Sunday, June 29, 2014

Regatta & Family Visit

Last weekend was the KYC "Bill Volk Regatta" which is a series of sailboat races held on consecutive days. I volunteered to be the official photographer and the yacht club rounded up a powerboat and captain for me.  That was a new experience as I had no knowledge of sailboat racing and Capt. Tom only had seen a couple of races. So with some intensive coaching on where we could be and when, we set out Saturday afternoon.

I was extremely glad I purchased some waterproof camera bags and rain covers - it turned out I needed all of these.  Capt. Tom had a nice 22' fishing boat, but the sea state was rough enough that everything on board got hit with the sea spray.  Despite this, the photos turned out well and I ended up filling a 32 GB card before returning mid-afternoon.

I returned to find my brother had brought his family out for the day.  Given the schedule of events surrounding the regatta, we couldn't go sailing, but we did find a few moments to take them out to see the boat before joining us for drinks in The Bilge (KYC's lower bar) and a find dinner prepared by the members.

Fighting the sea, trying to remain upright and brace myself , and the several hours of intensive photography landed me 724 photos from the racing, but that meant that after my brother returned home, I had 724 to work up... I ended up with 225 "keepers" and finished the processing around 1:00 AM, but I was exhausted.  I opted out of photography on Sunday and instead, Vicky and I set out for our first sail by ourselves.  We sailed across the bay past the racers, and returned, but with only two of us on-board, photography took a back seat.

Once back at KYC, I photographed some of the post racing exuberance, and then stuck around until all the protests were finished before catching a few of the winners.

Finally, the water was calm enough for us to head out to the boat after the celebration and catch a sunset photo from the water.  It was an incredible and exhausting weekend.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Father's Day Cruise to Great Beds Lighthouse

Yesterday was Father's Day... it was also our first time casting off the mooring lines here in Raritan Bay.  The one remaining goal from last year's sailing was itching at me... can we sail upwind to the Great Beds Lighthouse?  John came over in the early afternoon and we headed next door to the KYC dock and caught the launch.

Father's Day must be a popular time to go sailing as the launches were full.

(Looking back to the KYC dock... our condos are on the left.) 

Once sailing, it was basically a series of tacks back and forth to get over this light (which is just southeast of Perth Amboy)  A year ago when we tried this, the series of tacks became "just sailing back and forth over the same water" (we were unable to point into the wind enough to overcome the current).  I used the time to show John some of the systems on the boat and he and Vicky handled the lines.

The wind was just right... around 10 knots with occasional puffs up into the high teens (just enough to keep it interesting).  I had to try and figure out what was not working correctly on the autopilot and (while I'm still not 100% sure of it) we were able to engage it a couple of times with some success.

This time we were successful in our lighthouse quest!  We actually sailed to within 200 yards or so of the lighthouse.  Traffic around the light was heavier and there were a number of shoals nearby (hence the need for the light) so we dropped sails, motored around the light and headed back to Keyport.

Vicky took time on the return trip to polish some of the bright work (I don't have a photo, sorry).  I tried to get a couple of photos of boats in the sunlight.

After we tied up, we prettied up Seas The Day a little, and then called for the launch, where we discovered that they have dogie life preservers!  Evidently dogs are frequent launch customers.

Back at KYC, John and I hit the waterfront bar while Vicky went home to "freshen up". (How come guys never need to "freshen up"?)  Then we wen to Drew's Bashore Bistro for some "Pork du jour" (this time it was braised pork shanks... "fall off the bone" tender and incredible).

A fabulous day... and enough celebrating. Today the diet (and exercise) starts up again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Delivery Excursion - A Trip Around NJ

So the big day finally arrived.  Saturday, we loaded up Vicky's car and headed down to G. Winter's Sailing Center.  The SUV was stuffed to the gills with outfitting items (plates, pots, tea kettle, tools, etc.) and provisions (muffins, yogurt, energy bars, lots of bottled water, etc.)  We hauled it down the dock and filled the salon, then spent the rest of the afternoon finding places on-board to stow it all.

We then went and had a last meal at the Towne Tavern we had become so fond of, and went back to Seas The Day, where Capt. Gary joined us for the night.

Here's the plan... sail south on the Delaware River and Delaware Bay stopping in Cape May, NJ for the first night, then heading out to the Atlantic Ocean and heading north to Atlantic City, NJ for the second night, and finally heading out to the ocean again and heading north to go around Sandy Hook and into Keyport, NJ.

Day 1 - Riverside, NJ to Cape May, NJ

The alarm clock went off at 3:00 and we had just enough time to take care of last minute details before shoving off at 3:45.

It was fortunate that we did get off then as we had to fight our way through the mud as the tide dropped. Once or twice we got hung up a bit and Gary was able to get us powered through (for some reason, I was sent to the front... perhaps to change the weight loading).

Fortunately, we remembered to turn on our running and steaming lights before we got out into the river.  We then headed south.  The main point of navigation for this trip was to "keep NJ on the left" and we would eventually get home. We passed under the Tacony-Palmyra bridge, then the Betsy Ross bridge, and then we had the experience of calling on the radio to have a railroad bridge lifted (we needed an extra few inches to get our antenna clear).

About this time, the sun started rising behind us and it was beautiful ride down past Philadelphia.

After Philly, we continued down the Delaware River.  Our biggest challenge was avoiding all the debris in the river - mostly logs and branches - that might cause some damage.  We passed the NJ State Aquarium and the USS New Jersey battleship - both in Camden.

Further down, we passed some more industrial sights and commercial vessels, including the old Philadelphia Naval Yards (with Philly airport just beyond), the Exxon-Mobil refinery at Paulsboro, some gorgeous old power plants, and some wildlife as well.  I can't begin to name everything we saw, but in the early morning light, even industrial eyesores can be beautiful.

As we reached the southern end of the Delaware River we passed under the Delaware Memorial Bridge's twin spans, where we took a little time for a group shot (the only chance as it turned out).

Then we continued on past New Castle, DE and Pea Patch Island where Fort Delaware is located.  I spent some time at both of these places a couple of years ago as part of a photography class with Horizon Photography Workshops.

We then turned the last corner of the Delaware River into Delaware Bay as we passed the Salem Nuclear Power Station.

Delaware Bay was calm and peaceful... at first.  Vicky went forward enjoying some time at the mast.  Some playful friends came alongside Seas The Day to check out this new vessel.  I waited around until we got to the Ship John Shoal lighthouse so I could snap a photo or two before going below for a nap....

... I awoke to a weird pounding sound.  About every second or two the boat lunched and (from down below) it sounded like it struck something.  So I went up top to discover that as we entered the lower bay, well things had gotten... choppier.

There are no more photos from this next part... basically we rode a 1 to 2 second chop for the next 6 hours. Fortunately, we could put on the autopilot and nobody had to try to stand at the wheel through this (we did all stay in the cockpit, so we could be close to the helm if needed).  Finally after 4 hours or so, we began to see water towers and other markers telling us we were getting close.  After another 2 hours, we reached the Cape May canal.  I looked back as the sun was starting to go down and realized how much texture the sea has... so I struggled below to grab the camera and get this photo.

We didn't go as far as the Cape May lighthouse, but turned into the Cape May Canal.  We passed a bunch of people fishing from the jetty, and the ferry terminal.  Then had a smooth ride through the canal to Utsch's Marina.

Utsch's Marina was incredibly cramped - every bit of available space was well used.  It was also incredibly clean (especially the shower rooms).  So after almost 18 hours on the water, we cleaned up a little, then we headed across the parking lot to The Lobster House for an end of day feast.

Day 2 - Cape May, NJ to Atlantic City, NJ

After the long day on Sunday, the second day was designed to be short... just a quick trip up to Atlantic City.  We started out late (9:15 AM) and began our trip by going past the US Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.  My son, John, and I had camped there a couple of times with the boy scouts, and it was interesting to get to see it from the water.

After getting out of Cape May, I motored us out through the inlet.  The wind was blowing in, the current was going out and the seas were wild (by my standards) maybe 4 to 5 ft with no clear pattern to them.  After we got through, Capt. Gary helped us pull out the Genoa (our headsail) and we sailed north (keeping NJ on our left).  This was our first day in the ocean, and it was a bit of a wild ride (so there won't be many photos). We had "following seas" with "6 second swells".  While "following seas" make a nice song lyric, it really means that the waves are coming from behind and the essence of it is that every 10 seconds or so (since we are traveling with the waves) the boat rises on a swell and then... surfs down the wave.  When this happens, the boat lurches from side to side and steering requires a lot of concentration and energy.

We each took turns at the helm and after a little while we could begin to make out the tall buildings from Atlantic City in the distance.  Once we finally got along side of them (tall buildings can be seen a couple of hours out) we headed for the inlet markers.  Vicky was at the helm with Capt. Gary doing lookout duty.

After 6 hours on the water, we were tied up at Farley State Marina in front of the Golden Nugget Casino, where we had another end of sail feast as a sort of late lunch.  Honestly, the amount of motion we were experiencing sailing made me grateful that we skipped lunch and waited until mid-afternoon.  Full from the dinner/lunch at the Golden Nugget, we decided to just have some light snacks (instead of dinner) and enjoy a night on the water.

Day 3 - Atlantic City, NJ to Keyport, NJ

On Tuesday morning, we left early again, though we waited until some light was in the sky to navigate out of the harbor.  Upon hitting the ocean, we immediately had the same following seas we were experiencing the day before.  It's hard to capture the sea state in a photograph... the swells are only 4' high or so, but boat reacts to each one, and it basically feels like you're on an extended (multi-hour) carnival ride.  This time, I used one of the scopolamine patches which kept me (barely) functioning.  After looking green in the gills Capt. Gary had me steer (which required concentration and always looking at the horizon, and actually helped settle the symptoms).  We took turns at the helm and somehow got through the day.  I did capture one nice photo of a trawler in the distance that showed a bit of the sea texture.  And we did encounter many seagulls (as well as some other birds).

I also had to take a photo of the Barnegat Lighthouse, since I had visited there many times as a child during our vacations to Ship Bottom.  Vicky navigated us past the Barnegat Inlet and the safe water buoy marking the approach.

The sea state did grow calmer as we traveled north and soon, we were passing the buoys that marked the approach into NYC harbor.  We could just make out the silhouettes of Twin Lights on the Highlands.  As we traveled up Sandy Hook, we caught a glimpse of the Sandy Hook light as well.

Once Vicky took us around Sandy Hook, we started encountering familiar commercial traffic and even a sailboat or two.

Finally, we headed down the Keyport Channel and found our mooring ball, tied up and the trip was finished!

We finished with a great feast at Drew's Bayshore Bistro before turning in for the night.  Capt. Gary stayed as our guest and we ran him back to south Jersey the next day before retrieving our other car at G. Winter's Sailing Center.

Finally (on the day after) the fog lifted, and we could look out from our deck and see Seas The Day bobbing at its new home (it's the 3rd boat from the bottom in the photo below).