Friday, May 31, 2013

Barnegat Bay to Staten Island, Ground Zero NYC

We had a very pleasant night at anchorage in Barnegat Bay except for a few fishing boats coming and going at all hours of the night and rocking the boat a bit.  The sunrise was nice also.

We had several boats leaving about the same time.  We were planning to follow Roger and Anne on "Third Reef" again.

After the easy trip the day before, the forecast was for 2 to 4 foot seas but we never saw them.  Roger and Anne have made this trip several times over the years and said we had two of the best consecutive days they had ever seen - we'll take it!  There was really not much to take pictures of - more water, beaches, and houses.  Sorry, New Jersey, but your waters have been the least interesting of any we have traveled thus far.  We ran 65 miles that day with rain and fog the last couple of hours and finally docked at Great Kills Yacht Club on Staten Island.  It was too foggy to get any pictures of Long Island or NYC on the way over to Staten Island - that would have to wait for another day.

GKYC and the other marinas had lots of damage from Hurricane Sandy.  One of the lighthouses was missing on the way in and evidence of the damage was still clearly evident. The floating docks and the boats in the slips all wound up on land at GKYC. All of the members got to work putting in new docks and getting the boats back in the water - many were able to be lifted by crane, inspected, placed in the travel lift, and dropped back into the water. Unfortunately, others were totaled.

Our dock had been repaired and was in good shape.

We said goodbye to Roger and Anne the next morning as they continued their trip home to Maine, and it was time for us to venture into New York City.

Loopers have a great representative there at GKYC in John Calascibetta.  John and his wife, Juliet, completed the loop around 2004 in a 42' Grand Banks.  We had called John before heading in to GKYC and he made the slip arrangements for us and met us at the docks.  On Wednesday morning, he drove us to the train station, gave us numerous pointers on sightseeing in NYC, and loaned us his open-account MTA card so we wouldn't have to worry about buying prepaid cards.  Here's the train station at Great Kills.  It would take us to the north end of Staten Island to catch the ferry to NYC.

While we waited for the train, Rhonda struck up a conversation with "Spider" - loved his Jersey accent.  We expected everyone to have it but that was not the case. By the way, northerners have no trouble distinguishing our southern accents either! Anyhow, he knew John at GKYC and gave us many sightseeing pointers as well.  We went immediately from the train to the ferry which for some reason is free!  They have several of these running constantly.  Here's one docked next to ours.  They are 4 stories tall and have elevators in addition to the stairs to get from one floor to another.

The ferry takes you right by the Statue of Liberty and The Battery waterfront of Manhattan, but it was still foggy and we have much better pictures of all of that so we'll cover that later.  One of the first things we saw getting off of the ferry was evidence of the new bicycle rental program NYC just started this week.  I got a couple of differing sets of numbers but it's something like 10,000 bikes branded with the New York-based Citi Bank’s logo at 600 docking stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, and Queens.  You can imagine the controversy on this one - almost as much as Bloomberg's ban on large soft drinks!  I think Citi Bank forked out about 41 million to sponsor the program with the bikes appropriately named "Citi Bikes."  It sounds like a pretty good deal - $95 a year for unlimited use of the bikes.

Our first stop was a short walk to Ground Zero. We were hoping to get tickets to get into the 9/11 memorial area and we did.  There was just a short wait to get in.  You all know the horrors of that day and it's hard to describe the emotions of walking those grounds today.  It's difficult to imagine just how horrific it would have been to be there on that infamous day, but I have to admit that the memorial site does have a certain "peace" about it now. I think the pictures tell the story better than I can.  Below - the first new tower (others are planned), the 2 pools in place where the old towers stood, and the names.  Yes, the names and the lives lost  - that is the really hard part.

Regarding the names - they are grouped together by relationships/associations people had with each other.  This could be people on one of the flights together, families, friends at work, firefighters/rescue workers/police that worked together, again recognizing the significance of the loss that day.

   Four hundred white oak trees are being planted, all purchased from nurseries within 500 miles of the three attack sites.  

But one tree in particular stands out - the Survivor Tree.  It was planted at the WTC in 1970 and was found after 9/11 as an 8-foot stump only.  It was nursed back to health and sprouted new growth, today symbolizing the survival and resilience so important to the history of 9/11.

New construction is ongoing all around the portions on display today.

We had lunch and then went a short distance to St. Paul's Cathedral.  It is significant in many ways (George Washington used to worship there).

But 9/11 changed its course in history also and the inside of the cathedral is filled with memorials and memorabilia since that time. St.  Paul's became a place of rest and refuge for the recovery workers.  For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12-hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling, and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police, and others. 

These are some of the actual pictures and postings of missing friends and family members - heartbreaking.

There were several sculptures on display, made from actual structural portions of the towers.

A "Flag of Honor" has been developed with the names of all those who died that day in the stripes of the flag.

The outside of the cathedral and the cemetery grounds were strewn with debris after the attack.  The solitude of the grounds today is much different of course.

When we returned to the marina that evening, we visited with John up at the yacht club.  Two retired NYC firefighters were there also.  One of them mentioned that he had frequented St. Paul's many times after the attacks, noting that it indeed provided a resting place, solitude, and encouragement for return trips to the scene.  He had recently taken his kids there so they too would have a clear awareness and understanding of just what happened on 9/11.  I think it is fitting to stop here for this post.  I'll cover other portions of NYC another time. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Finally out of Cape May to Barnegat Bay

It's Monday, May 27th, Memorial Day, and we finally got a break in the weather and had a beautiful run off-shore, 79 miles to Barnegat Bay, about 2/3 of the way up the Jersey coastline.  After a 6-day delay at Cape May, we were really glad to be moving again.  We had a nice restful day yesterday, rode our bikes a couple of miles to First Presbyterian Church and picked up some groceries on the way back.  The church was beautiful, inside and out.

The sermon was very good on the topic of the Trinity and the music was a first for us.  We attended the contemporary service and were surprised to hear a jazz ensemble.  I've been involved with church music now for about the past 30 years as either pianist and/or as a part-time music director and have never heard jazz in church.  It was very good, especially the trombone player, and it gave a slightly different twist to some of the traditional songs they sang.  Anyhow, back to leaving Cape May. We had been docked next to two Grand Banks all week that were traveling together - a 36' named "Third Reef" and a 46' named "Baleen."  Here we are all docked side-by-side.  "Baleen" is faster than "Third Reef" and us so she waited to depart after us.

We had a nice sunrise just before departure.

And shortly thereafter, Rhonda got a shot of the almost full moon.  It's not often that you get a sunrise and a daytime moon shot within 30 minutes of each other.

Here's a shot looking back at the entrance to the marina after we departed.  A couple of things to notice.  They have a six-foot tide as you can see by the water line on the wall.  You'll notice also how skinny the entrance/exit is (the opening by the lighthouse).  That's not really a big deal except once you leave the marina you have to make a hard 90 degree left turn to stay in the channel which runs only out to about 30 feet from the wall.  We left only one hour after low tide so there was not much wiggle-room. 

There are several channels from the Atlantic into the internal waters of New Jersey.  The one at Cape May is the southernmost one.  Here's "Third Reef" leading the way out into the Atlantic.

There's not much change to the Jersey coastline - miles and miles of water, beach, and houses.  This is Ocean City where they also had about 4 sets of amusement parks.  It was hard to see the damage from Hurricane Sandy from our distance out, about 2 miles, but you can definitely see construction equipment among the rides.  

About the only significant large town with tall buildings is Atlantic City - it really sticks out. Here she is from a distance and then a couple of close-ups.  Don't ask me why there is a golf-ball-looking thing on the top of the tower - no idea.

There was lots of boat traffic out today, those that were running the coastline like us and lots of locals enjoying Memorial Day.  There were even a few fishing boats out and we believe this was the first shrimp boat out actively shrimping that we've seen since Fernandina Beach, FL.

Most of the channels can be difficult to navigate, especially with shoaling from Hurricane Sandy and when the tide is running fast.  The current in the Barnegat channel can be as much as 5 miles per hour.  We followed "Third Reef" in.  That's Barnegat lighthouse in the distance.

The beach was very pretty, clean sand and clean water.

And we have decided that there are Bubbas everywhere - notice the camouflage camper in the picture.

Things got pretty busy in the inlet with all the boat traffic so there were not any opportunities for pictures.  We decided to anchor out and found a great spot with good wind protection and plenty of water, about 12-15 feet.  We've got fishing boats to our left.

A couple of marinas to our left and right.

And the main channel behind us (we're at the very end).

We have an iffy weather day tomorrow and then several worse weather days after that.  We are going to leave early and try to make New York City before it gets too bad.  We'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stuck In New Jersey - Weather AGAIN

We had a pleasant 3 days in Delaware City, DE and a nice 61-mile run down Delaware Bay to Cape May, NJ.  It's been 3 days now in NJ and it looks like it will be another 3 before we get a break in this weather.  Here's the problem.  You can run the inside waterway, but it is very difficult with lots of shoaling, shallow water, and big tides.  Also, Hurricane Sandy rearranged portions of that and consequently much of the existing information on those areas is now out of date. All things considered, it takes forever to time everything right with the tides and you still run the risk of running aground. Some looper friends of ours, Geoff and Patty aboard "Osprey," are traveling this route now and working their way through it all.   They're running very slowly and still have bumped the bottom several times, backed up, and been able to find deeper water. They have had to wait hours a couple of times for enough water to get through areas that are only 2 feet deep at low tide. They are keeping us advised of the tricky areas and we're taking good notes.  The key advice so far has been patience and more patience - not one of my strongest virtues.

Our second option is to run outside on the Jersey coast for about 125 miles to get to New York City.  Unfortunately, the wind speed and direction has not been in our favor and the seas have been generally 4 to 6 feet and I believe 5 to 8 is the forecast for this weekend.  That's uncomfortable for us, especially since it is probably going to be a 2-day run.  There are several inlets to duck in at but those can be difficult with 5-foot tides coming and going.

There's also the problem of the daily weather - it has not been good either, from rain to fog to wind, etc.  So, we'll probably just have to suck it up and go once we get much of a weather window at all.  The forecast is for 2 to 3 foot seas Monday and Tuesday so hopefully that's our window of opportunity.  In the meantime, here are some pictures from the trip down Delaware Bay and a few of Cape May.

The Delaware River comes out of the Philadelphia area and feeds a huge bay out to the Atlantic.  It has a fairly narrow ship channel with lots of traffic.  The bay is about 24 miles across at its widest point so it can be rough as well, but we had almost perfect conditions for that crossing except for a very low overcast with some haze, maybe even a little bit of fog - you'll see it in the pictures.  The picture below is the day before we departed and was taken by the dockmaster and posted on Delaware City Marina's Facebook page.  The four Looper boats left to right are Help Me Rhonda, Golden Hawk, Keeper, and Mooring Dove.   Let me say again that Delaware City Marina is one of those "How else can I help you marinas?"  Tim was out on the docks assisting every one with the morning departure.

We were bringing up the rear so I got a couple of good shots once we were all out in the river heading southbound.

After everyone got settled into their own comfortable and most efficient cruising speeds,  Mooring Dove and Golden Hawk were clearly faster and gradually left the group, so we ended up cruising all day behind Keeper.  Not far down the river we encountered our first traffic of the morning. I've commented previously about the title of "towboat" when most of the time they are pushing and not towing.  Well, here you are.

There was a nuclear power plant on the left, reminding me of George W (the second one).  He was known for a few interesting word pronunciations.  "Nucular" and "strategery" come to mind.  Hey, I liked "W" and he didn't mind folks poking fun at him.

Next we had two ships heading our way but we had plenty of room to pass off of their starboard side.

The second one was another of the vehicle carriers, "Sunrise ACE" from Panama, and it was clearly faster than the freighter in front.  She eventually took the passing lane and went around the freighter on its port side.

There were a couple of lighthouses along the way.  You can actually see the light in the second one.  It comes on for four seconds at a time with a one-second break between flashings.  These two lighthouses and a couple of other large markers all mark significant shoaled areas, and they also put out a horn warning which sounds like your standard ship horn in the fog for scary movies!

The skies finally began to clear up around noon and we headed for the canal entrance into Cape May.  This is North Cape May from a distance with pretty beaches on display.

A close-up of the beach as we entered the canal.

And here's our traveling companion for the day, Keeper, with some other local traffic on the canal. 

There is a large ferry operation at the canal entrance.  There were about 4 or 5 of these docked there with daily service across the bay to Lewes, DE.

Below, Help Me Rhonda docked at Utsch's Marina, pronounced like "hutches" without the "h." You should note the clean hull with no moustache.  I took two of our days at Delaware City Marina and got new paint on the hull. The water just rolls off of it now like a windshield just treated with Rain-X.  It was quite a job getting the work done - I had to sand, prep, tape, and paint from the dinghy with sand gnats everywhere and a pretty swift current.  Rhonda was working from the dock helping position the dinghy where I needed it while at the same time having to keep me far enough away so as not to hit the fresh paint.  It was quite a balancing act - a picture would have been interesting but we had our hands full.  I actually did a test section of paint while we were in Jacksonville and it was still completely clean after about 1500 miles so this should keep us clean for a while.

Remember how nice we thought Oxford, MD was, particularly the well-kept homes and yards?  Well, Cape May is like Oxford on steroids - same beautiful Victorian homes and yards, but it seems like thousands of them plus lots of traffic and people everywhere, lots of commercial activity, etc. With so much to choose from, Rhonda decided to just take pictures of pink and purple homes since those are our granddaughter's favorite colors. So, Alexis, these are for you!

And a dog statue for Adam.

We rode our bikes out to the beach.  It is beautiful but not a good walking beach - very deep and loose sand.

Lots of Victorian homes (on steroids) along the waterfront.

This bed and breakfast hotel and restaurant combo got an extra dose.

We found one of our favorite refreshment stops from Galveston - Rita's, and had one of their custard and Italian water ice ("icee") combos called a Gelati, and then rode our bikes around town and stopped to get some groceries at Ames (missing our Publix stores).  We've done some cleaning on the boat, worked on my bike a little and will find things to occupy our time while we wait on the weather.  We are conveniently located close to an unusual eating establishment, The Lobster House.  The seafood comes right off of the boats into the restaurant.  You can eat in the fancy section of the restaurant, the more casual bar/coffee house area, or order at the carry-out section and eat outside by the docks or take it home.   We chose to get the carry-out and eat on the boat - New England clam chowder, a seafood platter, and boiled shrimp for one of Rhonda's pasta recipes.  The place was packed on a Tuesday evening and one of the folks standing in line for the carry-out said she has seen as many as 80 waiting in line on a holiday!

As an example of the weather, yesterday afternoon went from a sunny day to thick fog in about 30 minutes.   So, our "strategery" is to simply wait it out and enjoy ourselves in the meantime.  Hope to see you soon in New York.

Addendum:  After proof-reading, Rhonda has questioned if George "W" is the second or third?  She has suggested he's the third because of his father and George Washington.  However, his father is George H.W. so for clarification I was only grouping him together with Washington.  Too much time on our hands, huh?