Not too many impressions from today and not many photos either simply because it was a demanding day on all. We came out of the Delaware City Canal and could see the Delaware River roiling in front of us. We knew the forecast, believed we could handle it and that the boat was also up to it. Once in the river, it would have been almost impossible to turn back because turning around would have required several minutes of broadsiding the current and we really weren’t sure if Easy Wind would be able to bring her bow around quickly enough so that we could steer up into the current, putting us and her at real risk. And so, we were committed. As our buddy, Mike put it later, “wind and current from the back…no turning back!” And he’s right.
The current and wind were in opposition creating haystacks of water and all of it was running faster than we were and from the rear. Same story as on the Chesapeake, water would sneak up under our stern and throw the bow any which way it pleased. Consequently, using auto-pilot was totally out of the question and it was an endurance contest between us and nature. It was challenging but after we passed the nuclear plant, at about mile eight, the waves spread out and were more directionally navigable.
There were lots of tankers, cargo ships and freighters to make sure we steered clear of but we steered the edge of the channel while they hugged the middle, so it wasn’t a problem.
We were both very happy to see the red and green markers of the Cape May canal. We fueled up and docked at Utsch’s Marina where we had stayed before. It is a bit tricky to enter as it looks like you are coming into a stockade that’s entrance is about 20’ wide with a little lighthouse marking it and of course the wind was blowing 35!
Unlike the last time we were here, the marina was almost empty. Hundreds of boats are blocked in their storage lot waiting to be put in the water but the C-19 mess has really interfered with boating this year and the governor just opened marinas this past week. The staff here is wonderful and really epitomize the family business mentality. Ernie apologized that the bathrooms weren’t open due to C-19 restrictions but that he would drive us into town if we wanted and even offered us some of his homemade chicken and rice soup!
We are concerned about the weather as it seems to be one low pressure system after another, kicking up winds and waves but we have a window of 1 footers tomorrow and so we will get Easy Wind a bit further north but aren’t sure what happens after that as the waves are predicted to be between 5 and 12 feet for days afterwards. That is definitely a no-go scenario for us.
Out we go with a couple of other boats on a chilly daybreak, past the Coast Guard station where Jerry did his basic training and into the Atlantic. The other boats quickly ditch Easy Wind but she doesn’t seem to care.
As forecast the waves are actually about 1 foot and for the first 3 hours we relax a bit, letting the auto pilot drive with us, occasionally correcting to miss crab pots. Around Atlantic City the waves have kicked up to three’s and we have to make the call about whether we try for Manasquan Inlet or go in at Absecon inlet and stay in Atlantic City.
If there were a way to know ahead whether the forecast would remain accurate, these kinds of decisions would be much easier but there isn’t. We decide to put our faith in the forecast and hope that the waves stay the way there are or even decrease a little and hope against hope that no thunderstorms pop up to kick up the waves. We power past Barnegat lighthouse and as we make the turn north,
we are fortunate that the forecast is actually accurate and we bump through manageable seas off the bow for 10 hours and are just about to turn towards the Manasquan inlet when the engine hesitates repeatedly and starts to vibrate. Two typical causes: you caught a crab trap and are towing it (hence the vibration) or the fuel filter has gone bad. We know it isn’t a crab pot because we are always hyper-vigilant for them and there literally haven’t been any for hours. So, we head out to sea, knowing the engine will need to be cut off for the time it takes Jerry to change the fuel filters.
He gets everything set up while I navigate us away from the shore and when he’s ready I cut the engine off and play nurse to his surgeon, handing him what he needs and taking away what he’s removed. I timed him and he has both fuel filters changed and we are back under way in under 4 minutes! I know he has done this on a bunch of his captain jobs but this is the first one I have been witness to and I am visibly impressed! Once the engine is back on, she purrs along, happy as a clam.
We head toward the Manasquan Inlet which is typically about the most treacherous inlet to navigate around here, unless one has timed entrance or exit to coincide with ebb tide and there is no wind (ha, like that ever happens!). Narrow and long, bordered by rocks and concrete jacks on both sides, with fishermen flying past you, coming and going, it can be a harrowing experience. Today we have timed it well. We are at ebb tide, the wind is low, the inlet is the calmest I have ever seen it and we make it through and then navigate the narrow railroad bridge and highway bridge and arrive at Clark’s Landing Yacht Club and Marina.
They have given us a great outside slip in an almost empty marina. The season here has been drastically delayed by the C-19 closure of the marinas until last week. Spring is here and the tulips are amazing! It starts to rain and it is really cold. The weather doesn’t look great for the foreseeable future and we wonder if this will be the end of our trip with Easy Wind.
Our heater has died again, so after a couple of sips of tea and coffee, we go to work on it this morning. We use a hairdryer to loosen the old hoses and try to snake out the hose and through-hull valve. It is gucky and while there doesn’t seem to be any real clog, when we reassemble it and turn the unit on, there is still no water coming out the side of the boat and no heat coming on inside it. Brrrr.
We spend some of the morning cleaning the inside of the boat – we have an excellent little Shark vacuum that really does a great job (I want one for my boat!) and we wish there was a laundry facility here at the marina so we could get some towels washed.
It is rainy and cold and as we sit and explore weather options; it is looking grim. Wave and wind forecasts don’t give us a window for almost a week and that is a one-day window. We are looking at moving from Pt. Pleasant, NJ to either Sandy Hook or NY Harbor, where we would anchor behind the Statue of Liberty and from there, time the tides to run Hell Gate in the East River and out into Long Island Sound. We really need two to three decent days to accomplish this and we aren’t seeing them for the better part of two weeks.
A discussion with the owners results in a unanimous decision not to have us sit for 5-10 days in New Jersey (especially since C-19 seems pretty hot right here) and sadly we agree that we will coach Easy Wind’s new owners from a distance in bringing her the last leg home.
We spend the next day cleaning the boat, inside and out. Jerry washes her down and I polish her railings, which have been dulled by salt and spray and she is shiny and smiling by the time we are done.
We take advantage of the sun that is starting to peek out to walk to the laundromat to get all the linens and towels clean and then reluctantly take a Lyft to Enterprise where we pick up a car, after thoroughly wiping it down with Clorox wipes. We return to the boat and pack our stuff and load the car as there is no sense extending time in NJ. It is sad to leave Easy Wind alone in an unfamiliar place. She has been our home for 39 days and we know her almost as well as Makin Memories. The staff here is excellent though and we know they will oversee the repairs to the heater and gas stove that need to be made. We secure her lines, lock her up, turn the keys over to management, bid her a last farewell and hit the road.
We have decided to try to travel down the coast, tracing by car the route we have just done by boat and end up in Virginia Beach. We reminisce about our favorite parts of the trip and how we already miss Easy Wind. It is raining and cold again by the time we get to Virginia Beach but this is an absolutely beautiful area that we vow we will return to when are on the road in an RV at some point. The beach looks a lot like any other beach but the surrounding area has lots of forest and natural beauty that is not so typical of a beach community and we would like to spend some time exploring it sometime when it is warmer and not raining.
This day is a total drive day. We wanted to travel down the Outer Banks of NC but were foiled by the NC health dept. We cross the bridge to the outer banks and find that unless you have a pass, you are unable to visit Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, all of which are closed anyway. Sadly, we retrace our steps and decide that there will not be any real exploring on this trip home as we will probably face the same thing no matter where we go. So, we decide to just get home as fast as we can and make it as far as Florence SC before having had enough sitting in a car (boats are way easier to spend long hours in than cars are). The next day is more of the same. The roads are not as crowded but there are semi’s everywhere. We learn that other captains, delivering boats in the northeast have also been sent home owing to the non-existent weather windows. I know we all would have preferred to complete our deliveries but safety of craft, crew and pocketbooks needs to be foremost in mind when making these go-no-go decisions.
At the Florida border, we are herded through a blockade and while our rental plate is from Maryland, we confess, when asked, that we are in fact traveling from NJ. They siphon us off into a loop where we have to fill out some paperwork and receive instructions from the governor about how to stay safe etc. and a few hours later we are pulling into our home, sad that this journey is over but happy to be home after 5 ½ weeks where we are already looking forward to the next adventure!