May 16 - May 24, 2007: Southport, NC - Milford, CT
Today is already May 17. We are still in Southport, had hoped to move towards the Masonboro Inlet, go into a nice marina there and wait till Saturday morning for better weather and our departure. None of the marinas has space available for us, they claim. I fear that they justs don't like sailboats very much - we don't buy much fuel nor do we usually hook up too the power source - all great sources of additional revenue for the marinas. We called another alternative - Bald Head Island Marina. They are located, as the name implies, on Bald Head Island which is located right at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, i.e., right on the Atlantic Ocean. They have not called back yet so we still don't know whether we can go there or whether we just have to stay here, at the Southport Marina, for the next two nights as well and leave from here. All this means, that we will have to go AROUND Cape Fear after all - something we had hoped to avoid by taking the way to the Masonboro Inlet.
You see that we are somewhat frustrated as our plans don't work out the way we had hoped and planned. On the other hand, it seems that the weather is still predicted to be nice as of Saturday morning so that we should have a decent run up North towards Ocean City. We will keep you posted as to our progress as we have internet access available to us.
We called Bald Head Island Marina again. This time, the lady ensured that someone from the marina would answer the phone - and a little while later, we received a return call confirming our reservation for two nights as of tonight. We left Southport Marina around 1230 and "dredged" ourselves out of our dock and out the marina entrance. The channel itself was very deep, the current swift. Before we knew it, we were at the jetties for the Bald Head Island Marina and tried to avoid being pushed against them. Thank God for a strong engine and a capable captain. We got stuck right away and could not make it to our initially assigned dock. They assigned another dock to us - same story. We have been tied up, with a bow line just so we would not swing around when the water rose. It is 1620 by now, and we are still not tied up to our dock though the water has risen over a foot already. We assume that it will take at least another half hour before we can finally get into our slip. Doesn't all this sound familiar? We are reminded of our Bahama experience and had actually hoped that we had this unpleasant experience behind us.
We had lunch, did our navigation all the way to Ocean City and even to Cape May - just in case we would end up getting into Ocean City at night time - not a pleasant thought and totally unnecessary. From around Ocean City to Cape May is "only" another 45 nm which would then permit us to arrive there during daylight hours. We obviously do not know yet what will happen as all this depends so much on the weather and our average speed over the 390 nm trip.
May 18 - we did laundry this morning, checked Windfinder.com for the weather forecast for our three-day trip, rented a golf cart, drove all around the island, went to the only super-market on the island and walked up "Old Baldy", the now discontinued lighthouse dating back to 1817 - a total of 124 steps. We had to rush as we got there at exactly 1600 - closing time. Still, the lady let us go up "if we hurried". We did, took some pictures and went straight back down. An outside wedding was in preparation on the lawn of Old Baldy. They wanted us out of their ways. - We found a number of historic signs indicating battles, the existence of various forts and their demise - due to fighting, departing from the island.
Because the weather forecast looked different than a few days ago, we were not certain that we would be leaving tomorrow. So, after coming back to the boat, I went on the computer to check for an update. And, yes, it looks like the 20 plus knots of wind from NNW will not stay this way for long, instead, they are supposed to come mostly from the West and subside faster than shown this morning. NOW, we hope that the latest forecast is the correct one. We decided to leave tomorrow after all. So, for all of you who are watching our progress, don't be alarmed if you don't get any updates on the website. We will be out of internet access / range for at least 2 plus, possibly 3 full days (and nights).
We went to dinner at the only restaurant on the island. The menu sounded great, and we were looking forward to being served. Well, the soup was good, the wine very nice, but our main course was a disaster which I could not eat at all, and even Juergen poked in it without any interest and gave up shortly thereafter. Nobody came to ask whether anything was wrong. The waiter only asked whether he should bring "a box" so we could take the dinner home. No, thanks!
Claudia had called earlier. She and Ruben drove all the way from NYC to greet Sean who is scheduled to return from Iraq for home leave tomorrow. Of course, they are excited and took a few days off to spend with him - or whatever little time there will be as Sean's mom arrived as well, his girl friend, Chris (his brother). They wanted to get together with us but they also have been driving for too many hours. I am sure / or I hope that they are fast asleep in their hotel room. We regret not seeing them because we will leave tomorrow, but we will see them shortly after we have returned home.
Check out our gallery for the pictures of today.
May 24 - we will be arriving in Milford, CT, our boat's "home" in about 3 hours' time, i.e., around 1900 - 1930. We had left Bald Head Island Marina around 0800 on Saturday, May 19. We expected the around 390 to 440 nm trip to either Ocean City, Maryland, or Cape May, Jew Jersey, to take 3 days and, depending on our speed, also 3 nights. The weather was good though the winds initially did not come from NW but more N to NE. Still, we motor sailed all the way as the wind shifted to the more Westerly, South Westerly, and over time North Westerly direction. The nights were beautiful with gorgeous stars, milkyway visible for hours and though the moon was "new", it provided some sheen over the water until it set (too early for our taste). Still, we enjoyed the beautiful, serene nights. Our shifts did not seem so terrible. We switched, one night, Juergen would take the first shift, the next night I did, and so we both enjoyed the moon, the stars, the sunrise. I had started taking Stugeron, the motion sickness pills Alison and Chuck had already recommended in Horta in 2005 and which were again recommended to me by long distance sailors Marcie and David, two days before our departure and kept taking them twice a day until we got to Cape May. I guess, the trick was to start BEFORE our departure rather than as we were leaving. They seem to work. Now, I will purchase more in Portugal in July as Stugeron is not available in the US - why??? It works very well, not only for me but - it seems - for a lot of people.
We rounded Cape Fear, passed Cape Lookout and then rounded Cape Hatteras, the one feared the most - at least by us. The wind piped up, the seas swelled, all from astern. We had the ride of a lifetime - at 10 - 10.4 knots and no Gulf Stream current pushing, this was exhilerating and fun. We just hoped that it would not get worse. In the end, we had a ball getting around the Cape and moving "North" (almost due North) towards Cape May. Near Ocean City, the wind and seas started strengthening - but to a point that we still felt comfortable covering the extra 45 nm to Cape May. In beautiful sunshine, we arrived at the jetties of Cape May around 1800. The deep water marina was full, its sister operation had dock space but was not comfortable for us to enter. After a while, they agreed to provide us a dock and instructed us from which point in the marked channel to move towards their entrance. We got stuck in the mud just after leaving the channel, turned around and looked for anchoring space. There was not much as a lot of boats were already anchored, and the water outside the channel was fairly shallow, too shallow for our 6 foot 2 inch draft. Still, in the end, and after suffering from an incredibly cold wind which came down on us just as we were searching for the anchor spot, we finally had found a perfect place for Impromptu for the night, opened a bottle of wine, called Christa to tell her about the beautiful view we had from our vantage point and soon had dinner. After all, we were tired - more so than we initially felt. After chicken, potatoe and fennel au gratin, we "fell" into our beds and were grateful for the calm this anchorage provided.
We left around 0900 the next morning for the short trip to Atlantic City where we had made a reservation for a dock - we did not again want to be "without a proper spot for our boat". We arrived around 1500 after a beautiful motor sail, downwind, and tied up Impromptu. Juergen washed her for the first time in a while during which time I checked in and hoped for WIFI access. Though this was the Trump Marina, no such thing. Actually, the service was pretty mediocre if I want to be nice, the hotel where we had to check in (though we stayed on the boat in the marina) was noisy, filled with lots of gamblers, many of which seemed not to be able to afford spending their money on gambling but did anyway. I was disgusted and upset that we ended up here. Yet, we learned that this was the only deep water marina, so we had no choice.
We walked all the way to the boardwalk as we had planned to check out some of the casinos, have dinner somewhere, gamble (for a limited and set sum only). The "Taj Mahal" looked cheap, gaudy and is an insult to the "real thing" which is so dignified, beautiful and serene. This one was loud and did not intrigue us a bit. We walked to the next casino via the boardwalk which was equally disappointing. The "Borgata", the newest casino in town, seemed to be the only thing we wanted to check out before heading back to the boat.
What a difference. The lobby was tastefully decorated with beautiful colored glass chandeliers. The stores - there were some and they were even open - offered unusual items in good style (though quite pricey). The gaming areas were separated by "type of gaming". In addition, the casino had three elegant restaurants, one steak house, one seafood restaurant and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. We decided to have dinner at the seafood restaurant which was beautifully and interestingly decorated. The menu sounded wonderful, and the wine list was extensive and, given the location, reasonable with good variety at all price levels. We had a most delicious meal, a great bottle of wine, coffee / espresso, before we finally went to gamble. Of course, we lost what we had set out to lose, but I was lucky and received, net, net, about $ 15 back. I was happy, we had had a great time, and we were ready to go back to the boat because the next day, we had an approximately 90 nm run to Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
For those of you who don't know Sandy Hook, it is just about 6 nm South of the Verazano Narrows Bridge which connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. It is the bridge whose towers are taller than the spires of the Dome in Cologne and whose towers are farther apart on the top than on the bottom, to account for the curvature of the earth. All ships, large and small, pass under this bridge to enter New York harbor from the ocean. We have done this about three times - once leaving and twice arriving - when we went into the Chesapeake Bay years ago. The third time was now, coming all the way from Florida and, indirectly, from Europe.
We arrived at Sandy Hook with wind force 6, seas and wind opposing and therefore an interesting wave pattern. Juergen had his hands full to keep Impromptu reasonably on course while finally rounding the hook and moving into slightly less challenging waters in Raritan Bay. We found a nice anchorage, well protected from ship and ferry traffic and somewhat from the wind and waves. The anchor held well without needing to be reset. We enjoyed our glass of wine, our pasta dinner, and went to bed early. Even in beautiful weather, a 90 nm trip is tiring.
We woke up early to do our navigation, have breakfast, and to start on our last leg of this journey. We had checked the tides and current charts as we wanted to go through the East River with the tide. Thus, we left at 0910, with a slight current against us which, by the time we got into New York harbor, was with us well into the Long Island Sound. We called our friends Jean and Bert to tell them that we would pass their (and our) buildings and that we would be waving. When we arrived at 57th Street, Bert was there and though we did not see her, Jean, waving so much that we noticed him - of course we video taped the scene as we did with pretty much the entire experience. This was our fifth or sixth time by boat in New York City - it seemed the most exciting one, though this may not be quite true - over time, our memory fades... It was thrilling to pass all the large container and tanker ships, the many tug / push boats with their barges, the ferries, the sightseeing boats, some sail boats. We even saw the Queen Mary at a dock in Brooklyn.
This is the end of our two year journey. We have met a number of wonderful people, had a great experience in all regions we sailed, enjoyed special foods, saw lots of nature, not enough wildlife but still were lucky to see a few whales, lots of dolphins and flying fish. I even saw two fish jump out of the water which I have not been able to identify yet. I will check this out further as they were large, greenish with a sheen of yellow and had an interesting and somewhat unusual tail section. I almost have forgotten the pain and agony I endured while on the transatlantic journey, the anxiety I felt sailing towards the Bay of Biscay. Now, the entire trip already seems like an incredibly wonderful adventure. We have had good times together seeing the many different places and their history, meeting many interesting people, learning from them, with them. Now, we are both looking forward to being with our family and friends, enjoying our apartment and land life. I am also looking forward to spending more time with Christa and help her in any way possible.
It took exactly two years from our departure from Milford / Montauk till Impromptu came back to her home, the Milford Boat Works. We have been welcomed by many friends who happened to notice that we were back, by family, and by those friends we already phoned. There will be many get togethers to celebrate our return, to spend time together. There are lots of things that will need to be taken care of, but we are happy having taken this journey. We are looking forward to meeting up with our "old" friends and family but also to stay in touch with our "new" friends, both from Europe as well as the US.
We may not be able to take another trip like this. We for sure enjoyed it and will cherish it for the rest of our lives.
---- this will also end our write up - at least as this part of our journey is concerned. You may be able to read up on other adventures under Family and Friends - e.g., our planned flight to Portugal to meet up with my brother Ulli and family this coming July - or other special occasions. We will keep you informed of whether or not we actually will take Impromptu to the Caribbean. Enjoy your summer and thanks for staying with us throughout these past two years.