Dirty Jersey

I think I was allergic to New Jersey. Or at least something in it. I’m not just saying that as a native New Yorker. In Atlantic Highlands I woke up with my eye swollen shut. I thought putting turmeric on it would solve everything, but it just made me look sick with jaundice.

“I think you should see a doctor,” several sailors told me once conditions worsened. They still insisted even once I explained the yellow stain was from the herb. Two urgent care clinics who refused me and a trip to the ER later I was loaded with prednisone and antihistamines. On my way to recovery and ready to go to sea! The only symptoms that lingered was my constant fear of it coming back.

By Atlantic City, I had another inflamed, itchy episode this time on my hip. I managed to heal that one on my own mostly by constantly cleaning it and pumping myself full of Benadryl for five days at anchor waiting for gales to pass. (A month later and the skin where the rash was is still a different color than the rest of my body but whatevs…battle scars)!

In New Jersey I learned something else–that while the ocean scares the shit out of me there is still something strong, strange and undeniable that draws me towards it. Regardless, I was incredibly happy to be done with the Jersey Coast. Few good inlets, autumn gales, allergic reactions. Inland waters were waiting to welcome me with open arms once again.

PASSAGE NOTES: Oct. 10
Atlantic Highland to Atlantic City
80 miles, 19 hours 

1500- No idea where I am. Where is green buoy number one? Heading SW 210 degrees. Light NW swells. 3.5 hours left of daylight.

16:30 – 40 18.874 N , 73 55.616 W

1700- Ocean big and scary. Just want to go in straight line. Wind light. Going two knots sails flapping. Dropped jib. Under power and main. 4.5 kts. Soon I’ll be blind. Entrusting my compass, GPS and nominal navigation skills. Will have to refuel sometime if wind doesn’t change. Black flies are tempestuous. Alone on the ocean. I could easily end up in the shipping lanes if I’m not careful. Will I ever relax and enjoy this?

1800- 40 12.017 N , 73 56.304 W
Hailed sailboat off to port on VHF. Capt. Logan, youngcruisers.org. Headed to Norfolk. “You’ll know what’s right,” he said to me.

19:30- 40 6.097 N , 73 51.151 W
I keep calling it a “sight” when I go down below and plot my position on the chart. I attached battery power nav lights, fearing mine would drain the ships battery and I’m relying on autopilot. When I see lights I turn the masthead light on too. That may be confusing to other boats but…

21:20 – 40 2.270′ N , 73 57.591 W

2200 – Two ships passing in the night. Going along nicely. Vanupied skipping across the swells. She was made for this. Pretty stellar out here. Stars, bioluminescence. Fog seems possible. Don’t want that. See a little light to starboard catching up.

0000, 39 51.933 N, 73 58.391 W. Accented commercial vessel captain yelling on the VHF. Gotta make port before the gale tomorrow. I could live out here.

0300- WHO ELSE IS OUT HERE TRAVELING THIS LONELY BLUE HIGHWAY!? Squall line in Maryland. Will it reach me?

0600- About to make my approach but waiting for sun to rise. Blood red sky. Ninety-seven percet humidity. Mosquitos, flying beetles, and moths fall out of the sky onto my boat. Is this my own personal rapture? Nah, there’s a dolphin, too.

Oct. 11 PM

My boat danced like a pony cross the sea all night. I made it into the inlet just a conditions began to deteriorate. Now, GALE.

Only tiny riplets in the marsh during a 30 hour gale in Atlantic City

Lentils win

Row over and examine abandoned boat, or stay in cabin with warm tea, alcohol heater, and make lentils? Lentils win.

smallboat galley, pearson ariel 26

No wind today. I didn’t care. Was happy to be under way. Was happy to have made some progress to the engine. Was happy it was running so well. The sun made an appearance. Twenty five miles left of the Chesapeake. Anchored in Pepper Creek–sketchy depths. Came in at high tide but leaving closer to low. I may find myself waiting to float off the ground tomorrow with the afternoon flood…Wind forecast perfect for tomorrow, minus some rain. Hope it sticks. My last November northerly on the bay. Hope I find myself just lingering out there tomorrow again, not quite ready for it to end.

cruising guide chesapeake bay
A rare Chesapeake calm in November

I’m wearing an old Pendleton I got from my friends in Matthews, VA. I’m like the son they never had. No, really. I feel like a boy. At least a tom boy. I put in eye liner to go to shore the other day and looked more like I was leaving the coal mines than trying to look presentable in society.

I’m scheming again to take Vanupied far, not this year though. I can’t stop thinking about it. It would be real easy to shorten the cockpit, move her scuppers. I designed a sort of locker in my head that would double as storage while reducing the size. I want to replace her standing rigging, at least some if not all. I’m on this kick about using Dyneema to do it. A backup cheapie auto pilot and sheet to tiller steering (double redundancy). Short wave radio for Chris Parker weather reports. Already got a receiver on the backstay (which unfortunately I think indicates the age of of my shrouds).

I don’t know, though. I still need her looked at with a keener eye than mine. It’s a process. For now I know what needs doing in the immediate future and I have lots, and lots, of ideas.

Back to the abandoned boat. Pretty grey hull with a sorry looking paint job. No mast. Sixties or seventies era. Strong, sturdy hull with pretty, traditional lines. Hell, she could even be an Alberg! Don’t think so, though. Her sheer is slung differently. More elegant.

Maybe it belongs to the creek person I just saw. He was catching oysters on a homemade barge constructed from an old dock and an outboard motor.

Swooosh

cruising ICW

At the dock of Chris and Bill from SV Plover, a Dickerson 41 built on this here Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia. Civil war shit. Their house has a ghost. It’s been like living history this trip. The Revolutionary War battlegrounds of Lake Champlain. The exploration of the new world by Henry Hudson. Modern industry steeped in the tradition of the mariner in the Atlantic shipping lanes.

And now, this here Bay that I’d certainly like to get to know better historically speaking. For the most part I’ve just been sailing hard. Only catching a glimpse of what is, or once was, taking place on its shores.

sailing chesapeake bay

Twenty knots again today (at least it wasn’t 25). Waves up to my rub rail again. Engine locker swamping with water again. I’m closing up the hole in the engine locker first chance I get. My engine needs tending to. It’s been getting knocked around, banged and hassled. It’s a good thing I installed a lip on the mount to keep it from shaking loose. Fucking outboards. So simple, yet so… beyond my realm of consciousness. I’m going to need it soon. I’ll be in the ICW with little room to sail. At least here, for example, if the engine dies say while coming into a harbor—I can sail.

I used to sail in and out of harbors all the time. On and off moorings and my anchor. I haven’t done that once since I left the lake. Who am I?

Received charts here from Aaron and Sarah. Inside was a gift of some Vermont food staples. It was a very kind gesture, of which I credit to Sarah solely, because while it may be Aaron who gave me his charts, she orchestrated their arrival.

I now have almost every chart I need for the remainder of this here venture. I still need to obtain some offshore charts for North and South Carolina. There are some options there for going offshore but man I really wish I had crew for some of the longer ones. It’s the same adage—when sailing offshore off shore, I think having crew is not AS imperative perhaps because you are so far off and can actually sleep.

But I can only go a few miles off. Vanupied is simply just not equipped for the wilderness desolation 100+ miles offshore. Will she ever be? Doubtful. I’ll probably just get another boat and equip her. At least that’s the latest crazy plan I’m scheming. But I waffle. Vanupied could  be made right. Honestly, even the Bahamas might be slightly sketchy on this boat as is. I’m not sure. I’m still shaking her down. She’s proved herself alright in this latest round of northerlies.

“It’s not about the boat it’s about the skipper.”

Somewhere in the middle

November 4, 2017. Solomon’s Island, MD

cruising the chesapeake bay, pearson ariel 26

I’m getting closer to the ‘conch dock.’ I can feel it. There are pelicans. I don’t want it to end, sailing the Chesapeake, but it’s getting cold. Today, the water grey and glistening, had sloppy, choppy waves with little crests that broke and disappeared under my boat’s keel. Sometimes a rogue set would send Vanupied careening into their troughs, knocking the wind out of her sails. But there wasn’t much wind to fill them anyway. As the remaining gusts from the cold front dissipated not much was left, but the leftover seas never did really settle. I should have flown the big genoa only. Could have made better time.

singlehanding the chesapeake bay, cruising the chesapeake bay, solo sailor girl

As it was 20 miles took nine hours and I arrived after dark to an empty anchorage in front of a tiki bars, piers, and buildings on stilts. One restaurant was playing some golden oldies and the free entertainment was welcome aboard. While squaring things away on deck another boat came in and I heard her captain call to his crew,”We’ll anchor just behind this guy.”

“Hey!” I yelled friendlily. “I’m a GIRL.” Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops.

single handing atlantic coast, single handing the chesapeake, single handing ICW, pearson ariel 26

Turns out it was the sailor on the Grampian 30 I met in Annapolis. He’s cruising with his wife and two daughters. They invited me over for a feast of Dahl, spinach and fried paneer for which I was much obliged. Despite being horrifically lactose intolerant, I devoured the cheese dish and yogurt sauce with vengeance. It was the most food I’d eaten in a single setting in ages. Their eight year old daughter, while only in third grade, could probably write a thesis and it turns out she gives excellent back massages. Her hands did a good job kneading the knots in my back from days in the cockpit and crouching around inside my boat’s little cabin–but her endurance was a bit lacking. Oh well, she’s only eight. She’ll get there.

sailing families, cruising with kids, grampian 30

Upon arriving I really wished I’d had an extra $20 to go ashore for a burger and a beer at the restaurant playing the oldies–this, however, turned out to be much better.

I left my heart on the Champlain Canal

americas great loop, cruising the champlain canal

History. Industry. Wildlife. That’s how I would describe the miles logged traversing the historic Champlain Canal. Built in the 1800’s and birthed from the brain of Gov. George Clinton of New York, well, all I can say is hats off to you, Sir Clinton.

cruising america's canal

For every ounce of sun we had there were equal parts rain, which were made increasingly miserable due to the large boom and mainsail taking up most of my cabin, and the breath/sweat condensing from two 20-something women. My crew was my best friend, Whitney. Not a sailor, but born on a boat. She sailed with me last year in a steep chop out of Burlington Harbor where I turned to her and said, “Okay, this is the point of no return–do you want to go back?”

To which she replied, “I trust you, Cap.”

champlain canal, US canal system, NYS canal

If only she could be onboard forever, as her mere presence helps me to solve the problems of the world. But she has her own adventure to build, her own “boat” to find. She will be back onboard Vanupied when we reach southern latitudes. This much is certain.

NYS Canal System

For the first few locks we were nervous and scared. By the final we were entering the great big chambers of water playing the harmonica. We tied on and off docks and wharf walls like it were a game. We docked next to the actual remnants of the USS Ticonderoga and, naturally, saluted it when we left. I could’ve lived there amongst those lock walls and slimy lines with Whit as a canal rat forever but, alas, we finally reached tidal waters.

cruising the hudson river

Whitney traveled with me another several miles on the Hudson River to Catskill, NY where I became a sailboat again. Luckily, her friend came to pick her up and return her back home for work on Monday—because even though I promised her I’d get her somewhere accessible to mass transit to get back in time, I really had no idea if I’d be able to deliver on that.

Huge shout out to Hop-O-Nose marina on Catskill Creek for a doing a dope job stepping my mast, for a free night at the dock and supporting the adventure. My favorite question I received from the owner there was, “WHAT DO YOU EAT?!”