email - if you get up near The Fisher's Island area or use the inside passage near Watch Hill (behind Fisher's Island) - I can head down to Watch Hill and get some pics of Winnie from the shore as you cruise by.

Sounds like you are having a good time. Just checking the forecast and it looks like this week could be challenging heading north for a few days.

Stay safe.